Category Archives: research

Anatomy of Story

Anatomy of Story
One of the most useful, inspirational books I came across during my research was ‘The Anatomy of Story’ a book by John Truby. In this book he really breaks down the aspects of ‘story’ and makes it’s simple to understand what a story needs to be a good story.
It is said that there are three distinct elements of a story; the listener; the story teller and the story that is told.
The story teller makes up the characters and the actions they take throughout the tale. They tell what happens by laying out a set of actions that are completed in some way. Summing up the events and linking them so that they create one unit to the listener (a full story).
Storytelling is about creating and building a series of events that create intense moments which grab the reader’s attention so that they feel involved in some way. If the events are not attention grabbing and interesting in some way then they would be just a bunch of events or memories. Part of storytelling is letting the audience be able to understand the choices and emotions that led the character/ characters to carry out their actions but in a playful or entertaining way.
He compares the story as being like a puzzle, in the way that the audience is trying to figure out what is happening/ will happen, which is controlled by the writer giving certain information and withholding certain information. Withholding information is vital in grabbing the audience’s attention and forces them to figure it out. For example when you might flick to a channel on TV and you start watching something that you would not normally be interested but carry on just because you want to know what will happen.
‘All stories are a form of communication that expresses the dramatic code.’
Dramatic code is an artistic description of how a person can grow or evolve. The code of growth, hidden beneath the character and their actions is what a reader will take from a good story. A story will usually follow a characters wants, what they do to get their personal want, and what costs they pay along the way. Once the characters aim, desire and need has been identified the story can go on.

Story structures.
Linear Story
Follows the main character from beginning to end.

Meandering Story
The character has a desire but not an intense one, and will easily go off track and meet new people and events along the way.

Spiral Story
A character exploring something and getting deeper and deeper into it, usually used for thrillers.

Branching Story
Exploring different societies fully along the way.

Explosive story
Lots of paths extending simultaneously. Lots of stories happening at once that come together.

Techniques to writing the story
• Premise
• Seven key story steps
• Character
• Theme
• Story world
• Symbol web
• Plot
• Scene weave
• Scene construction and symphonic dialogue
The seven key steps
• Weakness and need
• Desire
• Opponent
• Plan
• Battle
• Self-revelation
• New equilibrium
Weakness and need
At the beginning the hero has a weakness or weaknesses that prevent them from progressing. The weakness is usually something holding them back in some way. So the need is what he hero must do to improve their life/ themselves and overcome what is preventing them from achieving it. Going through a phase of or and growth.
Key point – The hero should not be aware of his need at the beginning of the story.
Key point – Give your hero a moral need as well as a psychological need.
Key point – Keep the problem simple and specific.
A technique suggested is to push the strength so far that it becomes a weakness.
• Identify a virtue, make them so passionate that if becomes an oppressive.
• Find a value that they believe in and create the opposite/ negative version of this.

What the character wants. Like a goal in the story and not in life.

Someone who wants to get in the way of the hero preventing them from achieving the desire, but is competing with the hero for the same goal.
If they have different goals then the conflict between them would be none-existent, each would possibly achieve their goal easily and there would be no story. An important thing to do is ask and identify what the most important thing they are fighting for or about, and make that the main subject in your story.
Key point – The hero cannot be his own enemy as this would really just be a weakness within the hero and not an enemy. (as much as I believe this I also believe that in some situations, especially stories explaining characters with split personalities or a side to themselves they are not aware of, a story can have no existing opponent and have their weakness as the thing they battle against to reach their goal.)

Like the saying ‘Failure to plan is planning to fail’ something I find you get told through life in most situations. Not having a plan in a story is not having a strategy to overcome the opponent/ enemy and reach the goal. The plan can be written out and made clear to the audience or reviled though out the story as the character plays out their actions.

Realization of one’s self that the character’s journey can help to reveal. It is suggested that the best way to show this would be to reveal it through the characters actions rather that writing out exactly what it is they have realized or learnt. Realization of their previous actions comes into play and new actions are taken on their new found moral realization or belief.

New equilibrium
When everything has turned back to normal, with the only difference being the situation that the hero is in, this can be either a positive or negative result depending on what happened throughout the story. Positive being self-revelation/ realization and change. Negative being the defeat of the hero or no self-revelation.

Writing exercise
I found a writing exercise in the book that would be useful to consider when writing stories.
• Write each step/ event of the story in a single sentence.
• Write these in order which may not be the final order.
• Study the events and identify the seven structure steps.
Key point
Start with the self-revelation and work backwards from this. Make it clear and be prepared to change this.


Some useful things along the way.

While researching into how to write fictional stories, and the idea generation, I thought to myself there has to be ‘an app for that’. So I checked on my phone to see what I could find, and not to my surprise there were loads! The apps range from aids to help you store your ideas and write and produce your novel, apps that would help generate ideas for stories by starting you with a random image, sentence or any similar triggers that would help the initial spark of writing a story. And one of my favourite ones I tried myself was a chain story, were someone would start you off with a snippet of a story, you got to see the last persons entry and the title plus genre of the story but nothing more. Each person is limited to 50 words per entry and in each entry you are given a random word that you have to fit into your addition to the chain. This was a really fun way to get some practice in to story writing, and also sparked ideas for new stories. The brilliant thing about is was that anyone around the world could participate no matter what their skill level. This is one example from a story I participated in:



Structure in folklore and mythology

Structure in folklore and mythology
I found a book with many writers that had come together to share their theories on the structure and creation of a myth/ fictional story, ‘Soviet Structural Folkloristicts Volume 1’. It was very interesting to see different ways people can look into the structure of a story that I never knew existed.
The first writing was using a basic math structure to plan the story that went like this:
Ph = Pv + 0.1
At first I thought that this was going to be very complicated, and although the further into the book I got the more complicated the idea got, but given the time to look at this in detail it is a very practical and efficient way of looking at things.
The idea was that P = power, H = hero and V = Villain. So the rule being that the power of the hero is always the power of the villain plus a small amount.
The logic of this is that if the power of the villain in a story is low and the power of the hero is high there would be less dramatic interest.
For example Ph = 0.8 and Pv = 0.2
There would not be much of a rivalry and the villain would be defeated with ease. People like to see a challenge, a struggle, a close call between the two sides where either outcome is possible. So to create this, the power of the villain would almost match that of the hero.
So when planning your story and the characters, the idea would be to create your villain first and decide how much power they will have whether high or low, so then you know how to build your hero around that. Rather than creating a really powerful hero and trying to create a villain that would match their powers. When people initially think of creating a hero, you think of the most powerful unbeatable character you can think of, because in our mind that is what a hero is, but that thinking of a villain that would match this would be a hard task and the story would be almost ridiculous. When you create your villain first and the ‘problem’, tasks that the hero would have to overcome then you can start thinking of ways this can be done, as hard as it might be to overcome, in a way becoming the hero yourself in mind, the problems you may have thinking of ways to overcome the task may be problem the hero has themselves during the journey, each outcome should be looked into.
The hero or the villain are very rarely alone, they have such things and people around them as helpers, advisers, donors, objects or a retinue. The theory written in the book for this was:
The h in Ph would stand for (hero+ helper+ donor+ magical object)
The v in Pv would stand for (villain+ retinue)
Because the people and objects surrounding the hero or villain are what makes them.
So if a hero’s strength is for example 0.8 this can be distributed between all their aspects, and the same for the villain. And not necessarily does the hero or villain have to be the strongest of their team. A table to show this would be:
Tale 1 Tale 2 Tale 3
Hero 0.2 0.4 0.5
Helper 0.3 0.1 0.0
Donor 0.1 0.1 0.1
Magical Object 0.1 0.1 0.1
Ph (power of the hero) 0.7 0.7 0.7

In this table you can see in tale one the helper would be the most powerful, tale two the hero has quite a significant amount of power to his allies and tale three the helper is none existent, these are just a few variables to the situation.
This was just the introduction to this theory, which further along can goes into detail of even small objects and significant actions throughout the story with mass variables which they write can be produced randomly with a computer. Given the numbers for the overall situations and characters, you have a base for your story that you now only have to fill out each areas sticking to the guide lines. A very interesting way of looking at story writing and its structure, following the ‘laws’ you could literally set out your possible actions throughout your story and roll a dice to determine actions and choices along the way.
Structural-morphological laws.
1. The law of repetition of dynamic elements of the tale which slows down and diversifies its general course;
2. The law of the center of composition (folktales may have one or two heroes who either have equal rights or not);
3. The law of categorical or grammatical formation of the plot.
Nikiforov suggests analysing actions on the model of word-formation. According to him the following actions can be differentiated:
1. Prefix actions of great variability;
2. Root-actions, nearly invariable;
3. Suffix and flectional actions.
Propp’s thesis that the function and dynamic role of the protagonist are the only constants in folktale.
Recurrent elements of a fairy-tale propp discovered 31 such functions:
• Departure of the hero.
• Interdiction.
• Violation of the interdiction.
• Discovery of the villain (opponent).
• Information about the hero given to the villain.
• Deceitful trickery.
• Complicity therein.
• Harmful act (villainy) or lack (manqué).
• Mediating action.
• Beginning of counteraction.
• Dispatch.
• First function of the donor.
• The hero’s reaction.
• Receipt of the magical agent.
• Spatial transference.
• Struggle
• Identification of the hero.
• Victory.
• Liquidation of the lack.
• Return of the hero.
• Pursuit.
• Rescue.
• Unrecognised arrival.
• Claims of the false hero.
• Recognition and exposure.
• Transfiguration.
• Punishment.
• Wedding.
This list alone been basically a layout for a story, not every aspect is needed but if each section filled out you have your story.

A look into Folklore and Myths from around the world.

Germanic Folklore
Looking into Germanic folklore it seems that it is quite known for not been very Germanic at all. Germanic qualities seem to be almost impossible to isolate in their writings, although the idea of folklore is to reflect acts, beliefs, words, lyrics, didactic or narrative themes shaped by tradition. Some aspects of the story for example plants and animals that are only found in Germanic countries are clearly recognised as Germanic folklore. Some of these things including; mistletoe; the oak; the roan and mountain ash. The horse is also associated with ancient practices and superstitions which possibly comes from the fact that Germanic people were known for their ceremonial eating of horseflesh, but this is not seen as useful generalisation.
‘Materials of Germanic folklore are of the varied kind, which come from the oldest archaeological remains of the people today.’ Some of the ritual things they did through time was to crush the skulls in prehistoric burials which suggested that they had a fear of the living dead-corpses. Also small holes were found in coffins they believed in aerial souls, and this was a way of passage. Things like this are what would be passed through generations and add to folklore stories and their mythology.
Shorri Sturluson collected and arranged myths for the use of poets, which texts contain much folklore. There was a story ‘The Elder Edda’ which contained the return of the dead to tell their future. This is a good example of old practices and beliefs being taken and turned into stories. Stories of Theodoric or Dietrich or Bern were carried to Tyrol where they were tangled with stories and ideas of life after death, this is a good example of how easily a story can be changed as it gets passed around.
Some of the folk epics took away ideas that were too ‘fabulous’ for courtly ears, one example been Siegfried’s fight with the dragon and his horny skin he developed from bathing in its blood. This been another reason a story might change from its original state. Records of folklore can be found in such forms as chapbooks, folk songs, books of charms, dream books, witchcraft trials and literacy references to stories.
Higher mythology, based on the cult and myths of the God’s were destroyed by the Christian missionaries. And lower mythology, stories of dwafs, kobolds, tommy knockers, water, tree or house spirits, spirits in the growing crops and giants, survived the coming of Christianity and is still used in stories today. Although much was lost some men saved folklore and collected it from where they could, but the amount found is small.

Superstition Mountains
I found an article on a mountain in Arizona, America, the stories linked to these mountains were really interesting so I decided to look into the background of them to find out where all the stories originated from and why there are still new stories coming to light from these mountains. The stories related to it are of lost gold and treasures within mines that still attract people to it today. Also tales of Indian history add to the mountains lore.
The Indian tribes called it the Ka-Katak-Tami, which means the crooked top mountain and from its highest peaks you can see the vast crooked tops spread far to the east and the mountain itself acts as a dividing line between the rural and urban parts of Arizona. There are mentions of lights in the mountain which are said to light the Dutchman’s lost gold mine and the Apache thunder god.
There is a range of animals that the mountain is home to; mule deer; javelinas, mountain lions; bob cats; coyotes, birds, reptiles and amphibians, life on the mountain is totally dependent on availability of water, where water will appear one day and vanish the next. The mountain was formed millions of years ago and started a thousand feet taller than it is today, eroded by running water and wind forming the mountain we see there today, it is a mountain born of fire. In the 1860’s farmers would hear stories from the Pima Indians and how they feared the mountain, the farmers though this superstitious and that is how the mountain got its name.
The first Europeans to visit were said to be the Spanish, Fray Marcos De Niza in 1539, and observed the mountain from Gila River but did not explore the mountain or record it in a journal. The stories of the lost Dutchman’s gold mines are hard to tell from fact and fiction, as fiction was wrapped up in fact over the years, which happens with most stories that get passed along. There is no evidence that people mined there or that the mines were covered up by the Apache.
The Pima Indians had a story of a great flood very similar to our own of Noah and his ark but with subtle differences. The story was some of the Pima Indians which lived on the mountain became corrupt and greedy, a message was sent to Suha a man of the tribe in the winds warning them that if they do not stop their ways then there will be a great flood which will destroy them all. Suha warned the people but they did not listen, so Suha built an ark made of rubber for him and his wife, and as warned there was a great flood which wiped out the tribe. Suha and his wife floated for days in their ark until the water was gone and they were left high in the mountain. He then started to rebuild their home him and his wife. They believed that an evil one named Hauk lived behind the mountain, known as ‘Devil of Superstition Mountain’ and tried to steal daughters from the Pima’s. when the devil stole Suha’s daughter and he saw her being used as a slave girl to the devil, he poisoned the cactus fruit that she made the wine that was served to the devil which killed him instantly. But they feared that his spirit still lurked behind the mountain.
Later stories of wanted criminals who would flee their town and hide in the mountains hoping to escape their fate, but because of the conditions would often die and it is said that their spirits still haunt the mountains. And even to this day there are people who venture into the mountains, either looking for treasure and gold, or just to explore the mountain itself and have been lost and reported missing. Bodies found beheaded and other unexplainable events but the truth in some of the stories is still not known.

Turkish Folklore
I wanted to look into folklore from all different cultures, and when trying to look into Turkish folklore I found that there was not much information on this at all. 200 years after the ‘Brothers Grimm’ a woman in Turkey decided to put together her own book of Turkish folklore stories. To get the information for this she had to search every corner of the land as there was not much known. She gathered the information by asking people their known stories that had been passed down through generations, because of the lack of physical recordings. She also had access to the Turkish ministry of culture and tourisms folklore library.
Asking people of stories they know can be one way to write an original story based on myths or beliefs and it can spark of other ideas, it might be an interesting technique to use as you don’t know what you will find and you can find a lot about your local culture. Although we have such vast access to stories from around the world and other sources that it would seem the tradition of passing on stories through generations has been lost and replaced by mindless gossip of things ‘trending’ at the time.

Melanesian Mythology
Few primitive areas have such pot-pourri of cosmogonic beliefs. One small island will have different beliefs of the origin of man. Some of the beliefs here were deity or others being creating man from wood, mud or sand. Some of the other beliefs the man had a magical or spontaneous origin from such things as eggs, plants, stones, blood-clots or other such like things. The Papuan Keraki of south western British New Guinea write that the first people came out of the ground. And the sea, night and fire were said to have been hoarded by and elderly person, usually a woman, until mankind obtained it. This shows how in such a small place with few people, different stories and beliefs can be conjured and spread between small groups, depending on each individual to decide what they believe in the most. I like the idea of the creation of man been a natural, magical thing rather than the usual theories of a god or gods creating man. I think it would be good to create a story around this theory, or even pull characters from their beliefs, like an elderly who controls such things as the sea, night and fire, and then man taking this natural thing to create civilisation and a very unnatural way of life.

Same stories in different cultures.

I was looking for stories that have been told through different cultures over time, as most stories we know can be found in variations in different cultures, one of the stories I found was ‘Cinderella’. It is said that there are more that 500 variations of the story in Europe alone, and although it is not clear exactly where the story originates from, the earliest known versions are from a Chinese story from back in the ninth century ‘Yen-Shen’, but it seems that the majority of cultures have their own version of the story. 

Their is a contrast on how the character is perceived in our Cinderella from the 20th century to older versions. In the modern day Cinderella she is a helpless character waiting for help which she receives through some magic.The original character was more self-reliant, devoted to family and willing to make her own future. which I think personally reflects women though history rather than our modern day woman.

Most versions of the story keep certain aspects such as the dead mother helping Cinderella in some form of an animal, an event at a dance or church and the slipper or ring test, older versions use a gold slipper rather than glass. 

Cinderella was one of the first stories to appear in a detailed study of folktale by Marian Cox in 1892.

Narrative Structure

What is narrative structure?

Narrative structure is organised facts, ideas and concepts organised in a coherent and emotionally engaging way to build a story.

Classical Narrative structure:


This is the part of the story that introduces the reader to the principle characters, their personalities and the environment that the characters inhabit. This part of the story does not necessarily have to be introduced at the beginning of the story although it is how the majority of stories start. Some stories may not want to reveal this information straight away and these type of stories are usually of mystery or detective genre. The technical term for stories that open with a mystery character are said to open with ‘Medias Res’.


This is the part of the story where conflict peaks and questions are solved usually just before the ending of the story. Usually this would be the defeating of the ‘bad guy’ and any unanswered questions that were raised throughout the story are answered, although not in all cases. Modern films and stories tend to leave more and more information missing at the end that may never be answered to keep the audience guessing.


This is the very ending of the film, where all the action has died down. Some stories especially horrors end with an ‘open ending’ leaving opportunity for a sequel. 


Auto Biography Animation.

This is another short animation I found made to describe how a person was feeling through certain events of their life. I like that they have approached this using lots of different materials to create a stop-motion animation, I think this almost feels like its park of a scrap book that someone would create for themselves to document part of their life. I think it is easier to appreciate and relate to something that you can see how is done and includes every day objects.