7 Tips for How to Add Complexity to Your Story

So you want to add complexity to your story. Most authors do. Complexity just sounds so… sophisticated. It sounds like one of those novels or films that are taken apart and analyzed by really smart critics and professors. It sounds like taking your story to the next level. And in some ways, it is. Complex […]

8 Ways to Avoid Cardboard Characters (and Plot Contrivances While You’re At It)

“The plot was contrived, and the characters were cardboard.” Ouch. That’s about as bad as it can get when it comes to negative story reviews. It’s also perhaps one of the most common complaints audiences have about stories. Certainly, it’s one that irritates me the most! Here’s the thing though: cardboard characters often┬ácause plot contrivances—and […]

Archetypal Antagonists for the Crone Arc: Death Blight and Tempter

As the fifth of six archetypal character arcs in the life cycle, the Crone Arc offers the first great challenge of a character’s Elder years. Fundamentally, it is a story about a character coming to grips with the full magnitude of mortality. And indeed Death itself is the primary archetypal antagonist within a Crone Arc—or […]

Archetypal Antagonists for the King Arc: Cataclysm and Rebel

The King Arc begins the second half of the life cycle of archetypal character arcs. This placement as the fourth of six arcs necessarily makes it a turning point within the overarching “story structure” of life. We can recognize this particularly in the King’s relationship to his archetypal antagonists. The first three arcs—those of Maiden, […]

Archetypal Antagonists for the Queen Arc: Invader and Empty Throne

As the third of the life cycle’s archetypal character arcs, the Queen Arc is that of the mature adult who has completed the youthful arcs of Hero and Maiden and is now challenged to grow into a position of greater responsibility and leadership. This is the tale of someone who has so far proven herself […]

Archetypal Antagonists for the Hero Arc: Dragon and Sick King

The well-known Hero Arc offers us the exciting story of a brave youth fighting to discover and earn his own worthiness. It follows on the heels of the Maiden Arc‘s initial individuation from the Authority Figures that dominate one’s youth, and it offers the young adult the opportunity to discover what he is meant to […]

Archetypal Antagonists for the Maiden Arc: Authority and Predator

As the first transformational archetype within the “life arcs” cycle, the Maiden Arc is the quintessential “coming-of-age” story. It is the story of teenage angst, the joys and heartbreaks of growing up, and the struggle to individuate into a fully autonomous and mature human being. Like all arcs, the Maiden’s doesn’t just happen. Nor (for […]

The Link Between Your Story’s Pinch Points

Of all the paired structural beats in a story, the Pinch Points are perhaps the most obvious. There are only two of them, they have the same name, and they perform essentially the same function in both their first and second iteration. They’re also perhaps the least known and most confusing of all the major […]

The Link Between Your Story’s First Plot Point and Third Plot Point

I often talk about┬ácohesion and resonance as being two of the most important qualities of great stories. Many factors are involved in achieving these effects, but one of the subtlest and yet most powerful is found within the structure of story itself. This is the hidden “circle” of story structure, in which all the important […]

2 Different Types of the Lie Your Character Believes

The Lie Your Character Believes. It’s the atom waiting to be split, the bomb waiting to go off, the change waiting to happen in your character’s life. Even when hidden beneath layers of plot and theme, the Lie Your Character Believes is your story. You know this, of course. But did you know that sometimes […]