I’ll be mostly offline for the rest of this week, but I wanted to leave you with a gift before I disappear. I’m a huge fan of Christmas, but I interrupted my Christmas to-do list to put together a worksheet based on the Essential Elements list I covered in my last post.
If you’ve ever wondered if a completed story had good “bones,” hopefully this worksheet will help. So sit back, enjoy, and have a cookie.
(Seriously, have a cookie. Every year, I bake hundreds of cookies to share with my neighbors, friends, and family, and this year, even though I swear I was trying to cut back, I made over 750 cookies. This year we made Russian Tea Cookies, Butterscotch Bars, Fudge Oatmeal Bars, Chocolate Puddle cookies, Chocolate Fudge, and Chocolate Bark.)
Introducing the Essential Elements of a Story Worksheet!
This worksheet contains two pages covering seven elements that create good story “bones”:
- Premise & Character Arc
What will make this story appeal to readers and feel worthwhile?
- Introduction & Opening Hook
What will make the story beginning compelling for readers?
- 25% Mark
Will readers understand the story’s purpose by the 25% mark?
- 50% Mark
Will layers change the context of the story goals or problems by the 50% mark?
- 75% Mark
Will readers worry the story goal is in jeopardy by the 75% mark?
- Final Act
Will the story goal and problems resolve in the final act?
- Story Flow
Will the story flow pull the reader along?
The questions on the worksheet are all about ensuring the bones of our story are good enough that we can then flesh out a great story. If we have all these elements, we likely have a story—and not just any story, but a story that’s already strong, has a purpose and arc, and can be made even stronger by bringing out the aspects that will create resonance within readers.
We can reference the theme in echoes throughout the story. We can emphasize the protagonist’s inner struggle and changes. And we can sharpen the turning points to deepen the disasters and dilemmas the characters face. Etc., etc.
(Note: As I mentioned last time, these tips will probably apply best to positive-arc stories. In the standard positive-arc story structure, the purpose of the plot is to reveal the character arc—how do plot events force the protagonist to change? With a flat arc (where they don’t change) or a negative arc (where they don’t get a happy ending), some of the character-focused elements might need to be tweaked or deemed irrelevant.)
Page 1 (click to view full-size image):
Page 2 (click to view full-size image):
(Note: If you’re not familiar with MS Excel or how to enter text, check out my Beat Sheet 101 post. If you’d rather have this worksheet in MS Word, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do.)
Feel free to use this worksheet however best works for you. Brainstorm with the questions to mentally double-check your story, replace the questions with your answers, or duplicate the worksheet (see Step 2 in my Beat Sheet 101 post) to create a reference copy of the questions on another tab.
Please let me know if you have any suggestions for changes to this worksheet. Also, let me know if you’d like further information about any of the elements. I’m happy to explain more. *smile*
A Christmas Bonus to Spread Good Cheer
Now, because the holidays shouldn’t be just about writing and work, I want to share a bit of Christmas fun. One of my favorite childhood Christmas memories was the Heat Miser song from The Year Without a Santa Claus TV special.
Unlike other Christmas specials, this one wasn’t shown very often, and in the years before the powers-that-be released it on DVD (or even videotape), those who remembered this song felt like they belonged to a secret club.
Of course, since my childhood, I’ve moved to Arizona, and 101 degrees is nothing now. Summers here regularly reach 112 and up. But I still get a kick out of the songs. *grin*
If you’re celebrating this week, I hope your plans all unfold smoothly, your travels all go safely, your family members all behave perfectly, and all your dreams for the New Year come true.
Whether you celebrate Christmas or not,
I wish you all the best during this season.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
And take some cookies… Please! *smile*
Do you have any questions about this worksheet? Do you have any requests for other worksheets you’d like me to make? How are your holiday preparations going? Do you have any favorite holiday memories you’d like to share?Pin It