The Story Planner

W W W . J A P A R T R I D G E . C O M


Welcome to my personal story planner. Its purpose is to assist the author in developing his/her logline, story theme and the 8 key transitional scenes (with an optional 9th) which can then serve as the foundation for a query letter, synopsis, and/or outline or whatever else one might want to use it for. I've created this app primarily for my personal use. As such it comes with no guarantees, warranties, or much in the way of instructions. It will probably change from time to time without warning as I add or tweak features.

This is based on a series of posts I made a while back on writing story loglines and on plotting: which, in turn, was a summary of a lot of reading and a little bit of insight over the years. Though I've drawn from multiple sources and, frankly, just made some stuff up, much of the descriptions for the various story elements comes, ultimately, from the site: which does a tremendous job explaining story concepts in simple, straight-forward language. If you're looking for further explanations or examples of ideas, I would suggest starting there.

Just step through each question answer them as best you can. You'll get a chance to tweak the final output and add additional ideas at the end. There is some limited ability to move back and forth between questions, but once you go past the "Resolution" section, all further changes will have to be entered into the textbox at the end. Just copy the final text and paste it into the word processing software of your choice to save it.

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Who is it about?

The protagonist's name and their physical description are the least important details here. None of those things tell us anything about his character. Ironically you usually only need a noun and an adjective: an alcoholic neurosurgeon, a bored housewife, an honest lawyer... We often don't need more than this, but the key here is specificity. Define whatever it is that makes this person different than the multitude of other potential main characters.

What does he/she want?

A character who does nothing is boring. A protagonist needs to be passionately motivated to climb over obstacles in pursuit of some goal. The more desperate he is to achieve it, the more he will be willing to fight and suffer to get there. Those are the kinds of characters readers naturally care about.

What prevents him/her from getting it?

Stories begin and end with conflict and the antagonist is the source of and the focus for that conflict. Even if the antagonist is something abstract like an evil empire, the evil empire will usually have a powerful general or henchman like Darth Vader that does its bidding. This gives the protagonist something to focus on and makes the conflict personal.

What is at stake?

This is the answer to the reader's 'why should I care' question. If the protagonist fails, something bad will happen, really really bad. This keeps the protagonist motivated and the reader engaged. It doesn't always have to be the end of the world. It could be a little girl who desperately wants to star in a talent show, but if she wants it bad enough, it might as well be the end of the world for her...and us.

The Sentence

Take the answers to those questions and put them together to form The Sentence. The sentence is your story's core, its very heart and soul. When you're trying to decide what scenes to include/exclude, refer to your sentence.

The Lie - What the protagonist(*) believes

The solution/method/belief/aspect the Protagonist(*) will resist changing. Holding onto this may or may not be the Goal that motivates the protagonist through the story, but clinging to The Lie will make it impossible to get what he needs to truly make himself happy.

(*)This assumes the common positive character plot arc. If this is a flat character plot arc, it is the other characters who believe The Lie and from which the protagonist must save them by convincing them of The Truth.

The Truth - What the protagonist/everyone really needs

The change that must occur to solve the Inner Plot. The story's theme and much of the emotional tension comes from the conflict between The Lie that is desired and The Truth that is needed.

Type of Character Arc

No Change
Negative Change

A positive change arc is a story where the protagonist changes to solve the story problem. A flat or no-change arc is a story where the protagonist is correct but must prove it to others. A negative arc is one where The protagonist not only doesn't know The Truth, they never learn it.

The Backstory (Ghost) - The past event that haunts the protagonist

This is the reason the protagonist believes in The Lie. This situation haunts the protagonist motivating him to resist the change.