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Intro to Storytelling

In this course we will examine how people tell stories. You will learn the basics of story structures, plus how to tell a story that your audience will care about!

A day marked with an asterisk (*) means you have something to print.

Day 1*

1. This year we are going to be watching some videos by homeschool alum Abbie Emmons. Begin by watching this video about how to study stories and learn from them. You can stop watching when she gets to the like and subscribe outro.
2. What format qualifies as a ‘story?’
3. Print a copy of the study guides for a standalone story and for a series. Save these, we will use them later.

Day 2

1. Read “The Five Essential Elements of a Story.”
2. We need to have a grasp of basic storytelling vocabulary to move forward. Create a document titled “Storytelling Terms” and list and define the following. (When a word has more than one definition be sure to use the one related to storytelling.)

  • antagonist
  • character
  • conflict
  • dialogue
  • exposition
  • genre
  • inciting incident
  • plot
  • premise
  • protagonist
  • resolution
  • setting
  • theme

Day 3

1. Traditionally there are four main types of conflict that you might see in a story. Read about them!
2. Write down and identify one example of each type of conflict using stories that you know.

Day 4

1. Watch the video about why your plot doesn’t matter. Stop watching at the 3 minute mark.
2. It is important to note that Abbie is incorrect about one thing. If you are stranded in the wilderness the first thing you need to survive is usually shelter. This doesn’t have anything to do with storytelling, but it’s good to know.
3. Select three characters from stories you know well. Think about them, and write at least one paragraph about how each character changes from the beginning to the end of the story.
4. When we say ‘changes,’ we mean internally, not did they get a new costume, or hairstyle, or get taller. (Sometimes a new costume can be a clue to an internal change, though.)
5. You can use any story you know well, but here are some suggestions from movies that many people have seen:

  • Luke Skywalker – “A New Hope”
  • Thor – “Thor”
  • Elsa – “Frozen”
  • Simba – “The Lion King”
  • Will Turner – “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl”

Day 5

1. Watch this video about understanding theme. In Abbie’s videos, she often calls the theme “the truth” or the “big idea” of the story. It is important to understand the difference between theme, main idea, and summary.
2. Now that we know what a theme is, let’s watch another video from Abbie! Stop watching when she gets to the like and subscribe outro. This one is about how to come up with ideas for a story that interest you. Follow along and complete the exercises as they come up. (There’s a list of them below.)

  • Make a list of 4 stories that matter to you/you love.
  • Identify whether you most love the characters, theme, plot, or genre of each story.
  • Try to make a “story smoothie” by combining characters, theme, plot, and genre from DIFFERENT stories you love.

What did you come up with? Save it in a document on your computer, we are going to use it again later.

Day 6*

1. Read about the three act story structure. Pay special attention to the graph of the structure. The three acts are basically the Beginning, the Middle, and the End, but they are structured in a specific way to create stories that we are familiar with.
2. There are other ways to structure a story, but we are going to study the three act structure for a while. Print a copy of the three act structure worksheet and try to fill it out for a story. (Here it is filled out. The terms are a little different in the article you read.) You can use one of the examples in the article above, or use another favorite story.

Day 7

1. Now that we’ve covered the basics of a three act story, let’s use the study guide we printed on Day 1. Choose a story that you like (remember, a story can be a book, graphic novel, webcomic, movie, tv show or series, etc) and the study guide that matches its format.
2. It should be one you have already read or watched to make it easier to review. If you have chosen a tv series, only analyze ONE SEASON of it. (A good tip is to take a look at the first episode and then the last episode. You will be able to see changes in the characters more easily.)
3. Go over the story and write the answers to the study guide questions in a document on your computer. Did this help you to see some of how the story was crafted?

Day 8*

1. Watch the video about developing your characters. (We are starting partway through.) Stop at the 22 minute mark, when Abbie starts creating her own characters.
2. Print a copy of this simplified character creation worksheet.
3. Choose a character you love from a book, movie, tv show, or other story. See how well you can answer the questions about them. Remember: these questions apply to the character at the beginning of the story.

Day 9

1. Think about the main character from your ‘story smoothie.’ Try to develop this character by answering the questions in the character creation worksheet for them. Be sure to save this.

Day 10

1. Today, watch the video about character driven stories vs. plot driven stories. You can stop watching at the outro.
2. Do you understand the distinction she is making?
3. Think about the character you wrote about yesterday. Are you able to answer Abbie’s questions about their motivation and internal conflict?

Day 11

1. Time to analyze another story! This time, choose something that uses the other study guide. (If you used the stand alone last time, this time use the series. If you used the series guide last time, this time use the standalone.)
2. Create a new document and write the answers to the questions in the study guide in it. How does analyzing a story change the way you see it?

Day 12

1. Watch the video about creating the hook in your story. (As always, you can stop watching at the outro.)
2. Choose a story you know well. See if you can identify the hook in the story.
3. Take a look at the ‘story smoothie’ you created. What could make a good hook for your protagonist? Write down your ideas in the document.

Day 13

1. Watch the video about the inciting incident.
2. Choose three stories you know well and see if you can identify the inciting incident in them. Here are some stories that many people are familiar with to give you ideas:

  • “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J.K. Rowling
  • “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien
  • “The Secret Garden” by Frances Hodgson Burnett
  • “The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe” by C.S. Lewis
  • “The Lego Movie”
  • “Raya and the Last Dragon”