Story Grid for Writers

Learn the five first principles of the Story Grid methodology and how you can immediately start using them to level up your writing.

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f you want to write a great story, you’ll encounter challenges along the way. To overcome those, the Story Grid approach relies on a couple of fundamental beliefs.
First, we believe there is a single, overarching story structure that transcends time and cultures and is deeply connected to human cognitive evolution. In fact, the ability to create and share stories is the very stuff that makes us human.
Second, Story Grid is inspired by classical approaches to philosophy, science, and art, including Aristotle’s concept of archai, or “first principles.” First principles are where knowledge starts. Our Story Grid First Principles are the most basic elements of stories—the fundamentals we go back to again and again.
In the following chapters, we’ll explore five First Principles and the tools we use to apply those principles. In short, the principles are:
1. Stories are made up of distinct parts, or units.
2. Stories are about change.
3. The change that happens in stories concerns Universal Human Values, the things that most people would say are necessary to survive and thrive in the world—or alternatively, the things that keep us from surviving and thriving.
4. Each unit of story has a Story Event, a one- sentence distillation of what’s happening and what value is changing.
5. Within each story unit we find a pattern of change we call the Five Commandments of Storytelling:

  • The Inciting Incident, which kicks off the action;
  • The Turning Point Progressive Complication, which turns the Universal Human Value at stake in the scene;
  • The Crisis, which is a big question or dilemma for one of the characters;
  • The Climax, which is the decision and action a character takes in response to the Crisis; and
  • The Resolution, which is the outcome of the action that happens in the Climax.

The Story Grid tools we’ll introduce you to include:

  • The Foolscap and Editor’s Six Core Questions
  • The Spreadsheet
  • The Infographic
  • The Four Core Framework
  • Story’s Boundaries

First Principles is for anyone new to Story Grid who needs a primer on how we approach our craft. Writers and editors must understand these principles because they explain the universal structures that support and strengthen every story, no matter the genre or form.
It’s not easy to hold all the Story Grid principles, tools, and methods in your head as you work. Even editors who’ve been immersed in this world for years scramble to look up definitions and examples every day. We hope this book makes all your storytelling a little easier. Leave it on the corner of your desk with Strunk & White and Merriam-Webster, and open it up whenever you need a little help.


Dive into All Five Principles of Writing

Get the details on all five first principles and how they can help you level up your writing.


Shawn Coyne is a 30+ Year Veteran of the Publishing Industry.

Shawn is a writer, editor, and publishing professional with over 30 years of experience. He has published more than 300 books, with many dozens of bestsellers across all genres, and generated over $150,000,000 of book sale revenue.

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