Stories hold a unique power over us. They entertain, educate, and transport us to worlds both fantastical and familiar.

But what makes a truly compelling story? The answer lies in a set of storytelling techniques that writers have passed down for a long time and now have made their way to you.

Check out the glossary below and dive deep into the techniques to make your screenplay pop off the page.

The Storytelling Technique Glossary

  • Character:
    • Types of Characters: Beyond the basic protagonist/antagonist division, think of characters as fulfilling roles within the story's structure.
      • Round vs. Flat: Round characters are complex, with motivations and flaws. Flat characters serve a specific purpose but aren't fully developed.
      • Static vs. Dynamic: Static characters remain the same throughout the story. Dynamic characters undergo significant change or growth.
      • Stock Characters: These are archetypal figures (e.g., the wise mentor, the damsel in distress) that audiences easily recognize.
    • Character Development: How are characters revealed? Methods include:
      • Direct description (physical appearance, personality traits)
      • Actions the character takes
      • Internal dialogue or thoughts
      • Dialogue with other characters
  • Conflict:
    • Types of Conflict: Conflict comes in various forms:
      • Person vs. Person (your classic hero vs. villain)
      • Person vs. Nature (characters grappling with a natural disaster)
      • Person vs. Society (a character challenges social norms)
      • Person vs. Self (internal struggles over decisions or beliefs)
    • External vs. Internal Conflict: External conflict is driven by outside forces, internal conflicts come from within a character's mind.
  • Plot:
    • Structure The most common plot structure is Freytag's Pyramid:
      • Exposition: Introduces setting, characters, and background information.
      • Inciting Incident: The event that triggers the main conflict.
      • Rising Action: Build tension through obstacles and complications.
      • Climax: The turning point, the moment of highest tension.
      • Falling Action: The consequences of the climax unfold.
      • Resolution: The conflict is settled, leading to a new sense of normalcy.
    • Nonlinear: Events are presented out of order, using flashbacks, flash-forwards, or other techniques.
  • Point of View (POV):
    • Impact of POV: POV choice radically shapes the reader's experience:
      • First-person offers intimacy but can be limited or unreliable.
      • Third-person limited allows deeper exploration of a single character's mind.
      • Third-person omniscient provides a broad overview, but can feel less immediate.
    • Multiple POVs: Stories can shift between different POVs, especially across chapters. This provides a multi-layered view of events.
  • Setting:
    • More Than Backdrop: Setting deeply influences a story:
      • Historical Setting: Impacts character behavior, social rules, and available technology.
      • Social Setting: The cultural values and beliefs of the place where the story happens shapes the characters' interactions.
      • Symbolic Setting: Setting can mirror characters' internal states or foreshadow developments.
  • Theme:
    • Identifying Theme: Think about lessons learned, recurring ideas, or questions raised by the story. Themes are rarely stated outright, but inferred by the reader.
    • Theme vs. Subject: Subject is the topic (love, war), theme is what the story says about that topic (love conquers all, war is destructive)

The techniques we've explored are the building blocks of great stories. Remember, stories have the power to ignite our imaginations, challenge our perspectives, and connect us on a deeply human level.

Let me know what you think in the comments.