Friday, August 13, 2010

The Story Chart, with John Martin

I'm visiting today with John Martin, author of The Bird and founder of Boys Read, an organization whose mission is “to transform boys into lifelong readers.” Here John shares his Story Chart, a tool for writers.

How and why did you come up with the Story Chart?

After watching an interview between Bill Moyer and Joseph Campbell, I got really interested in Campbell’s mythology books.  I read Hero With a Thousand Faces  and The Power of Myth.  I later took a screenwriting course and was introduced to Christopher Vogler’s book, Hero’s Journey [links go to brief summaries].  At this point, I had a head full mythology and story structure, but had no way to apply it to my own writing, much less teach it to others.  I decided I wanted to teach a writing workshop based on Campbell’s work.  In my corporate life, I had used structured templates for teaching adults conceptual methodologies.  By combining corporate teaching experience with writing experience, I was able to come up with the framework for my Story Chart. [Click on chart to see it full size.]

How has it helped you with your own work? 

My Story Chart helps me as a plotting and rewrite tool.  I use the Story Chart in the beginning of the writing process.  It helps guide me through the rough water of getting a story launched from harbor and into open sea.  As a rewrite tool, I can often quickly identify where my vessel is drifting off course and where my lines need tightening to give my sails a little more boost.

Do you have any tips for using the chart?

Start by reading Vogel’s Hero’s Journey.  It’s easily understood.  If things click for you, go further with Campbell’s teaching.  Also, watch for the timeless structure in movies that you rent.  It’s very easy to spot in movies, especially with kids movies, modern and classics.

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