Friday, March 25, 2011

Guest Post with David Baboulene and a Giveaway

Today’s Guest is David Baboulene, a Story  Development Consultant.  He is also the author of The Story Book.  Since first being published in 2002, David has produced two humorous books, two children’s books and an academic work on story principles. David has also had three film productions deals, two in Hollywood and one in the UK and has worked as a story consultant for film-makers, authors and script development and training organisations.  He has worked with some big names  including providing story consultancy for Marion Pilowsky (Producer Sleuth; Little Fish; Being Julia) and Janette Innes (writer/producer The Ghost Walker; Rain).  David is giving seminars on story principles throughout the UK and in Los Angeles in 2011 in collaboration with The Script Factory, Euroscript and other partner companies. David writes extensively on his subject, including his monthly column in Writing Magazine and Writers' News. He  lives in sunny Brighton in the UK with  his wife and four children.

The Essential Components of Stories By David Baboulene

In the next two weeks I’m going to look at the essential components - what I call the Framework Elements - that are the vehicle for the characters, action, conflict, turning points and so on that tend to get talked about more often. What is it that gives a story its fundamental existence, as distinct from its content? We will look at the two things that define all stories: this post: Narrative Structure, next post: Character Growth.

Narrative Structure
All stories have a narrative structure that is a consequence of:

1) The events that comprise your story
2) The order in which you deliver them.

And if you’re going to get right down into it, the words you choose to describe these events and the order of those words.

Essentially, this is the telling of your story. Of course, a narrative structure is unavoidable (all stories have an organised ‘telling’), and most (but certainly not all) can be labelled using Aristotle’s key elements that have characterised most stories for around 2,300 years. Firstly, we have the Harmartia - a ‘fault’ or ‘flaw’ that disturbs the protagonist’s balance of life. Secondly, the anagnorisis - the ‘realisation’ of what this flaw means to the protagonist that leads to him or her taking action to restore balance. And thirdly, the peripeteia - a reversal of expectation that pays off the story in an interesting way and brings the world back into balance at conclusion.

Aristotle always related his elements to the protagonist, and I find this a lot more helpful than the contemporary focus on structure through plot, which looks like this: an act l setup leads to an inciting incident that raises a key question in the mind of the audience. That key question is then addressed satisfactorily at climax.

So, taking Back to the Future as my example story, can we identify these factors?

Marty McFly is going about his normal day (setup) when he is accidentally sent back in time (Harmartia - a mistake which spins his world out of balance). In modern terms, this is also the inciting incident, raising the key question in the mind of the audience: ‘Will Marty get back to 1985? How?’

As he comes to terms with the challenges of getting home, he realises (anagnorisis) that he has no nuclear fuel in 1955 to power the time machine, that he has interfered with his future-parents’ meeting, that his mother is in love with him instead of his dad, and that unless he can get his parents back on track he is not going to exist in the future.

The key question raised is addressed by the action at climax (Yes, he got back to 1985. He did it by harnessing the power of a bolt of lightning) and the peripeteia (reversal) comes at resolution when we realise that, far from wiping him from existence, his actions and experiences mean he returns to is a better life in the ‘new’ 1985 than the one he left in the first place.

Why is this important? Well, in a full length work, the narrative structure provides the framework plotline that orientates the audience for the long haul and provides direction for the story, setting its widest arc. Critically, having the framework plotline in this form means that, from the moment the key question is in our mind, we absorb every story event in the context of the implications for the protagonist’s progress in the framework plot. So, for example, in Back to the Future, the subplot in which George overcomes the bully with a single punch may be engaging in itself, but part of our brain is frantically calculating what this means for Marty’s chances of a return to 1985, giving this subplot event a whole third dimension. This relationship between story events and their impact on separate plot-lines is a critical form of subtext and a powerful tool in the armory of all writers.

Now, it is worth nothing that, firstly, most subplots also carry their own narrative structure; and secondly, that a narrative structure like this is not compulsory. Structure of this nature is very, very common, but it is not a rule base. However, stories that do not follow this classic narrative structure will certainly feature the second essential framework element - character growth - which we will look at in my next post.

In the meantime, look for the narrative structure in the stories you read and watch. Quote Aristotle so people think you are edgakated, and if you are interested in learning more about this - or any other - aspect of story theory, drop me a line and I will send you a free chapter from The Story Book on the subject of your choice.

David’s  website

Giveaway Details 

The Giveaway (two copies of The Story Book)  is open to all my followers (old or new). The more you spread the word, the more chances you get to win.  I will draw and announce the winners on Tuesday 29th  ( India time).
To enter: be a follower and leave a comment on this post, email not necessary. If you want extra chances to win please also include the links where you've spread the word.
After I announce the  two winners you can send me your email address and your preference: whether you would like the  Ebook format or the  Kindle format of The Story Book, which will be sent to you.

Thank you, David, for the guest post. Cheers, everyone.


  1. Great post. Thanks, Rachna and David. I am a follower, count me in the giveaway. The Story Book sounds awesome. Would love to win it. :)

  2. As I am a follower, please add me in too. I would love to win a copy of the book. Thanks for this very informative post, David.

    Rachna, your blog is one of my favourites.

  3. This is a very interesting and helpful post. Thank you David, and thank you Rachna for hosting his post. I confess I've never heard of a Story Development Consultant before today, but the book sounds really interesting. I'd love to be entered for a chance to win :-)

    I'll go and take a look at David's sites now.

  4. Wow great informative post Rachna and David! And of course Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies so the analogy was heightened for me. =) I would be honored to win a copy!!!

  5. What an informative post, and great to meet David. So much of this really strikes a chord in me with my writing. Thank you both!

  6. Rachna and David, thanks so much for this great story breakdown. I've seen Back to the Future dozens of times, and I recognized your plot points. Thank you!

  7. wow,,,its sth really we as an aspiring writer can look upto and learn from it...the story sounds interesting as welll...looking forward for your next post on character growth......

  8. Thanks so much for this helpful info! I enjoyed the Back to the Future illustration (saw it not long ago so it was fresh in my mind). The giveaway sounds great too. Thanks, David and Rachna, for doing this.
    Have a great weekend,

  9. Super! Thanks for the excellent information. I'm going to have to study this further. What a lovely gift! :)

  10. Great info. The Back to the Future example was a plus for me. I love Michael J. Fox in those hilarious movies. Great giveaway too, Rachna. I'll be pondering this for some time. Thank you David.

  11. Fantastic post! It's good to get in the habit of analysing story (and quoting Aristotle -- lol).

  12. Hi, Rachna! Wow, that's a great thing to keep the story together, having a single question that drives the entire novel to the end!

    I want in the contest! Been a follower for a long time now!

    Have a great weekend!

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥


  13. The edgakated made me smile :)

    But seriously, great example with the punch in Back to the Future being so much more than a mere punch, tied into Marty's future.

    I'd love a chance to win! I'll tweet this too.

  14. Yes, the edgakated made me laugh too. This was helpful, David. Thanks, Rachna for letting me know about it. I've been struggling with the new WIP and I think part of the problem is I've always approached what outlining I do as plot-based, but the new WIP is much more geared toward character development. I'd really be interested in what you have to say about character development!

  15. New follower here. I also shared it on twitter here:!/akossket

  16. Wonderful post, David. Thanks, Rachna. Reminds me, also, of The Hero's Journey that Hollywood has pretty much universally adopted for its structure (adapted for writers by Chris Vogler in The Writer's Journey). Since I write character-driven fiction, I can't WAIT for the next post. It’s nice to have some type of framework upon which to hang your plot points! Tweeted your contest, Rachna:

  17. Thanks Rachna for this wonderful guest post by David. I am fascinated with The Story Book, it sounds great. I would love to win a copy of it. Count me in the contest.

  18. Awesome post, Rachna. Thank you! I've tweeted your giveaway this afternoon.

  19. Hi, Rachna, Great interview. I have never seen story structure analyzed in quite that way, and I plan to refer to it often. (I've bookmarked this post). I also visited his site. Thanks for the good share. BTW, I tweeted your contest. Count me in. :-)

  20. Excellent advice. I look forward to the next installment.

  21. I love the fact that David is all edgakated but uses Back to the Future as as example; and worse that I remembered everything David was talking about despite it being YEARS since I watched the film :). I'm about to retweet your post.

  22. Great post, Rachna! Cool contest too. It's good to be reminded of story components for when I start writing again. :)

  23. Great interview and giveaway Rachna. I'm plugging this in hopes of getting a copy of David's book :)
    Tweeted at!/GuardianCats
    Posted a notice on my blog:
    which will get reposted through Network Blogs on Facebook and again on Twitter.

    Do I get four tickets? :)

  24. Great post! I love the Back to the Future movies so this totally hit home for me! I’m a follower already, and I’ve tweeted your contest too – check out!

  25. Great guest post and I like thw oud of your gievaway. Yay! :O)

  26. The order in which the events happen can be tricky. I found myself shuffling events around as I'm filling out a draft. Nothing happens quite like I think it will. Soetimes the story unfolds itself as its being developed. Takes on a life form of its own. As a wrtier you just have to go with it.