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The Six-Part Story Method by Angela Elliott

Today I would like to welcome guest writer, Angela Elliott. Enjoy!


Years ago, I found a recipe for writing stories that I’ve followed to this day. It comes from drama therapy and is used extensively in film making as a means of developing your premise. As I am a script writer first and foremost (coming late to novels), after asking myself the ‘what if’ question about my idea, I map it out with this, The Six-Party Story Method.

1. The protagonist. It doesn’t have to be one person. It can be a group of people with the same aims.

2. The antagonist. Again, it can be a group of people or thing.

3. The protagonist’s goal. This is an interesting one. Sometimes it an obvious goal: find the treasure, win the love interest etc… but sometimes the goal is not so obvious. You’ll know what it is though.

4. A location, or multiple locations.

5. The protagonist’s emotional secret or trauma, i.e. the thing they wrestle with.

6. If the protagonist doesn’t achieve their goal, what will happen to them?

Now in the original method you draw six squares on a piece paper and you used coloured pens or pencils to draw an image of the answers to the above questions. Then you talk through the pictures you’ve drawn. Thus, revealing many wonderful little plot points along the way. I’ve done this with groups of people and it’s always interesting to see what comes up.

Anyway, you don’t have to draw, but trust me, it helps if it’s the first time you’re using this. These days I just answer the questions and write the result answers up as a ‘blurb’. This you then use as a driver for plotting out each scene.

Here’s the example I use when I teach the method to groups of creatives:

When Arnie the Dragonslayer (Protagonist) is asked by the Mayor of Tumbletown (location) to slay the dragon (Antagonist) for help to kill the dragon (goal) because he demands a sacrificial virgin on the first day of each month, he agrees. He needs the money after all. But Arnie has a secret: he loves dragons. He doesn’t want to kill a single one of them (the thing he wrestles with emotionally). He wants to save them all and rehabilitate them. But he doesn’t kill the dragon another virgin will die (the, what will happen if he doesn’t succeed question) and Arnie will be a failure. How will he resolve this problem and satisfy both the mayor and people of Tumbletown, save the virgin and not feel like a complete shit for killing the dragon (which as it transpires, he nurtured from a tiny egg way back when, so he knows this particular dragon).

Then what you do is take this and string it out along your story’s timeline. So, here’s a few more questions for you to answer:

1. Given you’ve now focused the idea more clearly, what scene will you play out first?

2. Then go to the end. How do you want it to end? Taking the above example, I’d want Arnie to save both virgin and dragon. What will that look like? Write that.

3. Draw a line on a piece of paper and divide it into quarters. The first quarter is where you set up your characters and the goal. What scenes will do this? What scenes will drive the narrative forward or show character development? The last quarter is where you tie up loose ends and resolve the story, and f you’ve salted the story with red herrings then for God’s sake don’t leave your reader hanging. The middle two quarters are reserved for rising action, where everything just keeps on getting worse and worse for the protagonist. Poor Arnie: caught in a conundrum. You’re going to have loads of twists and turn in the middle section.

This is basic storytelling. I’m a firm believer that every good story adheres to this format, whether or not you deliberately write it with this in mind. This is because stories are hardwired into us and some are better at teasing out those stories than others.

I hope this helps. I’m happy to answer any questions and even talk you through your own story ideas and problems with plotting.



Angela Elliott has been an artist, an engineer, a counselor for victims of crime and a scriptwriter on documentaries and films. She lives in London. Angela is currently working on a film and developing her next novel.

The Nine Lives of Antoine can be purchased on Amazon



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