Joe Nassise’s SEVEN ELEMENT STRUCTURE
Joe Nassise is the founder/creator of the Story Engines course on story structure, launched this year in conjunction with Nick Stephenson. His position is that understanding story structure will have the biggest impact on a writer’s craft.
The writer’s job is to take readers on an emotional journey. If we don’t get the story elements in the order we need, readers will tune out. Structuring the story is what allows us to achieve the emotional journey.
The #1 sin a writer can commit is boring the reader. Structure let's you know where your readers emotions are at every step. Bringing them to where you want them to be.
SEVEN ELEMENT STORY STRUCTURE: Four phases connected by three game-changing moments..
1) preparation phase: Introduce hero. Show what their average everyday is like. Show what their world/setting is. Indicate the hero’s problem. This works because it plays on the emotional connection with the reader. It gives them something they can relate to, which in turn means they now care, because they see ourselves as the hero. (20%)
2) game changer #1: Something happens and the hero cannot return to the status from element #1. A radical lefthand turn. Consequences of actions are now driving the story. This element changes the hero’s trajectory and sends them on a new path.
3) reactive phase: The hero responds to the game changer element that is pushing them in a new direction. At this point, the hero lacks agency. They’re following others. Emotionally reacting but has no control. (Together with elements 4 & 5, this will account for roughly 60% of the story).
4) game changer #2: The hero comes to understand who the opposition is and what they want. This has to be diametrically opposed to what the hero wants. This sets up the conflict in the story.
5) proactive phase: The hero attempts to achieve their goal and thereby prevent the villain/opposition from achieving theirs. Happens multiple times, an escalating try/fail cycle with the stakes rising with each iteration.
6) game changer #3: The hero learns whatever they need to take on the opposition one final time. They’re either going to win or lose, there’s no middle ground. They will reach the goal or fail. No new information should enter the story after this point.
7) conclusion phase: hero makes the final attempt. Did you succeed or fail? This is the climax. (20%)
Every story has a question which the author has to answer by the end. Subsequent book(s) that occur in a series serve to respond to the emotional reaction from the answer to the end of the earlier book.
When writing a series, the meta arc of the series should match the same plot as a single story. Each book has its own goal and conclusion, but each adds to the meta arc of the series. All of this gives you a better book.
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