Read a Good Book Lately? : Notes on The Anatomy of Story by Ross Hartmann

Ross Hartmann

Notes on The Anatomy of Story

I finished reading The Anatomy of Story and put together some notes for other screenwriters (The full notes are at

Here's the gist:

- A story's moral argument, or theme, is the exploration and consequent answer(s) to the question, "What's the proper way to live in this world?"

- Every character is a manifestation of a different argument for or against the story's theme. In this way, characters grow out of theme.

- Through desire, characters drive plot, thus making plot a second order manifestation of theme.

- The "22 Steps" are elements and stages usually found in the process of seeking a goal (i.e. the hero's desire).

- Structure is content. Theme should be expressed structurally--through story, rather than by story.

- A story must at a minimum consist of 7 elements: Weakness and Need, Desire, Opponent, Plan, Battle, Self-Revelation, New Equilibrium.

- Character values can be highlighted and accentuated by contrast with other opposing characters. Truby recommends the use of "four-corner opposition" to lay out a web of a hero and three opponents who all take fundamentally different approaches to the story's theme.

- A symbol is an image or idea that gains meaning through repeated use and differing context. Symbols can be representations of larger ideas, characters, structures, or themes.

- Story worlds can function as physical representations of a character's current stage in their overall inner journey.

- Revelations must be logical, must build in intensity, and must come at an increasing pace.

- Conflict is not the clashing of two personalities, but rather of two opposing sets of beliefs.

- The end of the scene is the point of the scene and thus should end with a keyword or line that gets at the purpose of the scene.

Chereze Booysen

I am currently reading the Anatomy of the story and watching Masterclass Shonda Rhimes. Also learning to Raise it written by Ken Davenport. He is awesome. If you do not know him, you should?

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