03,January
2018

The Five Elements Of A Good Story

Here’s the last video I did for 2017, called ‘The Five Elements Of A Good Story’. Transcript below, too, if you want to read instead of watch.

I’ve done over a half dozen script videos so far, you can check them out or subscribe here. They’ve been fun to do with the intent of making them short & useful, so stay tuned for more. In the meantime, let’s get busy and creative; 2018, let’s do this.

THE FIVE ELEMENTS OF A GOOD STORY

Here’s something I picked up from Alex Epstein’s screenwriting blog a few years ago and it’s
stuck with me ever since and I use it all the time to help develop my scripts. In his blog, Alex
talked about the Five Elements Of A Good Story…

So, a good story is, number one, a hero we care about who, 2, has a compelling problem,
opportunity or goal but 3, faces difficult obstacles and/or an antagonist. 4, if they win,
they’ll gain something they didn’t have – this is what’s at stake. And 5, if they fail, they’ll
lose something precious to them – this creates the jeopardy.

What I love about these 5 elements is that they really help to clarify the spine of a story. By
fully defining a protagonist with a clear story objective you’re immediately establishing a
strong narrative point-of- view. This doesn’t mean we experience the story through the
hero’s literal point-of- view or that they’re in every scene, it’s more that the audience has a
clear connection to the story because they understand the hero’s motives.

Another benefit to the five elements of a good story is that the first three elements alone
make up a compelling logline. A hero we care about, a compelling problem, but with
difficult obstacles and an antagonist. I’ve done a whole other video about loglines and why
they’re so important so check that out if you get a chance.

The fourth and fifth elements of a good story are occasionally a bit more difficult to define
and put into practice. But it helps to think of the stakes as something that the hero stands to
gain, usually something personal, whereas the jeopardy is what the hero stands to lose,
usually something bigger or on a wider scale. The stakes/jeopardy then help to keep the
pressure on the hero as well as keep the audience engaged throughout the story.

So that’s it, the five elements of a good story. A basic but handy checklist to help focus and
clarify the main narrative throughline of a script.

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