Goodreads Reading Challenge 2023

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Guided Questions to Planning Your Narrative Using the Story Circle Method

 The Story Circle, often attributed to writer Dan Harmon, is a narrative structure that can help you plan and develop your story. It's a simplified version of the traditional three-act structure. It can be a valuable tool for writers, especially when outlining their narratives. Here's a step-by-step guide to planning your narrative using the Story Circle:



1. You: Introduce the protagonist and their everyday life.

In this phase, you establish the protagonist's current situation, their goals, and the world they inhabit. Show the audience what their life is like before the central conflict arises. This is an opportunity to make the audience care about the character.

  • Who is your protagonist?
  • What is their current life like?
  • What are their daily routines and habits?
  • What are their strengths and weaknesses?
  • What is missing or lacking in their life?


2. Need: Establish what the protagonist wants or needs.

The protagonist should have a clear goal or desire that drives the story forward. This need could be tangible (like finding a treasure) or emotional (like gaining self-confidence). This sets up the central conflict that the protagonist will strive to resolve.

  • What does your protagonist want or need to achieve?
  • Why is this goal important to them?
  • How will achieving this goal fulfill their desires or needs?
  • What is at stake if they fail to achieve their goal?


3. Go: The protagonist takes action.

The protagonist decides to pursue their goal and takes action to achieve it. This could involve leaving their ordinary world, venturing into the unknown, or facing a challenge they haven't encountered before. This step kicks off the adventure and often introduces them to new characters, places, or obstacles.

  • What event or catalyst prompts your protagonist to take action?
  • How does the protagonist decide to pursue their goal?
  • What challenges or conflicts arise as they embark on their journey?
  • How does the protagonist's world change as they leave their comfort zone?


4. Search: The protagonist encounters obstacles and challenges.

As the protagonist works towards their goal, they encounter various obstacles, conflicts, and setbacks. These challenges test their determination, skills, and resolve. Each challenge should escalate in intensity, making it increasingly difficult for the protagonist to achieve their goal.

  • What obstacles or challenges does the protagonist encounter?
  • How do these challenges test their determination and skills?
  • Are there external antagonistic forces or internal conflicts they must face?
  • How do these obstacles escalate in intensity as the story progresses?


5. Find: The protagonist makes progress.

After facing multiple challenges, the protagonist makes some progress towards their goal. They learn, adapt, and grow, gaining new insights and skills. This step should provide a sense of accomplishment and keep the audience engaged in the story's development.

  • What progress does the protagonist make in overcoming challenges?
  • How do they learn, adapt, and grow along the way?
  • Are there allies or mentors who aid them in their journey?
  • What new information or skills do they acquire?


6. Take: The protagonist faces their ultimate challenge.

The protagonist confronts their main obstacle or antagonist. This could be the most significant challenge, requiring them to utilize everything they've learned and overcome internal conflicts. The outcome of this confrontation will determine whether they achieve their goal.

  • What is the ultimate challenge or confrontation your protagonist faces?
  • Who or what is their main obstacle or antagonist?
  • How does the protagonist use what they've learned to confront this challenge?
  • What is the emotional and physical toll on the protagonist during this climax?


7. Return: The aftermath of the final challenge.

Following the climax, the protagonist deals with the consequences of their actions. They reflect on their journey, and there might be a moment of resolution for their internal conflicts. This step helps to wrap up loose ends and provides closure to the narrative.

  • What is the aftermath of the climax?
  • How has the protagonist's world changed as a result of their actions?
  • Are there any loose ends or unresolved conflicts that need to be addressed?
  • How do the protagonist's relationships evolve after the climax?


8. Change: Show how the protagonist has transformed.

The protagonist should undergo change or transformation due to their journey. This change could be emotional, psychological, or even physical. The audience should be able to see the growth the protagonist has experienced throughout the story.

  • How has the protagonist changed or evolved throughout the story?
  • What lessons have they learned from their journey?
  • How have their beliefs, values, or outlook on life shifted?
  • What internal conflicts have they resolved?


9. Outcome: The resolution of the story.

Conclude the story by showing how the protagonist's actions have impacted their world and the lives of those around them. This could involve showing the direct results of their actions or demonstrating the broader consequences of their journey.

  • What is the ultimate result of the protagonist's actions?
  • How do the events that transpired affect the world around them?
  • Are there any lingering consequences or new opportunities?
  • How does the story come to a satisfying conclusion for both the protagonist and the audience?



Using the Story Circle as a guide can help you create a coherent and engaging narrative structure. Remember that while the Story Circle provides a helpful framework, adapting it to your specific story and characters is essential to create a unique and compelling narrative.


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