Evaluation of The Story Template as a Diagnostic Test
This research is the topic of the 2009-2010 synthesis paper. Sources listed here may be referenced in the text of that paper, but because this research is unique: an experiment conducted by Emily Schultheis: the majority of text will detail that research that contributes to the existing body of knowledge, some of which is described here. A summary of this literature will be provided in a section entitled "Introduction" in the final paper.
Babbit, Natalie. Tuck Everlasting. 1975. Print.
This novel depicts a protagonist, Winnie Foster, who breaks away from constricting bounds of late 1800 high society. She escapes from white-washed fences, boarding school, croquet, corsets, and piano to the dangerous tangle of the unpruned woods that lie unexplored within her family’s legal possession, yet outside her allowed world. In the forest, she discovers a transcendentalist-profiled family called the Tucks: Tuck, Mae, and their sons, Miles and Jessie. At first the Tucks force her to stay with them, mentioning some secret of theirs that she unknowingly discovered - a secret that must be fully understood before she can be released. The Tucks are immortal, because of a spring from which they drank almost a century ago that still lies in the Fosters’ woods. They guard the spring to save others from their mistake. After hearing the testimony of each of the Tucks, Winnie is left to decide for herself whether to take the draught of immortality. She decides as Angus Tuck wanted to. He said “Don’t be afraid of death Winnie, but rather the unlived life . . . You don’t have to live forever; you just have to live.”, and so she did. This work is considered a “classic” according to th gold standard, because its original form was released prior to 1985, and met the requirement for a remake: the book was adapted into movie format.
It appears that there is no comprehensive list of book sales for the Barnes & Noble website. It may be possible to purchase these records. Further research is required. This site includes a “best of” list of books, but it does not indicate how this list was compiled. Many books appear to be advertised according to endorsements and well-known authors rather than even hinting at the story’s premise. There are definite flaws in using the best-sellers as equivalent to best stories. I am not accounting for marketing, and advertising is a major component in sales as well as the quality of the actual product.
Batson, Wayne Thomas. The Door Within. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2005. Print.
Mr. Batson was considered as a potential mentor for this project. He is a successful local author of YA (young adult) fantasy novels, most notably: The Door Within Series. Unfortunately, his schedule did not allow enough time for this project. These exchanges are recorded under the journals tab.
The Borders site includes a list of best selling books. Does it only include Internet sales? Not all of these books are stories, so that factor must be addressed. There appears to be no indication of how long each book has been considered a best-seller. Duration is also an important factor in identifying popular books. I will have to measure the timelessness of the work. A flashy title may increase a book’s rank to a status higher than whatever may be considered a “true classic”, but its popularity may not last forever.
Buckham, Mary, and Dianna Love. Break Into Fiction. Avon, MA: Adams Media, 2009. Print.
Again, this book focuses on two main parts: characters and plot. The character section is relatively generic, but correct all the same. It recommends that characters be “created from the soul out”. Next after the writer’s established his/her tools, it is necessary to figure out why he/she needs them, and what they will do to push the plot along. There were eleven plot points dictated in this source. Each system has slightly different terminology for certain elements, but it becomes easier to identify common elements. Among these, the most basic are ordinary world, inciting incident, a midpoint that pulls the rug out from under the hero, a final battle, and an ending. These are the events consistent with all systems referenced so far. What happens between these?
Chai, Amy, Dr. Personal interview. 17 Sept. 2009.
In this meeting, the experimental design was discussed. It has been determined that the ideal gold standard will be based on number of book sales by common retailers. The three top retailers are Amazon, Borders, and Barnes & Noble; there is no central source which has compiled all book data. Using number of sales will not include audiences that tend to borrow books (library) or audiences who buy from other retailers. Still, if the book sales data is available, these three retailers will provide a basic sample that encompasses most audiences.
Deardon, Amy. A Lever Long Enough. N.p.: Taegais Publishing LLC, 2009. Print. This source is Amy Deardon’s, discoverer of The Story Template, most recent published work. The story follows a small military team as they go back in time to film the theft of Jesus’ body from the tomb. It’s an interesting piece in that its artistic style varies slightly from the basic form described in The Story Template, yet the story feels fluent despite that variation. This example of Deardon’s work helps add credibility for her claims to be tested as they will be in this investigation.
Deardon, Amy. Personal interview. July-Aug. 2009.
Over the past month or so, several interviews with Amy Deardon, author of The Story Template, have been helpful in the clarification of particular aspects of the Template including: “pillars”, “character strands”, external/internal story, the two main types of midpoints, and the hidden need triplet. From this information, the second component of research (using the Template concurrently with story creation) progressed. A list of the most important recurring story elements has been compiled for future use in both components of study: in the first as the list of variables to be measured (for existence and location). These interviews have deepened background research; I hope to begin to outline my methods section soon. (Specifics discussed in these sequence of interviews have been noted, though due to a confidentially agreement may not be published.)
Deardon, Amy. The Story Template. Taegais LLC, Print.
The Story Template is a new writing tool soon to be available on the market in 2010-2011. It describes story structure on the data-persuaded assumption that “good” stories are nearly identical in the elements of structure it describes. Its data sample does not include short stories, comics, TV shows, documentaries, plays etc., but does include novels and full-length movies. In The Story Template, the proposed description of story includes a greater number of essential elements than those described in systems such as Freytag’s Pyramid, The Hero’s Journey, or The Monomyth. However, The Story Template also insists that existing systems, particularly The Hero’s Journey and The Monomyth are too rigid in their interpretation of story to be applicable to most “good” works. The Story Template embraces a more fluid model that the creator claims is both sensitive and specific to most “good” works. The Story Template was compiled by analyzing subjectively-chosen “good” modern stories side-by-side for similarities. The proportions of these similarities in reference to the story’s endpoints were finalized through a statistical analysis among subjects.
Donner, Richard, dir. Lady Hawke. Warner Brothers, 1985. Film.
Lady Hawke is a romance work set in a Medieval story world. The main characters include a knight, a lady, an evil Bishop, and a boy pickpocket. The knight and lady were in love before the Bishop cast a spell on them; now though they are “eternally together, [they are] forever apart”. By day the lady is a hawk, and the knight transforms into a wolf at night. The knight seeks the aide of a pickpocket to help him break the spell. This work is considered a non-classic by the Gold Standard, because it was first released in 1985, but was never reproduced in any form.
Goldberg, Leonard, dir. War Games. Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1983. Film.
A computer hacker accidentally infiltrates the national computer network, thinking to was a computer game. He begins playing, not knowing what he does is real. Once he figures it out, he must find a way to prevent a nuclear-fueled World War III. This work is considered a “non-classic”, because it was originally released in 1983, but was never reproduced in any form afterwards.
Heaven Can Wait. 1978.
A pro-football player, Joe Pendleton, dies in a tragic bike/car collision...but was he supposed to? Actually he would have survived, but unfortunately his guardian angel (new at his job) took Joe out of the world a little early, and didn’t wait for the outcome. Once the mistake is discovered, it’s a little too late. Joe’s body had already been cremated, so he couldn’t just go back to his old life. Instead, he is offered the proposition to return to the world in a different body. Eventually he takes on the form of a recently assassinated (by his wife and secretary) businessman who had a questionable sense of morality. This work is a non-classic because it was first released in 1978, but was never reproduced.
Iglesias, Karl. The 101 Habits of Highly Successful Screenwriters. Avon, Massachusetts: Adams Media Corporation, 2001. Print.
Ingermandson, Randy, and Peter Economy. Writing Fiction for Dummies. Hobrken, New Jersey: Wiley Publishing Inc., 2010. Print.
Randy Ingermanson has a PhD in physics, and is an author of six novels. He most notably recognized for his Snowflake Lecture describing a new way to develop a novel. His method includes ten steps. The first tells writers to create a one-sentence summary of the book, an instruction similar to the concept of “the zinger” in Deardon’s Story Template. Second, Ingermanson expands the single sentence into a five-sentence summary describing “three problems and an ending.” The problems occur 1) at the end of Act One, 2) at the midpoint of Act Two, and 3) at the conclusion of Act Two. This suggestion is consistent with The Story Template’s description of a plot line, though The Story Template focuses on this stage of development exclusively and is thus more specific. Step three of the snowflake instructs the reader how to develop characters in the context of the plot concluding with a one-page summary per character. The last seven steps are fairly similar to each other. They indicate refinement areas that the writer may choose to expand as time goes along. The most valuable aspect of the Snowflake is the advice to plan ahead. Ingermanson says that a story must be developed in gradual levels of detail rather than in a purely spontaneous fashion. The major problem seen with this method is that the Snowflake does not indicate what those levels of detail are in the way that would be helpful to a writer. The latter steps only say to continue writing, but not what to write besides figuring out what stuff happens. Ingermanson does well to explain character development and how to differentiate between useful characters to the progression of the story and characters without substantial purpose. Despite this credible introduction, the Snowflake is not incredibly helpful after the basic premise and characters are established.
This source used the diagnosis of hypothyroidism in patients (test known as T4) as an example for evaluating diagnostic tests in general. Using graphs and their respective data tables as visual aides, the reader sees the effect of raising and lowering criteria for a “positive” result on the number of subjects diagnosed for hypothyroidism according to the T4 test. The correlation between sensitivity and a greater number of criteria for a positive diagnosis is unsurprisingly negative. Sensitivity and specificity have an inversely proportional relationship.
Katz, Christina. Get Known before the Book Deal. Cincinnati, Ohio: Writer’s Digest Books, 2008. Print.
Lewis, C. S. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian. Andrew Adamson. 2008. Walt Disney Pictures and Walden Media.
The story world’s chronologically third installment of the seven Narnia works, though the movie is more recent, the original form of the work was released in 1951, and therefore qualifies to the timelessness aspect of the gold standard’s definition of a “classic” work. Because the original work was adapted from novel to film form, Prince Caspian may be considered fully a classic, because it therefore meets the gold standard’s requirement for having been reproduced. The four child kings and queens of Narnia’s golden age are recalled from Britain to their changed country, now in need of their help. Narnia has been usurped by the Calomenes, but one of their outcast princes (the true heir to the Calormene throne) has switched sides, and now leads the Narnians in revolt against his uncle. Again without Aslan’s help, their victory would have been impossible, but the four children learn that nothing happens the same way twice, and that as they mature, they will be given harder challenges yet, rather than fighting battles they’ve already learned how to win. The seige on the Calormene stronghold was the most notable difference in plot transference from novel to movie (not included in book).
Lunde, Robert. Personal interview. 31 July 2009.
Mr. Lunde is the national sales manager for Key Mix, a company providing mass sources of quality food at low cost. Key Mix is one of many corporations competing for grade school students’ business via public schools in the local Baltimore region. As one who is internally involved in the system, Mr. Lunde provided a knowledgeable perspective into the current state of this branch of bureaucracy. This information was valuable in determining the magnitude and constringent factors on likely success in a potential field of study. The original proposal included the further application of Capitalism on the subject of Glenelg school lunches and their buyers. It was theorized that the institution of free enterprise would increase quality/quantity and merchants’ income while lowering cost to the consumer. Variables and ways to measure them were still tentatively defined. At the conclusion of this interview, it was decided that though a promising and interesting, this potential project was unlikely to yield a tangible, gradable product within a reasonable amount of time (1-2 years). The project was dependent on several uncontrollable variables leaving a likely possibility of failure. After much consideration and consultation of other sources, this idea was finally discarded.
McCutcheon, Pam. Writing the Fiction Synopsis: A step by step approach. Memphis, Tennessee: Gryphon Books for Writers, 1998. Print.
This book explains the importance of having a good synopsis of one’s writing for publication, but to have a synopsis, there must first be a story to be described. MCCutcheon creates a good reference for developing a story in terms of character classification, basic plot organization, and genre articulation. She groups character roles into major, secondary, and minor, dependent on time used in relevance to the protagonist’s endeavors. Her plot description is very basic with only five plot points: 1)ordinary world, 2)new direction 3)change of plans, 4)the black moment, 5)resolution. Both the first two and last two are grouped closely to each other in either end of the story. The “change of plans”, also called the midpoint in other sources is listed at the exact center of the plot. McCutcheon urges writers to identify their piece’s genre in terms of its flashiest component. Her primary examples are romances, scifi, and mysteries. After these, she lists some example synopses applying both principles that are to be emulated, and others presenting what is not to be done. This source may be more useful later on.
This engine allows the user to enter book ISBNs in order to determine the sales rank on the Amazon website. This will be a cumbersome tool to identify the highest ranking books, because it requires guess and check method, but it is a start. I still must account for the differences between good marketing and good story.
Snyder, Blake. Save the Cat! Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, Print.
Save the Cat! is an instructional for screenwriters, but also for novelists. Not everything mentioned here is directly transferable, but this reference is excellent in its description of story progression. The title, Save the Cat!, indicates an important characteristic that many good stories protagonists have. The reader must feel as though the protagonist, though flawed, has some admirable quality that makes him sympathetic. Using a cliche example, the hero may stop to rescue a child’s or old lady’s cat from a tree before he continues on his adventure. This action shows the reader that the hero is compassionate and humble. Every protagonist has a flaw or weakness; there would be no story without a conflict. This “save the cat” quality in the hero seems to give the reader a reason to excuse the hero for the flaws he will demonstrate later. This book goes into greater detail in terms of creating the ideal protagonist and antagonist. Also helpful is Snyder’s descriptions of ten broad genres and examples of each (this one was better than Writing the Fiction Synopsis by Pam McCutcheon). In terms of articulating recurring twists in the story, Snyder listed fifteen of them spaced out in minutes, as it was written for movies. This source is the most helpful so far, more than writer’s journey.
Spielberg, Steven, dir. Jaws. 1975. Universal Studios.
Jaws is a “classic” as defined by the gold standard, because its original form was released prior to 1985, and it was reproduced in an adaption from novel to movie format. A megalodon-sized great white shark plagues a popular California beach front. As the monster shark continues taking numerous human grizzly casualties, the protagonist Quint argues with the stubborn mayor about closing the beaches. The mayor doesn’t want to cause panic, but Quint insists that panic is justified in this case. Quint finally confronts the shark in a dramatic battle with an ending differing slightly in the movie compared to the original manuscript.
Stallone, Sylvester, dir. Rocky. Metro Goldwyn Mayer, 1976. Film.
Rocky Balboa, a Philadelphia club fighter, is offered the chance at the greatest title in the 1980s world of boxing - not because he is known or qualified, but only out of pure chance. From the beginning, he knows that he will never be able to win, but he accepts the challenge as an opportunity to prove that he isn’t just another bum. Most of the movie shows how he overcomes obstacles while training, demonstrating his unshakable persistance, an essential quality worth even more than talent that gives him a fighting chance in the final match. This work is considered a “classic” by the gold standard, because its original form was produced prior to 1985 and had several sequels made after it.
Trottier, David. The Screenwriter’s Bible. 4th ed. Los Angeles, California: Silman-James Press, 2005. Print.
Vogler, Christopher. The Writer’s Journey: Mythic Structure for Writers. 2nd ed. Studio City, CA: Michael Wiese Productions, 1998. Print.
Vogler’s Writer’s Journey is a recompilation of Joseph Cambell’s Hero’s Journey. It describes seven archetypes, several fewer than the in the traditional Hero’s Journey. Archetypes are recurring characters who play certain roles in progressing the story. The most basic of these archetypes are the hero, the mentor, and shadow. Most of the archetypes represent forces of the good side, many of which are literally side-kicks to the protagonist. Some archetypes (like the trickster) have no allegiance and work to the advantage and disadvantage of both sides throughout the course of the story. There are also archetypes representing the antagonist and those who support him. The second section of the book describes twelve stages of the journey. Overall, this explanation of story is more specific than most when it comes to articulating the twists of every story. The most prominent problem with this method however, is that is often taken too literally. The Writer’s/Hero’s Journey contains the most substance, but at times it can be inflexible. So far, this is a personal first choice of instruction, but further research is required to determine its origin in terms of test samples.
White, E. B. Charlotte’s Web. Gary Winick. 2006. Walden Media.
Charlotte’s Web was released in its orignal form as a children’s book in 1952. It was reproduced multiple times: first in 1973, and then in 2006 both as movies. By the gold standard’s definition, Charlotte’s Web meets both the requirements of timelessness and reproducibility, and therefore is considered a “classic” work. A runt of a litter of pigs is spared from death by the farmer’s eight year-old daughter Fern. Fern names her new pet pig Wilbur, but one day he is sold to Fern’s uncle Zuckerman. At the new barn, Wilbur implores the help of a wise compassionate grey spider named Charlotte after he hears from the sheep that the Zuckermans plan to slaughter him for Christmas dinner, still a few months away. Charlotte schemes to save Wilbur’s life by making him famous. She writes adjectives in her web: “some pig”, “terrific”, “radiant”, and finally “humble” all above Wilbur’s stall.
Zinnemann, Fred, dir. High Noon. 1952. Republic Pictures.
The protagonist, Will Kane is a sheriff in a lonely little town somewhere in Texas. He had just gotten married the same day he hears the news that an old adversary, Frank Miller, has worked the justice system up north and set him free. He’s coming back to take revenge on the town that put him in jail, particularly the sheriff without whom they wouldn’t have been successful: Will. Frank Miller and his gang of thugs will be back on the noon train. At first Will takes the advice of the town and new wife; he runs. Quickly though, conscience overtakes reason, and he returns to face Frank Miller, because he knows that all advances will have been for naught if the town can’t even stand up to a gang like Miller’s. Will tries to prepare by gathering a posse to him, but discovers the ugly facet of cowardice in even his closest friends. His new wife leaves him, because he will not abandon the town’s troubles, though he is no longer sheriff. His deputy is too consumed with rivalry, and actually gets into a fist fight with Kane before officially refusing to help. In the end, only a boy and the town drunk are willing to help him, but are useless as help. Kane is left utterly alone to defend a town that is no longer his responsibility. The clock is ticking until Miller’s train finally arrives at high noon. This work is considered a “classic” by the gold standard’s definition. It was released prior to 1985, and has been rereleased multiple times, some of which in “classic collections”.