V-8 Bones of Story Telling

Welcome to Bones of Storytelling.

If you are in a coached session with myself, Becky, or Cloie, your job is to:

1) Get your books.

2) Create an organizing system for your printout (or get a binder from us).

3) Watch the first teaching below. NOTE: You need to hit “download” to get the best version of the video and the handouts. 

4) Watch your email for instructions on date/time/Zoom lines for your live class and what to expect in our debriefing sessions.

5) Attend your first live class and follow the instructions below for watching the other teachings and attending the other live sessions.


If you are taking the class as part of the Self-Study Virtual format, your job is to:

1) Get your books.

2) Create an organizing system for your printout (or get a binder from us).

3) Watch the teachings as they are ordered below, follow and do the homework you want, enjoy going at your own pace! NOTE: You need to hit “download” to get the best version of the video and the handouts. 

If you have any questions, let me or Cloie know: jclauck@gmail.comcloieatblackbird@gmail.com

Enjoy, Jennifer

Books You’ll Need:


Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel by Jane Smiley

Story by Robert McKee

Story Engineering by Larry Brooks

From Where You Dream by Robert Olen Butler

The Seven Basic Plots by Christopher Booker 

Powerpoint Presentation Used: Click here



The Bones of Storytelling


What to expect in the video teaching:

Overview, idea/concept/What If ?’s, and theme.

Handouts used during class:

Story Pyramid,
Concept and Theme
Cover Page


Instructions before watching your first video teaching: Gather your handouts, have Story Engineering near for page references and watch your first teaching.


1) Spend about forty minutes with your What-If questions. Fifty to eighty is normal.

Sample: Click here.

2) Balance out your theme as shown on pg. 125 of Story Engineering.

EXAMPLE OF A BALANCED OUT THEME: My story is about an Italian man in the Piedmont who is kind like of a dope, lazy, lame, sentimental, and who awakens to this dream like life he lives when each of his four sons is taken away to serve in WWI. It’s about people living outside of reality, about building castles in their minds rather than being in their life, and what happens when we don’t face the truth, we are not present, when we live based on the stories we’ve told ourselves. It’s about circumstances shattering illusions and how, in response, we either change or die.

3) Be thinking about books you’ve read (or movies you’ve watched) and what about them stuck with you, as a way to get closer to your understanding of theme.

4)  If you’re in the coached sessions: Go to your first class and meet your team! If you are taking the virtual only class, watch your second video.


What to expect in the video teaching:

Discussion of alternative outline methods, including benefits and limits, and processes.


Butler Method
Smiley Pyramid
Draft One Summary



1) Attempt a revision of What If ?’s. Sample here.

3) Alternatively try a different pre-writing technique

3) If you’re in the coached session, attend your second live group and bring your second set of What If ?’s or your alternative choice. STOP! 

4) After second live coached session watch Thelma & Louise

5) Print out two copies of W chart (Milo’s Plot Chart) and Breakdown of Structure and watch video teaching #3.


What to expect:

Your first big conversation on structure


W Chart from lecture


1) If you are in the coached sessions, get your questions together and attend your third group.

2) Before watching teaching video #4, watch Cider House Rules, and while you watch, chart structure on W (Milo’s Plot Chart).

3) Extra credit 😉: Take a shot at organizing your second draft “What-If ?’s” on a W, if you dare.

4) Watch teaching video #4


What to expect:

A second conversation on structure. Discussion of study devices, canon, overwhelm when learning new materials, and if time, your attempt to plot your own story.


CHR W Chart: Click here


1) If you are in the live coached session, get your questions ready and attend your fourth group.

2) Before watching the next teaching video, #5, print out/or pull out your Plot Handouts.

3) Watch teaching video #5.

4) Additionally, you can read those first seven chapters of Booker for supplemental study. 

5) Have you found Stranger than Fiction? If not…don’t worry. We have a condensed version for your and you are invited to watch Cast Away for a “bonus” structure teaching.


What to expect:

Discussion of plot in relation to story and your story


Plot Diagram used in conversation: Click here


1) Decide which plot might fit your idea, or symbolizes your life (should you not know what you are writing).

2) Try to do a free-write on this question and see what comes up.

3) If you are in the live coached session, bring this write up with you to your fifth group and we’ll discuss. Also bring any questions you might have.

3) If  you are doing this class virtually only, add this to your binder to capture your thinking at this time.

4) Prior to taking the vodeo class, print out the following handouts and have ready for the conversation:

Character name
Character Interview
Character Chart
Character Definitions


What to expect:

Discussion about character and why it matters. You’ve printed the above four character handouts and have at ready for when watching class.

Glove and Boots Video: Click here



1) Interview one or more of your characters.

2) OR Write a “day in the life” to get to know them.

3) Fill out one, or multiple, character name charts.

4) If you are in the coached session, bring #1-3 plus your questions to class. If you are doing the virtual class, put your homework into your binder. STOP!

5) Once live class is over, read Chapter 14 of Story on antagonistic forces. 

6) Antagonistic forces: Print hand out and watch next video class.


What to expect:

Discussion of antagonistic forces.


Handouts made in class:

Negation sketch with justice
Faux Emotions Chart



1) What is the core value of your character? Can you plot that out?

2) If you are in the coached session, bring the answer to that question to your group or if you are studying virtually, write it up and put into your binder.

3) If you are able, Watch Stranger than Fiction with Emma Thompson & Will Farrell. See if you can plot this on the W Chart. If you cannot find this movie, please do not worry. We will have a version in the next class you can follow.


What to expect:

This is our third structure conversation with Stranger than Fiction and we’ll go another layer deeper on the Negation of Negation and well as the circle of conflict

W for Stranger than Fiction: Click here

Negation of Negation for Stranger than Fiction: Click here

Circle of antag forces for Harold: Click here


Main Teaching: Click here

STF Teaching: Click here 

NOTE: Watch opening of teaching video…pause and move to STF teaching …then return to original teaching video.


1) If you are attending the coached sessions, bring your questions to class.

2) Print the setting handouts and take the next video teaching.

2) If you are taking the class virtually, print the below handouts and take the next video teaching.

Name of setting
Setting and structure
Four ways to bring setting to life 


What to expect:

A discussion on setting and structure, how to bring setting to life in your writing, and a discussion on research and something called the “saturation point.”



  1. Think about setting and fill in your own four dimensional chart
  2. Write up a full report about your work ticking off the following: Idea, concept statement, theme balanced out, list of characters using whatever method most appealed, summary of your plot line (and why), hero core value to suss out negation of negation might be. Last, write up a summary of the whole project with: beginning, middle and end in no more than words.
  3. OR: Write up a new description of your project and let it be informed by everything you’ve learned over these nine weeks.
  4. Bring #2 or #3 to your 10th live group meeting, or if you are watching the virtual only, write it up, print it and tuck it into your binder
  5. BONUS STUCTURE TEACHING: Cast Away with Tom Hanks. NOTE: We had some technical difficulties at time of lecture, disregard that part of the conversation.

Teaching from summer retreat: Click here

Cast Away W for reference: Click here


What to expect:

We’re now taking inventory and what impacted you most, discussion your report and what to do with it, the reality of writer’s block, and a lovely post-draft exercise, as well as what comes next.

Syd Fields Handouts on Writer’s Block and Post Draft Essay’s



1) If you are in the coached session, get your report finished and send it in to Cloie (cloieatblackbird@gmail.com) and then get ready to discuss in class

2) If you are in the vitual only, write up your report an add to your binder

3) Get ready for Scene Vs. Exposition


If you’ve taken the virtual class, well done. You have many options now:
  • You can go write that first or tenth draft.
  • You can take the Scene vs. Exposition.
  • You can contact me, jclauck@gmail.com and talk about joining a live Studio where we continue our study and workshop writing every week. Or book me for a one on one consult to talk about your report, your idea, your plan, or anything else about yoru wriring. I’m here to help. 
Until we meet again, take care and know I’m cheering for you.
~ Jennifer