Writing Tips

The Story Circle

Good Morning Bookworms.

I am hoping to incorporate more writing information in with the bibliophile posts here at the Professional Bookworm. So, here is a stab at it! The Story Circle.

In the past four years of Creative Writing curriculum at IU, I have had the story circle taught to me at least once a year. For fans of Rick and Morty, you’ll be excited to know that this is the method used by Dan Harmon and Justin Roliand to write the show. (And Community too!)

So let’s get started. And, I’ll admit that I have very little drawing ability…so my circle looks pretty bad. That’s okay.

Grab a blank piece of paper, preferably from a bigger notebook. This is what I have with me, though, so it will have to work.

Draw a quadrant and connect those lines with a circle. Great, now you have a pie with four slices, and I’m hungry.img_0862-1

Number those quadrants until you get to eight, because the story circle has eight steps.

Finally, the eight steps in the Story Circle.




This means your character in their state of normalcy. Nothing has gone wrong yet, this is their life before the writer gets in there and tears it apart.



Need or Want

Your character can’t stay img_0865-1.jpgcontent forever, otherwise there wouldn’t be a story, so they need something. The inciting incident. What moves them into the conflicting, action packed plot.



Crosses a thresholdimg_0866-1.jpg

Just because they have a want or need doesn’t mean they have to do anything about it. But, I sure hope they do. Next the character must cross the threshold (leave normalcy)



Journey img_0867-1.jpgthrough obstacles

Getting your character’s needs and wants fulfilled wont be easy. They must go through challenges on their way to achieving their goal. This is typically a large portion of the story.



Achieves Goal (Gets what they want)

Most people would probably consider this the climax of a story. Need or wish fulfilled! Time to celebrate, except wait, it isn’t over yet.


Paimg_0869-1.jpgy a price

Everything comes with a price. Nothing comes easy. Whichever motto you like to live by is fine; make sure your character understands that too. Maybe they had a goal to find the lost city of Atlantis, but in finding it, their best friend drowns. Okay, it doesn’t have to be that dramatic. You get the point.

Return homeimg_0870-1.jpg

This can be as literal or metaphorical as you want. Remember, home is a person and a feeling, not just a place. Either way, after your character has crossed their threshold and achieved their goal, they can try to go back to normal.


Haviimg_0871-1.jpgng Changed

  1. Jokes on your character, after all these adventures their normal will never be the same. Another tip, your character doesn’t have to change, but there has to be the opportunity for them to develop. Like all people, they can turn down that chance.



So that’s the Story Circle! Remember, rules are meant to be broken. Do you have to stick to this while you write? No! Is it a good guide to make sure you have a complete plot without any gaps? Yes! Use it before you write the story or after, this tool has helped me devleope more meaningful plots. It also gives a great visual representation of the essential rule of stories: plot should be grounded in character.

Notice? All 8 of our points have something to do with our character.






Keep reading Bookworms, and try writing your own great adventures too!


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