Written by John Jarvis
Stage three is the choice of your story’s third Story Element, the Story Type.
If your story is to fall under the Action Category, there are 10 Story Types to choose from; if under the Character Category, 2 Types to choose from; and if Myth Category, 9 Types. Although the number of different stories that have ever been written is too great even to begin to count, it is possible to categorize them into a fairly manageable list of basic Types. In fact, the overwhelming majority of stories can be grouped into just 14 fairly distinctive Story Types:
Puzzle, Character Adventure, Locale Adventure, Chase, Capture and Escape, Triumphant Victim,Revenge, Kidnap and Rescue, Supernatural Transformation, Internal Transformation, Love, Intense Love, Coming of Age, and Excess and Downfall.
And some of those Types can fall under either the Myth or Action category (Puzzle-Type stories, for instance), or under either the Character or Action category (as with the Coming of Age Story Type).
HOW TO DECIDE ON THE STORY TYPE FOR YOUR STORY
The individual descriptions of each of the Story Types can be found in the StoryCraft software in the Category and Type section. Before you begin, and as you read them, you need to keep in mind the following tips for selecting your Story Type:
1) Consider your story’s main emphasis.
Just as you determined what your story’s Category is by considering where the story’s emphasis will lie (for example, more on character change than on plot,) the particular Story Type is also determined largely according to your story’s main purpose. For example, if your story involves a kidnapping, it is not necessarily going to fall under the “Kidnap and Rescue” Story Type if its main purpose is, say, to show the kidnapped person’s spiritual growth from a childish state to an adult state. Rather, such a story would fall under the “Coming of Age story Type, because the Story Type reflects the essence of the story much more than it reﬂects the particular subject or action of the story.
It is important not to confuse “Story Types” with “genres”, for example, “action-adventure,” “romance,” “comedy,” “drama,” and so on. Story Types represent a very general story designation and are not, in fact, limited to any one genre. A “Chase” Story Type, for instance, could be an action-adventure, a romance, a comedy, or a drama. Again, the Story-Type designation comes closest to representing the ESSENCE of the story, not simply its particular genre.
2) Study the story synopses.
Each of the Story Type descriptions in the StoryCraft software also includes very brief synopses of actual stories in the Notable Examples text field. It is strongly recommended that you study those stories in greater depth by consulting books that describe those particular stories. There are a number of reference works that summarize, for example, classics in fiction and noted movies.
3) Study the Speciﬁc Story Creation Steps of each Story Type.
Each Story Type has its own specific story creation steps, an outline of the structure of that particular Story Type. In the StoryCraft software, you can find these step descriptions in the Notable Examples text field and in the Creation Steps section when choosing a Story Type from the menu.
You will notice that, although each Story Type outline is different, each also shares important similarities. And each of those steps vary only slightly (surprisingly!) from Type to Type. For instance, the description of Story Creation Step #1 in the “Puzzle” Story Type outline is only slightly different from the description of the same-numbered step in the “Chase” Story Type outline. In other words, the structures of all stories follow a general pattern, regardless of their Story Type. That pattern — the Story Creation Steps — will be dealt with in detail at Stage 5 (Structure).
You will notice also that each outline follows a mythological structure system. The mythological system dates before recorded history and has been used by storytellers ever since. Joseph Campbell, for one, was a strong advocate of the approach in all his books and interviews. Hence the system, though perhaps not as ﬂashy as some newer ones, has the advantage of having been tested and ﬁne-tuned over centuries.
This mythological approach also has the advantage of simplicity. A main character (“Hero”), who lives in his or her world (“Ordinary World”), is always involved in a journey or adventure of some type. That journey takes the Hero into a different world (“Extraordinary World”), the world of the Hero’s nemesis (or other force), called the “Antagonist.” In short, each story is in some sense the story of the Hero and the Hero’s Helpers confronting the Antagonist and the Antagonist’s Helpers.
4) Determine which set of Specific Story Creation Steps best ﬁts your Story Concept.
Find the Story Type with the structure that ﬁts closest to your Story Concept. If you’re unable to ﬁnd a satisfactory Concept-Type match, you’ll need to rethink your story. Often writers are too idealistic at the Concept (or Category) stage, moving their story in a direction that doesn’t work once it’s time to ﬂesh it out. In that case, you’ll need to reexamine your choices of Concept or Category.