Chapter 1



  • A speaker tells a listener what someone did to get what he wanted and why.

  • 3 elements: The Teller, The Listener, and The Story.

  • Essentially, the Story is a Puzzle that the Author plays with the Audience.


1. Tell the audience certain information about a character

2. And I Withhold certain information

  • Withholding, or hiding, information is crucial to the story.

  • It forces the audience to figure out who the character is, and what he is doing, thereby drawing the audience into the story.

  • When the audience no longer has to figure out the story, they cease being an audience, and the story stops.

*Audiences love both the feeling part of the story (reliving the life) and the thinking part of the story (figuring out the puzzle).

*Every good story has both.


All stories are a form of expressing the dramatic code.

The Dramatic Code

  • The Dramatic Code = shows how a person can grow or evolve

  • This is also a process that is underneath every story. The author hides this process beneath particular actions and characters.

  • But this code of growth is what the audience ultimately takes from a good story.


  • In the dramatic code, desire inadvertently causes change.

  • The story world doesn’t boil down to “I think, therefore I am” but instead, “I want, therefore I am.”

  • Desire in all its facets is what makes the world go round.

  • Desire is what propels people and gives them direction.

  • Therefore, a story tracks what a person wants, what he’ll do to get it, and what costs he’ll have to pay along the way.

  • Once a character has a desire, the story can develop organically.

A character pursuing a desire takes actions to get what he wants, and learns new information about better ways to get it. Whenever he learns new information, he makes a decision and changes his course of action.

  • All stories move in this way.

  • Any character who goes after a desire will encounter obstacles, which forces him to struggle. And this struggle makes him change.

  • Thus, the ultimate goal of the dramatic code, and of the storyteller, is to present a change in the character. Or to illustrate what that change did not occur.

  • The focal point of any story then, is the moment of change, the impact of the events and actions on the character, when he finally breaks free of habits and weaknesses and demons from his past to transform to a richer and fuller self.

  • The dramatic code therefore expresses the idea that human beings can become a better version of themselves, psychologically and morally. And that’s why audiences love it.

* Stories don’t show the audience the “real world.” The story world isn’t a copy of life as it is, but rather, it’s life as human beings imagine it could be.