Story Shamans Podcast – Episode 1 – Nolan’s Batman


Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, The Dark Knight Rises, Man of Steel, Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice, Captain America 3: Civil War …kinda.


  • Batman Begins was originally released on June 15th, 2005.
  • What’s Batman Beyond, you ask? Click here.
  • Heath Ledger DID receive an Academy Award for best supporting actor, in 2009, posthumously.
  • In 2009, The Dark Knight was nominated for:
    • Best Performance by a Supporting Actor – Heath Ledger WON!
    • Cinematography – Wally Pfister
    • Film Editing – Lee Smith
    • Makeup – John Caglion Jr., and Conor O’Sullivan
    • Sound Editing – Richard King WON!
    • Sound Mixing – Lora Hirschberg, Gary Rizzo and Ed Novick
    • Visual Effects – Nick Davis, Chris Corbould, Tim Webber and Paul Franklin
    • Art Direction – Nathan Crowley; Set Decoration: Peter Lando
  • Schindler’s List was, indeed, nominated for Best Picture in 1994, and won.
  • What’s Batman: Knightfall you ask? Click here.


Related Shamans Videos to Check out:

Full Circle



Cubby Wrap-Up


Let’s take a look at what we’ve covered:


It’s the beginning of your story. A “what if” fantasy that will be explored through four distinct phases:

  • Neutral (you’re just establishing that “what if” fantasy)
  • Positive
  • Negative
  • Resolution

These four phases will directly coincide with the four acts of your story.

  • Act 1 = neutral, established, fantasy.
  • Act 2 = positive aspects of your fantasy.
  • Act 3 = negative aspects of your fantasy.
  • Act 4 = resolve the fantasy.


Your main character, and your major supporting characters, should all have a collection of traits:

  • Individual flaw – a weakness that affects just the character.
  • Moral flaw – a weakness that affects other characters.
  • Arc – the character changes over time, from one thing to another.
  • Ghost – something from the character’s past that still haunts them.
  • Passion – something the character really cares about.
  • Identity – how the world sees the character.
  • Essence – who the character really is, under the surface.
  • Emphasized cubby – a part of the story that is being exemplified by the character(s).
  • Character web – all the characters will share a common trait, connecting them in a web.


The world of your story has four concerns:

  • Location (with a metaphor)
  • Reality
  • Time Period
  • Duration

Where’s it take place?
What’s the reality of this place like?
What’re the limitations the time period puts on it?
How long does the story span?


When making a moral argument you have three different methods:

  • Pro/Con
  • Inverse
  • Four Point Alternation

Pro/Con – you argue the positive, and the negative, of one particular idea.

The death penalty’s bad.
The death penalty’s good.

Inverse – you argue one statement and its opposite.

Guns should be universally banned.
No they shouldn’t.

Four Point Alternation – you basically argue one idea vs another.

You do this by focusing on a particular statement for idea 1, as well as its opposite. And a particular statement for idea 2, and its opposite.

Marriage is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.


Bachelorhood is the natural state for humans.
No it isn’t.


One main primal desire, that is then broken up into sub-desires.

One sub-desire for each act of your story. These sub-desires act as stepping stones on the path to the main desire.


There are four different categories of conflict:

  • Man vs. Man
  • Man vs. Self
  • Man vs. Nature
  • Man vs. Society

You should have one main overall conflict:

Say: “Man vs. Man.”

Then sub-conflicts that incorporate the other three categories. One sub-conflict per act.

Main conflict: Man vs. Man

  • Act 1 = Man vs. Self emphasized.
  • Act 2 = Man vs. Nature emphasized.
  • Act 3 = Man vs. Society emphasized.
  • Act 4 = Man vs. Man emphasized.


There are three different methods of revelation:

“Question and Answer” Method:

A specific question is raised, with a limited number a possible answers, and then that question is answered.

Will he take the job?

Possible answers:

  • yes
  • no

Eventually a decision is made.

“Mystery and Reveal” Method:

A mystery is established, with unlimited possible answers, and then that mystery is solved when the answer is revealed.

Who is the killer?

Possible answers:

  • Sue
  • Michael
  • Billy Bob
  • Joanna
  • Cyrus
  • Etc, etc, etc.

Eventually the killer is revealed.

“Unknown Surprise” Method:

Shocking information is revealed, without any previous indication.

“I’m moving to France!”

Then there are many different types of revelation:

  • Character revelation: a revelation is presented to a character.
  • Audience revelation: a revelation is presented to just the audience.
  • Self revelation: a character has a revelation about themselves, as part of their arc.
  • Story twist revelation: a revelation that is so massive, it changes your entire perception of the story up until that point.

You should have one major revelation near the end of each act, ideally at the turning points.

Your main character’s “self revelation,” should be in act four to coincide with the end of your character’s arc.

“Story twist” revelations are usually saved for act four, but they can be moved if need be.


There are eight different genre tones:

  • Comedy = happy
  • Tragedy = sad
  • Drama = serious
  • Farce = silly
  • Action = exciting
  • Horror = scary
  • Romance = idealistic
  • Erotica = sexy


An emotional theme that is primal, yet complex.

You want to explore both the positive and negative sides of this emotional theme with sub-expressions. Smaller emotional ideas that are related to the overall theme.

One sub-expression for each act, while the main theme runs through the entire story.


An intellectual theme based in a stimulating and thought-provoking idea.

You then want to explore this theme through sub-expressions, one per act.


Most stories have an “A” plot with a smaller “B” plot. But you could also have a “C” or “D” plot.

What are the specifics of your narrative’s traits?

  • Perspective?
  • Scope?
  • Stakes?
  • Timeline:
    • linear or non-linear?
    • If non-linear, then are you using any of the following:
      • Flashbacks?
      • Flashforwards?
      • Montages?
      • Co-Current Timelines?
        • If so, then you want to use an anchor.
  • Storytellers:
    • If so, is it a narrator or an internal monologue?
      • If a narrator, then is it in the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd person
      • Is the narrator inside or outside of the story?
      • Is it justified or unjustified?
      • Is it speaking in the past tense or present tense?
      • Is it verbal or text?


The particular way in which you execute the other cubbies of your story.

It gives your story its unique identity. A useful short hand is the “fill in the blank” method:

Your story is a:_____________.


25 steps total.

ACT 1:

  • Set up
  • Inciting Incident
  • Raise the Dramatic Question
  • Debate and Decision
  • Turning Point 1

ACT 2:

  • B Plot Introduction
  • Plan
  • Shenanigans
  • Commitment Confirmed
  • Turning Point 2

ACT 3:

  • B Plot Convergence
  • New Plan
  • Destruction
  • Point of Desperation
  • Turning Point 3

ACT 4:


Symbols are when you use one thing to represent something else, or a constellation of other ideas.

There are three different types of symbols:

  • Visual
  • Auditory
  • Action

Visual symbols = something you see.
Ex: mailboxes representing home.

Auditory symbols = something your hear.
Ex: rushing water means impending danger.

Action symbols = something that happens.
Ex: the act of playing catch means two people are connected like family.


Moments create a sense of reality. Making your story feel real, instead of manufactured.

Two main ways of creating moments:

  • Intentional Flaws
  • Extraneous Beats

Intentional flaws = any imperfection on the part of a character that makes them seem more human.
Ex: bumping into a door or misspeaking.

Extraneous beats = a beat added to your story that isn’t absolutely necessary to the plot, but makes your characters feel more real.
Ex: having a character check to see if their gun is loaded three times, just to make sure.

You want to have one major moment that defines the soul of your story. It’s the moment in your story that captures the essence of what this entire tale has all been about.
Ex: father and son fishing on the lake at sunset.

That’s it Animals! All of the cubbies in one go!

Plot: Act 4 (part 2)

ACT 4 (part 2):

The last 5 steps of your plot:

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

Self Reflection:

Your main character reflects on his or herself.

Their choices. Their life.

They take a moment to consider everything they’ve been through up until this point. This consideration brings them to some kind of conclusion, or moment of inspiration, and they then get moving again.

Race to Climax:

Your main character races full steam ahead to a climax.

Maybe they’re racing through the city streets in a car, or running as fast as they can to the airport. Whatever their mode of transportation, they’re hauling ass to take one last shot at achieving their goal.


Your main character goes head to head with the source of conflict.

They’ve taken shots at each other during the course of the story, but this is the final battle. They face each other one last time to really have it out.


The dramatic crescendo that resolves the dramatic question we raised back in act 1.

Does the main character get what they’ve been after this whole time? Do they succeed? This is the moment when it happens (or not) and the story is just about over.

New Equilibrium:

The wrap up of your story.

You show the audience the aftermath of the events of the story. It could be long and involved ala the end of Lord of the Rings: Return of the King or it could be very short and succinct ala From Dusk Till Dawn.

Let’s take these steps and apply them to our bank robbing example:

ACT 4 (second half):

  • Self Reflection
  • Race to Climax
  • Showdown
  • Climax
  • New Equilibrium

When we last left our story – Recruiter-Guy sacrificed himself to give our main character time enough to get away. He did. He’s fled, successfully, to their planned rendezvous point. He steals a car, packs what’s left of the money from the robbery, and looking to get out of town fast — when the phone rings. It’s the commissioner. He’s sitting outside our main character’s ex-wife’s house. He wants Recruiter-Guy’s cut of the take.

Self Reflection:
Our main character takes a good hard look at himself. He’s got a choice to make.
If he gives the commish half the money to protect his ex-wife, he won’t have enough left over for his surgery. He’ll die. Another option, is to keep the money and let his ex-wife die. But then the commissioner is still out there, still hunting him. A third option – he could face and kill the commissioner. It’s dangerous. But the only person dying in this scenario is the kidnapping, corrupt, commissioner.

He decides on option three. He’s going to kill the commissioner.

This takes our main character to the end of his character arc. He’s gone from peaceful pacifist — to criminal killer. Ya know, if that’s the arc you designed for him.

Race to Climax:
Our main character races to confront the commissioner with a shotgun, locked and loaded.

Our main character steps into a warehouse. His ex-wife is tied up, he squares off with the commissioner.

They fight, and our main character kills the commissioner. He saves his ex-wife and sets out to leave town with his money.

OR, if ya wanna go a different way…

Our main character kills the commissioner, frees his ex-wife, steps out of the warehouse and is gunned down by the police who’ve finally tracked him down. He’s dead.

New Equilibrium:
In choice A — the commissioner is dead, his ex-wife is free, and he has all the money he needs for his surgery. He gets out of town, gets the medical help he needed, and he’s recovering on a beach somewhere. Peaceful.

In choice B — our main character’s body lies bleeding out on the concrete. It’s quickly zipped up in a bag and taken to the morgue. He’s dead. He lost.

That’s a bit more depressing, but like all the steps in your plot, it depends on what kind of story you’re going for.

That’s it Animals! That’s your plot, in 25 steps.

Plot: Act 2

ACT 2!

Just like act 1, it has 5 steps:

  • B Plot Introduction
  • Plan
  • Shenanigans
  • Commitment Confirmed
  • Turning Point 2

B Plot Introduction:

You start the smaller plot that will run concurrent to the main plot.

One unique aspect of the B plot, is that it’s movable. You could introduce the B plot here in the beginning of act 2, or really any time earlier in act 1. But generally speaking, the beginning of act 2 is a good place for it.


Your main character formulates a plan of action.

They already have a goal, a desire that they want or need to pursue. How are they going to achieve that goal? They need a plan. This is the time for them to come up with one.


A broad term for what occurs during the bulk of act 2.

You main character puts their plan into action, and… what happens? What kind of hijinks ensue? This is where you get to relish in the seed you’ve set up. What was your seed?

  • Was it: “What if dinosaurs were resurrected?”

Then your shenanigans would be walking among these majestic giants, marveling at their grace and beauty. Having your paleontologist characters witness live behaviors they could only guess at back when they were looking at fossilized bones.

  • Was it: “What if you could come back from the dead for revenge?”

Then your main character spends this “shenanigans” time back from the dead, killing those who did him wrong.

This is the time to enjoy the “positive” aspects of the seed you’ve set up.

Commitment Confirmed:

The character fully commits to the journey ahead.

The road they’re moving down. The shenanigans have opened up your main character’s world, but there’s still the possibility of going back to how things used to be. It’s still possible to step back into their smaller, safer world from before the story began. Here in this step, you take that possibility away. They commit fully to the path. They cross that bridge and it crumbles behind them. They might get killed saving their friend, but they get in the car anyway.

You want to craft a situation where there’s no going back. Your main character’s commitment to the road ahead, is confirmed.

Turning Point 2:

This is the end of act 2. You want to end it with a bang.

Some kind of major accomplishment. Or, alternatively, some kind of major set back.

This major turn in the story should push things forward. In the same way turning point 1 did. We want to move the story along, in a big shift, into act 3.

Let’s put this all together and take a look at our bank robbing example from act 1:

ACT 2:

  • B Plot Introduction
  • Plan
  • Shenanigans
  • Commitment Confirmed
  • Turning Point 2

First, let’s introduce our B plot.
Our main character’s buddy, the guy who recruited him into this whole bank robbing idea, will be the main character for the B plot. Turns out his daughter has been kidnapped and in order to get her back, he has to rob this bank.

The main character and his recruiter buddy hatch their plan, when they sit down and prepare exactly how they’re going to rob this bank.

We get into our shenanigans when our characters actually rob the bank. This whole section is what the story is primarily about, plot-wise.

Their commitment is confirmed when our main characters kill a cop on the way out of the bank. There’s no going back now. They’re in it for keeps.

And we truly hit turning point 2, when Recruiter-Guy is caught by the police and our main character leaves him behind.

That’s a real solid act 2. Movin’ on to act 3!