Story Shamans Podcast – Episode 6 – The O.C.


The O.C., Veronica Mars kinda, Mad Men kinda.


Story Shamans Podcast – Episode 2 – The Matrix Trilogy


The Matrix, The Matrix Reloaded, The Matrix Revolutions, The Animatrix


Related Shamans Videos to Check out:


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!

Moral: The Meaning of Your Story

The moral of any story is the meaning.

The reason the story is being told.

The point.

But what does that mean practically?

A “moral” is a value judgment being made about an aspect of human behavior.

An opinion, that takes a look at some human action/state/behavior and decides if it’s positive or negative.

Ex: “Killing is evil.”

That’s a very simplistic one, but you get the point. It’s a definitive value judgment being made about human behavior.

Usually the true moral of a story won’t be completely revealed until the end. It’s in the final resolution of your tale that the final moral judgement is communicated.

But how do we do this?

How do we bake a moral into our story?
Just have somebody say “killing’s bad” in the final scene while a beloved character dies?


First you need to craft a “moral statement.” A full moral statement is a judgement, with a justification.

Ex: “Killing is evil because it never solves a problem, it only causes more pain.”

We’re making a judgement: killing is evil.
But we’re also giving a specific reason that this is so: because it never solves a problem, it only causes more pain.

Now that we have this full moral statement, we’ve got to find a way to weave it into the fabric of our story. How do we do that?

We look at the core idea behind that moral statement (the issue of killing), and come up with different ways to argue the various sides of the issue. At the end of the story, we’ll land on the side our full moral statement references.

By the end, our story will have “argued” the various sides of the issue to such a satisfactory degree, that the full moral statement, and its judgement, won’t feel like a subjective opinion anymore. It’ll feel more like an objective fact.

So how do we do this “arguing” through the structure of the story?

There are three different methods:

  • Pro/Con
  • Inverse
  • Four Point Alternation


It’s what is sounds like.

You have a moral statement, and you explore the positive side and negative side.

Ultimately falling on one side of the argument, by the end of your story.

What’s that look like?

  • You give some attention to the idea that killing is evil.
  • You give some attention to the idea that killing is good.

You explore both the “pro” and “con” of your moral statement idea.

By the end, you completely communicate your moral statement by falling on the side of the argument that you originally intended and designed. In this case, you fall on the side of killing being evil.

And you demonstrate this fact in the end, with the “because” – it never solves a problem, it only causes more pain.


You pit one idea against its inverse – the opposite, contradictory expression of the idea.

What’s our first idea?
It’s about killing. Specifically that killing is evil.

What’s the inverse?
It’s not that killing is good.
That’s pro/con type thinking.

Okay, so what’s the real inverse?
It’s that keeping people alive is evil.


  • You give some attention to the idea that killing people is evil.
  • You give some attention to the idea that keeping people alive is evil.

Then you end your story on the moral statement you crafted before you began:
Killing is evil – because it never solves a problem, it only causes more pain.

Four Point Alternation

This is the most complex form of moral argument.

You have one idea, and you put it in direct conflict with another, separate, idea.

Let’s say “killing is the source of all sorrow” vs. “selfishness is the source of all sorrow.” Two different ideas. Notice that in this argument, the source of sorrow can’t really be both. It’s got to be one or the other.

Okay, well now we have two points of argument. But it’s called “four” point alternation. Where are the other two points?

Well, we take these two ideas, and we apply either the pro/con method, or the inverse method, to both of them.

For our example here, let’s use the inverse:

  • Killing is the source of all sorrow.

and (its inverse):

  • Keeping people alive is the source of all sorrow.


  • Selfishness is the source of all sorrow.

and (its inverse):

  • Altruism is the source of all sorrow.

We now have four points to argue. That’s a packed moral argument!

As you go through your story, you weave these ideas into your plot, your characters, and your scenes. Each movement forward is making one of these four arguments.

By the end of your story, you land on one statement as the ultimate truth.

To sum up!

Four Point Alternation:

The most complex form of moral argument. Very effective when you have two different ideas in direct conflict with one another. You get to explore each idea, and each idea’s positive and negative sides.

The Inverse Method:

Better when you want to focus on just one central concept, and explore it in full.


Best when you want a more simplistic examination of just one idea. And suss out whether it’s good or bad.

Go with whichever method feels best for your story.

But you’ve got to have one of ’em. Otherwise, no matter how good your story is, it’ll ultimately be without meaning.