I’ve stumbled upon a writing resource that needs to be shared on the Kill Zone. It’s called the Ultimate Story Checklist, and it’s on a website called Cockeyed Caravan hosted by Matt Bird. If the names aren’t familiar, Matt Bird is an A-List screenwriter who recently published a book titled The Secrets of Story.
While the website and book are aimed at the screenwriting market, there’s a lot of value here for regular storytellers. Matt Bird delivers many great takeaways, one being, “Audiences purchase your work because of its concept but embrace it because of the characters”. I put that quote on my daily affirmation board.
You can download the Ultimate Story Checklist here. However, I’ll list the highlights so you’ll get an idea where this craft book and blog are coming from. Here’s the CliffsNotes version of over 200 sub-points to check off:
Part 1: Concept
The Pitch — Does the concept excite everyone who hears it?
Story Fundamentals — Wil this concept generate a strong story?
The Hook — Will this be marketable and generate word of mouth?
Part 2: Character
Believe — Do we recognize the hero as a human being?
Care — Do we feel for the hero?
Invest — Can we trust the hero to tackle the challenge?
Part 3: Structure
1st Quarter — Is the challenge laid out in the first quarter?
2nd Quarter — Does the hero try the easy way in the second quarter?
3rd Quarter — Does the hero try the hard way in the third quarter?
4th Quarter — Does the challenge climax in the fourth quarter?
Part 4: Scenework
The Set-Up — Does this scene begin with the essential elements it needs?
The Conflict — Is this a compelling collision of competing agendas?
The Outcome — Does the scene change the story going forward?
Part 5: Dialogue
Empathetic — Is the dialogue true to human nature?
Specific — Is the dialogue specific to this world and each personality?
Heightened — Is the dialogue more pointed and dynamic than real talk?
Strategic — Are certain dialogue scenes withheld until necessary?
Part 6: Tone
Genre — Does the story tap into pre-established expectations?
Framing — Does the story set, reset, upset, and ultimately exceed its own expectations?
Part 7: Theme
Difficult — Is the meaning of the story derived from a fundamental moral dilemma?
Grounded — Do the stakes ring true to the world of the audience?
Subtle — Is the theme interwoven throughout so that it need not be discussed often?
Untidy — Is the dilemma ultimately unsolvable?
As mentioned, there are well over two hundred sub-questions in the parts and categories. I plugged my WIP netstream series City Of Danger into the Ultimate Story Checklist. It’s a well-worthwhile exercise that brings clarity and gives guidance.
Kill Zoners — Has anyone heard of this resource or of Matt Bird? Do you use any sort of checklist or guideline for your storytelling? Please share what works for you and any recommendations you have.