Jasmine's pond of dreams

Jasmine's pond of dreams

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Dragon deadline looming... see you next week

I'm storyboarding my last episode of dragons for season 2. The story crew have storyboarded 10 pages of 6 episodes in 6 months. That's 60 pages. That's half a feature length script in 6 months. That's INSANE! That means one person could conceivably storyboard a whole feature in one year. What state they'd be in after that I don't know.

Classic line from the Princess Bride- Awesome movie.

Anyway, here's Hiccup and his dad racing to the finish. I'm right behind them. Reminds me of me and my son. I skateboard old school- carving flowing turns, and he's doing all the jumps and tricks speeding by me. 


In the meantime, if anyone knows of a show needing a storyboard artist, let me know on Linked in or Facebook or Tweet me @frankiegenius  Thanks.

Thanks for your patience, more good stuff to come...

Sunday, February 24, 2013

School of Rock Graduation Surprise! Congrats!

A graduation speech? Arrrrghhh...

Hey, I directed Donald Duck in Fantasia 2000. Sometimes a little Pomp and Circumstance is appropriate.
Problem with school is that when we leave it we forget the things we've "learned". Why is this? Did we really learn it? What is learning?

I think of learning as not just acquiring knowledge, but learning what to do with it. It's a combination of How to and Why to. Theory and practice in the real world. Knowing the names of all the countries of the world is different than taking a trip through one of them.

But you also don't know what's going to prove important to you later in life, what kinds of problems you'll encounter. Well, now you have a road map for dealing with problems. Pay attention to the lessons offered. Face the consequences before they get overwhelming. And when your old methods of reality coping aren't working anymore, and you feel like your'e dying, trust the process. Allow yourself to grieve and let go of your old ways and you'll see rebirth in ways unimagined. I know this from experience.

In writing my new approach to story structure, I took ideas from every screenwriting book I've read, but also books about playwriting, novels, mysteries, drama. But in addition I added narrative theory, structuralism, semiotics, gestalt, Neurolinguistic programming, Eriksonian Hypnosis, Freudian, Jungian and Lacanian psychoanalysis, mathematics, rhetoric, fables, magic and tricks learned from my mentor- Scheherazade.

I hope I have demonstrated how easy it can be to write a story. The plot is where it gets complicated. But now there's a guide to help you along the way. We'll talk more about plot later. So how can I make it that you won't forget what you've learned?

It's time for you diplomas and surprise. Cue the music. Daaaaa da da da daaa da...

Do you remember this image of Iggy leaving Bunny behind at the Igloo. Look at it again. What do you see?

Image from:

Do  you see the dragon, perhaps? Did you see it the first time you saw the image? Or did the story of Iggy distract you from seeing? That's the good old misdirection technique in action.

Graduation surprise: The secret revealed Dewey traveled the secret path of the dragon!

Here is your diploma- a Ride the Dragon template, the golden roadmap to the heart of your story.
Feel free to print it out and use it well. Please retain the copyright information: ©Glebas2013

(I just looked and found the image was small on the blog page. If anyone knows a way to make it a downloadable file, please post a comment. Thank You.)

If you like working on index cards just lay it out the dragon way.

We'll look at my story theory criteria and see if it fits. I know that now you've gone through the journey with me starting back last November 2012, you'll never forget the image that sums it all up. Each part tells you what has to come after and before in a totally organic process. Give your audience a Ride on the Dragon they'll never forget.

In School of Rock, they sing, "The movie's almost over. But we're still on screen". Well, we're not almost over, we're just getting started...

Image from:

Saturday, February 23, 2013

No school of rock today- it's saturday!

I hope you didn't come to school today. It's Saturday. If you did, I hope you didn't have to travel too far.

See you Monday.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

School of Rock 401 Senior year, Storyteller's log

You've made it to School of Rock Senior Year!

As you remember from last time, Dewey has nothing left to live for. His passion is dead.

What is this place the land of the dead?

It's chaos, the void.

But it's also the birthplace of infinite possibilities. Here are a few of them.

I think that's enough to give you the idea...

Were you able to figure out what must happen next? We know the kids have to go to the concert. Why because the movie would be incomplete without it.  Dewey heard Patty's lesson but only paid attention to half of it. He became responsible but didn't give up his dream. He found a common passion with the kids through music. He taught them lessons they'll never forget. The spirit of rock and roll is "stick it to da man". The "man" symbolizes the inhuman aspect of civilization the kills passion and dreams. The kids got Dewey's passion. They already had the responsibility part down pat. Even through Dewey was a fake teacher, his passion was real. The kids believe in it and themselves.

The kids persuade Dewey to come out of his depression and go the concert with them. He agrees. As a result Ned stands up to Patty and leaves her to see the concert. Ned's lost passion has come back. And Patty didn't learn the lesson.

This is really cool because Patty delivered the lesson of be responsible. Once Dewey connected with the kids musically he became a great teacher. Dewey learned the lesson. As a consequence of his action the kids brought the lesson back to Dewey. Lessons always return.

What's happened is that Dewey has reorganized his experience. Responsibility and Passion can go together. This is something Dewey and Patty couldn't see before. Often the audience won't be able to see what the reorganization at the end of the movie is going to be. Dewey is reborn and comes alive at the rock concert.

Here's where we are on the structure map now: Doing the right thing.


Dewey succeeded in a way greater than Patty's vision, and becomes more fulfilled because his new goal includes others.

We now have the competition. Ironically, Dewey competes against his old band. We have one more key point before we can wrap it all up. The kids band faces stiff competition. They need a dynamite ending song. Dewey now proves his has learned the lesson of acting responsibly. Dewey tells the band they are going to play Zack's song instead of his own epic, The Legend of the Rent. This was an unthinkable action for Dewey at the beginning of the movie. He has sacrificed his own moment in the spotlight for the good of the whole band. This is proof that Dewey has learned the lesson.

Now that Dewey has done the right thing hope soars off the charts. Even the audience gets more than they hoped for.

In summary, the four major parts are:
1. ACT I. Dewey has a problem. He needs to be responsible.
2. ACT 2A.Dewey attempts to solve his problem the wrong way by stealing a job and pretending to be a teacher.
3. ACT 2B. Just when he thinks he's on top of the world he has to face the consequences of his own actions and loses everything including his own passion.
4. ACT 3. Dewey has touched others and his lessons and actions come back to him in a positive way. He's reborn and proves it by a self sacrificing choice.


The chaotic symbolic death is real and really terrifying. But the reorganization and rebirth are just as real. You come out the other side changed, able to handle more with a more complete and complex view of the world. Maybe more about this later...

Make sure to come back for the School of Rock for your diploma and Graduation party surprise!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

School of Rock 301, storyteller's log 2-20-2013

Welcome back to School of Rock- Junior Year.

Dewey is on top of the world days away from rock stardom. What could go wrong?

In most writing approaches anything could go wrong. This is often where I used to get lost. But because we've been following the character trying to reach their goal, having ignored the lesson and going about it wrong- this narrows down our choices. This approach gives our story a solid design. Design? What does design have to do with storytelling?

Let's look at how this approach has led us to such a solid design. There are several design principles that we're following.

1. DOMINANCE. We have one main idea which the story focuses on. It's not all over the place with irrelevant plot stuff. Dewey wants to be a rock god and will do anything to make it happen.

2. UNITY. The story has unity because everything is related to Dewey's actions. The other characters are variations or opposites of the Dewey character. Ned is what Dewey could become if he gives up his dream. Patty is a variation of Dewey in that she wants Ned to solve her problems for her. She preaches responsibility but doesn't act on it. The teachers have also lost some of their dreams. Principle Mullins is by the book responsible, until Dewey cracks her armor with Stevie Nicks song, the Edge of Seventeen. This reconnects her with her passion.
And we see the kids who are already on the road to responsibility without passion. That is until Dewey enters their lives.

3. BALANCE. We get to see Dewey doing it wrong and later we'll get to see him doing it right. We get to see the effect on the others who have lost their passion.

4. CONTRAST. Right from the start we like Dewey more than his band members and Ned and Patty. There's a purity to him and we like his passion. The other characters by contrast are not as likable. We see how the effects of responsibility and passion, or lack of, have shaped all the characters. We've taken the audience up so... We'll be exploring this in later in this post. Don't want to give away the ending.

5. RYTHMN. We've been taking the audience up and down towards hope and fear in an irregular pattern.

Every writer needs to know about design. In fact, every human being needs to know about design. Whether you're writing a story, planning a garden, arranging your living room, writing a blog, composing a symphony, coding software, or painting a masterpiece.

To learn some basics you can check out my, Design for Presentation: The great eye learns to see on slideshare.net

I posted it Sunday and 3 days later is has over 77,000 views! Someone is interested in design.

So what happens to Dewey. "Little does he know..." that while Dewey is trying to convince the student's parents that he's a good teacher, Ned gets the mail. This time the message arrives to the wrong right person. Ned gets a check for teaching at Horace Green. But Ned didn't teach at Horace Green!

Ned, Patty and the police confront Dewey and expose his wrong ways. The character's behavior of doing it wrong is brought to light. How else can they learn. They have to see the effect of their actions on others. Their reaction now is to tread water and try and undo the damage.

The movie contains a funny speech here by Dewey as the parents misinterpret his use of the word "touch". He keeps digging a deeper and deeper hole for himself.  As a result Dewey exposed as a fraud and is fired from teaching at Horace Green.

Dewey now faces the consequences. He's lost his job, his new band, his new friends (the kids) and his opportunity for rock stardom. On top of that he considers himself a failure and falls into depression, in other words, he's symbolically dead.

The design principle of CONTRAST comes into play here. Let's look at the mapping of this.


First we brought Dewey UP. Then because of the contrast we really feel his fall downward. If we didn't bring him up first, it wouldn't have felt as devastating for Dewey and our emotions when we take him DOWN. 

From Dewey's perspective, his life is over.

More extra credit if you can figure out what must happen now. No necessarily how it happens but what must happen. How can be accomplished in different ways.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

School of Rock 201, storyteller's log

Welcome back to the School of Rock, sophomore year or act 2 part one.

Dewey answers the phone and it's for Ned. Once he learns this is a paying gig, he pretends to be Ned Schneebly. Out of desperation, he's takes the wrong path. He steals Ned's job. And we, the audience, want him to do this. Why? (I'm thinking about this...)

Once Dewey starts out on this path he's forced to continue. It's like a liar who has to keep lying deeper and deeper to cover their tracks. You know at some point it's going to lead to their undoing. In order to get the job, Dewey has to pretend to be a teacher.

At what point is the crossing the threshold? What point is the inciting incident? Does it matter if getting the call or acting on the call starts the story? Or does the story start when Dewey enters the classroom? You need all of it. The character has to learn the information that there can be action towards a new journey. Then they need to take action and start that journey. It's all connected organically. One piece leads to the next all motivated by the desires and limitations of the character.

Dewey enters class and doesn't teach. He doesn't know how. He wants to give the kids a permanent recess.

This is where Dewey meets his first obstacle. These are not ordinary school kids who would love recess. They want to learn and Dewey is not up to the task. We're sliding towards fear. In addition, the other teachers want to know his teaching philosophy. He bluffs his way through it by being vague as possible, letting them fill in the blanks with their own assumptions and prejudices.

The next thing that happens TURNS the story towards HOPE for Dewey. He discovers the kids can play music and they're really good. Dewey formulates a plan and creates a special secret project- Rock School. His ulterior motive is to have them become his new band with him in the lead, enter the contest and win.

So what happens? Ironically, Dewey starts teaching! He teaches them rock history and the attitude of rock- "Stick it to the man."Now we're really rooting and hoping for him. Dewey's in his element and he really comes alive. The kids are learning from his passion. This is the best kind of teaching. Maybe there is a place for passion after all.

So what happens next? What happens in any story when things start to go well? You put up more obstacles. Dewey learns that the school doesn't allow field trips. How would you solve this problem?

In the School of Rock they solved it by having Dewey seduce Principle Mullins (Joan Cusack) to persuade her to let him have his field trip.

Finally, Dewey gets his trip and faces yet one more obstacle. They've shown up too late for the auditions. Dewey lies saying the kids are terminally ill with "stick-it-to-da-man-ni-osis." The kids are allowed to perform.

Let's look at this on our structure mapping.

You'll notice something interesting during this section of the story. The sine wave has a series of up and down spikes. These reflect the hopes (Dewey's actions) and fears (external obstacles) the character and audience travel across on their journey. With our map we know exactly where we are in our story.


These are all progressive complications. But they're all directly caused by Dewey's wrongly following his character want. Yes, you need a character who wants something. But it's so much easier to write when that character does it wrong. This triggers the consequences and reactions that keep them driving forward toward their goal and digging themselves into a deeper hole. And keep the audience going from hope to fear and back again.

Dewey is on top of the world on his way to his goal... what could possibly happen? The answers in our next installment. Extra credit if you can figure out what must happen before then...

Monday, February 18, 2013

School of Rock 101, storyteller's log 2-18-2013

School's out. No, school is in session. It's time to look at an actual movie and see how the method of mapping the character's ups and down's and the audience's hopes and fears actually work.

Dewey Finn, played by Jack Black, dreamed of being a heavy metal rock god. He had the passion but not the talent. After being kicked out of his band he returns to his little world of sharing his old friend,s apartment, Ned Sneebly (Mike White).

Planted in this section, to be used later in the story, is the information of the rock contest with big cash prizes. Dewey's dreams of winning are dashed. Remember setup and payoff later. You're story weaving.

Patty (Sarah Silverman), Ned's annoying girlfriend, is introduced. Patty is also a setup who will cause more trouble for Dewey later. Patty is the one who delivers the lesson to Dewey in the form of a threat. She tells him to give up his dream and act responsibly. She tells him to get a real job and pay his rent or be kicked out.

This is a double-edged message comprising a positive and negative component. She tells him to act responsibly is the positive lesson which Dewey needs to learn. Give up his dream is a negative message. Fom Patty's limited perspective giving up the dream is necessary in order to be responsible. They can't coexist in her mind. This is why I think the lesson itself is the important thing, not "meeting the mentor." I don't think we can call Patty, the Mentor. Do you?

Can there be negative mentors? We can learn from negative people in our lives this is true. However, I know of one case where the mentor is a freeway sign- Steve Martin's L.A. Story.

Now, the characters are all set to start the story in motion. What happens? Ned gets a phone call and Dewey answers the "call to adventure". I wonder how they got the "call to adventure" before they had phones? Pony Express? Carrier Pigeon?

What does Dewey do?

We'll look at that in the next blog. First, let's look at how we'd map this. (ClLICK TO ENLARGE)

A. is the beginning of the story. It's neutral in terms of hope and fear because we don't understand the world yet. It starts during a concert and Dewey falls flat on his face literally. The direction and camerawork tell us that this story is going to be about him. We admire his passion and feel sorry for things not working out. Jack Black plays a very unique but likable character. We connect with is enthusiastic passion. Why? Because we want that for ourselves- to feel truly alive. So we identify with him. We hope he'll succeed but probably fear he won't.

B. Dewey returns to Ned's apartment and thing go from bad to worse. He has to pay his share of the rent and he has no money.

C. Patty threatens Dewey to pay his overdue rent or get kicked out. She pesters Ned into making the threat. We now fear for Dewey. What will he do? What can he do? 

Why do we side with Dewey? We follow him because it's his story. Ned is portrayed as having given up his dreams, stuck in a job he doesn't like. He's what could happen to Dewey if he gives up his dreams. We don't want to be like Ned, even if we are a little.  Patty is just a "bitch" who dominates Ned and harasses Dewey. We root against her. Boo! Hiss.

D. Now, alone in the apartment there's a phone call. We know something will happen to change things. Why do we know this? We've all been watching movies and we unconsciously know the structure of good stories. Already we've got the audience connected to our character and hoping they'll succeed but fearing they won't.

So what happens when Dewey answers the phone? We'll see when we cross the threshold into Act 2.

See you in school tomorrow, and don't be late...

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut pointed the way, Storyteller's log

So Kurt Vonnegut pointed out a new way to explore stories. I just didn't know about it. If I did, would I have continued? Or given up? I think I would have continued because although he pointed the way he still didn't yield the information I wanted.

Going back to what I want in a story theory. I thought about how his mapping compared to mine. His Cinderella story shape is very similar. I can tell you I was relived when I saw that there were differences. And I still have my secret surprise.

Kurt called the vertical axis G-I for good fortune and ill fortune and the horizontal axis B-E for beginning and ending.

We both suggested to map the characters ups and downs. What I realized is that since the audience identifies with the character, they go up and down too!

However, good fortune and ill fortune are not emotions. If the character wins the lottery or turns into a cockroach, the audience doesn't get those things. That's part of the safety of listening to and watching stories. What the audience does get is emotions. So I decided it was better to label the vertical axis  HOPE and FEAR, because this is our goal- make the audience feel.

It is your goal, to make the audience feel- RIGHT????

The other difference between our map axes is that I start time before the beginning. This is the backstory and it is significant for the character's psychology of why they choose the wrong path. This can be mapped too, so you can understand your character better.

What I learned from Kurt Vonnegut...

Kurt had many shapes whereas I've been focusing on just one and trying to explore it and it's variations (which I haven't shared yet, we need to get to the examples first).  I realized that he was right, there are many shapes for stories. But many of them are not emotionally satisfying for an audience. No major studio would  invest millions to make a story with the Kafka shape. Hollywood doesn't care about art. Let me rephrase that, art comes second. It's the entertainment BUSINESS. We make the audience have an emotionally satisfying experience and they buy tickets, allowing us to make more movies to let them have an emotionally satisfying experience so they...

Notice, I did not say make the audience feel "good". I don't know how to do that.  They might have just failed a test. I can't make them feel good. I do know how to shape an experience for them that will provide an emotional roller coaster ending in closure that will feel emotionally satisfying.

The insight, that it's more important to map HOPE and FEAR, led me to solve a problem I was having with the path of the lesson. When I start to share film examples, I'll show you how that works. But mapping HOPE and FEAR clearly guides our story weaving process to affect an audience more so than good fortune and ill fortune.

The classic definition of story shows this. The King died. Then the Queen died. These are two ill fortunes. But if the King died, and write it so we hope for the Queen but fear she may die of grief, thats a more powerful way to affect an audience.

What's lacking in Kurt's mapping is why the map takes the shape that it does. He's mapped stories after the fact. What is the character doing to cause them to go up and down. He doesn't tell us. Let's look at Cinderella as an example.

Cinderella doesn't do anything. She just suffers. She enjoys going to the ball. She stays too late and races home. Then she's happy ever after because she has the right shoe size? Say what?

Kristen Stewart would have made a great Cinderella. (I'm actually a fan. She was awesome in Speak.)

How could Disney have made such a great film with the Cinderella story? In a word- Mice. The mice and their stuggles to help Cinderella against the stepsisters and Lucifer, the cat, are what make the film work. They're what drive the audience up and down towards hope and fear.

copyright Walt Disney Studios

Kurt gives us a wonderful view of the continents, but doesn't really tell us much about them.

I plan on giving you a tour of the major cities and an easy way to remember them in order. If he were still alive, I think I would have surprised him. It think I have discovered something very original after all. You can judge for yourselves.

Next time get ready for school...

(P.S. If this material is helping you write or if you have questions about it, feel free to comment. Or if Lucifer's animated GIF annoys you let me know too.)

Design for Presentation

I've just posted a presentation on slideshare.net This site has wonderful presentations on a wide range of subjects. One of them, "Rethinking Presentation Design", saved me. I was ready to present lots of bullet points and was reminded to use pictures to tell the story. Talk about, "preaching to the choir."

It's a fable about using design to help your audience see your message clearly. And what to avoid. For directors, story artists, designers, instructional designers, and presenters. Contains material from Directing the Story.

UPDATE! Design for Presentation got Slideshare's top presentation of the day!

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Kurt Vonnegut's story map, Storyteller's log 2-15-2013

Yes, Kurt Vonnegut did the same thing that I'm doing- mapping the ups and downs of the character.

In this post, we'll look at what he came up with.

The horizontal axis he calls the B-E axis for beginning and end, in other words, time. The vertical axis he calls the G-I axis for good fortune and ill fortune.
His first mapping looks like a flared U shape. But it's actually a more of a sine wave. He describes it as a character gets them self into trouble- the bottom of the U. And then they get them self out of trouble. The audience is happy.
His next map continues with the sine wave but offsets and adds a piece at the beginning. This is the classic boy meets girl story. Boy meets girl- good fortune. Boy loses girl- ill fortune. Boy gets girl back- good, even better, fortune. The audience is happy.

The next map starts looking similar to my shape. Kurt is very funny when he talks about this shape because he doesn't tell you the name of the story. But you know the events so well- you laugh. 

This girl starts out really low. Her fairy godmother shows up and starts giving her stuff necessary to go to the palace ball. She has a great time- good fortune. At midnight everything comes crashing down- ill fortune. She had love and lost it. Is it truly better to have loved and lost or never have loved at all? In the end she has great fortune because she has the right shoe size.

I don't know if Kurt liked Kafka. Kafka's character starts with ill fortune. Then he turns into a cockroach and goes even lower. I know I didn't like this story. I read it way before I could appreciate literature. Maybe it even discouraged me from reading further. Did I not like the story or the structure? Interesting question.

As a side note, my first and second grade teachers were named Mrs. Kafka and Sister Quentin- an existential author and the name of a prison.

The last map of his that I'm familiar with is Hamlet. Hamlet seems to have ill fortune and doesn't change. Kurt suggests not even drawing a line for his story because we ultimately don't know if it was good or ill fortune. He does like Shakespeare's Hamlet because he says he tells the truth. 

I learned a lot of this information from Lapham's Quarterly. Here's the link:

Kurt gives a chalk talk lecture about his approach on you tube. He's actually very funny too. You can watch it here:

Next up we'll see how his approach and mine compare...