I had a college professor who insisted that all storytelling could be boiled down to his theory of “Man, Bear, Door.”
Your protagonist (the man) wants something (to get through the door), but something is preventing it happening (the bear). Try using the metaphor on some of your favorite stories. It’s fun.
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James R. Harris’ Periodic Table of Storytelling isn’t quite that simple, but the goal is the same: To boil down storytelling to its most basic elements.
The elements in this particular periodic table represent different tropes or ideas that repeat across genres and through time. The elements are organized by categories like Structure, Story Modifiers, Plot Devices, Heroes, Villains, Archetypes, and more. Clicking on an element takes visitors to TVTropes, a large library of tropes collected by the community members.
The table aims to help writers fight against writer’s block:
You can check out the table in all of its interactive glory by clicking here
, and create your own man/bear/door story:
What do you think? Is this a comprehensive chart or are there some elements missing? Or is it a bad idea to try to make storytelling a sort of science?