The Story Within Guidebook

How-to-Write Advice with a Difference

If you're a character-driven writer in search of a plot, or a plot-driven writer in search of characters, this is the book you've been waiting for.  The Story Within Guidebook helps you explore your own story and connect your plot directly to your characters, and vice versa.  Using the exercises, you'll be working towards a more vivid and coherent plot, and vital and active characters.
This book is filled with interactive exercises and cogent examples.


Introduction:       How to Make the Miracle of Story 
The Protagonist: Identifying Your Protagonist 
                             Discovering Your Protagonist's Strengths 
                             Reversing the Strength for Conflict 
The Conflict:       The Purpose of Conflict 
                             Types of Conflict 
                             Centralizing Conflict 
                             Conflict Problems 
Plotting:               The Protagonist's Journey 
                             The Story Questions 

Check out the excerpt below for a sample.

You can buy the e-book of The Story Within Interactive Plot Guide at Amazon.


The Heroic Challenge (an excerpt from Chapter One) 
 Heroism comes from the protagonist doing something difficult.  It should  be positive in terms of the plot; that is, she rescues the child; he wins the gold medal-- to be heroic in the Western popular tradition, at least, the character usually has to be effective.

But most important, the protagonist has to change, to stretch, has to do 
something that seemed impossible in the beginning of the book. This can be as 
world-changing as stopping a nuclear explosion, or as minor as apologizing.

Heroism is in the action, but itís in the action relative to this person and 
this plot.  Whatís heroic for one protagonist might be unheroic for another. The 
action should be heroic by the scale of what the protagonist canít manage 
in the beginning.

 For a firefighter, saving someone's life is just another day at work. What 
might be heroic on his scale is to... admit he was wrong. Or reach out for help. 
Or stand up to his boss. Or adopt another pet after his best buddy Rover dies. 
What is it he finds most difficult to do because of his internal conflict? That's 
likely what he ought to be doing.

It all comes back to what the character lacks at the beginning, or refuses 
to do, or doesnít feel capable of doing.  And it can be either in the external plot 
(stopping that terrorist from stealing the plutonium) or in the internal plot 
(apologizing to his dad) Ė or both.

Thatís why so many supposedly heroic characters donít come across as 
heroic. Itís because they donít change. The plot doesnít present them with any 
challenges that stretch them, that force them to change.  So even if they commit 
all sorts of derring-do, they arenít better in the end than they were at the 
beginningĖ theyíre no more courageous or self-aware or well-adjusted.  They 
arenít any more able to live a fuller and better life. That makes the events of the 
plot seem unimportant, as it has no real effect on the characters.

But you can make your plot important, and you can make your 
protagonist heroic. Think of your protagonist as someone on a spiritual, 
moral, emotional, or life journey.  What happens in the beginning of the 
story forces or encourages her to take to the road (metaphorically speaking!), 
with or without a map.  (If she has a map, you'll have to provide some 
diversion-- the journey never goes as planned.)

You the author know the destination of this journey. The protagonist 
doesn't. She may think the journey is towards wealth or the solution of the 
mystery or whatever is marked on the map. But only you know the real 
destination: how this character must grow, change, evolve, achieve during the 
course of this journey.

This means your plot must provide your protagonist with the opportunity 
to be challenged.  She is going to have to solve that murder, or grab that Holy 
Grail, or win that promotion. That conscious, chosen journey forms the external 

But you canít stop there. You have to give her an internal journey too. 
In other words, that clever murder mystery is more than an intellectual 
puzzle for the reader. It can serve as a vehicle for the character's journey to 

This doesn't mean you have to give up your clever, complex external 
plot-- only that you give it the additional purpose of character-propulsion. That's 
really easier than it sounds. Just think of it this way: What protagonist could 
most benefit from the events of this plot?

Now benefit is a funny word to use, because your protagonist is very 
likely not going to perceive these events as beneficial. In fact, he might very well 
think he's been cursed by the gods! That's because we generally don't change 
unless we're forced to, especially if the change is towards the sort of growth that 
will require more strength and endurance and courage from us. After all, if it 
were easy to become better people, we'd do it in a minute, right? But it's not. 
It's hard to overcome the inertia of life, of habit, of familiarity, to take on the challenge of change. That's why we need to give our characters the 
external conflict that will cause them, once and for all, to confront their 
internal conflicts and resolve them.

But that also means you must create a protagonist who needs to change, 
one with an internal conflict that has heretofore resisted resolution.  When you 
do that, youíll find it much easier to select the particular plot events to make up 
that protagonistís journey.  Conversely, if youíve already got a plot, then youíll 
need to create a protagonist who will benefit from making the journey through 
that particular set of events.

You can buy the e-book of The Story Within Interactive Plot Guide at Amazon.

Also, you can buy my e-booklets now from Amazon (e-books).