Writing Stories Using ‘The 12 Sequence Story Method’

Have you ever been hit with a great idea for a story that you just couldn’t write? It felt so perfect in your imagination, but when you tried to put it in novel or screenplay form, you experienced one or more of the following speed bumps:

  • You had no idea what to write next. (writer’s block)
  • Your analytical mind swallowed up your creative juices and killed all the fun.
  • Your ideas were great alone, but didn’t form a well-crafted story when put together.
  • After getting 75% the way through, you still didn’t quite know what your story was.

Whatever it is, you gave up. Naturally.

These are symptoms among hundreds of others which all point to the same problem:

The story did not begin with a solid structure.

If you’ve been writing for some time, you probably have your own personal gripes and frustrations with the process, whatever they may be. If you’re new to it, you’ll probably want to avoid as many pitfalls as you possibly can by knowing what they are. Either way, your life as a writer would be so much more fulfilling if you could say this:

  • I use the most creative, effective, pressure-free writing method I believe there is.
  • My struggle is no longer “what do I write?” but rather “what should I throw out?”
  • I can confidently weave all my great ideas into a well-structured story that just works.
  • My understanding of what really makes a story great is clearer than it’s ever been.
  • There is no story challenge that’s too difficult for me to tackle.

The good news is that a method like this does exist. Many of the worlds best writers have made The 12 Sequence Story Method what it is, and we can all freely use it to help structure our stories.

Why Most Writers Fail

The truth is, most writers fail to achieve their goals because they write using a terrible plan, or no plan at all. They believe that planning and structuring their story is too much work and the technical nature of it will interfere with their creative process. They don’t realize that their method of writing is by far the least creative.  The reason for this is simple:

Nobody can write a great story from beginning to end relying on the very unreliable and magical ‘creative flow’ without their analytical brain kicking in.

Having the two sides of your brain warring against each other is the best way to wear yourself out and get writer’s block. You have to give each side of your brain it’s own turn, or they don’t get on. A battle-field is not a conducive environment for creating inspiring works of art. No wonder most stories never get finished.

In Pursuit of The Perfect Story

As you may have guessed, I use a method that is pretty much the opposite of the one above. It’s more or less what all the best writers use, consciously or unconsciously. I re-use century-old ideas, and so do they. What works, works, right? Any writer that makes a habit of writing pretty regularly will sooner or later devise habits, which together form a ‘method’ or ‘box of tricks’ they rely on whenever they open up the word processor. This method can be formed passively or with intent.

All writers have a method of writing. We may as well choose one that’s proven to work.

The degree to which human hearts and minds resonate with a particular writer’s stories will determines the direction in which that writer’s story-writing method will evolve. Whether this happens in a moment of intuition (talent) or after fifty years of writing, what’s incredible to observe is this: the best writers all end up with strikingly similar ideas on what attributes make a great story, and which ones do not. Similarly, the best stories ever written all have striking similarities we can learn from. And of course, this is because we’re all really the same, deep down.

It is each new writer’s decision to decide if he or she will spend their lifetime learning about what works through trial and error, or to simply listen to those who have already been on that journey, and save the years ahead for the further refining and evolution of the method. I know which decision I have made.

Defining The Method

The 12 Sequence Story Method is the result of decoding the best stories there are. By a process of reverse engineering, we can define what sort of method is likely to produce stories that have the same desirable attributes. 

Before I set out to write The Telling Room in 2015, I decided that I had a very bad writing habit that needed to change. Like many others, I had started writing books and films that never saw completion because of a failing method I was using, which was basically this:

“I’ll just start writing it and see how it goes.”

Not the best plan. I realized I lacked a deep understanding of what great storytelling really is, and that the most effective stories are not written chronologically, but thoughtfully planned, out of order, as emotion-evoking machines. I was determined to not only be a student of story, but a master of it. It continues to be my goal, and I believe it should be the goal of any great writer.

I read all the best books there are on writing and story structure. After reading 5-10 of them, you get that familiar realization: they’re all saying pretty much the same thing. They’ve arrived at the same place. So I took the good ideas and moved on to analyze all of my favorite movies to death. I determined to find out what they all had in common. Eventually, I had pads of papers loaded with years of great (and some not-so-great) notes and scribbles, all leading me closer to ‘cracking the code’ to a great story.

But that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted a method. A way to boil all the best ideas down into a reusable step-by-step writing approach or ‘template’ that was so simple anybody could understand and use it to grow and nurture great stories. This was something none of the authors I read had done, at least not satisfactorily. I wanted to get to the bottom of “what makes a great story great” and include as many golden ideas as I could into every story I wrote from that day on. I wanted a formula that wouldn’t tie me down creatively, but rather set me free.

The desire to write great stories, specifically screenplays, that resonate with humankind universally, and to help others achieve that same goal, is what lead me to develop the 12 Sequence Story Method.

Using The Method

After approaching stories using the 12 sequences, I can now:

  • Put all my crazy ideas together into a well-structured story that works.
  • Identify most problems in a story before they even arise.
  • Make even the most obscure and challenging story ideas work.
  • Use the tried-and-tested techniques in new and unique ways.

I’m well aware that any method or box of tricks can only been a tool for me, and they could never write my stories any more than a gun can shoot a man. But like a gun, the tools I use are powerful. I’m aware that I’m the same writer that I was before, but I now write with a very key and fundamental difference. When I write, I write with confidence, without fear, without frustration, and I have never felt so in control of the feelings my stories elicit.

The Method has changed who I am as a writer. I have set myself free.

I used The 12 Sequence Story Method to write ‘The Telling Room,’ which I then turned into a live-action movie. Another writer I know well is using it to structure their next book and screenplay (which I believe will one day make a great movie). I’ve used it in writing the screenplay for an animated film as well as a multi-million dollar fantasy epic quadrilogy. Because this method has helped me so much, I want to share it freely to anyone who wants to know about it. If my work helps even one good writer to become a great writer, my labour will not be in vain.

In the future I will be writing articles that explore the depths of what this method is all about, and how you can use it to structure your stories.

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