For All Teachers

Story Spine

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Most stories have a common structure. So common we usually don’t even have to think about it. But when we do think about it, the “story spine” is a model for a well-constructed story with:

  • A beginning that establishes a routine, “Once upon a time…” “And every day…”
  • An event that breaks the routine “But one day…”
  • A middle that shows the consequences of having broken the routine “Because of that…”
  • A climax that sets the resolution to the story in motion. “Until finally…”
  • A resolution, “And since that day…”

It goes like: Once up, upon a time… And every day… And every day… But, one day… Because of that… Because of that… Because of that… Until, finally… And, ever since then…

EXERCISE

  1. Everyone stands in a circle.
  2. One person starts with “ONCE UPON A TIME…” and says a few lines that start the story, such as, “Once upon a time, there was a little boy named Ben who planted a carrot seed.”
  3. The next person says, “AND EVERY DAY…” such as “And every day, Ben watered and weeded his seed. And nothing came up.’”
  4. The next person says, “AND EVERY DAY…” such as “And every day, Ben’s family told him ‘Your carrot seed won’t grow!”
  5. The next person says, “BUT ONE DAY…” such as “But then one day… The carrot came up, just as Ben knew it would!”
  6. The next person says, “BECAUSE OF THAT…” such as “Because of that, Ben’s family said, ‘You were right!’”
  7. The next person says, “BECAUSE OF THAT…” such as “Because of that, Ben grew more carrots.”
  8. The next person says, “UNTIL FINALLY…” such as “Ben had an entire carrot farm.”
  9. The last person says, “AND EVER SINCE THEN…” such as “And ever since then, Ben’s carrot farm has been famous.”

— ORIGIN: Thanks to Kenn Adams. Kenn has a book published on this topic: How to Improvise a Full-length Play: The Art of Spontaneous Theatre.

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