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Foolscap Global Story Grid

Download the Math of Storytelling Infographic

An editor handed a pile of manuscript pages must answer a whole bunch of questions before he can even begin to diagnose the effectiveness of the Storytelling. While he’ll know after one read whether the book “works,” in order to take the book to the next level, he’ll have to figure out exactly how it is working. He has to put the whole book onto one page.

The Six Questions of the Foolscap:

  1. What’s the GENRE?
  2. What are the CONVENTIONS and OBLIGATORY MOMENTS for that Genre?
  3. What’s the POINT OF VIEW?
  4. What are the OBJECTS OF DESIRE?
  5. What’s the CONTROLLING IDEA or STORY THEME?
  6. What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build 1, Middle Build 2, and Ending Payoff?

The Foolscap Global Story Grid is that one page document.

Once he’s read the book [just one time] if the book is well conceived he should be able to fill in the blanks of The Foolscap Global Story Grid without having any serious head scratches.

When you boil down an entire Story to one page, there is no place for a writer or an editor to bullshit himself. It’s an indispensable tool to check your work.

But don’t forget that it is a diagnostic tool and not a recipe. You could have a brilliantly laid out Foolscap Global Story Grid before you begin writing and the Story itself could fizzle completely. Or you may have what seems to be a rather generic Foolscap Global Story Grid that results in a timeless work of art. Execution is everything.

If you cannot execute the plan, The Foolscap Global Story Grid will not result in a great Story. You could have the best architectural plans, but if you are a lousy carpenter or plumber or electrician, the house is going to have flaws. But those kinds of flaws are fixable through perseverance and hard work and dedication to craft. But an ill-conceived Foolscap Global Story Grid is fatal. The Story won’t work.

But again, The Foolscap Global Story Grid is not an end to itself. It’s not even something to show anyone else unless he is your editor or a fellow scribe in need of a helping hand. To go back to our metaphor, it’s an architectural layout for a building, not a building.

Don’t torture yourself over it unless you really have to.

What The Foolscap Global Story Grid can do for you if your Story isn’t working is immeasurably helpful. It will show you where you went wrong. Where you jumped off track, got lazy, fell in love with a scene instead of making sure the scene served your Story, etc. It will show you where your problems are, where there’s a leak in your plumbing, a short in your wiring etc. and thus it will take away quite a bit of that inner self-loathing and destructive behavior we all face when we have a very, very rough first draft. You as the writer are not the problem, the problem is the problem. The Foolscap Global Story Grid will tell you where your problems are.

It will take away a lot of emotional sturm and drang and keep you working. You’ll use it to make discernible progress. It will keep you from desperately seeking “notes” from friends or acquaintances who know nothing about Story structure. It will make you a much better Storyteller and as you use it more and more, you’ll become a far better writer.

Eventually you’ll do the work of The Foolscap Global Story Grid intuitively. But you’ll always be able to fill it in at the first sign of trouble.

Additional Resources

Download the Math of Storytelling Infographic


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