Four Core Framework: The Foundational Elements of Storytelling

What is the Four Core Framework?

The Story Grid can help us meet reader expectations by bringing the core of our story into focus. The Four Core Framework makes a story irresistible, memorable, and worth sharing by providing readers with a cathartic emotional moment.

Four Core Framework: The Foundational Elements of Storytelling

The Elements of the Four Core Framework

1. Core Need

Core needs are universal, shared by all humans. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs is a useful representation of the spectrum of human needs storytellers can draw from.

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

The core need of our story is the Truth the protagonist needs to learn by the end of the story. It is the subconscious OBJECT OF DESIRE. When the AVATARS in our story fulfill their Core Need (or not), it provides catharsis for the reader.

2. Core Value

The Core Value is the yardstick that measures where the AVATAR’s actions are along a spectrum or range of values specific to the story. 

This value is what dictates the GENRE of our story. For example, an Action story follows changes on a spectrum of death to life; a crime story, on a spectrum of injustice to justice; and a love story, on a spectrum of hate to love.

Similar to Core Needs, Core Values are universal among humans.

3. Core Emotion

The Core Emotion is what we want the reader to feel as they experience our story. More specifically, we might say the core emotion is the particular “flavor” of catharsis we generate when the core value shifts and the core need is met or not. If we are not causing rises and falls on a single core emotion — fear, intrigue, esteem, romance, triumph, etc. — the story will fail to engage the reader and they will put our book down.

4. Core Event

The Core Event is the scene in which your story reaches the height of emotional tension built up in all the scenes that came before it. It answers the question raised by the INCITING INCIDENT, and is the moment of emotional catharsis.

The Core Event integrates the other three core essentials as the protagonist’s Core Need defines the Core Value at stake, which generates a Core Emotion response in the reader. The Core Need and Value are always in peril in the Core Event.

Using the Four Core Framework in Your Story

Before writing our next story, we can use the Four Core Framework as a blueprint for planning:

  1. Decide on the Core Need our protagonist and antagonist must fulfill.
  2. Identify the Core Value associated with the particular need.
  3. Describe the Core Emotion the reader should feel as they watch the protagonist’s journey. 
  4. Outline (or write out in a draft) the Core Event scene that brings together the Need, Value, and Emotion.

The Four Core Framework and Readers

Knowing the four core elements for our chosen GENRE will help us provide readers with the emotional catharsis and wisdom they seek. 

The Four Core Framework in the foundation of story. It is what promises and delivers on a particular experience for the reader.

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