Secrets of the Worldview Genre, Part Two

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Are you writing a Worldview story and not sure how to put it together? Are you stuck somewhere in your maturation, revelation, education, or disillusionment plot and unsure how to proceed? This article will help you construct a Worldview story that works and get you closer to finishing the story you want to tell. 

Here, I’m not just addressing the value shifts, core emotion, obligatory scenes, and conventions of the Worldview genre. I’m breaking down the critical component that will help you outline your story. This component includes the multi-event story spine for Worldview Stories. What’s that mean? 

I’m giving you the key events (scenes) of the Worldview genre. 

But first, let’s do a quick review of the necessary components of the Worldview genre so that you have the full context that builds to the understanding of these key events.

Content genres are our tools.

Content genres are how we divide and categorize different kinds of stories, what types of boxes we put them in. The Worldview genre is a content genre and, like all content genres, it includes an individualized set of tools for writers:

  • Controlling Idea
  • Core Emotion
  • Value at Stake
  • Objects of Desire
  • Core Event
  • Conventions
  • Obligatory Moments
  • Subgenres
  • Types of Conflict
  • Key Events

Let’s take a look at each tool, in detail, for the Worldview genre.

The Worldview Story tells us about our connections to others and society. It’s an invisible mesh-like structure holding almost every story together that is hardwired in our brains. It’s the story that permeates all human societies because it’s how we think. 

Worldview stories need not be movies or books, and they’re not limited to coming-of-age stories for youth. A worldview story could be as simple as these examples: 

  • Little Tommy learns he must share his toys.
  • Bobby-Ray gains faith in religion.
  • Donna loses faith in the PTA.
  • A reporter discovers that her newspaper is a pawn of Satan.

The Worldview genre forms the emotional backbone of almost any heroic journey. It’s the story within every story, and mastering it is imperative for every writer.

What are the basics of the Worldview genre?

In the Worldview genre, the protagonist must change by overcoming something within themselves, giving up something they want to get what they need, which is generally a new and more mature, clear, meaningful, or informed view of life. Worldview stories help readers and viewers do the same, as they serve as either Prescriptive or Cautionary tales.

What are the core emotions of the Worldview genre?

The core emotion of a story is the feeling your audience wants to feel when choosing your type of story. 

According to Norman Friedman, the core emotion of the Worldview genre varies according to the subgenre (more on subgenres later). 

Generally, audiences choose a Worldview story to experience hope, relief, or satisfaction for a character who grows. They might select the story to feel a sense of loss or pity for a character who is unable or unwilling to grow. 

For example, in the novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the audience can experience hope and relief when the protagonist comes to an important understanding that leaves him with increased sadness, wisdom, and emotional freedom.

What is a Worldview story?

The protagonist’s need to learn, grow, and change drives the Worldview story. It’s an internal genre that is character-driven. This means the problem is inside the protagonist’s head and conflicts with the outside world, usually the truth represented by other characters. The story can not exist only in the character’s mind. Internal and intangible thoughts must be made tangible in the outside world. For example: 

  • In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Charlie’s emotional difficulties are challenged in scenes through interactions with his friends, family, and environment.
  • Suppose Little Tommy has to learn to share. He needs to be pressured in scenes where his selfishness is challenged by other children who want to play with his toys. There must be consequences and pressures coming from other characters that force him to act under those pressures. (BTW, this is not a Morality story because the protagonist is naive and doesn’t yet know right from wrong.)
  • If Bobby-Ray has to gain faith in Jesus, he must confront obstacles in scenes that challenge his lack of faith. He spends his life savings on getting hair plugs and buying a new Corvette in an effort to prevent aging and his meaningless death, only to suffer a life-changing car accident on his way home from the plastic surgeon’s office. 
  • For Donna to lose her steadfast faith in the PTA, she needs involvement in meaningful PTA work when the PTA cons her out of her child’s college fund.
  • Suppose the reporter needs to learn her newspaper is the pawn of Satan. In that case, she needs to be actively supporting and later rejecting the newspaper’s representatives’ plans to help elect Satan’s spawn as the country’s president. She needs to be in a situation in which the information is revealed or discovered.

What are the values at stake in a Worldview story?

Values in a story shape your protagonist’s arc. They drive the characters’ actions and choices. The global value describes the protagonist’s change path from the beginning of the story to the end. The global value of a Worldview story depends upon the subgenre (see subgenres). Generally, a Worldview story runs along this line:

What’s the controlling idea of a Worldview story?

A controlling idea of a story, also known as a premise, is the “lesson” your reader comes away with, the meaning they apply to your story. It’s the single sentence summing up the argument your story attempts to prove. 

The controlling idea of a Worldview story depends on the subgenre (see below), but here’s a general idea:

If your story is prescriptive, your controlling idea will go something like this: 

We gain wisdom when we learn to express our gifts and accept our roles in an imperfect world. (Basically, we grow the heck up, stop seeing the world in only black-and-white terms, and start seeing and allowing for all those grays.)

If your story is cautionary, you’ll have a controlling idea like this: 

Ignorance prevails when we fail to express our gifts and accept our role in an imperfect world. (In other words, we don’t grow up. We don’t mature because we’re stuck in an immature worldview.)

You can make these generalized controlling ideas specific to your story. For example:

  • Little Tommy learns he must share toys to maintain friendships.
  • Bobby-Ray’s inability to avoid aging and death leads to a new faith in Jesus.
  • When Donna learns she was defrauded, it leads to her loss of faith in the PTA.
  • Integrating new knowledge about her employer allows a reporter to avoid becoming a pawn of Satan.

Notice how these are similar to the generalized descriptions I gave above? Aha.

What are the wants and needs associated with the Worldview story?

A Worldview character can initially want any number of things, but their primary goal is usually to remain in their comfortable and familiar status quo. They want to avoid a change of some kind.

A Worldview character needs to learn and integrate the truth, no matter how painful.

What are genre conventions, and why do we need them?

Conventions are the story elements that must be there, or the reader will be confused. They are a combination of characters and settings that produce situations that pressure your protagonist to act.

Conventions set up the obligatory events (we’ll get to those in a minute).

What are the conventions of the Worldview genre?

Each Worldview subgenre has its own conventions, but here is what they all seem to have in common:

  • The protagonist has a mentor figure (for better or for worse). 
  • At least one sizeable social problem is the subtext of the story. Examples are ageism, racism, misogyny, and class. (Ex. In The Perks of Being a Wallflower, it’s homophobia and child abuse).
  • There is a clear threat of escalating danger, even if the danger is limited to the protagonist’s psyche.
  • There is at least one shapeshifter or hypocrite character capable of directly impacting the protagonist. 
  • The Worldview story follows a cause-and-effect trajectory as the protagonist pursues what they want from beginning to end. 
  • The protagonist doesn’t see or accept the truth in some aspect of their world. They are focused on something they want instead of what they need. That thing they want, juxtaposed against what they need, forces them to face a specific long-standing problem or fear. 
  • Through character action, the protagonist is pressured to change to get what they need. They must remedy a flaw in themselves to get what they need.
  • Character development is accelerated, generally happening much faster and more definitively than in “real life.”

What are obligatory events, and why do they matter?

Obligatory Events are moments or scenes that payoff the set-ups of the conventions.

What are the obligatory events of the Worldview genre?

  • There’s an inciting incident that challenges the protagonist’s worldview.
  • The protagonist denies the responsibility to respond to the opportunity or challenge. The protagonist refuses to listen to others or accept their assistance in addressing the antagonist.
  • Forced to respond, the protagonist lashes out against the requirement to change behavior. They resist change and rely on old habits.
  • The protagonist learns what the external antagonist’s object of desire is. 
  • The protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist fails.
  • There is an exact “point of no return,” the moment when the protagonist knows they can never go back to the way things used to be. There must be a precise moment when the protagonist’s worldview gets knocked out of alignment.
  • During an All Is Lost moment, the protagonist realizes they must change their black and white view of the world to allow for the paradoxical nature of life. 
  • The protagonist expresses their gift as acceptance of an imperfect world. Or they fail to do so. This is the core event of the Worldview story.
  • The protagonist’s innocence loss is rewarded with a deeper understanding of the universe based on their actions in the climactic scene.
  • There is a paradoxical win-but-lose, lose-but-win, bittersweet ending. The protagonist gets what they need but not what they want or vice-versa. There are evident sacrifices either way.

What are the Worldview subgenres? 

Maturation

The Maturation story is about the protagonist’s shift in worldview from naiveté to sophistication or ignorance to wisdom. When a naive protagonist with a rigid worldview and mistakenly conceived goals experiences a loss or suffers a trial of events, they are forced toward a new understanding that the world is imperfect and the truth is multi-layered. They gain wisdom (and often sadness) and an ability to integrate their worldview into improved goals and actions.

The life values range for a Maturation story is: 

  • Naivete and Ignorance Masked as Sophistication to
  • Naivete to
  • Cognitive Dissonance to
  • Sophistication, Wisdom

Ex. Little Tommy learns he must share.

Disillusionment

The Disillusionment story is about the protagonist’s shift in worldview from belief to disillusionment. The protagonist begins with an optimistic or positive view of some aspect of life and ends with a negative or pessimistic outlook. An idealistic and naive protagonist experiences a loss or suffers a trial of events that force them to a new and more pessimistic understanding. They lose faith and meaning.

The life values range for a DIsillusionment story is: 

  • Blind Belief to
  • Justified Belief (clinging to old ideas) to
  • Doubt (new information discovered or old info takes on new meaning) to
  • Disillusionment

Ex. Donna loses faith in the PTA.

Education

The Education story is about a protagonist’s shift in worldview from meaninglessness to meaning. A sympathetic protagonist faces a threat to their view of life and emerges into a new and better kind of wholeness at the end. A naive or cynical protagonist experiences an opportunity or challenge that leads to a new understanding that results in a more profound meaning.

The life values range for an Eduction story is: 

  • Meaninglessness Masked As Meaning (story may not include this value)
  • Meaninglessness to
  • Cognitive Dissonance to
  • Meaning

Ex. Bobby-Ray gains faith in religion.

Revelation

The revelation story is about the protagonist’s shift in worldview from ignorance to knowledge through the revelation of hidden information. The protagonist begins missing information, they gain doubts regarding their circumstances or beliefs, and they discover a shocking truth that leads them to make better decisions.

The life values range for a Revelation story is: 

  • Ignorance masked as knowledge to
  • Ignorance (doubts develop) to
  • Cognitive Dissonance (new knowledge discovered) to
  • Knowledge, Wisdom

Ex. A reporter learns her newspaper is a pawn of Satan.

What are the key events in the Worldview story?

Derived from the teachings of Norman Friedman in Forms of the Plot, combined with the change arc concept put-forth by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and the Hero’s Journey by Joseph Campbell, here is the basic event outline I developed for the Worldview genre story arc. 

Beginning Hook
(Kubler-Ross change stages of
Shock, Denial, Anger)

Ordinary World Set-Up

Demonstrate the protagonist’s fault and limited awareness, which they must later remedy to get what they ultimately need. 

Demonstrate the protagonist’s initial goal/want (usually comfort, familiarity, homeostasis)

Introduce supporting characters and set-ups. 

Introduce at least one sizeable social problem as the subtext of the story. Examples are ageism, racism, misogyny, and class. 

Set up the protagonist’s global change arc trajectory with an initial want/goal that will change at the beginning of the middle build.

Inciting Incident of the Beginning Hook and Global Story

Show the protagonist experiencing an unexpected event that threatens their worldview (status quo). This is often the introduction of the primary antagonistic force in the story.

*The unexpected event is an antagonist force that can be causal (a purposeful action by the antagonist or an opportunity) or coincidental (an event not caused by the antagonist such as the death of a loved one or the discovery of new information). 

Demonstrate the protagonist failing to register their need to change their worldview and instead choosing to avoid action (or they only put forth the minimum viable effort) because they are focused on their original goal. 

Here, you’re meeting two requirements:

  • There’s an inciting incident that challenges the protagonist’s worldview.
  • The protagonist denies the responsibility to respond to the opportunity or challenge.

Progressive Complication of the Beginning Hook

Show the protagonist making a mistake to their lack of wisdom and suffering some kind of negative consequence. Show that what they were doing in the past is no longer working for them.

  • Forced to adapt to a new environment, the protagonist relies on old habits and humiliates themselves. 
  • The protagonist refuses to listen to others or accept their assistance in addressing the antagonist.

Turning Point of the Beginning Hook 

Demonstrate the protagonist’s inattention building (they are shrugging off the problem) until an external event with increased stakes forces the protagonist to a crisis question.

The external event you create can be an attack by (or pressure) from the antagonist on the protagonist. It could also be the pressure of the protagonist discovering more information about the antagonist or the consequences for not accepting an opportunity. (This event is supported by your external genre choice of Action, Crime, Horror, Thriller, Love, War, Western, Performance, or Society.) 

Demonstrate that the protagonist now realizes the antagonist’s ability to impact their situation.

Crisis of the Beginning Hook 

The protagonist must decide whether to:

Avoid the antagonistic force or opportunity and continue pursuing their original goal (which will disappoint others and have a negative impact on their own life); 

OR

Abandon their original goal and engage the antagonist or opportunity to help or appease others.

*This may be in the subtext and not explicitly on the page.

Climax of the Beginning Hook

Demonstrate the action the protagonist takes that proves their decision to the crisis question. If the crisis question was in subtext, this action makes the protagonist’s interpretation of the inciting incident and framing of the crisis question clear. 

Show this action propelling the protagonist toward the middle build since it does not solve the global problem on its own. 

Demonstrate how the protagonist acts to avoid the antagonist with an increased effort to maintain their original goal;

OR

Demonstrate how the protagonist acts to abandon their original goal (often temporarily because they plan to fix the problem and return to their old normal), engage the antagonist, and appease others. 

Resolution of the Begining Hook

Show how the protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist fails. Out it explicitly on the page, in action.

To launch into Middle Build One, demonstrate that the protagonist agrees to accept the opportunity or solve the problem presented by the antagonist. Show that they believe that they will gain some reward and return to pursuing their original goal (thinking they’ll fix the problem and get back to their old routine). They set a new plan to engage the antagonist or seize an opportunity, and they again determine the minimal viable effort to solve the problem.

*This resolution may not be explicit and may be revealed in Middle Build One. Or you can incorporate it into the climax of the Beginning Hook scene.

Middle Build One 
(Kubler-Ross change stages: Anger, Bargaining)
tests, allies, and enemies

Inciting Incident of Middle Build One

Demonstrate how the protagonist visibly shifts from the familiar to the unknown. The unfamiliar can be a new environment or a new behavior pattern the protagonist assumes (thinking it will solve the global problem).

They may have a small success at this point, and they are certainly on their way to changing their worldview via the upcoming trial by fire. They’ve stepped into the fight, but they aren’t yet showing signs of change.

Progressive Complication of Middle Build One

Show the protagonist working to adapt and excel in the new environment to get what they want but using their old thinking to do it, so it doesn’t work. Something happens (pressure from external events) that proves the protagonist is in for a more significant challenge than they anticipated.

In most Worldview stories, this is where a character indoctrinates them into their new world (could be the mentor, threshold guardian, a new ally, or a passing character). This character warns them of the danger (internal or external) of the heroic path (which are the actions associated with the change the protagonist needs to make). 

Turning Point of Middle Build One

Create an event in which the protagonist experiences an event that pressures them to outwit the antagonist. Whether they succeed or fail in this event, show the protagonist revealing an ability or a special gift in response to the pressure. 

This reveal threatens the antagonist, perhaps for the first time, and the stakes rise. The antagonist may attempt to get the protagonist to “join” them. The antagonist demonstrates that they see no reason for their own need to change. Unlike the protagonist, the antagonist is confident and prepared to address unexpected events.  

*Look to your external supporting genre for clues to what this event should be.

Crisis of Middle Build One

Show how the protagonist must decide whether to: 

Stay on course, oppose the antagonist, and risk creating irreversible physical or emotional damage to themselves and others; 

OR

Abandon their course, join the antagonist’s plan for personal gain, and risk creating irreversible physical or emotional damage to others and themselves.

This crisis event either gives the protagonist a false sense of security or clarifies their task’s extreme difficulty. 

This event may be in subtext, but it is made evident by the Climax of Middle Build One.

Climax of Middle Build One

Demonstrate the answer to the Crisis question of Middle Build One. The decision the protagonist makes here creates an irreversible change. Usually, the protagonist decides to oppose the antagonist, and the antagonist responds with a more significant illustration of power. (point of no return)

Demonstrate how the protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver the antagonist fails.

Resolution of Middle Build One, Midpoint Shift of the Global Story

Show how the climax’s pressure causes the protagonist to change their approach to defeat the antagonist. This also creates pressure for the antagonist and likely all story characters.

Show the protagonist discovering that they will never ‘get back to normal,’ that they can’t follow through with their path of least resistance. That they realize their skills and plans are inadequate to deal with the pressures they face. What they’ve done hasn’t worked. Maybe it’s even backfired. Show a precise moment when the protagonist experienced their worldview getting knocked out of alignment, and they hit cognitive dissonance.

*This point in the story is often referred to as the mid-point climax, but it is structurally the resolution event of Middle Build One. It does not offer solutions. The protagonist moves from reactive to proactive.

Middle Build Two
(Kubler-Ross: Depression, Deliberation) 

Inciting Incident of Middle Build Two

Confront the protagonist and antagonist with an unexpected event. How the protagonist and the antagonist contend with the event counterbalance one another, they are at odds. In other words, something happens (either positively or negatively) that changes the protagonist’s view or approach and fails to change the antagonist’s perspective or approach.

The protagonist begins shifting their worldview while the antagonist may become more obstinate.

*The inciting incident of middle build two is often combined with the resolution of middle build one. In some Worldview stories, they are seemingly indistinguishable.

Turning Point of Middle Build Two and the Global Story

Show the protagonist beginning to experience the story problem with their changing worldview by creating an event that turns the entire story’s global value.

The external genre of the global story determines the nature of this event. But it’s their reaction to the circumstance that demonstrates the Worldview shift. Show the Protagonist despairing because they don’t know how to proceed. (All is Lost). Provide evidence that proves to the protagonist that they must change their black and white view of the world to allow for the paradoxical nature of life and get what they need (possibly giving up what they want).

The Crisis of Middle Build Two and the Global Story

The protagonist must choose either to:

Abandon the original mission and selfishly put their wants and needs above others’ thereby allowing others to suffer and be disappointed;

OR

Risk their selfish desires to assist others, do the right thing, even though they will likely suffer. 

The protagonist realizes they must change their black and white view of the world to allow for the paradoxical nature of life. 

Climax of Middle Build Two

In action, demonstrate how the protagonist decides to confront the antagonist and complete their mission despite the risk to themselves. Show how the protagonist acts willingly and with the courage to engage the seemingly more powerful antagonist. Show the protagonist beginning to incorporate their new worldview in their behaviors (external).

Resolution of Middle Build Two

Show the protagonist taking the first steps toward their showdown with the antagonist. Demonstrate how they humbly commit to making meaningful choices as situations arise. Show they intend to give the challenge everything they have.

Demonstrate the protagonist moving in on the antagonist, getting closer to the big confrontation despite increasing stakes. This pushing the protagonist and the story into the Ending Payoff.

Ending Payoff
(Kubler-Ross: Choice Moment, Integration)
conclusion, final attempt, resolution

Inciting Incident of the Ending Payoff

Show how the antagonist is prepared for the protagonist’s attack and pushes back with tremendous pressure on the protagonist. This pressure should ‘mirror’ the inciting incident of the beginning hook of the story. What do I mean by that? This pressure should be in the same category as the original pressure, but with more enormous stakes. 

The mirroring of the inciting incident is to prove the protagonist’s change from the beginning of the story to the end. They dealt with the initial pressure from the beginning using their original worldview, which (insufficiently and improperly handled the situation) lead to this moment.

Demonstrate that the protagonist finally sees that they need help to defeat the antagonist. Show how the protagonist finally listens to and relies upon others. The entire Ending Payoff will demonstrate the power of the collaborative knowledge and efforts of the allies the protagonist finally embraces.

Turning Point of the Ending Payoff 

To progressively complicate the Ending Payoff, you must make the stakes their highest. The event is determined by the external genre, an attack by the antagonist. It’s the protagonist’s response to the event that is the Turning Point of the Ending Payoff. The protagonist reacts to the pressure by raising their courage and physical commitment to the challenge. With their response to this event, you want to evoke a sense of loss or pity in your audience while raising their hopes that the protagonist will succeed. 

Here, you drop your protagonist into a seemingly unsolvable problem that will create the climactic event. 

The Crisis of the Ending Payoff 

The protagonist must choose between:

Changing their original worldview and accepting their role in an imperfect world (demonstrating their gift) despite the pain of change;

OR

Maintaining their original worldview (black and white) and refusing to accept their role in an imperfect world (withholding their gift) in return for avoiding the pain of change.

*this may be in subtext rather than explicitly on the page.

Climax of the Ending Payoff and the Global Story

Prove the answer to the Crisis question of the Ending Payoff.

If your story is prescriptive, show the protagonist accepting the imperfect world and their role in it. Show them actively demonstrating their gift to solve the global problem. 

If your story is cautionary, show them acting to maintain their original worldview (black and white) and refusing to accept their role in an imperfect world (withholding their gift) in return for avoiding the pain of change.

This is the big event of the global story, and you want to evoke strong emotions from your audience, those emotions specifically associated with your story’s subgenre. 

You also want your Worldview climax to collide with the climax of your supporting genre. One impacts the other. Typically, in a Worldview story, the actions associated with the protagonist’s worldview shift determine the supporting story’s outcome. 

Resolution of the Ending Payoff and the Global Story

Here, you want to continue to pull the emotional strings of your audience. 

If your story is prescriptive, demonstrate that the protagonist has lost some innocence, is sadder, but has gained wisdom (in some aspect of life) specifically tied to their actions in the climactic event. Wisdom, at least in this area of life, is their reward. 

Demonstrate that there is a paradoxical (win-but-lose or lose-but-win) bittersweet ending. Show how the protagonist gets what they need but not what they want or vice-versa. There are evident sacrifices either way. Best case scenario? If they win their internal genre needs, they lose their external genre wants. 

In the end, you must decide whether the protagonist is now free to pursue their original desire. Usually, that desire has been transformed and is irrelevant now that they have what they need.

Give the audience a “glimpse of the future” for the protagonist.

Now you finally have the key events of the Worldview genre.

Of course, this is not the definitive or exhaustive guide to the Worldview genre. It’s meant to provide you with a general understanding of the Story Grid tools you can use to write the Worldview story in your heart. Modify these suggestions as you please to meet your story’s requirement, and don’t get hung up on any single key event if it’s missing in your story. 

Remember, the question is to ask, “Does this story work or not?” 

If your story works, leave it alone. If your story doesn’t work, review this article again and weigh your story against the suggestions here. If you’ve done that and it still doesn’t work, consider that you might be writing in a different primary genre. There may be a good reason your story doesn’t quite fit, why you feel you are smashing your story into a model that doesn’t have the right shape. 

Don’t forget that you need a supporting story.

A Worldview story must have an external supporting genre. Otherwise, the problems are all in the protagonist’s head, and there is nothing to challenge those thoughts. There is no story.

Choose your external content genre as your story’s secondary genre and incorporate that genre’s requirements into your story.  

If you need assistance in completing your Worldview story, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Post your questions in the comments below or contact me for a free half-hour editing consultation.

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About the Author

Rachelle Ramirez is a developmental editor for award-winning and bestselling authors but her favorite work is with first-time novelists and narrative nonfiction writers. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her family, ridiculous dogs, and a few too many urban chickens. You can see more at her website rachelleramirez.com.
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Author Rachelle Ramirez

15 Comments

Shelley says:

This is epic, and incredibly useful for every writer and editor, since every story has a sneaky little worldview story inside, whether we know it or not! Thank you so much for doing this incredible and brilliant work. I see a beautiful graphic all about Worldview in the future . . . .

Reply
Rachelle Ramirez says:

Thanks, Shelley. Anne Hawley and I are developing similar frameworks for Action, Crime, Horror, Love, Status, and Morality. It’s fascinating material.

Reply
SherylGwyther says:

Wow! Rachelle, this is amazing! The best coverage, the best insightful article I have ever read to understand Worldview. Thank you so much!

I’m finishing the first draft of my children’s novel set in 1921 during NaNoWriMo. After a conversation with you during the year, I discovered it was Worldview/Action (Epic) story (much to my surprise).

But now as I write the final act, I suspected I was missing some of the signposts, the essentials needed for Worldview genre … and after reading this article, i know I have. My methodical brain is freaking out, but I’m squashing it down, telling myself … it’s first draft! It doesn’t matter … yet!

I do have a question … about The Shapeshifter. What do you do when the story doesn’t have a hypocritical character who directly affects the protagonist right through it? I might have one or two different ones but no one character in particular. Is that lining up to be a problem? Any suggestions on how to mend it if it is?
Many thanks!

Reply
Rachelle Ramirez says:

Hello Sheryl,
I’m so glad to hear that you are proceeding with your story!
The shapeshifter is a staple character in most genres. They don’t have to be a major character but you do need someone in your story, capable of deeply impacting your protagonist, who does one thing and says another. They force the protagonist to reckon with the fact that not everyone is who they say they are and that the protagonist must think for themselves. I’m willing to bet a hundred bucks that you already have that character in your story. Does anyone lie? Does anyone represent themselves in an overly flattering manner? Anyone a little too ingratiating because they expect to get something in return that they don’t mention? Anyone pretend to be a reliable listening ear and then use the information against the protagonist? This is often an ally of the main antagonist but it COULD be the antagonist themselves.

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Maggie La says:

Hello Rachelle,

That was indeed an epic read and an epic effort to write, no doubt! Thank you!

I’m very confused about planning my novel between the External genre (love) and Internal (worldview revelation). Each genre has its own obligatory scenes and conventions. So for every story do I plan and create 2 sets of obligatory scenes and meet both sets of conventions? I understand that I can combine these into the same scenes but to hit the milestones of each, to create a truly compelling story both inside and out, I really need to plot for both don’t I?

Instead of writing my novel first and applying Story grid principles to the manuscript, I’m actually using the foolscap, core questions and 5 commandments etc to plan and then write my novel, scene by scene.
While it’s fascinating and exciting to have the direction the level of detail and planning is overwhelming! Thank you for your insights!

Reply
Rachelle Ramirez says:

You don’t need to meet all of the obligatory conventions and moments for your secondary genre but it’s a good aim. I’d look to combine them as often as you can. And try not to get stuck on planning everything out before you start writing. Sometimes, you need to have a general idea of where you want to go and start traveling. You’ve got this. You probably have a much better sense of what you need to do than it feels right now. Edit later. If you get stuck, feel free to schedule a call with me or reach out via email.

Reply
Maggie La says:

Thank you Rachelle
Of course you’re right! I’m a bit of a serial planner and not an action taker so I do need to just write this thing! I’ve got the foolscap done but what is not obvious at first is that there’s still so much more to write to even get to and to hit those moments!

One thing you said really struck me; why is the external genre the secondary genre, and not the first?
A love story is always an external genre, right? but you’re saying: focus on hitting the moments for the Internal genre, not necessarily the love story moments?

Thank you once again ML

Reply
Rachelle Ramirez says:

I don’t see anything you wrote that would tell me which story of yours is your primary and which is your secondary. I’d suggest not worrying about it for your first draft and moving forward with both Love and Worldview. At the end of your first draft, ask yourself, “Which genre came out on top?” And then use your second draft to bring it closer to the primary genre. If you get stuck, please feel free to reach out to me. You’ve got this. Get writing and see what you come up with.

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Carol Painter says:

Thanks for the very interesting read Rachelle. At first I thought it simply repeated Part One but there is more, and the ‘more’ is helpful. Like others, I too have been grappling with the internal plus external genre ‘requirement’. In my case the primary genre is internal, ie Worldview/Maturation and – since I need to come up with one – the secondary genre that seems most relevant is Society. I’ve basically been following the advice you gave above Rachelle, don’t worry but get on and write it. Fine, I have around 91,000 words and am 2/3 of the way through the second draft still knowing there’s a key scene/s that need to go in early in the 3rd Act which is fundamental to the protagonist’s change of course from reactive to proactive. The missing scene – I know the essence of what it is to be – is causing me a lot of deliberation and I’m wondering if the delay in my being able to write it is significant in some deeper sense? Any thoughts?.

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Rachelle Ramirez says:

Have you read the two articles I wrote on Secrets of the Society Genre? You may or may not have a Society story backing that Worldview Arc. Could it be that Action, with stakes of danger instead of life and death, is backing your story? My experience has been that the scenes I don’t want to write can be put down in sketch form as place holders until they must be written. Not everything has to move like well-oiled gears. You get to create your book any way you want. One trick that helped me get a scene down that I didn’t want to write was to contract with someone so that I had an external deadline to meet for writing it. If I didn’t write it, there were going to be consequences. Another trick is to outright steal beats from another story that does a similar thing you want your story to do in that scene. For example, if it’s a lovemaking scene, go and snatch a sex scene that you like from another story and craft it to fit your characters. It will give you a place holder and a sketched out scene. You’ll have something to edit. That scene will start to bother you so much that you’ll go in and fix it. You could work with an editor that could hold you accountable for deadlines and even help you sketch the scene out beat by beat. Or consider that you might not be willing to write it because it is the wrong scene for your book. What does your gut tell you?

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Jaimie says:

This is great! I think your “Education” life values range progression is backwards? That’s the only way it makes sense to me anyway. Thanks for putting this together!

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Carter McNamara says:

This article is extremely helpful! I can’t imagine the work that was needed for this article when identifying the numerous specific key events and their order in the beginning, middle 1, middle 2, and ending sections.

I have the impression that those four sections also comprise 4 acts in the story. So would there be a unique value shift in each of the 4 acts, as well?

The worldview major genre itself and my selected subgenre (Maturation) each have 3 major value shifts, so how would they fit into a 4-act story?

Thank you!!!

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Rachelle Ramirez says:

The value shifts do not need to match the acts, though they often do.

The value shifts for Worldview might look like this:
Ignorance masked as wisdom to ignorance
ignorance to Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance to knowledge
Knowledge to wisdom
OR
It might look like:
naivete masked as sophistication to naivete
naivete to Cognitive dissonance
Cognitive dissonance to new knowledge
new knowledge to sophistication

There is a different value range/shift for each subgenre.

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Miriam Wißler says:

Hello Rachel,

First of all, thank you very much for the great article.

I still have trouble identifying the antagonist in my story. The story belongs to the genre worldview, education. The protagonist lives for work in order to escape the inner emptiness, but slowly threatens to break under the pressure to perform. When he gets to know a woman, he is confronted with a completely different life draft (self-realization, freedom, self-acceptance) and doubts his concept all the more. In this case, is the antagonist:

A) the pressure to perform
B) the young woman
C) the opposite Levens draft (self-realization etc.)
?

Thank you very much!
P.s. Sorry for my bad english, im german 🙂

best regards
Miriam

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Rachelle Ramirez says:

I’m so glad the article was helpful to you. Your antagonist in a Worldview story is the primary person or force that pressures your protagonist to change. That could be a potential lover, a supervisor, a competitor, etc. If the primary story is a Love story, the antagonist is the other lover.

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