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Note: This excerpt is an unsolicited review from CharlesDeemer, one of the nation's preeminent screenwriting teachers and webmaster of theInternet's first and most prestigious sites for fiction writers, The Screenwriters andPlaywrights Home Page.


"By my lights, this is the best story development tool on the market today."

StoryCraft is a story-development tool. It was written by John Jarvisand based on what is now called "the Jarvis Method" of story-development, whichis a structural approach based on the ideas of Aristotle, Lajos Egri, Rudyard Kipling, andJoseph Campbell. What makes StoryCraft so appealing is its strong and clear focus, thedirect presentation of its ideas, the user-friendliness of its interface, and theflexibility available within the solid story foundation presented by its step-by-step"tutors."

The Jarvis Method is based on what it calls the "Five Elements ofStory Crafting," which are:
     Story concept
     Story category
     Story type
     Story components
     Story structure

In the design of the software, you are led through these steps in order,tutored on the elements of each and prompted to write about your story within the contextof each element.

Thus the first thing you are asked to do in StoryCraft is to write a"story concept," defined here as a one-line logline. In the Windows 95 version,the program will not go on to the next step if you write a two-line logline, and I admirethe discipline demanded here. Much of screenwriting is about economy, and StoryCraftinstills this demand from the beginning.

After the concept, one must select one of two story categories:"Action" or "Theme." Is the story plot-driven (action) orcharacter-driven (theme)? This decided, the writer is asked to select one of 14 types ofstories, such as Puzzle, Chase, Kidnap and Rescue, Love, Coming of Age, Excess andDownfall.

The beauty of the software is that it responds to the writer's choicesalong the way. With concept, category and type in place, individualized tutors now leadthe writer into setting down the structural foundation of the story, first through a"world creation" series of 6 steps, in which the writer defines the hero andvillain and the ordinary and extraordinary worlds that define the backdrop of the hero'sjourney; and finally through 12 "story steps" the prompt the writer to tell thestory in response to a specific order of challenges to the hero.

If this seems like a rigid formula for story creation, it is and itisn't. Certainly "the Jarvis Method" is heavily influenced by "the hero'sjourney" take on story-telling and not every possible story fits this paradigm. Atthe same time, a vast number of stories do follow this paradigm, which at any rate is onethat beginning writers should master. Additionally, these steps, while precise in afoundational context, are general enough to be interpreted in highly creative ways,according to the sensibilities of the writer. Once again, this software is a precise andvaluable tool, not a crutch, and writers can do far worse than to develop their storiesalong the structural lines developed here.

All of the "world creation" and "story creation"steps are introduced thoroughly with "tutors" that explain and clarify each stepof the writing process. Indeed, the strong "help" features of StoryCraft, whichinclude a large number of areas (such as "the mythological approach" tostorytelling and "embellishing your story") not directly related to developingthe specific story at hand, are among its strongest features. But the feature I like best,which I've seen in none of its competitors, is its clear, direct focus on the single taskof putting down a well-defined, well-structured story within the framework of a paradigmthat has worked since Aristotle. By my lights, this is the best story development tool onthe market today.

Charles Deemer, Screenwriters & PlaywrightsHome Page

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