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My formula for story.

David Gane
David Gane
1 min read

Yesterday, I shared Jerry Cleaver’s formula for stories, which I think is fantastic, and gave me the solid footing to build stories and teach them.

Until then, I had referenced Syd Field’s Screenplay and Blake Snyder’s Save the Cat, but I never liked their static nature.

I wanted something with more flexibility, and Cleaver’s CONFLICT + ACTION + RESOLUTION = STORY was the way.

However, as I taught, I expanded on it a little, and as anyone I’ve worked with knows, my formula is known as WOARO.


A few quick notes on this expansion:

  1. I use want and obstacle instead of conflict just so that it’s clear what you are working with. Want is required for all stories, but obstacles and struggles are what makes them compelling. Identifying these two elements is the quickest way into your story.
  2. Every action a character takes meets a response, which leads to further actions and responses. It’s helpful to think of action and response as two sides of the same coin. One character’s action is always a response to a stimulus.
  3. I use outcome because not every story feels resolved. As I mentioned, there isn’t always a win or a loss. Although a character may not get their want, there will be a change or a small move forward or backward toward it. This move may be all a story is about.

So if Cleaver’s formula for story didn’t give you enough information, perhaps WOARO can help you a little more.


David Gane Twitter

Co-writer of the Shepherd and Wolfe young adult mysteries, the internationally award-winning series, and teacher of storytelling and screenwriting.


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