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Teachers can use this technique from Pixar in order to help students become a good storyteller.

Beats can show the most important moments in your story. They show WHAT is happening, not HOW. Choose a format (outline form, using index cards, sketchbook, etc.) to identify and describe the beats that are part of the structure in your story.



Students may develop a story spine for their own film idea. Try sharing the spine with the class and iterating a few times…


1. Once upon a time...

2. Every day...

3. Until one day...

4. Because of that...

5. Because of that...

6. Because of that...

7. Until finally...

8. And ever since then...

The moral of the story is...

The next is determining the THEME of the story. A story should have a MORAL or THEME. Students may get inspiration from their own life or someone else but the key is to make it original.


The student may answer the questions:


  • What was the moral of your story?

  • What did you learn and why?



  • Brainstorm ideas for the moral in their own story (return to the needs of your main character from the Character lesson)

  • Try retelling the original story spine in order to reinforce (clarify) the moral at the end.

Write the FIRST ACT in your story. Or the INFORMATION.


It mainly cover the first three parts of the STORY SPINE. It should allow the audience to understand and know the characters and the challenges they need to overcome.

STORYTELLERS should answer the following questions in order to come up with the FIRST ACT.


  • Who is/are the main characters, and why do we care about them?

  • Where and when does the story take place?

  • How do we learn what type of movie it is?

  • What is the inciting incident? (how is the world disrupted?)

  • What or who is the antagonist?


1. Once upon a time...

2. Every day...

3. Until one day...



  • Students may think of what they want to present in the first act of their own story.

  • Ask yourself Who/What/When/Where

  • Try fitting it into the first three steps story spine, and flesh each step out with 3-4 sentences….

The second part is ACT 2. The Complications.


Here the protagonist will encounter a series of progressive complications. And he or she will have to make life changing decisions.


You have make your character FACE ALL THE PROBLEMS.

It may be achieved by answering the following questions:


  • What is the want/goal of the main character(s) at the start of Act 2?

  • What (if any) is the point of no return or turning point (when the character learns something and changes their path)?

  • What (if any) is the low point?

  • What did the character learn by the end of the second act?


4. Because of that...

5. Because of that...

6. Because of that...



  • What is the want/goal of your main character(s) at the start of Act 2?

  • Why does your character reach a low point, if any?

  • Describe the point of no return or turning point (where your character learns something new and realizes their needs.)

  • Try fitting this into the Act 2 steps of the story spine (fill each step out with 3-4 sentences.)

ACT 3 will focus on the climax and the ending along with the moral of the story.


The story is now careening towers the climax. The final and biggest challenge the main character will face and what her or she will do in order to win the battle.


Surprise element should be there to make the audience or readers happy.

Students should be able to answer the following question by this time.


  • What was the crisis?

  • How is it resolved?

  • How does the main character demonstrate that they learned what they needed?

  • What was the theme or moral?

  • Was the character arc emotionally satisfying? Why or why not?


7. Until finally...

8. And ever since then...

The moral of the story is...



  • What is the crisis?

  • How could it be resolved?

  • How will the main character demonstrate that they learned what they needed?

  • What is the theme or moral?

  • Do you think the audience will find the ending emotionally satisfying? Why?

Here's a list of definitions introduced during this lesson.


  • External feature: the clothes, design or look of a character.

  • Act One: consists of introducing the characters, introducing the story, and getting a landscape of where the story is trying to go

  • Act Two: consists of the choices and actions your main character makes as they attempt to overcome the escalating obstacles in pursuit of their goals

  • Act Three: consists of the final test of the protagonist and the resolution that follows; where the story comes together

  • Antagonist: is a force that gets in the way of your character’s wants and needs; typically “the villain”

  • Final Crisis/Climax: the most intense moment of the film for the protagonist who should be in danger of losing everything they value most; “the ultimate test”

  • Inciting Incident: an event which leads to a key obstacle your protagonist faces and sets the rest of the story in motion

  • Low Point: the point in the story when it seems like everything is lost for your main characters

  • Moral: the lesson that the main character learned at the end of the story

  • Point of No Return: a choice which the main character can never turn back

  • Resolution: the return of the world and characters to a calmer place, perhaps a more complete or better version of themselves

  • Story Beats: the most important moments in your story Story Spine: a tool used to develop story beats following a simple pattern

  • Structure: the ordering of the events, or a sequence of beats, in the story

  • Theme: the idea that connects all the events in the story and is connected to the moral

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