Monday, February 4, 2013

Five Stages of Grief

Five Stages of Grief

A useful structural tool is the Kübler-Ross Model of the five stages of grief. In my last workshops I have a slide that lists 7 stages, but I'm going to change that back to 5, because 2 of the 7 are unlike the others. So, 5 it is.  Here's a graphic that somewhat demonstrates the story algorithm. I say, "somewhat" because the ups and downs of one story dynamic to the next are never the same.

Where does this apply? Anytime you have a character going through a very difficult life change — death of someone close, divorce, serious loss of income, professional disappointment -- in short a grieving of any kind. It can just as easily be used in comedy, as Danny Rubin used it in GROUNDHOG DAY. (I've promised Danny to do an analysis on his masterpiece, but will need a couple days to work it out. )


Although you can structure your story in five acts, or five stages, you're better off foundationally meeting audience subliminal expectations of the 3 Acts with the help of the 13-16 turning points and sequences as described in this blog under Story Structure Basics, in The Moral Premise book, and in other good story technique books (e.g. Hauge, Snyder). Then, layer on the 5 Steps of Grief, if they apply. This will give you more turning points and twists in your story, hopefully positioned where the story is relatively slow. I have, as of this post, updated The Story Diamond Writing Aid, where you'll see the five stages overlapping with everything else. The PDF download is linked below. Click on image.

The Story Diamond Key

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