THE SHAPE OF STORIES: Is Your Mind Torturing You?

Wisdom for storytelling beyond the hero’s journey


The hero’s journey is the cornerstone of Western storytelling: a person’s quest from bad fortune to happy ending. Everyone wants to get someplace better. Everybody needs relief from misery. This quest is the basic shape of a story:

Basic story shape of despair to happy-ending
Basic story shape of despair to happy-ending

To move from bad-fortune to good-fortune, you have got to beat problems. How do you do that?  We need people we can actually learn from.  A terribly tormented character doesn’t get an easy victory in fiction or real life. That’s why when someone admonishes to “write what you know,” they are saying they want stories with real-life experience.

The best characters face the worst problems. The reader needs just as much help as the character. So turn to people who have seen the truth about the nature of tormenting thoughts. Here are two people who mastered their minds:


She developed “The Work”: When you have a distressing thought, ask yourself if it’s really true. For example: “I don’t have enough money” Is it true? Visit to learn how to master negative thoughts.


He taught that any derogatory thought (about yourself or others) is NOT TRUE. These false thoughts are called “Not I’s” because they are not really you. Identify them and then act the way you want to feel.  Much of Dr. Bob’s teachings have been archived here: