John Truby’s screenwriting courses and software are a staple of screenwriting classes worldwide. His book,The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
, presents his “Twenty-Two Building Blocks” plot structure is a classic. I purchased one of his first video writing courses mumblety-mumblety years ago when I was writing comedy and spent a lot of time in L.A. Truby combines the mythic story structure of Joseph Campbell (used for such blockbusters as “Star Wars”) with some original expansion to create his twenty-two building blocks. The overall structure is loosely follows the three-act format.

A key concept of Truby’s technique is that plot is what the Character does while the Character is defined by his actions. Essentially, the plotline is the result of the Hero’s (Protagonist’s) actions movtivated by his internal need and an external desire or goal. It’s the classic story structure and in his works, Truby applies his structure to a number of successful classic films (keep in mind Truby has always focused on screenwriting, however, his techniques are the same ones used by blockbuster and enduring novelist as well).

The Twenty-Two Building Blocks

Act 1

  • Self-Realization, Need, Desire
  • Ghost & Context
  • Problem/Need
  • Inciting Incident
  • Overall Desire (start low)
  • Ally/Allies
  • Opponent/Mystery
  • Opponent/Ally
  • 1st Reversal & Decision: changed desire & motive

Act 2

  • Plan
  • Opponent’s Plan & 1st Counter Attack
  • Drive
  • Attack by Ally
  • Apparent Defeat
  • 2nd Reversal & Decision: obsessive drive, changed desire & motive
  • Audience revelation about opponent-ally
  • 3rd Reversal & Decision

Act 3

  • Gate, Gauntlet, Visit to Death
  • Battle
  • Self-Revelation/Thematic Revelation
  • Moral Decision
  • New Equilibrium

Why doesn’t he call it “resolution” or “ending?” Hey, this is Hollywood! You have to be ready to write the sequel. 🙂

Since you can pick up Truby’s book at most libraries (or order it through here and help pay my server bills: The Anatomy of Story: 22 Steps to Becoming a Master Storyteller
), I won’t try to give the entire class explanation of the building blocks. His analysis and breakdown of various movies is well worth the read, even if you are writing genre or traditional storylines. And he offers classes, workshops, videos and DVDs on particular genres to make the examples specific to the context.


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