DAN HARMON IS a screenwriter, producer and author best known for his work on the television shows Community and the animated series, Rick and Morty, both of which he is also the creator of.
In a six-part series of tutorial articles penned by Harmon himself, a simple structure of storytelling codified by the writer himself is presented, which is further accompanied by comprehensive details of each part of the structure. Besides that, he also takes the time to discuss and share broader aspects of writing stories, with an entire part dedicated to theoretical reasoning behind his ideas.
Most of Harmon's screen creations are a result of this storytelling process, which he has used to great success, time and again. In this video, he shares how this very process was used in creating a whole episode of the Rick and Morty television show.
The Main Takeaway
The author posits that every good story can be distilled down to a really basic, eight-step storyline: exceptions and deviations being more of matters of style than anything else.
As such, using this structure as a guiding framework, storytellers and screenwriters can then pattern their work, allowing them to consistently and reliably create and guide their protagonist through a thrilling adventure.
Obstacles and Difficulties
In the proposed storytelling structure, Harmon says that the writer should link the protagonist's changes and growth back to the starting position, so as to complete the circle of the storyline for the reader or viewer.
He also goes on to explain, however, that there may be some differences in how this completing of the circle is done in a story, as there are some notable differences in what viewers expect out of different mediums: for example a weekly TV show compared to a one-time movie.
Despite these additional nuances that add detail to Harmon's story circle, he's able to reconcile these ideas and show how to apply them circumstantially to each scenario.
Using an Outline
After brainstorming the possible scenarios and elements of a particular story, Harmon uses his story circle technique to arrange the ideas into a sequence of beats that make sense in a storyline's narrative — always completing the circle and linking the end back to its start. From there, an outline of the episode or show is compiled, which then allows the story to be realised by the creatives working on it.