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Bulletproof Structure: Building Story from Character
Location: Downloadable Virtual Workshop
Dates: to be announced
Leader: Heidi Hornbacher

“I just saw a great movie! There were these amazing plot points,” said no one ever.

The first thing you say when a friend asks you what a great movie is about is probably more like, “There’s this girl who…” and then you talk about how:

  • She’s stuck on a desert planet, when…
  • She gets drawn into this court case, which…
  • She finds out her best friend is getting married, but…

If you look at the most common ways you talk about films you love, it starts with a main character, maybe their situation, what they want to accomplish, and usually some obstacle to their goal. All those things are vital to a good story.

Like it or not, (almost) all stories share a basic narrative shape. Getting a clear view of that shape, and understanding how each element functions, is key to figuring out what your story is. A great outline, with clear goals, obstacles, and plot turns is a good start to a killer screenplay.

And yet, that’s not quite enough. It may be you envision some mind-blowing set pieces. It may be that you’ve created high stakes and tense situations. But when movies are written to string together set pieces, as many less successful special effects-driven action films are, it shows.

That’s because all great stories are character driven. Characters are what give a story depth, dimension, and catharsis. Audiences kept watching Game of Thrones and Mad Men year after year not just for the dragons or the witty repartee. They kept watching because they connected to the characters.

So how do you do it?

“Heidi you are a tour de force…a whirlwind of an instructor, and the light that burns oh so bright. You have a great talent for cutting through the forest of doubt and showing the way.”
–David Llauger Meiselman (Producer, Strike Force One)

Before you can dive into your dialog, you must ensure that your characters and story are solid and that you have a clear idea of how to give them life on the page. By learning the tools to create character and story foundations, you can have confidence in your creations from the start. More importantly, you can save yourself the heartache of throwing away pages that don’t serve your story later. Even better, you never have to worry about getting lost in the story again. Our practices will help keep you and your characters on track.

So how does PageCraft training work?

Before class, you’ll learn how a solid logline maps to several key plot points in your story and you’ll create a captivating log line for your project.

In session one, Constructing Captivating Characters, you’ll learn how to create characters that pop off the page and how their attributes determine plot and drive story. You’ll look at what character types might best serve your story. Finally, you’ll discover the importance of a nuanced antagonist and make sure you design one worth your heroes’ efforts.

In session two, Goals Drive Plot, you’ll dive into different attributes that make up your characters and learn how to make relatable, engaging, and authentic choices that resonate with viewers. You’ll add valuable character development tools to your tool kit.

In session three, The Fundamentals of Story Structure – Mapping Character to Structure, you’ll discover how the characters you’ve created map to the essential story points. You’ll learn the seven universal events contained within almost every story and why they create catharsis in viewers.

In session four, Hooking Your Audience with the Central Mystery, you’ll learn the keys to building the structure of your story from the ground up and how to craft your narrative to avoid pitfalls like scenes that lack tension, story turns that fail to engage, or plots that get lost in the second act.

In session five, Script as Blueprint for a Visual Structure, you’ll continue develop your story outline, you’ll learn the keys to a strong scene that earns its place in your script, and you’ll brush up on formatting basics that ensure your script makes a great first impression. You’ll also learn several fundamental errors to avoid in a spec script.

In session six, From Barf to Art – What’s Next, you’ll learn to create art from your blueprint and learn the musts for authentic, sizzling dialog. You’ll leave with a solid understanding of how to build the elements you need so you can finally dive into pages. You’ll be ready to write the best script of your career so far.


This is a planned future workshop. Please sign up for our mailing list or check back for updates.

In the meantime, please explore our our Workshops and Services, including our Writing Retreats in Italy.