Jumpstart Your Story with the Story Spine

The story spine is a technique from improvisational theater created by Kenn Adams, author of How to Improvise a Full Length Play: The Art of Spontaneous TheaterIt was popularized for storytelling by Pixar Story Artist, Emma Coats' tweets on Pixar's 22 Rules of Storytelling.

At Curiographic we use the story spine to jumpstart a story and get a rough outline of events. Its a simple tool to break through the block of a blank page.

How the Story Spine Works

The story spine follows a very structured formula so you can focus on the details, not the sentence or order. Think of each step as a sentence starter to help you rough out your story.

  • Once upon a time there was ___.
  • Every day, ___.
  • One day ___.
  • Because of that, ___.
  • Because of that, ___. (and so on)
  • Until finally ___.
  • And every day after that ___.

An Example Story Spine

Let's look at the classic Nintendo game Super Mario Brothers as an example for the story spine.

  • Once upon a time there was a Princess and toadstools who lived in a mushroom kingdom.
  • Everyday they went about the blissful, mushroom kingdom lives.
  • Until one day, the Koopas showed up and stole their Princess.
  • Because of that, Mario was chosen to come and save the princess.
  • Because of that, Mario had to defeat members of the Koopa army to find the castle.
  • Because of that, Mario found out their Princess is in another castle.
  • This happened a few more times.
  • Until finally, he defeated Bowser, king of the Koopas, and saved Princess Toadstool.
  • And every day after that the people of the mushroom kingdom lived in peace with their Princess.

Sounds simple right?

If you want to try your hand at the story spine, you can download a free PDF printable template from our store. It's the same template we use to generate new story ideas.