About the Facilitator:  
Bill Johnson is author of A Story is a Promise (Blue Heron Publishing), and webmaster of Essays on the Craft of Dramatic Writing!, a site exploring the principles of storytelling. He's a produced playwright, an optioned screenwriter, and he teaches workshops around the United States, focusing on the storytelling craft.  He currently works as a story analyst for a literary agent, helping published and newly agented writers to solve story problems.


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A Story is a Promise

Facilitator:  Bill Johnson

Workshop Syllabus

Bill Johnson's writing workshop guides writers toward a keen understanding of the principle underlying all well-told stories--that a story is both a promise made and a promise kept. His workshop offers writers of all levels and genres new ideas on the essential elements of storytelling, including how to begin a story with a dynamic, engaging opening sentence; creating tension around the introduction of a character; and ensuring that both the plot and story lines converge into an emotionally fulfilling resolution.

Workshop exercises guide writers to create dramatic, engaging sentences that suggest a story's promise.  Comments will guide students to fully internalize the promise concept of storytelling.

Week 1:  Intro to the Story Promise

Our introduction to the idea of how a story is a promise uses popular novels for demonstration.  Students will discover how a storyteller 'names' a story's promise in a dramatic way that suggests a need for resolution and fulfillment.

Week 2
:  Building Narrative Tension

How do you build narrative tension in a story? Introduce a character facing a dilemma that the character feels compelled to resolve through the story's plot. In our second week, we'll learn how it's done.

Week 3:  Your Story Environment

The environment in a story can be considered a character in the story. In this week, we'll discover how setting affects plot.

Week 4:  U
nderstanding Story Line and Plot Line.

We will learn to recognize a story's advance toward the resolution of its promise and toward the resolution of its plot.

Week 5:  Creating A Story Premise

Discover how to create a story premise and use it as a tool to develop a strong story foundation.

Week 6:  Winding Down/Q & A

A review of student's work, a chance to ask questions, and opportunities for students to offer feedback on each other's work.

This course is designed to help students see into the foundation of storytelling, and how an understanding of that foundation can lead to better choices in creating and describing characters, setting up plots, and writing opening scenes.  By the end of this course, students should be able to study popular and literary novels and understand how they were constructed, as well as apply those techniques to their own writing.

PrerequisiteBasic understanding of sentence structure and grammar. Successful completion of high school English courses. 

Required Materials:  Spiral Notebook.  

Recommended Materials: Material for the class will be drawn from Bill Johnson's A Story is a Promise, a writing workbook featured in the June Writer's Digest Book Club.  Students are encouraged to purchase the book, available through Amazon.com and your local bookseller.

Workshop Begins: January 7, 2002
Duration: 6 weeks  
Tuition: $115


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Books recommended on this page are not required reading for participation in the course. Required materials, if any, are listed in the course syllabus.

A Story Is a Promise
by Bill Johnson

If you haven't read this fascinating take on the art of dramatic storytelling, you may not be telling great stories! Bill Johnson's book is one of the best we've read on the subject of how to craft an engaging story. 

  - Coffeehouse Review