Writing Exercise: The Story Breakdown

Writing Exercise: The Story Breakdown

Hey Folks! 

We've been plowing along on Glow recently and thought it would be good to go back to the well and rewatch some of the stories that inspired the comic. Mainly, that means watching a lot of classic American cartoons! So far we've dug into old episodes of GargoylesX-Men: The Animated SeriesThe Clone Wars, and of course Avatar: The Last Airbender
For educational purposes, for this post I'd like to focus in and do a deep dive on one of the best episodes of Avatar and, in my opinion, a turning for the entire series:

"The Blue Spirit"
written by  

Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko.

Read the story breakdown here. 

The War Within, The War Without. Avatar: The Last Airbender returns to Netflix this month!


If you found this useful and would like to try the exercise yourself, I've written out my methodology below as an assignment: 

Story Breakdown Assignment

Writing can mostly be broken down into three phases: reading, writing, and reflection. We read to be inspired, write to practice the craft, and reflect both consciously and subconsciously to deepen our ideas and understanding. 

This exercise will combine all three in an active analysis assignment. Watch an episode of television that you love and break it down using the following methodology:
  1. Outline - As you’re watching, reconstruct the outline of an episode scene by scene. Make sure to write it down!
  2. Storylines - Once you have the outline written out, take a highlighter and highlight each distinct storyline contained within each scene of the episode with a different color. 
  3. Premise - Now that you can visually see the different storylines, summarize each one in 1-2 sentences at the top of the document. 
  4. Stakes - Below the premises, further break the story down into INTERNAL, EXTERNAL, and PHILOSOPHICAL stakes.  The external are all the action bits, the internal is the subtext motivating your characters, and the philosophical explores abstract values (I like to phrase the philosophical as a VS. statement or a question).
  5. Notes - After you’ve done all of the above, write down your stream of consciousness notes / other things you noticed while working on the assignment. Things that were interesting to you for your future self! 

Hope you found this useful.  

​Happy writing everyone!

Back to blog