Community Creator Dan Harmon Unlocks His Storytelling Technique: Meet the Embryos
In Brian Raftery’s amazing piece about Community creator Dan Harmon for Wired, the journalist writes about Harmon start in life as a writer and evokes pretty quickly the latter’s writing technique he made up early on to get a better understanding of storytelling and give a shape to his own stories. Luckily for us, this technique can be summed-up in the crystal clear and now made public drawing below.
Here is an excerpt explaining how Harmon discovered what writing technique suited him best:
[Darmon] began doodling the circles in the late ’90s, while stuck on a screenplay. He wanted to codify the storytelling process—to find the hidden structure powering the movies and TV shows, even songs, he’d been absorbing since he was a kid. “I was thinking, there must be some symmetry to this,” he says of how stories are told. “Some simplicity.” So he watched a lot of Die Hard, boiled down a lot of Joseph Campbell, and came up with the circle, an algorithm that distills a narrative into eight steps:
Harmon calls his circles embryos—they contain all the elements needed for a satisfying story—and he uses them to map out nearly every turn onCommunity, from throwaway gags to entire seasons. If a plot doesn’t follow these steps, the embryo is invalid, and he starts over. To this day, Harmon still studies each film and TV show he watches, searching for his algorithm underneath, checking to see if the theory is airtight. “I can’t not see that circle,” he says. “It’s tattooed on my brain.”
If you’ve read many books on screenwriting and storytelling, and spent hours wishing you had an application to wire what (you thought/hoped) you had in your brain directly to the white page, you might find the simplicity and roundness of Harmon embryo refreshing and inspiring. I know I do, and being inspired by the creator of one of my favorite shows in the recent years doesn’t spoil my pleasure.
Raftery had the genius to build his piece based on Harmon’s embryo, giving it a nice little touch and demonstrating how well the technique works to keep a narrative going. And you can read the full article here.[thanks to @tinch]