Rapid Story Development: A Master Plan for Building Stories That Work
with Jeff Lyons
Rapid Story Development is a story development class, as well as a character development class. It is a class that, for the first time, brings together two disparate yet related topics: classic story development best practices and the Enneagram System.
The Enneagram is the most powerful model available today that describes the nine common personality styles of human thought, feeling, and action. Classic story development is the common set of storytelling best practices that have developed over hundreds of years of creative writing. The two systems together provide a powerful and proven methodology for developing effective stories and robust and multidimensional characters.
Through this class participants will learn a systematic process, “The Rapid Story Development Method,” that will walk them through specific steps designed to build out any story’s natural structure and create characters that ring true as convincing, fully-formed people. Through weekly reading, targeted written assignments, class video chats, and individual one-on-one sessions students will systematically conceive, design, and execute the core story development components necessary to assure writing success using these two powerful and complementary systems.
Class Zoom sessions will be held every week on Mondays at Noon PST, 1pm MT, 2pm CT, 3pm ET, and 8pm BST.
By the end of the tenth week, students will:
- Understand the basics of the Enneagram for Writers,
- Understand the basics of classic story structure,
- Understand how the Enneagram System relates to overall story development,
- Learn a repeatable and proven methodology for story development,
- Have working tools and deliverables to move to the next steps in the story development process.
There are two texts recommended for this course. The first is mandatory, the second is optional.
- Rapid Story Development: How to Use the Enneagram-Story Connection to Become a Master Storyteller, by Jeff Lyons (Focal Press). Students get free shipping. E-book: order e-book Amazon (Links to an external site.)
- Anatomy of a Premise Line: How to Master Premise and Story Development for Writing Success, by Jeff Lyons (Focal Press). Students get free shipping. E-book: order e-book Amazon
Week One: Intro & Enneagram Basics
Lecture: Basic course introductions and Enneagram system basics: Enneagram model and essentials for writers.
Add’l Reading: Chapters 3 & 4
Written Assignment: BEFORE you read the week’s lecture, or read any of the required materials, write out your story idea as best you can and upload to the system for my review. This assignment will be used as your benchmark for later comparison to the final premise line in week 10.
Weeks Two and Three: Build the Enneagram Foundation of the Moral Component
Lectures 1 & 2: Both weeks will focus on the Moral Component as a standalone story component and also as an Enneagram tool. We will cover the moral blind spot, immoral effect, dynamic moral tension, and examine the Enneagram components that can help build these other pieces.
Add’l Readings: Chapters 10 & 11
Written Assignment: AFTER you have read the two lectures for the weeks, and AFTER you have read the assigned reading, using the “Moral Component Worksheet,” and the “Moral Enneagram Worksheet,” build out the components of the tool.
Week Four: Define the Protagonist’s Enneagram Style
Lecture: We will look at each of the nine Enneagram personality styles from the perspective of character-building.
Add’l Readings: Chapter 5
Written Assignment: AFTER you have read the assigned reading, using the “Protagonist Enneagram Worksheet” analyze your protagonist’s Enneagram nature. Also, submit any new changes to your moral component from previous weeks if you have reworked them.
Week Five: Define the Protagonist’s Evolution and De-Evolution Enneagram Styles
Lecture: We will examine the nature of character change as a story structure component, but also how the Enneagram can inform the writer in developing a protagonist’s change process over the course of an entire story.
Add’l Reading: Chapters 8 & 9
Written Assignment: AFTER you have read the assigned reading, use the “Protagonist Change Worksheet” and the “Protagonist change Triangle Tool” to build the change process for your central protagonist.
Week Six: Identify the Common and Uncommon Pinches, Crunches, Blind Spots, and Distortion Filters
Lecture: We examine various core Enneagram character components, primarily related to communication styles and conflict styles, and demonstrate how to build unique and individual voices for your main characters.
Add’l Reading: Chapters 6 & 7
Written Assignment: AFTER you have read the assigned reading for the week, use the “Protagonist Common/Uncommon Buttons Worksheet” to identify your protagonist’s main pinches, crunches, blind spots, etc.
Week Seven: Define the Opposition
Lecture: This week’s lecture will examine the process of opposition development, the function of the main opponent, and how the Enneagram can be a valuable tool in creating the pitch-perfect opponent structure for any story.
Add’l Reading: Chapter 14
Written Assignment: Using the “Enneagram Opponent Triangle Tool,” build your central opposition from your knowledge of the Enneagram and your protagonist’s Enneagram Style.
Weeks Eight and Nine: Build the Enneagram Elements of the Story Middle
Lectures: Both weeks’ lectures will focus on the critical story structure process of creating a compelling middle for your story, how to maintain narrative drive, and examine the two key patterns of drama every story needs to avoid the “mushy middle.”
Add’l Reading: Chapter 12
Written Assignment 1: Using the “Classic Structure Middle Worksheet,” build the classic story structure middle components for your story.
Written Assignment 2: Using the “Define the Pattern of Decline Worksheet,” build your protagonist’s emotional pattern of decline during the middle of the story.
Written Assignment 3: Using the “Define the Pattern of Elevation Worksheet,” build your protagonist’s emotional pattern of redemption during the last quarter of the story.
Week Ten: Develop the Premise Line & Next Steps in Development
Lecture: This week’s lecture will describe the important topic of premise development and will pull together all the previous weeks’ work in the exercise of premise line creation. It will also provide “next steps” advise and suggestions about how to proceed to the next level of story development and talk about how to know when you are ready to start actual pages of your novel or nonfiction book.
Written Assignment: AFTER you have read this week’s lecture, using the feedback from the previous weeks and the “Anatomy of a Premise Line Worksheet,” take your first stab at writing a premise line. Premise development is its own 8-week course, so you don’t be frustrated if this is a difficult task. The point is to introduce you to this step in the development process as part of next-steps, along with the concept of short synopsis writing.
Why Take a Story Development Course with Writers.com?
- We welcome writers of all backgrounds and experience levels, and we are here for one reason: to support you on your writing journey.
- Small groups keep our online writing classes lively and intimate.
- Work through your weekly written lectures, course materials, and writing assignments at your own pace.
- Share and discuss your work with classmates in a supportive class environment.
- Award-winning instructor Jeff Lyons will offer you direct, personal feedback and suggestions on every assignment you submit.
Student Feedback for Jeff Lyons:
Jeff was very supportive. He challenged us to develop our stories in ways that made them more compelling. We learned something new each week! Michelle Baltazar
Excellent. Advanced my writing, gave me more confidence, the conversations were productive and covered everyone’s work. Sandra Carlin
The course content went beyond my expectations. I learned quite a bit about character development and storytelling which will serve me well as I continue to grow as a fiction writer. I enjoyed and appreciated the more analytic approach the instructor took in teaching the material. Excellent experience. Steven Watson
The Anatomy of a Premise Line was the perfect class for me. I am working on a writing project that seemed unwieldy and over my head. Jeff Lyons’ class helped me to articulate and focus on an approach that is working much better. Sharon Ransom
I was amazed how much I learned in just five weeks. Jeff is very involved in meeting directly with students and shepherding them through the story development process. He provides ample feedback that’s directed towards moving you forward instead of just lavishing bland praise. Madeline Miraglia
Amazing experience for me! I learned so much. Jeff was able to work with different levels of writers with care, a generous amount of time, and compassion. He is intuitive and kind, not to mention talented. Patricia Clyne
Jeff has a real strength as a one-on-one teacher, listening to you stumble through your hazy story ideas and helping you find the gem within. Story structure has always been something I've been weak on, if not outright wary of. Jeff is great at connecting character growth with story structure with emotional-dramatic effect so you know you're not only writing the story you want to tell, but the story that's going to have the reader turning pages. Nancy Shaffer
Excellent. Very novel and helpful approach to plotting that makes the essentials of powerful storytelling clear. Challenging but very eye opening and helpful. Catherine Proppe
An excellent and concentrated course that brought the gaps in my knowledge about my protagonist into sharp focus, and provided a clear method to fill those gaps and get the plot outline into great shape for moving forward. Jeff Lyons is a generous and clear-thinking teacher. Rowena House
Jeff was available, gave good feedback, and seemed genuinely interested in both how and how much his students learn. By the end of this course, I was streets ahead of where I started, finally getting the hang of what he's talking about and finding it immensely useful. Nancy Napier
Jeff’s method, course and feedback is amazing. It tests the strength of any story structure and points to its weaknesses. It is excellent at any stage of manuscript writing whether at the planning stage (best time) or after the first draft (also a great time) but also in the middle when one is stuck or to test its viability. Feedback is individually tailored and detailed. Jeff invests a lot of time interacting with participants. Sophie Cayeux
Jeff was a great communicator. His feedback was clear and sorely needed. I also appreciated his one on one availability. It felt like a university course where I could stop in and discuss my work with my professor. Thank you, Jeff! Janice Jackson
I loved this class. Jeff and I have worked a bit together before in his Anatomy of a Premise Line class where he helped me figure out exactly what my story was. After taking this class - How to firm up the "mushy" middle - I learned the steps and story beats that the reader needed to follow along with me to get from Point A to Z. Jeff pushed me like crazy, taught me about the Enneagram-Story Connection, and helped me develop all those beats from Point A to Z. He challenges me like no other, and I love him for it.
I've never been so clear about my story, and I truly believe Jeff is the reason behind it. Allison Smith
I have to admit the course caught me off guard. From the title, I was expecting a somewhat superficial "how to" class on writing a premise. I had no idea how profound (not too strong a word) the work would be. It was one of the most valuable experiences I've had as a writer---and I've been through a 3-year MFA program, with many workshops. Jeff gave it his full attention. He is a challenging teacher and made me work, and I will always appreciate that. It all has to do with how Jeff views what a premise is. I had to think long and hard about my protagonist and realized I didn't really know him. Also, he sets the bar pretty high, not only for the premise, but for what qualifies as a story. I could go on, but my main recommendation is working on the course description to explain a bit better what students are in for - I guarantee that by writing a premise, before writing a single word of the narrative, or even after a complete draft, your novel or short story will be deepened, and greatly improved... You've got the best bang for the buck. I've taken courses from both Gotham and Writer's Digest, and your courses are the best. Charles David Taylor
Having the enneagram as a framework for building out my characters is invaluable. When you are playing God and creating people from scratch it's incredibly useful to have these kinds of tools. I made enormous progress; the recordings were good and Jeff was always available for one-on-one catchups. Janine Stein
I had a great experience. The content was excellent, the pace was good, the teacher was professional and knowledgeable. Martha McLaughlin
This class, and the instructor in particular, reached into my story and my writing practice and took both to a new and more productive level. Jeff Lyons takes obvious delight in turning ideas and even dog-eared manuscripts into real stories. Nancy Shaffer
I was very happy with the class. Jeff is a great teacher. He makes himself available for guidance. I had read Jeff’s Anatomy of a Premise Line and knew the class would be great. It was. It really helped me to understand how to develop story ideas. I just purchased Jeff’s book for my son who is considering signing up for Jeff’s next class. I will take more of your classes. Thanks for offering this class. Ron Ware