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These essays explore how to write a novel, a screenplay, and writing for the stage. By offering scene by scene breakdowns of popular stories, you can learn to write well from understanding what successful authors are doing to create compelling stories.

Capsule reviews of current movies with an emphasis on story structure and lessons on how to write a movie script. Current reviews include Mad Max, Tangerine and The Visit.

Notes on All The Light We Cannot See, my latest MailChimp post on the craft of writing.

Script Services

Reviews of novels and screenplays. Quick notes on a screenplay (2-3 pages), $75. Review of 80,000 word novel, $200.

If your self-published novel isn't doing well, perhaps it's time for some constructive advice about making your opening compelling.

A Story is a Promise
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About the Author: A photo of Bill Johnson, author of A Story is a Promise and the Spirit of Storytelling.
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This site offers writers new ideas on the essential elements of storytelling through reviews of popular novels, plays, and screenplays.

--Bill Johnson

"I have never reviewed anything on Amazon before but I feel so indebted to Bill Johnson that I have to give him a review. I went to a big name film school for college and throughout the entire 4 years and thousands of dollars, I never learned more about storytelling then I did reading this 3 dollar kindle book. Bill Johnson really gives you the map to the maze. After 6 years of making movies, I had some idea on what made a story work and what didn't, but Bill Johnson really gives the theoretical groundwork to what makes a story resonate with an audience. Not only did the book corroborate some ideas that I already had but enriched them and gave me so much more to think about. Thank You Bill!"

Posted from Bill's Amazon Central Author page.

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What's new:

Creating Mythic Characters

Notes on the movie Guardians of the Galaxy.

Storytelling and the Superconscious Mind

by Bill Johnson

Understanding how to get to a quiet, contemplative place to create more compelling characters; and how to create characters who have inner lives separate from an author's inner life.

Premise and Mystery

A scene by scene review of The Usual Suspects that explores what makes this a great film.

Narration in The Book Thief

by Bill Johnson

A review of the use of narration in the movie version of The Book Thief.


All material on this web site copyright 1998-2017 Bill Johnson; all rights reserved.

My play The True Value of Heavenly Birth Insurance was performed in Brighton, England as part of the Mixed Doubles show at The Coach House. The play was performed April 18th - 22nd. For more information, visit

Mixed Doubles play performance flier


Writer's Survey

The purpose of this survey is to help writers understand the choices they make as writers and how those choices affect what kind of characters and words they use to tell stories.

Click here for more details.

Bill Johnson's A Story 
is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling book cover

A fifth edition of my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, is now available for $2.99 from Amazon Kindle.

This edition offers new, unique tools for creating vibrant story characters, how to outline a novel, and a guide to writing a novel, screenplay, or play, how to evaluate a manuscript, review a screenplay, and tools to revise a novel.

A fifth edition of my writing workbookA Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling is available as a trade paperback from Amazon for $14.99.


In I Am Light, a young man drops out of college and comes home to find his apartment burned to ashes. He adopts the mantra I am light to try and create a new life for himself.

Available on Amazon

The cover of Bill Johnson's novella, I Am Light.