A Story is a Promise


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

A fourth edition of my writing workbook, A Story is a Promise & The Spirit of Storytelling, is now available on Kindle for $2.99.
This new edition explores what happens when story characters are an extension of authors and suggests techniques for authors to create characters with fully realized inner lives; characters who are dyanmic and come off the page for readers. The book includes a section titled Deep Characterization, and a revision of A Story is a Promise, with an outline of The Lovely Bones and updated reviews of films like Inception.

Essays on the Craft of Writing

About the Author

Index of Essays


essays by Bill Johnson

A photo of Bill Johnson, author of A Story is a Promise and the Spirit of Storytelling.
A Story is a Promise and the Spirit of Storytelling is now available from Amazon Kindle for $2.99.

Understanding What A Story Is *
An essay that explores the human need for stories.

Foundation Principles of Storytelling *
This essay discusses 15 principles I believe underlie the creation of a dramatic story.
My Percibiendo las bases en una narración essay is now available in Spanish, traducido al Español por Herlinda Martínez at Miracle Theatre/Teatro in Portland, Oregon

Understanding the Process of Storytelling *
The process of constructing a story from idea to premise to movement to plot to fulfillment.
Revised 12/27/98

Premise -- Foundation of Storytelling
Many writers struggle with understanding the difference between what a story is and character goals. This essay offers a method to create a one sentence story premise that sets out a story's dramatic foundation.

Creating Dramatic Characters
Practical steps on how to create dynamic characters.

What A Plot IS
Insights on the relationship between a plot and a story.

Writing A Story Synopsis
Tips on how to write a synopsis that clearly identifies the dramatic issues at stake in a story. This is a a partial essay. The full essay is now available in my workbook, A Story is a Promise.

Stories and Feelings
An essay about how stories function as a journey of feelings for a story's audience.

Movies As Healing Journeys
This essay explores how movies can offer understanding of life's problems. This article first appeared in ScreenTalk, the International Magazine of Screenwriting.

Essays that review novels....

Expressing Deeper Dramatic Truths
This essay reviews how Richard Yates conveys the dramatic truths of his characters in the novel Revolutionary Road.

Question, Answer, Question
This essay reviews the preface to Twilight, the popular novel by Stephenie Meyer. The process of engaging the attention of readers that I call question, answer, question is explored. I speak about this process on this video posted on YouTube.

Writing a Novel with a Dual Timeline
This essay reviews Sara Gruen's novel, Water for Elephants.

Writing a Puzzle Piece
An essay about what made The DaVinci Code the novel successful and the movie under whelming.

Writing a Novel With a Wounded Main Character
An essay about Prince of Tides and how a novel can be written with a wounded main character, a choice that can lead to difficulties if not handled correctly.

Writing a Novel With a Stuck Main Character, Notes on The Kite Runner
An essay about how a popular novel was written with an emotionally stuck main character.


Essays that review movies....

Poster for the movie Inception.Telling a Story about a Character with a Wounded Psyche

Notes on Inception. This essay explores how this film created a dazzling puzzle piece.

Poster for the movie Water for Elephants.Writing a Novel With a Dual Timeline
Notes on Sara Gruen's Water for Elephants
This essay explores how to create a novel with multiple timelines through a review of this popular novel and soon to be released movie.

Conscious Storytelling
A review of Memento that explores the structure of the story.

Understanding Point of View
This essay explores point of view.

(These articles above appeared in ScreenTalk, The International Magazine of Screenwriting.)


Earning Fulfillment
A review of The Sixth Sense and Stir of Echoes that explores how each story sets up and fulfills its promise.


Chinatown, Part One
Chinatown, Part Two
A review of one of the great films of American cinema.

L.A. Confidential
A review that explores how to advance a complex plot along a story line.

Seven, Part One
Seven, Part Two
A review of a thriller that leads its audience to think about as well as feel its thrills.

Shawshank Redemption
A review of a movie that begins setting out its dramatic purpose and the promise of its story journey with its title.

Groundhog Day
The essay reviews how a story can advance along its story line while it seems to be going in circles along its plot line.

The Art of the Romantic Comedy
A review of Sleepless in Seattle that explores how this film structures its scenes to create a particular dramatic effect.

Stories and Ideas
This review of Toto le hero explores how a story's ideas are at the service of advancing a story toward its resolution and fulfillment. This is a partial review of the film. The full review is available in my workbook, A Story is a Promise.

Why Police Stories?
Explores why detective stories are popular. Reviews Lethal Weapon.

Anatomy of An Action Adventure Movie
A review that explores the story structure of Die Hard.

Essays that review novels....

Anatomy of a Plot
A review of the plot of The Hunt for Red October and an exploration of how the story's plot was constructed.

The Artist as Storyteller
A partial review of Paul Auster's novella, City of Glass.

Setting Out a Story's Dramatic Purpose, a review of the prologue of The Exorcist that examines how the author set out the dramatic purpose of the story -- an epic battle between good and evil -- and began to deliver on that purpose in a way that reassured his audience of his ability to tell a story.

The Exorcist -- Page One A review of the first page of the novel.

The Exorcist -- Page Two A review of the second page of the novel.

The Exorcist -- Page Three A review of the third page of the novel.

The Exorcist -- Page Four A review of the third page of the novel.

The Exorcist -- Page Five A review of the fifth page of the novel.

Essays that review plays....

The Passion and Power of Love & Hate
A review of Shakespeare's play about tragic love, Romeo & Juliet.

The Iceman Cometh.
A review of Eugene O'Neill's play about pipe dreams.

'night, Mother
Marsha Norman's brilliant play about a mother, a daughter, a suicide.

The Heidi Chronicles
A review of the play by Wendy Wasserstein

Death of a Salesman
A review of the play by Arthur Miller.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

A review of the play by Edward Albee.

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