“The Periodic Table of Storytelling” Reveals the Elements of Telling a Good Story

periodic table storytelling

Dmitri Mendeleev might have designed the orig­i­nal peri­od­ic table – a graph­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tion of all the basic build­ing blocks of the uni­verse – but artist James Har­ris has done some­thing way cool with that tem­plate — the Peri­od­ic Table of Sto­ry­telling.

That’s right. Har­ris has tak­en all the tropes, arche­types and clichés found in movies (not to men­tion TV, com­ic books, lit­er­a­ture, video and even pro­fes­sion­al wrestling) and syn­the­sized them into an ele­gant­ly real­ized chart. Instead of group­ing the ele­ments by noble gas­es or met­als, Har­ris has orga­nized them by sto­ry ele­ments — struc­ture, plot devices, hero arche­types. Each ele­ment is linked to a vast wiki that gives def­i­n­i­tions and exam­ples. For instance, if you click on the ele­ment Chk, you’ll go to a page explain­ing the trope of Chekhov’s Gun. And if you click on Neo, you’ll go to the page for, of course, the Cho­sen One.

Below the chart, Har­ris has even cre­at­ed sto­ry mol­e­cules for a few spe­cif­ic movies. Ghost­busters, for exam­ple, is the com­bi­na­tion of an atom con­sist­ing of 5ma (Five Man Band) and Mad (Mad Sci­en­tist) and one con­sist­ing of Iac (Sealed Evil in a Can) and Hil (Hilar­i­ty Ensues).

So if you’re in film school or if you have a copy of Robert McKee’s Sto­ry on your book­shelf or if you’re one of the rough­ly three dozen peo­ple in the Los Ange­les cof­fee shop where I’m writ­ing this arti­cle who are bang­ing out screen­plays, you need to check this table out. But be warned: it will suck away a good chunk of your day.

via No Film School

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Pixar’s 22 Rules of Sto­ry­telling

Ira Glass, the Host of This Amer­i­can Life, Breaks Down the Fine Art of Sto­ry­telling

World’s Small­est Peri­od­ic Table on a Human Hair

“The Peri­od­ic Table Table” — All The Ele­ments in Hand-Carved Wood

Free Online Chem­istry Cours­es

Jonathan Crow is a Los Ange­les-based writer and film­mak­er whose work has appeared in Yahoo!, The Hol­ly­wood Reporter, and oth­er pub­li­ca­tions. You can fol­low him at @jonccrow.

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