“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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