Kalin’s Hypothetical Story-Imagination Learning Experience

I recently had the idea that I should teach a story-imagination class. I may or may not follow through on that but these are the notes I scribbled down and felt they were valuable enough even outside the context of a live class that I should post them. If you would like me to teach this class over Zoom, just let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

Passionate Story Creation – an interactive how-to by Kalin

Learn the tips and tricks to inventing stories with feeling and meaning. We will start with an explanation of why making up stories is so helpful to success at life. You will learn Kalin’s two rules of storytelling. We will analyze how those rules apply to the modern masterpiece, Snakes on a Plane. I will teach you how the _ on a _ formula can be used to easily create your own story by looking at a story outline called Bears on a Cruise Ship.

Then most of the class will be a collective activity where I will guide you as we all work together to invent characters, events and obstacles to build our own unique storyline. We’ll discuss ways to create your characters, and how to emotionally connect with them and the events of their lives, learning tips and tricks to capture your audience’s attention and expand your own imagination.

This is not a writing class. This is an imagination class.

shorter promo:

Passionate Story Creation by Kalin
An interactive imagination learning session. Not a writing class.

We will work together as a class to invent characters, events and obstacles and build our own unique storyline. We’ll discuss ways to emotionally connect with your characters and build stories that make you and your audience feel something. You’ll learn Kalin’s two rules of story writing and many other tips and tricks to make your stories more passionate, interesting and meaningful.


creating stories is not just a fun activity.
helps us understand the world around us
helps us experiment with predictions about how people behave or how events play out
learn about how your own emotions function
most important: build empathy for others. learn to see things from other people’s point of view

memorize things
psyche yourself up for an event or project
theorize about someone else’s motivations; get to know them; try to understand them
get to know yourself and your own emotions
build up your self-confidence

rule 1:
It’s all about the feels
isolate the emotion you want to capture
can be better if it’s a hard to describe emotion
people sometimes say the message or moral is the point of a story, but you will never get your message across if your reader doesn’t feel something
even better if you can’t think of another story that captures this emotion
feel the emotion as fully and realistically as possible
don’t be afraid of the feels
cannot imitate emotion from other story. Must be genuine emotion supplied by you.
lean into the emotion, even the bad ones
experiment with ways to feel more of your target emotion using characters and events
emotion must come indirectly, through characters and events, not by telling them “it was scary”
such a huge portion of art is about having the courage to truly embrace and express your feelings

rule #2:
Your idea is not stupid
only point of stories is to feel something. If it accomplishes rule 1, it’s not stupid.
nothing is as silly as superheros and everyone loves them
Die Hard originally seen as a joke vs Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jean Claude Van Damme
this isn’t just a motivational statement. It’s a state of mind that’s necessary to make wildly unrealistic ideas feel real.
take your ideas seriously no matter how insane or “stupid” they are
play them out as though they are happening in the real world, with real people
truly convince yourself that your premise is actually happening in a world where everything else is totally normal
walk through how you, an actual real person would actually react to your scenario

Snakes on a Plane
isolated the specific, hard to describe emotion of feeling excitement and comic relief from great physical suffering and horrifying events
didn’t try to be more than it was expected to be
experimented with different scenarios (different ways people died from the snakes) to elicit the target emotion
nobody cared how snakes got on the plane. That’s the freebie your audience will give you, as long as you take the snakes seriously and realistically once they are there.
_ on a _ formula
Bears on a cruise ship
princess in an office building, cat in a paperclip factory, etc

start with a unique, emotion-driven premise
maybe a premise that is a metaphor for how you feel about something
you should be able to connect with your premise emotionally
add real people but make them interesting and unique
as unique and interesting as possible but also as real as possible
okay to borrow story ideas already created
okay to borrow character traits from friends and exaggerate them
“any resemblance to real people is purely coincidental” statement in most fiction books is a bold-faced lie
practice putting yourself in their position. forget your own life. Imagine exactly what you would do in that situation.
walk through it, moment by moment, thought by thought as realistically as possible
If what you would actually do does not support your original plan, change the plan.
let the characters write the story. They are in control. You interpret for them.
Develop a goal for your characters based on who they are and the premise you’ve invented
create a weakness for your character
no Mary Sues
It’s okay to do these steps out of order, like if the character’s goal is an integral part of your whole premise
create an antagonist – a person, group or entity that wants to stop the main character from accomplishing goals
advanced topic: stories with no antagonist: Unstoppable (2010), Bob’s Burgers, I Feel Pretty (2018 Amy Schumer)
don’t worry so much about creating a “conclusion”. Just keep playing out events until your main character either succeeds or fails and the story ends naturally.
finalize an outline in your head
now take a step back and very gently start playing God, changing and rearranging things to bring more excitement toward the end of the story
at the same time, think about your message, lesson or moral. Not necessary but very helpful to really making a story pop and have meaning.
The moral should develop somewhat naturally from the situation and characters (unless it’s somehow baked into your premise)
as a writer you can play God just a little to massage the characters and events to better draw attention to your moral
don’t play god too much. Your characters should always be in control.
If you want to be strict and shoot for the highest quality story, cut out anything that does not either move the story forward or help the audience better understand the character
now repeat these steps over and over again in your head, reworking and refining until it captures what you’re looking for emotionally

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