Amy White

When you are working on your plot and the relationships between characters and the challenges they face, you need to objectively see how strong and balanced your story is. One of the best tools for making sure your story is as strong as possible is the Farmer System of Narrative Analysis (FSNA) also known as the Story Cone and often called Cracking The Story Code (CTSC).

Cracking the Story Code is a very powerful method for analyzing (and writing the best) stories. It was created by Katie Farmer for her PhD dissertation. Cracking The Story Code (CTSC) has been thoroughly researched and meticulously developed to help you tell the best possible story.

CTSC uses symbols on a dual-axis cone-shaped diagram to represent the relationships between your characters. The location of each character on the cone helps you understand the strength and balance of the relationships between them. It also helps you to see when your story is out of balance and allows you to move the characters along the axis, which gives you insights on how to adjust your characters to strengthen the story. In an instant, you can see how to compensate and adjust for weaker relationships.

This system has been used to analyze and strengthen everything from movies to books, and even to help the government crack international spy rings. A master class has been taught at a variety of symposiums over the past 5 years. A formal book is in the process of being edited right now for publication.


More about Cracking the Story Code

Cracking the Story Code is a multi-level structural system extensively proven in the real world. It reveals what works and doesn't work when creating successful stories. It can tell you why it works, or why it doesn’t work and it can give you the knowledge to understand what is needed to repeat the success in consistent ways. This system can give you the gift of second sight.


Applying the principles of Cracking the Story Code

To effectively apply the principles of using the cone structure, you need to first identify the number of characters and their nature. Seeing the relationships from a visual perspective on the cone helps you determine if the story is complete and focused. It helps you see where the story is taking the reader or audience. It helps you understand and deliver the emotional response you want your viewers to experience. It helps you to know if the audience will receive the message you want to send. One of the most important aspects is that it helps you bring the audience on the journey you want to give them.


First level Analysis

A Preview of the Book and Classes

The method refers to the characters as agents of a story’s action, their role functions, and how the number and nature of characters determines focus, completeness, and story quality.

The traditional plot mountain (Feralt’s triangle) can be used along with the Story Cone to look at basic plot patterns and use them to help predict how appropriate your story is for your selected audience age.

Feralt's Triangle


On a related, but important tangent, the great teacher and author Dave Farland draws some interesting parallels between the Feralt triangle and the biofeedback loop. Farland explains the similarities and relationships between the two diagrams. You can read about the connections and relationship in his book Million Dollar Outlines.

Cracking the Story Code helps you create great stories, and the comparison between Feralt's triangle and the bio feedback loop shows how reading well written stories can help us learn to handle various emotional problems as if we had gone through those experiences, without the dangers faced during a real experience. Well written stories let us experience real emotional and dangerous situations in a safe manner. The principles in Million Dollar Outlines help you understand the emotional relationships, but Cracking the Story Code helps you focus and apply the principles for the strongest impact.

Endorphin Biofeedback Relationship


Second level analysis Overview

The second level analysis helps you determine your genre, (the kind and type) and helps you to predict the emotional strength of your story with precision. It helps you see how it is going to impact your reader or viewer.

The second level helps you understand and apply your systems of power and helps you draw the audience in to your story. This level of analysis helps you understand how power systems are either re-enforced, fought against, or taken down.


Third level analysis Overview

The Third level analysis helps you understand and apply the flow of power and helps you understand how the system should change as the story progresses in longer and more complex stories or series.

Level Three gives you a closer look at genre, and how to understand the changing dynamic signatures of variants and mixes—kinds and types.


Fourth level Analysis Overview

The Fourth level analysis takes you beyond structure, moral reasoning, and theme. It helps you apply elements of universal appeal, and determine how appropriate your story is as you progress. It helps you refine the quality for maximum effect.

It helps you perfect the moral reasoning so you can apply it to the characters and the traits that identify them.

The Fourth level analysis helps you use the theme to predict the success of a story.

Watch for Katie's book to be released in the near future. If you are interested in taking the full class, contact Second Sight Studio.

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