Complete Story ~ essential ingredients

Complete story:Tom Cruise in The Edge of Tomorrow
In Edge of Tomorrow the complete story arises as a result of the A and B lines coming together at the climax.

In his book, Save the Cat, Blake Snyder offers us this piece of invaluable advice on writing a complete story: “Keep in mind the only reason for storytelling, and why the A and B stories must cross throughout: It’s to show the true reason for the journey is not getting the tangible goal, but learning the spiritual lesson that can only be found through the B Story!”

This is what the tale is really about: learning the spiritual or moral lesson that allows the hero to overcome the obstacles that life and the antagonist throw his way.

Let’s backtrack a bit.

At the inciting incident, the hero is given a wake-up call. A bump disturbs his trajectory through the ordinary world. His first response is usually an incorrect one. In Edge of Tomorrow, Tom Cruise is told he is to go to the warfront to film the allied invasion. His response is to try and blackmail the General in order to force him to reverse his decision. Not a good call.

“In a complete story the A and B narrative strands criss-cross each other at crucial moments.”

The first turning point represents the true start of the story. It also sets the outer goal. Tom Cruise is killed, but gets covered by the blue blood of the Alpha Mimic, which causes him to return to relive the day. His response upon finding himself back at square one, however, is to try and talk the Master Sergeant into letting him call his superiors. Lesson still not learnt.

By the midpoint, Cruise finally realises why he keeps returning to the same event, over and over again. He has to team up with the Angel of Verdun and defeat the Mimics by killing their leader, the Omega. Our reluctant protagonist has gone from unwilling participant to motivated Hero. Here, the outer and inner stories fuse to produce a single and clear purpose—a plan to save the world from the invading Mimics—even if it means sacrificing oneself to do it.

By the second and final turning point, his recurring efforts are in danger of stalling—a blood transfusion will rob him of his ability to relive the day, just as it did the Angel of Verdun’s. And while he is at first reluctant to sacrifice her to this permanent-death scenario, he realises that he has no choice but to risk it if he is to have any hope of defeating the Mimics. This represents a step up in growth and is a perfect illustration of the A and B stories supporting each other.

The inciting incident, the first turning point, the midpoint, and the second turning point, then, present the writer with the perfect opportunity of fusing the Hero’s transformational arc to his pursuit of the outer goal.


The B Story underpins the A story. It is the transformational arc the hero undergoes in order to acquire the true goal.


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2 thoughts on “Complete Story ~ essential ingredients

  1. Gerhard Pistorius

    Before 2001 the category for best animated feature did not exist at the academy awards. The first film to win this category was Dreamwork’s Sherk. The A story and B story in Shrek is simple and satisfying.

    A Story : Shrek wants his swamp back so that he can continue his life of isolation. B Story: Sherk falls in love with a princess who is determined to marry a prince. The transnational arc the hero undergoes is very satisfying . End result : Sherk and Fiona fall in love and live happily ever after.

    But what many animation historians consider to be the best animated film not to have won an Oscar was Aardman’s animation’s Chicken Run, which was released six months prior to the Academy awards inception of the category for Best animated feature .

    Chicken Run
    Premise : After learning that the farmer’s wife plans to kill them, a group Chickens become determined to escape the farm.

    This film’s title is actually a clue to the story’s spiritual or moral lesson. By calling someone a chicken, you are implying that they are a coward. I believe that the main character of the film is the character known as “Rocky” the Rhode Island Red. He’s a rooster which means he’s technically not a chicken BUT he is also the only character in the film who is on the run.

    In Chicken run the first turning point is when Ginger first sees Rocky ‘fly’ just before he crushes into the farm. It also sets the outer goal when Ginger agrees to hide Rocky from the farmers on the condition that he agrees to teach the chickens how to fly so that they can escape.

    By the midpoint, after having unwillingly saved Ginger’s life Rocky recognizes that he has developed feelings for Ginger. Rocky warns Ginger that life is filled with disappointments. This implies that Rocky has reached a cross road where he’s about to make a choice that will devastate Ginger’s faith in him.
    —There is no other escape plan— Rocky teaching everyone how to fly was Gingers final solution.

    By the second and final turning point, Rocky has successfully escaped form the Chicken farm and can now live out the rest of his days as a lone free ranger. But his efforts of living a life of freedom on the road are stalled. Rocky sees the advertisements of Mrs. Tweedy’s home made Chicken pies. The cowardly rooster is conflicted . He knows that there is no possible way he can influence the situation but he also recognizes that he gave the chickens something that they have never known , which was hope. Rocky realizes that he has no choice – he has to go back.

    The A story and B story have successfully crossed over.
    A story : The Chickens that want to escape the farm.
    B story: Rocky wants a live out his days as a lone free drifter.

    Satisfying ending : Both Rocky , Ginger and all of the other chickens are able to escape the farm and live a life of freedom.

    The story’s spiritual or moral lesson : To do what’s right , one must learn to be brave.

    Maybe this is the most significant reason why Nick Park and Peter Lord wanted Mel Gibson to voice Rocky – The star of Brave heart portraying the cowardly rooster who must learn what it means to be brave.

    In short : The title of the story must tease the reader /viewer to give us an idea of what the story’s message is about.


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