Special Housekeeping Note: 

As a reminder, you can submit your first scene anytime before 11:59 p.m. PST on Saturday, February 3. We've changed the way you'll submit your scenes, but this should make the process easier for everyone. All you need to do is click here, answer a few questions about your submission, and upload your scene.   

Our first group call is Sunday, February 4, at 1:00 p.m. PST / 3:00 p.m. CST.

Intensive Materials: Resolution

At long last, we've reached the Resolution. In this email, we'll review the Fifth (and final) Commandment of Storytelling and show you how to analyze your own scenes or those of a masterwork you want to reverse engineer. 

It's easy to imagine Robert McKee,master screenwriter and the author of Story, smiling cheekily when he says the Resolution is "anything left after the climax." It's true, but thankfully he goes on to explain what that entails. The general purpose of the Resolution is to wrap things up, but we need to get more specific if we're going write effective Resolutions. 

Generally speaking, the Climax will answer, not only the Crisis Question, but also the question posed by the Inciting Incident. If it's not been answered, and is not meant to be an open question, then the Resolution should clear things up. One thing the Resolution is not is a simple summation: If a character is restating what's just happened, they should illuminate the events and go deeper.

Scene Resolutions can show or demonstrate the following items regarding the characters and Story:

  • The result of the life value shift;
  • How the events of the scene have changed the landscape in a relevant way
  • The new status quo;
  • The consequences for the main character as a result of the Climactic action;
  • The magnitude of the consequences, that is how the Climactic event reverberates beyond the main character to other characters and the world;
  • The implications of the Climactic action, what it means for the main character and others, and why it matters;
  • The characters' internal revelations, chief takeaways, or lessons learned;
  • Setups for and payoffs from other scenes, as well as reminders of facts the reader needs to know; and
  • Sometimes the Inciting Incident (or at least the setup for the Inciting Incident) of the next scene.


Resolutions allow the reader to do the following:

  • Take stock and metabolize the action in the scene;
  • Consider the contrast the character's expectations before the Climax with what actually happens; 
  • Release tension, and
  • Feel particular emotions related to the Core Emotion of the Story.

You won't need to include each of these items in every scene Resolution, but it's good to consider the possibilities and whether you're getting the most meaning from your scene's last hurrah.

Analyzing Scenes

When we analyze a scene, we identify the Five Commandments of Storytelling, but before we look at those elements, we begin with four questions designed to get to the heart of what's happening in the scene and how it relates to the Global Story. First, we start with an easy question.

1. What are the characters literally doing in the scene?

This question is simple, straightforward, and based only on what you see. Leave out any judgments or interpretations. This should be an accurate, objective statement of what happens. Don't overthink or spend too much time dwelling on this. Record an answer and move on to the second question.

2. What is the Essential Action of what the characters are doing?

This question is from Practical Aesthetics, an acting practice developed by David Mamet and William H. Macy. Actors use it to give themselves options. They know what they are trying to get the other character to do, which gives them concrete actions they can act out. 

Why are we talking about an acting concept here? Because identifying the Essence of the Character's Action will help you understand the scene better so you can revise it better. The goal is to capture the true nature of the action and the characters' intent. Consider what the characters hope to gain in the scene (What is the desire and goal that arise from the Inciting Incident?) and distill it into a pithy statement like those listed below.

  • to get someone on my team
  • to lay down the law
  • to draw the dividing line
  • to get someone to take the big risk
  • to get my due/retrieve what is rightfully mine
  • to get someone to see the big picture
  • to enlighten someone to a higher understanding
  • to tell a simple story
  • to get to the bottom of something
  • to close the deal
  • to get someone to throw me a lifeline

The next two questions look at whether and how the scene turns and how it relates to the Global Story. If you need to refresh your memory about Life Value changes, see the post on Progressive Complications and the PDF with genres, Life Values, Core Events, and Core Emotions. 

3.  What life value has changed for one or more of the characters?

Like the first question above, you want to cast a wide net, but don't drive yourself crazy. Look for any change that happens in a life value for a character in the scene and record it. Consider different characters and their internal and external journeys within the scene.  

4.  Which life value is most relevant to the Global Story? 

If you were creating a Story Grid spreadsheet of the scenes in your story, you would enter the life value shift that is most relevant to Global Story, that is the main event. Don't worry about the spreadsheet now, but that is where you would put this answer if you were analyzing your manuscript or a Masterwork and how you would see it in a Story Grid Guide or Edition. 

Once you've answered the first four questions, it's time to check for the Five Commandments we've been studying.

Supplemental Materials

To find out more about Resolutions, check out this post from Shawn Coyne.

Live Scenes

We have three scenes that feature Captain Jack Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the ship's surgeon. One important subplot involves their friendship and the way it is tested by Jack's sense of duty and the nature of living on a ship of the Royal Navy. 

The Lesser of Two Weevils

 In this scene, we see part of a lively dinner conversation in Jack's cabin.

Maturin Performs Surgery

In the events leading up to this scene, Captain Howard of the Royal Marines accidently shoots Maturin while the HMS Surprise is anchored near the Galapagos Islands. Surgery is required to remove the musket ball from his chest before it festers, a certain death sentence. Jack abandons his pursuit of the Acheron while Maturin is taken ashore because the movement of the ship would make the operation unsafe, so Maturin, Aubrey, the surgeon's assistant, and others go ashore. Maturin informs the others he will perform the surgery on himself with a mirror.

Acheron's Doctor Died of Fever

This scene is part of the Resolution of the Story. Jack and the crew of HMS Surprise have defeated the Acheron in battle. At the end of it, Jack receives the deceased captain's sword from the French doctor. Jack puts LT Pullings in charge of the Acheron with orders to sail for Valparaiso, parole the prisoners, and then meet in Portsmouth. Jack plans to return to the Galapagos to allow Maturin time to draw and collect unique species from the islands before setting sail for England.   


Identify the Resolution, what it demonstrates, and what it offers the reader in the live scenes above.


Analyze one of the live scenes using the four questions, and then identify the Five Commandments of Storytelling within the scene.


As a reminder, you can submit your first scene anytime before 11:59 p.m. PST on Saturday, February 3. We've changed the way you'll submit your scenes, but this should make the process easier for everyone. All you need to do is click here, answer a few questions about your submission, and upload your scene.   

Our first group call is Sunday, February 4, at 1:00 p.m. PST / 3:00 p.m. CST.

If you have questions about anything, write us at