Whether you’re plotting stories for novels, comics, or movies, or do other creative work, there are countless ways of using Narata Storytelling Cards. You’ll probably develop your own favorite methods for using Narata, but here are a couple of approaches to start you off.
Three Card Spread
Okay, let’s get plotting. Have a notepad and pen ready. Shuffle your Narata cards. Draw three cards at random, place them faces up on your work surface. Study the image. Look over the Associations field. Let sparks go off and bounce around in your brain. Jot down possible story or scene ideas. Don’t censor yourself – ideas that may seem silly or unworkable now may sometimes turn out to be among your best ideas.
For example, say you randomly draw the Society card Secret Agency, the Location card Big City, and the Object card Alien Spacecraft.
Studying these three cards, you could easily have come up with the concept for Men In Black, the hilarious science fiction comedy blockbuster starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.
A variation of Three Card Draw is that you keep one card and discard the other two. Then you draw another three cards. Use the same approach to sketch out ideas for characters and other story elements.
Of course, you can always choose to just keep dealing cards and look for combinations that suggest story ideas, but the idea here is to give each card some attention before moving on, even if at first some cards don’t seem likely to produce anything worthwhile. Creativity often works best when constrained by boundaries, because having to work harder, explore farther, dig deeper stimulates your creativity. Just look at how much storytelling Stephen King got out of confining a best-selling writer and his insane number one fan to a single room (for most of the story) in Misery.
Protagonist and Goal Spread
This approach takes a bit longer, and is the Narata approach closest to how many of you already devise an effective story. The goal here is to decide on a single protagonist who has a specific goal he pursues. Furthermore, you will choose a specific weakness that keeps your protagonist from achieving this goal.
Here’s a step-by-step procedure you can try out:
- Have pad and pen or your favorite writing application open and ready.
- Sort your Narata deck into nine piles, one for each category. (If your deck has more than the original nine categories, just make more piles.)
- Cut each pile, giving you two roughly equal piles. Put each cut half into a new pile and shuffle thoroughly. You now have one big random pile with all categories, and one smaller pile for each category.
2. Story Ideas
- Draw two cards each from the following category piles: Character, Goal, Location, Activity. Draw four cards from the random pile.
- Study the cards. Jot down several possible story ideas. Don’t worry if you don’t think they’re so great. Your creative mind is already interacting with the Narata cards, and you’ll be plotting at least one great story idea before you’re done with this process.
- Discard cards so that you only have one (or none) of each category. Keep at least one Character, Goal, Location, and Activity card. If a combination of two Character cards seem interesting to you, keep both. Based on these cards, you should now have an idea or two of who your protagonist is. Also, you may already have ideas for potential goals and weaknesses for your protagonist.
- Draw three more cards from the Goal pile, three more cards from the Activity pile, and another three from the random pile. Look over these cards together with your previously selected cards. Jot down more ideas.
3. Character and Goal
- Now is the time to get specific. Look over the ideas you’ve listed, and the cards. Move the cards around and look for surprising or strange combinations of cards, ones you’d not initially expect to work.
- To finally start plotting, write down the following sentence and fill in the blanks (the parentheses):
A (protagonist) wants to (goal) so that (his motivation).
- Make sure the protagonist’s motivation is strong and relatable. Choose something everyone can agree is a strong motivation, like rescue loved ones, save the world, or stay alive. Do three or four alternative versions.
4. Character and Weakness
- Look at the cards again. Consider which weakness could make it hard for the protagonist (and interesting for the reader/viewer) to achieve this goal. In Spielberg’s classic Jaws the protagonist, Chief of Police Martin Brody, has as his goal to kill a white shark that is devouring swimmers and beach tourists. What is his weakness? He hates boats and is scared of water. If necessary, draw more cards to get ideas for a suitable and effective weakness for your protagonist.
- Expand your plotting sentence. Fill in the parantheses:
A (protagonist) must overcome (his weakness) before he can (goal) so that (his motivation).
- Write a few versions. Continue until you have one concept that reads like a story people want to find out how turns out.
That’s it! Now you can use your Narata cards to map out a three act structure, come up with exciting scene ideas, devise an antagonist and other characters, and figure out how it all ends.
Narata Core Deck comes with a guide to how you can use your cards to map out a complete three act structure, as well as to devise characters and scenes.
Devising Your Own Narata Plotting Method
A multitude of approaches to plotting and storytelling are available today, and you’re probably familiar with one or more of them already. Whether you model your approach on the principles and methods of Robert McKee, Blake Snyder, Bill Martell, or any other story guru out there, you can easily devise your own way of adding Narata Storytelling Cards to your method.