Five Commandments of Storytelling (Coyne)

In his Story Grid approach to writing a novel, Shawn Coyne lists five commandments that he argues are essential to effective fiction. These elements, he says, determine whether or not a scene works:

  1. Inciting Incident: An event or disturbance that sets the scene into action
  2. Progressive Complication / Turning Point: The action or revelation that forces the POV character to make a decision
  3. Crisis: The viewpoint character is forced to make a decision that will result in a bad outcome no matter what they do, or that will benefit them and harm others. This decision is critical to make the character active instead of passive.
  4. Climax: The action the character takes as a result of the crisis decision. This results in a (possibly) slight shift in values that provide purpose to the scene.
  5. Resolution: The outcome of the climax. The resolution should signify some change; if not, one of the other commandments might be missing.



Coyne, Shawn, and Steven Pressfield. The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. Illustrated edition. Black Irish Entertainment LLC, 2015.

Kerry, Abigail K. “Use The Story Grid Scene Analysis Template to Read With Purpose,” March 30, 2020.