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The Dan Harmon Story Circle – How it can make you a better storyteller

Storytelling has been with us for decades, and Joseph Campbell took this and developed the Hero’s Journey. Dan Harmon took this theory and developed the Story Circle.

There are 8 parts to Dan Harmon’s story circle; these steps help the writer develop a character who goes on a journey to achieve their goal.

In this article, we will look at what the story circle is, who Dan Harmon is, and a step by step breakdown of each of the 8 steps in the story circle.

Watch Our Breakdown of Dan Harmon’s Story Circle Here

What is Dan Harmon’s Story Circle?

Dan Harmon’s story circle is a storytelling structure that has been separated into 8 different parts. These 8 steps that contribute to the story circle are defined as steps for the protagonist to achieve their goal outside of their normal, day-to-day world.

Whether they achieve their goal they set sights on, once they’ve completed the full circle, they will have grown and changed as a character whether or not they’ve reached the desired goal.

READ MORE: What is a film treatment and how do I create one?

Who is Dan Harmon?

Dan Harmon is a screenwriter, notably the co-creator of Rick and Morty and the creator of the comedy series Community. He founded the non for profit website Channel 101 – it allows participants to submit their own pilots that are under 5 minutes for the judging panel to watch.

A talented writer and storyteller, Dan Harmon started to craft the Story Circle as early as the ’90s and throughout time this has developed into one of the best storytelling structures around.

We will now dig deeper into the 8 steps of the Story Circle below, scroll down to read more.

The 8 Steps of Dan Harmon’s Story Circle

Here are the 8 steps of Dan Harmon’s story circle, we will delve into each step in more detail below.

  1. You
  2. Need
  3. Go
  4. Search
  5. Find
  6. Take
  7. Return
  8. Change

Step 1. You

This step is used to establish the protagonist. This can be a single person, a couple, or even a family; it’s an opportunity to show them in their current, comfortable environment. It is integral to develop a strong character/s and build out their character development.

This is the perfect opportunity to show the audience your protagonists world, who they are, what they do.

Step 2. Need

Once you’ve been introduced to your protagonist and their current state, the next step is the “Need”. We now need to figure out what the protagonist wants, what do they need?

Something has to happen to the protagonist to present them with a hurdle; this is where we understand what the key goal is for the protagonist. The story now begins to take a bit of shape.

The protagonist chasing their goal will shape the story.

Step 3. Go

This is the step that takes us to the core action. This marks the protagonists step out of their comfort zone and towards their goal. When creating your need, make sure it’s so enticing and integral that your protagonist will have to “go” to the goal.

This is essentially when your protagonist leaves their “normal” world and enters into the unknown, this is where the fun starts, and it’s a key step to keeping the audience on the edge of their seats.

Step 4. Search

Your protagonist can now address the “Need” by searching for the answer to their problem/goal. This is quite a complex stage of the story, this is where multiple road blocks appear to stumble the protagonist as they search for the answer to reach their goal.

Step 5. Find

After the protagonist has searched, they’ve finally found their “Need”, however, this isn’t the end. In every good story when the protagonist reaches the “Find” stage, there is always a twist in the tale.

The protagonist has found what they need, but it’s not the answer. They need more, their quest continues. The protagonist continues their foray into the unknown in search of greater things.

Step 6. Take

It now brings us to the “Take” stage. They need to “take” what they’ve found, pretty swiftly too. They’ve acquired the “need”, but they now need to “Take”. This is now a state of urgency for the protagonist and is the stage in the story when they suffer a loss.

This loss can be anything from a desired, meaningful item or the death of a close one. It really depends on the genre and the story itself. This adds another dimension and is another set back for the protagonist.

Step 7. Return

This step is where your protagonist is on the return leg of their journey. Your protagonist has now returned back to their natural habitat with what they have taken from the journey.

This is where they change.

Step 8. Change

This is the final step, as mentioned above, it’s the “Change” of your protagonist. This can be a change in the protagonist or even a change in the world in which they live in.

The two can play on each other, maybe the protagonist has changed for the better, but the world in which they live in has suffered.

The Story Circle – Summary

That’s it from us today, we have delved into what the story circle is and focused on each step of the circle in detail. Ultimately the story circle is there to facilitate the change in the story in a structured manner.

We hope this article was of help, why not check our other screenwriting articles below. Let us know in the comments what you want to hear from us next.

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