| David Gane

My Favourite Writing Book

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving weekend.

As I prep my online writing course, I wanted to share one of the most influential books I've ever had about writing.

Immediate Fiction by Jerry Cleaver is one of those hidden treasures. No had told me about it and I only discovered it when I stumbled across it at the university book store.

Up until this point, every writing book had made structure a complex idea or forcing story into a very tight series of specific beats.

However, Cleaver's book threw all this out and described it in simple terms[1].

  1. A character who wants something and
  2. obstacles stand in their way from getting it.
  3. They take an action to get what they want,
  4. which causes a response from the obstacles.
  5. Which leads to a new action and response,
  6. until an outcome where the character either gets what they want or doesn’t.

That’s it. He makes it even simpler:

  1. Want
  2. Obstacle
  3. Action
  4. Response
  5. Outcome

And even easier:

W+O+A+R+O=Story

The simplicity of WOARO

But why do I love Cleaver's book and WOARO so much?

  1. WOARO strips story down to its essentials, removing BS terms.
  2. Story is about character’s action and WOARO gives a big old middle finger to the idea that plot is separate from character.
  3. WOARO works on any scale of story, from 100,000+ word novels, all the way down to the story beat of one sentence.
  4. It works on any genre or medium of story, whether it is a play, a video game, a novel, a film, or a comic.
  5. WOARO begins on page 1 of all stories. All character’s want something immediately and will take some course of action towards it.
  6. It shapes your story. A character's want gives a direct line of action to the outcome at the end. Your characters can take a lot of detours but you know exactly what they want at the end.
  7. It focuses your story. When your writing is about something other than what your character wants, then you have strayed off course.
  8. It relates to real life—yours, mine, and your readers. We all have wants and obstacles in our way. We all take actions and stuff happens because of it.

If you are a writer, I thoroughly encourage you to read this book and embrace it's powerful but simple concept of story.



Photo credit: Rodion Kutsaev


  1. I have added a few of my own details to his formula. ↩︎

Tags: Writing

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