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The Hauge

Which screenwriting consultant is on retainer to Will Smith’s production company?

Which story expert can spot your novel’s flaw in six seconds flat?

Who can help you take your story to a whole new level?

Michael Hauge.

If you’re not familiar with his Six Stage Plot Structure, check it out here.

I was lucky enough to attend Michael's workshop last weekend in Bethesda, and it was incredible. On day one, he went through each step of the hero's inner and outer journey, using popular movies (including video clips) like Shrek, Wedding Crashers, Hitch, Gladiator, and Good Will Hunting to illustrate the concepts.

The second day we spent the morning analyzing Sleepless in Seattle in depth, as well as reviewing key concepts from the day before.

In addition to the lectures, I learned a lot from his advice to others in the audience. Eight of us won the raffle to eat lunch with him where we asked general questions, and each got some one-on-one time where in thirty seconds he nailed my problem with the external story goal: no visible finish line/item that readers could imagine (e.g. a trophy, $20000, a dead terrorist, the deed to that coveted beach cottage).

The event covered a day and a half, so I could write a book on what I learned, but instead, I’ll share with you some of my favorite takeaways.

  • Emotion in a story grows out of conflict, not desire.
  • The arc moves the protagonist from identity to essence.
    • Identity: the emotional armor we wear to protect ourselves; our facade
    • Essence: who we are when you strip away all the emotional armor; our true self
  • In a romance, the love interest should be the protagonist’s destiny because he/she sees beneath the protag’s identity and connects at the level of essence. (Not just chemistry or kismet.)
  • When two characters are in conflict, it’s at the level of identity; when they’re connected, it’s at the level of essence. (This was a huge aha for me. I think this will really help me understand why conflict is lacking in certain scenes.)
  • Instead of the protag having to make a choice as the conflict, have her try to take on both things she wants to do. The conflict can come in trying to make both endeavors work (e.g. caring for an ailing parent and running a business).

Even if you’ve listened to his CD The Hero’s Two Journeys with Christopher Vogler, I highly recommend Michael's in-person workshop. Not only will you pick up things you didn’t catch before, but having him there to answer questions is priceless. And if you haven't tried The Hero's Two Journeys, what are you waiting for? 😉

Not all educational opportunities are worth the time and money, though I've found that every workshop, craft book, or online class provides a new way of looking at something I already knew, a deeper understanding, or an outright epiphany.

Michael Hauge's workshop was worth every minute and every penny. If you get the chance, go.

Tell your friends!


  1. Reply

    Sounds like you came away with a lot of information! That’s great that you had one-on-one time with him, and he helped you with a conflict problem. Look forward to hearing more.

  2. Maura


    I’ve heard many great things about him before, and I did see one of his CDs about pitching at a retreat I attended last year. It was very helpful. He’s going to be in the northeast in the spring so I may very well have to go check him out. Thanks for sharing your takeaways. Very helpful! 🙂

    • Reply

      That would be great, Maura! If you can’t see him in person, The Hero’s Two Journeys is worth it (and much cheaper). Plus, he has several articles on his web site that help explain the concepts.

  3. Reply

    Sounds like the experience was just a tad bit on the motivational side too. Glad the workshop was productive for you.

    I appreciate your digests and insights. I’m getting more and more stingy with my time which aggravates my typical male bottom line thinking. All that to say, I love your cut to the chase reviews and clearly stated insights. I always find a nugget to take with me. Always.

    To wit. I took your editors comment — ” carrying a single conflict for too long”— of a few posts ago into my latest de-construction read.

    Sure nuff, the author had both internal and external conflict plus there were layers of conflict within each area. Had it not been for his intermittent and beautiful descriptions of the New Mexico high country I’m not so sure readers would’nt have passed out from exhaustion.
    (Well maybe not, but you know what I mean.)

    It seems to me if we blend Hague’s story structure with Storyfix, Save the Cat, Swain and Story we just about have it covered.

    It also seems to me if I don’t slow down with my hobbies of de-construction and playing with Scrivener I’m not going to write anything.

    • Reply

      It was very motivational, Curtis. I hadn’t thought about it, but every workshop I attend or class I take gets me fired up to write. But, it’s easy to get caught up in studying and deconstructing.

      Sometimes after an extended period of reading craft books and taking classes, I almost find it harder to get back into the writing. All that great info can be paralyzing to the creative process.

      Anyway, glad you enjoyed the recap!

  4. Reply

    So glad to hear he’s going to be in the northeast in the spring, Maura. I’ll look into that. I really wanted to attend this one.

    Gwen, this –
    When two characters are in conflict, it’s at the level of identity; when they’re connected, it’s at the level of essence.

    Is a huge A HA for me too. Thanks for sharing it.

    I’m so glad he was able to help you nail the problem.

    • Reply

      Oh, I hope you can go, Mary. Glad that line resonated with you too. I had to pull him aside and let him know how much that struck me. I starred and circled it in my notebook. 😉 Thanks!

  5. Reply


    I forgot to ask you about … “in thirty seconds he nailed my problem with the external story goal: no visible finish line/item that readers could imagine”

    Did he read what you wrote or did you give him a verbal summery?

    Also, I would like your opinion on the following.

    “… great info … paralyzing..” I have always seen that as the academics dilemma. There seems to be a great gulf fixed between understanding and execution.

    So far I’ve come up with this as a possible reason for that gulf. Understanding i.e. the a ha moment generates instant gratification. Bascially the experence satisfies us.

    However, I don’t think I ever wrote anything in a state of satisfaction. I was always trying to discover, fix, expand, debate, test, build, challenge, explore or blend something. I’m wondering, if I don’t enter into conflict, risk the possibility of failure, face the void, deal with resistance or “quest” myself, I’m thinking the writng will either go flat or not happen at all.

    I’d like to hear your thoughts when you get a chance.

    • Reply

      Curtis: I gave him a verbal summary using the worksheet he had us fill in. It was based on the elements of his Six Stage Plot Structure.

      Your theory about instant gratification is really interesting. That could be why I’m such a learning nut. You might be right about not writing in a state of satisfaction. I think that would come when the writing goal is met, or the story is (for now) complete. If I understand what you’re saying, then I can see that maybe the struggle of writing is part of what makes the work worth reading.

      As always, Curtis, you get me thinking outside my zone. Thanks. =)

      • Reply

        Not to put to fine a point on it. But, learning, the a ha moment, the sudden flash of insight, the rush when you know you nailed a sentence, the “zone” we get in when we write, is the product of the neurological functioning of a brain synapse. Actual and measurable electrical charges as one neuron communicates with another.

        Better than any drug a person can use. Once a persons mind gets turned on and all those synapse start firing learning becomes an addiction. i.e. pleasure. Try not reading for a month and notice what happens. Ignore your curosity for a couple of months.

        A bored brain is not a happy brain. 🙂

        • Reply

          “A bored brain is not a happy brain.” Oh boy, do I know that one, Curtis. It’s why I hated most of my jobs after a few months, and it’s why I started writing after I quit working. Well, after a couple months of reading, watching TV, learning Dreamweaver, and building a (now defunct) website. 😉

          I have to always be learning. I guess as addictions go, it could be worse. Thanks for clarifying your point. I hadn’t considered it, but it makes sense that the reason we’re willing to struggle is for those little highs. As always, your perspective is enlightening!

  6. Reply

    Just wanted to add my enthusiastic agreement to your comments, Gwen. I spent yesterday listening to Michael Hauge lecture West Houston RWA for about seven hours, plus dinner, and It was terrific. A lot of what he said boiled down to “that’s too complicated,” but making your story summary simple is no easy trick. Nor is nailing down that visible goal line. I’ll be digesting his words for weeks. And there is a lot of free information on his website.

    • Reply

      Thanks for chiming in, Kay! Yeah, his simple concepts are not so easy to follow in practice, but I’m hoping my writing will be better for it. If I can get outside my head and just write. 😉

      In our group, we tended to be either too complicated or too vague. He told several people flat out that their concept (as described anyway) sounded boring. Some were shocked, but I think all came away happier with their story idea than when they entered the room.

      Glad you got a chance to see him too!

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