What is the Story Driver?

Is the overall story driven by Actions first (such as the time travelers arriving in The Terminator) or Decisions first (such as Daniel Hillard’s decision to impersonate a woman in Mrs. Doubtfire)?

If actions that occur in your story determine the types of decisions that need to be made, choose Action. If decisions or deliberations that happen in your story precipitate the actions that follow, choose Decision. Action or Decision describes how the story is driven forward. The question is: Do Actions precipitate Decisions or vice versa?

Story Driver: The mechanism by which the plot is moved forward.

Every story revolves around a central issue, but that central issue only becomes a problem when an action or a decision sets events into motion. If an action gets things going, then many decisions may follow in response. If a decision kicks things off, then many actions may follow until that decision has been accommodated.

The Action/Decision relationship will repeat throughout the story. In an Action story, decisions will seem to resolve the problem until another action gets things going again. Decision stories work the same way. Actions will get everything in line until another decision breaks it all up again. Similarly, at the end of a story there will be an essential need for an action to be taken or a decision to be made. Both will occur, but one of them will be the roadblock that must be removed in order to enable the other.

Whether Actions or Decisions move your story forward, the Story Driver will be seen in the instigating and concluding events, forming bookends around the dramatics.


  • Silence of the Lambs
  • In the Line of Fire
  • Star Wars
  • Unforgiven
  • Hamlet
  • Decision


  • The Verdict
  • The Glass Meangerie
  • Who’s Afraid of Virgina Woolf?
  • Body Heat
  • The Fugitive

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