The Four Core Framework: Needs, Life Values, Emotions, and Events in Storytelling
Written by Shawn Coyne
Edited by Leslie Watts and Shelley Sperry

What’s at the core of every great story that leads readers to rush breathlessly to the end and then share it with all their friends?

At Story Grid, we believe great stories are built of four essential elements: Core Needs, Core Life Values, Core Emotions, and Core Events. Whether you’re writing an action adventure, a mystery, or a love story, these are the elements that spark the emotional connection and catharsis readers are looking for. 

Assembled into a Four Core Framework, the right need, life value, emotion, and event become the blueprint for a story that will satisfy readers and bring them back for more.

In The Four Core Framework, Story Grid founder Shawn Coyne distills 30 years of experience in publishing into a compact guide for writers who want their novels, screenplays, and nonfiction to resonate and captivate. He dissects twelve kinds of stories and explains how to create the the ideal framework for each, including:

  • A Core Need that will make your story an all-night read;
  • A Core Life Value that will guide your characters’ evolution;
  • A Core Emotion that will enthrall your audience; and
  • A Core Event that will provide the final payoff readers are waiting for.

In The Four Core Framework, you’ll learn to keep readers turning the pages and rushing to recommend your stories.

Join Shawn to get down to the core of it all.

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Shawn Coyne

SHAWN COYNE created, developed, and expanded the story analysis and problem-solving methodology The Story Grid throughout his quarter-century-plus book publishing career. A seasoned story editor, book publisher and ghostwriter, Coyne has also co-authored The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, The Cowboys, the '70s and the Fight For America's Soul with Chad Millman and Cognitive Dominance: A Brain Surgeon's Quest to Out-Think Fear with Mark McLaughlin, M.D. With his friend and editorial client Steven Pressfield, Coyne runs Black Irish Entertainment LLC, publisher of the cult classic book The War of Art. With his friend and editorial client Tim Grahl, Coyne oversees the Story Grid Universe, LLC, which includes Story Grid University and Story Grid Publishing.

Leslie Watts

Leslie Watts is a certified Story Grid editor, writer, and podcaster. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember: from her sixth-grade magazine about cats to writing practice while drafting opinions for an appellate court judge. When the dust settled after her children were born, she launched to help writers unearth the treasure in their manuscripts. She believes writers become better storytellers through practice, and that editors owe a duty of care to help writers with specific and supportive guidance to meet reader expectations and express their unique gifts in the world.

Shelley Sperry

SHELLEY SPERRY is a Story Grid Certified Editor, writer, and researcher based in Alexandria, Virginia. She used to work at National Geographic, so she thinks every book is better if it has a cool map, a dramatic landscape, or a lot of penguins. As a writer and researcher, Shelley works with nonprofit and business clients on environmental, labor, and education topics. As an editor, she specializes in nonfiction, helping authors tell true stories about the world. She agrees with Barbara Kingsolver, that “revision is where fine art begins.” You can find her online at