Story Lines

3D image of Story Lines card deck

Write stronger stories. Learn the language of narrative. Shuffle and repeat.

📖 The Story Lines system can be used with a standard 54-card deck, but I have also created a print-on-demand card set with AI artwork. Order your copy through The Game Crafter!

The deck is made of two kinds of cards. Story subjects describe what the story is about. Discourse formats describe how the story is told.

Story subjects that can be combined with discourse formats to describe the main elements used by writers of fiction and narrative. Using the deck will teach you a language of 66 terms that will help you read better, and write your own stories.

“Theme Stated”

In this example, I’ve selected a single card, “Theme Stated,” which is a storyline card. There are four of these Aces in the deck and they signify that the passage relates back to the story as a whole. In this case, I would write a passage that refers back to the main theme of the story.

Here I have chosen two cards of each color, silver and gold. “Dialogue” is a discourse format while “Incident” is a story subject. In this case I would write a dialogue in which an incident is being discussed.


If you have a standard deck of cards, you can use this list to try the system out yourself.

Story Subjects

Discourse Formats

Twelve of the cards are Challenge cards that have a positive and negative form. Flip these cards after you pull them and follow the instructions depending on how the card lands, face up or face down.

These cards help the writer avoid writing middle of the road, neutral content. If you are going to write about the past, for example, it’s best to view that past with either nostalgia or regret.

The suits are divided into three categories each for a total of twelve subcategories.

  • Subject: State ♦️ = People, Places, and Things
  • Subject: Change ♥️ = Events, Actions, and Experiences
  • Format: Time ♣️ = Present, Past, and Future
  • Format: Frame ♠️ = Sense, Speech, and Thought

If you want to simplify the story, just use those twelve base subcategories written at the bottom of the card and ignore the specific card title and descriptive text.


I don’t want to limit you too much by telling you how to use the cards. I’ve had a hand-made prototype sitting on my desk for the past year. Most of the time I draw one or two cards to use as a writing prompt or to help me get unstuck.

Often what I write doesn’t exactly match the cards. I might set out to write a dialogue about an incident, but end up writing a monologue about a scheme instead.

Sometimes I’ll draw a hand of five and pick out two or three cards. All of the cards can be nested as many levels deep as you can manage to keep straight. You might, for example, write a dialogue where a character describes a gesture a character made and what they thought it meant.

This page is actively being developed, and I plan to make more card sets in the future. Check back later for more info, or follow me on Twitter to get future announcements.