Tilting the platform

A tilt is a particularly significant interruption, one that fundamentally destabilises the story world and forces the main characters to adapt.

In The Fisherman and his Wife, the tilt is when the flounder grants the wife's first wish, because that tips the story into a new world:

The flounder came up and said, "Well, what does she want?"

"Oh, there you are. Well, it's not my idea, you understand, but what she says is I should have asked you to grant a wish. And she told me what to wish for. She says she's tired of living in a shack like a pisspot, and she wants to live in a cottage."

“Go home," said the flounder. “She's got her wish already."

The fisherman went home, and there was his wife standing in front of a neat little cottage.

“There!” she said. "Isn’t that better?"

It might help to recap a few terms:

  • Routines:
    • Are predictable actions and activities:
    • Characters follow routines in a stable relationship with the world, which we call the platform.
    • Characters will follow their routines until something interrupts them.
  • Interruptions:
    • Send characters into new goals, actions & activities.
    • Create interest, mystery, and surprise.
    • Can be triggered by introducing, combining, or changing story elements.
    • Can be any size—they don't have to be big; they can be small and modest.
  • Tilts:
    • Tilts are BIG interruptions.
    • Tilts destabilise the platform.
    • They throw characters into new circumstances.
    • Characters are forced to adapt and change in order to restore stability. 

In The Fisherman and His Wife, the platform is comprised of the fisherman, his wife, their shack, the sea, the fisherman's mundane routine, his wife's desire for a better house, and her knowledge of enchanted princes.

Catching the magic flounder interrupts the routine, but the platform doesn't tilt until the fish grants their first wish.

A tilt tends to be a singular event, after which characters go into a longer phase of adaptation.

This adaptation phase is often the bulk of the story—and the whole "point" of the story is to see how characters adapt to the tilt, whether they succeed or fail, and where the world "ends up".

Frankenstories can use tilts, but limited space means they tend to either open or close the story.

For example, One More Story develops the platform then tilts in the second-last round, when the voices run out of stories, and Mr Flip fails to adapt to the new reality:


Instead he asked question after question, and wrote down what the voices told him.

The story of the maid who drowned in the bath. The story of the hunting dog that became rabid and ate the twins. The mother who burned the barn. The father with the hatchet.

All of these he jotted in his notebook.


Scratching down their tales until there were no more stories left to tell. In raspy, more restless tones, the voices spoke: "The last page. FILL THE LAST PAGE."

"But there are no stories left!”



"Then we shall tell yours."


Soon all that was left was the sound of a pen scratching on paper, spelling letters in a crimson ink. 

This is the tale of the old man and his fireplace. And if you are reading this, you are next.

In contrast, A Black Van a Day opens with the narrator's parents being abducted (and throwing the narrator into a new world).

The story then quickly backfills to establish the platform, before showing how characters adapt:


I knew I shouldn't hold Quackers anywhere near the window if I wanted to keep him. But looking out the window, I needed all the comfort I could get as I watched my parents dragged into the back seat of a black van.


They were the third couple in the street this week. Just this morning I had seen the Kirby kids through their kitchen window, trying to figure out how to make eggs. I'd thought they looked lost and alone.


I hadn't expected to be in the same position. I heard my mother crying as she was stuffed into the van. It drove away. 

Quackers wriggled in my arms, wanting to go too.

I was too shocked to cry. I only felt sick. I phoned my uncle.

Teaching students how to tilt

Below are some exercises to help students learn how to tilt a platform.


  • Ideally, you'll already have taught students how to develop a platform.
  • You might also have covered actions, activities and interruptions.


  • Ask students how they know when a story has really "begun".
    • Discuss books or shows they're familiar with: where does the story actually begin? What about that moment or scene indicates the story is beginning?
    • The signal is usually a big change in goal/direction for the main character, often due to a significant change in their environment or circumstances.
  • Introduce the idea of a tilt.
    • You can relate it to terms such as inciting incident, catalyst, first act break, etc, as needed.
  • Review concepts of platform, routine, action, activity, advance, and interruption as needed.
  • Explain that a tilt is a big interruption that disrupts the platform at the start of a story.
  • A tilt introduces chaos and uncertainty, and changes the world around the main character so much that they are forced to adapt.
  • Platforms can restabilise when the original world is restored or the main character adapts to their new reality.


Read these Frankenstories and identify platform, tilt, adaptation, stabilisation.

Additional notes

  • A tilt is a big interruption.
  • A tilt should affect the world around the character so significantly that they have to adapt in some way.
  • A tilt is usually a scene or moment in time, after which the story becomes about characters adapting to their new circumstances.
  • Sometimes characters find temporary stability, then advance within that new stable platform, until the next tilt.
  • When a platform is permanently re-stabilised, then that's the end of the story.

The games below are variations on where to place a tilt.

  • You can play any or all of them.
  • The instructions are fairly open-ended.
  • Remind players that tilts should destabilise a character's world, creating uncertainty and chaos, and push them in a new direction.

Game 1: Establish platform then tilt

  • R1: Establish a platform (incl story elements, routines, etc)
  • R2: Tilt
  • R3-5: What happens next?

Game 2: Open with tilt

  • R1: Open on a tilt
  • R2-5: What happens next?

This game is like the cold open of an action movie, starting in media res.

Game 2: Close on tilt

  • R1: Establish platform
  • R2-4: Develop platform in more detail
  • R5: End on tilt

This format creates cliffhangers and dramatic openings for a story.

Game 4: Tilt repeatedly

  • R1: Establish a platform
  • R2-4: Tilt every round (go big!)
  • R5: Free choice

The challenge here is making each tilt distinct (i.e. destabilise the previous tilt, not extend it).


After each game, ask:

  • How did players feel about the story?
  • How well does the tilt work? Do players want to know what happens after the tilt?
  • What triggers the tilt? How does it destabilise the world?
  • Is the tilt big enough?
  • Is it really a tilt? Or is it more of an incremental advance or an interruption?