James Scott Bell’s a Disturbance and Two Doorways

James Scott Bell’s a Disturbance and Two Doorways

As we saw in our Narrative Technique Series, there are several methodologies for creating a story and making it compelling.

For instance, often, a story begins with the protagonist facing a particular situation. Sometimes, he has to face two choices. This Story Structure is the James Scott Bell’s Disturbance and Two Doorways.

What is James Scott Bell’s a Disturbance and Two Doorways?

A Disturbance and Two Doorways is a concept introduced by James Scott Bell.

According to James Scott Bell, everything has to start with conflict. But the conflict is not only between one person and another but can develop between the protagonist and his antagonist, or between the antagonist and a group, and so on.
In short, Disturbance is not only typical of mystery, thriller, or action novels.

It is the trigger for any narrative and moves the action around the characters in the story.

Without conflict, without Disturbance, a novel runs the risk of being boring. Therefore, the writer must study his characters well, investigating their conflicts, both external and internal.

How to apply James Scott Bell’s a Disturbance and Two Doorways? Disturbance and Two Doorways in your novel?

In his famous book “Plot and Structure”, Bell introduces this concept composed of three main elements: the Disturbance, the first Doorway, and the second.

  • The Disturbance: is the disturbing element at the beginning of the story. It is something that threatens the protagonist’s ordinary life.
  • the first Doorway: is the first way out that pushes your character into the center of the story. However, Once you walk through this door, there is no turning back.
  • the second Doorway: this is the seconda way out which leads to the final battle. This is the door of no return, but it usually leads to disaster.

Some practical example of this structure

We can find this type of structure in Gerard Way’s comic book “The Umbrella Academy” from which a successful television series was also based.

After hearing that their adoptive father has died, the six siblings return to their childhood home. This corresponds to the Disturbance. The action that moves the narration and from which everything starts.

Therefore, the brothers discover that soon the world will end due to a global apocalypse. At this point, they faced with two choices:

  1. come together as a group and as a family to fight
  2. wait inexorably for the end of the world.

Here we find Doorway 1.

Consequently, by choosing to cross this threshold, there is no return. Throughout the story, the brothers head for Doorway 2, the doorway to the final battle.

“A great novel is the record of how a character fights with death.”

James Scott Bell

Choose the best novel writing software for your narration

bibisco is a novel planning software focused on character development precisely because it is designed starting from this principle: there is no novel without the characters’ conflict.

For this reason, with bibisco you can get to know everything about your characters with an innovative and fun method: an interview! Knowing the characters in depth, it is possible to better identify the conflict, the engine of every story.

James Scott Bell’s a Disturbance and Two Doorways - bibisco's main character section
bibisco’s main character section


A story without action is not likely to hold the reader’s attention.

There are many different ways to introduce action into a story. One of these is the technique devised by James Scott Bell’s a Disturbance and the Two Doorways.

In conclusion, it all starts with an action, a disturbing element, and then continues with the main characters facing two Doorways. These will lead to the end of the story leaving the reader with bated breath in a narrative full of suspense and action.

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