How to Write a Heist Story: Lessons from Brandon Sanderson

Learn how to use plot archetypes to create compelling heist stories in this video featuring Brandon Sanderson's insights and analysis of popular heist films like Oceans Eleven and The Italian Job. Discover the key elements of a satisfying heist story, including the importance of hyper-competent characters, solving problems in unexpected ways, and the thrill of getting away with it. Explore how to apply plot archetypes to different genres, from heist stories to superhero movies like Infinity War, and become a plot chef by creating your own unique recipe.


  • When building a plot outline, look for promises, progress, and payoff. Progress is the most important part.
  • Plot archetypes are different from plot structures. Archetypes are a style of plot.
  • To build a heist story, look at other heist stories and learn what works. There are two main archetypes: Oceans Eleven and The Italian Job.
  • Hyper-competent characters are attractive to readers.
  • A heist story is satisfying because of the thrill of getting away with it, the feeling of rebellion, the puzzle of figuring out how to do it, and the sense of accomplishing the impossible.
  • Apply plot archetypes to different genres to create unique and compelling stories.
  • When using multiple progress and payoff elements in a story, make sure one is more important than the others.
  • Heists create a sense of doom and inevitability through the use of missing pieces in the plan that are revealed at the end.
  • Use competence to solve new problems on the fly to make sure the reader doesn't feel like the time they spent on the original plan was wasted.