Pride and Prejudice - The STORY GRID edition - Annotated by SHAWN COYNE

What It Takes

What It Takes

A Part of Our Lives

By Callie Oettinger
Published: January 12, 2018

Boston, 10.31.2004. The day after the Red Sox's parade through Boston, celebrating the end of the "curse". Mrs. Mallard is wearing a Red Sox hat.

Boston, 10.31.2004. The day after the Red Sox’s parade through Boston, celebrating the end of the “curse.” Mrs. Mallard is wearing a Red Sox hat and I’m inserting both into the life of the next generation.

Boston felt like home.

I was in high school when I stepped into Bean Town for the first time, but I already knew Charles St. because I’d traveled it with Robert McCloskey’s Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and I knew the North Church and Charlestown Shore, because I’d rowed and ridden with Longfellow’s Revere.

I knew the city from childhood picture books and history textbooks, books that had been my friends and mentors, offering comfort and instruction.

They were a part of my life just as much as any living, breathing teacher or relative. They were a part of me.

I headed outside the city to walk with Thoreau and swim in Walden Pond, and daydream about conversations with Emerson, all of which had already run on repeat in my head.

The year I moved into an apartment on The Fenway wasn’t really a first either. Walking home at night, in the light of Fenway Park, always felt just like a bright summer day. Baseball always feels like summer, no matter the time of year or time of day—and I’d been hearing about Ted William’s Red Sox, and the curse of Babe for decades. Dad was a Red Sox fan and I grew into a baseball romantic, fed on the tales of the old players. I still can’t tell you the stats of every team or player, but the first time I went to Spring Training in Florida, tears pooled in my eyes. I’m not a rabid fan. I don’t watch all the games and I’m often out of date on rosters, but baseball is in me. I can’t imagine a world without it.

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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Give Your Hero a Hero Speech

By Steven Pressfield | Published: January 17, 2018


Let’s take a break today in this series on Villains and turn to the guy or girl opposite him: the Hero.

We’ve been saying in these posts that the Antagonist needs to be given a great Villain Speech, a moment when he or she gets to try to convince us that greed is good or that we can’t handle the truth.

Ben Johnson, Warren Oates, William Holden, and Ernest Borgnine marching to their Hero’s Moment

The hero needs her moment to shine too.

It’s our job as writers, yours and mine, to serve up some juicy, soul-defining, U.S. Prime dialogue for our protagonist to deliver.

Here’s one of my faves from the movie Fury, the Brad Pitt-starrer about a lone American tank driving deep into Nazi Germany in the closing weeks of WWII. The crisis comes when the tank hits a mine and becomes incapacitated just as a battalion of SS infantry is tramping down the road in its direction.

Do our heroes take off into the bushes and live to fight another day? Or do they make a stand, knowing it will cost them their lives?

Brad Pitt as the tank commander makes his own decision. “This is home,” he says, setting a palm on the turret of the tank. The other crewmen (Michael Pena, Jon Bernthal, Logan Lerman, Shia Labeouf) at first reluctantly, then with mounting spirit, join him. Each takes his last-stand position inside the tank, waiting for the SS, who are now only a couple of hundred yards away.

It’s a classic hero moment, the hour when the ultimate sacrifice is imminent, when ordinary men stand at the threshold of rendering themselves extraordinary.

The director/writer David Ayer gives the critical lines to Shia Laboeuf (who does a fantastic job delivering them) as Boyd “Bible” Swan, the tank’s gunner. Swan speaks quietly, in the steel intimacy of the tank’s interior, to his comrades, each of whom is isolated inside his own skull, awaiting the terminal moments of his life.



There’s a Bible verse I think about sometimes.

Many times. It goes, ‘And I heard the voice of the Lord

saying, Who shall I send, and who will go for us? Then

I said, Here am I. Send me.’


The sacrifice of one’s own life (or happiness or future prospects or whatever) for the good of others is the defining act of the hero.

Have you seen The Wild Bunch? I watch it once a year at least, just to remind myself what great storytelling and filmmaking is all about. The hero speech in that movie (screenplay by Walon Green and Sam Peckinpah) is two words, delivered by Warren Oates as Lyle Gortch.

Here’s the setting:

The surviving members of the outlaw band known as the Wild Bunch (William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Ben Johnson, and Warren Oates) have seen their companion Angel (Jaime Sanchez) captured and tortured by the evil generalissimo Mapache (Emilio Fernandez) and been unable to rescue him because of the overwhelming numbers of Mapache’s soldiers.

The Bunch pass the night in a debauch in the village where Mapache and his troops (and Angel, still in captivity) have laid up. Waking in the morning, William Holden, the leader of the Bunch, pays the poor young mother with whom he has passed the night.

Plainly he is thinking about Angel and how he and his companions have failed to deliver him.

Then something changes in Holden’s face.

Plainly he has come to some kind of resolve.

Note: not a word of dialogue has been spoken so far.

Holden crosses to the room in which Warren Oates and Ben Johnson are squabbling over payment with the woman they’ve spent the night with. Holden appears in the doorway. Ben and Warren look up. Warren sees the expression on Holden’s face. He squints, as if thinking to himself, Is Holden thinking what I think he’s thinking?

One more look convinces Warren.

His own expression hardens into the identical resolve.



Why not?


That’s it.

That’s the hero speech.

The three outlaws step outside into the sun, where the final member of the Bunch, Ernest Borgnine, sits in the dust with his back against the adobe wall of the house, whittling a stick.

Again without dialogue, the companions’ eyes meet each other. Borgnine barks a curt laugh, plunges his stick point-first into the dust, and rises eagerly to his feet.

The final scene of course is these four taking on Mapache’s hundreds and giving their lives in the process.

I’ve seen, in e-mails and in the Comments section of this blog, these posts referred to as “tips.”

I hate that.

What I hope these posts constitute are the collective tool kit of a writer. Today’s post is one I use in every book or movie I write, as are all the other posts in this series and all others.

It’s a box I check to help myself find my story.

“Do I have a hero’s speech? Have I given my protagonist a moment, even if it’s silent, when he or she gets to define the action they will take and explain the reasons why?”

If I don’t, alarm bells go off in my head.

“Take care of this, Steve. Figure it out and do it.”
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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Keep the Heavies in Motion

By Steven Pressfield | Published: January 10, 2018

This is the second of Stephen Cannell’s axioms (see last week’s post for #1) that Randy Wallace taught me.

What Steve meant was not just “Keep the villain active during Act Two,” but “Keep him coming at the hero from as many directions as possible.”

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in "Silver Linings Playbook"

Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper in “Silver Linings Playbook”

This works even for interior villains, for antagonists that reside only inside our characters’ heads.

Consider one of my all-time faves, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook.

The villain exists only inside Pat Solitano’s (Bradley Cooper) head. It’s his obsession with getting back together with his estranged wife Nikki.

The inciting incident of the movie is when Bradley meets Tiffany Maxwell (Jennifer Lawrence). In the audience, we know instantly that these two were meant for each other.

What’s keeping them apart?

Bradley’s obsession with Nikki.

That’s the villain.

Steve Cannell would be proud of how David O. Russell (who wrote the film—based on the novel by Matthew Quick—as well as directing it) “kept the heavies in motion.”

Bradley’s obsession with Nikki cross-crosses Act Two like an Oklahoma tornado.

We see Bradley jogging wearing a plastic trash bag to make him sweat, so he can lose weight for Nikki.

Bradley tells Jennifer again and again how he’s going to win Nikki back.

He obsesses with his shrink about getting Nikki back.

He composes a letter to Nikki and gets Jennifer to deliver it.

Even when Bradley starts rehearsing with Jennifer to be her partner in a dance contest, the endeavor (for him) is all about Nikki. He’s trying to prove that he’s a good guy helping Tiffany so that Nikki will see he has changed and not be so spooked by his nuttiness.

Poor Jennifer is whipsawed by this villain that keeps coming at her from every angle, deep deep into Act Three.

And this whipsawing works.

It makes Jennifer react. How she responds reveals her moxie, her toughness, her love for Bradley.

In the audience we are riveted, rooting for Jennifer and Bradley to get together and energized/terrorized every time Bradley’s Nikki-obsession rears its crazy head.

Try this yourself if you’re stuck in Act Two.

Steve Cannell knew what he was talking about.

Keep the heavies in motion.

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