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




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Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Hero’s Journey as Boot Camp

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 30, 2012

With apologies to readers who are getting tired of these “hero’s journey” posts (this is the fourth in as many weeks), I can say only, “Hang in there, baby!” The last one is coming next week. Today’s is about using the hero’s journey intentionally, as a way to achieve a species of self-transformation.


Ari Gold in action. Working for him can be a "hero's journey"

Navy SEAL training is a hero’s journey. So is Marine Corps boot camp or spring football camp at ‘Bama or a season dancing with the Joffrey Ballet. A Jenny Craig diet is a hero’s journey. For that matter, so is being a contestant on Dancing With The Stars.

Did you just take a job as a photographer’s assistant? You’re on the hero’s journey. Are you an intern for a law firm, a P.A. on a movie set? You’re on the path too.

Recall the broad strokes of the hero’s passage:

He begins unconscious and “stuck.” He experiences a “call.” He is cast out of the world he knows. He enters upon an ordeal; he becomes lost. He pursues an objective (sometimes simply his own survival) in the face of monumental resistance. He experiences adventures, encounters outlandish characters, receives aid from unexpected sources. At the climax of his passage, the hero hits bottom. Then: a breakthrough! The hero overcomes! He completes his dark passage and returns home, a different person than when he set forth.

This mythic journey is exactly what you and I experience in real life in Army Ranger training, in the mail room at William Morris, or doing research for Alan Dershowitz. The difference between the hero’s journey as undergone spontaneously in real life and the hero’s journey experienced in boot camp or athletic/artistic/commercial training is that the latter has been deliberately designed to produce a specific transformation in the individual undergoing the passage.

Military training is designed to produce soldiers. Taking class with the Joffrey is meant to produce dancers. Either way, the transformation sticks. Why? Because it follows beat-by-beat the software (the hero’s journey) that already exists in our hearts. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

Big Night

By Shawn Coyne | Published: May 25, 2012

Once a year, I uncinch the family money belt, take a deep breath, and plan a trip to Yankee Stadium.

Our big night out is our annual splurge. My son marks off the days.  Our weekend hours of playing catch, me hitting him grounders and pitching him batting practice revolve around the state of Derek Jeter’s batting average or whether or not C.C. Sabathia might pitch the night we’re scheduled for the Bronx.

This year, I promised to teach him how to keep score. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Hero’s Journey as Screenplay

By Steven Pressfield | Published: May 23, 2012

Last week we were talking about the “hero’s journey” in myth. This week let’s talk about movies.


Matt Damon as Jason Bourne. The "amnesiac story" is a classic "hero's journey"

The neophyte writer, when he arrives in Tinseltown, very soon gets wised up to the lingo—“inciting incident,” “Act Two curtain,” “All Is Lost moment” and so forth. It’s not so much that there’s a “formula.” But there’s definitely a “vocabulary.”

The reason there’s a vocabulary is that certain structural concepts work in stories, and others don’t. How do moviemakers know this (forgetting for a moment William Goldman’s famous axiom, “Nobody knows anything”)? They know by the box office. The Monday morning ticket figures. Audiences line up for some movies and run away from others.

William Goldman said another very smart thing. He said “Screenplays are structure.” What he meant was that the building blocks of the story and how they are arranged are the most important elements in the success of a screen drama or comedy. What comes first, what comes second, what’s left in, what’s left out. If the architecture works emotionally, the movie will work, even if the casting is less than inspired and the dialogue fails to rise to Academy Award level.

What’s interesting to me is that these building blocks often parallel, beat by beat, Joseph Campbell’s throughline of the “hero’s journey.”

Herewith those beats in myth: the hero starts out unconscious, the hero receives a “call,” the hero ventures forth, meets outlandish characters, receives aid from unexpected sources (often divine or semi-divine), suffers, is lost, despairs, and finally returns home—often in a guise unrecognizable to others.

That’s a movie. That’s a screenplay.

In the prototypical screen story, the protagonist starts out in “normal” life. Think about Taken, The Hangover, Bridesmaids. But something is out-of-kilter or potentially out-of-kilter. Suddenly: a shock! The inciting incident propels the hero out of normal life and into movie life.

We have launched ourselves upon the “hero’s journey.” (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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