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




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ARCHIVES OF March, 2013

What It Takes

What It Takes

Play Like a 15 Seed

By Callie Oettinger | Published: March 29, 2013

Anything can happen during March Madness, and we root for the underdog, but how many go so far as to put the underdogs within their final brackets?

How many had 15 seed Florida Gulf Coast University going this far? Doesn’t make sense. There’s never been a 15 seed to make the Sweet Sixteen . . . Until now. . .

* * *

Imagine this: You have a new book and you’re sitting around, talking about marketing and PR with your publisher. Everyone’s cheering. They’re in your corner. Rah. Rah. Rah. But when you leave, the next author comes in and it’s the same thing. In the end, the publishers don’t have all of their authors ranked number one. They have a bracket  system. They’re rooting for everyone, but when they really sit down and have to put it in writing, there are tiers. They expect one book and author to do X and another to do Y. If X doesn’t go that far, fine, it met expectations. If Y exceeds, everyone is surprised and revisits the brackets.

And for those that are ranked on top? There’s no guarantee that your publisher’s efforts will turn your next project into a bestseller.

So what do you do? Do you hope the publisher will pull out all the stops and win the game for you? No. You fight like a 15 seed that no one expects to win. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Start With the Villain

By Steven Pressfield | Published: March 27, 2013

I’m a huge fan of Villain Speeches. There’s nothing better in a movie or a book than the moment when the stage is cleared and Satan gets to say his piece.


Jeremy Irons in "Margin Call." My favorite villain of 2012.

The villain in Gunga Din, played by the great Italian actor Eduardo Ciannelli, is called simply “the Guru.” He’s like Gandhi, if Gandhi had traded non-violence for mega-violence. This speech is kicked off by Cary Grant, as British sergeant Archibald Cutter, confronting the Guru in outrage over his extremely clever plan to lure Cutter’s regiment into a trap and massacre it to the last man.


You’re mad!


Mad? Mad. Hannibal was mad, Caesar was mad, and Napoleon surely was the maddest of the lot. Ever since time began they have called mad all the great soldiers of this world. Great generals are not made of jeweled swords and mustache wax. They are made of what is here [points to his heart] and here [his head.] Mad? We shall see what wisdom lies within my madness.

A great villain speech possesses three attributes.

First, it displays no repentance. The devil makes his case with full slash and swagger. His cause is just and he knows it.

Second, eloquence. A great villain speech possesses wit and style. Mick Jagger and Keith Richards knew this when they wrote, “Please allow me to introduce myself, I’m a man of wealth and taste.”

Third, impeccable logic. A villain speech must be convincing and compelling. Its foundation in rationality must be unimpeachable. When we hear a great villain speech, we should think, despite ourselves, “I gotta say: the dude makes sense.” (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Best Bad Choice

By Shawn Coyne | Published: March 22, 2013

We face two kinds of decisions in our lives.  These decisions define who we are as human beings.

Accomplished novelists/storytellers have a deep understanding of how to move their fictional characters to these two types of crossroads. It’s the same skill narrative nonfiction writers must have in their arsenal. Instead of creating events, the nonfiction storyteller must discern when real human beings have faced these choices, what decisions they made and how those decisions changed their lives permanently.

We do not live in an evil/good, joy/misery, satiated/starving kind of world. Never have. Never will.  Because we don’t—we always fall on a spectrum within the confines of each of these values—we rely on stories to help us figure out how to choose between two bad decisions or two irreconcilably good decisions (a phrase that my client Robert McKee uses and I love).

We model what kind of people we would like to be based upon our knowledge of epic stories. Stories are essential to negotiate a very complex world. They are what make us human. Neither horses nor papayas can tell stories, can they? If you want to become immortal, learn how to tell a story. Homer, Muhammad, Matthew, Luke, Mark and John anyone?

What do I mean by “The Best Bad Choice?” Here are two examples, one from the made up world and one from real life.


Posted in What It Takes
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