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

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ARCHIVES OF August, 2013

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Foolscapping the B-52

By Steven Pressfield | Published: August 28, 2013

There was a great article in the L.A. Times of August 19 about the B-52 bomber. Remember Slim Pickens in Dr. Strangelove, straddling a hydrogen bomb in the bomb bay of a Strategic Air Command plane, then dropping into thin air while cutting loose a Rebel yell?

That was a B-52.

Slim Pickens as B-52 pilot, Major T.J. "King" Kong, in "Dr. Strangelove."

In real life the aircraft first saw service in the 1950s. It’s still flying today. With the latest upgrades, the B-52 is expected to remain as the Air Force’s #1 workhorse bomber into the 2040s.

But here’s the sentence from the article that leapt out at me:

Now the plane, which was designed on the back of a napkin over a weekend in 1948 by three Boeing employees …

The longer version of the design story, from the Boeing website, relates that Boeing had proposed earlier in 1948 a six-engine, all-propeller model, called the XB-52. Chief engineer Ed Wells and his design team happened to be in Dayton, Ohio, when the air force phoned: “Scrap the props. Give us an all-jet version.” The team holed up over the weekend in a Dayton hotel. By Monday, they had designed the plane.

That’s the Foolscap Method.

In other words: brass balls, back-of-a-napkin, see-the-thing-as-a-whole. Don’t hesitate. Don’t overthink. Use instinct, use common sense. Don’t give Resistance time to screw you up.

Next Wednesday we’ll get into this in detail on the blog with the first of two ten-minute videos about how to use the Foolscap Method in writing a novel. But I couldn’t resist, today, taking notice of the B-52. There must be a million stories just like this, of bridges built, skyscrapers designed, businesses launched, and screenplays written.

The Boeing B-52, still flying after all these years.

Why does the back-of-an-envelope system work? I know how Shawn would answer. He’d say “Genre.”

No enterprise—no matter how complex or ambitious—is as difficult as it first seems. Every project falls into a genre, and every genre has conventions. Conventions take the mystery out of it.

A plane is a plane. It has wings. It has a fuselage. It has a powerplant.

A play is a play. It has Act One, Act Two, Act Three. It has characters, it has a theme, it has crisis/climax/resolution. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
8 Comments

What It Takes

What It Takes

Art and Polarity

By Shawn Coyne | Published: August 23, 2013

As I knew I’d be deep in the North Woods of Maine with no phone access or Internet this week (Help!), I didn’t want to take a chance and not get a WIT up for this week.  So, back from last year (June 20, 2012), here’s “Art and Polarity,” which I find to be crucial information for artists in our present “let’s not judge” culture.  Here’s hoping I’m not eaten by a Black Bear…

The other day I overhead this conversation:

Man #1: “I ran into Frank Smith (not his real name) at the beach yesterday…”

Man #2: “Isn’t that the guy who cheated on his wife, got a DWI, and said all of those nasty things about Jill’s daughter in law?”

Man #1: “…Well…yes…but I try not to judge.”

I run into this “I don’t judge” stuff a lot and it infuriates me on many levels. But as this is a blog about what it takes to create art, I’ll just address why this “moral position” is at best hypocritical and at worst a force as undermining and dark as Resistance.

If you want to create art, you need to make judgments about human behavior and take a side. How well you convey and support your point of view is a measure of your skill. On-the-nose judgments in art, like that hilarious statue of the founder of Faber College in Animal House with the epitaph “Knowledge is Good” are funny because they are so generic.

The epitaph tells the viewer that the setting of the story is a College founded by an idiot. What is really wonderful about that scene is that it appears in the opening credits, giving the viewer no doubts about the tenor of the art to come.

The scene in Woody Allen’s Manhattan where the Woody character is having cocktail conversation at the Museum of Modern Art is another one of my favorites…

Guest #1: “Has anybody read that Nazis are gonna march in New Jersey, you know?”

Woody character: “We should go there, get some guys together. Get some bricks and baseball bats and explain things to ’em.”

Guest #2: “There was this devastating satirical piece on that in the Times.”

Woody character: “Well, a satirical piece in the Times is one thing, but bricks get right to the point.”

Guest #2: “But biting satire is better that physical force.”

Woody character: “No, physical force is better with Nazis. It’s hard to satirize a guy with shiny boots.”

(more…)

Posted in What It Takes
36 Comments

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Return of the Foolscap Method

By Steven Pressfield | Published: August 21, 2013

My apologies to everyone who got psyched up, a few weeks ago, to learn more about the Foolscap Method (which I wrote about then in this space and promised to write about again), only to have me drop the ball completely. Sorry!

"Foolscap" is yellow, lined, legal-size notepad paper

There’s a reason. We’ve been working feverishly over the past few weeks to re-jigger this site to handle some new long-form material that we want to make available to our regular readers. That’s what the FIRST LOOK ACCESS box is all about, above and to the right.

Bottom line: the Wednesday after next, we’ll be ready. We’ll start with one ten-minute video from me about the Foolscap Method, then another ten-minute video the next week—all building to a new long-form piece about Writing A First Novel.  In other words, what it takes to go from unpublishable to publishable.

The piece is by me, from my own experience with my own first published novel, The Legend of Bagger Vance. Trust me, the Foolscap Method played a huge part in that breakthrough, and it can be invaluable for any writer (or artist or entrepreneur) struggling to get over that same hump.

The photo above is the Foolscap I used to write Bagger Vance. It’s not the actual one. I lost that in a flood. But it’s a reconstituted version that’s probably a lot clearer.

(more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
21 Comments
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