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




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ARCHIVES OF December, 2013

Ask Me Anything Mondays

Ask Me Anything Mondays

Traditional vs. Self-Publishing

By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 30, 2013

Our question today is from Jason K:

Twenty years ago, if you had access to the current generation of self-publishing options, how would you have used them?

This is the last question from our session we recorded a few weeks ago. Stay tuned for our next podcast, Organizing a Day, Organizing a Year. We’ll be sending it out in its entirety to First Look Access members Jan. 1 and releasing one question per week here on the blog.


Posted in Ask Me Anything Mondays

What It Takes

What It Takes

Never Hold Your Best Stuff

By Shawn Coyne | Published: December 27, 2013

In a conversation with one of his many protégés (Philip Weiss) the late Peter Kaplan boiled down what it takes to create unforgettable characters. He called it “The Reveal.”

Figure out the reveal and you’ve got the turning point of a story. Once you have that…the thing practically writes itself.

The reveal is when a character makes a choice that explains his every other action. Kaplan was talking about the Eliot Spitzers, Lance Armstrongs, and Duck Commanders of the real world. After all, he edited the media industry’s must-read newspaper of 1994 to 2009, The New York Observer.

But the same holds true in fiction.

The reveal is the moment of truth, the absolute zero of a person’s being. Character as destiny. Here are some examples from fiction and real life.

  • In the screenplay Raging Bull by Paul Schrader and Mardik Martin, Jake LaMotta (played by Robert DeNiro) waves on Sugar Ray Robinson (played by Johnny Barnes) to hit him with everything he has.

Hey, Ray, I never went down, man! You never got me down, Ray! You hear me, you never got me down.

A man intent on proving himself by absorbing society’s worst blows endures a far worse pummeling inside his own mind. While he longs for the vacuity of eternal abyss, he’ll refuse to jump alone.

  • In 1947, Screenwriter Dalton Trumbo is called before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC). An unrepentant member of the Communist Party USA, Trumbo declines to name names of fellow Hollywood Reds.

He spends eleven months in a Federal Penitentiary for Contempt of Congress. Upon his release, he’s blacklisted. He writes scores of screenplays anyway. It’s all he knows how to do. His friends come together and put their names on his work so it’ll sell. (Woody Allen made a very good movie about it called The Front).

Among them are Exodus, Spartacus and Roman Holiday.

While others who did name names have a comeuppance and are attacked in the 1970s for their treachery, Trumbo refuses to join the intellectual tar and feathering:

“There was bad faith and good, honesty and dishonesty, courage and cowardice, selflessness and opportunism, wisdom and stupidity, good and bad on both sides; and almost every individual involved, no matter where he stood, combined some or all of these antithetical qualities in his own person, in his own acts.

Only a man who accepts humanity’s dark (witch hunting) and light (loyalty and love from his brothers) with equal grace attains wisdom.

  • In Judith Guest’s novel Ordinary People, Beth Jarrett (played by Mary Tyler Moore in the movie), is the mother of two boys. One she approves and one she secretly disdains. The good son dies in a boating accident. The pain in the ass survives.

The survivor tries to kill himself but can’t even do that right.

Her reveal is late in the story when she refuses to join the son and her husband in a family photo. It forces the husband to accept her for who she is…strong, uncompromising and impassive.

Her reveal challenges the husband to show his true self too. Her strength forces him to finally stand up for himself and make the best bad choice for his family.

Peter Kaplan always looked for and then shared reveals…

“Do you see Al Gore has gotten fat? Peter said. That’s about how angry he is.(more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“Leave Your Problems Outside”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: December 25, 2013

Leddick ballet

David Leddick in Met Opera days

I studied ballet at the old Metropolitan Opera when Antony Tudor, the famous choreographer, was the head of the ballet school. In fact, Margaret Craske was the teacher most students considered to be more important. She had danced with Pavlova in the ’20s.

Miss Craske instructed us: “Leave your problems outside the classroom.”

This excerpt comes from an upcoming book by my mentor, David Leddick. David continues:

Such good advice. And in that hour and a half of intense concentration on every part of your body, the music, the coordinating with other dancers you really couldn’t think about your troubles and it was great escaping them. You emerged much more relaxed and self-confident.

We worked hard. We never had a sick day. You went on even if you had to lie down in the wings until you were needed. No one thought this was unusual.

At the Met, the powers that be were only interested in two things: how well you sang and how well you danced. Your race didn’t count, your background, sexual preferences, family, none of that mattered. You had to deliver. That was the sole standard. It was great.

In later careers all of this has stood me in good stead. I never had to work that hard in any of the various worlds I entered. I knew the quality of the work I was doing. Dancing at the Met was a wonderful experience and a wonderful preparation for the rest of my life.

2013 is almost over. How will you and I handle our work in 2014? What’s so great about “Leave your problems outside” is it’s applicable even if we’re only going to have one hour a day to pursue our artistic dreams. (more…)

Posted in Writing Wednesdays
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