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




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ARCHIVES OF September, 2017

What It Takes

What It Takes

Everyone Is Nobody Sometime

By Shawn Coyne | Published: September 29, 2017

Let’s go back twenty or so years and look at the world through the eyes of an ambitious journalist intent on creating something original.  Again, this material is from a series of posts I wrote over at

Let’s pretend you’re Malcolm Gladwell.

It’s midish-1998.  Google won’t start up until September.  Facebook is more than five years away.  The Kindle launch is almost ten years away and not one publisher sees eBooks as a viable product. In August, publicly acknowledges that it plans to sell more than just books and CDs.

Everything that is tipping or will tip in the new century hasn’t happened yet. People are worried about Y2K and the Internet is for nerds.  Remember that? (more…)

Posted in What It Takes

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Let There be Blood

By Steven Pressfield | Published: September 27, 2017


I know I keep promising to finish with these “Reports from the Trenches.” But I’m still deeply in the muck and mire myself, and each week brings a fresh insight.

So …

This week’s flash is about blood ties.

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. No, I won't reveal the spoiler.

Jon Snow and Daenerys Targaryen. How tightly can the writers bind these two characters?

I first learned this trick from a wonderful book called Writing the Blockbuster Novel by Albert Zuckerman. Mr. Zuckerman is Ken Follett’s literary agent and something of a legend in the business. Blockbuster can be heavy going because it presents its case in such detail, but I recommend it highly nonetheless.

Here’s one of the book’s brilliant insights:


            Tie your characters as tightly together as possible.


What do Zuckerman/Follett mean by this?

They mean if one of your female characters is going to murder one of your male characters, make them husband and wife.

If Luke must duel Darth Vader to the death, make them scion and patriarch. And don’t forget Princess Leia. Throw her into the gene pool too.

Blood ties.

If you can’t bind your characters within the family web, make them lovers.

Make them intimate friends.

Laertes should be Hamlet’s best buddy, and Ophelia should be Laertes’ sister, and Polonius his father. If Hamlet’s mom, the queen, is gonna murder his dad and marry the usurper, let that dastard be Hamlet’s father’s brother.

Game of Thrones works this magic every week.

I’m not a geek for the show (I can’t really tell Daenerys from Cersei or Sansa Stark from Arya), but I know that 99% of GOT’s dramatic power comes from the fact that everybody is related to everybody else. Even the dragons were raised from eggs. They’re members of the family too.

When brother betrays brother, that’s drama.

Wife murders husband.

Best friend seduces best friend’s wife.

The Godfather gave us blood ties across three generations.

The Sopranos played like a family album.

Even Breaking Bad, whose central family was bound primarily by the secrets each member was keeping from every other, was about teacher-student bonds, fellow-criminal bonds, etc.

Which brings me back to this Report from the Trenches.

When our novel crashes and we’re desperately seeking to unearth the core story beneath, Albert Z’s trick can help us disinter that elusive sucker.

Three days ago I took a male and female character who had been unrelated and made them brother and sister.

Wow, did that help!

If you can’t make your characters related by blood, it can be almost as good to give them shared backstories.

Paul Manafort was a partner in Black, Manafort and Stone, powerful Washington lobbyists who represented numerous overseas clients. The Stone in that trio is Roger Stone, the agent provocateur and long-time pal of Donald Trump. Stone’s mentor was Roy Cohn, who was Joseph McCarthy’s chief counsel in the Army-McCarthy hearings. Cohn also mentored the young Donald Trump.

See what I mean?

Tie your characters together.

Give them intertwined roots.

For the reader, the fun of the story is unraveling these hidden links.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

The Pool Is 12 Feet Profound

By Callie Oettinger | Published: September 22, 2017

1+3+5+3+7+1+9+23+48+5 will always equal 105.

You can add the middle numbers last or add the second and fifth numbers first, and you’ll come up with the same answer.

However, it’s different with words.

Present the exact same words, in the exact same order, and the exact same format, to different individuals, and you’ll receive a different response every time.

That’s the beauty of words. As individuals, and when combined, words carry the experiences of their readers with them. Each individual will leave with a different interpretation.

Look to Lois Lowry’s introduction to the now-a-major-motion-picture edition of The Giver:

I had always received lots of letters from kids, frequently writing as a class assignment (one began, “This is a Friendly Letter”). Over the years, of course, they have more often become emails. But that didn’t compare to the mail about The Giver: first of all for the volume—the sheer number of them (even now, twenty years later, they still come, sometimes fifty to sixty in a day). But now the letter writers were different. Sure, many of them were still kids. But a startling number were much older. And the content was no longer the school assignment letter, the obligatory “I thought this was a pretty good book.” Instead the letters were passionate (“This book has changed my life”), occasionally angry (“Jesus would be ashamed of you,” one woman wrote), and sometimes startlingly personal.

One couple wrote to me about their autistic, selectively mute teenager, who had recently spoken to them for the first time—about The Giver, urging them to read it. A teacher from South Carolina wrote that the most disruptive, difficult student in her eighth grade class had called her at home on a no-school day and begged her to read him the next chapter over the phone. A night watchman in an oil refinery wrote that he had happened on the book—it was lying on someone’s desk—while making his rounds (“I’m not a reader,” he wrote me, “but man, I’m glad I came to work tonight”). A Trappist monk wrote to me and said he considered the book a sacred text. A man who had, as an adult, fled the cult in which he had been raised, told me that his psychiatrist had recommended The Giver to him. Countless new parents have written to explain why their babies have been named Gabriel. A teacher in rural China sent me a photograph of beaming students holding up their copies of the book. The FBI took an interest in the two-hundred-page vaguely threatening letter sent by a man who insisted he was actually The Giver, and advised me not to go near the city where he lived. A teenage girl wrote that she had been considering suicide until she read The Giver. One young man wrote a proposal of marriage to his girlfriend inside the book and gave it to her (she said yes). But a woman told me in a letter that I was clearly a disturbed person and she hoped I would get some help.

Diverse interpretations arrive with books and films and paintings, because we each take what the artists create and make their works our own.

For me, their works double as keys. (more…)

Posted in What It Takes
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