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




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ARCHIVES OF November, 2017

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

“Keep Working”

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 29, 2017


[I’m gonna interrupt this series on Villains for a quick “Bulletin from the Trenches.”]


When I first came out to Hollywood from New York and I was scuffling around desperately for employment, I wound up doing a couple of small writing jobs for the director Ernie Pintoff. Ernie was a seasoned pro (he had actually won an Oscar for a short subject, titled The Critic). My frantic state was very clear to Ernie and, one day after we had finished work, he drew up and gave me a look that told me he was about to impart some serious wisdom.

Ernie Pintoff

Ernie Pintoff

Ernie said he knew that at my stage of the game, most of the gigs I could attract would be pretty low-ball, non-remunerative, and even in some cases a little dubious ethically. But, he said,


          “Keep working.”


What Ernie meant was don’t turn your nose up at paying (and even non-paying) assignments. “Yeah, a lot of ’em are gonna be pretty lousy and you’re gonna be saying to yourself, ‘This is really for the birds.’ But keep working. You never know who you’ll meet on a job, what contacts you’ll make, what opportunities may present themselves. Stay in the action. Keep perfecting your craft. You’re acquiring experience. You’re learning all the time, even if you don’t think you are.”

I’m taking Ernie’s advice right now, and it’s saving my life.

My “Trenches” book is done. Shawn loves it. I love it. It’s out there now, looking for a publisher.

Now the waiting begins.

Now Resistance appears, big-time.

Now the temptation arises to hold your breath and attach yourself emotionally to an outcome.

That attitude is bad news.

Bad luck.

Bad karma.


            “Keep working.”


If you’re reading this, I know you know what I’m talking about. We’ve all been in this place, some of us multiple-multiple times. It never gets any easier. The mind never gets any stronger.

Dark thoughts obtrude.

Distraction looms.

I repeat to myself all the psych-up mantras I know so well. But they still ricochet around in my head, seeking purchase and often not finding any.


          “Keep working.”


I’ve started the next book. I don’t know what it is. I don’t know what I’m doing. But I’m doing it every day. I have to.

The Muse tests you and me 24/7. She flies over and peers down on us. What she wants to see is that we are dedicated to the journey, to the process, that we are in it for the long haul and in it for keeps.

What she doesn’t want to see is that we are attached to the real-world outcome of one specific project.

The goddess hates that because it shows that we have misapprehended the nature of her alliance with us and of our apprenticeship in her service.


            “Keep working.”


The pro athlete who gets cut from his team, the ballerina who is let go by her dance company … both must go home and IMMEDIATELY begin training for their next job. The sent-down wide receiver must head over to the local college and recruit one of the young quarterbacks to work with him, alone and at night if necessary, throwing passes on the practice field, letting him run routes, helping him keep his technique sharp. The ballet dancer must sign up for class at once, continue her strength training, keep up her barre work.

For you and me, finishing Book #1 (or #21) means only plunging in immediately on #2 or #22.

We have to.

That’s the law.


            “Keep working.”


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

Writing Wednesdays

The Difference Between Heroes and Villains

By Steven Pressfield | Published: November 22, 2017


We’ve seen in prior posts that villain and hero are often opposite sides of the same coin.

Villain or hero? Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in the 1978 "Blade Runner"

Villain or hero? Rutger Hauer as Roy Batty in the 1978 “Blade Runner”

Hero believes X; Villain believes Opposite-of-X.

Hero seeks Outcome X; Villain seeks Outcome Opposite-of-X.

Does this mean the Good Guy and the Bad Guy are equivalent?

Is the hero really no “better” than the heavy; he just happens to believe something different?

What separates the Good Guy from the Bad Guy (at least some of the time) is the Good Guy is capable of sacrificing himself for the good of others.

In fact, the climax of many great stories is exactly that.

Bogey puts Ingrid on the plane to Lisbon.

Huck Finn tears up the letter that he believes will save himself while condemning his friend Jim.

The 300 Spartans die to the last man at Thermopylae.

There are exceptions. “The Guru” (Eduardo Cianelli) in Gunga Din, knowing he can’t escape his captors, steps to brink of the pit of vipers and turns back to face the three British sergeants (Cary Grant, Victor McLaglen, and Douglas Fairbanks, Jr.)



You have sworn to give your lives if necessary for your country, which is England. Well, India is my country, and I can die for it as readily as you can for yours.


And he leaps into the pit.

Which makes us think, “Hmm, maybe the Guru is not the villain after all. Could the villain be England’s unjust colonial domination of India?”

Another seeming villain who sacrifices himself is Roy Batty (Rutger Hauer), the replicant leader in the 1978 Blade Runner. Roy’s choice in the climax on the rooftop of the Bradbury Building is to save the man who is trying to kill him, Blade Runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) while he himself expires of the wound he knows is mortal. [P.S. Here’s the story of Rutger Hauer changing the dialogue the night before the scene was shot.]



I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.


That’s not a villain speech, is it? It’s a hero speech. It tells us (though the filmmakers themselves may not have realized this at the time) that the villain in Blade Runner is not Roy or his fellow replicants Pris (Daryl Hannah), Leon (Brion James) and Zhora (Joanna Cassidy), whose only aim is to survive the four-year life span they’ve been doomed to by their creators, but the idea of manufacturing human-like slaves in the first place. In other words, the villain is Mr. Eldon Tyrell of the Tyrell Corporation—and all those who went along with this concept.

The Seven Samurai are willing to give their lives for the villagers.

Clarice Starling enters Buffalo Bill’s den in pitch blackness to save the killer’s captive, Catherine Martin.

Sydney Carton takes Edward Darnay’s place beneath the guillotine in A Tale of Two Cities.

Those are heroes.

The hero is capable of the ultimate sacrifice.


Posted in Writing Wednesdays

What It Takes

What It Takes

Getting to Zero

By Callie Oettinger | Published: November 17, 2017

Revisiting a post from almost four years ago, after Shawn’s What It Takes columns reminded me that I’d visited Gladwell in the past, too.

Do you know “scat” music’s tipping point—that moment just before it started spreading like wildfire?

The short version is that, though artists had been experimenting for years with the form, scat’s explosion in popularity followed the release of Louis Armstrong’s Heebie Jeebies. In the book Louis Armstrong, in His Own Words, he explained:

The day we recorded “Heebie Jeebies,” I dropped the paper with the lyrics—right in the middle of the tune . . . And I did not want to stop and spoil the record which was moving along so wonderfully . . . So when I dropped the paper, I immediately turned back into the horn and started to Scatting . . . Just as nothing had happened . . . When I finished the record I just knew the recording people would throw it out . . . And to my surprise they all came running out of the controlling booth and said – “Leave that in.”

Look it up online and you’ll find doubters of the story, one theory being that Armstrong invented the story to explain his scatting when the form wasn’t yet widely embraced.

Whatever the truth is, end story is that he did it—he tried something that wasn’t widely accepted and continued on the same path the rest of his life. Whether the walls he faced were built on racial prejudices or on personal hardships, he plowed forward, leaving them crumbling in his path.

What drove him?

Weapons of the Spirit


Posted in What It Takes
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