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




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What It Takes

What It Takes

The Professor, The Artist, The Writer, And The Dots

By Callie Oettinger | Published: June 30, 2017

Real Artists Don't StarveHave you ever experienced a lightning strike when reading a book, listening to a song, or staring at a painting?

That thing that’s been hanging in the background emerges with a clear path ahead of it. You know what to do—how to paint that portrait, how to sing that song, how to frame that book. It’s as if all the ideas in the universe came together at that moment to clear the way for one big idea—an idea that relied on you being in that exact place and time.

This line from F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Last Tycoon fueled a “What It Takes” article last year:

“I can always tell people are nice,” the stewardess said approvingly, “if they wrap their gum in paper before they put it in there.”

This week I’ve been going back and forth between Haruki Murakami’s Norwegian Wood and Jeff Goins’ Real Artists Don’t Starve.

Norwegian Wood by Haruki MurakamiToward the beginning of Norwegian Wood lives a spin on that old “you are what you eat” saying:

“If you only read the books that everyone else is reading, you can only think what everyone else is thinking.”

I typed it into my file of lines—those strands of words that double as defibrillators for my brain. When I stall, a read of those lines gets the noggin’ pumping again.

So it was with that line in my head that I started reading Real Artists Don’t Starve.

The back cover says the book debunks the myth of the starving artist.

While that might be what it is about, the book itself is an example of connecting the dots, which is what Greats do best. (more…)

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What It Takes

What It Takes

The Magic Pill

By Shawn Coyne | Published: June 23, 2017

[Today’s “What It Takes” is from the vault, coming to you via July 24, 2015]

If there is one question that I get asked again and again and again, it’s this:

Until these guys win the inner war for us, we're useless

Is there a resource available that lists all of the conventions and obligatory scenes of each and every genre?

The short answer to this is “not that I’m aware of.”

I have a theory about why we all want such a Story “cheat sheet” which I’ll get into later.

But I can absolutely understand why ambitious writers at the start of their careers (and those who’ve been mining the Micro worlds of writing for their respective 10,000 hours too) would appreciate such a resource. (more…)

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What It Takes

What It Takes

Thank You General Sam

By Callie Oettinger | Published: June 15, 2017

(In 2010 we ran the interview below with General Samuel Vaughan Wilson. In the years that followed, I found myself sitting on General Sam’s front porch, listening to his stories and wandering through the fields and woods surrounding his home. His obituary in the Washington Post this past week shared highlights of his military and intel career. While I spent days listening to stories from those periods of his life, to me he will always be more teacher than soldier or “spymaster.” He believed in, and devoted his life to, his country, and then gave every lesson he learned to the generations that followed. I was never surprised to find people, particularly previous students from Hampden-Sydney College dropping in unannounced. He taught through story, something we talk about here all the time. In his case he had some extraordinary stories to tell, all with lessons of leadership and hard work, and doing what’s right over what’s easy. He also cared. He gave so much of his life to others. I’m blessed to have been gifted even a minute of that life. I miss him, but I see him clear as day in my memory. He’ll always be on his front porch, sitting in his rocker, with his beloved German Shepherd Max at his side.  His work isn’t done – it’s simply in the care of others. Thank you General Sam. ~Callie) 

General Sam Wilson has accomplished more in his lifetime than many of us dare to dream about. He served as a reconnaissance officer with Merrill’s Marauders in Burma, during WWII; as a CIA spy-ring operator in Berlin, uncovering Soviet secrets; as a director of instruction at the U.S. Army Special Warfare School; as a civilian working with USAID in Vietnam and then in the personal rank of minister at the U.S. Embassy in Saigon; and then back in the military, as a Special Forces Group Commander, followed by an assignment as the Assistant Commandant at the U.S. Army’s JFK Institute for Military Assistance (now the U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare School); then Assistant Division Commander for Operations in the 82nd Airborne Division; as chief defense attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Moscow; as a director of the Defense Intelligence Agency; as Deputy to the Director Central Intelligence for the Intelligence Community; as one of the founders of the U.S. Special Operations forces and one of the creators of the Army’s Delta Force; and as a teacher and ultimately president of Hampden-Sydney College.

SP: One of the questions that I’ve been asked as a writer, and which I’ve asked others is: Where do your ideas come from? Often, people say that their ideas come via experiences leading them to a certain point, or a Muse or other source. When I read about your career—that you joined the military at 16, and that you were teaching counter-insurgency by 19, I wondered about where your ideas came from. A hallmark of your career, indeed your life, is outside-the-box thinking. How did a 16 year-old, three years later, find himself creating and teaching strategies with which today’s senior leaders still struggle?

SW: The most important influence on my thinking processes came from my parents during my growing up period. I was born and raised on a 150 acre farm—tobacco, corn, wheat—in Southside Virginia (hard by the Saylers Creek Battleground, where the Army of Northern fought its last fight.) My parents were readers, and they imbued us Wilson children with a deep love of books. My mother had been a public school teacher, and she saw to it that I—along with my older sister and three brothers—took the business of learning seriously, including what we learned in Sunday school and church, where she was my first Sunday school teacher. She taught us Wilson children discipline, self-control and how to think logically.

My father, on the other hand, fired our imaginations with his stories, songs and poetry, and helped us see things in life and in our environment in general that we otherwise would surely have missed. From an early age, we worked with him in the fields and woods, and around the farmyard, and he kept our morale up and our spirits high with his jingles and stories, many of them made up on the spot right out of the thin air. In a draft for my memoirs, titled Galahad II: A Country Boy Goes to War, I wrote:

“His mastery of ad-lib storytelling was legendary around the community. Boys from the neighborhood would frequently drop in for free haircuts—he was an expert barber. As often as not, they would be accompanied by buddies who had come along for the tale telling that came with the shearing. The whole group would sit there open-mouthed, mesmerized by the colorful nature tales of foxes, ‘possums, coon dogs, stories of hunting and fishing, of goblins and ‘hants, watermelon heists, red-tailed hawks, and river owls calling at night along the Appomattox. He gave distinct personalities to birds and animals and made them come alive. He could create more tension and drama than anyone I have ever listened to out of such subjects as a creaking door in an abandoned old farm house or strange footprints on a river sandbar in the pre-dawn mist. We would sit entranced for hours on the front porch on moonlit summer nights or by a glowing fireside during the cold of winter, listening as he spun yarn after yarn, making up his stories as he went along…”

There is no question but that my own ability, such as it is, to see things that are not there and then picture them for others to see is greatly aided by the heritage of my father.


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