Month: February 2016

The Magic of Snow (and Emerging Stories)

By Callie Oettinger | 18 Comments

This piece hit about this time two years ago. Bringing it back today as the days grow longer and the snow days (hopefully) shorter.  Ezra Jack Keats clipped a strip of four images from Life magazine in 1940. One child. Four endearing expressions and poses. As the next two decades passed, the little boy in the images remained the same age, with the pursed lips and ballooned cheeks so often worn by children no more than three years old. Bundled up in a long puffy jacket and pants, he lived on Keats’ wall as the artist illustrated one children’s book after…

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The Truth is Out There

By Steven Pressfield | 24 Comments

  As writers we want a big theme. A theme with power and scale. But, even more, we want a theme with depth, a theme that has level after level of meaning. The theme in Jurassic World, we said last week, is “Don’t mess with Mother Nature.” Let’s examine how deep that theme goes. How many levels does it work on? On the surface, on Level #1, what Jurassic’s theme means is “Don’t resurrect and genetically mutate creatures with very large teeth and extremely aggressive carnivorous instincts—and, if you do, pen them up very, very securely.” Level #2 of the…

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Literary and Commercial

By Shawn Coyne | 13 Comments

Five years ago, Steve, Callie, Jeff and I were in the throes of marketing Steve’s novel THE PROFESSION.  In order to attract more people to Steve’s work, and this website, we decided to launch a series of posts called WHAT IT TAKES, with Callie and I trading off on our theories about what it takes to publish and market a book in today’s brave new publishing world. As I’m on my annual goof-off at the beach, I thought it would be fun to revisit one of those early posts.  And guess what?  Things haven’t really changed all that much…  There…

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Chayefsky’s Rule

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

  This is our third post in succession about Theme in movies, plays, and books. I’m probably gonna do another six or seven over the coming weeks, so brace yourself. This stuff is important. Let’s go back to that seminal quote from Paddy Chayefsky, cited two Wednesdays ago.   As soon as I figure out what my play is about, I type it out in one line and Scotch tape it to the front of my typewriter. After that, nothing goes into the play that is not on-theme.   Paddy might not approve if he knew I was about to…

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Girl Scouts, Pot and Thinking Outside the Obvious

By Callie Oettinger | 24 Comments

A Girl Scout in Los Angeles made the LA Times this week for setting up shop outside a pot dispensary. She sold 117 boxes within two hours, almost a box a minute. Let’s pretend for a second that there aren’t adults in favor and adults against this young lady’s location choice — and just look at the location. It’s an example of thinking outside the obvious. For decades Girl Scouts have been going door-to-door throughout their neighborhoods and camping out in front of local grocery stores, Walmarts and other “family friendly” locations. These are the obvious locations — sell where…

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The Difference Between Subject and Theme

By Steven Pressfield | 18 Comments

What do we mean when we say a book or a movie is “about something?” This question is a lot trickier than it seems. Did you see the movie The Break-up, starring Jennifer Aniston and Vince Vaughan? A facile answer regarding this film would be, “It’s about a break-up.” Wrong. The subject is a break-up. The theme is something else entirely. The subject of the Jurassic Park movies is dinosaurs. The theme is, Don’t mess with Mother Nature. The subject of Out of Africa is Karen Blixen’s experiences in Africa. The theme is possession. “Is it possible,” the movie asks,…

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Releasing Your Voice/s

By Shawn Coyne | 12 Comments

Over at the Story Grid Podcast, one of our most popular episodes concerns how writers approach Narrative Device. What exactly is Narrative Device? Narrative Device is the choice the writer makes about the qualities of the being that will “tell the Story.” Should the writer write in the first person? I met a man from Istanbul who had a black moustache.

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What is Your Novel About?

By Steven Pressfield | 50 Comments

  I was talking to a friend who runs a successful Hollywood literary agency. She represents screenwriters. Before she opened her doors, she said, she spent a year doing nothing but reading scripts, searching for promising young writers. She read well over 500 screenplays. “How many,” she asked me, “do you think were worth representing?” Before I could reply, she answered. “None.” I believe her. I’ve read a boatload of screenplays and novel manuscripts myself. Many have interesting, even brilliant premises. Fascinating characters abound; there’s lots of clever dialogue, surprising plot twists, mind-blowing set-pieces. And a lot of what I…

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