Month: August 2016

The #1 Mistake That Writers Make

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

  Ah, back to my favorite subject—theme. The Number One mistake that writers make is they forget that their book or screenplay must be about something. That’s crazy, you say. Of course a story has to be about something. But I can’t tell you how many I’ve read that have no theme, no controlling idea, no unifying narrative and emotional architecture. Which brings us to the next principle in our exploration of Inciting Incidents.   The inciting incident must be on-theme.   Let’s go back to Paper Moon, which we were talking about last week. The theme of the book…

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What Fresh Hell?

By Shawn Coyne | 13 Comments

Forgive me if you’ve heard this one before. I remembered an old joke when I was doing some of the course work for my friend Tim Grahl’s online course, The Productive Writer. I’m taking it to recharge the old writing batteries and learn how to lure the Muse out of hiding more often. Wisely I think, Tim doesn’t start his course with quick fix tactics to get your ass in your writing chair. Instead he starts with getting you to explore why you want to be a writer in the first place. One of the questions he has you answer…

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Study Stuff That Works

By Steven Pressfield | 13 Comments

  I was watching True Grit the other night, the 2010 version with Jeff Bridges as Rooster Cogburn. A couple of weeks earlier I had revisited Paper Moon, one of my all-time faves, with Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal. True Grit and Paper Moon are basically the same movie. The key is in the Inciting Incident. Let’s continue, then, our exploration of the Inciting Incident and how it works to infuse a story with power and narrative drive …   The story’s climax is embedded in the inciting incident.   Last week we talked about the two narrative “poles” that are…

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Louis C.K.: Give It A Minute

By Callie Oettinger | 35 Comments

(Revisiting an old — and favorite — post as summer closes out and I find myself wishing I’d caught a stop on Louis C.K.’s recent tour. . .  ~Callie) In a recent New York Time interview with Louis C.K., Dave Itzkoff commented, “You have the platform. You have the level of recognition.” Louis C.K. replied with a question: “So why do I have the platform and the recognition?” Itzkoff answered, “At this point you’ve put in the time.” Pause after you read Louis C.K.’s follow-up: There you go. There’s no way around that. There’s people that say: “It’s not fair. You…

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What Makes a Reader Keep Turning Pages?

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

We were talking last week about the storytelling concept of the Inciting Incident. We said that this week we’d get into the two “narrative poles” that spring into being the instant this scene is introduced. What we’re talking about here is the architecture of a story. Architecture is not the same as genius. It’s not the unique brilliance that you the writer bring to your dialogue. It’s not the one-of-a-kind twists and spins that you alone can insert into your narrative. It’s not the dazzling characters or relationships that you and only you can deliver. It’s more important than that.…

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The Editor’s Editor

By Shawn Coyne | 14 Comments

Legendary editor/publisher Robert Gottlieb has written his memoir, appropriately titled AVID READER: A Life.  It will be available on September 13 from Farrar, Straus and Giroux. I’ve already pre-ordered my copy.  Here’s the link to get yours. Vanity Fair has published an excerpt which made me long for the career that just never came to be for me.  Imagine having a standing invitation to walk through a magical garden and to let yourself into your neighbor’s home, and then encouraged to climb her back stair case and into her bedroom….to work through some pages of her book project (Seriously!) before…

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Setup and Inciting Incident

By Steven Pressfield | 11 Comments

  The inciting incident happens when the hero acquires an intention. Until then it’s all set-up. Luke Skywalker acquires the intention to fight for the rebel alliance, to become a Jedi knight like his father, to discover his destiny. Mark Watney, alive and alone on Mars, acquires the intention to survive. Liam Neeson in Taken is called to find and rescue his daughter. Rocky to fight the champ. Addie Loggins in Paper Moon to link with her father. At these moments, the story starts. Set-up is over. Drama has begun. One of the great inciting incidents in recent years is that in…

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How to Pitch: Get in the Game

By Callie Oettinger | 8 Comments

In The Science of Hitting, Ted Williams wrote about the importance of keeping his players alert. The dugout, for example, has always been a place in baseball where guys tended to doze. The very fact they’re not playing works against them, so I try to keep them in the game. “What the hell pitch was that? What’s the count?”

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How Does A Story Start?

By Steven Pressfield | 13 Comments

I had been struggling as a screenwriter for about a year when I first heard the concept of the Inciting Incident. Here’s the context from Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t: I took Robert McKee’s class. It was called Screenplay Structure then. The class was three days—half of Friday and all day Saturday and Sunday. It cost $199, I think. [Check out the 2016 version at www.mckeestory.com.] The class was full of other aspiring screenwriters as well as actors and actresses, studio execs and development guys and gals. We were all desperate to find out what made a screenplay work.…

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