Month: December 2016

The Power of Negative Thinking

By Shawn Coyne | 18 Comments

[I’ll return to my Love Story mini-series in my next What it Takes post in the new year.  In the meantime, this oldy by goody from 2015 is worth another look.] So just how do you take your story to the end of the line…to the limits of human experience? The storyteller needs a tool to not only understand this concept, but to evaluate whether or not they have successfully done so. And if you’re writing a big story, you have to go to the end of the line. The trick to figuring out how to do that is discovering…

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Shawn’s Question

By Steven Pressfield | 12 Comments

  In the Comments to an earlier post in this series, “Using Your Real Life in Fiction,” Shawn wrote:   My question, which I think a lot of writers will have is this … Do you deliberately think of this stuff re: characters and their thematic roles, before you write your first draft? Or do you save this analytical/editor thinking for later? And then go back and tighten it all up?   Great question, pard. Lemme answer with a confession of exactly how dumb I am. A few years ago I wrote a novel called Killing Rommel. (No, it was…

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Do This

By Callie Oettinger | 12 Comments

Bruce Springsteen has a memoir out — and interviews have followed its release like B pursuing A. During an interview for PBS’s “Newshour,” Jeffrey Brown brought up Springsteen’s voice. Jeffrey Brown: You write about your voice. You say, about my voice, “First of all, I don’t have much of one.”

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Detach Yourself From Everybody

By Steven Pressfield | 13 Comments

(You guys, as of this post we’ll revert to the every-Wednesday mode for the remainder of the “Use Your Real Life in Fiction” series. I hope this recent barrage of Mon-Wed-Fri posts hasn’t clogged up too many friendly inboxes. I just got excited about this subject and couldn’t help myself.) We were talking in the previous post about killing off characters. We observed that this can be hard when the characters are based on people in our real lives. Can we kill off our best friend? Our neighborhood priest? Our mother? Answer Number One: We have to, if the drama demands…

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Killing Off Characters

By Steven Pressfield | 12 Comments

(Tune in to Writing Wednesdays on the next few Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the continuation of the series “Using Your Real Life in Fiction” — and for more of The Knowledge‘s backstory.) We were talking in the previous post about making the stakes of our real-life story life and death. Sometimes that’s hard to do. As writers working with our real lives as material, we can be naturally reluctant, say, to kill off a character we actually know. Our ex-husband? Our boss? Our mom? I’m sure you’re ahead of me on this. I’m about to say, “Kill ’em dead.” Whack ’em. Knock…

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Make the Stakes Life-and-Death

By Steven Pressfield | 4 Comments

(Tune in to Writing Wednesdays on the next few Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the continuation of the series “Using Your Real Life in Fiction” — and for more of The Knowledge‘s backstory.) Our Most Dreaded Outcome in crafting fiction based on our real lives is that the story will be too internal, too ordinary, too boring. Life is internal. Life is ordinary. Life is boring. And don’t forget our first axiom of the Lit Biz: Nobody Wants To Read Your Sh*t. How can we make our real-life story dramatic, involving, and exciting? I’ll answer by quoting my old mentor Ernie Pintoff: “Have a body…

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Starting Your Real-Life Story

By Steven Pressfield | 1 Comment

(Tune in to Writing Wednesdays on the next few Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the continuation of the series “Using Your Real Life in Fiction” — and for more of The Knowledge‘s backstory.) Let’s talk about the inciting incident in The Knowledge. It’s an interesting question because how do you identify an inciting incident in your real life? Is there a true, real-world event? Do you make it up? And if you do, how do you know what to make up? The inciting incident in The Knowledge comes on page 29, the first page of “Book Two, The Turk.” Everything before that is…

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Two Paragraphs

By Steven Pressfield | 23 Comments

(Tune in to Writing Wednesdays on the next few Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays for the continuation of the series “Using Your Real Life in Fiction” — and for more of The Knowledge‘s backstory.) Two paragraphs on pages 140-141 are what The Knowledge was about for me. That was the payload. The other 273 pages are just the narrative architecture to carry what’s in those few lines. Remember our earlier series on this blog called “Why I Write?” My biggest reason, at least for my early (unpublished) books, was I was writing out of pain. Pain and guilt. Pain and remorse. I can’t prove…

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Pick a Genre and Run With It

By Steven Pressfield | 14 Comments

(Tune in to Writing Wednesdays this Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for the continuation of the series “Using Your Real Life in Fiction” — and for more of The Knowledge‘s backstory.) The problem with real life is it’s messy. It doesn’t fit into neat categories. But if you and I are going to use our real lives as material for fiction, we have to do just that. We have to wrangle it. We have to bring it under control. We have to pick a story category, i.e. a genre, and make our real-life narrative work within that genre. Or put another way, we…

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My Cat, Teaspoon

By Steven Pressfield | 28 Comments

(Tune in to Writing Wednesdays this Friday and Monday for the continuation of the series “Using Your Real Life in Fiction” — and for more of The Knowledge‘s backstory.) When we as writers use our real life in fiction, we tend to use real-life personalities too. One of the big ones in The Knowledge is my cat, Teaspoon. My real-life cat was named Mo. I changed the name for a reason, which I’ll get into below. But first let’s flash back [see Chapter 52 in Nobody Wants to Read Your Sh*t] to one of the seminal principles of story-telling: Every character must…

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