Month: June 2017

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

By Callie Oettinger | 12 Comments

Have 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…

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Every Villain is a Metaphor for Resistance

By Steven Pressfield | 18 Comments

  Darth Vader. The Gorgon. Medusa. They and every other villain in myth and literature (and real life) are metaphors for Resistance. Resistance is the universal and ultimate villain. Consider how this monster was described in The War of Art.   1. Resistance is Internal.   It is self-generated and self-perpetuated.   Resistance is Insidious.   Resistance has no conscience. [It] is always lying and always full of shit.   Resistance is Implacable.   It cannot be reasoned with. It is an engine of destruction … implacable, intractable, indefatigable. Reduce it to a single cell and that cell will continue…

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The Magic Pill

By Shawn Coyne | 24 Comments

[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: 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…

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Elements of a Great Villain

By Steven Pressfield | 11 Comments

The shark in Jaws first surfaced in Peter Benchley’s novel in 1974. It’s still scaring the crap out of swimmers from Jones Beach to the Banzai Pipeline. The Alien first burst from John Hurt’s chest in 1979. The Terminator landed in 1984. And how about the Furies (Part Three of Aeschylus’s Oresteia) from 458 BCE? What qualities do these Hall of Fame antagonists have in common? They cannot be reasoned with (Okay, the Furies did have a bit of a soft spot). They cannot be appealed to on the basis of justice, fair play, or the idea of right and wrong.…

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Thank You General Sam

By Callie Oettinger | 9 Comments

(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…

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The Villain Doesn’t Think He’s the Villain

By Steven Pressfield | 11 Comments

  You and I as writers, when we want to create a really dastardly Bad Guy, may find ourselves conjuring a mustache-twirling, Simon Legree-esque, Filthy McNasty ogre, tying an innocent damsel to a railroad track. But remember, the villain doesn’t see himself as the villain. From his point of view, he’s the good guy. To him, the real villain in the story is the hero. Consider this all-time-great Villain Speech, written by Aaron Sorkin and delivered to such memorable effect by Jack Nicholson as Marine colonel Nathan R. Jessup in A Few Good Men. When you read these lines (which…

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Story Grid Foolscapping The Tipping Point

By Shawn Coyne | 1 Comment

Here is our progress so far on our Foolscap Global Story Grid for The Tipping Point.

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Give a Star a Star Speech

By Steven Pressfield | 8 Comments

  Actors will admit it, if you ask: the first time they read a script, some part of them is scanning it for a great speech they can deliver. A star speech. A speech that says, “This is my movie (or my book).” It’s our job as writers, yours and mine, to give that star a star speech. A star speech can be long. I believe in the small of a woman’s back, the hanging curveball, high fiber, good Scotch … I believe that the novels of Susan Sontag are self-indulgent overrated crap. I believe Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.…

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The Value of Words

By Callie Oettinger | 17 Comments

Numbers are concrete. Unless they’re being manipulated by a slug, I don’t look at “2” and wonder if it is really “4.” I know that the absolute value of 2—whether it has a negative sign in front of it or not—is still 2, because numbers are ultimately about distance. Both 2 and -2 take up two spaces on the number line, whether I’m moving forward or backward.

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