Month: November 2017

"Keep Working"

By Steven Pressfield | 31 Comments

  [I’m gonna interrupt this series on Villains for a quick “Bulletin from the Trenches.”]   When I first came out to Hollywood from New York and I was scuffling around desperately for employment, I wound up doing a couple of small writing jobs for the director Ernie Pintoff. Ernie was a seasoned pro (he had actually won an Oscar for a short subject, titled The Critic). My frantic state was very clear to Ernie and, one day after we had finished work, he drew up and gave me a look that told me he was about to impart some serious…

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The Difference Between Heroes and Villains

By Steven Pressfield | 14 Comments

  We’ve seen in prior posts that villain and hero are often opposite sides of the same coin. Hero believes X; Villain believes Opposite-of-X. Hero seeks Outcome X; Villain seeks Outcome Opposite-of-X. Does this mean the Good Guy and the Bad Guy are equivalent? Is the hero really no “better” than the heavy; he just happens to believe something different? What separates the Good Guy from the Bad Guy (at least some of the time) is the Good Guy is capable of sacrificing himself for the good of others. In fact, the climax of many great stories is exactly that.…

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Getting to Zero

By Callie Oettinger | 29 Comments

Revisiting a post from almost four years ago, after Shawn’s What It Takes columns reminded me that I’d visited Gladwell in the past, too. Do you know “scat” music’s tipping point—that moment just before it started spreading like wildfire? The short version is that, though artists had been experimenting for years with the form, scat’s explosion in popularity followed the release of Louis Armstrong’s Heebie Jeebies. In the book Louis Armstrong, in His Own Words, he explained: The day we recorded “Heebie Jeebies,” I dropped the paper with the lyrics—right in the middle of the tune . . . And…

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Start With the Villain

By Steven Pressfield | 11 Comments

  There’s an axiom among screenwriters:   Start at the end.   What they mean is, “Figure out your climax first (Ripley blasts the Alien into outer space; Moby Dick takes Ahab down to the depths), then work backwards to figure out what you need to make this climax work. I’m a big believer in this way of working—and its corollary:   Start with the villain.   Once we’ve got Anton Chighur (Javier Bardem in the movie), we’ve got No Country for Old Men licked. Once we’ve got Hannibal Lecter, we’re halfway home in The Silence of the Lambs. It’s…

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The Context of No Context

By Shawn Coyne | 9 Comments

Before Malcolm Gladwell’s re-invigoration of the “Big Idea” work of nonfiction sprang from the pages of The New Yorker, the in house writer who owned the crown of putting forth a big think piece with aplomb was George W. S. Trow.  Here’s a post from about Trow’s prophetic distillation of what ails us today. We’ve all had experiences like this.

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Everybody Loves the Bad Guy

By Steven Pressfield | 4 Comments

  Shakespeare, Milton and Dante all understood villains. They loved villains. Their villains are their greatest creations. The Bible is loaded with spectacular villains, as are all cultural myths from the Mahabharata to the Epic of Gilgamesh to the saga of Siegfried. Great villains eclipse even the heroes who vanquish them. Flash Gordon was a pale shadow alongside Ming the Merciless. Clarice Starling was cool, but who could forget Hannibal Lecter? The villain not only steals Paradise Lost but walks off with the most unforgettable line.   SATAN Better to reign in hell than serve in heaven.   Film directors…

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I Solemnly Swear to Tell the Whole Truth

By Callie Oettinger | 10 Comments

In 2006, I was named Time Magazine’s person of the year. Imagine my surprise—especially since I didn’t find out until three years later, in 2009. Around the 2009 period, a blogger entered my world like a fly at a picnic. I noticed him circling a few times, then he seemed to be everywhere—and not in a good way—so I checked out his bio. It said he was Time Magazine’s person of the year for 2006.

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Nothing New After Act Two

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

  One of story checkmarks you learn writing for the movies is   Every main character should be introduced in Act One.   This precept is probably not as critical for novels, where we have more time for the story to unfold and for new faces to appear. But it still seems to me a good rule. Get everybody onstage early. (Including key props and concepts like the ’66 Ford Thunderbird convertible that Thelma and Louise will have their adventures in and the Tyrell Corporation’s invention of the latest series of replicants.) The last thing we want is for some…

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