Month: January 2018

Give Your Villain a Great Villain Speech

By Steven Pressfield | 17 Comments

  I’m a huge fan of Villain Speeches. There’s nothing better in a book or a movie than the moment when the stage is cleared and Satan gets to say his piece.   GORDON GEKKO I am not a destroyer of companies. I am a liberator of them! The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge…

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The Key to It All

By Callie Oettinger | 9 Comments

Sherlock Holmes pays attention. His big details are the ones ignored as little. His knowledge of crimes and human nature come from his own experiences and from books and reports. He reads of wrongdoings, scandals, atrocities and the like, in reports from other countries, and he is a devoted reader of The Times’ “Agony” column. Holmes is fiction, but what he observes is not—nor are his sources. The Times did have an “Agony” column. It’s an aged rabbit hole worth diving into. The personal advertisements that ran in it aren’t so far from what’s found in this online world of ours.…

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Ask Yourself, "What Does the Villain Want?"

By Steven Pressfield | 9 Comments

  For James Bond villains, the answer is easy: world domination. That’s a pretty good want. Here are a few others:   To eat your brain. To eat your liver. To eat you, period.   Or even better:   To destroy your soul. To destroy your soul and laugh about it.   If you’re keeping score, the answers to the above (among others) are 1. All zombie stories, 2. Hannibal Lecter, 3. The shark, the Alien, the Thing, etc., 4. the Body Snatchers, 5. the devil in The Exorcist. Why is Hillary Clinton such an inexhaustible object of hate to…

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Recognizing Opportunity

By Shawn Coyne | 3 Comments

Continuing my musings on the evolution of The Tipping Point, here’s the next installment from… It’s time for Malcolm Gladwell to deliver a fourth piece for The New Yorker. He decides the moment has come to open up that tipping point sardine can that he’s had marinating in the back of his mind’s idea pantry for ten years. The question now becomes how does he make it interesting to a wide audience?

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Give Your Hero a Hero Speech

By Steven Pressfield | 12 Comments

  Let’s take a break today in this series on Villains and turn to the guy or girl opposite him: the Hero. We’ve been saying in these posts that the Antagonist needs to be given a great Villain Speech, a moment when he or she gets to try to convince us that greed is good or that we can’t handle the truth. The hero needs her moment to shine too. It’s our job as writers, yours and mine, to serve up some juicy, soul-defining, U.S. Prime dialogue for our protagonist to deliver. Here’s one of my faves from the movie…

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A Part of Our Lives

By Callie Oettinger | 12 Comments

Boston felt like home. I was in high school when I stepped into Bean Town for the first time, but I already knew Charles St. because I’d traveled it with Robert McCloskey’s Mr. and Mrs. Mallard, and I knew the North Church and Charlestown Shore, because I’d rowed and ridden with Longfellow’s Revere. I knew the city from childhood picture books and history textbooks, books that had been my friends and mentors, offering comfort and instruction. They were a part of my life just as much as any living, breathing teacher or relative. They were a part of me. I…

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Keep the Heavies in Motion

By Steven Pressfield | 5 Comments

This is the second of Stephen Cannell’s axioms (see last week’s post for #1) that Randy Wallace taught me. What Steve meant was not just “Keep the villain active during Act Two,” but “Keep him coming at the hero from as many directions as possible.” This works even for interior villains, for antagonists that reside only inside our characters’ heads. Consider one of my all-time faves, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook. The villain exists only inside Pat Solitano’s (Bradley Cooper) head. It’s his obsession with getting back together with his estranged wife Nikki. The inciting incident of the movie…

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Finding a Voice

By Shawn Coyne | 5 Comments

Here’s another piece from The Story Grid archives about how writers find their voices…using Malcolm Gladwell and the gestation of his wonderful book, The Tipping Point, again as my point of focus. So it’s 1996, about ten and a half years after the party in Washington D.C.’s Mount Pleasant neighborhood in the rented apartment where the young pishers Malcolm Gladwell and Jacob Weisberg formed a lifelong bond. To see just how young these guys were, check out this interview with Weisberg when he was an intern at The New Republic way back in 1986.

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The Second Act Belongs to the Villain, #2

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

  I learned this from my friend Randall Wallace (“Braveheart”), who learned it from Stephen Cannell, the maestro of a thousand plotlines from The Rockford Files to Baretta to 21 Jump Street. What Steve Cannell meant was not that the second act should be packed with scenes of the villain twirling his mustache or plotting in his lair. He meant bring the villain’s effects on the heroes into the foreground and keep them there. Why? Because the havoc and jeopardy incited by the villain energizes the story and keeps it powering forward. The villain in The Godfather (at least the…

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