Steven Pressfield

“The Moment” with Brian Koppelman

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

I almost never do interviews. But I went out of my way to do three, in New York, over the past ten days. I’m gonna take this post to talk about the first one, with Brian Koppelman, on his podcast, “The Moment.” Here’s the link via Stitcher (though you can listen in other ways too.) Have you heard of Brian? He’s one of the co-creators (as well as a showrunner and writer) of Billions, in its fourth season on Showtime. He’s also a screenwriter and director, a former music industry exec and producer, and a lot of other stuff. He…

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The Villain and the Shadow

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

“Shadow” is a term used most commonly in Jungian therapy and inner work. It means that part of our psyche that we have repressed, usually out of shame and the refusal to admit that such elements (the regret that we had children, say, or the rage we carry against “good” or honorable entities) are part of us. We’re ashamed of our shadow. We don’t want to see it. We reject it. We deny its existence. We banish it from our self-conception. “Shadow work” in the Jungian sense is the introspection that shines a light on these repressed parts of ourselves and allows…

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Introducing Shane

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

  I love the movie Shane. In my opinion it’s the greatest Western ever, surpassing even The Searchers and The Wild Bunch and High Noon, not to mention Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and Unforgiven. I’m aware that many reading this post have not seen Shane, or may not have even heard of it. The film did come out in 1953, which is, I admit, a few years ago. So I understand. Nonetheless, if you’ll forgive me, let me make a pitch here and now for Shane, the classic Western starring Alan Ladd, Van Heflin, Jean Arthur, Brandon deWilde…

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The Villain Adapts, but Does Not Change

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

  Consider the Alien. It adapts but does not change. It starts out (I’m thinking of the 1979 Alien, directed by Ridley Scott) as an egg. OMG, it springs onto the visor of Kane’s (John Hurt) space helmet! Wait … now it’s an ugly, tentacled blob attached to his face. Hold on—it just leapt out of his chest and scurried out of the room! It’s medium-sized … It’s bleeding acid-blood! It’s huge! The villain adapts. It comes after the hero in protean forms, from all directions, using all kinds of ploys and stratagems. The Thing. Species. Human villains too keep…

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Kurosawa on Villains

By Steven Pressfield | 21 Comments

  We were talking last week about how the villain never changes. The hero does. But never the Bad Guy. Here’s Lawrence Kasdan (Body Heat, The Big Chill, The Accidental Tourist, not to mention Raiders of the Lost Ark, Return of the Jedi, etc.) quoted in a 1991 article in the L.A. Times: “(Akira) Kurosawa, the greatest director who ever lived, said that villains have arrived at what they’re going to be . . . that’s their flaw, but that heroes evolve–they’re open to change and growth.” Kasdan in this context was referring to his own aspirations as a moviemaker.…

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The Villain Doesn’t Change

By Steven Pressfield | 17 Comments

  The craziest working arrangement I ever had in the screenwriting biz was when I worked for a producer I’ll call Joan Stark. Joan insisted that I write in her office. I had to come in every day. Joan gave me a little cubbyhole beside the photocopy machine. I’d work on pages all morning and half the afternoon. Then we’d meet and Joan would go over the day’s work and give me corrections. Every day she had problems with the same character—the villain. She kept making me rewrite his scenes. One day I asked why. What mistake was I making?…

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The “B” Story Rides to the Rescue of the “A” Story

By Steven Pressfield | 7 Comments

We touched briefly in last week’s post upon the idea that the “B” story “rides to the rescue” of the “A” story, usually at the start of Act Three. Let’s examine this principle in more detail.

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“A” Story and “B” Story

By Steven Pressfield | 8 Comments

  In the movie biz there’s a terminology: “A” Story and “B” Story. (There’s also a “C,” “D,” and “E” story.) This is an interesting concept that has carry-overs for us in the fiction world. Nonfiction too. The “A” story is the main story, the story in the foreground. In Moby Dick the “A” story is Ahab’s pursuit of the whale. In The Bourne Identity, it’s Jason Bourne’s search for who he really is. In To Kill a Mockingbird it’s Atticus Finch’s endeavor to save Tom Robinson. The “B” story is the secondary story, the story in the background. In many…

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Our Characters and Ourselves

By Steven Pressfield | 23 Comments

I’ve been thinking about an obscure point of storytelling, and I wonder if this isn’t something that a lot of us have been aware of but maybe haven’t thought about too deeply. (I’m gonna get a little writer-wonky in this post, so please bear with me.) We know as fiction writers that our story (Act One) starts in “the Ordinary World.” Then something happens (the Inciting Incident) that propels our hero out of her or his everyday life and into “the Extraordinary World.” Dorothy is whisked away from Kansas, Luke bolts from the planet Tatooine, Wonder Woman leaves the island…

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Welcome, JABs Subscribers!

By Steven Pressfield | 5 Comments

Thanks and welcome to everybody who leapt off the cliff with us and signed up to receive a year’s worth of Black Irish JABs. The response has been beyond our hopes. Thank you! To anyone still teetering on the fence, lemme take today’s post to give you the old-fashioned hard sell. (Then I’ll stop, I promise.) On second thought, let me just list the titles and premises of some of this year’s coming JABs: JAB #1 (December): How Does a Story Start? This one’s about the Inciting Incident of a novel or a movie. It talks about the hero acquiring…

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