Steven Pressfield Blog

The Villain Doesn’t Change, Part Two

It’s unfortunate that the term “McGuffin”—meaning that thing that the Villain wants—sounds so dopey. Unfortunate because there’s a lot of meat to this idea. I suspect Alfred Hitchcock, the person we associate most with the term McGuffin, wanted the name to sound silly. In his mind it didn’t matter what the McGuffin was—the nuclear codes, the letters of transit, the briefcase in Pulp Fiction. All that mattered for him was that the villain wanted it. But the idea that the villain wants something—that he or she has an object of desire—is a topic worth examining in greater detail. We’ve said in…

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The Kind of Crazy We Want

We said in a previous post, “Pick the idea that’s craziest.” But what exactly do we mean by “crazy?” Here’s what we DON’T mean: We don’t mean pick a prospective project that’s ridiculous or absurd or so weird or personal or self-indulgent that there’s no chance of it finding an audience. What we do mean is,   Free your thinking from conventionality. Don’t second-guess your potential readers, and especially don’t think down to them. Don’t pick the idea you imagine they’ll like, or believe they’ll respond to. Pick the idea you like, even if (especially if) it doesn’t seem commercial. By “crazy,”…

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The Life We’ve Chosen

I’m gonna take a tiny break from our mini-series about Villains to share a blog post from my friend Seth Godin. Why? Because I think Seth has described in a few short lines the Writer’s Life (or any artist’s life) in a way that nails it like nothing I’ve ever seen. Seth’s blog, by the way, is my go-to. It’s the first one I read every morning. I can’t recommend it highly enough.   THE SOLO MARATHON The usual marathons, the popular ones, are done in a group. They have a start time. A finish line. A way to qualify. A route….

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The Non-Zero-Sum Character

  Here, in no particular order, is a sampling of real-life non-zero-sum characters. Jesus of Nazareth The 300 Spartans at Thermopylae

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The Villain Speech in “Vice”

We said in last week’s post that the Villain sees the world as a zero-sum game. This is a corollary to another aspect of the classic antagonist’s view of life as a war of all-against-all. To re-quote Colonel Nathan Jessup (Jack Nicholson) from Aaron Sorkin’s A Few Good Men: COLONEL JESSUP Son, we live in a world that has walls, and those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? … I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the…

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To the Villain, It’s a Zero-Sum Game

The definition of a zero-sum game is if one side wins, the other side loses. Whatever proportion of goodies Player A takes, by that exact amount is Player B’s stake diminished. In a zero-sum equation, if I take a slice of the pie, there’s that much less for you. This is the how the Villain in our stories sees the world. In Margin Call, written and directed by J.C. Chandor, the executives at a major investment bank realize, over one long dramatic night, that their trading model is fatally flawed. The instant “the Street” gets word of this, the firm…

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Pulp Heroes

I was watching the movie Logan on TV last night. Do you know it? It’s one of the X-Men flicks, starring Hugh Jackman as “the Wolverine,” though in this story he’s the more human-ish version of that character, called “Logan.” I’ve actually watched this movie about ten times. A lot of writers would turn up their noses at this species of pulp-y fare, but I really love it … and I learn a lot because these are the kinds of stories that work. The heroes work. The villains work. The stories work. I was studying the character of Logan/Wolverine. It…

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The Blank Page is Not Neutral

It seems so harmless, doesn’t it? A simple sheet of 8 1/2-by-11 bond that you and I roll into our typewriter (or the equivalent empty screen on our laptop.) What could possibly go wrong? (Other than terminal procrastination, paralysis by perfectionism, self-doubt, self-loathing, self-recrimination, self-hatred, not to mention terminal existential dread, panic, hysteria, flatulence, bad breath, dandruff, and the uncontrollable desire to drink, smoke, vape, fly to Katmandu, and have a mad self-destructive affair with the first person that says hello.)   The blank page is not neutral.   If we think of it in combat terms, that empty sheet…

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The Gods Rule by Acclaim

  Did you see Oliver Stone’s 2004 movie, Alexander, about Alexander the Great? Indeed it was not one of Mr. Stone’s best, as I suspect he himself would admit if we got him drunk enough. But the film did have a great one-sheet promo line: Fortune favors the bold. (The phrase comes from a Latin proverb, variously rendered as audentes Fortuna iuvat and Fortuna audaces iuvat among others.) Here’s a true story of Alexander from Diodorus and other ancient sources: When he was preparing to march out from Macedonia to commence his assault on the Persian Empire, Alexander called the…

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“B” Speaks for “A”

Quick announcement… For years, people have asked me, “When are you going to do an in-person speaking gig about The War of Art, Resistance, etc.?” I’ve always said no. But a part of me never stopped thinking, “Well, maybe one day … “ Short version: That day has come. It’ll be an intimate event, informal, just one day — September 15 in Nashville. I’m going to talk about the artist’s inner world (or at least my own), the self-discipline, the source of creativity, and the interior war that we all have to fight to bring our books and ideas into…

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DO THE WORK

Steve shows you the predictable Resistance points that every writer hits in a work-in-progress and then shows you how to deal with each one of these sticking points. This book shows you how to keep going with your work.