Writing Wednesdays

The First Page

By Steven Pressfield | 7 Comments

There’s a terrific book that I often recommend to young writers—The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman. Mr. Lukeman is a long-time agent, editor, and publisher. The thrust of his counsel is this: Most agents and editors make up their minds about submissions within the first five pages. If they spot a single amateur mistake (excess adjectives, “your” instead of “you’re,” “it’s” instead of “its”), your manuscript goes straight into the trash. Grind on those first five pages, says Mr. Lukeman. Make certain they are flawless. I would go further. The make-or-break page, to my mind, is Page One. Even…

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Write It Like a Movie

By Steven Pressfield | 16 Comments

  The men were silent and they did not move often. And the women came out of the houses to stand beside the men—to feel whether this time the men would break … The children stood nearby, drawing figures in the dust with bare toes … Horses came to the watering troughs and nuzzled the water to clear the surface dust. After a while the faces of the watching men lost their bemused perplexity and became hard and angry and resistant. Then the women knew that they were safe and that there was no break.   Feel the power in…

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Little Joe

By Steven Pressfield | 2 Comments

  [Resuming our deep dive into the structure, characters, and theme of the classic 1953 Western, Shane.]   The character of Little Joe or Joey (Brandon deWilde) is worth examining in some detail because he serves so many purposes in the story yet, if you think about it, the core of the drama doesn’t need him at all. The movie is really about the gunfighter Shane (Alan Ladd) and the dynamics between him and Joe Starett (Van Heflin), him and Joe’s wife Marian (Jean Arthur), him and the cattle baron Rufe Ryker (Emile Meyer), and him and the gunslinger Wilson…

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Villain = Resistance

By Steven Pressfield | 37 Comments

  [St. Patrick’s is a special day here at Black Irish Books. So to celebrate, we’re giving special pricing on Black Irish JABS. From now through Sunday, you can get a book every month from me with a $50 discount. Click here to get going: https://blackirishbooks.com/jabs. [And now to today’s post … ]   Every villain is a metaphor for Resistance. I know this sounds all-inclusive to the point of outrageousness, but it’s true. In Jewish mysticism, the negative force (translated by my friend Rabbi Mordechai Finley as “a turning toward evil”) that equates to Resistance is called the “yetzer hara.”…

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Unseen Forces

By Steven Pressfield | 20 Comments

  The tragedies that have come down to us from the ancient Athenian stage often feature as prominent players gods and demi-gods … and such unseen forces as Fate and Destiny. Prophecies are a frequent device, as they are in the Bible. Even in real-life, oracles such as Apollo’s at Delphi made pronouncements that the Greeks took with deadly seriousness—and many in fact proved true.   The wooden wall alone shall preserve you.   Either Sparta will fall or she will lose a king.   In other words, the Greeks believed (and the Book of Ecclesiastes concurs) that man was…

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The Understory

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

  Editors call it “narrative drive.” Writers want it. Readers need it. How do you get it? One way is by skillful use of an Understory. One of my favorite scenes in movies of the past few years is the Frozen Park Bench scene in the first of the Jason Bourne movies—The Bourne Identity. To refresh your memory:   It’s early in the story. We’ve met Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) and learned that he is a young man who has lost his memory. He doesn’t know who he is. He’s an American on his own in Europe, specifically Zurich (where…

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Harvey Keitel’s Villain Speech in “Cop Land”

By Steven Pressfield | 10 Comments

Have you seen the movie Cop Land? It’s a vastly underappreciated 1997 film written and directed by James Mangold, who also did Girl, Interrupted, Walk the Line, and 3:10 to Yuma. The script for Cop Land was good enough to attract Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Anabella Sciorra. It even got Edie Falco (before she became Carmela in The Sopranos) in a no-dialogue, ten-second cameo. But what I like most about it is the Villain Speech. An NYPD cop named Ray Donlan (Harvey Keitel) is the Bad Guy in Cop Land. The story revolves around the…

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“The Moment” with Brian Koppelman

By Steven Pressfield | 17 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 | 17 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 | 18 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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