Writing Wednesdays

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 | 23 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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Introducing Black Irish JABs

By Steven Pressfield | 15 Comments

For those who can’t wait, here’s the link to get the full story. (Oh, and before I forget, there’s a great Black Irish baseball cap that comes along with the JABs.) But let’s back up first to say what Black Irish JABs are, and how you can use them. How do you learn to write? I mean really. How does an aspiring artist of any kind (or even an accomplished pro) get her ideas onto paper? How does she tell her stories? How does she make it all work? The standard prescription is read read read and write write write.…

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Don’t You Hate It When …

By Steven Pressfield | 13 Comments

Don’t you hate it when sites or stores do “teasers?” I do. They tell you that “something” is coming [maybe they even give you a sneak peek], trying to snag your interest and gin up your anticipation. But then they leave you hanging and don’t tell you what that “something” actually is. I hate that. And I’m gonna do it right now in this post. (Sorry!) Next week, in this Wednesday space, I’ll be introducing a product that Shawn and Callie and I have been working on for more than three years. At various points over that time, we thought…

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Reinforcement and Self-Reinforcement

By Steven Pressfield | 27 Comments

Let me start with an overstatement: For writers and artists, the ability to self-reinforce is more important than talent. What exactly is reinforcement? It’s when your coach or your mentor or your spouse tugs you aside and tells you how well you are doing, and how proud of you they are, and how certain ultimate success is if you just keep doing what you’re doing. That’s reinforcement. What’s self-reinforcement? It’s when you do the exact same thing for yourself. Let me rephrase my original overstatement by quoting my (fictional) literary agent, 96-year-old Marty Fabrikant: “Talent is bullshit. I seen a…

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