A Little Less Verbiage Please

Download the Math of Storytelling Infographic

For fun, here’s my post from Tuesday September 15, 2015, “Narrative Altitude,” in graph form.  Wish I could say this was easier to create than the words…

My thanks to Dick Yaeger for the inspiration.


Download the Math of Storytelling Infographic

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About the Author

SHAWN COYNE created, developed, and expanded the story analysis and problem-solving methodology The Story Grid throughout his quarter-century-plus book publishing career. A seasoned story editor, book publisher and ghostwriter, Coyne has also co-authored The Ones Who Hit the Hardest: The Steelers, The Cowboys, the '70s and the Fight For America's Soul with Chad Millman and Cognitive Dominance: A Brain Surgeon's Quest to Out-Think Fear with Mark McLaughlin, M.D. With his friend and editorial client Steven Pressfield, Coyne runs Black Irish Entertainment LLC, publisher of the cult classic book The War of Art. With his friend and editorial client Tim Grahl, Coyne oversees the Story Grid Universe, LLC, which includes Story Grid University and Story Grid Publishing.
Story Grid 101: The Five First Principles of the Story Grid Methodology
by Shawn Coyne
What are the first principles in writing a story that works? At Story Grid, it’s easy to get distracted by the tools, spreadsheets, commandments, macro lense, micro lense, and on and on. However, all of this eventually comes back to five first principles. In Story Grid 101, Story Grid founder Shawn Coyne distills 30 years... Read more »
Paperback: $19.99
Ebook: $0
Audiobook: $14.99
Author Shawn Coyne


Debbie L Kasman says:

Morning, Shawn. I’m sitting here blown away yet again. I was practically speechless when I saw this new post. All I could say was, “Holy cow! Holy cow!” I kept saying it out loud to myself.

I feel deep reverence for what you have created (and for you, of course.)

I’m sure you know but I’m going to say it anyway.

What an amazing post!

peter jakobsen says:

Mr. Shawn Coyne
Dear Sir!

As I told you some time ago you have undertaken a very difficult task. Same did Christoffer Colombus whom the spanisk call Cristóbal Colón.
But he found America. For the indians it has alwayes been there. There are thousinds of books how to write blockbuster novel. It is not just painting by numbers.
The graph on top of the page is a good inspiration, and avoids you from being to wordy.
Personally I am quite happy with The writers Journey, by Christopher Vogler.
I think one have to plan before starting to write. I use blank flash cards I arrange on the table.
I hope your book is stone of the philosophers (Latin: lapis philosophorum) and look forward to read it.
Best regards
Peter Jakobsen

amy says:

Hello Shawn,

Do you find that the “street, city, national, universal” levels apply to most good, dimensional, fiction stories as well? Many thanks!

Shawn Coyne says:

Hi Amy,
I think street level is usually best for fiction. The minute we start flying above the clouds, we begin to lose the attention of the reader. Nonfiction is different of course in that the expectation of the audience when reading nonfiction is completely different than a total immersion in a fictional universe. My advice is to just write from the altitude that comes naturally to you and analyze it later. You may decide to pull focus every now and then and give a wider angle as a third person omniscient narrator. Obviously there’s no easy answer to the question.
Sorry if I’ve confused you further.
All the best

amy says:

I understand. Actually, I probably confused you more. I suppose I meant … when I’m trying to structure fiction stories, I always seem to begin with a strong character personality who’s dealing with an internal emotional component (street); then the character evolves when balanced against other characters (city). The resulting group forms a community, so-to-speak (national), with the ultimate “story” appealing to the universal (essentially, the reader). I am probably analyzing this in a too-funky way or trying to correlate things that shouldn’t be correlated. Apologies. 🙂

Dave LaRoche says:

Note the article in The New Yorker, Sep 14, by John McPhee – staff writer and mulit-book author – who also subscribes to the less-is-more notion. He addresses this under the guise of “omission,” and while his piece ignores that rule substantially, it is an interesting and informative read.


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