Editor Roundtable: Cloud Atlas

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For Season Four, Anne is studying complex story forms. To start us off on a really complex note, she pitched Cloud Atlas.

Cloud Atlas, released in 2012, is a fantasy film on a reincarnation theme, directed by Lilly Wachowski from a screenplay she wrote with Lana Wachowski and Tom Tyker, based on the 2004 novel of the same name by David Mitchell.

The rest of us explore different aspects of this complex story to help Anne and everyone else understand how, when, where and why a writer might want to use this kind of narrative form—and whether anyone should.

 

The Principle:

Anne

The goal of our podcast this season is to examine a single story principle of interest to our own writing. Complex story structures were my choice and boy was this a humdinger of a first shot.

I went to sleep last night after immersion in movie thinking I’m just not strong enough or creative enough to structure a story like this. I should just write a straight linear narrative like I’ve done before. I quit.

Why? Because the structure is alienating. It’s difficult. I’ll say up front that this movie pushes the boundary of what it’s possible for a movie audience to absorb. Paradoxically, the Wachowskis had to make the movie more complicated than the novel for it to work.

But did I enjoy it? Yes. Loved the book, thought the movie was pretty good. Both were intriguing, moving in ways that a straight linear narrative couldn’t have.

Because of the way the movie is arranged, it’s really hard to pinpoint a global beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff, so I’m not even going to try. Each of the six stories has the expected structure…more or less. But the novel overall doesn’t.

Genre: The overarching, connecting story is a Pandora’s box about the decline of the human species through escalating disasters caused by our own worst traits, with hope and courage coming out at the very end as love survives among a rag-tag remnant of humanity. It FEELS more like Morality, with Humankind transcending itself–maybe, barely–when individuals overcome their greed or cowardice and become ready to sacrifice all for the whole human race.

One thing’s clear, though. This movie is made up of six separate but intertwined stories, each with its own genre. Here are the stories in chronological order.

Adam Ewing, in the course of a long Pacific voyage, encounters a Moriori man who has escaped slavery. He saves the Moriori’s life while being doctored to death by an unscrupulous quack, then is saved in turn by the Moriori, and by the time he arrives home, he has a new understanding of slavery and devotes his life to abolition. Genre: Worldview Maturation in a historical, age-of-sail setting. Style: epistolary.

Robert Frobisher is forced to flee the country and leave his boyfriend behind because he’s such a profligate that everyone’s after him for money he owes. After duping his way into the household of a great but fading composer, he begins his own great composition, which the old composer wants to take credit for. Forced to flee again after a contretemps with the composer, Frobisher elects to take his own life, and his great composition just barely survives. Genre: Morality, probably Testing Surrender, with a love story subplot, in a realistic LGBTQ historical setting between the world wars. Style: epistolary.

Luisa Rey, daughter of a great investigative journalist, is assigned by her gossip rag of a magazine to investigate dubious doings at a nuclear power plant. She discovers a report alleging that the plant has been designed to fail and cause havoc, cementing the oil industry’s hold over the US, and is nearly assassinated for smuggling the report out. It’s not clear whether the report makes any difference, because the release of scandalous information rarely does, but someone eventually writes a novel based on her adventures. Genre: Crime, Journalism, in a fairly recent, realistic historical setting. Style: straight dramatic narrative.

Publisher Timothy Cavendish has kept all the proceeds from a bestselling book by a murderer, and now the murderer’s criminal family members want their share. Forced to flee, he winds up at a remote hotel which turns out to be a sort of old-folks’ prison, where he schemes with other senior citizens to break out. They escape, and Timothy is able to resume his life. Genre: I think Crime/Caper, a comedic prison break story in a realistic contemporary setting.

Sonmi 451 is a cloned human slave in a future, environmentally ravaged, totalitarian Korea. When a resistance group frees her, hoping to make her the first self-aware clone, she learns that she is just as fully human as anyone. The totalitarian government recaptures and executes her, but not before she broadcasts the message that clones are human too. Genre: Society/Political, in a future fantasy, science fiction setting. Style: also epistolary.

Zachry is a simple goatherd living on the Big Island in a distant post-apocalyptic future where Hawaii is one of the last places on earth with surviving humans. When a member of a more sophisticated surviving group arrives with some high technology, he agrees to accompany her to the moldering ancient observatory at the summit of Mauna Kea. There she activates a communications array which sends out a signal for help to a human colony on another planet. Help arrives and Zachry survives to found a large family of humans on the distant world. Genre: Action Adventure with a strong Worldview secondary, in a fantastic future world. The narrative device of an oral history, a long yarn told around the campire, stands out.

And that’s it. That’s the novel, that’s the movie.

Any one of the six stories makes a novella. Any one of them COULD have been expanded into a fully fleshed out novel, each with an entirely different and fairly mainstream audience.

So why didn’t David Mitchell do that? He could have had six novels out of all his research and creativity.

Well, he’s not that novelist. He wanted to test the boundaries of story structure, see how far he could push them till story broke. He apparently wanted to explore the theme of flawed human nature, and examine whether, over a long time span, our selfless or our selfish side wins. His conclusion seems to be that hope and goodness live on to the very end, but barely, and the fight never stops.

And the Wachowskis aren’t those filmmakers. No single one of the six stories in Cloud Atlas would have presented an adequate subject of exploration for the team who brought us The Matrix, who failed spectacularly with Jupiter Ascending, and eventually fleshed out a lot of these same ideas with their Netflix series Sense8.

More than that, though, each story is—arguably—elevated from its ordinary state to something greater and more intriguing by the thread that connects them. I can’t call it a plot–it’s a bit too slim and inconclusive in the novel to be called a plot. It’s more of a thematic through-line, a controlling idea.

To become a movie, that thin thread had to be thickened a lot. The Wachowskis sprinkle the telltale comet-shaped birthmark liberally—every protagonist in the movie has it, where in the novel I think we see it only three times, total, in all the lifetimes. In the movie, every single character recurs, reincarnated from story to story in fairly obvious fashion, played by the same actors in the most remarkable and weird array of makeup and accents you’ve ever seen. In the novel, the recurrence is much less obvious.

Where the novel is actually told more or less chronologically, the movie splits the six stories into so many different pieces that I lost count at 120. I spent hours trying to figure out why the filmmakers made the choices they made about where to start each story and when to split them up, and came to no absolute conclusions.

Suffice it to say that David Mitchell himself thought his novel was unfilmable, and agreed that the Wachowskis had to do much of what they did in order to make the story accessible to the size of audience necessary to support such a high budget production.

So what have I learned from from Cloud Atlas about nested stories?

First, that it’s not for the faint of heart. It’s extremely difficult to carry off, and arguably the Wachowskis didn’t manage it. I think David Mitchell did, but he had 500 pages—basically all the time in the world as novels go—to carry the reader along. Nor was he very concerned about absolute message clarity.

The only reason I can see for attempting it is to explore an idea that a single linear story isn’t big enough or nuanced enough to contain.

Second: I’d better construct each story completely and separately first.

Third: then I’ll need to use every single thing I know about narrative drive to decide where to split them into parts and re-stack them.

Mitchell’s novel implies a kind of overarching meta-mystery, in which the author, rather than any of the characters, knows what we don’t know. And what he knows is how the heck he’s going to tie all these stories together.

For instance, you may be mildly intrigued by what Dr Goose is doing to Adam Ewing, and you might feel the suspense when Autua pops up on the ship as a stowaway, but when Adam’s story ends literally in mid-sentence and the next page starts a whole new story, it’s a compelling mystery.

And when a clue comes halfway through the second story that Frobisher is reading Adam Ewing’s journal and he, too, has only half the book, the mystery of the other half grows.

This puzzle-piece quality actually seems to be fairly typical of literary mini-plot novels, just taken to the Nth degree in this one.

Fourth: Complex form doesn’t let me off the hook for creating compelling characters. In several of Mitchell’s principal characters—to my mind notably Robert Frobisher, Autua the last Moriori, and Sixsmith—he has created real pathos and emotional engagement in their stories.

But the larger question is what is such a complex story structure FOR? I don’t think our goal as novelists should necessarily be to stay ahead of filmmaking by writing more and more difficult, nonlinear, “unfilmable” stories, although that’s a perfectly legitimate thing to try if you want to.

Even leaving aside ideas of profit and loss, the novel doesn’t NEED to reach an audience of millions to be “worthwhile.” Nothing any of us writes will reach a target audience of Everyone, so what we choose to write about and how we choose to write about it are always going to limit our target audience in some way. As I’ve recently stated in a blog post, trying to make your novel be all things to all people guarantees that it will be mostly nothing to almost everyone. Why not try something challenging and different?

I wanted to tear my hair out trying to analyze Cloud Atlas—movie and novel—and came to a dark night of the soul last night where I said screw it: I can’t understand this and I certainly shouldn’t be trying to replicate it in any way.

Ironically, today, I’ve ended up today where I began, kind of like both the novel and movie did.  Maybe it’s arrogant and naive, but like David Mitchell—and the Wachowskis—I feel like what I want to say in writing at this point in my life just won’t fit into a single, linear, Hero’s Journey story.  It’s a fascinating creative challenge to write a complex nested story myself, and I’m going to tackle it.

Jarie

Cloud Atlas is a tough movie to follow. This has a lot to do with what Anne called nested stories with filaments that string each of the nested stories together. Admittedly, I have not read the book so I can’t comment on how I would have liked it compared to the movie.

What this movie to teach me and what I think it’s a great example of is the filament idea that Anne mentioned.

In so many stories that have a fantasy element, the author has to do as much work on character development as there are nested stories. This can be problematic for both the reader and the writer since it’s hard enough to develop a solid set of characters let alone 2x or 3x as many. This is where the filament idea is good way to go.

I must admit that us doing Cloud Atlas now was perfect timing for NaNoWriMo. You see, I’m writing a Crime > Historical story that has the protagonists got between the modern world and the old world of 1770’s California. The complexity of this is confounded by my writing partner, my girlfriends nine year old daughter who is a fountain of great ideas that I can hardly keep up with.

The one thing we did agree on and that was inspired by Cloud Atlas was the filament idea.

Recall from a previous episode that we defined framing stories as ones that stand-a-lone and a nested story as one that depends on each other. The filament is what connects nested stories together. Now, it should be said that a nested story does not have to have a physical filament (e.g. a book or a person) to work. The only requirement for a nested story is that in order to understand it, you need another nested story. Cloud Atlas is a perfect example of this since as it starts, you see Grampy (Zachry) telling his grandkids the story about how he killed the Kona and met his wife. Without the nested within the nested, the whole thing would not make sense. What takes Cloud Atlas to next level is the filaments that give the viewer a sense of “hey, that character feels/looks familiar.”

This familiarity filament, via having characters in each story feel the same/be the same, is the technique that I picked up on for my NaNoWriMo novel The Magical Mystical Mirror, which I caught up on at the Night of Writing Dangerously last night. So excuse me if I sound tired. I did a lot of writing last night.

For writers, Cloud Atlas shows us how to reuse characters between nested stories so that each one feels familiar. This is an important construct to get right because the more characters a viewer/reader has to follow, the more confusing it can be. Confusion aside, an even more important challenge will be consistency in and between each nest of the nested stories.

An example of this is Susan Sarandon’s characters among the stories. To give you some context, let’s briefly describe the nests of Cloud Atlas:

  1. Pacific Islands, 1849
  2. Cambridge / Edinburgh, 1936
  3. San Francisco, 1973
  4. London, 2012
  5. Neo Seoul, 2144
  6. Big Isle, 106 winters after The Fall (2321)

Sarandon’s four characters: Madame Horrox, Older Ursula, Yosouf Suleiman, and Abbess all share a common set of character traits that make them familiar to us. In this case, it’s a wise women who shares their wit and wisdom with her family. The characters feel familiar and thus makes the filament between the nests easier to understand.

I’m using this type of filament in my novel by having the characters in the 1770’s be family members of the people in the present tense. That way, the look and feel of their character is consistent in the different worlds or nests.  

Kim

It has been a fascinating study this week and I’m so grateful to Anne for challenging us by tackling such a structurally complicated film.

Narrative devices, that is, how the story is told, is Question #3 of the Editor’s Six Core Questions. Narrative devices are something I’ve been hungry for and struggling to understand, specifically: What are the various narrative devices and structures available for us to choose from? And how on earth do we choose? How do we know which one is the right one for our story? I’m not 100% there yet, but my study this week has yielded some positive momentum.

The device largely dictates the POV and also seems to also relate the structure and style leaves on the five leaf clover of genre. Certain styles are going to work best within certain mediums (epistolary in novels versus a musical in stage and screen). Structure, even complex structure, on the other hand, seems to be able to apply to any medium.

Currently on the structure leaf, we find three possible structures: archplot, miniplot, antiplot. But, just as with the content genres, there seems to be sub categories that allow us to get more specific with the what/when/how of the story structure.

Namely, we can distinguish how the story events occur in time vs how the story is delivered to the audience—and how that changes the experience of and perceived meaning by the audience.

A few months ago, I had a client who who was working on an 8 episode biopic TV series that spanned decades and needed to jump around in time to make it work. He was using the book The 21st Century Screenplay: A Comprehensive Guide to Writing Tomorrow’s Films by Linda Aronson which details fascinating options for how writers can structuring stories.

  • Conventional narrative (single protagonist, told linearly in time)
  • Parallel narrative (not conventional)
    • Ensemble (more than one protagonist)
      • Tandem Narrative (same theme, different adventures)
      • Multiple Protagonists (same team, same adventure)
        • Journey
        • Reunion
        • Siege (emotional or physical)
      • Double Journey (two lives in parallel)
    • Nonlinear (anything other than straight linear)
      • Flashback
        • Flashback as illustration
        • Regret flashback
        • Bookend flashback (like Fight Club)
        • Preview flashback (like Jane Eyre)
        • Life-changing Incident flashback (like Manchester by the Sea)
        • Double narrative flashback
          • Flashback as thwarted dream (like Slumdog Millionaire)
          • Flashback as case study (like Citizen Kane)
      • Consecutive
        • Stories walking into the picture
        • Different perspectives
        • Different consequences from the same event
        • Fractured frame/portmanteau
    • Hybrid – Fractured Tandem (combines Tandem story elements with Portmanteau elements)

Linda Aronson is specifically teaching scriptwriting, however the principles can be directly applied to novels, with even more flexibility and opportunities to create hybrids and combine devices from style and structure. And she does amazing case studies of complex films for each structure she presents and her level of detail is amazing. I personally plan to work my way through the films she lists—I think that will count as some deep practice toward my 10,000 hours.

I estimate that in Linda Aronson’s terms, Cloud Atlas is structured as a Hybrid Fractured Tandem narrative.

Notes about Tandem narratives:

“SUCCESSFUL TANDEM NARRATIVE FILMS consist of equally important stories (each with its own protagonist and each on the same socio-political theme) unfolding simultaneously and chronologically in the same time frame. The films are always didactic and typically deal with communities. In some the theme is more overtly political than others. If it is particularly political, the film will make its point by spanning a whole community from top to bottom, from the ruler to the beggar, often openly calling for change.”

“Theme and moral are hugely important in these films, and the writing motto here is: ‘same theme, different adventures’, which reminds us that all the various stories have to illustrate the film’s theme in different ways.”

“Always, the challenge with these films is to make them good stories, not just sermons, or variations on a theme (which in effect usually means characters in search of a plot).”

“Connections are of paramount importance in tandem narrative. Audiences come to tandem films with the question: ‘Why these stories?’, expecting clever and thought-provoking links between all of the stories so they add together to create one coherent message.”

How the structure serves the global /macro story, theme, controlling idea:

To me this structure supports the meta global genre of Cloud Atlas that feels like Society, it’s a story about claiming our power, overthrowing tyranny in all its forms, about how we are all connected, how the actions we take affect others, now and in the future. And by way of how the characters are connected—taking in one another’s stories through journals, letters books, films, speeches, and good ol’ tale told round the campfire—it certainly makes a lovely case for how literary works, our gift, have the power to live on long after we do.

And while I can see how the stories at connected and create the theme, one which is near and dear to me, as an audience member I would have liked to feel more connected to the characters.

When choosing your own literary device, POV, style, structure, Linda Aronson says “Form follows content”… this is how we choose. First you must know what kind of story you are trying to tell, why this story, what about it matters most, the element that absolutely must come through to the audience, THEN look at which POV, style, structure devices help you tell it best.

Often times conventional single protagonist linear archplot will do the job just fine—better than fine—it’s absolutely what you need and do something worse would foil the story. But other times you may be trying to shoehorn your story into the conventional model and it just won’t fit. And that’s when having other structures and devices may be your best option.

But like everything, there are trade offs. And you’ll have to decide what matter most in your story and make decisions that support that.

Here is a link to Linda Aronson’s bookas well as a list of films and their structures for additional study.

  • The Fountain
  • Slumdog Millionaire
  • Milk
  • Babel
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Amores Perros
  • The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
  • Lantana
  • 21 Grams
  • The Sweet Hereafter
  • American Beauty
  • Crash
  • Traffic
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Magnolia
  • Shine
Valerie

Cloud Atlas obviously has a non-linear story structure. No doubt about that. So, the thing I wanted to figure out was this: why would an author choose to use this particular technique? What does it bring to the story that no other tool can bring?

Fairly simple questions, but trying to answer them sent me down quite a few rabbit holes.

Yes, non-linear stories are kind of neat, but why use them? Why has David Mitchell chosen to tell us six stories spanning nearly 500 years? Why is it that one story, told in a  linear style would not suffice?

I started with a hypothesis that this has to be more than an intellectual/academic exercise (because that’s really boring and why would a storyteller want to spend years of his life on it), and that it has to somehow enhance the theme/controlling idea of the story.

I was wrong on both accounts.

It turns out that David Mitchell chose this narrative structure because he wanted to see if he could do it. It was an intellectual exercise; he wanted to see just how far he could push story form before it broke. As a result, he created something that appealed to a small group of literary intelligentsia which is why it ended up on the Booker shortlist. It’s a very interesting hook for people who are interested in that kind of thing. Once a book is on any kind of list it gets higher profile and hey, it got optioned!

Given the Wachowskis’ approach to the film, I’d wager that they were attracted to it for the very same reason that Mitchell was; as an intellectual exercise. They wanted to see how far they could push their own art form before it broke.

By extension, I’d bet that the A-List actors who signed on were attracted by how far they could push themselves as artists (playing multiple roles, different genders etc within one story).

All very interesting and fascinating stuff. But it does it at the expense of emotion. There is nothing here for the audience to become emotionally involved with. I could have become attached to any of these protagonists if given half a chance. However, trying to tell six stories in the space of one, meant that none of them were developed fully enough to engage me. Do I care if Cavendish gets out of Aurora House? Not really. And I’m a huge Jim Broadbent fan! I wanted to know so much more about Frobisher — that character is rich and deep, and beautifully portrayed by Ben Whishaw — but his story is stillborn. The germ of an incredible story is there, but it doesn’t go anywhere. When he commited suicide, I recognized intellectually that it was a sad moment, but I didn’t feel sadness because I hadn’t been given the opportunity to know him.

Look, I admit, it’s kind of neat to see how far artists can push the boundaries of their artform. But that doesn’t mean it will result in a great story or that it will resonate with anyone emotionally. And it isn’t the same as innovating the artform. Think about Brokeback Mountain, which was absolutely an innovation on the love story. It did push the boundaries — not as far as Cloud Atlas does obviously, but it pushes them to a limit that allows us to still engage emotionally. The audience is free to get lost in the tale, rather than trying to figure out what’s going on.  

So, embarking on this intellectual exercise comes, in my opinion, at a very high price.

Now let’s look at my second hypothesis: that this approach to storytelling has to somehow enhance the theme/controlling idea of the story.  

Mitchell says that his theme for Cloud Atlas is twofold: (1) the interconnectedness of cause and effect, (2) predacity, the way individuals prey on individuals, groups on groups, nations on nations, tribes on tribes. I don’t know if he decided that in advance, but I can see why he’d think nested stories, as he presents them in the novel, would be an interesting way to present the idea that we’re all connected.

This isn’t a new concept. Theme doesn’t have to be new or revolutionary. Romance writers bring in billions every year writing books based on the theme of love conquers all. However, in a 500 page novel that spans six stories, I’d expect that theme to be developed. In the film version (which is three very long hours), it isn’t. It simply states that we’re all connected. To which I reply, ‘Yeah, so what? We’re all connected, and …’

Also, because there are so many stories being told here, by a narrator who is almost impossible to understand without captions, the filmmakers had to hammer us over the head with a restatement of the theme. Honestly, I got tired of counting how many times we were blatantly told the theme. But the theme is never developed; as an idea, it too is stillborn. The Wachowskis are so busy trying to hold this complicated structure together that they never get around to developing the ideas.

Did they need to be so heavy handed? Actually, yes, I think they did. Not because the audience isn’t smart enough to get it, but because we’re completely distracted by the makeup and recurrence of movie stars. Since there’s nothing here to emotionally attach to, we are forced, by default, to approach it with our intellect only. I’m sorry, but I gotta admit, playing Spot the Star was far more intellectually engaging (and entertaining) than listening to three hours of “we’re all connected”. It’s as though the filmmakers had to remind us that they’re telling us a story and not just giving us a spectacle.

We could go on for hours about this film and novel, but the last point I want to make is this: remember that stories exist to be received by audience. We write novels so someone else will read them. Don’t kid yourself about this. That’s the difference between being a novelist and writing in your journal.

So, since novels are to be read by someone, as a writer you’ve got to think about what you’re asking your audience to do. Getting someone to read all the way to the end of your linear story is hard enough. And that’s only one story told in 300 pages. If you expect them to stick with you through 500 pages and six stories, you’ve really got to know what you’re doing. And you’ve got to understand what it is you’re giving up by choosing that strategy.

Leslie

I’m guilty as charged of being a huge David Mitchell fan. The movie does a pretty good job of translating Cloud Atlas to the screen—which was no mean feat—but it would be wrong to judge the value of Mitchell’s work from this one movie.

I read Cloud Atlas in 2005 and went on to read Ghostwritten and Number9Dream, as well as those he’s written since. This study over the years has taught me the value of reading all the works of a particular writer. Mitchell experiments with genre, style, and reality, but there’s more to these stories than meets the eye.

Writer and editor Clayton Andres describes the essence of Mitchell’s stories better than I can: “This I think is what really cuts to the core of his books. Mitchell’s novels are always balanced right on the divide between literary craft and escapist fiction. They’re fun but also challenging. You don’t find a lot of books on the science fiction shelf that set aside several paragraphs for an in-depth discussion on Nietzsche. But you also don’t find a lot of works in your literary studies syllabus that talk at length about Goldfinger, Lord of the Rings, and Led Zeppelin.”

While Mitchell’s stories are complex and deep, my studies have not been a slog, but continue to be highly enjoyable.

Like Cloud Atlas, almost all of Mitchell’s stories are complex (Black Swan Green is an example of a straightforward and linear Worldview Maturation story). I enjoy the stories on their own, but one of my favorite aspects of the body work as a whole is Mitchell’s uber novel. Each book fits within a larger interconnected story that he is telling in installments. Writer Jonathan Russell Clark explains it this way: “Rather than creating a tapestry of a particular geography, Mitchell is telling one gigantic story, so that with each book the meaning and even the plot of his previous books are amended as he goes.” Like turning point progressive complications, we can look back over the rest of the work to reassess prior conclusions and ideas. (Click here to find a discussion of Mitchell’s uber novel and a table showing where his characters turn up.)

So, if there is a writer whose work you enjoy, don’t be afraid to read and study everything they do. Look at the similarities and differences between their stories, the themes and questions arise repeatedly, and how their work changes over time. If you take time to do this, you’ll learn a lot about their work, story in general, and yourself along the way.

Listener Question

This week’s question comes to us from Larry, in the Winter Level Up Your Craft course.

If Day of the Jackal is about an assignment to assassinate Charles De Gaulle, and we know historically that De Gaulle was never assassinated, how does the story keep going?

Valerie: Thanks for your question. This issue of narrative drive really seems to have hit a nerve with listeners. I’ve gotten a few questions on it since our Get Out episode.

I can’t give you a detailed answer without doing a full analysis of Day of the Jackal — and unfortunately I’ve neither seen the film nor read the novel. Generally speaking though, it has to do with the amount of information the reader/audience has with respect to the protagonist. There are only three options here: the reader knows more than the protagonist, the protagonist knows more than the reader, or they both know the same information.

What you’ve got to do is figure out which of these three scenarios is in play at any given point in the story. One of them may dominate or they may flow back and forth, one into another. Then figure out what questions are being raised as a result of that situation.

Just because we know De Gaulle was not assassinated, doesn’t automatically mean that dramatic irony (where the reader knows more than the protagonist) is the primary method of narrative drive. But it could be. In that case, the question the reader has is: How does De Gaulle escape? To pull off dramatic irony, you need to have a very compelling protagonist, as is the case with The King’s Speech.

If you have a question about complex story form, or any other story principle, you can ask it on Twitter @storygridRT, or better still, by going to storygrid.com/resources, clicking on Editor Roundtable Podcast, and leaving us a voice message.

Join us next time to start learning all about the conventions of the Action subgenres as  I take the team on the high seas with Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. Why not give it a look during the week, and follow along with us?

Your Roundtable Story Grid Editors are Jarie Bolander, Valerie Francis, Anne Hawley, Kim Kessler, and Leslie Watts.

About the Author

Leslie Watts is a certified Story Grid editor, writer, and podcaster. She’s been writing for as long as she can remember: from her sixth-grade magazine about cats to writing practice while drafting opinions for an appellate court judge. When the dust settled after her children were born, she launched www.Writership.com to help writers unearth the treasure in their manuscripts. She believes writers become better storytellers through practice, and that editors owe a duty of care to help writers with specific and supportive guidance to meet reader expectations and express their unique gifts in the world.
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