Editor Roundtable: Season 5 Teaser Trailer

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Here’s a preview of the winning hand of stories the Roundtablers are getting ready to bring you in Season 5. Join us for Episode 0, where Anne, Kim, Valerie, Jarie and Leslie each reveal their first movie of the season and talk about why they chose it, and how they hope studying it will help them in their own writing.


Every season, we get a question or two about why we study movies when our listeners are by and large not screenwriters, but novelists. The short answer is that movies are faster than novels, and they allow us to study global story structure in a convenient two hour form.

But I’m a novelist, too, and the question of what a novel is and how I can understand it separately from filmed story has become more and more important to me.

Over the history of the podcast, almost 40% of the movies we’ve analyzed were based on novels, short stories, or novellas:

  1. The Bridges of Madison County
  2. A Midnight Clear
  3. A Christmas Carol
  4. Marathon Man
  5. True Grit
  6. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
  7. Brokeback Mountain
  8. Carrie
  9. Gone Girl
  10. Arrival
  11. Adaptation
  12. The Wizard of Oz
  13. Jane Eyre
  14. Cloud Atlas
  15. Murder on the Orient Express
  16. The Fundamentals of Caring
  17. Shawshank Redemption
  18. Rear Window
  19. A Man Called Ove
  20. The Hunger Games

Some of those stories, I’d read. Many, I hadn’t and still haven’t.

So for Season Five, I’m tackling the issue head on. I propose to read three novels that have been adapted to film. I’ll have the team watch the films, but I’ll invite them, and the audience, to check out the novels as well.

I want to explore the differences between novels and movies–why do screen adaptations change so many things in the novel they’re based on? What did the novel do better? What can novels do that movies can’t? Why do screen adaptations so frequently disappoint fans of the novel they’re based on?

My aim is to figure out what a novel is for in this age of endless filmed entertainment. Is there still a place for written stories? Is reading still relevant at all?

I want to believe that novels are still a joy of their own, a distinct and separate art form worth pursuing.

For Season Five, my first pitch is one of my favorite novels, Frances Hodgson Burnett’s 1905 classic A Little Princess. We’ll be viewing the 1995 film version of the same name, directed by Alfonso Cuaron.

I hope you’ll join me and my fellow Roundtablers Jarie, Kim, Leslie and Valerie, for Season Five, Episode One, A Little Princess. It goes live on June 12, 2019. See you then.


Hello intrepid story adventurers! Leslie Watts here—and I’m really excited about my topic for season 5. Last season I studied Action subgenre conventions, and that only served to whet my appetite.

My original goal for season 5 was to focus on the obligatory scenes for Action stories and how they pay off the promises made by those conventions, but I struggled with my film choices. There are so many amazing Action films to choose from, and I got stuck on the options.

But I didn’t give up. I watched Thor: Ragnarok and uncovered the answer to my conundrum.

Since excitement is the core emotion of an action story, the feeling we most want the reader to experience, I realized I should choose the films that are off the charts on that score for me.

So this season I’m sticking with Action stories, but I’m going epic because they’re the ones that excite me the most: Action stories that are complex in conflict and epic in scope—if not always in subgenre. We’re talking multiple subplots, expansive settings, and big casts of characters, like the Marvel Universe films, The Lord of the Rings, and The Expanse,  as well as a series you might have heard of, A Song of Ice and Fire.

My question this season will be, how do we tell an epic story with lots of moving parts without making a muddle of it? I’ll balance my passion for these stories and ground my inquiry in structure: the obligatory scenes and the 15 key scenes.

I can’t wait to dig into season 5 and share what I discover about epic action stories. Thor: Ragnarok will be featured in episode 2, and we’ll post it on June 19. See you then!


Hello everyone. It’s Valerie.

As many of you know, in addition to being an editor, I’m also an author. In Season 4 of the podcast, I did a deep dive into narrative drive because that was a problem I was having with my latest novel.

Well, in Season 5 I’m tackling another issue I’m having with that same project.

The story idea I have is giving me an opportunity to branch out into a whole new genre, but it took me months to figure out what the genre was! Was I writing a thrilling horror, or a horrifying thriller? (Because there’s a difference!)

It turns out that I’m writing a horrifying thriller—a psychological thriller to be exact. The challenge I’m facing is that I don’t know a whole lot about that genre. Sure, I’ve watched some movies and read some books, but that was all before Story Grid entered my life. I wasn’t consuming stories actively then, so I wasn’t learning things that I could carry forward into my own work.

One of the questions I get asked most often by clients and writers is: “What’s a masterwork?” That’s usually followed up by: “Why do I need to study a masterwork?”

This season I’m going to walk you through the process that I used to figure out my genre, and then—with the help of my four colleagues—I’m going to show you how to pull a genre apart and learn what makes it tick.

We’ll start with the 1996 film, Primal Fear starring Richard Gere, screenplay by Steve Shagan and Ann Biderman, based on the novel by William Diehl.

I picked this film because it’s the example of a psychological thriller that Shawn gives in The Story Grid: What Good Editors Know. So that seems like as good a place as any to start.

If you’ve been struggling to figure out your genre or to find a masterwork, or if you’re wondering why studying masterworks is necessary, tune in to Season 5 of the Story Grid Editor Roundtable podcast. The Primal Fear episode airs June 26. I’ll see you then!


For season 5, I’m going to look at of all things, Love Story. Specifically, Love Stories that were also novels. I’m doing this because I’m writing a memoir about a particularly hard part of my life and everyone I have talked to has told me that it’s a Love Story.

Why look at Love Stories for my memoir? Well, Love Stories naturally have baked in Worldview > Maturation internal generes — at least the ones I’ll be looking at. Memoirs are heavy on the internal genre and the ones that I have found the most compelling focus on a particular external event or situation that focuses story so that the reader keeps interest.

This is an important part of why I’m looking at them because I’m struggling with how to tell a factual story while also making it interesting. I’m sure several of you listening have asked those same questions as well.

So, I’ll be exploring Love Stories and how they dealt with the conventions and obligatory scenes to tell not only the story of love but how love changes our internal worldviews.

I’ll also try and garner some insights into how to use real world experiences in a novel. Not to say that the stories I’ll be looking at are real but there is always some universal truth in fiction — that’s why we are drawn to reading novels. Love stories deliver on that consistently. We see our truth in the characters and that keeps us engaged.

For my first movie, I’ll be looking at the 1995 film Sense and Sensibility which was directed by Ang Lee with a screenplay by Emma Thompson.


I had a blast studying Global Internal Genre stories in Season 4, specifically the kinds of stories I want to tell as a writer. That journey will being continuing off the air so if you’re into that sort of thing, drop me a line. This season I want to dig into something every writer will have to deal with: a story that doesn’t work.

As editors this is our primary role–diagnosing why a story doesn’t work and prescribing a treatment plan. As Story Grid editors we have the best tools on the planet for the job–the first of which is the Editor’s Six Core Questions.

These questions are the foundation for understanding what a story is made of. We covered these questions in depth in Seasons 1 and 2. But this time, I’ll use them as a jumping off point to identify the primary reason a story isn’t working. From there I’ll grab another Story Grid tool to dig deeper. Then after listening to the observations of my fellow editors, I’ll prescribe my recommended editorial treatment plan.

By the end of the episode, and by the end of the season, we’ll have some excellent case studies for how to use Story Grid tools to identify why a story isn’t working, which will hopefully translate to all of us finding the next right step for revisions of our stories.

The first film I’m going to examine is the 2015 intergalactic action story Jupiter Ascending. It stars Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, and Eddie Redmayne. It’s written, produced, and directed by The Wachowskis. These are the same writers that brought us The Matrix and V for Vendetta–two stories that I consider pillars of my personal storytelling canon, and ones that my husband and I watch together again and again. They contains tons of the stuff we both love: strong female characters; a rocking reality genre leaf with dystopian futures and science fiction and fantasy rules; and villains you love to hate.

So I was set up to love this story, but I didn’t. It fell flat for me. And if you’ve listened to me on the roundtable for any amount of time, I can usually find something to like about every story. But even when there are aspects of a story I like, there’s still no denying when it doesn’t work.

So scrub in with me for season 5 as we do some exploratory surgery and see the Story Grid tools in action. It’s going to be great!

So there you have it. Fifteen episodes, leveling up our craft in

    • Novels adapted to film
    • Epic Action stories
    • Love stories
    • Thrillers
    • Why stories that DON’T work, don’t work.

Watch for one more bite-size episode during our hiatus. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you on June 12 for the premiere of Season 5.

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

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Leslie Watts

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 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.