Episode 251: The Genre Five Leaf Clover


Danielle Kiowski, Shawn Coyne, Tim Grahl, Leslie Watts

Tim Grahl  00:00

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the story grid podcast. So as you may notice, if you’re watching the video version, there’s twice as many people on this podcast for those just listening to the audio. We’ve added two new people to our group here, and I’m going to talk about why that is in a second. But over the last year, Shawn has been deep in the lab with Danielle Koski, and Lesley watts, working on getting to the bottom of story. And we’re calling this story grid 2.0. And in that time, we’ve done a lot of work. And we’ve gone through a lot of iterations of things. And out of that has come some new tools and methodologies to help us and we’re going to talk a lot more about that over the coming weeks. So I won’t get too deep into that. But we’re going back to me being the shocked monkey, where we work on my writing and leveling me up as a as a writer, just like we’ve done in the most three, most of the podcasts, just so again, the goal is always that I stand in for the writer, since I am trying to become a writer, and to help you follow along and figure out how to level up your own writing. And so here with me is of course, Shawn Coyne, the founder and creator of story grid. Along with that, we have Daniel Koski. She’s the Chief Chief Academic Officer for the story grid guild. And we have Leslie watts, the editor in chief of story grid publishing, and we’re all going to be working here together. And it’s a lot of fun for me, because then I have three people critiquing my writing instead of just one. So yeah, so that’s what it’s gonna be looking like, moving forward. And, you know, we kind of just just as we’ve always done, we kind of have a loose structure, an idea of the direction we’re going, that will probably change as we go. But hopefully, you’ll enjoy this. If you are just listening to the podcast if you’re subscribed. This the video version of this is up on YouTube as well. So if you want to watch Sean is going to be sharing his screen and sharing some things. So if you want to see that you can go to YouTube and subscribe to the story grid channel there, as well. But otherwise, I’m going to turn it over to you, Shawn, to get us started.

Shawn Coyne  02:28

Great. Thanks, Tim. Just to give an introduction of how we’re going to be structuring these series of lessons with Tim, we are going to take a look at a Master Work scene. It’s actually a short story. And it’s written by a wonderful writer named Ed McBain, and Ed McBain is sort of the the grandfather if you will of the police procedural novel. So Ed McBain his real name was Evan hunter. He, he wrote a whole series of wonderful police procedurals called the I think it’s the 87th precinct novels. Anyway, before that, in the 1950s, he was just starting out, as we all do, and he was writing short stories for mystery magazines and Private Eye magazines. And the story that we’re going to work with on with Tim, is a story called eyewitness. And it’s terrific, I highly recommend everyone to go out and purchase it. It’s in a short story collection, which we’ll put in the notes, I don’t have the name of it off the top of my head. Anyway, so what we’re going to do is we’re going to use the story grid toolbox to take a very deep look at the masterwork short story called eyewitness. And Tim is going to do that by himself. And then the tribunal of Danielle, Leslie and I are going to walk him through the process of how you use the story grid from the very top down. What that means is that we have a whole series of tools that we use to look at stories, and to find the best means to iterate them. So Tim is going to analyze the story along with us. And then eventually he is going to use this story as sort of a model to create his own story that will mirror the Ed McMahon story but will be completely his own. So he’s going to innovate and write a story based on The Ed McBain work, but it’s all going to be Tim’s now this is all going to make a lot more sense as we get through it. So what I thought would be great to start would be to just walk through the new work that we’ve been doing over the past year. And it’s it’s very strong. It’s it’s looking at stories in three different dimensions. And for each of these dimensions We have tools that enable sort of a way to analyze, and then a way to output to someone who’s reading the story. So let’s just start with the three different kinds of dimensions of story, we have what I call it, the beyond the surface dimension, then we have the above the surface dimension, and then we have the on the surface dimension. Now, each of these have at sort of color designs in story grid. So the beyond the surface is what we call the blue realm. The above the surface is the red realm, and on the surface is the green room, what realm and then each of these ways of looking at story, have separate tools. And I’m going to get into those tools in a second. But I want to give an overview of what I mean by beyond the surface above the surface and on the surface, generally, right. Okay, so the the blue section is the beyond the surface. What does this mean? Well, these are what Plato would call the patterns of intelligibility across all stories through and in and through time, these are the big, big, archetypical patterns, that all stories share. These are sort of the Carl Jung Ian realms of archetype. So in the history of Homo sapiens on the planet, we’ve all sort of had mentors, right. So it doesn’t matter. If I live in Elizabeth in England, or 21st century, the United States, I’m still going to have a mentor, I’m going to have mentor figures. So the idea of the mentor is sort of an archetype. That’s a pattern of behavior in through time. So people in Elizabethan England had parents who were their mentors, and so do we now. So in and through time, are these big, big patterns of representation that are very what what people call meta. So these are the big beyond the surface ways of looking at stories in the most generalized way that you could possibly imagine. They’re the big ideas, the big patterns that often seem kind of cliche, because they’re so general, right? So the blue realm has to specific kinds of tools to enable understanding of a particular kind of story or particular novels. And the first one is, you know, it’s a story grid 101 tool. This is the five genre leaf analysis, and we’re going to walk through this with Tim with the ED McBain story shortly. After that, we have what we call the What If analysis, and the What If analysis is we’re going to get into that too. But it’s generally what they used to call sort of Hollywood kind of high concept. And it doesn’t mean that it’s cheesy, it just means that these are the big what if kind of setups that we all would be interested in seeing. So they gather a group of people who are interested in a certain kind of story. So for example, something like what if Detroit cop played by Eddie Murphy goes to Beverly Hills to solve the crime of committed against his best friend? That’s not a very good What if right now, but that’s the general concept of what F? Alright, so we’ve got the five genre leaf analysis, what if, and now we’re going to drop down into what’s called the above the surface. Now above the surface is really where the rubber meets the road in terms of communication. So above the surface is really about the process. How do we figure things out? How do we experience the world? How do we communicate that experience to other people. So as stories are sort of simulations of life, we really need to lock in this above the surface realm. And the way we do that is we separate what we call the author with a single audience member. So we’re going to get really deep into the author, single Audience Member paradigm, as as these weeks progress, but there are tool two tools here too. There’s the narrative device analysis and the point of view analysis. And these will enable us to really lock in what the above the surface realm is for a particular story. Lastly, we have on the surface and what on the surface is about our products, these are sort of the causes that that create change. So cause and effect. This is very much about, well, when I hand over $1 I get an apple that’s a cause of the cause. is the transfer of my dollar to someone who has an apple, they take my dollar as a form of value, and they hand over another form of value, which is an apple. And so the on the surface realm is really about the product of movements from change, to move from one value to another. I don’t have an apple. Now I do, right. And these are really on the surface, meaning, these are the moments and events in a story that we have to iterate, we have to put them on the page, we have to use language to communicate these events in the clearest possible way. So the way we use, the way we get at this level in story grade is we have two tools. One is called the event synthesis analysis. And the other one is called the Five commandments analysis. So what we’re going to do in the podcast over the next weeks, is to walk we call these six categories. And there are 24 questions that we’re going to answer. And when we’re done with the six categories and 24, questions and answers, we’re going to have a comprehensive understanding of the macro and the micro have a particular story, which is going to be pretty cool. So by the time we’re done with this with Tim, he’s going to really understand what Ed McBain accomplished in his story I witness. And he’s also going to have an understanding of what he’s going to have to iterate himself. Lastly, after we go through the what we call the 624 analysis, we’re going to get into really, really high level, bottom up processing. And we’re going to show you how this new story grid writing concept works. I don’t want to give anything away there right now, but it has to do with information theory and cybernetics. But I hope I didn’t bum anybody out by scaring them with those terms. So what we’re going to do now is we’re going to move through the 624 analysis. And we’re going to begin by taking a look at Ed mcbaine. Story, eyewitness and we’re going to start with the series of questions called the Five genre leaf analysis. So let’s, let’s just get into it. So what I’m going to do is I’ll, I’ll ask Tim, and then Danielle and Leslie can pipe into before we lock down the answer to each of these questions. So are you ready, Tim? And Leslie and Danielle?

Tim Grahl  12:35

Yeah, it’s ready as I can be, I guess.

Shawn Coyne  12:38

Okay, cool. All right. So let’s get to it. Alright, so the first one, we call the beyond the surface meta tool number one, and this is Five genre leaf analysis. And I’m going to pull up this now. Okay, that thing on the right that I’m showing now is what I call the five leaf genre clover. And this is something that’s in story grid, the the original book, and it’s a very primal tool. It’s very important. And it’s really, if you want to get in depth understanding of the five genre leaf clover, I suggest taking a look at the book. But what we’re going to do here is we’re just going to walk through it very slowly, just to remind everybody of these concepts. So what we have here in the five leaf genre, Clover are five different sort of levels of analysis. These are five concepts that we need to understand about a particular unit of story. And the first one that we’re going to talk about is the time genre. So what is the time genre for this short story? Is it short, long or medium?

Tim Grahl  13:48

Well, yeah, I mean, I put short because when I went back to the definitions of what you you know, when I, the time genre definitions you have long form is feature length films, documentaries, novels, or 3x, or more plays, medium form is episodic television shows or documentaries novellas, multi 1000 word journalism, one act plays, in short form was short film short stories or individual scenes in a play. And so I put short form since this is a short story. That’s, I think, what is it around 1200 words, something like that?

Shawn Coyne  14:28

Yeah. Yeah, it’s, um, it’s definitely short. And I don’t want to belabor this too much. But we do have, in fact that Leslie asked me this question a while back, like, is there? Can we get a tighter focus in on the time signature, and we do have a toolbox to do that. But one of the ways to think about time is to think about how long the progression of the the story Story is right. So if you had a short story and there are cuts meaning you move from one particular event to another one in which is in an in another arena or another environment, that would be, you know, a longer form story than just a single scene. Now in the ED McBain story, what’s really fun is that it’s a single event that happens over a continuous set of time. And we’re going to talk about this more, but it it compresses certain events into smaller units that, for example, there, there are times when the narrator will just explain and describe a series of events that happen in in one sentence. So that’s a way of collapsing time into sort of a way of telling the audience, the relevant event that occurred over a select part of time. So the time genre itself is pretty interesting. And you really need to think about it as a writer, is that how long am I going to have? What is the duration of this story? For example, the duration of Pride and Prejudice, I think, is over a period about 15 to 16 months, and there are clear delineations of that that time period, or Jane Austen may have been able to set the entire story within let’s say a weekend. There are stories like that that do take place in a weekend. Anyway, so the time genre leaf clover is a can get a lot more high resolution than this sort, of course, look. But this is a good place to start. Right. So short, we’re just going to go with short as the time signature for this. Clover. Do you guys have anything to add Lesley or Danielle?

Danielle Kiowski  17:01

I think I definitely agree that it’s short. And I think just to to play off of what you were saying, Shawn, that we do. We do collapse this into these three categories. Although, as you alluded to, with the short story that has more scenes in it, it is really a spectrum. And so we want to keep it simple and keep it to these three categories. But that if we if we focus on why we look at this, and why we categorize stories in this way. I think getting at what you’re talking about about comparing the duration of the play of the story, to the duration of the audience’s experience of reading the story gives us some constraints on what the audience will expect, how much we can do, what kind of messages we can communicate to the audience. So I think this is one of those questions that it seems really simple to categorize it. But it’s very important when you’re writing especially to know going in, what kind of limitations you’re putting on yourself so that you can construct your story in a way that’s effective for your reader. Yeah, and just to kind of give us the spectrum of what that looks like is that you have A Rose for Emily, which is a story. It’s a short story. So in terms of what the reader is actually reading is, is short, but it spans generations. And then you have a story like Finnegans Wake, that is a huge, really long story. But it spans a very short period of time within those bounds. And so, as you say, Danielle, that, that determines a lot of constraints for your story. And it’s something you want to understand going in. That’s really great, because what what the two of you just delineated? And I don’t think I was being being very clear, was the difference between

Shawn Coyne  19:07

the audience’s experience reading the story versus the the simulation itself. So the description and explanation of the story through the point of view of the author. So and that that that distinction that you just made Leslie between what is it A Rose for Emily and Finnegans Wake? What you have there is Finnegans Wake is this massive novel that takes part takes place in a very short amount of time. And then you have a very short story that takes place in a very large spectrum of duration. So the experience of the of the audience member is one thing to consider. And then the execution and the description and explanation by the author to that. Audience members the other thing to take into consideration. So short, long and medium, I’ve been using it in in this five leaf clover more talking about the experience of the single audience member, as opposed to the execution by the author. So one of the key features of story grid is that, when in doubt, we always take a look at the experience of the single audience member. So that’s our sort of Rosetta Stone of being able to figure out, when we get confused, we always say to ourselves, I wonder how we call them, Sam. So how is Sam experiencing this story? So that’s why our genre cloverleaf is really about the experience for Sam as opposed to the execution of the author. We have lots of tools to help the author execute. But we always want to put our focus of attention in what are we trying to communicate to Sam? And how is Sam experiencing our communication efforts? Might be a little abstract. But that’s really a key feature of story grid, is that we put our attention on Sam, and less so on ourselves, we think about how is Sam experiencing the story versus how painful it is for us to write it? And that’s a good place. Because then you can, you can really get out of your own ego centric experience. And just think about, well, what what is my single Audience Member feeling right now? Are they feeling good? Are they feeling bad? Are they excited or what? Alright, so the second one on the cloverleaf that we look at is structure and structure. Structure is either mini plot, arc plot, or anti plot. And I’m just going to give a very global explanation of what I mean by each. And I’ll begin with the one that we’re all pretty much familiar with the most, because this is sort of the way we experience our life, right? So our plot is usually focused on a single protagonist. And that single protagonist moves from, they change they, they go on an arc movement, they transform their mind, their body and their spirit throughout the course of the story. And that doesn’t mean that you have to have these massive changes, only that they do change, they do have a change of perspective, by the end of the story. And oftentimes, they have other changes, too. So our plot is usually about a single protagonist. So Sam, you know, our single Audience Member experiences the story by sort of attaching to that, that protagonist, and they see the world through the eyes of the protagonist, they see that simulation as the protagonist, experience it throughout the story. So that’s our plot. The second kind is mini plot. Now mini plot is usually sort of what we would call those those grand societal stories. Now, they don’t necessarily have to be that way. But mini plot is, generally Sam, our single Audience Member experiences the story through multiple points of view, multiple perspectives. And there’s there’s all kinds of things to do to enable that functionality to Sam. But they they seem to get a feeling for the entire society, because they look through the eyes of multiple different avatars as they are moving through the store. Now at story grid, we call the the people who populate stories, avatars, as opposed to characters. And there’s there’s a lot of reasons for that, but I won’t get into them now. So if if you hear me speaking of avatars, and you’re familiar with the word characters, just you’re going to have to make that switch because that’s the way we talk about it. Okay, so many plot is multiple avatar point of view, perspective to the single audience member in our plot is a single protagonist perspective to the single audience member. Lastly, is anti plot. an anti plot is is a very strange structural idea. It’s generally not conducive to the way we envision the world right? So the way we experience the world is is very specific and no Plot is very nonspecific, it’s extraordinarily random. It’s multi chaotic, sort of one of the, one of the movements in the 1960s was the French New Wave film movement. And one of the proprietors of those was a guy named John leuco, dar. And ghadar is famous for having films that are very anti plot. So for example, things that would never seem seemingly be able to happen just start happening without any knowledge of why that was. So there’s no sort of functionality or, or purpose beyond the coincidental random random drop in of events. So anti plot is not very popular. And the reason why is because it’s extraordinarily difficult to understand or follow. And that’s the point. It’s sort of like a, a sledge hammer home of, you know, coincidental events that drop into our lives and we can’t make heads or tails of them. But you know, you experience them over a period of two hours or 10 hours depending on your medium of story that you’re you’re watching. So Tim, let’s get let’s get to your answer here. What do you think I witness at bay Ed McBain structure is

Tim Grahl  26:23

I put our plot because it’s we have a one clear protagonist that’s driving the entire story.

Shawn Coyne  26:30

Yeah, I buy that. And I think Leslie and Daniel are going to agree. Okay. So that’s the structure. So, so far, we have short arc plot. Now let’s get into style. Okay, so the style, Leif is, is how I’m what’s the flavoring of the experience that Sam is is having, right? So the flavor and the style is very much a certain kind of performance sensibility. And so we have all kinds of style of storytelling. We have like cartoons, their stories that can happen in dance, comedy, drama, theatrical, it feels as if it’s a play, you know, that would be theatrical documentary, it feels documentary and format. Musical, literary and literary it’s very much sort of like a more about the the semantic stylings of the the story creator. So that could be sort of very poetic or postmodern, or minimalism, or sort of story within the story within the story. That’s, that’s called kind of meta. So literary has all kinds of tweaks and buzzes and, and, and all kinds of things and tricks, other ones musical documentary, cinematic epistolary, which means in in letter form, and I didn’t do an exhaustive stylistic guide here on the clover, I, I just put down the the majority of them to cover the most ground. But it’s important to identify the style, because that’s going to enable your understanding of it’s a constraint, right? So let’s say I’m writing a comedy. And I decide to put a very dramatic scene in, you know, in one of my events, scenes, right? So if I drop in drama in the middle of comedy, Sam, our single audience member is going to go What’s up, I thought this was a comedy, right? So it’s a constraint that enables Sam to have a consistent fluid experience so that she doesn’t get confused. She doesn’t be like, Well, wait a minute. I don’t know why there’s all this drama when there was, you know, the Keystone Cops five, five seasons ago. So this is a way to be able to lock in and to, to make sure that the author who was who was creating the story for Sam is consistent. So Tim, did you take a stab at what style the story isn’t?

Tim Grahl  29:26

Yeah, I chose drama. When I went back and looked at the actual definitions you had for these. It was a tone of solemnity facing reality as it is emotions are truthful and fulfilling. And I just in general, I think police procedurals are going to fall into that drama category of style.

Shawn Coyne  29:47

Yeah, I would agree with that. I think that’s a good starting point for style. I’m wondering if we can get a little bit more specific. Leslie, do you have any thoughts about that?

Leslie Watts  30:00

Yeah, so the, if we’re thinking about what it what it feels like or the effect, it definitely starts with drama, we don’t have comedy. And we don’t have it’s not a musical. And those are, those are very clear. As we get into as we try to get more specific, it feels very much like a police report, which is kind of consistent with a police procedural, and that you have, what this what this does for Sam, is it creates a very constrained experience. It’s just the facts. And so you wouldn’t want it like in a litter of a literary drama, you would have a lot of like a really lush setting, and you would describe people really fully, but here it’s very constrained, very focused on the problem at hand. And, and so that’s why I think it feels like a police report. It’s akin to journalism. But even though it’s fiction,

Shawn Coyne  31:10

yeah, yeah, I totally buy that. I think that’s. And that that actually enables. Well, before I go on, Daniel, do you have anything to add on that?

Danielle Kiowski  31:23

Well, I agree with all of that. And I think there, there are a couple of different considerations when we’re looking at style. So one, we’ve talked about the feeling. And then there are, there are different facets within that. So comedy versus drama is about how you treat emotions, I think. And so that’s a really good starting point, because that can act sort of as a foundational spectrum for this leaf. And then as Leslie’s talking about you, you can move from there into what specificity you can you can build in in wherever you are on that spectrum. So I definitely agree that it feels like that police report like that. That very, it doesn’t get into a lot of emotions, it doesn’t get into a lot of perspectives of the people involved. But it’s really about the facts. And in so that’s a constraint in terms of what kind of above the surface stuff we’re showing. above the surface, meaning the processing of the avatars and the evaluation. And then there are also constraints in terms of how you present the information, whether it’s continuous, meaning we see it play out. And in a short story, you don’t get into this as much, but this is something to consider for the style. Something like epistolary, you’re constrained by the idea of whatever epistolary medium you have. So a letter you would have more of a punctuated telling where maybe each chapter is a letter, because the letter form is going to give you some structural constraints. So we can start to see as we get into these questions, how they play with each other, and, and how in style, the different components that go into creating this holistic experience for the single audience member, how they draw from different leaves to create that whole feeling.

Shawn Coyne  33:37

Yeah, that’s great. I think you too, have really landed again on almost like a, you know, a pyramid a pyramid of consideration for style, right. So sort of the binary choice at the beginning might be something like comedy or drama, right. So we do have comedic police procedurals, like Brooklyn nine, nine was a is a fantastic one, right? And it plays off of the, the constraints and, and the, the obligatory moments of a police procedural TV show are always in there, but they they have a real nice comedic sensibility to them. So comedy and drama would sort of be the first division and then and then you would also have sort of like the the journalistic documentary approach of a police report. Very clearly just the facts and then that would actually be influenced by that would tell you what kind of literary style to take right? So as Leslie said, You’re not going to really want very flourishing language here you’re gonna want straightforward like how would a police detective right it’s as if what how would a police detective write that? and they’re not going to be using, you know, flowery language. And they’re going to use very simple verbal structure, too. So, anyway, so I think Tim’s right, we’ve got drama. And then I think the addition of police report journalism is, is really quite good, too. So I think that’s a good indication of, of the style leaf of this short story. So if nobody has anything to add, let’s move on to the next leaf. And this is a this is a tricky one. So the reality genre for the scene, this is the reality leaf and this is the, the way in which the the world works, right. So what is how is the how is the story experienced by Sam, in terms of the, the spectrum of reality, so I’m gonna have to go to another screen to sort of flesh this out a little bit. But generally, we have, you know, four categories of reality, we’ve got realism, which means that the story could happen. Factual ism, which is sort of like a story that did happen. But it’s sort of based upon true events, you know, that kind of thing. So the storyteller is using facts to, to, to write the story, but it’s factual lism because it’s not pure documentary. As you know, documentary is tricky, because is there ever real pure documentary unless it’s just like the Zapruder film anyway? Fantasy is, is alternate reality, right? So it can be sort of, you know, fantasy about the past are fantasy about the future. So fantasy about the past would be sort of Hobbit like stuff. And fantasy about the future would be science fiction. So we’re thinking about what could happen in the future in science fiction. And they’re all kinds of, you know, axiomatic things that the author does to create that world. Just as you know, what could have happened in the past. Were there magic systems in the past, like that sort of thing. That that’s part of fantasy too. But that’s sort of a nostalgic take. Whereas the science fiction is kind of like utopia or dystopia take of what will happen in the future. So nostalgia for a better past or nostalgia for a grim past sort of a Hobbs in the past, or a, I think it was Rousseau in past where there was the idealization of the natural world, whereas Hobbes was sort of was always Doggy Dog, and we were all murdering each other all the time. So. So then the static fantasy, you can see where all of those things, the science fiction and fantasy category, which has been lumped together is all about sort of these alternate realities, these, these simulated realities based upon axiomatic concepts about the future or the past. And then lastly, is Absurdism. And Absurdism. Is is very much akin to it lives inside of the anti plot world, generally, but specifically Absurdism are dropins. Of, of coincidence, that don’t make sense. Anyway, I’m gonna just play on this a little bit longer just to get into what this reality leaf can really break down to. So absurd is if you if you did a spectrum, you would sort of have factual ism and realism sort of right in the middle. These these are the realms of reality that we experience every day. And then you have fantasy, which is alternate reality that has that is still rule based, right? There’s still a lot of rules. And then there’s science fiction, which are future rules, right? And then in between realism and fantasy, you kind of have this, this strange, fun place called magical realism, where the the most of the events are in a realistic nature and then there’s magical elements that drop in. So 100 Years of Solitude is a good example of magical realism. And lastly, you would have Absurdism at the very left side of the spectrum, which would mean that it’s very chaotic, right? Complete random uncertainty. And so these are sort of like the create the gradient of reality genres, right? And these, these all have senses of that go into order, complexity and chaos, which I don’t want to really get too deep into right now. But this is a more further delineated concept for story good to have the of the reality genre, and I don’t want to belabor it, but I thought it would be interesting to just share anyway. So Tim, let’s let’s get back to the reality genre for at McBain story, what do you what did you categorize it as?

Tim Grahl  40:56

Well, I put it as realism. Mainly because it’s a police procedural that is set in mock you know, when it was written, it was set in modern day. It could happen. It but it’s not just factual. Right. It’s not telling a story that actually did happen. Stephanie not Absurdism. And it doesn’t, you know, cast into the fantasy realm. So we don’t get into magic or science fiction or anything like that. So I said it in realism.

Shawn Coyne  41:26

Yeah, that’s good. Yeah, I agree. Was layer Danielle.

Danielle Kiowski  41:31

Yeah, I agree that it’s realism, I did have something to add on kind of how you can think about the spectrum, which is about it, we we talked about rules and chaos. But a way to boil that down is about how does cause and effect work in the world? Is it? Is it a mirror of how it works around us. And it is he’s trying to present something that seems realistic. So that’s where we get to realism. And then on the fantasy science fiction side, it’s, it’s like an extension of cause and effect. So in the real world, I can only go so fast. In a science fiction world, maybe I can go warp speed. So it’s, I like to think of it as taking something that we can do and going to the end of the line, and you get these, the the cause and effect there. And then on the other side, it’s a breakdown of cause and effect. So that’s, that’s how you create randomness is by breaking that linkage between the causes and the effects. But here in this world, it’s, it operates according to the physical and social laws, and norms and codes that we experience in our everyday lives.

Shawn Coyne  42:44

Yeah, nice. That’s, that’s really good distinction. I like locking it down, too. Because we have sort of a joke here at story grid 2.0, that each of us has a cape and inhales cape is the green Cape minds, the blue cape, and Lesley’s is the red cape. And so what Danielle just did there was show her her green Cape stripes, I guess? Because she was talking about causality. Right? And what what is the operating feature on the surface is cause and effect and causality. And so she was using a trick to figure out the reality genre by discussing Well, what’s what’s the relationship between cause and effect in the story? Is it hyper cause and effect meaning, you know, you’ve got warp speed instead of regular speed, then that would be sort of in the science fiction fantasy realm, or you can use magic, you know, fantasy is usually has some magical system. And then the breakdown of cause and effect is Absurdism. So that’s, that’s really helpful.

Leslie Watts  43:55

Just one quick note about in terms of the read and how we, that that realism is the effect we want to create for the single audience member. And so that gets into that plays with the style as well. And the effect. Another way to say effect is it’s as if this is a police report, it’s as if this is realism. This is a real world, you know, it’s connected to our world. And so that’s how I would pull that in. Yeah,

Shawn Coyne  44:32

great. So the as if is a very important factor in in the redzone. Because oftentimes, it’s this is a sort of an acting tool to it’s, it’s difficult to come up with like when you plumb the depths of your soul and you’re like, I just don’t know how I would behave if but when you add the match As if it becomes an easier thing to to grip so I’m not sure if I think Kevin hunter who was Ed mcbaine. Ed McBain was his pen name. I think he was a police officer before he started writing full time. But if he wasn’t like Michael Connelly, who writes the Harry Bosch novels, he was a journalist. And so he was around police detectives a lot. And then that’s how he was doing the ads. If I think he was, he was pretending as if he were an LAPD cop when he came up with the concept of Harry Bosch, and also, you know, he basted upon Hieronymus Bosch, which, you know, one of the seminal artistic figures in the history of Homo sapiens. And the way he describes how Harry Bosch has to contend with the world is very much it’s kind of this really sweet spot of melding his his Connelly is a very intelligent person who’s very well educated. And so he uses his understanding of perhaps what Hieronymus Bosch was trying to signal to us which he was very effective at doing it. Just the difficulties of navigating a complex world. He mapped that on to his LAPD detective Harry Bosch. So the as if is an extraordinarily powerful tool for the writer. And then Mike Michael Connelly, who’s a journalist, he doesn’t have to like, plumb the depths of his soul. He’s melding the cops that he knew on the beat with Hieronymus Bosch, and there you go. So that’s a really good tool to to think about the realism and how to best transmit, how real it is from that bread zone that that Lesley uses to ground her. Okay. So, lastly, we have what we call the content genre. Now, this is, this is a probably an entire episode in and of itself. But I’m going to, I’m going to do the best I can to give a very quick overview of what I’m talking about in when I talk about content. But there are a lot of story grid resources that you can go the website is, is loaded with, with content about all of these content genres. And there’s also a book that I wrote called The four core framework, which I would recommend is a great introduction to all of these, so I’m just gonna run through them. And then we’ll ask him what content genre he believes this story is from. Alright, so I’ve separated content into sort of two mega realms. There’s what I call the the kind of the external content genres, which are all about external forces. And then there are the internal content genres, which are emphasizing internal transformations. So external genres all are all about, primarily, a change in external domain from beginning to the end. And the internal ones are really about the change of one particular protagonist. So the internal genres are our smaller stories, because they’re about the change of one particular person. Now, obviously, we have dimensionality of externality and internality and all stories, but what we do at sorry, grades, we don’t allow people to say, well, it’s a little bit of this, it’s a little bit of that it’s, you’ve got to lock down and, and come to a global genre content choice. So anyway, we’ve got 12 of them, I’m going to run through the external content genres, and these actually align with if anyone’s familiar out there with Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which goes to what these particular genres are all about, what what value, what universal human value are these stories aligning with such that they can help Sam you know, confront some problems in your own life concerning these universal values. And again, I’m going to point you toward the four core framework to get more information about you know, value and the most and all that. Alright, so we have action story. We have war story. We have horror story. We have crime. We have thriller. And then we have love story. And then we have performance story, Western story, and then society story. Those are sort of our, our global external genres. And then the internal genres are status, morality, and worldview. Now, there’s a lot of information about all of these genres in story grid book, and on the website. So I’m going to stop there and ask Tim, which of these genres does he believe eyewitness aligns with?

Tim Grahl  50:56

Yes. So thinking through the value at stake. So this is kind of the thought process I went through as I was thinking through the content genre, so my knee jerk reaction, was to put it in crime, because of the conventions at play, right? So there’s a dead body, there’s a detective, there’s a witness. But then I started thinking through Well, the witness is scared for his life. He’s afraid that if the murder finds out that he’s the one that identifies him, that he’s going, you know, the murder will come and find him and kill him. And so I’m like, Well, if life and death is at stake, then it’s an action genre. Because we always want to go with whatever’s lowest on Maslow’s hierarchy. But then I went back to well, the protagonist of the story is actually who we’re focused on, we want the value at stake for the protagonist, in the protagonist in this story, is Detective capelli. And so for Detective capelli, what he’s trying to do is get justice, right. So he’s trying to find out who committed the murder so that he can bring the murder to justice. And so that’s why I ultimately came back to crime and landed on crime because of identifying the protagonist, and what value was at stake for the protagonist, which in this case, is justice.

Shawn Coyne  52:28

Interesting. Interesting. I love I love to hear your thought process. And before I comment, let’s hear from Danielle.

Danielle Kiowski  52:40

Yeah, I also love hearing the process. And, and I think it’s really important, because there are a lot of ways to get to genre. And then, you know, by checking the process, we can make sure that it’s reproducible, we can make sure that we’re considering all the right things that are going into it. So I agree that it’s crime, but I would have a few tweaks to the process. So one thing is, I think that your your impulse to go as low as possible to focus on the more primal genres is great. But I do think we can have when we’re when we’re addressing global genres like this. What we’re looking at is the object of desire more than the stakes, those are very close. But if but I would say that the the avatars in the story are trying to achieve justice. Their question is, how can justice be done? Not how can I survive, which would be an action story, even though life and death is on the table, it’s not central to the object of desire. So looking at what they’re trying to achieve, I think it’s just a little bit of a tweak to the way that you’re looking at what is at stake. Because sometimes you’ll have other stories where where something is at stake that’s more primal than the global genre. So for example, like Pride and Prejudice, a love story, but poverty and economic safety is on the line. So you wouldn’t call that an action story just because of the stake because of what the object of desire is. That’s driving the arc of the story. So I would say making a little bit of a tweak to that. And then I know in future episodes, we will get very much into who the protagonist is. But so I’ll leave that discussion for then. But, you know, I think that when, when we’re evaluating that, I think all of the avatars in the story, the detectives, the eyewitness, they’re looking at, how can they achieve of adjust outcome and the the force of antagonism, the main force of antagonism who’s the lieutenant is looking at how he can escape justice. So I think everyone’s looking at the these sort of outcomes and objects of desire related to that central value spectrum.

Shawn Coyne  55:21

What about you? Leslie, do you have anything to add? Well,

Leslie Watts  55:24

um, one of the things that is that we, we always want to focus and put the global genre at the top, right, that’s the one we pay the most attention to, even if in you know, in a longer form story, you would have subplots perhaps, and that kind of thing. But I do see in this story that we have a, a worldview, Revelation shift, that that is a it’s a secondary, and it’s the internal that’s acting within within the story. And the interesting thing about this is that is looking at the different ways that worldview can can take place in this in our recent discussions about worldview, Revelation and versus say, disillusionment or maturation, is that the the revelation is of is pure novelty, right, is that in, in other flavors of worldview, that we’re looking at different types of novelty, but here, it’s very novel, very novel novelty, so pure novelty. And so I think that’s a really interesting thing that McBain has going on within the story.

Shawn Coyne  56:52

Yeah, so that’s great, Leslie, because that that brings that that speaks to what I was saying earlier about in masterwork stories, and I consider this a masterwork story, because it is extraordinarily clean, simple, but very, the signal is is very tight and fascinating. And exactly what someone who would like to know how it works in a police department would would be able to understand very cleanly and clearly. Alright, so in a masterwork stories, what you have is, you have a shift of movement across both the external and the internal. So when Leslie was talking about worldview revelation, she was talking about there is a worldview dimensionality in this short story that is very clear. And we understand it, especially at the end of the story when it really comes on stage. And so the externality of the story is, is what gives rise to the internal revelation. So and beyond the conventions and obligatory stuff of a crime story, that that, you know, tips the balance in defining this as a crime genre story. We’ll, we’ll get into the determination of the protagonist later. But it it is, I do want to speak to what Daniel was talking about, because it’s a very, very good point about the end. Thank you, Tim, for giving us your process, because it’s really great. So when so what Tim was saying is, when we’re looking at a genre, we want to make sure that the value at stake that is the most primal and most clearly definable, we want to put our attention on that as as an analyzer of a story. So Tim, initially thought, well, or on second thought, he thought, well, maybe this is life and death. Now action story. If each one of these genres I’m sorry to keep flip flopping around here, but each one of the content genres concerns a specific value as a universal human value. Now, the action story is about life and death. And I think we’d all agree that we all value life, right? So life and death is a universal human value. So it doesn’t matter what part of the planet you live on. If you’re a human being, you value your life and you value the lives of others. So it’s not this big, sort of difficult value to understand. So the action story operates under that that’s what can happen if somebody’s life is threatened. they’re threatened with close to death. So what Danielle was saying was that while there is life and death is on the table, meaning the, the informant in this case, could anticipate getting hurt. That’s not really what is driving the scene because nobody walks in with a gun and says, give me your money, or I’m going to kill you. That’s the literal action scene where death is externally possible in in an event on the page. And that doesn’t happen in this scene. Instead, everyone is playing around the game of how do we get justice? So justice is the value at stake in a crime story. So justice, again, is one of those universal human values, we all have an innate understanding of what’s fair. Now, we all have variations of what we think is fair. But we all think we all know when we’ve been victimized, right? So fairness is at play in all of our experiences. So we’re always weighing Is this a fair deal? Is this? Is this interaction I’m having with this person? Fair? Is it fair to me? Is it fair to them? Now, we might not, you know, abstractly stick our minds on evaluating fairness, but it’s always at play. It’s a universal human value. So the crime story is, is that story that deals with that difficult problem of what’s fair? Well, it’s context dependent, right? Sometimes things are fair for you to give up, you know, your coat, if somebody is freezing, and you, you know, you only have 10 blocks to get home and you have an extra coat at home, you know, it might be fair for you to lose your coat, you know, who knows? So fairness is one of these ill defined problems. And justice, again, is a value that has to do with fairness. So the crime story concerns the universal human value effect of what’s fair, what’s just so it goes along the spectrum of justice, injustice. So I definitely agree, this is a crime story. And we’re gonna, in the next series of questions, we’ll start getting into delineating more specificity about what kind of crime story is this? What you know, what does this story actually need? And using this methodology will enable us to really get down to real high high resolution detail about how Ed McBain actually executed this story, how he wrote it, and how we communicated such great signal to Sam. And we’ve got four Sam’s here, who are who have all really put a lot of attention on it. And we’re going to come to some agreement about how to move Tim forward to create his own scene, like this one, which we call the interrogation scene type.

Tim Grahl  1:03:10

Well, and before we move on, from the, the genre, the five leaf, Shawn or clover, could you just talk about like, you know, you mentioned at the beginning, we have the six categories of questions. It’s a total of 24 questions. So in this particular category, there’s five. Like, why is this included in the 24 questions that we should be asking about this story? What do I do now that I’ve gone through this? And I’ve looked at the five genre leaf clover, I’ve figured out, it’s realism. I figured out it’s drama, police, procedural, it’s crime. What do I have now? Why is this helpful for me to know about a story that I’m looking at as a masterwork?

Shawn Coyne  1:03:59

Oh, great question. Okay. So storytelling is such a incredibly large domain, right? So when we say something like, I really want to tell a story, that’s very coarse. It’s very nebulous. It’s very abstract. Well, what kind of story I don’t know one of those ones people buy. Okay, well, that’s a guess you’ve, you haven’t really rein that thing in very well. Right. So the story problem is a very big problem. I want to be a writer. Okay, cool. Well, writers do what well, they tell stories. Well, that’s what I’m gonna do that. Well, what kind of story you want to tell. I don’t know. You got any suggestions? Well, the story grid has some suggestions. Right? So what we’ve done is we’ve taken that big big barrel of, of story problem, and we’ve separated it so that we can can break that big, very large abstract problem down a bit, we can constrain it, bring it into higher resolution so that we can start to think about how to tell that story the best possible way. And the way we do that is we divided into this five leaves genre category, it’s sort of like a very coarse breaker upper, right? Like if you ever, for years, I used to work construction in the summer, right? So what would happen is, there would be a quarry, right, and there would be all this limestone. So what they would do is they’d get these big, big pile drivers and break up the quarry into these big chunks, right. And then they take each of the pieces of the big chunks, and then they put it in an aggregator who would break it up into smaller chunks, and so on, and so on, and so on until you add sand at the end or, or lime powder. And that’s kind of what we’re doing with the story problem. That’s his big quarry. And so the first thing to do is to break it into these five big chunks that all have to come together. And that, you know, we went through the first four, and the content chunk is really important, because this is the one that we can really wrap our arms around, we can really start to understand it. Because the content genre tells us what it’s about. And what it’s about are things that we care about. Right? So every person on the planet cares about a certain number of things abstractly, we all care about life and death. We all care about security. We all care about justice, and injustice. We all care about love. Right? We all care about respect. We all care about honor. We all care about morality, what’s good and what’s bad. We all care about how we’re looking at the world, are we seeing the world properly or improperly? And we all care about our status? Right? So are we are we how are we doing compared to everyone else? Are we doing well? Are we doing poorly, right? So all of these values lock into these genre content? slots, right? And then each one of them so we can look at each of these content jars. And we say, Well, why would Sam want to read this this particular story? Well, this is a story about justice and injustice. So Sam probably has a problem. She might not know it. But she has a problem thinking about cheese, I’m really not sure how to evaluate what’s fair and not fair in some of my relationships. So a lot of people love crime stories, because they have a difficulty trying to negotiate. Am I being victimized? Am I not being victimized? I’m not really sure. I guess it’s context dependent on Oh, no. So they’re drawn to those storytellers, who, who work in this arena that deal with that value of justice and injustice. So what we do with this five genre leaf is like we’re at the quarry. And we’ve got this big, big problem, this big mountain of limestone. And we want to get some limestone powder in order to, you know, build some buildings and make things good, right. So the first tool that we use is to break down that big story problem into these five categories. And, obviously, I’m sure you figured this out by now. They all sort of they they tied together right there, like a braid. And so when Leslie was talking about, you know, the, the importance of the as if what she was talking about is, you know, the realism has to align with the style, which has to align with the structure, which has to align with the time signature, and ultimately with the global content genre. So this five genre cloverleaf is the first stage of breaking down our big problem. And by the time we filter all the way down to the bottom of our green, and that last tool, which is the five commandments of storytelling, now we know how to the general stages of being able to iterate meaning write a story that Sam will understand, and Sam will be excited by will be intrigued by and then ultimately have some catharsis to get some sort of facilitation to an insight into what is justice in a particular context. So I hope that that that really gives the the big picture of where the five leaf genre Clover sits. This is a great place to start because it’s going to take that big mountain of problem and break it down into five really nice hills.

Tim Grahl  1:10:01

Yeah, that’s great. Well, we’ll in there for this episode. And so as always, you can see everything about the story grid podcast, story grid comm slash podcast, make sure you go there and sign up to subscribe to the podcast. Also. We’re now on YouTube. So we’re trying that out. So if you want to check out the visual version of this, we’re going to have that up there as well. But thanks as always, and we’ll be back next week in your feed with the second part of the 624 analysis. See you then. Thanks, everybody.


The Book

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.

First Time Writer

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.


Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.