Episode 255: What is happening in your story? (Part 1)


Danielle Kiowski, Shawn Coyne, Tim Grahl, Leslie Watts

Tim Grahl  00:00

Hello, and welcome to the story grid podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m your host, and I am a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me is Shawn Coyne. He’s the founder and creator of story grid and the author of the book, The Story Grid. Also, I have Leslie watts. She’s our Editor-in-Chief at Story Grid Publishing. And I have Daniel kowski, who is our Chief Academic Officer over at Story Grid Universe. This week, we’re  going over the four story Analysis Questions. Now this one went pretty long. So it’s going to end up being a two parter. But it’s really important because these four questions really help you nail what’s happening in each scene of your story. So Danielle is leading the way this week. So I’m going to kick it over to her to help us get started.

Danielle Kiowski  00:51

Thanks, Tim. So the reason that I’m leading this week is that we’re moving into the green or on the surface band. So as we move through the 624, we moved from Blue, where we were talking about the five leaf genre clover, and the what if that became the proposition of possibility, into the red, where we talked about narrative device and point of view, and now we’re moving into green. And so this is about how to take the concepts that we’ve talked about in previous weeks, and build a bridge from the ideas that we’ve talked about to the actual page. So we’re going to be talking in the green level, about the ways to get words on the page, and how to actually plan out the the events of the scene. And make sure that the execution aligns with the intent that we formed in the other levels. So that’s what we’ll be starting with today, with our four scene event synthesis questions, and we’re going to move through them one by one, they’re going to build on each other. And eventually, we’re going to get to the scene event synthesis, which is going to give us a summary of what we’re trying to accomplish in the scene. So to start out, we’ll dive into the first question. And the first question is, what are the avatars literally doing? So in this question, we want to talk about what are they doing, that we can see play out on the page. So this is it’s literal, we’re not reading into their actions. We’re just looking at what they’re actually doing. And this is the green of the green, where we’re talking about that on the surface component of what we see on the page. So Tim, what did you have for that answer?

Tim Grahl  02:35

So we’re still looking at the eyewitness, the short story by Ed McBain and so under what are the avatars literally doing? I put? Detective capelli is interviewing a witness trying to get his statement on what he saw. And Mr. Struthers is at the police station to give his statement but refuses to talk to anyone but to Lieutenant.

Danielle Kiowski  03:00

Okay, great. That’s great. So what we saw there is that you’re you’re giving the literal action for both of the main avatars. So that’s great, because we want a comprehensive view of what’s going on on the page. And that is the literal action is in many ways it’s you know, what you can see. And so it makes sense that we’re we have a really aligned answer there. I think one thing that we can do is get into the tactics a little bit more. So you got a really nice summary. What kinds of what kinds of actions is Struthers taking to interact with? capelli?

Tim Grahl  03:45

He is. So what kind of actions is he taking to interact with capelli? Well, I feel like he keeps putting him off. So he keeps just saying he wants to talk to the lieutenant. And he keeps saying that. You know, he won’t talk to anybody but to Lieutenant.

Danielle Kiowski  04:10

Okay, great. And let’s go to the go to the text for this in the green band is often really good to go to the text, because it’s on the page. So we have we have evidence here. So I think this makes the what you’re saying the summary that you have makes sense. We had we were talking about questioning capelli and I think that this is it’s a dynamic fits in there because he’s he’s posing questions not necessarily in a in an in a questioning mode. But by saying things like that he’s worried about his family. He’s posing implied questions to capelli about whether he will be safe or not.

Tim Grahl  04:56

I’m I struggle. So these are those things Things where the question seems pretty straightforward. And then I get lost a little bit in the answering. Because when I’m looking at what are the avatars literally doing? I think some of the ways we’ve talked about this before is like if I had a camera, and I was just watching what they were doing, what would I be seeing? And so we don’t want to get into like their motivations or anything. But it does change. Because if I get too detailed, I’m literally just re describing what was already just described in the in the scene. And it changes over the scene. So Mr. Struthers at first is just sitting there and, you know, looks horrible. And then he’s saying, you know, he wants to talk to the lieutenant and then he follows him into the office. And then he tells the story. And then he sees the lieutenant and runs out the door. So I’m always curious, like, how granular are we getting in?

Danielle Kiowski  06:07

Yeah, well, the key point here is that we’re trying to provide a summary with enough granularity that we can understand what is salient about this scene, in terms of energy transfer, to Sam. So on the surface is all about the transfer of energy generating excitement and anxiety, and those kinds of concepts. And so we want to break down the events so that we can understand the energy transfer. So when I hear the summary that he’s putting off Struthers and air, it’s not Struthers putting off capelli and shutting him down. within that category, I can imagine a scene like this because that’s a true summary. Or I can imagine a scene where Struthers is shutting him down to the extent that he doesn’t have any openings to prove himself. But Struthers isn’t completely shutting down. He’s not putting up walls and not talking at all. He’s engaging to the point where capelli has the opportunity to break through, and he does in the scene. So I think that if you can think about what’s the energy, transfer the scene and try to generate counterfactuals that fit within the summary that you already have. If there’s something that’s really different, then that’s an indicator that maybe you haven’t gone far enough in describing what’s going on in the scene. If they have really different dynamics that would both fit within the same summary.

Tim Grahl  07:42

What do you mean by counterfactuals?

Danielle Kiowski  07:45

Like other scenes that would fit into your description? So the counterfactual there would be another scene in which Struthers would be shutting down capelli would be one in which he would absolutely not talk to capelli, regardless of the situation.

Tim Grahl  08:02

Oh, I see, because I just have refuses to talk to anyone but to Lieutenant. Yeah,

Danielle Kiowski  08:07

yeah. Okay. And so and that wouldn’t be as interesting as seen, because if it would have to be shorter, like there wouldn’t be as much room for the interaction back and forth between them if he doesn’t have any cracks that capelli could find his way into. So I would say that’s, that’s the test for granularity is just does it? Does it narrow your focus down to the key interaction dynamics that are happening between the avatars? And so that’s why we have that questioning in there. Because it does allow for that sense of openness.

Tim Grahl  08:46

I see. You’re saying Mr. Struthers is at the police station to give his statement and his questioning in is questioning detective capelli. About whether he should talk to him or talk to the lieutenant.

Danielle Kiowski  09:05

Yeah, yeah. Yes. And we have that summarized as trustworthiness, which is a concept we can talk about later. But he’s trying to figure out whether you can trust him or not. And then capelli you have that he’s interviewing him and taking down a statement, and that’s right. What kind of dynamics do you think are going on? They’re thinking in the same vein.

Tim Grahl  09:30

So I had detective capacities interviewing a witness trying to get his statement on when he saw he’s trying to keep Mr. Struthers engaged in the conversation so that he doesn’t get shut down. So I feel like he’s I feel like what he did was basically pull out every tool he could to keep Mr. Stroud There’s talking to him knowing eventually if he kept talking, he tells him the whole story.

Danielle Kiowski  10:05

So he’s using some interviewing techniques to draw him into the conversation. Maybe making make him comfortable? Does does capelli know that Struthers is telling the truth? No. Okay. So does he know that by the end? Yes. Okay. So how does he get to that point?

Tim Grahl  10:31

How does he get to the point that he knows he’s telling the truth? Yeah, there’s a moment. Does it he say something that they hadn’t released publicly? Or maybe not? I’m trying to remember. No.

Danielle Kiowski  10:51

I think it’s where he says that he sees fear in his eyes instead of sub stubbornness.

Tim Grahl  10:57

That would, that would turn somebody into thinking he’s telling the truth.

Danielle Kiowski  11:03

I think that’s his first indication there. Okay. Because it’s it’s his indication that he’s not just trying to get to the lieutenant because the lieutenant is high ranking, but because he’s actually afraid for his life. So he understands at that point that Struthers is feeling the pressure of real stakes there. Okay, then, and then when he gets the details, and all of the details play into this. So what I’m getting out there is that we summarize that as that he’s looking for tells of his truthfulness. So that could be his expression. It could be the details that he’s giving. It could be, it could be. In other stories, this happens a lot in crime stories, where it’s something that hasn’t been released to the public. And so these are all tells that the witness is someone who can be believed. And so with a detective, especially, this is something where the detectives function is this, this filtering function that they’re taking in statements and they’re filtering out what what’s true and what’s not based on their training and their experience. And that’s going to take him from, from disbelief to to belief. So I think, as we’re talking through it, that’s something that comes up as a as a filter for that granularity that you’re talking about. What kinds of behaviors are fueling the changes that we see in the scene? Okay. But I think that you have really good summaries going on there. Another thing that we like to talk about in the literal action is, what kind of scene is it? So do you have an idea of what kind of scene type you’d summarize this as

Tim Grahl  13:10

an interrogation scene?

Danielle Kiowski  13:13

Okay. That’s where we started also. And we’ve, we’ve had a good discussion about this as we went through our analysis, because it struck us that interrogation has connotations of an adversarial dynamic, where one person is trying to entrap the other. But do you think that there might be error? How would you describe the dynamic between these two avatars?

Tim Grahl  13:47

I don’t know. It’s not trusting. It’s probably suspicious. They’re both suspicious of the other one.

Danielle Kiowski  13:53

Mm hmm. Yeah. So so they, they aren’t necessarily opposed, but they aren’t necessarily allied. Right? So they’re suspicious of each other. And they’re trying to figure out what they’re trying to figure out without allowing too much vulnerability. What they should think so. So we call this which side are you on scene for exactly that reason that they’re trying to figure out? Whether the other can be trusted or not. Okay. And interrogation would be a subset of, of these kinds of scenes where one side is trying to get a confession or, or get the other one to admit guilt. And in this one, it’s about it’s about figuring out the truth, figuring out which side the witness is going to come down on. Whether they’re witnessing accurately and faithfully or whether they’re witnessing for personal gain. These are the kinds of questions that That Capella is trying to answer and then Struthers is trying to answer, whether capelli is is trustworthy or not in his professional capacity. And so, so the just to to recap on the scene type, it’s important to figure out the scene type, because what that allows us to do is look at similar scenes that fall into the same category and other works. And we can start to compare the execution of these scenes and see what the most important features are. So this is like looking at genre at the global level, we can find stories that fit into the same category and start to figure out what the essential features of the genre are. And we can do that with scenes at the scene level. So we can look at which side are you on scenes and figure out which are the essential features that we’ll need to have in our scene and which are unique to this individual execution. But by creating that category, it allows us to do that comparison and contrast.

Tim Grahl  16:02

So how do you go about figuring out? Like, I don’t think I would have ever you would give me if you’d give me a really long time to sit with this and think about it, I would have landed on Oh, this is a, whose side of you aren’t on scene? And then these are the things that make it a you Whose side are you on scene? And then I can now go find other scenes like that. Like, how, what are you looking for when you’re trying to find because when you say, you know, figuring out what the scene type is, it’s like, yeah, I don’t know how to do that. How would I figure out what a scene type is?

Danielle Kiowski  16:47

Yeah, this is really similar to the granularity question that we talked about earlier, I would say because it’s about how to, it’s about what’s useful. So if you said, this is an interrogation scene, and you went out and looked for other interrogation scenes, that would be useful to you. So I don’t think that that’s a bad thing or a bad place to start. Okay. What you would do then is you would get a lot of interrogation scenes. And then you would start to look at them. And you would start to say, do these all have the same salient features. And I think that as you get more examples and more familiarity with the context, you’ll start to see important distinctions arise, where you say, Okay, this bucket of them, where the detective is interacting with a witness, they have really different dynamics and different progressions than these where the detective is interacting with a suspect. And so I think that even if you started out at a place at an at a simpler place, that you would, through study and accumulation of examples, start to see the same nuances that we’re getting at, where we’re trying to really differentiate the types of scenes that have different functions within the narrative. That’s what we’re getting at. And so just with more familiarity, you’ll start to pick those apart.

Tim Grahl  18:18

And so, once we land, so I could see that, like, oh, it’s an interrogation scene. And then as I start thinking through or looking at other interrogation scene, seeing like, well, ones, where we have, you know, somebody talking to a witness versus suspect those are difference because of these. And then when I’m trying to fill out the literal action on the page for this particular scene, I want to pull out the things that make this a unique type of Whose side are you on interrogation scene? Is that what you’re saying?

Danielle Kiowski  18:54

Yeah, I think that’s a great summary.

Tim Grahl  18:56

So in this particular case, that’s when I start looking at it and saying, Well, you know, what’s unique about this is that the witness wants to tell the story, but refuses to tell the story at the same time. So if he just refused, he wouldn’t have even shown up. So he showed up because he wants to tell the story, but he won’t tell the story. So what’s unique about that is he’s actually, that’s where we start landing on things like well, he’s questioning whether or not he should tell his story to this particular detective. And on the detective side, he’s interacting with this witness probably, at first, the way he would any witness, which is Alright, tell me what’s going on. Why won’t you tell me? And then once he realizes this guy’s really afraid that turns him on to the fact that like, Okay, I need to actually do everything I can to get this guy’s story.

Danielle Kiowski  19:49

Yeah, and we see in the story, they’ve got a line of people out the door, who want to tell them what they saw in this particular crime because it’s high profile. Right. So why is this witness different? It’s because he’s, he’s afraid. Okay. Yeah. Shannon Leslie, do you have anything to talk about with literal action?

Shawn Coyne  20:11

Yeah, I just like to pile on to the which side are you on category of scene and sort of frame it a little bit about the functionality of what that category means. So when you’re talking about when, when you’re having interactions between two people, or a person and an environment is, it’s sort of a measurement system. So when you go into a unique novel environment, you want to measure the environment to see if you fit in that environment or not, or what you have to do to adapt to that environment. So similarly, when we’re when we’re with a person that we’ve never met before, the first thing we do is sort of test them and question them to test whether or not this is a person who’s like me, who will, who will play games with me that are good for both of us. Right? So that’s testing their trustworthiness. And, and in a crime story, you have that that sensibility. And it’s very clean, because you understand that there’s, there’s a powerful figure. And then there’s the other person that they’re trying to, you know, get information from, or get a confession, right. So, the, which side are you on is a is a global interaction behavioral pattern that we all do. So, if you were to see somebody across the street, you would you would wonder, Hey, I wonder if they’re like me. So what would you do? You would kind of wave and go, Hey, how you doing? And if they wave back, you go, okay, they’re okay. So that’s, that’s, uh, which side are you are on interaction. Because if you wave and they give you the stink eye, then you’re like, Oh, that’s not someone who’s like me, they’ve got a problem with me. Therefore, the next, you know, sort of interaction I have them is going to be different. So it’s this measurement that we do all the time that we don’t really think about, that when you’re when you’re writing a story, you’re analyzing a story, you need to start thinking about, what are the what’s the interaction here? What’s going on? Are they trying what are they trying to get from one another? And so the which side, you’re Are you on scene in this context? There’s three possible, you know, things, right, it could be a suspect. So the detective could be trying to get a confession, it could be a witness. And so that would be kind of like an examination or a probing of the witness to see if they’re truthful, to see how good their information is. And the last one would be kind of like an informant. Right. And an informant on the street is someone who’s selling, they’re selling information. So the detective has to trust whether or not a the information is valuable, and be how flighty you know the informant is. So those are sort of three global subsets of the Woodside. Are you on scene for a crime story that has a detective? So I just wanted to blow that out a little bit to to get people a sense of crime stories, these which side are you on scenes are really important, because you do a lot of interviewing and crime stories. So you have to mix and match and do all kinds of fun stuff that are different and unique.

Leslie Watts  23:53

So one of the ways that I think about about this is we’re looking at the literal action in terms of we’re analyzing a story, if we’re looking at, because we want to plan a story or we want to analyze a draft that we have written, we we look at this a little bit differently. And I do think that the, the level of granularity will vary by writer, because we all have different needs in this regard, but I, the advice I often give is to get as specific as you can, like, just keep going until it feels like it’s a little bit broken, and then back off, where it’s like where it’s not to where it’s useful again. And so, when I’m looking at these, I’m thinking about what you know, what is the context? What kinds of behaviors typically happen in this context? What you know, What are the things within it that people can be playing around with? Right? There’s not a lot, they don’t do a lot in this particular scene. But we would want to think about that, for example, more in a fight scene. And then, and then I’m thinking about, you know, what are the avatars doing before? The turning point? And then what are they doing, you know, after the turning point, and these are all kind of, just, that’s the starting point that I use for, for beginning to think of, to condense, what’s what the avatars are literally doing. And then thinking about a scene type. So when I’m thinking about the scene type, I take the literal action that we have going on, and then I start stripping out details. Until there’s something that is that could happen in any scene. So the, which side are you on, of course, is happening before you know which side they’re on. If you’re, you know, if you’re in an interrogation situation where you have an actual suspect, that’s definitely going to be a different situation, because you know, you’re on different sides. And so the, what that means is that what you literally do will be a little bit different. So those are just some extra considerations. To that I think about when I’m thinking about this question.

Danielle Kiowski  26:39

Yeah, I think that’s fantastic. And one of the concepts that you’re getting out there is portability. That’s something that we discussed a lot, so about abstracting to the point where it could happen anywhere. So an interrogation scene is a little crime biased, because of the the connotations of the word interrogation. And so that is one of the one of the considerations is stripping away the the genre context to get to something that is more applicable broadly. And the reason for that, going back to the reason why we have seen types to begin with, so that we can identify essential features. If you can look across genres and get examples, it’s going to be, it’s going to supercharge your ability to understand these scenes. Because if you look within one genre, you might get some false signals about what kinds of things are essential, because you might be getting some of the genre trappings, constraining, if you can look outside and get get very different examples, you’ll start to see very clearly the commonalities between the types of scenes within that type of scene across genres. And also, what it allows you to do is to take something from a completely different context, and learn from it and integrate it into your work. And the cool thing there is that this is how we can innovate. And so, so, Innovation often comes from combining two different things that exist in different contexts. Alright, so I think, unless anyone has any other thoughts, before we move on, we can go to question two. All right. So this one is what are the essential tactics of the avatars. So this is moving into our above the surface zone. So we’re talking about information processing, and we’re talking about objects of desire here. So an essential tactic is what the avatar is doing to get to their object of desire. And so here, to get grammatically specific, we like to use a transitive verb. And that is a verb that takes an object. So what that means is, the avatar does a verb to something. So if you say, for example, the avatar gets, tries to get someone on their side, they get is the verb and then someone on their side is the object of desire. So by the end of the scene, they want to know whether that whether someone is on their side, and that creates a clear test for whether they accomplish their objective desire in the scene or not. Because at the end of the scene, you can test whether they have someone on their side or not. So this is generally how we’ll formulate essential tactics. And it gives us a filter through which we can look at avatar actions and ensure that they’re always pursuing that object of desire clearly, according to their essential tactic. So Tim, in this Scene what are the essential tactics that you identified for the avatars?

Tim Grahl  30:05

So for Detective capelli, I say that he is deployed deploying all the tools in his detective toolbox to convince the witness to tell his story without bothering the Lieutenant. I feel like that one’s pretty good because it has his object of desire.

Danielle Kiowski  30:23

Yeah, he’s trying to convince the witness is the core of that. SO CONVINCED would be your verb. And the witness telling his story would be would be your object of desire.

Tim Grahl  30:34

Well, but isn’t a part of his object of desire to not bother the lieutenant as well, right? Because if it was only convincing the witness to his story, if that was his only object of desire, then as soon as Mr. Struthers was like, I’m only talking to the lieutenant he’d say, okay, and take you to the lieutenant.

Danielle Kiowski  30:51

Yeah, yeah, I don’t I don’t think that you have anything extraneous there. Okay. It’s just the the the grammatical core is that but I think that you’re identifying a really important thing there, which is getting at the double factor pneus of the problem that capelli faces as well. So that’s something that we talked about, when we talked about Sam’s problem in the narrative device episode, that the questions that we face in stories, we always have constraints on them. And so by highlighting the constraints, you’re you’re getting at how difficult this problem is for capelli. And that’s not it, because he’s not the protagonist. We’re not talking about an A parallel to Sam’s problem here. But it is important to whenever you look at a problem that any avatar is facing, consider all of the constraints on them and all of the factors going into their decision. So yeah, I think that’s a really good summary. What about for Struthers?

Tim Grahl  31:49

So I have Mr. Struthers wants to do the right thing and give his statement but is scared and trying to make sure he is taken seriously. But given your your explanation you just gave of the essential essential tactics question I start thinking it needs to be something more of like Mr. Struthers wants to give his statement while remaining safe.

Danielle Kiowski  32:19

Yeah, I think these are all playing in the same field that we have. So for capelli we have tried to get Struthers on his side to get him to reveal his information which is exactly parallel to what you have. And then for Struthers we have that He’s measuring the trustworthiness of the detectives to evaluate the probability of releasing his information with guarantees of safety. So it’s just a different different way of phrasing what you’re talking about and encapsulating that same idea. So we’re definitely thinking in the same space. But we have this added component of measuring trustworthiness. And we started talking about that a little bit in the on the surface. And we’re we’re pulling apart this concept. So in the on the surface, he’s questioning the trustworthiness. These are the the actual, the actual actions that he’s taking involve things like observing signs of trustworthiness and then creating situations where you can get more evidence. But to actually measure the trustworthiness and come up with that measurement, that’s an information processing system that Struthers is doing in the scene. So by the end of the scene he needs to have he needs to have a good sense of whether capelli is trustworthy or not. And so, so do you see that dynamic playing out in the scene?

Tim Grahl  33:46

He at the beginning of the scene, he wants to talk to the lieutenant? Is it because he thinks the lieutenant will be more trustworthy than this detective standing in front of him? Yeah. Yeah. So then I see where this whole time he’s. He wants? Yeah, it feels like he wants to give his statement, but he’s just not sure if he can trust capelli to take his statement.

Danielle Kiowski  34:17

Right. So I think if we go to the text, the reason that he thinks that the lieutenant is going to be more trustworthy is that he knows it’s the lieutenant’s wife who was killed. So he thinks that the lieutenant with a personal interest will be less susceptible to the corruption. But he he says, As soon as he comes in, that he’s worried that if he talks, then he’s going to that the information will go further and that he’ll be in danger. So right, I don’t want any slip ups. I don’t want him coming after me next. And so this is what he’s getting out there is that there’s corruption in the police department. And if he says anything, then he might be a target. And so the lieutenant with his personal connection, he thinks that he’s trustworthy. So at the point he can’t get to the lieutenant, he needs to make a measurement of which, which avenue to the lieutenant is the safest. And so capelli is this candidate. So we don’t seem McGregor’s interrogation of him. So he, so McGruder, has already talked to him. And he’s already made the evaluation that he is untrustworthy. And so then we see the interaction with capelli. And he makes that measurement. Okay. And so the concept of trustworthiness here is really is an interesting one to, to unpack a little bit. And the idea is that, because, because we’re always trying to figure out trustworthiness, so like Sean, what you were talking about with the person on the other side of the street, you put feelers out there, and they’re not necessarily directly related feelers, because those can open you up to vulnerability. So you try to feel your way around the issue and come up with as much evidence as you can, for whether the other person is playing in the same playing on the same team in the same ballpark that you are. So there are a couple of different factors there. So it’s like, are we playing the same game important? And are we aligned in our goal within that game, also important. And you can do that through exploring the different cultural grammars that are going on and looking for signals that the other person will be in the same arena. And something that occurs to me is, is things like codes to get into speakeasies and things like that. That means, you know, the right people, right. So it doesn’t matter that you know, the passphrase. The passphrase is a signaling device that you’re not, you know, a police officer who’s going to bust up the speakeasy or something like that. So you’re looking for signaling devices, that signal a cluster of characteristics, that taken together mean that the person is trustworthy. And this is a multi sensory experience, where it’s based on how the person looks, how they smell, how it feels to be around them, how they shake your hand, whether they wave to you how they sound. So a lot of this is subconscious processing. But there’s also this conscious component where we create situations where we can get more evidence if we’re unsure. And that’s what Struthers is doing in this scene.

Shawn Coyne  37:44

Well, I think that trustworthiness because it’s in the red zone, right above the surface. Now, what do we know about the red zone, it’s the information processing system of your mind. So what information processing requires is his data, right? So trustworthiness is a probability analysis. So if I spend a lot of time with someone, and I learned their habits, and I realized that we’re sort on the same team, and that they’re part of my tribe, or there’s somewhere inside of my comfort zone, of someone I can be trustful of, the longer I spend with them, and the more data points they give me that they’re trustworthy, the more I will trust them. But it doesn’t mean that there isn’t some boundary condition where they will, they will defect from my trust. So we’re constantly doing these data compressions with the people that we know to are, are you playing the same game or not? Are you on the same page or not. And once we start getting signals that they’re starting to defect, then then we have to alter our interactions with them and our relationships with them. So it’s this dance between the interactions of the energies that they’re giving us and the energies we’re putting back. And we’re constantly measuring each other to make sure that we’re on the same side, and that we’re not playing an adversarial win lose game. And even though we do value transfers, with people who are in the same sort of tribe as we are, we can do those kinds of transactions without getting too too messy, and we don’t feel that we’re being taken or we’re being manipulated, so that they get a better deal, right. So this is part of the interactional play between systems of beings with one another. So trustworthiness, again, is a functionality of information. processing, which puts it into the above the surface red realm. And so the way that happens in real life, the behaviors are things like, we ask a lot of questions. We were constantly doing checks to see that someone’s not be asking us. And so that’s the remember when we were talking about the green, we said Strothers questioning, right? So that’s what we can see on the page. And the questioning then targets us always checking for trustworthiness, because those are links. So I trustworthiness again, is another really fundamental component of interaction. So knowing about how we come to trust someone, and when we get betrayed is an important tool for writers and storytellers.

Danielle Kiowski  40:56

Yeah, and it occurs to me to connect that to the shapeshifter archetype too. Because that probability function that you’re talking about the avatars, trying to figure it out, but the author needs to know what the boundaries of defection are for all of the avatars. So if you’re creating like a fellowship, they might all be going after the same object of desire right now, but that doesn’t mean they will be forever. So if you you need to know what everyone’s bounds of defection are, so that you can show conflict within the group. As you go on in the story, have defectors arise as you go on in the story, and have people shapeshift that aren’t having internal transformations. So shapeshifters will have on the surface transformations where they act differently in different situations. But they have an an internally consistent objective desire and goal state. And we’ll just see them shift based on the context in which they find themselves.

Leslie Watts  41:53

So when I’m thinking about essential tactic, I dropped down from the what the avatars are literally doing. And so this is just kind of a short cut way, right? Like what they’re actively doing, then I think about, well, why are they doing that? And what are the tactics they within that? So, so again, the avatars are doing stuff. And there are tactics within that. And they’re doing that because of something that they want. And then I take it a step further, and I think about, they’re doing it because they want something because of how they see the situation. And so by framing the essential tactics that way, it really, it helps me because if one of those aspects is easier to think about than the others, so what they’re doing, what the tactic is because of what they want, because of how they see the world, if I know one of those things, then I can, I can figure out the other ones. So that’s really how I, how I collapse this into a process that enables me to both do analysis of a masterwork scene, or to analyze a scene from, you know, from a work in progress, or even to if I’m trying to draft it, I know what my avatars want, I know what their goal is. So I can start thinking about tactics, that makes sense. And then I can go up to what they’re literally doing. So you can move in different directions, depending on what’s easier for you.

Danielle Kiowski  43:36

Yeah, that’s fantastic. I love that focus on process, because it is, we are going through them in order linearly. But you’re absolutely right that in practice, outside of a Podcast, episode recording, it’s it’s very much about going to whichever one is helpful, and then using the others to shore up. And it goes back to even at the broader level, like what we were talking about, at the beginning that you would go through through your 624. And then you would, you would re recheck it, make sure that everything aligns and, and go through it multiple times. So great. So now let’s, let’s look at the third question, what universal human value has changed for one or more avatars in the scene. So in this one, we’re connecting the movement in the scene to the values that we have for our content genres. And so each genre has a value spectrum on which it operates. And we try to identify where we’re, where we’re at at the beginning, and where we’re at at the ending on the spectrum of one of these values, the most salient value for each scene. And so when we’re doing this as part of a larger work, we’re looking at what how it contributes to the global arc. And then here we’re looking at a short story. So we’re looking at what’s the core movement of the scene that contributes to or that that relates to its global genre. So Tim, what do you have for the value change?

Tim Grahl  45:17

I really struggle with these value changes. So I have safety to danger because I was thinking about Mr. Struthers as the protagonist. And you know, that’s where we landed in an earlier episode. But then, if we’re looking specifically at the genre, which is crime, then I would say it’s shifting from justice to injustice by the end. And then, I mean, are there ways to look at this, where we’re looking at the value changing on the three different levels, the on the surface above the surface and beyond the surface as well.

Danielle Kiowski  46:08

We don’t really do that we look at the value shift as a unified thing that that is the that kind of cuts through those Trinity planes to get to the core shift of the scene as it relates to to the global genre. So there are going to be multiple changes happening. And so you can pull that out. Because in a masterwork, you have one global genre emphasized and then you’ll you’ll have the other value spectrums in play. But you really want to focus in on the core value change in the core value spectrum of the global genre. So I think something to start with here is there are levels of refinement to the to the value shift. So one thing that I like to start with is just what’s the valence of the scene? So not thinking about the not thinking about the value shift at all right now? Do you think that the scene is more positive at the end or more negative at the end than it is at the beginning?

Shawn Coyne  47:19


Danielle Kiowski  47:21

Okay, so So what that would mean is that it’s a cautionary story that that Sam should not do, what Struthers has done. Do you think that Sam, do you think that that the author is trying to communicate that Struthers made the right choice or the wrong choice?

Tim Grahl  47:40

I I think I think he’s trying to communicate that he made the wrong choice to trust the police department.

Danielle Kiowski  47:50

What do you think is going to happen after the scene?

Tim Grahl  47:54

Well, I think that they will never hear from Mr. Struthers again. I think that if capelli trusted the lieutenant at all, he didn’t trust him anymore. I think the lieutenant probably took steps to make sure that Mr. Struthers wasn’t going to be used as a witness in the future. Yeah. Is that Is that what you’re asking?

Danielle Kiowski  48:30

Yeah, yeah.

Leslie Watts  48:31

So so the key

Danielle Kiowski  48:33

thing there, I think is that you’ve identified that is we’ve seen that trust is a big deal. In the scene, you’ve identified that capelli doesn’t trust the lieutenant anymore. Right. So

Tim Grahl  48:50

So neither does Mr. Struthers?

Danielle Kiowski  48:52

Right. Right. Yeah. And so So capellini knows that the lieutenant is the perpetrator. Right? Yes. Okay. So the way that we’re looking at it is that Struthers comes in he has. So So I want to look at this in terms of the global genre, but but to start out, Struthers has knowledge. And he so he knows who that he doesn’t know who the perpetrator is, but he knows information that will help him identify that person. He doesn’t know the name. By the end, that burden is shared capelli knows. Yeah. So does that increase or decrease the probability that the lieutenant will be brought to justice Do you think?

Tim Grahl  49:54

I think it increases the likelihood that the lieutenant would be brought to justice.

Danielle Kiowski  49:59

Yeah, All right. So this is why we have it as a positive increase over the scene. Because and I see where you’re coming from the it, it looks negative, because he runs out of the police station. He’s not in the moment getting justice. But because of the knowledge that capelli has, by the end, there’s as as you just identified, the chance that the that the criminal will be brought to justice is higher. So that’s a positive shift in terms of justice.

Tim Grahl  50:38

How much does it matter, then, on these questions on this particular one who the protagonist is of the scene or the story?

Danielle Kiowski  50:50


Tim Grahl  50:52

Because to me, if we’re looking at it from Mr. Struthers point of view? I mean, I guess if we’re looking at it well from for justice, it is closer because he did tell his story. And capelli believes him. So on the Justice injustice scale, we move closer to justice.

Danielle Kiowski  51:19

Yeah. Yeah. So Right. So will justice be achieved in the situation and and where the protagonist is particularly important in terms of value shift, is that the protagonist owns the climax that determines the resolution. So let’s imagine that he took the alternate path, and he told he accused the lieutenant. What could have happened?

Tim Grahl  51:49

What could have happened? He could have I mean, the lieutenant could have said, you know, he’s wrong. He’s lying. The lieutenant? It would maybe muddy the waters more, because then the capelli would be caught between Well, who’s telling the truth? The lieutenant or this guy?

Danielle Kiowski  52:16

Right. Right. So so he could have right as, as you’re pointing out, the lieutenant could have discredited him. The police force, maybe Magruder is and we know that Struthers doesn’t think he’s trustworthy. So they could have closed ranks. And now they could capelli could be constrained, he could not have the freedom to take it up the chain. Or as you’re pointing out, he could be confused. He could not know who to trust himself. And so there are a lot of negative outcomes in terms of justice, that could happen if Struthers makes the opposite choice. So Strothers choice to keep silent is key to to having the resolution at the state of justice that it is. And so Struthers as the protagonist, his choice is operative in the value shift of the scene. And so that’s why the protagonist is so important when we’re considering this is that is that we’re looking at the value of the value of the situation overall as enacted by the protagonist climax decision. And then we can make a determination about that with how it falls out in the in the resolution. And so, so as we were talking about we have a shift in probability of justice occurring. So we haven’t moving from possible justice to probable justice. So it’s a subtle distinction there between possible which is there is there’s there’s a possibility that Justice might happen, but it’s not necessarily likely it is just one of many possibilities. And then probable, it’s still not certain, we don’t know what capellini is going to be able to affect, but it’s at least taken a step in the right direction. And so this is to get there, it’s important to think about the kind of steps that we’ve walked through, think about the long game of how this how this value is going to play out. Because this scene has a seeming setback in the moment. But but it is communicating that Struthers made the right choice.

Shawn Coyne  54:39

Well, I just want to circle back to Tim’s very, very astute. Probably problem with with value shift, right. So this this is very difficult. And so we actually had a discussion about that between the three of us on this and The medium of the story itself starts to play in which values you’re going to really stress and emphasize. So if it’s a short story, which this is, there’s no, there’s nothing more to the story than than the words in this in this short story. So that would mean that you want to, you want to really look at the blue and and follow the emphasis of the blue global value of the genre of the story itself. And so all that means is that you want to look at where is justice at the beginning of the story and justice at the end of the story. Now, if this was a scene within a larger medium, and the emphasis was more on safety, so maybe Struthers is attacked, when he walks outside of the out of the building, right? Then then the emphasis would be more on the green, and life and death would be on play there. So you would play, you know, it’s safe to danger or liked to death in some realm. So it is important to put the scenes what what their emphasis is, is how you determine which value to to put in your sort of spec sheet. So because this is a short story, we want to look in the blue realm. Now, if this was one part of a story, and it would have had life and death stakes in this particular scene, then we would use the life and death value spectrum to do our our value shift for that particular scene. Now Life and Death comes into justice. So it’s not it’s not that we’re playing fast and loose with value here, because all value stack, right? So it’s tricky. And it only comes with a lot of practice, to start to understand, which is the emphasis of the value in this particular unit of story. Now, because this is a scene, that’s also a short story, that means the scene is the global story. The genre is crime. Therefore, we need to focus on justice in this scene. And that’s why we we got to the point of possibility of justice to probability of justice as the as the ARC of this particular scene itself. So I hope that helps. It’s It’s tricky, and the better you get at being able to identify value in and of itself, the more you’ll see where these values move in the green and the red in the blue. So that might be a little bit abstract, but I think it’s it’s worthy of emphasizing.


The Book

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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.