Episode 261: Beat Breakdown – Analyzing Writing Line-by-Line


Danielle Kiowski, Shawn Coyne, Tim Grahl, Leslie Watts

Tim Grahl  00:00

Hello, and welcome to this Story Grid Podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m the host and I am a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne. He’s the creator and founder of story grid and the author of the book story grid. And he’s helping us figure out how all of this stuff works based on his 30 years of experience. Along with us, is Danielle Kiowski, the Chief Academic Officer of storybrand universe, and Leslie Watts, the editor in chief of storyboard publishing. In this week’s episode, for the first time, we’re going to go through the short story EYE WITNESS, and we’re going to look at it beat by beat line by line. So in last week’s episode, we introduced the idea of tropes and introduced the idea of beats and gave you some structure around how we think about beats. But in this episode, we’re actually going through beat by beat, identifying the beats, categorizing the beats, figuring out all of that stuff. So we really go in depth, if you’re listening to the audio only version of this podcast, you’re going to get a lot out of it, we’re going to walk through everything, we tried to do everything in a way where you can follow along. But on the video version that we have over at YouTube, you can actually see us walk through the scene and actually see the scene that we’re working on. So there’s a screenshare going on where you can actually see it. And so if you want to follow along while watching, you can go to our YouTube channel, just search story grid, you’ll be able to find it subscribe there, we’re actually putting up videos every single day. And so if you don’t want to miss all of the content that we’re putting out, not just this podcast episode, but also videos that we’re putting out every day. You want to go to YouTube and subscribe there. But either way, we’re going to have a really great episode as we begin the process of stepping beat by beat through the scene through the short story of eyewitness by Ed McBain. Alright, so let’s jump in and get started.

Shawn Coyne  02:02

Okay, great. So what we did last week is I gave an overview of the story grid, concepts of active build up beads, break down beads and binding beads. And I’m sure everyone really nailed all that very, very easily. But so to build on that what we’re going to do today is we’re going to walk through the short story I witnessed by Ed McMahon, and we are going to figure out what I mean by this. So what we’re going to do is identify these inputs and outputs that make up all beats. And then we’re going to ask you some questions about what you think that beat is doing for our single audience member. So either you’re going to be exciting, the single audience member and enlivening her, right, she’s going to be excited to keep reading, or you’re going to be depleting her, and she’s going to have some anxiety. So that’s all I’m gonna say about that. Because what we’re going to do is walk beat by beat. And we’ll ask you these questions. This is going to be very meticulous work. And you have to take a lot of care. Because you really want to understand exactly how a masterwork works. So that it can help you when you’re going to iterate it yourself. So and then just to remind everybody, from the beats, we’ll be able to in future episodes, find tropes. And the tropes are sort of this beautiful place where this, this very sort of sterile kind of energy, determination of beats, and the the big thematic idea of a short story itself, they meet, so you’ll, you’ll have a much easier handle to iterate a scene based upon eyewitness with a trope as as opposed to the beats. But so that’s just a prelude to what’s coming in the future. So let’s, I’m going to turn it over now to Danielle, who’s our resident beat person who, who knows these backwards and forwards and she’s going to walk us through, and we’ll ask you questions as we go. So over to you, Daniel.

Danielle Kiowski  04:27

Thanks, Shawn. So to do this, the first thing we do is just take the blink or the text of the story, without any annotations or anything, and we drop it into a document and then we can work from there, labeling the inputs and outputs and starting to apply the valence is. So I’m going to share my screen so that we can work through these together and we’ll just do this from a document. So here we have the text of eyewitness. And we can go through and start to label the beats. So What we went over last week is that each beats has an input, and usually an output. If it’s a binding beat, where it’s more about the author direct communication to the audience member, then it won’t have an output. And we just need to first break down what the beats are. And we can do that by looking for inputs and looking for input output pairs. So to get us started, Tim, what do you think is the first beat here

Tim Grahl  05:26

he had seen a murder in the site, it’s sucking into the brown pits that were his eyes. It had tightened the thin line of his mouth and given him a tick over his left cheekbone. He sat now with his hat in his hands his fingers nervously exploring the narrow brim. It was a thin man with a mustache that completely dominated the confined plains of his face. I think it ended up cheekbone.

Danielle Kiowski  05:51

Great. Great. We thought so too. So do you think so what what did you sense that made you feel that it ended at cheekbone? What were you noticing?

Tim Grahl  06:03

I feel like it switched from like a this isn’t the right word something like timeless to now right because it was like this is his This is the demeanor he has had for a while now. And then when he switches to he sat now with his hat in his hands. We’re now dropping into the time of like, this is exactly what I’m seeing right now. As opposed to this is how this purse this avatar has been for a while. Like I kind of pictured my group, not recruiter.

Danielle Kiowski  06:41


Tim Grahl  06:42

Struthers sorry. I said McGruder, and then I thought MacGruber And then Saturday Night Live I’m like, Well, that can’t be right. I’ve kind of picture Struthers is almost like standing across the room and he’s been watching this guy for a while. Oh, capellini is watching Struthers? Yeah, okay. Yeah. capelli? Yeah, so capellini has been watching Struthers for a while. And he’s like, Okay, this is what I’ve seen. And then now this is what he’s doing right now. And we’ve talked before about starting wide, and then like funneling down into the now.

Danielle Kiowski  07:22

Yeah, exactly. So so a couple of concrete things to notice is that we have this verb tense had seen had tightened here. And then it switches just to the simple SAT. Right. So that’s just a concrete on the page way of signaling that time shift that you’re noticing as you run the film of the short story in your mind. So verb tenses are something to look out for. Also, we can think about, when we’re separating out these introductory, descriptive binding passages into beats, we can look at what are the facts that the author’s communicating to the audience? And where does it switch from one fact to another. So I would say that the fact in this first beat is the murder has impacted this man. And then the fact in the second, in when we’re getting into here, the fact here is more about what he’s doing with that information. And so, so these are just different ways that you can approach breaking the beat at the correct place that you absolutely did that.

Shawn Coyne  08:41

So I want to categorize this from our, our schema, as a world building beat. That is what we call Gestalt to feature. So Gestalt to feature means a big wide, to a feature of the big wide. So when Tim was talking about the time shift, that’s a gestalt. You know, this is what happened. And now this is what’s happening. So it moves from a big picture to a smaller picture. So that’s worldbuilding, binding Gestalt to feature. And lastly, I want to ask you, Tim, do you think this input is is enlivening to Sam or depleting to Sam? Is it exciting to Sam or is is it causing her anxiety?

Tim Grahl  09:34

Could you define those words?

Shawn Coyne  09:38

Okay. So enlivening would mean that it is stimulating Sam’s curiosity and there’s energy going into her system that is making her interested. So she’s having sort of a and don’t take this word the wrong way. She’s being aroused her her limbic system to her is being aroused. Right? So she’s attracted to this information or this energy. So that’s enlivening, depleting, is when it comes in and makes her sort of stop for a minute and say, Whoa, wait a minute, what does that mean? Right? So, depleting means that she needs to, to process the information so that it makes sense to her. enlivening is something that sort of makes sense that encourages and makes her aroused to find out what’s going to happen next. So depleting is about what just happened, and enlivening is what’s going to happen next.

Tim Grahl  10:49

Okay, then I would say this is enlivening. That’s correct.

Shawn Coyne  10:53

And we’ll we’ll, I’ll keep asking this question. And there’s a whole different set of tools that you can use to figure it out, and we’ll go through them as we go through the story itself.

Tim Grahl  11:04

When you say anxiety, I’m like, Well, when you tell me somebody seen a murder, that doesn’t make me feel great, so it makes me a little anxious. So that’s why I needed you to talk more about what you meant by that. Because I was thinking this was enlivening. But if you tell me that, a guy has seen a murderer, I’m not like, Ooh, you know, it’s like, oh, well, you know, creates anxiety, but it does pull me to want to read the next phrase before I don’t feel like I have to stop and process that was helpful.

Danielle Kiowski  11:40

Alright, cool. So let’s look at the second beat. So Tim, where do you think the boundaries of the next beat are?

Tim Grahl  11:45

So I’m going to just read again. He’s sat now with his hat in his hands, his fingers nervously exploring the narrow brim. He was a thin man with a mustache that completely dominated the confined plains of his face. He was dressed neatly his trousers carefully raised in a crease protecting lift that reveal taut socks in the brass clasp of one garter. So I’m torn between whether that’s all one beat, or that’s two beats, but I’m landing on two beats. So I think it ends with, he sat now with his hat and his hands, his fingers nervously exploring the narrow brim, because that’s describing action that he’s taking. And then it moves into describing what he looks like.

Danielle Kiowski  12:32

Okay, and so see, would break it here?

Tim Grahl  12:36

Yeah, between brim. And then he was a thin man.

Danielle Kiowski  12:39

Okay, so the question is, for the next two paragraphs going from, he sat now with his head into his hands down to the brass clasp of one garter. Where we’re going to break that so you have that breaking after his fingers are exploring the narrow brim. And we have a longer beat, where we take the next two paragraphs, the ones that you just read out, and we have them all as one beat. So I’m going to put a marker for the input at the beginning of the passage. And we can look at why we might want to condense these into one beat instead of separating them out. So let’s say that we have this first sentence, he sat now with his head in his hands, his fingers nervously exploring the narrow brim, as, as one beat, and then for the next about his physical characteristics, we split that into a second beat. So just looking at that first. Just looking at that first sentence, do you think that would be enlivening or depleting?

Tim Grahl  13:42

I would, I would categorize it as enlivening

Danielle Kiowski  13:46

with one. Are you using the the feeling of being pushed forward in the story for that?

Tim Grahl  13:53

Yeah, because now I’m wondering why he’s nervous.

Danielle Kiowski  13:56

Okay. So when when we get into avatar description, to one of the things we’re looking at is whether the descriptions of these avatars include chaos, order, or complexity. And so chaos, these are noisy qualities, there’s no real cause and effect, things are breaking down. Whereas order is very strictly controlled cause and effect based operations in the world. So when I look at this sentence, what I’m seeing is that when he has this nervous tic that he is exploring the narrow brim. This is a chaotic description, because he’s, he’s breaking down and this is the physical manifestation of that breakdown. Now, at the same time, I think that you’re right that the feeling of this is the intent is to push you forward into story, right. So this is why it helps to condense this passage into one because the rest of it he has, he has this mustache that he is spent time on. But it dominates the confined planes of his face. So confined planes is more of an ordered description. And then he has he’s dressed neatly trousers carefully raised taut socks, the brass clasp of one garter, these are all also ordered descriptions. So to achieve pushing Sam farther into the story, this whole passage works together to provide a contrast between everything after narrow brim is describing qualities that this man had before he saw the murder, because it’s describing things that that are evidence of longer patterns of behavior. So he has this mustache he has the physical characteristics of his body, he has the way he is want to dress. And and that’s very carefully, right. So he has these from his life, he has these ordered patterns of behavior, and they’re contrasted with this chaotic, nervous exploration of his brand. And so together, the chaos and the order come together to create a complex beat that pushes us further into the story. But if we separate them out, we lose the we lose the the interaction between those two halves so we lose the contrast of it. And then we also get to depleting beats instead of one enlivening beat. Does that make sense? Yes. And then we want to talk about how to categorize this before we go on. So how would we categorize this beats?

Shawn Coyne  16:47

Let me jump in there Tim and just give you the, the three categories right the three global categories we have binding beats, and binding beats are when the the narrator slash author is speaking directly to the reader, Sam. So binding beats are communication channel between the narrator and the single audience member. Okay, so it’s as if I’m talking to you directly. The other two kinds of beats are active build up beats. And that’s when avatars are interacting exclusively. And break down beats are also when avatars are interacting directly. So binding beats are all about speaking directly to Sam. Active build up is about avatar interaction and breakdown is about avatar interaction. Now, the binding beads have three subcategories. One is what we call world building, which establishes the alternate world and and the author narrator is telling Sam what that that the rules of this world are. Then there’s camera shifting. And camera shifting is about sort of scanning the landscape and changing the frame of reference for Sam, so that Sam can see more in the landscape of the alternate world. And lastly, we have transition. binding and transition binding is this really cool tool that enables the author narrator to move Sam’s attention from listening to her, the author Narrator or him depending to watching the action on the stage. So it transitions from getting information from the author narrator to watching what’s going on on the stage. So we have four transition beats, we have an input and an output. One input is the author talking to Sam and one is Sam watching the world of interaction between the avatars. So transitions are very important because they they smoothly move Sam’s attention from listening to the author narrator to watching and experiencing the story through the eyes of the protagonist of that particular beat. So with that said, this input he sat now with his head hat in his hands, his fingers nervously exploring the narrow brim all the way down. How would you describe that? Would that be a binding input or an active buildup input or a breakdown input? Excellent. Now we can answer the subcategory of the binding after We’ll take a look at what happens next. So I’m going to turn it back to Danielle so that we can we can look at the next output.

Danielle Kiowski  20:08

Okay, great. So with this, we have capelli, looking at Struthers whose name we don’t yet know. But we see this thin man across the room, we see capelli looking at him. So how does capelli react to what he sees across the room

Tim Grahl  20:36

in the next beat.

Danielle Kiowski  20:39

So we have this as this is an input, and then we have the next the output as part of this beat. So we have the capelli sees him sitting with the hat, he sees how he’s dressed, and then he reacts to that visual sensation.

Shawn Coyne  20:58

Can I just jump in here? Yeah, I just like to clarify what a B tests, because it’s tricky. So beads can either be only input, only output, or input and output. Most bids have both inputs and outputs. So a beat is divided into two units, an input and an output. Or it could be binding beads could just be inputs only. Occasionally, like beginning of this short story, we have a beat, that’s only input for world building. But most, most beats contain both inputs and outputs. So to be able to call something a beat, we’re usually talking about to, you know, a binary of an input plus an output.

Tim Grahl  21:58

So you’re including the next line, which is capelli, asking that him question mark, as part of this beat, because he’s were the input was seeing this things about him, and then the reaction or the output would be him asking the question, he wouldn’t have asked the question without the input of seeing the man. Okay, so I mean, well, then I feel like that makes it pretty easy to go back and say this is a transition beat. Because the input is is information that brings our eyes down, and then I watch, instead of me getting information directly from the storyteller from the author, I’m now also brings my eyes down, and I’m getting information as the reader from the actual avatars, which is what you said a transition beat is the input is coming from the author, and the output comes from the avatars on the stage.

Danielle Kiowski  23:11

Okay, so we when we’re looking at this transition needs to go from one plane of perception to another. So the reason that we rule out transition here is that while we are going from an authorial description to a direct output from an avatar, if you look at the authorial description, what what plane would you say that that’s on?

Tim Grahl  23:39

What do you mean by plane?

Danielle Kiowski  23:41

So, so when we talk about as we go through the the Trinity planes for the 624? Have we talked about that, by the way? We did, right? We talked about, okay, I just want to make sure I’m not like forgetting things. Right? It was many episodes ago. All right, let me start that over, okay. Okay, so when we go through the 624 tools, we separate them into the beyond the surface plane, which is the universal patterns of behavior and connecting to archetypes and things like that. When we go into the above the surface, then that’s talking about information processing systems, and how avatars see the world, their worldviews and cognitive frames. And then when we go down to on the surface, this is concrete actions that are actually happening on the VA that are actually playing out. So if you had a camera, that’s what you would be seeing. And what we saw, we have these Trinity planes, which are ways that we think about different concepts. And so the same planes that apply to how we split up the tools into three different groups up can apply to how we split out information that’s communicated in the story into these three different things. So if it were beyond the surface As you would see, summaries of the way that people are so summaries of universal patterns of behavior, statements about universal truths, things like that. For above the surface, this is when you enter an avatar psychology and you start talking about that you as an author would enter an avatar psychology and talk about how they’re processing things, what kinds of feelings and senses they have, and then how they translate those into motivations for their on the surface actions. And then if it’s on the surface, it would have descriptions of concrete actions and events without getting into the psychology or without summing up to that collective cultural grammar levels. So this is just just the facts would be they on the surface plane. So how do you think this is operating the description of his his dress and how he’s playing with his hat

Tim Grahl  25:57

and be on the surface?

Danielle Kiowski  25:59

Why do you say that?

Tim Grahl  26:00

Well, because you said it was just the facts, what I would see with a camera.

Danielle Kiowski  26:04

Oh, that would be on the surface. That is, isn’t that what I said? No. You said beyond the surface. Oh, maybe you said it would be on the surface. And I heard beyond this. Oh, that’s

Tim Grahl  26:13

what Yeah. Yeah. No, I’m like, yeah. Okay. Sorry. Yeah. So on the surface.

Danielle Kiowski  26:22

Perfect. Yeah, absolutely. And so then when we have direct dialogue, this is also functioning on the surface. So it’s more immediate, but it doesn’t represent a transition from one plane to the other. Because it’s moving from on the surface to on the surface, even though it does have a different quality of how that on the surface information. And energy is communicated to the audience

Tim Grahl  26:47

by process of elimination, where you’ve landed on camera shifting, because it’s not world building. It’s not transition. So now I’m feel pretty confident that his cameras shifting.

Danielle Kiowski  26:57

Excellent. Yes. And sometimes that’s how we find out these things. You know, it’s just, and that’s actually when we were discussing the speed. That’s exactly the process we went through is we said, it seems kind of transition like, but then had to really take a look at it and say, No, this is this is on the surface to on the surface. So we’re not getting that transitional movement

Tim Grahl  27:20

is camp. Is camera shifting, always on the surface? Or can you cameras shift that the other Trinity planes,

Danielle Kiowski  27:28

I think that it needs to be on the surface? Do you guys agree with that, like, I think that if you’re operating beyond the surface or above the surface, you have to drop down to looking at something to look at something else, and then you can go back. But saying something like saying some something about an avatar, thinking about something and then going directly to another avatars thoughts is very jarring, without going down and being grounded in that concrete world.

Shawn Coyne  27:59

I absolutely agree with that. And that’s why I chose the word camera. Because the camera is capturing a visual sort of witnessing function. And we cannot witness the thoughts of others. And so above the surface, if you if you move from someone’s thoughts to another person’s thoughts without that integration of going down to the ground again, so that we can frame them in our minds. It’s too schizophrenic for Sam. So remember, this is all about explaining how to make the experience for Sam fluid and lifelike. So whenever you get stuck as a as a story creator, think about Sam, how is Sam experiencing this level of story? And if you’re moving, I can’t sit here and mindmeld and think about what any of you are thinking about. I can’t penetrate your thoughts, right? But a story creator can give us the thoughts of avatars but they have to do it very, very carefully. And thankfully, Ed McBain does not do that in the story. So we don’t really have to, you know, dive into this, this deep, you know, story toolbox. But just just keep it in mind that if you move from above the surface to above the surface, it’s not going to feel real to Sam and it will be disturbing to her because it will be an alien input output to her because we can’t hear other people’s thoughts. So usually, you’ll get this quick transition. Sean thought that that Sally was being mean. Sally went and bought you know, Sally took her for and jammed it into the table. Sally thought Shawn was an idiot. Right? So you move from above the surface of Sean’s thought to on the surface with Sally’s actual actions, she jams the fork into the table, and then we can go up into Sally’s thoughts. So it’s this very fluid movement from above the surface on the surface, above the surface back down and back down. So it’s like this, you can’t go this way, because we can’t read one another’s thoughts. And so to present that to Sam, your single audience member, so go, that’s weird. That’s not the way the world goes. I don’t want to read this book because it’s silly.

Danielle Kiowski  30:44

Okay, great. So here we have camera shifting. And we already talked about the inputs, valence when we talked about the order, complexity and chaos. And we said that it’s complex. So it’s going to be enlivening.

Tim Grahl  31:06

So the output is capelli. Responding to what he saw, and he’s asking the question that that? I would say that’s enlivening as well. Okay.

Danielle Kiowski  31:24

And I should have done this before, likely. But what do you think that is, in terms of the type of output it is? Is it binding, active build up or reactive breakdown?

Tim Grahl  31:35

Active build up,

Danielle Kiowski  31:37

that gives us our first two beats, and then we can start to break down the third beat. So what is the next beat that you would identify here?

Tim Grahl  31:51

So the next lines, so capelli is asked that Tim, that him I asked. So that’s the output of the previous beat. So the next couple of lines are that Tim McGruder said. And he saw the mugging, and that’s capelli talking again. So I feel like that’s where the next beat would end. Because we have an input and output we have recruiter saying, in putting to capelli and then capelli, outputting, back.

Danielle Kiowski  32:26

Great. That’s exactly what we have as well. And it gets a lot easier when you get into the dialogue. Because you have these plays back and forth, not that they’re always like that, but it’s a good place to start. So taking this first input, that’s him McGruder said. Is that binding active buildup or reactive breakdown?

Tim Grahl  32:52

It’s active build up.

Danielle Kiowski  32:54

Okay. And what about the valence?

Tim Grahl  32:58

I would say, enlivening. I honestly don’t know. I’m just guessing. It’s not giving me anxiety. It’s not making me pause and think. So, it’s enlivening.

Danielle Kiowski  33:10

It’s not very impactful. In terms of you know, it’s not. It’s not a highly valence enlivening but it is enlivening in that it gives capelli more information to go on. And it it pushes us further into the story by saying yes, that’s the person we need to focus on. So it does push our attention into the future a bit. It’s not neutral, but it is sort of a light, enlivening moment. Okay. The output, what would you say the type of that is? And he saw the mugging. So active

Tim Grahl  33:50

build up. And I would say that’s enlivening as well.

Danielle Kiowski  33:55

Exactly. So, anything to add before we go on to the next feat?

Shawn Coyne  34:01

The only thing I would say is determining, enlivening and depleting again, as a good Urist IK is to remember, is this pushing the attention of Sam into the future? Or is it making Sam want to go back and reread? Right? So if it’s enlivening, it’s stimulating and arousing Sam’s curiosity. It’s intriguing her and if it is depleting, it’s it’s causing her some anxiety and she wants to sort of stop for a second and reflect on what has already happened before she moves forward. So one is anticipation into the future enlivening and anxiety about what just happened. That’s an reflective, that’s depleted.

Leslie Watts  34:52

One of the other things that we can look at when we’re looking at enlivening and depleting I think, is we can ask what the author Third, you know, at the red level, what the author is trying to illuminate about the problem that Sam has. And so one of the and so there’s that there’s that level. And then down in the in the green when we look at the scene analysis level, we can think about because we’ve done all of this from our 624 analysis, we can think about what is avatar? capelli. So first, what is author capelli trying to accomplish here? And then what is avatar capelli trying to do? Because avatar capelli is trying to test Struthers to see if he is a witness. Author capelli is wanting to pull you pull Sam into that process and show the details that indicate this is how you test someone when you’re not sure if they’re on your side or not. So let’s

Danielle Kiowski  36:02

look then at the next set of input and output. So Tim, what would the next beat here be here?

Tim Grahl  36:11

So capellini is just asked the question, and he saw the mugging that was the output from the previous beat. So now, let me just read forward. He says he saw it he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant. None of us underlings will do Hmm. The greeter shrugged. He’d been on the force for a long time now. Okay, so the other beat ended after capelli spoke again. So the input would be McGruder saying he says he saw it. He won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant and the output would be compelled his response. None of us underlings will do ha.

Danielle Kiowski  36:52

Perfect. That’s what we have to. So now to go through and analyze them. When we look at he says he saw it, he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant. So that’s coming from Magruder. Do you think that that is an act of build up a reactive breakdown or binding?

Tim Grahl  37:13

Act of build up?

Danielle Kiowski  37:14


Tim Grahl  37:17

I would call it the pleading. Because it makes me that he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant makes me pause and think I wonder why he won’t talk to anybody but to Lieutenant. And so that idea, Shawn, it makes me reflect that?

Shawn Coyne  37:36

I don’t agree. Okay, he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant in terms of my heuristics would would make someone want want to know what’s going to happen next.

Tim Grahl  37:51

Feel like his me as the reader makes me wonder why. Like, I start immediately trying to guess why he wouldn’t talk to anybody but to Lieutenant which to me is reflective.

Shawn Coyne  38:05

Yeah, maybe I’m using the wrong word reflective in terms of reflective in, in, in the sense that you are worried about what’s going to happen next. So, you it’s sort of depleting is an experience as a reader that you’re like, you have to take a second before you keep moving forward, because you have to make sense of the input. This makes perfect sense. So that it’s information that’s going to Sam, the single Audience Member such that she’s anticipating, or wonder why I’m going to keep reading, it’s not a shock to the system. So there are there are levels of shock to the system for Sam. And this is not very shocking. So when you do get shocked, you reflect and I think that may be a squishy, poor use of a term. So maybe shocked is a little bit better to pleading as a like a little shock to Sam that makes her stop for a second before she goes forward. And we need those little shocks because what they do is they enable us to, to keep processing. It’s like in cognitive science. It’s this moment by which we stop to reintegrate to move forward. So it’s like you have to metabolize that shock before you can move forward. And then of course, there are little shocks that are constantly shocking Sam, so that she’s she keeps moving forward in the narrative. So if every line is enlivening, Sam is going to get bored because it’s not very surprising. So what you need are Have these these little anxious depleting shocks every now and then such that Sam will, will keep moving forward. But but it’s a little bit of a pause right. And experientially, that’s how Sam is experiencing it. So he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant. It is a tiny little shock. But it’s still enlivening because it’s it’s easily processable. by Sam, do you to have a better your Ristic? To answer that than this? Because this gets a little squishy?

Leslie Watts  40:35

I have one thought is that when when something depleting happens for Sam, Sam has to rethink what’s come before has to reassess, right? She has been moving forward, moving forward, putting all of the data in its categories, and boxes and such. And then when something depleting happens, again, she has to reassess, she has to look at the categories look at the information. Do I need to rethink this?

Danielle Kiowski  41:04

Yeah, I think another way that I look at it, too is from the on the surface level, is that once we get into actual interactions between avatars, Sam has done the projection to align herself with through empathy with the protagonist. So when we get into these dialogue exchanges, I like to look at how the avatars are affected as, as a method to see how Sam is affected. And so what that looks like is, does it does it give does it set the the avatar up for more agency in the future? Do they get more information? Do they have sought the shots set up for them if we want to use like a billiards example? Or are they constrained so our avenues of action cut off for them? And so in this particular interaction we have he’s he’s in dialogue with Magruder he’s in a safe interaction. So he doesn’t have to deal with keeping capelli here, he doesn’t have to deal with the refusal to talk to anyone but the lieutenant yet until he’s then in in dialogue with Struthers himself. So when you’re in a dialogue situation, you can look at, is it increasing the conflict and the tension between the two avatars? Or is it creating more of a a cooperative and friendly environment? And that’s, that’s another way to look at it. But really, it gets down to how it affects their agency? Is it expanding it? Or is it constraining it in some way, and not allowing them to have as many open avenues of action in the future? So here, right. That’s him. He says he saw the murder, but he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant, it’s giving capelli the information that he needs to deal with this person more effectively. So it’s informing his action?

Shawn Coyne  43:14

Yeah, I just want to really underline that point. Because what happens when you have dialogue is that Sam identifies with the output or so the output or is what we define as the protagonist of that particular dialogue. And so Sam sees the world through the output her. Why is that because Sam cannot output. So she has a an affiliation with the protagonist such that the protagonist behavior are our sort of these. What Sam believes that she would do in the same situation? So Sam starts to identify with the protagonist of the particular beat, and the protagonist is always the output. So what we have here is capelli is now playing the role of protagonist in these sort of micro beats before Struthers does. And later on, we’re going to see how Ed mcbaine switches out the protagonist such that Sam starts to see the world through Struthers eyes instead of the Avatar capelli. Now Capella is playing two roles here. He’s playing the author narrator and he’s playing an avatar. So this is a really complex story, but the way Sam is experiencing dialogue is through the output of the protagonist. So if the protagonist is being enlivened by The interaction. So is Sam.

Tim Grahl  45:03

So this may be jumping ahead a little bit. But would we’ve identified in previous episodes that the protagonist of this short story is Struthers but inside of a particular trope can the protagonist be some somebody different than the protagonists of the overall scene? Or in this case? Short story?

Shawn Coyne  45:28

Absolutely, absolutely. And that that’s one of the means by which you can establish that the the truthfulness of the alternate world is to give Sam multiple lenses in the particular story such that she can see the world from different angles. However, there is an overall protagonist that Sam identifies with, globally. So there can be micro moments when Sam sees the world through other avatars eyes, in tropes, as you pointed out to him. And you have to clearly make sure that that protagonist gets switched back, you know, so that you really have to be very careful about how you’re moving the camera, because the way Sam is seeing the world is through the eyes of the output her. And that’s why it’s so important to be able to take the time necessary to delineate these inputs and outputs, because whoever is outputting is how Sam is viewing the world. So that’s really, that’s a really key insight that we’ve discovered at story grid, that enables us to be able to send the signals that we want Sam to easily be able to pick up on her, you know, decoding antenna of her mind.

Danielle Kiowski  46:56

Yeah, and that’s which can happen at any unit of story, it could even just be like handing the baton over for a single beat, it doesn’t even have to be a full trope. But the relative size of the unit of story, that the other avatar gets to be the output or four, that’s going to that’s going to join them with Sam at a different level. And to get back into the previous episodes, you know, we talked about the five commandments. And that’s how we identified who the protagonist is, right is the inciting incident who’s responsible for responding to the inciting incident. And so thinking about those words, right, you have the inciting incident coming into your protagonists life, it’s an unexpected event, it’s targeted at them, they have it targeted in the sense that they have to respond not necessarily targeted, unless it’s a part particle, right. But that is this macro level input. The climax is a macro level output. So when you switch for a trope, or you switch for a beat, it’s exactly the same thing as if you have a novel where you have a global protagonist, but then, in a particular scene, or particular sequence, another avatar acts as the protagonist. And so these are the same dynamics that we use at all of the levels of story that we’re just seeing them at the very micro level here.

Tim Grahl  48:16

Okay. So we decided that input of that beat, he says he saw it, he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant is enlivening. And then now we’re looking at the output. None of us underlings will do Hmm. I will say that’s active build up. And I would say that’s enlivening.

Danielle Kiowski  48:37

Yeah. So it’s kind of like, building up their connection.

Tim Grahl  48:40

Right. Yeah. My looking for the next beat now. Yeah. All right. So. So capelli has said none of us underlings will do Hmm. That’s the output of the previous beat. So now McGruder shrugged. He’d been on the force for a long time now. And he was used to just about every type of taxpayer. I looked over to where the thin man sat on the bench against the wall. Well, I said, let me see what I can get out of him. Okay, okay. So I would say the input is McGruder shrugged. And then it’s almost like the next senator is describing his action. So, Magruder shrugged is the input, but then we get some more information about that shrug. He’d been on the force for a long time now. And he was used to just about every type of taxpayer. So that starts making me feel like well, it almost feels like that part is binding or like world building or something because it’s giving me information about McGruder, that’s not input or output even though this is that that’s not a separate beat. So, to me the input is maybe is it that whole thing McGruder shrugged. He’d been on the force for a long time now. And he was used to just about every type of taxpayer? Would that be the input?

Danielle Kiowski  50:13

Yeah, we actually have it going a little bit further to I looked, too, over to where the thin man sat on the bench against the wall

Tim Grahl  50:21

as the well, because I would in the whole beat, maybe this is better. After capelli says, Well, I said, let me see what I can get out of him. Because what I’m reading here is the input. You could you could rewrite this, I don’t think it should be rewritten this way. But you could rewrite it as McGruder shrugged. While I said, let me see what I can get out of him. And that would still be a full beat, because I’ve got input and output. So those two middle lines are the things I’m not sure what to do with because I see the input from McGruder. I see the output from capelli, that those two middle lines give us some useful information, but I’m not sure what to do with them. That is

Shawn Coyne  51:04

very insightful, Tim. And we have a whole toolbox that we call an embedded qualification to deal with those sorts of binding pieces that are addendums to inputs and outputs. That’s part of our technology. We don’t need to get into it here. But you’re picking out the binding elements here is really, really good. We don’t again, we don’t need to get into those details, because they we can we could we would be here for the next three weeks. discussing how how we contend with that. But we do have a means by which we evaluate that and make it part of our story grid gridding. But you’re right. So the thing to remember here is you’ve identified the input and the output, and then that extra stuff is is a denim to McGruder shrugged. And then, so well done, I’m going to turn it back to Daniel.

Danielle Kiowski  52:05

Yeah, and we have it in the input here. Because it is, as you said, Tim, modifying how we think about the shrug. So I think what you did instinctively was really great, where you look at what is the core nuggets of the input, what’s the core nugget of the output? And then look at when he outputs what is what is he outputting to so we have you know, He shrugs McGruder shrugs, then capelli reflects on what the shrug means. And then he gets some sensory input from looking at the man. So all of this goes together into what inspires him to say, well, let me see what I can get out of him. So since we have that broken out, note, input and output. And just a note here, too, is that we’re not going to get into analyzing the embedded qualifications on their own. But we can use them to modify how we understand the input and the output in terms of the valence, and what kind of what type it is. So that is that’s fair game. We can we can use the author’s description there. So when we have McGruder shrugged, and the accompanying binding, he’d been on the force for a long time now and he was used to just about every type of taxpayer. I looked over to where the thin man sat on the bench against the wall. Is that a build up a breakdown or

Tim Grahl  53:34

binding? I would say it’s active buildup.

Danielle Kiowski  53:37

And would you say it’s enlivening or depleting?

Tim Grahl  53:41

Alright, so I want to say depleting but I’m a little gun shy with the depleting but I’m thinking I’m sitting here thinking like okay, McGruder doesn’t give any more information with his shrug. He’s kind of, to me signaling that he’s done. You know, I mean, I don’t know but I start feeling like this is depleting because it’s McGruder, basically shutting down anything that comes next. So because the previous output from Capella was asking a question, none of us underlings will do hmm. And so McGruder, doesn’t give any more information to him, he just trucks.

Danielle Kiowski  54:27

Okay, so we have we have enlivening the reason that we have enlivening is that we have it as you said, it’s there’s not very much that we get about what McGruder is doing right. He shrugs and we know that he’s kind of world weary from the description. This is all we get. And what that does is that it gives us this space of potential where he hasn’t really enacted at any particular any particular way of responding to what capelli said. So it’s more wide open. And so we go to enlivening in that case, because it’s preserving the complexity of the situation and their interaction, that it’s not creating conflict between them. It’s allowing the conversation to, to go forward and continue to build up. So it’s like, he can be saying here. So he says, you know, none of us underlings will do, He shrugs he could be saying, like, yeah, you and me both, you know, or he could be doing that as a covert action where he doesn’t want to admit to being an underling. And so it’s leaving that open. And so it’s opening up, right, we talked about enabling, right. So it’s opening up all of these possibilities for how the conversation could go, rather than constraining it down to a particular path that would be constraining.

Tim Grahl  56:03

So like, when I think about active build up, verse, break down beats, most beats are going to be active buildup. And that’s kind of the default position until something breaks down. Is that kind of the same and enlivening, the depleting were like, the new if I had a spectrum, right? If we had negative one, zero and one, like neutral, and up is going to be enlivening unless something is specifically depleting. Because in some of these, we’ve been like, well, there’s not a lot there. But you know, we’re going to we’re going to tag it as enlivening because, like, for instance, higher up, you know, an output was that him, you know, and it’s like, you know, it says that him I asked, so I have four words to decide if it’s enlivening and depleting. And so I start to feel like, well, okay, I should start with enlivening and get talked out of it in the depleting instead of like, just looking at it as this clear, binary choice. Would that be a better way to start thinking through this? Or am I still missing it?

Danielle Kiowski  57:14

I think yes. But I have some some follow up thoughts on that, that. I would say that neutrality, what neutrality means is that the the avatar is following the rules of the collective cultural grammar, which is enlivening because it’s moving the it’s moving that relationship forward. It’s creating, it’s not creating tension, it’s creating a bond. That’s how collective cultural grammars work is that they provide a framework in which to form those bonds. So in the absence of anything else, I would say that, yeah, neutrality tends toward enlightening because we experience following the rules as neutral. However, I don’t think that that means that the distribution is overwhelmingly enlivening. Because what you’ll because stories aren’t life. So like in our lives, most interactions are enlivening, hopefully. But in a story, you do want to have this mix. And so like at the very beginning, if they’re in this situation, where they’re, they’re getting along, like they’re at work, they always go to work, chances are something relatively neutral is going to be enlivening. However, the reverse is true, if you have an avatar who has who has already established a depleting pattern of behavior. And they’re just always terrible. If they go toward the neutral, like they’re probably going to be still depleting. And so you can adjust your expectations of that avatar based on the strategy that they’ve been following up until this point.

Tim Grahl  58:58

So like IE, or would be depleting even when he’s neutral. Is that kind of what I’m hearing?

Danielle Kiowski  59:07

Potentially, I feel sorry for him. I feel I feel tardy.

Tim Grahl  59:12

And Winnie the Pooh is who I’m thinking of, right. I

Danielle Kiowski  59:15

know, and I’m having trouble. Like yesterday. You know, I’ve seen it in a long time. Yeah. Right. So is it like, is he depleting or is he just like, I don’t I

Tim Grahl  59:30

need to look at probably a rabbit hole. We don’t need to go down. Right, but

Danielle Kiowski  59:33

some something like Thorin or Yeah, go ahead.

Shawn Coyne  59:36

I think the point here, Tim, is that there’s a tendency for us to try and generalize, right. So you’re looking for like a generalized rule of thumb to use and say, well, most things are enlivening. So I’m just gonna go with enlivened unless there’s proof of depleting and that’s kind of a mistake. And the reason why that some mistake is because the reason why we take such care in these beats is the variation is extraordinarily, the energy transfer is very, very specific. And so if you start using generalized principles at the beat level, you start to get into trouble. Because then you start just sort of using formulaic. I’m gonna go and lemon, lemon, lemon, lemon depleting and lemon lamp, and then it becomes patterned, and it doesn’t feel real, because the patterns in life are unpredictable, right? So you’re trying to simulate the unpredictability at the beat level. And so to to use these sort of generalized principles and say, Well, you know, 72% of them are going to be enlivening. And then every 3% Afterwards, you’re gonna deplete, that’s going to get you into trouble. So this is why we we take great care looking at masterworks, because the master works, do these beautifully intricate variants on these, these very large, you know, generalized principles like, it’s good to fall in love. That’s a great generalized principle, right. But if you want to read a great love story, it’s much more nuanced, then it’s good to fall in love, you know, you don’t finish reading Pride and Prejudice and go, well, the moral of that story is, it’s good to fall in love. No, you go, well, there’s all of these nuances of how about how to properly fall in love, depending upon the variation of things happening in the story. So this is where the variation really comes to the fore, is in these beat analyses. So as as difficult as it is, and how like it does, it does crash your mind a little bit. You do have to take the care to really suss out the enlivening and depleting here. And we do have three tools to be able to do that, you know, which we have been discussing. We have sort of, you know, the, the is it moving me forward or making me reevaluate, Sam, right, so we take Sam’s position, and then at the very bottom, we can take Sam’s position as seeing the world through a particular protagonist. So now we’re saying is this enlivening to capelli or depleting to capelli? If it’s in a dialogue transfer, and then we have, you know, other tools to be able to do this, but I understand what you’re trying to do. You’re trying to generalize the principal and say, Would you would you agree that most beats are enlivening or most inputs and i That’s why I think you’re getting hesitancy to say er is always depleting because we don’t want to say that unless we’re analyzing it’s like well, which which input and output or you’re talking about, then we’ll take a look. But to to generalize ie your as a depleting person or avatar is not. We don’t feel comfortable doing that because we need to see the words on the page to make that determination.


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.