Episode 262: Beat Breakdown – Analyzing Writing Line-by-Line – Part 2


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 shortly is Shawn Coyne. He’s the creator and founder of story grid. And along with him is our Editor-in-Chief of Story Grid publishing Leslie Watts, along with the Chief Academic Officer of Story Grid University, Danielle Kiowski. In this episode, we continue breaking down the short story I witnessed by Ed McBain beat by beat. So we’re literally going line by line through this short story, separating it into beats and looking at each individual beat and analyzing it. So we started this last week, or continuing it this week. And for those of you that are wondering why this is worth all the hassle, I really recommend you just stick with it. One of the amazing things about looking at a Master Work line by line is you really get to understand what the author was doing at each part of the process. And it really helps you understand how to put these things into practice in your own writing, as well. So this is a really, really good process. I hope you stick with it. Again, if you are listening to just the audio version of this podcast, I highly recommend you go to our YouTube channel Story Grid, check out the video recording of this episode, because then you can actually follow along with the writing as well. But either way, I hope you enjoy the episode. And we’re going to go ahead and jump in and get started.

Danielle Kiowski  01:34

Alright, so let’s pick back up with where we left off last week. We are in the middle of the beat that starts out with the input and 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. And then it has the output Well, I said, let me see what I can get out of him. So we’re going to pick back up, they’re talking about the input and the output. And then we’re going to classify each of the input and the output as active build up, break down or binding, and then talk about their valence whether they’re enlivening or depleting. And then we’re going to be moving through the rest of the story, breaking up the inputs and outputs and qualifying them in the same way. So let’s dive in and get started. Last time, we were talking about the input, and we classified it as active buildup, but we don’t yet have a valence for it. So Tim, do you think this is enlivening or depleting?

Tim Grahl  02:34

I would say it’s enlivening. Yeah,

Danielle Kiowski  02:37

absolutely. That’s what we have to. And now let’s go down to the output. So we have well, I said, let me see what I can get out of him. First, would you say that that is an active build up or a breakdown? Active build up? Okay, so let’s, we have break down. Let’s talk about why capelli might be breaking down here. And part of I think part of the, the deal with the story is that the breakdowns are a lot more subtle, because they’re acting in this workplace environment. They’re acting in this established, established set of rules. So when they break down, it’s not like they’re burning everything down. They can have these hips, subtler, subtler ways of breaking down where they’re kind of striving for, for for dominance in the situation.

Tim Grahl  03:28

Could you talk about what a breakdown beat is, again, like remind me what is the difference between active build up and a break down?

Danielle Kiowski  03:37

Look at an active buildup and active build up is when the avatars are following the rules established in the collective cultural grammar in which they are, they’re building up the relationship between them. Now sometimes we look at this from Sam’s perspective, we say this is building up the energy for Sam, it’s pushing her interest forward, it’s making her want to read further. But because Sam and the avatars are really closely intertwined, when they follow the rules of the the situation in which they are when they when they build up their relationship with each other, that has that effect on Sam, so it’s acting on these parallel paths. Now breakdown is a response to some sort of novelty. So a breakdown is when an avatar encounters something either they haven’t seen before. They’re not expecting to see in this context, or that threatens them and distracts them from the conversation at hand. And in response to that, they go through an autonomic response, which is freeze flight or fight so freezing they just take a beat and in process, but they’re freezing while they’re doing it. It’s like deer in the headlights flight. They’re buying time to figure out what to do, because they they’re not sure how to address this and then fight. They are sacrifice Seeing something to try to save themselves in the situation. So these are the the options for breakdown. And what that looks like in practice is that they are. They’re responding in a non strategic way. So when you have active build up, they’re going through, like I said that they are following the rules. They’re also pursuing objects of desire, according to a strategy. And in breakdown, that’s, that breaks down. So the relationship between the avatars breaks down, because they’re not following those roles. They also break down their ability to follow this object of desire. And they act in a way that cracks through their established public persona, and they’re acting out of self preservation or this autonomic response to novelty. So from Sam’s perspective, it’s a break down if it makes her pull back and reevaluate what happened before. So she’s reading along, she doesn’t know the rules of this world as well as the avatars do, right? So she’s reading along, something happens, the avatar responds with a breakdown. And she has to say, Whoa, I guess what just happened is a novel thing. And so she has to kind of reevaluate, RE and interpret how she sees what just happened. And it creates intrigue for why that would upset that particular avatar to the point of breaking down their public persona. And so again, what we see is that Sam and the avatars have this, this alignment going on, where we can see the breakdown happening, both at the level of Sam, that she’s, she has anxiety, she’s pulling back, she’s reevaluating what happened, and at the level of the avatars, where they’re undergoing increased conflict, and they’re going, they’re undergoing that breakdown of their strategic pursuit of their objects of desire.

Shawn Coyne  06:56

I was just gonna say, that’s fantastic. That’s a really terrific overview of of what we mean about build up and break down, here’s a, here’s a quick addendum to it. So the way I like to think about it is that it’s sort of like spider webs. So when you’re in a relationship, you’re talking to somebody, and you’re trying to see their point of view, you’re sort of like throwing a spider web at them. And if it sticks, then this webbing starts to get more and more thick. And if they, they return the spider web, it’s great. And so you’re building up a relationship with that person. And you’re, you’re both pursuing your own objects of desire, but you’re doing it with civility. And then what happens in a breakdown is that someone defects from the relationship, and there are levels of defection, right. So sometimes we can get distracted. And we say, I’m sorry, I have to leave. And that breaks that moment of connection. But we know that the relationship is going to still be viable in the future. So in this case, we have a relationship between two detectives, we’ve got Magruder, and we’ve got capelli. And what’s operating here is that capelli is playing the role of protagonist. So what that means is that Sam, our single audience member, is seeing the world through the eyes of capelli. And this is another great operational heuristic for for storytelling, the output or is always Sam’s perspective. Because we have to remember that Sam as a concept, the single audience member, she is listening to a story. And she’s reading the story that has been written down by the author narrator. And so the thing is, is that Sam can’t talk back to the author Narrator because the author Narrator isn’t really there. All we have are the syntactic words of the author’s, you know, ideas. So Sam can’t output. So when you can’t output, what you usually do is you look through the lens of someone who can. And so the output or become Sam’s viewpoint of seeing what’s going on in the story. So when capelli decides that he’s going to give it a try and see if he can get something out of it. It’s a breakdown. Because now Sam has to think, Oh, I wonder why, why he’s leaving. And then. So that’s from Sam’s point of view. And it’s also a breakdown, because capelli saying, you know, I’ve had enough McGruder of this discussion. I’m going to move forward. I’m going to take on the responsibility of interviewing this guy, and you just sit on your butt And, you know, do your your McGruder thing, and I’ll go do it, right. So these guys have are in a relationship. And probably McGruder had done that for capellini at some time, too. So while it’s a breakdown beat, it’s not like a burn down the house kind of break down beat. But it is a cutting away of the relationship. And, and capelli is differentiating from Magruder. He’s different than Magruder. Therefore, the relationship is, it has been cut off for a while. So I hope that makes sense.

Leslie Watts  10:36

I have just one thing to add to all of this, which is, it’s a very complete picture. But one thing I would add is that, that when novel things happen, that causes a breakdown in our cognitive processing, right? So that we are because it’s surprising. So we’re acting in a way that is consistent with our predictive processing. So I go, you know, I do an input, and I expect an output of a certain kind. And when that doesn’t happen, that creates this. That’s, you know, cognitive dissonance. And what what I love about these breakdown beats is and how they reveal character is that we have, every time we have a breakdown, we have an option to open our cognitive frame and take this in and process it, or double down on the way that we typically operate. And so it’s a really great way to see how the avatars are managing, because that’s what stories are about. They’re about how we take in novel, unexpected events that throw us into chaos, and how we can metabolize those and, and improve our cognitive frame so that we can manage better in the future.

Tim Grahl  11:59

So when I’m looking at this particular output, where he said, Well, I said, let me see what I can get out of him. This is breaking down because he was he’s basically, I mean, would this be a freeze? So the it’s freeze, flight or fight? So would this be?

Danielle Kiowski  12:22

So What’s he trying to say, to McGruder? Basically,

Tim Grahl  12:27

he’s saying, well, since you couldn’t get it out of him, I guess I should go give it a try. Yeah. Is that a fight? Yeah. All right, because he’s being a little snarky.

Danielle Kiowski  12:37

Yeah. All right. We’ll see his top dog around here. That’s where he is in this breakdown space. Exactly.

Tim Grahl  12:43

Yeah. You know, I’ve been watching the Candace and I’ve been watching the Johnny Depp trial in the evenings. And we were watching the cross examine of Amber Heard by Allah knows her first name, Camille, the lawyer. For Johnny, one of the lawyers for Johnny Depp. And Amber, her just will not. She won’t just answer a question. She just keeps, like, just like she, they went, there’s this great interchange where she’s like you did it. You did it, donate the money. She’s like, Yes, I did. I pledged the money. And she’s like, Yeah, but that’s not the same as donate. And she goes, Well, I use the words interchangeably. It’s like, they’re not the same fucking word in a way. And you see a couple points where Camille just gets real snarky. Because she, from my perspective, she’s just sick of not being able to get a straight answer out of this woman. And anyway, that’s just what I thought of here is like, there’s a moment of breakdown there where she just starts fighting, but in a way that’s socially acceptable.

Danielle Kiowski  13:52

Yeah, that’s, that’s a really good example of that kind of thing happening. And so then in a courtroom is a really good example. So if you have someone who is answering a question, but they’re changing the subject, they’re using the strategy of flights. But if it’s, if it’s for the purpose of pursuing their object of desire, like they’re consciously deciding, I’m going to change this topic strategically now, then they’re not truly breaking down, right? Because they’re not, they’re not having that autonomic response and trying to buy time. They’re using it as part of a strategy. So that’s another really good thing to keep in mind when you’re dealing with breakdown beats, is that you can use the same the same actions that could denote a breakdown to actually enable covert operation so that people can look like they’re breaking down. They can look vulnerable, when in fact, they’re manipulating. How do you know the difference? Well, as the author, as the author, you need to know the difference because you’re writing them and then you When you and you need to have your author, valence the language such that Sam interprets it correctly?

Tim Grahl  15:07

Well, so will, there’ll be times where like, because the author knows things that Sam doesn’t, so are there times where it reads to Sam as a breakdown, but the author knows that it’s not, but we would still label it as a breakdown, because we’re looking at these through Sam’s eyes, right? Like, we’re just, we’re just reacting to what’s on the page. We’re not trying to we’re coming out into SAM, not the author.

Danielle Kiowski  15:32

That’s right, so So you want to manage the effect that you have on Sam, breakdowns are extremely powerful, and we need to be careful with them. When you see someone have a breakdown, you’re seeing vulnerability. And you get really interested in why that person is doing that. And if you want to, you want to find out more about them, you want to find out about their information processing. So what we want to make sure is that if we have a breakdown, we want Sam to have that level of engagement with that avatar, whereas like, if, if they are manipulating, then she’s going to have a real shock later on. When, when that’s revealed. So it depends on the the kinds of revelations that you want Sam to have, and, and what type of experience you’re creating.

Shawn Coyne  16:26

Let me just pop in with a quick example of how this is done. There’s a wonderful novel that became a meet a movie called Primal Fear. And it was written by William dill. And it was at Norton’s sort of first big break as an actor. And so when you analyze primal fear on the page, meaning we look at each of the words, the way he signals to the single audience member, that something’s not quite right here is through the use of overly chaotic language. Right? So the means by which the character played by Ed Norton speaks, is that it’s always the worst possible, you know, thing happening, right? And so what you can remember about life is that things are complex, rather than all chaos or order. So when William deal makes the language, all chaotic, Sam is sort of like something’s not quite right here. And I can’t really put my finger on it. But this is intriguing. Because I’m not really sure why I’m getting this strange feeling about this poor guy who is abused by this, this priest, wow. Hmm. Interesting. And so that kind of, it’s like a little piece of wood, you know, it’s like a sliver of wood that kind of hangs around in Sam’s mind, until such time as William dill reveals that the guy was making up the whole thing at the start in order to destroy the priest and to to have its own agenda followed. So that’s a really good example of how the on the page language gives the clues to Sam without specifically saying he’s lying. It’s the way in which the language is valence as either overly chaotic or overly ordered without the mix of complexity.

Danielle Kiowski  18:38

Yeah, I think it that it reminds me of the golden age of detective novels, and they had that group that we get together and one of their rules is you have to play fair. So the reader should be able to solve the crime at the same time that the detective does, and I think that that that applies to this, this idea of not tricking Sam, like letting her know that there is something wrong even if you do it in that very subtle way. And I think it really goes back to the ethos that we have like absolutely, you can just put a break down on the page and reveal it later. But yeah, it Sam is in for a shock at that point. And what you’re telling her is, the world is unpredictable and you can’t you can’t identify covert actors. So if you want the message to come through to Sam, this is how you identify a covert actor, you have to give her the clues to do that. And and we can see examples of this like in the murder of Roger Ackroyd, we have an unreliable narrator but if you’re looking for clues in the text, at the word by word level, you’re going to find that and so you can see like as you said, Shawn with primal fear that something is off and know that before you know what is off, and so I think that to to empower Sam instead of defeating her It is important to be able to signal that the breakdowns are actually breakdowns at the point that they happen. Okay, so now we need the, the valence of this. So what would you say the valence is?

Tim Grahl  20:13

I want to say enlivening. But that makes me nervous because it’s a breakdown beat. And I feel like breakdown beats should be depleting.

Danielle Kiowski  20:21

That’s right. And give you a cheat sheet. Yeah, break down beats are always depleting, because they forced her to reevaluate and look for novelty. So we’ll put depleting for Well, I said, let me see what I can get out of him again, because we have that. That challenge to their relationship, which is subtle, but still there. So that completes that beat. Now, let’s look at the next bit of text. So Tim, how would you break down the next input and output?

Tim Grahl  20:50

So it reads, McGruder cocked an eyebrow and asked, you think maybe the old man would like to see him personally? Maybe if he’s got something? If not, we’d be wasting his time and especially on this case, I don’t think yeah, McGruder agreed. I left McGruder and walked over to the little man he looked up when I approached him and then blinked when I was looking at this one. I was a little. I feel like maybe the beat actually breaks in the middle of capellini response because McGruder cocked an eyebrow and asked you think maybe the old man would like to see him personally. So that’s clearly an input capelli response maybe if he’s got something, if not be we’d be wasting his time, and especially on this case, I don’t think. But then McGruder responds to that by saying yeah, and then I feel like that actually ends a beat there. Because then McGruder goes off to do something else.

Danielle Kiowski  21:55

So capelli leaves McGruder. So, in general, so the thing the thing about beats is that they’re chained. So an output is the input to the next input, right? So so you have all of them working together. And for the most part, unless there’s a drastic change of subject or change of Valence, we want to avoid breaking up dialogue, it’s possible to have like the first half be an output and the second half be an input. But in practice, the way that that happens is it’s like, Yes, Tim, I agree with you. But now let’s talk about this other thing, where I like address a wrap up the previous beat and then change the subject. Or say that you say something like something enlivening. Like, like, Yeah, I agree with you. And then you turn it around and say something to pleading like, I agree that we should do that. However, it’s going to be very dangerous, when in but you know, in a depleting way, so we would have to look at the actual words. But if you have that drastic valence shift, you can also break it. But in general, we want to keep chunks of dialogue together if they’re not drastically split into halves like that. And so this one, I would say, we want to keep it together. Because he’s not he’s not doing that where he has really two halves of one thing that he’s saying

Tim Grahl  23:21

the output would be that capacities response maybe if he’s got something if not, we’d be wasting his time and especially on this case, I don’t think

Danielle Kiowski  23:30

Alright, so first, let’s take a look at this input. McGruder cocked an eyebrow and asked Do you think maybe the old man would like to see him personally? So do you think that is a build up or a breakdown or binding, build up act to build up? So do you think that he’s responding to Capelle? His challenge? Do you think that so capelli is trying to fight with him? Do you think that he’s fighting back?

Tim Grahl  23:54

Yes, because of the way He cocked an eyebrow. So that was his response to let me see what I Well, let me see what I can get out of him. So then, maybe that’s a challenge, like okay, then fun to get to Lieutenant.

Danielle Kiowski  24:12

So right, so So capelli wants to go talk to this guy. And McGruder is saying, Well, what suits you you think that the old man or at the lieutenant, so he’s he’s not agreeing with Kelly’s course of action? But he’s so he’s challenging him, right. He’s fighting back. But he’s doing it by changing, changing what they’re talking about. So now they’re talking about getting the lieutenant involved. Now he’s invoking hierarchy, right? So I just want to bring that up, because he’s not he’s not agreeing with what capelli said. He’s suggesting that capelli might want to do this Other thing getting the old man. And so he’s very subtly right bringing in the, the rules of their hierarchy, bringing in the challenge to capelli status because the lieutenant is the gatekeeper. In this power dominance hierarchy, he, he’s the one who decides who’s in favor and who’s not. And so it’s this very subtle dance where McGruder is re issuing a challenge and have a different sort to capelli.

Tim Grahl  25:29

So you feel like it’s a breakdown, and it’s fighting again.

Danielle Kiowski  25:33

Right. And this is the really interesting thing about this introductory section is that they’re fighting within the bounds of normal conversation. Like this

Tim Grahl  25:45

makes me think this is like an a book where there’s lots of conversations between a man and his wife. Right? There’s probably going to be some of this in there. Where it doesn’t, on first read feel like a fight, but it’s definitely a fight,

Danielle Kiowski  26:00

depending on the relationship with the avatars. Yeah, absolutely. Right. Yeah, yeah. And like, in these, these guys are partners on the force and, and their partners, but they’re not they don’t have the same. They’re not a team. Right. And so it’s, it’s a contest, to figure out who’s going to be the guy to go to the one who comes out on top. And so capelli is younger than McGruder. He’s less senior. He’s a hotshot. And then McGruder is this grizzled guy who’s relying on seniority, and knowing how the game is played, to get ahead. So we have different ways of approaching navigating the hierarchy of the police precinct with the two of them. Because it’s a breakdown we have to pleading. So let’s go to the output now. So capelli says, maybe if he’s got something, if not, we’d be wasting his time. And especially on this case, I don’t think so do you think this is a breakdown or a buildup? So I feel

Tim Grahl  27:07

like this is capelli, basically, working it out out loud? What he wants to do, because he’s been kind of issued a challenge. And so he’s responding to the challenge by basically, like, Well, yeah, we probably don’t want to do that. I don’t know I’m leaning towards breakdown in almost like a freeze. Because we’re kind of watching him not know what to do next.

Danielle Kiowski  27:37

Freezes don’t have dialogue. Freezes are going to be there, they don’t have the capacity to act. Flight is buying time.

Tim Grahl  27:46

Well, then I think to this would be flight, because he’s basically trying to like, draw out some time while he makes a decision what to do next.

Danielle Kiowski  27:57

I absolutely see where you’re seeing that with the processing. What we focused on here is that he’s still having to act a little bit covertly within the bonds of the society that they’re in, which is the station. And in particular, looking at these pronouns. So when McGruder challenges him, he says, You think the old man would like to see him personally, right? So he’s, he’s saying, This is you? This is your, your neck is on the line, right? And then capelli says, If not, we’d be wasting his time. So we saw this as him reissuing a challenge in a very subtle way. Like, I go down, we go down, but you know, don’t get don’t get too plucky with calling in the lieutenant with messing with my strategy for dealing with this. Because we’re both implicated in this together. So we saw this as a fight.

Tim Grahl  28:51

Okay, I mean, I kind of read this, I don’t know how much we want to split these hairs, although that’s kind of what we do here. But I guess I read this as like, McGruder did put them in his place of just like, because he forced him into this position where he’s got to make a decision about what to do now. So yeah, maybe it would be a challenge, but I guess he’s like, he does back down. Because if he wants to me if he wanted to fight some more, he’d be like, Alright, let’s go get him. Why don’t you go get him? Where this is, like him backing down and be like, Oh, well, no, we don’t want to actually do that.

Danielle Kiowski  29:32

Well, I think capelli never suggested getting the old man. So he’s not fighting for that. He’s fighting against that. So he’s saying we’d be wasting his time. We shouldn’t do what you want to do, because we’d be wasting his time. So I think I should do my thing. I think I should go talk. So capelli is fighting for himself to go talk to Struthers and McGruder is trying to undercut that and trying to have him either wait for the lieutenant or let Struthers sit or have somebody else handle it. So he’s trying to not have capelli differentiate and get recognition.

Tim Grahl  30:20

So let me just walk through it again and then we’ll we don’t have to keep going back and forth. But I think of it is like McGruder says in the beat before. We can’t get anything out of him basically. Or he won’t talk to anyone that was two beats before. And then capelli basically, is like, says fine, if you won’t do your job, then I’ll do your job. And so then McGruder responds back, like okay, well then let’s just go get the lieutenant to solve this. And so to me, if you want to ratchet it up, as the underling, you would say, Okay, go get him. Because it’s your ass on the line. If you go get the lieutenant and it’s a waste of his time. We’re by him saying like, no, no, let me talk to him first. To me. He’s like, he lets McGruder win this he’s not fighting back because to me if we’re looking at these as like the, to me fighting ratchets up right. Where this is a ratchet down because a ratchet up would be like, I don’t know. That’s how I I was thinking through it.

Danielle Kiowski  31:39

Okay, yeah, what I’m thinking there is like, if he were fighting to make McGruder look bad if that were his object of desire, I would agree with you that ratcheting up would be go get the lieutenant. But what he’s fighting, he’s not fighting against McGruder. He’s fighting for himself. So his object of desire is I get to go talk to this guy. McGregor’s object of desire is you stay in your place. And so ultimately capelli wins the exchange by getting to go and talk to him. So it’s all about the objects of desire. And so I don’t see this as a back down, I see this as he’s still pushing to get what he wants. He’s still pushing for his object of desire of going to talk to Struthers. Okay, so we have a breakdown, though, in this in this output. And we know that’s depleting Right. So. So I think it’s good to explore, explore his, his frame, so And why he’s breaking down, because Sam does have intrigued about that when she sees that. So I think it’s really good that we have that discussion and can go through what’s actually going on there. So Tim, what about the next piece of text? How would you split up the next input and output

Tim Grahl  32:51

capelli just said, as the as the output of the previous maybe if he’s got something if not, we’d be wasting his time and especially on this case, I don’t think so. Now we’re into the next beat. Yeah, McGruder agreed. I left McGruder and walked over to the little man he looked up when I approached him and then blinked. Mr. Struthers? Yes, he said wearily. Alright, so I’m struggling with this one, because I was looking ahead a little bit well, so during some of the conversation, so yeah, McGruder agreed seems like the input and the output. This is where I think I tend to want to break beats down further than they need to be broken down, give it a go. Okay, so his response to McGruder agreeing to let him go over is I left Magruder, okay. Like I would make that the output and then the input of the next one would be and walked over to the little man. And the reason why I said that is because the little man responded to that. So he because Struthers looked up when I approached and then blinked he was that he wouldn’t have done that, if capelli had not have walked over to him. So I have two beats there. The first is Yeah, McGruder agreed, that’s the input output is I left Magruder than the next input. So the next beat is and walked over to the little man that I have output. He looked up when I approached him and then blinked. And since you were actually typing that in, as I said, that I feel like I got that one, right.

Danielle Kiowski  34:39

Well, sometimes I can be tricky and do that to look at it. But yes, you did. Yeah, that’s absolutely what we had. And so what we’re seeing there is that there is even though this is in one sentence, we do have a break in what’s going on when he leaves Magruder. He’s wrapping up that situation, they’ve come to an agreement All right, and then he’s moving over and addressing Struthers. So he walks up and then as you said Struthers looks up and blinks. So as as we’re discussing breaking this down, what do you notice about about the output are here?

Tim Grahl  35:16

So I was going to ask if after I left McGruder did a trope just in there? I know we’re gonna get to tropes later. But did a trope just in there? It did. It did. Yeah. So then I’m thinking like, okay, and that trope, McGruder was the output or he was the protagonist of that trope. capelli and we just got sorry, capelli Yeah, man. Man, I’ll probably leave this part in but the amount of times I had to edit out me saying the wrong name last week. So capelli was the output or of that trope, and so he was the protagonist of that trope. Even though we know Struthers is the protagonist of the entire short story where this trope, this new trope, it switches to capelli is the input or and Struthers is the output or and so now Struthers is going to be the protagonist of this next trope.

Danielle Kiowski  36:17

Yes, and this is a beautiful handoff here using a freeze right. So I know we haven’t gotten there but but blinking is a classic, classic freeze move. So it’s a really lovely handoff as you noted from one trope to the next and we get, we get that vulnerability of the new protagonist right away. So it facilitates Sam’s transition from identifying with capelli to identifying with Struthers. So this is a really nice, nice little beat section here. So to look at let’s finish up this trope by by qualifying the input and output here. So yeah, McGruder agreed. So what would you say is that a build up or a break down?

Tim Grahl  37:00

Act to build up? Great and enlivening?

Danielle Kiowski  37:04

And here we have, we have a departure from the challenges that they were going through before. So yeah, is not a very expressive thing to say. You could be still fighting you could be running away, like there are many things. So the fact that the author chooses to say Magruder agreed, lets us know that this is a buildup and that it’s enlivening. So if he had said something like, yeah, McGruder shrugged me off, that could be a flight breakdown, right? But because we have that agreed, we know that the author is saying this has come to an end and these two are on the same page for now. So yeah, you have that exactly right. And then what about the output, I left McGruder,

Tim Grahl  37:56

same thing, active build up and enlivening, I feel like this beat is just in there to push the reader into the next trope. So since we’re it’s just pushing everything, just for real quick, it’s both build up in and enlivening.

Danielle Kiowski  38:12

Yeah, these are both built up and enlivening. Absolutely. Okay. Next, let’s look at and walked over to the little man, what’s going on? They’re

Tim Grahl  38:22

so active build up and enlivening, because we’re now in the input of the next beat. So if I’m thinking, it’s definitely not break down. And then it’s pushing the reader forward. So I would say enlivening.

Danielle Kiowski  38:41

So now, the reader is switching over to reader Sam is switching over to identifying with Struthers, right? What is this doing to Struthers?

Tim Grahl  38:52

What do you mean like in the story or like from Sam’s point of view, like what do you what do you mean? Well, part of me think well, it’s bringing Struthers back on the stage for us to consider. And up until now, Struthers is just kind of sitting there nervously waiting. And so he’s been in a holding pattern.

Danielle Kiowski  39:13

Yeah, who’s What’s he waiting for?

Tim Grahl  39:15

He is waiting to talk to the lieutenant.

Danielle Kiowski  39:18

So he has this object of desire. I want to talk to the lieutenant. Is capelli facilitating that for him? See helping him out?

Tim Grahl  39:26

I don’t think he knows that. Yeah, I don’t think Sam knows. Well, the same. Sam knows he’s not. Yeah, right. I mean, but Struthers doesn’t he may be coming over to get Struthers to take him to the lieutenant.

Danielle Kiowski  39:37

He could be. But how does Struthers react?

Tim Grahl  39:45

He blinks after he looks up?

Danielle Kiowski  39:47

Right? So he’s not expecting the interruption. from Capella he’s not expecting to have to deal with another cop like they haven’t told him we’re gonna go get The lieutenant. Right they’ve told him, he’s had to deal with Magruder and Magruder. We know how Magruder is.

Tim Grahl  40:07

So let me ask a question here. Because obviously, you think this is the pleading. That’s how you guys labeled this. So am I, when I’m looking at the input? Am I looking at it in the context of the output to decide if it’s enlivening or depleting? Or am I looking at it as its own thing,

Danielle Kiowski  40:25

you’re looking at it as its own thing, but also targeted toward the output or in the situation that they’re in. So I’m just bringing up the output because this is the first time that we’ve seen Struthers on the stage really. And it helps us to simulate. I think what he’s been going through up to this point, if we’re not consciously thinking about that, because we have to simulate like, he’s he came in, he said, I want to talk to the lieutenant, they gave him the runaround. And now he’s having to deal with another cop. So it’s not like he’s Oh, thank you, someone for coming over to talk to me. Like when you walk into a bank, I don’t know, this is my experience. You walk into a bank, and they’re like, oh, somebody will get to you. And then you’re wait for like, your whole life. And you know, maybe eventually someone comes. So he’s not, he’s not truly in a holding pattern, right? Like they’ve come over and they’ve said, they’ve said, you know, you can talk to me, or you can talk to nobody. And he’s like, Well, I’ll talk to nobody and then they’re just letting him stew. So he’s in this sort of, he’s not nest he’s not in a waiting like expectant holding pattern. He’s in a, you can sweat it out until you’re ready to talk to one of us because we’re not going to go get the old man.

Tim Grahl  41:37

Alright, so I hear you and I, I’m on your side. I’m just still I’m still trying to back up because I want to understand so I can make future ones because I’m looking at like, so if I were to reword this, I would say because we’re always looking from Sam’s perspective, right? What’s on the page, according to Sam. So in this case, Sam knows good and well, that capelli walking over to this little man is not in not helping Struthers or Yes, Struthers get what he wants out of life. He’s now another roadblock for Struthers so because Sam knows that going in. So if like if in the previous conversation, McGruder, and him had decided, like, yeah, go get him and take him to the lieutenant. This exact same phrase would be enlivening. Yeah, I’m, you know, I think up until this moment, I’ve been looking at each individual piece as if it stands alone in time. And so I’m looking at like, and walked over to the little man, I’m like, well, there’s nothing in there, you know, depleting except maybe calling the man little, but like, the action is not depleting on its own. So it needs to be enlivening. But I have to take into context everything that came before it leading up to this particular piece of content for writing.

Shawn Coyne  43:06

That’s what are called progressive complications. So, Sam is is building a perspectival understanding of the story from start to finish. So she is being informed by the syntactical grammar and language of the story from the first word until the word that she is presently reading. So, all of the the inputs and outputs are progressively building. So this is a case where it was mentioned earlier on when McGruder said to capelli he won’t talk to anyone but the lieutenant. So obviously, in that language, many tries had been made to get this guy to give up his information, including McGruder, some McGruder failed to get this guy to talk. That’s why he’s telling compelling don’t even try, bro. I tried and he wouldn’t talk. So now Capella, he’s like, let me give it a try. And he’s like, No, don’t do it. Because now you’re showing me up right? So the fact that this guy, the Struthers guys been sitting, waiting to give his information, and no one is enabling him, in his goal to talk specifically to the most powerful person in the precinct. He’s in a turbulent cognitive state sitting there stewing as as Daniel so wisely, put it in Because he’s like, should I stay? Should I go? I don’t know how, what am I going to do? This guy said, nobody’s going to talk to me. Oh my gosh, what am I gonna do? What am I going to do? Should I see if I can find the lieutenant myself? And then all of a sudden here comes another cop. And so, and this cop seems determined. That’s why he blinks, because it’s an unexpected moment. And so that blinking is a nonverbal communication. That’s a signal to Sam, the mental state of Struthers. So when we blink, it’s a tell of how our minds are processing something. It means you need Oh, you’re startled. And it’s unexpected novelty causes a breakdown and a freeze when we don’t expect to come in he obviously did not expect this capelli detective to walk up to him. So that’s why it was it’s a really nice transitional trope, because what McBain sent as information to Sam was quite a bit with that very, very clearly defined word but linked, because that’s autonomic behavioral response to an input of unexpected energy. And the unexpected energy in this in this instance, is Detective capelli walking up and saying Mr. Struthers. And so now we’ve got a freeze. That is a breakdown that switches out our protagonist. And Sam is now following the story through the lens of Struthers. Does that make sense? Yeah.

Danielle Kiowski  46:54

And now the output so he looked up when I approached him and then blink. So is that an act of buildup or a breakdown? I know we’ve probably

Tim Grahl  47:01

hinted at this breakdown, freeze and we know that

Danielle Kiowski  47:05

those are depleting. So now we have Struthers as protagonist as we go into the next piece of text and and as you pointed out, we’re now in this new truck. So what would you place as the next input and output?

Tim Grahl  47:20

So after Struthers blinks? The next input is Mr. Struthers question mark. So it’s that’s capelli speaking, and then the output would be yes, he said warily.

Danielle Kiowski  47:37

All right. So that ends the there. All right. Now let’s look at this input. Mr. Struthers? Is that enlivening? Or sorry? Is that an act of buildup or breakdown? Or binding for completeness? I would say act to build up so he’s trying to connect with him. And then do you think that is enlivening or depleting?

Tim Grahl  48:02

Let’s see, um, I’m torn again. Because I feel like if him walking over is depleting than him, starting a conversation is a continued depletion of Struthers. Yeah, so I would say the pleading

Danielle Kiowski  48:20

Yep. That’s what we have as one.

Tim Grahl  48:23

So let me ask another question. I feel like you’ve probably answered eight times. But alright, so I’m locked into this is from Sam, like how Sam interprets it. But so. So what I’m hearing is, is how Sam interprets it, but through the eyes of the protagonists of this current part. Right. So we’re always asking on the end, because the since the protagonist in general is the output or when we’re looking at the input of a beat, we’re always seems always asking, Is this depleting or enlivening for the protagonist? Is that would you say that’s correct?

Danielle Kiowski  49:03

Yeah. And, and one, one thing that I find really helpful is looking at whether it facilitates the protagonist pursuit of their current object of desire, or whether it just distracts them from that. So is it pushing their agency forward? Or is it constraining their agency? That can be another heuristic for thinking about that. Okay,

Tim Grahl  49:28

I think I may actually be starting to understand this. Oh, fantastic. We’ll see that. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself.

Danielle Kiowski  49:38

Well, we’re here to enable your agency Tim so Okay. Well, absolutely get that. So okay. So, so let’s try it out. So yes, he said warily, is that an act of buildup or breakdown,

Tim Grahl  49:52

think it’s active but build up? Because he’s, he’s just responding.

Danielle Kiowski  49:57

Okay. And is that in line? Menninger depleting,

Tim Grahl  50:01

I would say depleting and the wearily is what tipped me off to that.

Danielle Kiowski  50:07

Okay. I would say he’s long as guard but he’s still, he’s still agreeing to play capelli his game here. So we have that as enlivening for that reason that he’s the that capelli is interrupting him. And in trying to, he’s not facilitating his object of desire to talk to the lieutenant. And Struthers is saying, I’ll play your game for now. So he’s not fully buying in, but He’s agreeing to go along. So that’s, that’s enlivening. So, let’s go to the next beat. So where would you break the next input and output?

Tim Grahl  50:55

So it reads, This is capelli speaking. I’m Detective capelli. My partner tells me you have some information about the and it’s the dot dot dot. And then Struthers responds, you’re not the lieutenant RU. And that’s where I would end the beat because that’s an input output. Great.

Danielle Kiowski  51:15

Starting with I’m Detective capelli and so on, is that an act of buildup or is that a breakdown or binding

Tim Grahl  51:25

act to build up? enlivening, depleting, I would continue down the depleting path.

Danielle Kiowski  51:31

Okay, so here, we’ve actually switched over to enlivening because they’ve agreed to play the same game. So his interruption, Struthers has accepted his interruption. And at this point, for now, in this micro moment, they’re moving toward a common goal of figuring out what Capella wants to talk about. So they’re on the same page. So we have enlivening there. Now in the output is Struthers building up or breaking down,

Tim Grahl  52:02

I would say break down. Because he’s fighting.

Danielle Kiowski  52:06

We have it as a flight that he’s questioning him to buy time to figure out what to do about this guy. He knows he’s not the lieutenant, if he were Lieutenant capelli, he would have said, I’m Lieutenant capelli. Right. But he’s questioning to figure out more about this guy, get more information.

Tim Grahl  52:27

But I know that it’s a breakdown because he’s, he stops the agreement they’ve had and breaks the relationship. Yeah. So this kind of one, this beat and a half that they agreed to play the game, he just immediately put a stop to it.

Danielle Kiowski  52:49

Yeah. And so he probably was agreeing. Exactly. Because of what you said before. Maybe this guy’s gonna take me to the lieutenant. Maybe the Skaven is the lieutenant. He doesn’t know. We find out later. He does not know what the lieutenant looks like, right? But but he thinks maybe and then he’s, then he gets this first clue. And he know, and it shuts down immediately. His willingness to participate in that conversation. So yeah, absolutely a breakdown and a pleading. So now, let’s look at the next week. Where would you break that?

Tim Grahl  53:28

So it reads? No, I said, but I’m working very closely with him on this case. I won’t talk to anyone but to Lieutenant he said, his eyes met mine for an instant and then turned away. He was not being stubborn. I decided I hadn’t seen stubbornness in his eyes, I’d seen fear. So that’s where I would end it. So the input is No, I said, but I’m working very closely with him on this case, the output would be, I won’t talk to anyone through I’d seen fear. And so this is where there’s some embedded world building. Or I don’t know if that would be is that world building? Yeah, those eyes met mine for an instant and then turned away.

Danielle Kiowski  54:13

Yeah, yeah. Cuz world building. This is where where it’s, it’s important to note just because outside of story grid, a lot of times when people say world building, they’re thinking about the setting. But world building is not only the setting, it’s the setting. And then it’s everything within that context. So all of the avatars and it’s the relationships between them as well. So world building is this very rich activity where it’s anytime that you’re describing the, the, either the material world or the rules of the world or the the way the interactions are governed, all of that goes toward world building, because it helps Sam to understand the fullness of the context and how this place works. So yeah, so let’s start with that input. No I said that I’m working very closely with him on this case, is that an act of buildup or a breakdown?

Tim Grahl  55:05

I would say active buildup because he’s trying to get the relationship going again.

Danielle Kiowski  55:10

Okay, great. And is that enlivening or depleting?

Tim Grahl  55:14

Okay, so I’m gonna say depleting because he’s still in the previous beat. Struthers was like he ended with the pleading by breaking the relationship because he wants to talk to the lieutenant. But capelli is going to try again to not let him talk to the lieutenant which is moving Struthers away from his object of desire. So I would say it’s depleting.

Danielle Kiowski  55:43

We looked at this as enlivening because it’s providing him an outlet to move forward toward his objective desire through a compromise. So he’s not saying you talk to me or you talk to no one. He’s not saying. He’s not even saying like, you know, I’m your option that’s available. I mean, that would be kind of the same thing. But he’s saying I am essentially a proxy for the lieutenant. So he’s providing him information to enable him to reach his objective desire through the pathways available.

Tim Grahl  56:13

See, I feel like that goes against what we said just a couple of beats ago, that we’re looking at this through the eyes of Struthers. And Struthers has said over and over, he just wants to talk to the lieutenant. So to me this looks is him is to me this is the same as him walking over.

Danielle Kiowski  56:34

He’s offering options at this point. He wasn’t offering options before. So he’s not so the object of desire is like is Struthers struggle Struthers idea of what it will take to achieve his his goal state of saying staying safe while delivering this information. So what capelli is doing is he’s not he’s responding to not Struthers like very constrained idea of the this is the tactic that we need to use to accomplish this object of desire. But he’s saying you want to talk to the lieutenant and I am your conduit to get there. He’s saying I’m a pathway. So he’s facilitating he’s giving him a way forward to get to his object of desire. And he’s saying you don’t necessarily have this information yet. But I’m in you know, he’s he’s using techniques to get Struthers to talk, right? So he’s, but the technique he’s using is he’s saying I am the way to get what you want. I’m your pathway. I’m an option for you. And you don’t have all of the information to know that I am a facilitator of your object of desire. You think you just have to talk to this guy, but what you don’t understand is I’m his proxy. So he’s giving Struthers more information not as a way to redirect him to talking to someone other than the lieutenant, but by positioning himself as that proxy for the lieutenant and the pathway to eventually getting to talk to him. Okay. So that’s why we have that as as enlivening. So now let’s look at Struthers again. So is he active buildup breakdown or binding?

Tim Grahl  58:24

I would say this is breakdown. So we

Danielle Kiowski  58:27

have that fear going on there. And so we know that is depleting. So just a note on this right is that the reason that we highlight that fear is that stubbornness is a choice. So if I’m stubborn, I am saying I’m going to stick to this as my strategy. It’s like a broken record strategy. I just want to see the lieutenant and then whatever you say to me, I’m going to say I want to see the lieutenant. And that’s a that’s a pre made decision. So stubbornness, I am processing. And I’m choosing that as my strategy. So that wouldn’t break down. But because he’s doing it out of fear, he’s not doing it out of stubbornness. This isn’t a conscious manipulation. This is a breakdown where he’s acting autonomically. So that’s why it’s really important to have those embedded qualifications that you pointed out, to have that world building so that we understand where Struthers is acting from. And that changes our interpretation of his output.

Tim Grahl  59:29

So if he was being stubborn here, instead of fearful, it would be active build up, you would

Danielle Kiowski  59:36

just be depleting because it would be a manipulation.

Leslie Watts  59:40

Right. And that it seems to me that that that qualification that’s added to Struthers dialogue is


author capelli.

Leslie Watts  59:56

communicating to the single audience men Sam, that this is the point when I decided this guy wasn’t just a time waster or, you know, a crank, right? And he’s got information, because he’s afraid and he’s here, and he’s insisting, right, all of that. So that’s him, signaling that to Sam.

Danielle Kiowski  1:00:20

Yeah, I absolutely agree. I think this is a really, really important moment when when capelli turns the tides and how he’s thinking about Struthers and that’s going to put the relationship on an entirely new footing


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.