Episode 266: First Draft Feedback: 3 Editors Give Honest Writing Analysis – Part 1

Click here to read Tim’s draft.


Hello, and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m your host, and I’m 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 he’s an editor with over 30 years of experience. Along with him is Leslie watts, the editor in chief of Story Grid Publishing, and Danielle Kiowski, the Chief Academic Officer of Story Grid University. And this episode is following last week’s episode where I was given marching orders on what to write what scene to write as a follow up to all of the analyzation we’ve done have Ed McBain eyewitness. So we actually start off the episode dissecting a little bit of last week, when Shawn and I were having trouble getting on the same page, talk a little bit about what happened there and what we’ve learned from it. And then we dive into my scene, and you get to take a look and hear from them on what they think of my efforts to write my own version of the scene. Now, if you want to see the scene, there’s a link below here on the YouTube channel. If you’re watching on YouTube, it’s down in the description of this video. If you’re listening to this, you can go to story grid.com/episode Dash 266 to see the transcript, download my scene, watch the video, all of that kind of stuff, just like normal. So, without further ado, let’s go ahead and jump into this episode and get started. Yeah, so I’ll start with just talking about last week, because


you know, we’ve been doing the podcast for a long time. And we try to do it in this way where we record we, we tried to give all the feedback on my writing on the podcast. And so that there’s never kind of like behind the scenes stuff that goes on. And it was hard because I didn’t really want to put out any kind of disagreements or frustration, but I think it was


I think it was good. And for me, what I realized later, is


you know, as I thought through it,


I felt


I realized, like, I was frustrated that you were shooting down my ideas. And so I started


just kind of spinning on something that, like, I remember feeling in the moment, I don’t think this is helpful. But it was the only thing I could think to do. And it felt like if I just keep hammering on this.


I really think I mean, I’ve gone back and forth on this. But I started to feel like I did it on purpose to get back at you, Sean of like,


because my my way of my way of showing frustration is often to be


covertly come at people sideways, and not just directly go at them. And so I know,


I know, those kinds of discussions drive you insane. And so me just hammering on like, well, you know, if the cities this size, and the people, you know, there’s only this many people and we just spin and spin and spin on that. You know, I I was just feeling a lot of frustration, I think I when when you pointed out that I went to young adult and then went to science fiction, and that those seem to be kind of my safety points. And I need to do something different. It like annoyed me, mainly because you were right. And,


and I didn’t really know what to do.


Because then, you know,


you know, then I get frustrated. And you I feel like you pointed out something about myself that I don’t even know, which is not always fun, especially in front of three people slash, you know, 1000s of people. So


yeah, so I just, you know, I think the thing where we ended was probably the best place of like, let’s just go work on something, because that was the other thing is we draw, you know, we get so frustrated with, you know, people outside, you know, of our group who


throw out hypotheticals or like try to poke at the work we’re doing without actually trying to put it into practice first. And that’s, you know, and then I realized later we did the thing that drives us crazy with, with other people when they like, want to kind of come up with hypotheticals and try to come up with all these ideas without actually just going and doing the work. And I realized, like, I should have just written something and given us something to give feedback on. And then I get into the spaces where I’m, I’m trying to avoid re you know, trying to avoid doing work that I’ll just have to redo. And so then I’m like, well, then Shawn, just tell me how not to do that, you know, and so on.


I think it was both like my own stuff kind of jumping in. And then also just us making some, like, you know, mistakes that when we watch other people make them we get we’re super frustrated, but yet we still make them. I mean, I would


I would agree with, with your,


your analysis there. And the other thing that I would say is that this is this is a good thing when these things happen, because it enables the relationship to get stronger. Because when, when what I was doing is,


I was getting angry, because


as an editor, I face I have faced and will continue to face the exact same dynamic over and over again. And the dynamic is interesting.


Because it’s a recurring pattern. And so when I identify patterns that keep recurring, I get, and I don’t have a method to contend with them or to digest them. It triggers anger in me like, hey, Shawn, why have you taken a look at this thing that’s popped up over and over again? Why? Why are these people trying to get you to do their work for them? That’s not what you were doing. But it felt that way. Right? And what, what was interesting to me is that we both got off course, because what were we both doing, we were both looking at a creative act from a very egotistical frame, I was looking at about what you are trying to get from me, and you were looking at about what I was trying to get from you. And so from my point of view, you were trying to get me to do your work for you by giving you a whole slew of possible choices to make. And then you could cherry pick which one you like best. And that’s not my job. My job is to field your choices, evaluate your choices, and then see if it’s going to get us closer to a goal state. Danielle at that, at that time was really astute because she said, Well, let’s look at the goal state. And we did look at and she did redirect us to the goal state. But I think we missed the ultimate goal state, which is what Sam, the single audience member, right. So whenever you get into this contentious moment where one person is thinking the other person is trying to get them to do something that they don’t want to do. You have to say, well, what’s the goal here? Is this just to finish the scene? So that we can say seen done? Or is it to get some other end result? No, it’s actually about the single audience member? What would she be interested in? Knowing from Tim?


Right? So Tim doesn’t think about Sam, Tim only thinks about Tim, if Shawn doesn’t think about Sam, Shawn only thinks about Shawn, and then you get this Loggerhead of conflict. And the only way to reach a detente is to go, Hey, wait a minute, let’s pull out of this for a second. And think about who the ultimate person is, is going to be affected by this work. That’s a single audience member.


Is she going to want to read another science fiction young adult novel from from Tim? Probably not. She wants to see what else Tim has has up his sleeve?


And what are we looking at again, all it’s a crime story about justice.


So that’s sort of where abstractly we ran into loggerheads, but you’re absolutely right.


When you iterate when you when you make choices as a writer, and then you can discuss them with an editor, it’s far better than to abstractly spit ball and idea.


Because the writer isn’t gonna like having their their ideas shared upon by the editor. Because they’re like, how do you know it’s not gonna work? And an editor can say, I just know it’s got 35 years of experience. And then the other person is like, ooh, Mr. Authority, well, how do you know I bet I could make it work. And then you’ve got all of this residual subtextual anger that’s operating. So that my bottom line here is that when you get stuck, there’s one North Star to always go to think about that poor person who’s going to have to read the story. How is she? Let’s see what she wants. What is she expecting from a crime story? What is she expecting from an ED McBain like store?


Ready? Is she expecting it to be set in another planet? Probably not. We could surprise her. Sure. But what is that going to do to the other elements? Is that going to distract her? From the ED McBain world? Yeah, probably will. Unless it’s a police precinct precinct in space. Anyway, I don’t want to I don’t want to get back into the argument. But that’s generally the way I’m seeing is that you’ve got, you’ve got an editor who’s got a gestalt, the feel of what will work, you have a writer who’s very locked into generating the work. And they don’t they want direction, they don’t want the Gestalt.


So when they ask the Gestalt person for direction, their Gestalt person’s like, that’s not my job, man. I just, I just examine


your work. And then I tell you whether it fits into the coherent Gestalt. I can’t generate each idea for you.


And then, so the solution to this is iterate. Hey, I wrote this thing. What do you think? Is it close to the ED McBain story or not?


So that’s what we’re going to do today. And it’s exciting, because now we can talk in reality. And we can use our methodology to really always get back to Sam, what Sam getting out of this. So that’s the only comments I have it. But you know, this is a good thing. It’s not a bad thing when people have an honest conversation about a conflict. And they’re not just walking around with resentment all the time, because nothing gets done that way. So and it’s also good, when you hit conflict, it means you’re right on the edge of your understanding. So hopefully, in the future, when this pattern repeats for me, I’m not going to get all upset about or go, oh, this reminds me of that thing I had with Tim, let’s talk about this, um, I think I would just like to mention, just, you know, because I like to focus on process, and because I like to focus on, you know, how we’re, how the information is being


processed and sent and all of that, that,


that, where, whenever that we do think about this, the relationship and kind of an


as if


writers and editors are not people, as if they’re like, roles that we’re playing, but we we come to the relationship with all of our,


you know, all the good stuff, and all the not so good stuff. And that.


That the, the really great thing is that,


that, Shawn, you and Tim, you trust each other, and you figure things out. So when you hit a speed bump along the way, you you figure out how to figure it out. And that is a real that is so important, not just for writing stories, but for for life in general. And that it doesn’t, things don’t go smoothly. And so understanding that we are all coming here, where we have the same purpose of


enabling Tim to write a great story that’s going to enable Sam to express her gifts in the world, that that when when we focus on that we just we’ve can’t get lost, we’ll always find a way. And that’s really, really important. Yeah, I absolutely agree with the focus on salmon, the focus on the relationship and,


and on recognizing that the working relationship is so bound up with the personal relationship. And I think that in the interest of giving our, our Sam on the podcast context, it’s just that we, we’ve all worked together for a long time. And so some of these things are coming out of that long working relationship. And so it’s um


it when we when we do things with you, Tim,


we’re doing them with Tim, and we’re doing them with you as someone that we have years of understanding of how you’ve worked and how you’ve evolved and how you’ve developed an idea of what is best for you because you’re in this unique circumstance. So we focus on double factor problems, and they’re context specific. And the context that we have is that history of understanding the relationship with you. And when we do things like in The Guild, we set things up differently. It’s because that’s what’s appropriate for that context. And so I just


Just want to give a little bit of that background is that on the podcast when we are dealing with you specifically, and this is growing out of having the weekly meetings where we talked about your writing specifically, it’s very tailored to your writers journey, rather than being something that is.


That is more broadly applicable because we are solving that double factor problem for you. And, and that’s what we try to do as editors, when we work with our clients is that everything is


everything is tailored to you and to what’s going to help you progress and what’s going to help you get better. So, you know, when you talk about science fiction, or when you talk about young adult, it’s


it’s just directing, well, redirecting, really redirecting agency towards something that is eventually going to help. And so it’s, we can use our Story Grid concepts to understand that it’s about that redirecting for the purpose of growth, and it doesn’t always feel good because that is, you know, not a not an enabling enlivening thing. But sometimes you have to apply that kind of agency to get to the next level. And while we ultimately want to enable and enliven and expand choice portfolio, sometimes in the moment, we have to use different tactics. Okay, so let’s get into the meat of it here. Tim, you wrote a draft of a scene of the short story from Ed McBain eyewitness doing it making it Tim specific? And before I give you my opinion, how do you think it went for you? Do you think it’s in the middle of how well you’ve written in the top and the bottom somewhere? You’re not sure. It’s, you know, it’s hard for me to know, I’ll just give you kind of my experience with it. So


my experience so one is, you said something about like,


last week, when we were in the middle of it, you said something about, you know, somebody’s like pissing their pants or something. And that was when I was like, Oh, I’ll make it a homeless guy.


Because I have a decent amount of experience working in that community. So I feel like I could write truthfully. And


so I was like, Okay, I’m going to switch the protagonist to from, you know, like an urban kind of dad, you know, middle class guy to a homeless person. You recommended switching it to modern day at the end. So I went ahead and just switch it to modern day, put it in Nashville, because that’s where I live. So I could like, I know the exact spot where he described the murder taking place. I know that spot Well, I drive by it every day. And then


the those two things were probably the biggest things I changed.


And so then, once we got into it, the tropes were super helpful for me. So the way I ended up


the way I ended up doing things was, I would, I would look at the trope look at the description. I tried to write it straight from the trope. And I was kind of getting, I couldn’t tell if it was because I’ve read the story. So many times that like I,


I was like,


I kept hearing the story in my head, and couldn’t figure out where the trope ended in the story. So what I would do is I would read the trope description, try to get an idea of how I’m going to write that trope. Then I would go reference the source material and like, hi, I highlighted the Beats for that trope. And I would kind of read through those. And then I would write the trope. And then I did that for every single trope. And then, a couple of times I went back is like I, I made a decision on like the fourth trope that affected the first trip. So I would go back and like tweak something there. But I tried to just write the tropes and get them down. I finished that in probably two sessions of writing. And then I went back and like clean some things up on another session. And then was just kind of letting a couple ideas came to me in between sessions. And so I went back and cleaned it up some more. I’m pretty happy with how I feel like I did a good job. I felt like it hit all the marks.


I felt like the change to


the homeless guy as the protagonist worked.


And it did feel the tropes did what I felt like you described to me they would do which is give me luck.


Like this roadmap through it that wasn’t too specific, but wasn’t just like come up with, you know, 1600 words. And so that felt good. And, and the other thing I noticed was when you talked about, like, there has to be a secret.


Right? That was super helpful too. So like, it helped me. I know, I won’t kind of tell you what I was thinking, because I’ll be interested to see what you were thinking. But, um, but I put, I felt like I went into it understanding what is what secret I was, there’s a couple of secrets in there that everybody’s hiding.


And so that was fun to ride around those and nod to them without just blatantly saying what happened. So that was, I felt like it ended in a good place. And I was happy with it. And I wasn’t terrified to turn it into you. So oh, well, now what, what I want to so what I want to do is I’ll just give you the gestalt of my my take on the scene. And then I’m going to ask Daniel and Lesley to walk through the tropes with you to see how you approached each one of the tropes. But generally, I would have to say that this is probably one of the best things you’ve ever written


in terms of its


energy, intrigue, and, and meaning. So the energy transfer in your Beats is very strong. The language, the signaling is very strong. The sense of place, the sense of these avatars is extraordinarily well constructed.


I did not feel that these avatars were just the same as capelli and McGruder, and the lieutenant,


I felt that the sense of place was extraordinary. I know, I’ve been to Nashville. And I think I know that spot that this murder took place. Because I’ve driven that road to


I thought that there was a real understanding of the life of the avatar of the homeless person that came probably directly from you without you not even knowing it. Because I know you’ve, you’ve done a lot of volunteer work for that. So I think


I also think that it is a scene part of a larger work instead of a short story.


Which is fine, which is absolutely fine.


It made me want to know, God, I wonder what’s gonna happen next, what’s going on here. And that is a very good sign at the end of the scene, because guess what it makes you want to do is read the next scene.


So the secrets that you put inside of this, that only you knew and you withheld, transferred as signal to the single audience member. In this case, it was me when I read it, such that I’m intrigued.


And I liked this cop. And I liked the way he smokes his cigarettes. And I liked the way he treats people. And I I understand the other cop. And I liked the there are so many nice details here.


That it felt like Nashville, it felt like contemporary stuff with the cell phone with the way he used it. So


I was just honestly, when you sent the, the the scene, I wasn’t excited about reading it.


I’m like, I gotta get that done before Friday. Right? It was a task. And then when I started reading it, I’m like, Oh, wow, this isn’t gonna be that hard.


And when I finished it, I’m like, Tim could definitely write a really good cop book.


I think he could do a very good cop book. These these avatars felt flesh and blood to me, and the signals and the transfers of energies to me as a single audience member. And I have a great track record in reading crime stories. So to get me to feel that way is a pretty big accomplishment. And


I’m interested to hear how Danielle and Lesley felt about it. And I hope I don’t, I hope my I hope I give them the freedom to disagree with me and they usually are very good at disagreeing with me. So in a way that doesn’t make me feel badly so I’m going to turn it over. Why don’t we first hear from Lesley and then Danielle and then you can get into the tropes, but I was really pleased with it and I think I


He gets a very good example of how following a Master Work scene can get you to do things that you never thought possible. Yeah. My experience of reading it was similar what you know, because well, one thing that was interesting was that because it is based on our pad, our masterwork pattern, short story.


Well, I, you know, I kind of know what’s going to happen. So the things that are different kind of, you know, popped out at me. And so that was really cool to see how much variation you are able to bring to the pattern. Right? So we’ve got, we’ve got the scene, and there’s a lot that’s similar. But there are these very specific details. That, which is one of the things that I’ve always appreciated about your writing, is that you you bring, you have this ability to pay very close attention to things. And then I think just as you’re going through life, and then when you’re writing, they just come out. And so you you have these, these details that like the smoking of the cigarette, you know, things like that, that


that I think that’s that’s not coming from the pattern that’s not coming from Ed McBain, that’s you. And that’s, you know, just coming out naturally. And so I, I love that, that, that through this process in which we are we are constraining the shit out of you that we’re not you’re not losing your timidness that’s coming through. So I’m, that gives me great,


great hope about not just the the process, but you know, like, as we’re testing these tools, I want to know that we’re not doing that, that we’re not crushing writers and constraining them too much. So that’s, that’s wonderful. So


the I have lots of questions in terms of you know, you talked about your process in terms of the tropes and the Beats and I’m curious about the


if you see the for example, the narrative device as different or similar or to what we talked about in the ED McBain piece, is Sam the same those kinds of things. So I have questions, but we may want to talk about


Yeah, I kept those Sam the same. In fact, I made changes to that effort. So a big breakthrough for me was nine months ago or something when you guys had me write a scene based on beat the Reaper and I think you guys picked it because it was like this over the top language, right this over the top


narrative device of just strong language super violent, super vulgar. And, and that has become a safe space for me of like, I can go back to there and know that I’m getting valence language. So in the original, and some of the original drafts of the sentences, I put overly valence language and then I was thinking, well, this is a cop report. I can’t go too far with the valency of the language with the putting my emotions into it and that kind of thing. And so what I tried to do was take it out of the, the, the binding parts of the Beats and put it into the dialogue because then I’m still just reporting what happened, but getting some valence in there so that’s when he was like he’s flunking up the place you know he said fuck you fuck you. You know I tried to slip in the heavily valence stuff into the dialogue because that but I kept thinking if this was a police report, what would go into the police report so I kept the same the same and it helped me stay on track for sure.


of just like, Okay, this is a police report


that he made


so when he wrote it, he was making it so other cops could review it and know what happened. And so I can’t overly do things in the description. And so if I need if I want to hit something hard, I’ve got to do it and dialogue.


So that’s it was super helpful in terms of Sam’s problem that we talked about in the ED McBain


example of eyewitness. Do you feel like that’s the same? Sam’s problem is the same as well. You’re single audience member and the problem. Yeah, I felt like I relied on the tropes to get me there a little I didn’t think as much about


that I just kind of assumed the tropes would get me to that point.


And I was thinking the whole time that


so like one of the things I’ve realized that the end of once I got to the end of the scene is I think, in mine


the cop not forgot his name. What’s What’s the they were the carpet wide? Yeah, he.


Okay. Oh, that’s funny. I picked that. Anyway.


He I think he already suspected the captain from the beginning. And so.


So this was a I think that would be a slight tweak to to the SAM and


in the problem. But I think it was the same of like, he’s because what I liked about the ED McBain scene was


the person who wrote the report capelli. And the person whoever in the future pulled the report for somebody else kind of had the same problem, which is he needs to put in the report. What really happened to show that the lieutenant did it without him taking the flak. And then later this report was used to show another cop how to do this. Definitely. So I just kind of focused on


him getting the report down in a way that showed the captain did it without you know, and then I didn’t really worry about the other part. That makes sense to me when because we’re we’re thinking about in capelli, he’s just right.


It happens spontaneously, like it’s really unexpected. Where as Watson is already metabolizing. So they’re in slightly different places in their journey. And so it’s really good that you


that you’re mindful of that as you’re looking at it because the way you present the the


the events and the dialogue and everything will be just a little bit different. And I think that that might be what gives it the quality. Shawn, that you mentioned about how this feels like it’s part of a larger story, as opposed to being simply a short story is I think is part of that element where Watson’s not done with this, once he files the report, there’s more that he’s going to have to do so. Yeah, so I love the that you are,


as you’re making changes to it that I think about this in terms of a an analog is when you’re resizing an image, you have to pull it from the corner, you can’t just if you drag it from a side, it’ll distort everything. But what you’re doing is you’re kind of dragging it from the corner. And by doing that, you’re ensuring you’re making adjustments to the other pieces that need to be adjusted. But you’re still maintaining that pattern of Whose side are you on. And that’s, that’s the fundamental thing at the bottom we want to make sure comes through, and then you’re just bringing your own. You’re your own experience your own tweaks to it, and then adjusting the whole picture to go with it. So I think that’s really, that’s really wonderful. Yeah, I agree. I really enjoyed the story. And I think it’s good that we’re going in this order, and that we’re implicitly going blue, red, green, right. And that, you know, Sean, you talked about how it fits in as a crime story, and how the context is working for you. So we we cover the five genre leaves on the pop. And then Leslie, you talked about the narrative device and how that’s working, and how the problem is manifested. In my experience reading it was that, not surprisingly, I got into the green details. And I was thinking about how the different avatars are working on the page. So I think that this is really great. And I think I have the same experience where


especially coming out of out of the the last episode, I was a little bit concerned that


that the level of constraint was going to hamper your creativity, but I didn’t find that to be the case. So I think that you have a lot of really good stuff in there. And


also, I think that just


taking a step back to look at masterwork pattern iteration. It’s not easy to hit all the features. Even if you have a pattern to copy sentence by sentence.


We’ve had a lot of experiences where people will will miss things and so I think that


it, you’ve done a really great job staying true to the pattern seen.


And, and then hitting all of those essential features.


And I just want to point out that it’s not a trivial thing to say that it can sometimes feel like that, like, oh, I have a checklist, of course, I hit all the things on the checklist. But when it comes to creativity, sometimes things will morph and change and get lost without you knowing. And so I don’t think that happened here, I think that you stayed really true to it, and did a great iteration and a great manifestation of the scene. And the reason that that’s cool is that then when we’re talking about feedback on the scene, we can get into the really fun parts. So it’s not like, Well, you didn’t hit this thing. And, you know, we need to put in a McGruder character so that this will work. It’s more about how your individual interpretation of that part of the scene is working, and how it can be stronger, and how it can get across your specific take on the message. So to continue on the theme of the 624 that we have going here, before we even get into the tropes, what I’d really like to do is talk about the scene event synthesis, and go through what that looks like. And then we can get into the five commandments as well. And I think that’ll give us a good foundational understanding of the scene before we get into the trope analysis and looking at the essential features. And also give us a goal state so that we understand how you want to express for example, the essential tactics of each of the avatars. And then that’s going to let us know whether you’re in line with that and in what you’re thinking about them. So with the


the first question of the scene, event synthesis, we have literal action. So


the and this is also you know, it as we, we went over the analysis, and we talked about what this looks like, for eyewitness and


literal action isn’t isn’t a trivial thing to answer, either, because it’s about pulling out what are the most important, most salient features of the literal action on the page, what’s most important to communicate to Sam? So it’s an exercise in collapse, the same way that we do durational collapsed action with in when the author is telling Sam things, we are doing that for our analysis so that we see what are the key features so that as we create, we’re including all of those key things. We’re focusing on the right things, giving the most weight to the most important things. And then as we iterate we’re making sure none of that gets lost. So how would you summarize what happens in the scene? And we will usually do a sentence that would show up on our infographic and a paragraph. So whatever feels more comfortable to you, can you sum it up in a sentence? Or can you sum it up in a paragraph, and then we can work toward the other one, I would say, Randall, the protagonist is trying to report on the crime without feeling the consequences of reporting on the crime. And Watson is trying to figure out what happened trying to solve the crime without putting well if it’s just what’s on, like what he’s literally doing, he’s trying to get the witness to tell him what he saw to figure out if he can believe him or not. Okay, those are starting to sound like essential tactics to me that you’re getting into what their goal states are, and into what their verbs are. So this is really about just what are the actions on the page. So if you had like your Story, Grid infographic, say that because we’ve talked about how this feels like part of a bigger piece, you have, this is the scene where Randall does what, okay, this is the scene where Randall, give the police what he saw, okay. Okay. And this is the scene where Watson convinces Randall to tell him what he saw. Right. So


that’s really interesting. Well, why I think like, what’s interesting about that, is, and I’m kind of, I’m kind of riffing on because, you know, we started this out as a short story, but, but I’m thinking about, you know, what does that tell me if I see that in a scene event synthesis? Is that what you’re focusing on? There is what changes for Watson, that he gets this information?


And what that tells me is that the global story, if this were a book,


it sounds like Watson is the global protagonist.


So if you said to me, this is the scene where


Randall gets targeted


by the captain. Then I would say Oh, this is a global story about Randall.


So I think you have some


And interesting stuff going on with the way that you’re thinking about the protagonist there. Because the focus, like when you have to boil it down to an essence, the focus is on Watson. Do you feel like you connect with Watson more than Randall? I mean, now that you say that I feel I feel like the interesting story, if I was to expand this would be to follow what Watson does. I think, even at the end of the scene, he’s the one in the bind more than Randall is. Yeah, I mean, I think that the read both of them have been touched by this witnessing function. And so Randall is potentially in physical danger.


And Watson is,


in this long term, professional relationship with someone who he now knows to be a murderer, and who he previously suspected of being corrupt. So


yeah, I think you have you have both of those stories going on. And I think it’s just worth noting that, can I jump in here for a sec?


Oh, this is, this is so great.


Because yes, that’s that’s exactly. Leslie said this earlier. And now you’re getting into it. This is why I said that this is a scene in the larger hole. And it’s a crime story featuring a detective.


And the reason why is exactly what Daniel just locked in on there. And the trick here is to see, the reason why this is not a short story is that it is not


it has not closed the loop of responsibility.


The loop of responsibility is Watson is now responsible for the justice, is justice going to be served or not. So at the end of your scene, we Sam, the reader says, Oh, this is interesting. He’s taken now the responsibility of figuring out what the hell happened there.


Whereas in the ED McBain scene, it was clear who the killer was.


Now, I’m not here to I still think your scene is terrific. But in terms of it following every specific, specific constraint of eyewitness, it does not do that. And that’s okay. Because


your vision as the writer, as as Daniel rightfully pointed out, you are sort of you’ve sort of fallen in love with Watson.


And that’s okay.


But if if Randall were the the prime protagonist of this unit of story, there would be more of your personal, you would be seeing the world through Randles eyes more than you’re seeing them through Watson’s eyes.


Because your signal is, hey, let’s look at the world through Watson’s eyes


up. And I think Danielle and Leslie would be able to and myself, we will be able to walk through your beat by beat thing and say, Oh, looky here, you didn’t swap your protagonist.


You did not hold the protagonist the output or in the way that Ed McBain did. So the signal is lost to Sam. And Sam still believes that the central protagonist of this story is Watson. And technically, that will probably prove to be correct. When we look at your Beats. I don’t know that it’s correct, because I haven’t looked at the Beats yet. But this is this is I think what Danielle our green expert is getting at. She intuitively sensed or maybe even she tracked it that you didn’t swap your protagonist. And so Randall is the inciting incident more than he is a wave particle.


i I’m sorry to to get.


It feels as if this this. Randall acts as a particle that hits Watson directly.


Instead of Randall coming in as a wave second order effect.


So Randel serves as the inciting incident as opposed to the murder serving as the inciting incident.


I’m sorry, I’m jumping way way ahead here. And I also want to reiterate everything that Leslie and Daniel said, is that now we’re we’re in the play space of Story Grid nerd edge, right.


So the bottom line is you’re seeing worked


So now that we’re taking our ice pics to it, you’ve got to remember, Oh, this is just the scene works. It’s just not it’s not perfectly aligned with the pattern of the short story that Ed McBain wrote. But it still works. Yeah. And I’m, I’m curious like, because as I, as you were talking and then based on what I said earlier, the fact that


because in my mind, something happened before this,


that made Watson think he does not trust the captain.


And so, because of that, the Rando coming in is another piece of a puzzle that was already building where in the short story that’s not the case. Is that is that the difference? Yes. See, the secrets that you just spoke of are Watson’s secrets. They’re not Randall secrets.


In Ed McBain story Struthers has secrets, my friend. Well, Randall and


I tried to get the secret. Okay, but But what’s more to like? That they both have? Right capelli is


capelli is is sort of an innocent.


And then the story is about how he gets corrupted. I mean, not corrupted, sorry, he’s not corrupted, how he gets touched by the corruption of the


of the system. So that works for the SAM right, because the SAM is also an innocent coming into the system. And capelli is saying this is what happens in the system is that corruption will just come at you. What are you going to do? Are you going to


stand up for truth, or are you going to become McGruder?


And so there are


it’s just a little bit, it’s a little bit different. So I think, you know, going back to, Leslie, what you were asking


if, if the SAM, if Watson is our primary focus here and our protagonist, the Sam needs to also change a little bit. So it wouldn’t be an innocent in the system. It would be someone who’s already implicated in some way.


Whether that is like as a fighter for truth or as a


as I think it would be as a fighter for truth, because that’s, that’s where we have Watson. Sorry, Leslie. God.


Yeah. So I was thinking that that what you’re talking about is capelli doesn’t have responsibility. Struthers does Struthers passes it to capelli? Where as in, in Tim’s seeing, or Yeah, seeing Watson already has some responsibility. And he’s just gaining ammunition for it. So yeah, as you say, that’s that puts Sam in a slightly different position functionally, could still be a young detective who doesn’t know how to, you know how to signal that there’s corruption without without getting hurt, right. So a lot of it stays the same, but it’s a slightly different thing. So if you were to think about that,


Tim, how do you think that that might change?


Anything about your scene right in terms of like, what Watson notices what he talks about his you know, how he addresses himself to,


to Randall as compared to capelli and Struthers?


You are you asking what I did change because of that, or what I would change to make it more like the masterwork scene.


I don’t want you to make it more like the masterwork scene, because you’ve got you’ve got a solid


setup here. So it’s just like what we just want to I want to like highlight that like what what kinds of things would you do? Did you do and if if this discussion brings anything up, like might you do if you were to take another pass at this right now.


So the way I did it, was


because I am I was still trying to make it where Watson is not left holding the bag


amongst his peers.




When he told Randall that the captain was not in the building, it was at home with his wife, he lied.


Right? So he lied to get Randall to tell him the story knowing the captain was right down the hall.


And so then, at the end when he texted Dawson, he texted him not to get mug shots, but to tell the captain to come in because he wanted to see what would happen.


And that way he would know the truth without with still having plausible deniability. And the captain not being able to nip to call him on anything that he did he he did exactly what he was supposed to do as a cop.


So I saw him as when he met with Randall.


He wanted


I don’t think he cares so much what happens to Randall he wanted to use him to find out if his hunch was right.




so he’s still got that.


This is painting with a very broad brush. But he’s still got that thing where the cops don’t really care so much about the homeless community.


So Dawson, straightforward about that, where Watson is more like I’ll use, you know, I’ll use the fact that I can pretend to care to get what I need out of this guy. And he probably did it in a more coarse way than he would have with a higher


a person had higher up the social ladder.


It to me, changing it to a homeless guy allowed him to be meaner to


Randall than I would have if I’d kept it like Struthers. Yeah, I think as we talked about


I witness as the internal was worldview revelation, I wonder if this that that change might change that. And if that’s the case, we want to, you know, kind of look at that, and see what else that changes. Because the revelation is, you know, once he knows, he knows what to do.


As opposed to it sounds like, it sounds like Watson might have more of a


perhaps maturation perhaps, you know, it depends kind of where you want to take it. But but that might be worth looking at in terms of like, what kind of event if you were to do a larger


story based on this kernel, then what kind of internal change would make sense for Watson,


in light of the changes, in the end, the problem that you want to explore?


Yeah, and even without doing the larger story, that’s really important to bacon at the scene level. So. So I think I think it’s critical to understand that because it’s going to show the it’s going to change the flavor of what kind of descriptors that you put in and how you describe the way that Watson’s thinking about things depending on what frame is harmful at this point in the story. Yeah, I mean, if I started playing with it now.


You know, his all his last moment may be the point where Randall gets murdered as a result of him putting him in that position. That’s correct.


That’s correct. And it’s also back back to Lesley’s.


I love the way Leslie’s always bringing it back to that Sam. Right. So she’s saying don’t change.


She’s saying it’s it’s totally cool that you change Sam to write your story, which was inspired by I witnessed by Ed McBain, but that’s cool. But you’ve got to see Sam no Sam and value Sam. So the new SAM that you have, yes, they’re still young detective.


Right? But knowing them is another deal and valuing them. So you know, we can play or we can play up in the narrative path realms here. And think about well, from what you’re describing to me, Tim, this is a cautionary tale. And Watson is playing the protagonist and Narrator At the same time, he’s speaking to a Sam, who is very close to making a big mistake.


And so he’s saying this, let me buy you a beer, I’m going to tell you the story about this this case. And there’s this guy, you know, you know, those homeless guys, you know, they come in all the time, right.


And so he’s setting up, Sam to have an insight. And as you say, that all is lost moment is because I was being a covert jerk. And using another human being to get power over the captain, I cost that person his life.


And so this this new SAM, that you now have, will hit that third quadrant when Randall dies, and they will go, Oh, my God.


I cannot. And then they’re going to have the insight I cannot do what this corrupt cop did. It’s haunted him.


And so the fourth quadrant would be about how Watson, you know, tried to make amends? Well, I, as we’ve talked, what came to me was the double factor problem would be he’s trying to root out corruption in the police department. Like that’s what you’re actually trying to do. And so he leverages another human being in a way that he thinks I’m breaching the greater good by doing this. That’s right. That’s exactly why I that’s why I think the homeless person is the right choice because that’s exactly who is the easiest to leverage. Yes. And the thing that you’re you’re


you’re playing here long form story that’s not going to take 1600 words to pass, you know, a coherent signal to Sam, which is totally cool, right? But the McBain story


it’s coherent, it’s of of a unit. And it has a controlling idea. Sometimes discretion, discretion is the better part of valor.


And yours is really getting juicy. It’s like, when you put truth above Well, being of other human beings, you better be careful.


Because when you’re in pursuit of truth, that is a power functionality. Right? Truth is power, it’s Francis Bacon.


So if you are in pursuit of truth, and you, you stop looking at the well being of other human beings, that can be really bad. It can cause people to die, who are innocent, and do not deserve that fate. And injustice is the result of the pursuit of truth over well being.


But, but you’re, you’re you’re doing a really nice thing here. You’re making that promise to Sam. Keep reading, Sam. Keep reading and you’re gonna get more. Where do you see what happens to Watson? He’s a pretty great detective right now. See how he tricked everybody to get what he wanted? Wait a minute now.


Because when you play covert games like that,


it comes back to bite you.


You’ve got to that’s the thing about capelli he doesn’t play covert games.


He just gets the information Struthers is playing a covert game. And so as the lieutenant and so is Magruder the only person in the McBain story who’s playing it straight? Is capelli.


And that’s why at the end of that story, we go yeah, the probability is that lieutenants gonna get caught


capelli is on the case. The lieutenant’s gonna get what’s to him.


But anyway, you can see how your story is completely different than Ed McBain story, isn’t it?


So these constraints that we pushed on you, you still were able to squeeze yourself through them and put tennis in here. And you’ve got three really very analytical and critical people being excited about how other scenes could set up in the future based upon what you’ve written here. So it’s very, very fulfilling to me because like Leslie, I thought, all these these massive constraints on you were going to hurt you. And that’s why I only wanted to do a single factor constraint opening up. You just changed the context.


I told you just change the context. You


use everything else. You only change the context and everything else changed. Even though you had the same number of avatars, you have the same discretions better part of our you have the same concepts. But now as Danielle and Lesley are saying, now that you’ve constructed it, now you got to reform your narrative path. Because this is good.


This is different than Ed McBain. This could be the start of a series about a guy named Watson who works in contemporary Nashville.


That’s pretty cool.


And Ed McBain was an inspiration, not a copycat. You’re not copying his work. You’re he’s inspired you to consider justice. What does it mean to be just? How is the detective Justin when are they not? Who is the detective trying to communicate when they write these police reports? Thanks for listening to this episode of The Story Grid Podcast. For everything Story Grid related check out story grid.com Make sure you sign up for the newsletter so you can find out everything that we’re doing in the Story Grid Universe. As I mentioned at the beginning of the episode, if you want to download the scene that we were all talking about the scene that I wrote, you can do that below the YouTube video down in the description, or you can go to story grid.com/episode Dash 266. As always, thank you for subscribing to the podcast. If you would like to help us out. You can go to iTunes, go to Apple podcast and leave us a rating and review or you can go to YouTube. Subscribe there, follow us there like the video and that will really help us out too. But thanks so much for listening and we will see you next week.


The Book

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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.