Episode 267: First Draft Feedback: 3 Editors Give Honest Writing Analysis – Part 2

Click here to read Tim’s draft

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 he’s an editor with over 30 years of experience. Along with him is Danielle Kiowski, the Chief Academic Officer of Story Grid University. And Leslie watts, the editor in chief of Story Grid Publishing. And this week, we continue from last week where we’re discussing the scene that I wrote, and figuring out the best way to go forward and keep me learning as a writer. It’s a really fun discussion where we dive deep into two factor problems, we look at why this works is a scene in a greater story instead of a short story. And overall, just talk about what kind of things I need to do to keep leveling up as a writer. So it’s a really fun episode, I think you’ll get a lot out of it. Again, if you would like to actually read the scene we’re discussing, you can find it in the description below the YouTube video, or you can go to story grid.com/episode Dash 267. Alright, that’s it. Let’s jump in and get started.

Danielle Kiowski  01:08

Okay, so last time, we got started with looking at your draft, Tim, and we talked through the blue layer, the red layer, and then started getting into the green layer. And as happens when we go through this kind of analysis, we looked at a little bit of the green, and then we had to cycle back up through the red and even to the blue, to figure out how the changes on the page are affecting the other layers of analysis. And so I think that it’s it’s worth noting, though, we we asked a question, which is, sometimes we would consider it the easiest question, right? What are the avatars literally doing? And from that, we got just a cascade of insights into what happens in your story, at the red level, looking at the narrative device, and the double factor problem space, and even at the blue level that we started to talk about? What would what would change in your five leaves of the of the genre clover. So we started talking about how, instead of a worldview, Revelation, you might have a different kind of worldview story going on. So I think that this is a really good thing to keep exploring. And I think that going through the rest of the green tools of the 624, that’s going to help us open up more of this understanding about your story. And we’re really laying the foundation for when we start to look at tropes, we’ll understand how each of the essential features of the tropes, how that’s going to play into the story that you’re creating, that you’ve outlined with your 624. So I think one of the things to start to talk about is that we, we talked about last time how this is really part of a larger story, that it’s not a short story in itself. And the thing that stopping it from being a short story in itself, is that there’s no closed loop. So Watson, your detective has a suspicion about his captain coming into the scene. He’s using Randall, Who is the witness coming in to figure out whether his hunch is correct or not. And then at the end of the scene, he has more information about whether the captain is corrupt or not. So you identified the literal action as Watson getting the information that he needs. So that’s how it moves your global plot forward. So we have this idea. And then we talked about how the double factor problem space for, for Watson is about how he’s trying to uncover the truth. He’s trying to root out corruption. And he’s doing that at the expense of this man, Randall. He’s doing it at the expense of his well being. So Randall will die at the last moment. And the tension in those virtues is enabled by his complete discounting of the homeless population. And so he sees them as objects. He sees them as pawns in his game, and he uses them for his own ends. So one of the things that I wanted to talk about and I think this will start to get into our central tactics, but it’s also going to go up to the pop talking about the context is that when you have someone dealing with it with a double factor problem in the story, the factors that underlie that instantiation of the double factor problem are endemic to the context. So an eye witness corruption is endemic and everyone is trying And to figure out how to navigate that without the consequences falling onto them. So what we see is that the that capelli is trying to get the information without suffering consequences. He’s worried about his own reputation and his own job and he’s he’s even worried about Struthers and what he’s going to go through Struthers is worried for his physical safety. And he’s also trying to get that information out there. We have McGruder, and McGruder, although he isn’t on the page very much has a critical role in this because he calls the lieutenant in because he’s trying to get credit for something that he didn’t do. So he is also trying to avoid bad consequences, while performing the duties that are that are set up in the police department. So we have every avatar in the context operating in the same problem space. So what I thought might be interesting to start is to take this problem that you’ve identified, root out corruption versus, versus preserving the well being of everyone root out the word, explore that problem space, in terms of the other avatars, because I kept thinking during the last episode when we were talking about it, about Jack the Ripper, and about how his victims are also at the edges of society like that. And about how Watson is really doing the same thing. And I think that, that drawing those parallels, and that he finds out that he’s really the same as the criminals that he’s fighting against. That seems to me to be the direction in which your story is going. So I think to start out on that, just talking about the, to find a way into this double factor problem, I’d like to start talking about the captain. So what’s what’s going on with the captain? What are your thoughts as you’re developing this avatar? What do you think his essence really is?

Tim Grahl  07:18

So where I placed him in my head, and I kept trying to figure out how to get this in the scene. And I couldn’t come up with a good one. Because I mean, he’s only on the page for three or four sentences. And every time I tried to put it in, I couldn’t come up with a good one is that it’s his stepson, who has been a problem since the moment they got married. And the secret between Randall and the victim is that Randall was going there to sell him drugs. And so this kid has been nothing but a problem. And then the captain followed him to find out where he was going. And once he figured it out, he just snapped. And, and killed this, he was able to kill him because he wasn’t his own flesh and blood. So that was, what has as far as I got, is like, you know, he, he’s trying, he wants his wife to himself, in this kid constantly gets in the way. And so when he saw this, you know, this was the umpteenth time that this kid had done something that was going to cause an enormous amount of hassle for him, especially as a police captain. He just snapped.

Danielle Kiowski  08:47

Okay, I think that the the selling drugs aspect of it came through very clearly. And I think that this is this is a good seed for this avatar. But I think that we need to work on building up his double factor. I don’t I think that I think it’s true, it’s believable and clear, as I said that, that he sees the son selling drugs and that causes him to snap. I think what we need more of is like, why does that why does that cause him to snap? Like what is personally so so risky for him because he needs to be be willing to even at a subconscious level take on the risk of committing a murder, to avoid having something else happen. So I think it’s not like having a hassle isn’t necessarily. It’s not big enough. It needs to be something that this kid doing drugs is going to ruin his life in some way. It can’t just be like, like, Oh, he’s doing this again, like, Oh, you’ve you know, you wreck the car again. That’s not like a murder thing. A murder thing is, is real novelty. Right where it’s like I haven’t simulated so if if like, say that my kid wrecks the car every few months, and I’m like, Okay, I know that I need to call the garage, I know that I need to, you know, do all this stuff to get the car back on the road. And then we figure out like, okay, is this the time that I make him pay for it himself? Or is this the time that I keep doing it? Because he’s in a tough spot or whatever. And when you have those simulations already of what that situation looks like, you don’t jump to murder. It’s like in the in the Struthers story. He saw evidence of his wife’s infidelity. And that was so overwhelming to him, that he acted, he broke the contract of being a human being. Right, and so you need something that big? That it’s it’s something that’s that’s going to force him to break? Because in the end, why do we know that? Because the lieutenant doesn’t immediately murder Struthers. He sees him he comes face to face with him. But he’s not just like a contract killer. If this was like a gangster who’s used to killing people, clean up the witnesses, we’re good to go. But this is someone who’s not who’s been pushed over that edge by that novelty, rather than someone who’s comfortable with the act of murder. So can you think of like what would make what would push him over that edge? In the situation? Where does he have to be at?

Tim Grahl  11:49

I am not sure. I’m trying to decide which direction to go like, should I go the direction of his career? Or should I go the direction of his relationship with his wife or somehow bring them both into it?

Danielle Kiowski  12:04

Let’s talk through the options.

Tim Grahl  12:07

So one thing is like, you know, could it be something where like, he’s already put his career on the line for this kid? And if something else happens, he’s going to lose his career, is there something down that route? Is there something down the route where like this, this will trigger his wife leaving him or this will trigger something destroying his relationship with his wife. Those were the two routes that I was going as you were talking,

Danielle Kiowski  12:42

I you know, to to be transparent, I was thinking about it from a potentially career perspective. I’m trying to unpack why I was thinking about that I was thinking, you know, maybe he’s running for office, and this is going to ruin any of his chances of, you know, that kind of it’s going to sync all of his aspirations for the future. And I think the reason I’m thinking about that is that if he is someone who’s willing to use his to use people around him, including his stepson as objects, I don’t know that his relationship with his wife would be important enough for him to take on that kind of personal risk. He relates to people as it’s as objects not as vows. And the distinction between the stepson and the wife. I don’t, I don’t think it’s consistent to say that he has a deep and meaningful, authentic connection with her and yet cannot relate to his stepson in that way.

Tim Grahl  14:00

There’s also like, so one couple of things that I thought too, is like one is, you know, I’m not tied to this as the victim. The other is there’s that scene in, I think it’s the second season of House of Cards, where he when he pushes the girl in front of the train. Right. So he like, showed up there, had a plan to get her to wipe everything off for her phone, the reporter that he had been sleeping with, and then shoved her in front of the train. So that was more planned out, even though there wasn’t a lot like a lot to it. It was just pushing in front of the train. I mean, it could be something more like he showed up there planning because hitting somebody with a crowbar is a little bit and is a little bit more like off the cuff. You know what I mean? It’s so violent. Yeah. Where, if we go down that route, it’s like he followed him planning to kill him because he’s an object that’s in his way. And so then it could be something more like he grabbed him, dragged him behind one of the pillars, and like, choked him or something, something where it’s like, I didn’t, I didn’t do this on the spur of the moment. I did this, like, I knew where you were going, I followed you there. And I did that thing. And I did it in a place where I thought I could get away with it. So I mean, I like the idea of running for office.

Danielle Kiowski  15:45

I think this like following him, and then it gets out of control that’s ringing more true. To to the situation. For me, it seems like that seems like more of a progressive complication scenario that could happen, as opposed to him making the decision. I’m going to follow him here and, and that something in that moment would have been snapped to that level. Like if it starts out as a low level confrontation, don’t do this kind of thing. And then maybe the kid starts pushing back and that kind of thing. It could,

Shawn Coyne  16:16

I’m just gonna speak out of 35 years of experience and crime stories. And then I’m gonna, I’m gonna reference a very, very good one by Dennis Lehane, and it’s called Gone Baby Gone. And what Lehane he’s a master of relationship crime stories. So the things that really grabbed our chest as Sams is when circumstances extenuating circumstances have relationship. So you can either do sort of the the pathological, sociopathic kind of villain, who’s running for office, like like Kevin Spacey plays in House of Cards. And it’s sort of we we watch that figure and see how they manipulate the world as a sociopath. And it’s kind of exciting for us as Sam’s to see Is he gonna get away with it is he not going to get away with it? And and just as some x, accidental second and third order effects, they actually do some good in the world accidentally. Whereas Lehane and Gone Baby Gone, it’s the story of I’m going to ruin it for everybody. But it’s important, and I can’t ruin it. Because the guy’s a very talented writer. It’s the story of a little girl has been kidnapped. And there’s a private detective who’s hired to find the girl. And we learn more and more about the mother of this child. Not a very good mom. Really bad mom. And we discover late in the story, that the child was kidnapped for her own protection. And so the double factor problem that the detective has to solve for himself, is his where he sits on the virtue scale. Is it more important that the daughter is returned to her biological mother? Who will treat her terribly? And will probably continue a legacy of damage in that family? Or should the detective allow the person who is abducted that child and is giving that child a wonderful life with care, love and protection? Which is more important to that detective? Is the truth more important? Or is the well being of the child more important? So to relate this to your story, Tim, the drug thing has been done a million times. So the kid buying drugs is not enough to set Sam on the course. Oh, my word, a young child is doing drugs. That’s terrible. I would kill my kid to if they were doing drugs, right. So it has to be stronger than that. Because the child is doing something that has pushed this Captain over over the self organizing criticality to kill. So you have to think about things that that child would do. It’s sort of like

Tim Grahl  19:39

Yeah, I mean, the thing that comes to mind, I don’t even want to go there.

Shawn Coyne  19:42

That’s probably where where you have to think about Sam. Is Sam gonna say to themselves, whoa, I don’t know what to do here. That captain had. They snapped. I could see myself snapping in that same situation. This is the kid who You did this. And then he did this. And then he did this. But this is the final straw. He’s doing that, that thing that is so bad that if somebody were doing that to me, and they laughed at me and said, Well, check this out liquid I’m doing now. I’m going to post every naked photograph of you ever, on the internet tomorrow. What? Right? Those are, those are the self organizing criticalities that can get us to do things that we wouldn’t normally do. And then our detective thinks he’s hiding, getting rid of corruption. Well, it’s actually a little bit more nuanced than that, my friend. And May and Oh, not only does he not get rid of corruption, he causes the death of a, an innocent homeless man who wasn’t there to sell drugs. He was there accidentally, but it looked like drugs. And the captain tried to make it look like drugs so that he wouldn’t get in trouble. Because he snapped. I don’t know. But my only point is that when you’re when you’re debating double factor problems, focus on relationships and betrayals of trust and damage that will damn someone I am going to do this thing and your life will be ruined. Those are relationship things that will cause people to lose their ability to control themselves. Just think about those moments in your life where you’ve lost it, you are literally possessed by your anger. And this is what the Greeks were they had gods that they would say, Oh, I was possessed by that God, well, it’s sort of they are inside of us as sub personal Lodge, sub psyche, personalities. And that’s why we’ve named them as Apollo or Demeter or right. So it’s in relation. So the bottom line here is, when you’re trying to figure out a double factor problem, think about betrayal of relationship. And when you believe that someone would not cross that line, and they do it, and not only do they do it, they laugh at you for all of the trouble, they’re going to cause you and all of the trouble that your family is going to have. And they enjoy it. Is it that’s a real double factor problem. Is it just that we have those psychopathic sites like Pathshala pathological psychopaths in the world? And isn’t it a better world if we just get rid of them? That’s a nice little double factor problem, because who knows? Who knows? You’ve got to have some corruption in the system, or it’s a tyranny. If nobody defects, on the norms, and the laws and the codes of a society, guess what? You have robots. So defection in and of itself is not evil. Sometimes I think it was Martin Luther King said, when the world is mad. Shouldn’t you defect on that world? If everyone says one thing and it’s completely insane is sanity when you say no, thank you. I’m defecting on that norm. That’s baloney. And boy was he right? Because they will use this the culture and the institutions in a particular system will will label people as insane those who are defecting on the tyrannical order. Anyway, I’m getting way off track here. But relationship if you get stuck always go. Why would someone kill their stepson? Why would they kill their real son?

Tim Grahl  24:37

Yeah, I mean, where I ended up landing was something like the captain was down there paying for sex with somebody and the son followed him and took pictures of him. Like when you started saying like, Haha, I got you. It’s like A 17 year old that hates his dad or his stepdad follows him gets pictures was running. And that’s when he attacked him. And I think it sets up a good way for them to, for the case to be solved, because if he takes the phone destroys the phone, but it backed up somewhere that Watson comes across,

Shawn Coyne  25:23

I think that’s a great red herring. But I think, I think you need to have a wave functionality where it extends beyond the captain himself. So if the captain, this will make it more powerful to Sam, if the captain is a good enough person, that they wouldn’t kill the kid for he will lose his marriage, but he’s not going to kill somebody. Or he might be you know, outed or whatever. But if it’s somebody that the captain cares about, that he’s protecting, so it’s like, yeah, you can you can do that to me, but don’t you dare do that to your X, Y, or Z? Maybe.

Tim Grahl  26:08

I see. So we’re making now the villain.

Shawn Coyne  26:11

Those are ways ways to do red herrings so that your odd Sam will start to think, Oh, it’s just a drug deal gone bad. Oh, actually, they? Well, the detective figured out there was no drugs at the scene. Wow. I wonder what Oh, I bet the guy was having sex with prostitutes. Oh, well, he was but No, he wasn’t. Oh, what is it that? How bad does it get? And that’s the way to progressively complicate the crime. So that it has this great double factor

Tim Grahl  26:41

NIS. Yes. So even the villain is dealing is double factor. Yeah,

Shawn Coyne  26:46

as this goes back to exactly what Daniel was talking about the beginning of the episode, you want to look at all the avatars in the play, and see how they are dealing with the double factor problem on stage two? Because that will help you find red herrings, it will progressively complicated. So Randall, maybe Randall truly was an innocent? I think he was. Yeah, because neither I did not.

Danielle Kiowski  27:19

But we take it away from capelli. Like, right, I think at the point that at the point that Watson isn’t I think that what you were saying about when you said that Randall was just there at the wrong time. That really rang true for me, too.

Shawn Coyne  27:31

Yeah, cuz it’s also a cliche, oh, all homeless people are in drugs. If they’re at the corner, they’re selling drugs, or they’re buying drugs. And that’s exactly Watson’s attitude. And so if he plays by that, if you play that as the author, you play that, that that card, then it’s it’s going to support the the stereotype and the bias of the person you’re trying to have a mental shift. Oh, I thought it was one way what it actually isn’t there are people who are homeless, who are not on drugs, having a really difficult time of it, are doing the best that they can. And because of the good and goodness of their soul, they come forward after they’ve witnessed a crime, and I repay them by getting them killed. Who’s really the jerk here? And so that’s a message to Sam that maybe can stop the death of another Randall in the world. Because you want you want to enable Sam, who is this detective, right? Who doesn’t know what to do about something that detective might not use the next Randall, they might see that Randall not as an object, but as a living breathing human being who’s complex, not just some thing to manipulate to get what we want.

Danielle Kiowski  29:04

Really wonderful. I’m so glad that you jumped in and talked about that, because I think that everything that you said is absolutely true. And refocuses us on that double factor problem. Which I think is right where we need to be. Because we need to figure out the double factor problem in order to figure out the goal state in order to figure out the essential tactic in order to make sure that the tropes work. So we’re spending a lot of time on this not because it’s just something that we check off but because it’s truly foundational, and the problem space ties all of the levels of analysis together. So it’s really important that we figure this out. And by focusing on the criminal, the antagonist, the shadow, like all of those words that we have for describing both The person who’s knocking the protagonists life off balance. And in this case, the shadow archetype, where it’s someone who is navigating that same problem space, but loses sight of the line. Sometimes we say doesn’t have a line. But I think in this case, what it’s shaping up to is loses sight of the line. Right? That that gets us to a place where we can really understand our protagonist. And we can say, Well, okay, Watson is like there, but for some twist of fate, right? Grace of God, whatever the, whatever the universe of your novel has there, but for whatever that is, goes, Watson. And what is that, and that’s how we determine his line in the sand, which determines his turning point, right? All of these are intricately locked together. So starting here is really important.

Shawn Coyne  30:51

Because there’s a movie you can watch, called to live and die in LA, the plays in this space, too. So I’ll just throw that out there.

Danielle Kiowski  31:00

So what I’m wondering is, maybe maybe the crucible of a podcast recording is not the place to come up with this kind of a, of a double factor problem and the ways that the different avatars are, so I’m thinking about what we talked about last time about coming up with all of these different ideas for the context? Maybe it would be good to take a you know, take time. So in between this episode in the next episode, and have you just think about what are the possible? What are the possible crimes? What are the possible ways that that that that the captain could be addressing the double factor problems face? And what are the possible ways the protagonist, we just, maybe just stick with the captain for now? And then we can riff off of that to get to the protagonist? What do you guys think?

Shawn Coyne  31:58

Well, I’ve been thinking a lot about, about all of this stuff, especially after the last episode. And what I was thinking is that there’s there’s about Alright, let me try and frame this the right way. If I were to lay out a series of arguments, to convince somebody of something I would start, you know, it was, it was a nice warm day in June, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, and lay it all out. And and the trick is, is knowing the payoff. So the payoff of a crime story is the revelation of the killer, plus the mode of why they did it. And the third thing is it what’s the justification? Were they justified in breaking the law? Or were they not? Now, the crime stories that end with very clear answers to those questions are not as good as the ones that are very contextually important. So Dennis Lehane, at the end Have Gone Baby Gone. We are hoping beyond hope that that child stays with with a good caregiver. But what Lehane does, is he tells us about his detective. And the detective returns that child to their mother. And he hates himself for doing that. But that tells us who that detective is, what character he has, it is not for me to decide the well being of this child. It’s for their parent. And you can you can fault that detectives decision however you want. But it’s a brilliant ending, because we’re all like, I bet he’s just gonna forget about it and let the good person keep that kid. And so I I’m sure Lehane when he constructed that story said to himself, does anyone ever have the right to take someone else’s child? Let me construct an argument. That will make people say yes, it’s valid. To take that child away from her mother. And then I’m going to break it, because that is crossing a line that we should never cross. Even when there’s arguments to be made, that the well being of the child, that’s for courts and states, we cannot go in and take. So what is the line? What argument? Are you making that it was justified for that Captain to kill his own son? Maybe the son was the devil? I don’t know.

Tim Grahl  35:34

Yeah, I mean, so you’re saying here? So in that case, if you asked, you know, any person off the street, is it okay for a person to just take a child from their parents? They’d say, No. So then he built a really strong case for getting convincing that person to say yes. And at the end, he still said, No,

Shawn Coyne  35:56

that’s correct. So and this, and it made us think, Oh, yeah.

Tim Grahl  36:00

If we’re starting with this case, it would be is there is there ever a time that you should beat your child to get to death with a crowbar? Most people would say no, then I’m going to build a case for yes. And then still say no. Is that kind of what you’re saying? Well,

Shawn Coyne  36:17

I mean, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m just telling you. Yeah, I’m telling you. The place to play here is is when you start to question your your virtue and value stuff, like and it becomes a game. How far do I take this value to the point where I can convince somebody to do something? That’s inherently not cool.

Tim Grahl  36:45

Have you? Did you watch the movie? I think it was a Stephen King book too. But was it the good son? Wasn’t Macaulay Culkin in the whole thing is that Macaulay Culkin is this like psychopath child, and this other very good child comes to live with them or lives next. It’s been decades since I’ve seen the movie, but, and then the very end of the movie, the mom is hanging off a cliff holding both the child’s hands. And she has to pick which one her her biological son who she has come to believe is a psychopath, or this actual good son. And so she lets go of the psychopath and saves a good son, but now she has to live the rest of her life having killed her own child. For for some other child,

Shawn Coyne  37:36

that’s a double factor problem. Well being versus truth, well, the truth is, is that this this person is going is is not worthy of life. But I have to live with the cognitive dissonance of knowing I killed my own child. That’s damnation, she chose damnation, she made a sacrifice of her own soul of her own spirit, in order to serve the greater enabling good of increasing the probability of life to continue that would be the argument that but they have to suffer. There, there is no choice that can be made without suffering. And that’s the sacrificial element of the heroic choice at the at the climax of the story. So just just to come back to where we started here it’s more and more clear to me that playing sort of these having these good Duncan experiments in your mind are very enabling to the storyteller. Is there let me let me just come up with the one thing like that would be really freaky that people and then I can build an argument such that they come down on the opposite side of where they initially thought that it would be. And then this is especially in terms of justice that’s why you can you can read a lot of crime stories and they play in this realm all the time. Because it’s always context dependent. Is it justifiable to kill your kid because he saw you and took photographs of you having relationships with prostitutes? No, can’t kill him for that. i Let’s see. How about right like you just do like a stack? What about and that’s where these these amazing things come? Because is it justifiable to mind if your husband so that he is completely your object? That’s gone girl, how would you do it? How would you do it? How would you get him to be a prisoner? To Do whatever you tell him to do for the rest of your life. That’s a garden Gone Girl, good Duncan experiment. And those are fun. And they they’re, they’re an enabling function for a storyteller writing a crime story because you can build the rhetorical arguments and then play it out without the knowledge of Sam. So you’re sort of setting Sam up to facilitate Sam going, Oh, my gosh, I don’t know what I would do. So that’s, that’s another way of looking at story construction. You know, are you overtly or covertly manipulating Sam such that Sam can have an insight? So crime storytellers are covertly manipulating Sam, by telling them just telling Sam just enough information, and then turning it and just and then turning it. And so it’s constantly up and down and up. And that’s what a red herring is. Oh, I thought it was that. It’s not that I wonder what it is. And then you progressively do the red herrings. Oh, it’s a drug deal gone? Oh, there was no drugs in the scene? None. Oh, all right. Well, what was the prostitute thing? Nope. It’s not that. Oh, he’s running for county commissioner. Yeah, he doesn’t really care about that. He just withdrew. Oh, then what was it? What was it?

Tim Grahl  41:33

So I mean, this is interesting. Because if this this feels like an earlier scene in the story. So we know, are the if you say the end is who did the who did it? Why, and why? We know who did it early. And the whole question is why? And then we find out that the protagonist trying to figure out the why got people killed in the process. So is that the homework? Or, you know, or do we want to go over anything else for we? And is this like? Are we just wanting to? Are we going down this path? Because we need it to evaluate the tropes and the Beats? Like you said, Danielle, are we doing it just as an exercise? Are we doing it? Because maybe we want to expand this into a novel like, what? What’s the physic before it was like, let’s, let’s write a scene. Because actually, when you started talking about the fact that this feels like a scene more than a short story, I’m like, Oh, they’re gonna have me rewrite it. To close the loop, right? Because that was the homework assignment. So I need to finish the homework assignment. And I don’t, I don’t necessarily think that’s, we have to do that. But that was the first thing I thought when you said that. And so you know, I’m just curious, like, where we’re going and why at this point. Or if we know,

Shawn Coyne  43:09

my suggestion would be that we, we just stay here. And we don’t give you any homework assignment to expand this into anything else. What we’re doing now is where we’re trying to explain to people that you have moved away from the closed loop of the story. And so what what Danielle is doing is walking you into starting to consider larger questions about what this story is about, and how you might conclude it using. So you’re built, we’re building a spec sheet without iteration based upon this one single unit. But that will require us to as less as Danielle is doing, walk through these questions to clarify your intentions. So she was able to ask you questions like, Well, why did the guy do it? And then you answered and then we’re like, that’s not a good enough reason that’s not sustainable for long form story. So anyway, when we go to the beat level, what’s going to be great is we’re going to be able to show where you moved away from Ed McBain and where you, you remain consistent, so that the audience, our sims will be able to see when you switch out the protagonist, the protagonist of your scene is Watson, the protagonist of eyewitnesses Struthers or Randall, so we want to show them how we know that and why that is. And we can definitely do that by showing them the Beats, but we can’t get to the Beats until Do we have a greater understanding of how you executed the tropes?

Danielle Kiowski  45:06

Yeah, and I think that at this point, you went through the iteration. But if we don’t really, really spend time and think about what’s going on, then if you iterate again, you’re going to be iterating. Not not in a coherent direction. Like it’ll be kind of all over the place like, and that’s just frustrating. And so. So I think that I think that it’s really good for us and for our podcast audience to recognize that there’s a time for iteration and there’s a time for word count. And there’s a time for doing the deep work and thinking about what the story is about. And so I think that if we switch into this mode, where we talk deeply about some of these concepts, and then the homework is maybe like, think about them, and then we can make decisions about what the story is about, like what you want it to be about, that we’re not going to be furiously iterating. But we’re going to be making thought progress and conceptual progress on the story.

Tim Grahl  46:10

So what I wrote is signaling that there’s a much deeper thing going on, than what was going on in the eyewitness. So, if I wanted to rewrite this as a short story, I would need to basically I need to the, the why of the villain, or the antagonist, or is, is too vague right now. Because if it was really clear, like something like he snapped and killed his wife because she was having an affair, then I can close that loop in a single scene, or a single short story. But if it’s this like, eight layer deep two factor problem, then it’s going to take me a much bigger span of time to, to walk through those and to bring the SAM along for the ride to go from here to there to there to there. And so, it sounds like what you’re saying is like, well, we could do, you know, we could make it more like I witnessed in a short story. But this problem is actually more interesting. So that’s why we’re gonna go down this path, because I think we’ll learn more following down this path of making of understanding the antagonist two factor problem and making it really, really clear. Is that am I summing this up correctly?

Danielle Kiowski  47:53

And I think it’s also not just that it’s more interesting. Full stop, but that it’s, it’s more interesting to you. Right, so like, looking at the, the Tim pneus of it, and like trying to trying to pull that thread and say, what is it that you added here? That’s really interesting. How do we highlight that? How do we respect it and elevate it?

Tim Grahl  48:18

Well, I think it’s interesting that while I’m glad you like to seen, I still. I’m not like beating myself up over it. But I’m recognizing the fact that I didn’t fulfill the homework assignment. And its interest in it took me a minute to understand why, like, what did I miss? And it was interesting of like, because you guys said in the last episode, like, you know, you hit all the, you hit all the marks of the scene. And what we’ve identified in this episode is no identity. I didn’t hit the mark of understanding the antagonists motives for what he’s doing. And that’s what I was still I still wrote a working scene, but if I’ve, but it’s a scene, not a short story. And if in the moment you started poking it, okay, well, this is a scene of a greater story, what’s going on? I didn’t have an answer. And that’s, that’s where I have work to do.

Leslie Watts  49:25

I was thinking about this and this, to talk about this going to require referencing stuff that hasn’t happened in the podcast. So before the podcast, so when we did when we had you, Tim write the use, though the scene from The Wizard of Earth see as the masterwork pattern, and then you you wrote what you wrote, and then and we’re like, Nope, it doesn’t fit. And we sent you back to to work on that. There was Was I get? I think in my mind, I’m trying to understand why. That was why we did it differently there. And why we’re doing it differently here. Now, I think part of it was that the scene that came out of that first iteration was not it didn’t work in the same way this one does. So that’s important to note, but I want to make sure that like, I’m, I’m putting myself in your shoes, and I’m like, wait a minute, why did we, why did they have me do this then? And not do it now? And that you may not be asking that question. But I’m thinking about it. So I just I want to be clear about what we’re doing and what our goal is and what your goal is, for this so that we’re all on the same page with that. Does that? Does that make sense?

Tim Grahl  50:59

Yeah, I think I think what we got right here, that we weren’t getting right back then was the amount of constraints we put on me from the beginning. And then my overall understanding of what the constraints were. So if I looked through that first scene, I wrote, because we ended up, I ended up doing, I don’t know, 12 iterations of that scene before you guys approved it. Was there were so many things off, like, I didn’t hit any of the marks on the first try. Or so very, very few of the marks and where this, it sounds like I hit most of them. And so I’m fine with like, moving in this direction. We’re going, I just wanted to make sure. Like I pointed out like that, that case, which is it sounds like I hit most of the marks. I didn’t hit this one. And and I think what, what we’re trying to do here is make me a better writer, right? I mean, I say that every episode. So what would make what would be better time spent, like constraining it to close the loop, or figure out how to do two factor problems even better. And it sounds like the second one is something that is worth the time.

Shawn Coyne  52:29

I just want to speak to the Wizard of Earth see experiment and this experiment and differentiate them. The Wizard of Earth see was a it’s a very complex scene. Because it’s dealing with very abstract notions of order chaos and complexity. So the context of a big epic fantasy is, is more difficult abstractly to consider. And the hurdle we faced was that you are having a difficult time understanding that ordered systems have chaos within them, and chaotic systems have order in them. And then no context is either purely ordered and good, or purely chaotic and evil. And conceptually, that was difficult to grasp, although you did pick it up. So this is another this is more evidence of why when you’re starting out as a writer is to, to be able to understand double factor problems when you’re dealing in fantasy realms. Those are very abstract double factor problems. Whereas the crime genre is very specific double factor problems having to do with justification of behavior systems, Is it lawful? Is it just right? So that the, the value at stake in crime is very clear to all of us? That was wrong, that was right. So facing double factor problems and crime stories, is is an easier concept than double factor problems at the level of the Wizard of Earth, see, which which was a very big, complex context. That was epic fantasy based in another world, etc, etc. So to ask a young writer to execute wizard of Earth see kind of scenes is a tall order. I’m not saying it’s easier, but it’s easier to grasp the crime thing. So now that we have gotten Tim to understand even the idea of double factor and what it means he can do that now and he has evidence that he understands double factor by this iteration. of the scene, because he’s made a promise to Sam, that this thing is going to get even more juicy. If you think you’ve seen something yet, where do you see the other double factor problems? Do I, you know, give up the information or not, is now even at a higher level, it’s gone, it’s going to life and death. So where I come down is exploring the double factor pneus of justification in terms of justice is a good thing for Tim to be doing, because crime stories, if you can understand them, and if you can execute the crime genre, it’s it’s a great tool to have in your box, when you’re when you’re doing other kinds of stories, because justification isn’t just about life and death, law and order. It’s about am I justified for doing that thing to that person? Even though I can get away with it? Is it justified for me to manipulate someone to give me what I want, without their knowing? Is that a justifiable behavior? That’s an abstract idea. That is, is being played in the crimes genre, with very clear, they broke the law. So crime stories, they go up the ladder, and they deal with norms and codes to not just laws. So the wizard diversity was a big, big project for Tim. And that’s why it took him 12 times to get close. We gave him this one time after doing a massive amount of 624 work. And he on first iteration, he comes back with a working scene. So he’s earned the ability for us to play in Tim’s world. Now. He said, This is what I want to do with this scene. And so we’re not we’re not like, no, no, no, no, no, you do what we tell you to do. We’re like, this works. Let’s talk about what you want to do. Let’s talk about your point of view. Let’s talk about what it is that you’re trying to get across here. Let’s talk about your point of view about when it’s justified to murder a child. That seems to be what’s at play here. What do you think? Is there any place where you could get to that kind of idea, and it’s scary. And that’s why it’s good. Because now Tim is going to have to torment himself, thinking about what are the stages of justification for murdering a child. And if he can’t get there, he can’t get there. But I think there might be a way where he can and it’s a good thing for him to think about these double factor problems. And there’s nothing more double factor than justice. Because it’s breaking law. It’s breaking norm, and it’s breaking code, all in a Trinity. The code is if we kill each other, there’s nobody left. So you don’t want to be killing people. The law is Thou shalt not kill. And then the norm is people who kill are bad. So you got all three of those things, dealing with murder. That’s why crime stories about murder are so juicy, because they’re playing on the three levels of the the normative order of of the collective cultural grammar, laws, norms and codes. And the antagonist in a crime story breaks all three simultaneously. And the big question is, is it justifiable? And if it’s justifiable, that’s terrifying. Because then you’ve you’ve created a justification system, that gives people the license to kill. So my bottom line is let’s let’s play in this realm. Let’s keep going through the the instruction, let’s look at the Beats so that Tim knows where he did swap out and where he didn’t meet the criterion. And then we can say, Why do you think you didn’t? Oh, cuz I liked it this way. I like Watson better than Randall. Okay. Then Randall is going to be your victim and he’s going to have to go in the third quadrant. And Tim came up with that Whedon. It’s pretty cool.

Tim Grahl  59:44

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Story Grid Podcast. Make sure you visit story grid.com and sign up for our newsletter to make sure you don’t miss anything happening in the Story Grid Universe. If you’d like to support the show, you can go to YouTube, subscribe to our channel like this. Podcast Episode, or go to Apple podcasts and leave a rating and review either of those goes a long way to helping new people find our podcasts and find our content. Thanks as always for being a part of the Story Grid Universe. We really appreciate you listening to the show. I appreciate you following along with me as a writer. Hope you get a lot out of it and we will see you next week.


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.