Episode 273: Narrative Device: This Affects Every Single Word You Write

Tim Grahl  00:00

Hello, and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m the host, and I’m a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne, the creator and founder of Story Grid, and an editor and writer with over 30 years of experience. Along with him is Danielle Kiowski, the Chief Academic Officer of the Story Grid guild. And Leslie watts, the editor in chief of Story Grid Publishing. Now, this week, we’re following up of course, on last week, when we were asking this question of is the podcast something we need to keep doing? And if so how can we make it work for everybody that’s involved. And I think what you’ll see in this week is that the new structure we’re bringing to it is a lot more helpful, it’s, it was a lot more helpful for me, I think it was a lot more helpful for the three of them as well. And of course, we’re using these red, blue and green levels of being able to start at one level and work our way through to see what’s working and not working in the story. And as you’ll see, I have a lot of really clear insights on what’s happening in my scene, what should be happening in my scene, and I think set me up to start making some real progress, to actually get this scene working in the way that we want it to work. And so it was a really great episode, I think you’re going to enjoy it. Before we jump in. I just want to mention one more time that right now registration for the Story Grid guild is still open just for two more days, when this comes out, you can go to story grid.com/guild, to see all of the information there. I’m really excited about this new semester, we have a lot of great things planned. And if you’re interested in learning how to write really great line by line writing, that builds into scenes and really learning a lot of what we’re doing on the podcast and how to apply it to your own writing. This is what you need to do is join us inside of the guild again, there’s only two more days to register for the new semester. Alright, that’s it. Let’s go ahead and jump in and get started. Okay,

Shawn Coyne  02:08

so Tim, what we’d like to do, and we’ve we’ve had some, you know, off page conversations about this in terms of the structure of being able to give you feedback that makes more sense, and isn’t sort of Higgledy Piggledy is, there’s this, there’s this metaphor that I have, that I think might be helpful. So let’s say, let’s say it’s me, because this is a little bit disturbing. Let’s say I have a sore on my arm. Okay. And I go into See, my general doctor. Well, what she’s going to do is she’s going to take out her flashlight, she’s going to put on her glasses that have a little light on it. She’s going to let me take a look at it right? And so she’ll take a look at the sore, and she will, she will poke around it. And she will go I’m not really sure. Is this a local problem? Like maybe you got a bit by a, you know, some kind of insect out in the woods? And it’s going to clear up on itself? Or is this a medium kind of thing? Like, maybe this is going to infect the rest of your arm? And we need to take care of it now? Or is this a global systemic problem of your entire body, that if we don’t take care of it immediately, you could be in risk of losing your life, right? So she’s going to do that diagnosis by the evidence of the sore, right? That’s where she starts, she’s going to look at the sore itself. And then she will determine which level of analysis is this going to be the most threatening. So if it’s a local issue, then that’s, that’s something that you, she would give me a topical ointment, and then it would probably go away in you know, five or six days, right. But if it’s a medium sized issue, then she’s going to probably give me some kind of antibiotic or something. And then if it’s a larger issue, she’s going to send me to a specialist, right. And she’s going to make sure that my life isn’t threatened. So this is sort of the means by which we can talk about the blue, the red and the green in terms of storytelling, right? So the blue is a life threatening issue. That’s big systemic problems that have to do with controlling ideas, genres, values, those all those big things in the blue zone, right. And then the red zone is more like up downstream from that. But it’s very, very important if you don’t get it because then it just might sort of work. But it won’t get people to be really invested in the story. And then the green level is the actual localized word choice of that particular conflict of the skin irritation. So that’s my global kind of blue way of framing this problem. And I want to, I want to turn it over to Leslie and Danielle Lesley first because she’s our red zone specialist. And then we’ll get down to the topical, you know, investigation of the actual I’m discoloration of the skin with Danielle. Sorry, Danielle, you’re, you’re our local dermatologist that this way. So let me turn it over to Lesley. And then maybe she had some thoughts about this, this metaphor, so that we can best diagnose the problem and fix the problem where the problem is, and not go Higgledy Piggledy all over the place. Alright, so I’m going to turn it over to Leslie now.

Leslie Watts  05:24

Okay, yeah, so I’m going to talk about this in a similar way, but but with a red with my red glasses on. So the problems in the text, right can be a problem with that could be addressed with copy editing or proofreading, right? The, they could be at that level, that you know, where everything else is working, but there are a few words out of place. But of course, words that are not working sentences that are not working can also be a sign of a problem that’s upstream and meaning that we have to go to a higher level of analysis. So I was thinking about this, and I was thinking about, well, you need to wait till the difference. And so when I, when I looked at the, the manuscript that we have for today, I was thinking about, well, if you have multiple problems at the beat level, then you want to go up to the tropes. If you have trouble in the tropes, then you want to go up to the scene events synthesis, or the five commandments and look there. And if you have trouble with them, you go off to the narrative device. And if you have trouble with the narrative device, you discover a problem there, then you move up to the pop that that proposition of possibility, where we’re looking at the context, the protagonist, the inciting incident and the goal. So all of those things, when you’ve got a problem, if it’s just one little problem, or it’s, you know, only happening every so often at a certain level, then you can address it at that level. But if you’ve got more than you want to go up, and you’ve got to keep going up until you find where the real problem is, right, which is very similar to what the protagonist has to do. Right, the inciting incident happens, there’s an aspect of that they can’t see. And so they have to keep trying pursuing their goal until the turning point progressive complication happens when they make sense of, of what that inciting incident. What. So that’s the same kind of thing. When we spot problems in the manuscript. We’ve got to keep moving until we figure out what level we’re talking about. Great.

Danielle Kiowski  07:36

Yeah, at the green level, I just would echo what you both said that, that it really is about finding out finding out what the proper level is to address all of the things that I’m seeing. So when I read, I come up with a list of things that are off somehow, and then I can start to triage them and say, Yes, this one, I can adjust with just a couple of words, or this is I think of them as failures in execution versus failures in I don’t have a good concrete word for it, but maybe motivations, something like that, where it’s an upstream problem versus a localized problem. And so I think we’re all talking about things in the same way. And so this is about starting from the bottom, rather than starting from the top and working down and saying, Well, did you execute the controlling idea of things like that, we’re looking at the bottom layer, and we’re saying, we’re going to look at the evidence first, and then work backward. So that we’re starting from the draft, we’re starting from something that is new every time. And then we are as needed, going up to the other levels, to see what’s going on there. So that we can target just those parts of the 624 that are off, and then from there, they may have horizontal implications in terms of requiring changes in other other parts of the 624. But we’re going at it with this targeted approach. So we can get started by I think looking at some of the things that are going on in the draft, and then we can address them one at a time, I have a prioritized list that we can go through starting with the most important and then start to diagnose each one of those. So I think overall,

Shawn Coyne  09:34

can I just pop in for one quick second there? So I think what you what you just figured out and what the three of us just figured out is that when Tim changes every word, and he says I just started from the start again and I rewrote the entire scene. That’s what’s been throwing us off, because we can’t start from the bottom when it’s brand new bottom each time. And that’s why we keep getting so sort of a little bit, you know, vertigo, we’re not really sure where to go on on the on the stuff because the words keep changing. So I think this is a really important point is when you are editing a particular scene, as a writer, stop yourself from rewriting the entire scene, and going step by step with editorial guidance such that you’re working from the same conditions in each subsequent draft. So when there is an identification of word choices that need to be fixed, make a note. But don’t fix them until you’ve addressed higher order problems, because then you’re just getting in your own way. So I’ll stop there.

Danielle Kiowski  10:51

Well, I think that if you have something foundational, like problem with the controlling idea or a problem with the essential tactic in particular, you might want to rewrite. It’s just once we get down to those green level execution problems, I think we wouldn’t want to. Okay, so yeah, let’s get started with our list to go through. So, you know, overall, some some good direction is happening in this draft. So in particular, I thought that the breezeway passage had a lot of improvement in it, and I was seeing better execution there than before. So I think that’s an area that you were really focusing on, and it paid off. But now it’s exposing other places that are that we need to bring up to that level to start to make everything align. So the biggest thing that I think is the issue in this draft, is that when Randall goes into Watson’s office, and is telling him the story, we don’t have the proper dynamic, that everything is overt. So we don’t have that moment where he accidentally over shares, and then has to bring it back. Instead, he’s just very upfront, like, Yes, I was working on the street, this guy was one of my regulars. It’s, it was very, he wasn’t worried about self incrimination. So he put it out there. And so there was no progression from the planned script, to an accidental slip. So that was the first the first issue that I wanted to address and talk about where that needs to go, which level of analysis. So to start maybe talking about how you see that moment, and what, what Randles thought processes going into that interview? What is his plan script? And where can you create some limitations on what he’s willing to say? What’s his culpability here?

Tim Grahl  13:08

So one thing, when I wrote this was one of the last pieces of direction that Sean said in last last week, was to just go back to the original controlling idea. And so when I wrote this, I was just less concerned with those nuanced things like that. And just, it’s been such a struggle for me to switch the protagonist, and then stay with that protagonist into it with a controlling idea that isn’t, you know, worldview is what we landed on, right? We need to stay in crime. And so honestly, I there was a moment where I thought, like, Hey, I haven’t really like, I don’t have him hiding something that he accidentally shares. But I’m like, I just want to see if I can get the controlling idea and the right protagonist to work first, before I go back, because that seems like something that well, actually just based on what you’ve said today. But it was kind of just like a sixth sense to me. I’m like I can, that’s an easier fix later. If I get the controlling idea. And the protagonist, right, pulling some information out and then happening, having it slipping accidentally seems like a 20 minute fix later if I get the big pieces in, right. So I didn’t want I’ll say this too, is every time you guys have talked about that. I don’t totally understand it, where it happens and how that happens. Because again, you pulled out the fact that he was probably having an affair with her and I still don’t really see that on the page. Like I can get there, but I would have never gotten there. Like if You tell me that I can read it and be like, Oh, okay, yeah, I can see that. But I would have never pulled that out on my own. So there’s still a level of like, I don’t really know where that happens, and why it’s so clear to you. And it’s not clear to me. And so that was another reason why I just like put it on a list of solve that problem later, because then I would be moving into solving a problem I don’t understand. And I, there’s this great quote, I heard a pastor say one time, if you try to fix a problem, you don’t understand you’ll create a problem you don’t know how to fix. So I just let it be. Okay, great.

Danielle Kiowski  15:40

Well, that’s good to know, it’s good to know that you had that impulse to that maybe you needed to fix this. But you know, I think I think that it’s critical, because it goes back to Randles. Reason for being there. Why does he feel guilty? Why does he feel like he needs to come to the police station. And so I see this as not just an execution problem, not just to fix it in 20 minutes, but as going up to that red level. So it’s going to influence his a central tactic, and how and then even to the blue level, how he interacts with the double factor problem. So one of the double factors in in eyewitness is about the corruption that is endemic in the environment. Now, corruption touches everyone, because it’s one of those factors. So everyone is dealing with corruption, everyone is dealing with their own position relative to corruption. So even capelli, who is not, as far as we know, touched by that he is trying to be in a responsible officer, he has to deal with complicity. Right, because he is working within a system that he then knows to be corrupt. So at the end, when he lets the lieutenant slide, even for that moment, he is participating in that corruption. And for Struthers, it’s even worse, because his corruption is in that and we can look at eventually on the page, how you do that. How to communicate that he has the secret. But his secret his corruption is having that affair with lieutenants wife, and and that corruption ties him into the story universe. So right now Randall is separated from it, he’s not locked in to. And I think there are problems with other avatars being locked in as well. But that’s why I think that’s, it’s, it’s not that problem of execution that we need to go up to red or even blue. So I think maybe we want to discuss it next at that level, and talk about how to address the root causes of not having that those layers of layers of revelation going on from Randall.

Shawn Coyne  18:23

So what I would say to that is you’re spot on. And when you’re talking about corruption, you’re talking about sorry, wait for them. So I absolutely agree with Danielle on that. And when she’s talking about corruption, what corruption is another word for injustice? Right? So justice is the value at stake in a crime story. So when you are in search of justice, it’s like, there has to be a polar opposite. Right? In order for you to attain justice. There has to be evidence of injustice in the system. So when Danielle was talking about Randles, sort of disconnection from the the corruption slash injustice, dimensionality of the story in your your version, versus Struthers, there is a clear distinction that Struthers is wrangling with that problem of his own corruption, his own unjust, psycho, you know, psychological development. So he’s carrying this burden of he probably thinks he’s a good decent person, as we all do, right? But he’s also the kind of guy who cheats on his family, you know, and he not only cheats on his family, it caused another person’s death, the woman that he supposedly cared about, so that injustice with a instructors in the ED McBain story is so rife and very, very delicate balance that he knows the only way he’s going to get any salvation whatsoever is to try and get some some level of justice for this senseless death of this woman. And that’s the only way he will be able to live with himself. But he’s also very, very selfish, right? So he doesn’t want to cause personal harm to himself or his family because he’s he’s in relationships beyond himself at this point. So it’s a very hairy, double factor problem that is right on target in terms of the value of justice and injustice for Struthers Who is the witness to this murder. Now every other person in the ED McBain story is also negotiating how they’re navigating this very difficult gradient of injustice and justice, or corruption, injustice. So every player in the story is trying to make sense of how do you live in a world that is both just and unjust. Right? And this is this is the central problem of crime stories, that we’re all this is what attracts us as readers to crime stories. How do I navigate a world that is both just an unjust? It’s not fair. And sometimes it is fair. So how do I how do I know what to do? When something unfair happens to me? How do I metabolize that injustice in this world? So that is the big blue of a crime story? How do I work? How do I make my way through this world? When I cause a lot of unjust things in the world, myself, I am a source of injustice as much as I am a source of justice. And that is in the redzone of my own mind. Right? So that’s that’s what Plato was talking about, is to have a just psychodynamic balance of your interiority, such that you can make the best of bad and good situations. So, Randall, in your story, you first of all, let me just say you’ve come a long way. So I’m not trying to denigrate the work that you already done. So yay, for 10. But I also know that you you want to hear you want to hear the truth, and you want it to make it even better. Right. So in this case, Danielle is has has hit the point here is that it’s not just about fixing this small, overt covert problem in the in the locality of that particular section of the story. It’s really thinking about what has driven Randall to this place, and it can’t be, oh, I was ashamed of my the work that I do. Because shame. He’s not overcoming shame here. He’s overcoming his own contribution to the injustice justice spectrum. So he has to be in some way contributing to the injustice in the world by his behavior. And it’s it’s reaches a tipping point for him, such that he’s going to even put his own life in jeopardy by going to the police station and doing his best to write that wrong. And so that’s why the redzone is really the point here. This is the problem with Randall is if you can solve this. How is he dealing with justice? Not shame. But justice. So right now it reads like he’s, he’s a little ashamed of what I do to be able to eat. It’s not, it’s not I don’t like it and I have to do what I have to do. That’s shame that’s on the value of shame. It’s not on the value of I did something bad that caused someone to die. Right Struthers did something bad that caused someone to die. He stepped out on his family slept with a woman who was married to the lieutenant of the police department that the lieutenant found out he killed her in a rage. And now he got away with it because the lieutenant knew he could get away with killing his wife, but he probably couldn’t get away with killing strugglers. And he has to walk around with that for the rest of his life. That’s what drives him to the police station. Hey, maybe I can get a best bad choice here. Maybe Lieutenant can go away if I identify him and tell the police that He’s the killer, and then I can run away and be safe. And that’s the beauty of the McBain story because none and no, you’re you’re never safe Dude, you’re never going to run away from your unjust mental condition, you have to set your internality straight fro in order for you to be able to navigate this just unjust world in a way that’s honorable, good, true and beautiful. So I yeah, I always flush up to the, to the top of the blue zone here. But I just wanted to really say that I think Danielle is nailed here. And I want to hear from Leslie because she’s our red zone person. But I think it’s a red zone problem that will will, will be something that can help the blue and the green. So what Danielle’s point is, let’s find the area that we need to emphasize to that will fix the other two zones. Right? So if you can fix this red zone is going to fix your blue and your green simultaneously. I hope that’s what Danielle was was pointing to? And I think it is. So let me turn it over to Leslie No, but I think that’s really good.

Leslie Watts  26:23

Yeah, this is I love this discussion. And I love where we’re going with it. So I want to at the risk of piling on a little more chaos. I want to bring a couple of other examples from the from the manuscript for us to talk about to help clarify the read. So when you know when I’m going through this, in that, that second sentence, we’ve got his stale scent of layered sweat and piss still hung in the air. And, and so for me immediately being kind of red focused on like, what is this? What is this showing? Sam? So what is Watson trying to show Sam, about Randall here? So that’s a question, you know, just let’s shelve that for a second. And then when we’re getting down into, you know, another place when they’re back in the office. So this is pretty far into the story. We have Watson, I draped my jacket over the back of my chair and ease down. So, you know, again, I’m I’m thinking, what are why does Sam need to know this? Right. And if we go back, Sam is a young officer who wants to increase the probability of justice without experiencing the blowback from that? Right. So plausible deniability. And as Shawn has mentioned, there’s that, that twist of he has, in a, we need to help the SAM, we need to help Sam, our single audience member, that young officer do this, in spite of the fact that he has his own. He’s participated in the corruption in injustice, as well. So it’s like he’s got to get his head straight. And take the risk. So when we’re looking at these examples, and thinking about, you know, sweat and piss probably aren’t the way that Watson wants to describe the experience and what he’s trying to accomplish in that first, those first sentences. Those are probably not the words, right? And so that’s a word level. But, but I take that up to the red because I’m thinking about what is Watson want to show this young officer about what he’s observing? So that’s one piece we want to be thinking about our words and that in that way, but I was thinking about this also in terms of what kinds of world building are we including what kinds of actions what kinds of agent qualifications, what kinds of arena qualifications are going to be relevant to Sam and this is just kind of again, I’m I’m throwing chaos on you, but I’m, I’m gonna bring it around, hopefully. Fingers crossed. Okay, so what got me thinking about this were that agent qualified agent qualifications for Watson, our ear relevant here. So what that means is Watson’s past is not relevant in the context of a police report is not relevant in the context of, of trying to show the witness me Sorry, excuse me, trying to show the young officer how to increase the probability of, of justice. Does that make sense?

Tim Grahl  30:29

Yeah, it does. I wonder, the first thing that comes to mind is, and I don’t think I did this, in that, but would it in the way where, like he’s showing? Would there be of space here for him to show his complicity in the corruption by some of his actions? Or does it just not matter? Because this isn’t about him?

Leslie Watts  30:59

I think this is not about him. So Watson is serving as a witness who has the potential to write the wrong. And so we’re seeing everything through his eyes. So oh, you know, and we know about that right on on a very clear level, easy level, we can see any, in terms of relevance, anything that Watson can’t observe, doesn’t go in here can’t observe can’t know otherwise doesn’t go in here. He’s the eyes through which we are seeing the events. So he’s not unless he’s looking at himself in a mirror. And why would he do that? In the context of this? We’re not looking at his agent qualifications. So agent qualifications are, you know, the things that the descriptions of it have an avatar, right physically, or things that are like evidence of past decisions that they’ve made like, So what they’re wearing, and, you know, it can even be like, we give the example in the guild, from Treasure Island to the captain, the the evidence of his hard life is all over him. Okay, so we want to know what Watson does. That’s important, because the young officer needs to see that. But his agent qualifications are not his agent qualifications are going to indicate problems for an indigenous member of the pond. Right, and we’ve decided that our protagonist here, and therefore our Sam, are their fish out of water. So we’re not going to focus on any qualifications that indicate problems that are related to that aspect. So then, if we go if we look at Randall, though, those agent qualifications, like what Watson sees is relevant, both because he’s testing him. But also because he’s the protagonist. And it’s what Sam, our young officer needs to see. In order to make the make the shift, we want Sam to have to so to illuminate Sam’s problem, Sam has to be able to see that needs to be able to see Randall. So those are just some some things that to, to kind of indicate what kinds of qualifications what kind of world building, what kinds of details we need to include. And then it also goes to the dialogue as well, right. So they’re always they’re pursuing the same essential tactic in through what they say. And, and that, and those essential tactics are, again, they’re consistent until they change for a specific reason. Something’s happened that changes the way that they see that or what they’re pursuing, the way they’re pursuing it. And so I got I lost my train of thought. But But all of this is coming back to when we’re focusing on Sam and Sam’s problem. And then we can we can figure out things like which word should we use to describe Randall, and what you know what aspects of Randall are important Watson is sizing him up. Right. So. So those kinds of details are the ones that are going to be important. And yeah, can I got it? I’m a little lost, but what I would so Okay, so how is that? How is that landing for you? Does that make sense? Does that help clarify a little bit, the narrative device? And then what changes you might make from that position?

Tim Grahl  35:30

Yeah, I think if I think back to the the Master Work story, you know, those initial qualifications of Struthers like ties into how he did his reporting, so they were early indications of how he was going to be approaching this entire problem, because he everything was so precise and clean cut. And so that makes sense. That part makes sense. I like I’ve really liked what you said about pulling out the agent qualifications, because it’s not about him. And we don’t need the background on Watson. And, yeah, I mean, so I liked that I still am unsure of what to do. I feel like I can, I can come up with something he’s hiding. And we could talk about that maybe that will help solve some of these problems. But it sounds like it’s more than just knowing what he’s hiding and how he goes about hiding it. It sounds like there’s some other problems you you’re identifying as well.

Leslie Watts  36:49

Yeah. So I think what’s what’s happening here? This is my hunch, I don’t, you know, see how it feels is that you’re understanding the narrative device intellectually. And that when you’re, then when you’re in there, you’re going, you’re still going from your gut. And you’re not sure how to test what you’re writing against the narrative device. Is that accurate? Do you think?

Tim Grahl  37:21

Yeah, I mean, it sounds like what you’re saying is like, um, I don’t know how yet to like, how to put the narrative device on the page,

Danielle Kiowski  37:31

I had a thought on, on thinking about this in connection with the other topic a little bit. Because I noticed some of those words going through like that poor man and things like that. And I had that just written down as evaluative words that we talked about a little bit last time. And I love the ones that you’re bringing up to Leslie. And I was thinking about it. I don’t know if this will be helpful to you, Tim. But in terms of if it’s as if it’s in a police report, then maybe it would work to work backwards from it. So the police report is, is addressing the question, why did that guy run out? So imagine that you are telling somebody, that somebody did something? So you say, Oh, I was talking to this guy, and you just ran out on me. And there are certain people who will look at you. And they’ll say, Well, what did you do, Tim? What do you do? You know, instead of just assuming that the other guy was rational, right, and so the police report is attempting to answer the question, why did this guy run out? And so we see Watson, insofar as he contributes to the guy running out, right. And his contribution to the guy running out is that he exposes that corruption that the guy had. We see the lieutenant Wilson, I just want to say, we might need some named diversity here, because we got a lot of like, suns going on. But we have Wilson and he, we only see him insofar as he contributes to the guy running out by being a murderer. He has quite a hefty contribution to this action. And then we see Dawson insofar as he contributes to the guy running out. And what does he do? He has his own self serving agenda, which we’ll talk about at another time. But he is instrumental in the chain of events that leads to Wilson coming into the precinct and causing the guy to run out. So we only meet people insofar as the answer the central question addressed in the report. And like the minimum viable, like, you just want to know what is the chain of events that led to this? So like Leslie, when you bring up Randles agent qualifications? I think that’s addressing is it more or less likely that he’s going to take this action in an unfounded way? And so the more that we see that he’s thinking clearly that he’s taking logical actions, because if we meet him at first, and he’s rocking, and he’s acting erratically, and then he runs out, okay, end of End of report. Right. But if we see throughout the, throughout the process, that he’s thinking about these things, he’s making chains of cause and effect. By the end of it, we know he’s not running out, because he has some sort of, you know, underlying issue going on. We know that he’s making those connections, and he’s making logical choices. So I thought that might be a way to sort of back into the narrative device, using that textual evidence at the end.

Leslie Watts  40:49

Right, if I hear you correctly, what you’re talking about, is there actually two parallel questions that, that the reader is, is wondering about one is provided by the pop? Right, it’s, it’s the narrative question. And then there’s one provided by the form of the narrative device. So the narrative device, right, it’s created because? Because Watson needs to explain what happened, right? The police are always they want to keep records on what has happened. In case they need it for later. Right. So so we have, so we have that question, why did this guy run out? is running parallel to? Or is justice going to be? Are we going to see justice happen here in this in this story, because it’s a crime story. So we always have those two parallel questions, running and perhaps in some with some narrative devices and stories, it’s they’re one, they’re just one in the same. But here we have those two, and both need to be satisfied in order to create that the coherent narrative. So that the reader experiences the story and has that that sharp, cathartic moment, at the end, that takes them back to the beginning of the story. So that it’s everything’s working together. To deliver that, that experience,

Shawn Coyne  42:33

let me just pile on to those concepts that you guys have been exploring. And I think they’re very, very strong. And it goes to it goes to the idea of enabling of insight generation by a third party through the use of covert narrative action. So what that means is that what what the narrator of the story is doing is he’s telling Sam, and Sam is not an amorphous, just readers, Sam is a young officer who needs to learn how to make it work, so that he is not in cognitive dissonance when he’s at work in a very unjust place. So the question is, why did that guy run out? Here’s how to answer that question such that you can increase the probability of justice. So the narrator of the story doesn’t tell the person how to write the report, he hands him or her the report. And the report will, cause it enables insight generation. So the overt language of the report is, this happened. And then this happened, and then this happened. And then this happened. The end and in my report, and then you read the report, and you go, Holy crap. The lieutenant’s the killer. So it’s a covert. This is all narrative is this. It’s a covert means to enable insight in SAM, without telling Sam the answer, Hey, Sam, the lieutenant was the killer. Hey, what do you think about that? Hey, there’s a lot of corruption in the police department. Hmm. That’s not very interesting to anyone. They want to discover that fact for themselves in an insight that provides a cathartic moment. Why? Because no one on the planet tells you overtly their motivations in real life. Right now Because it’s impossible for us to do that, because we’re all living our own narrative. Right. So I am doing things overtly that have covert stuff in them that I don’t I can’t even recognize. That’s what Freud discovered in the unconscious. Right. So anyway, the that the narration is a covert means by answering the question, why did that guy run out of the police department? And it’s only putting in the relevant moments that will enable the catharsis from Sam. So it’s a covert means. And the overt language is a facilitator of insight. That’s why Leslie saying, Is it really important that we hear the guy? The guy tells us that he put his jacket over the back of his chair? No, it’s not. Is it important that we think that Randall is kind of a stinky guy who is is probably, you know, shaky in terms of his mental health? Yeah, that is, because we want Randall, we don’t want the reader to be confused and think that Randall is not worthy of our belief. So you might want to set the tweaking of the language is, you know, it might be like, you could smell his homelessness underneath the Old Spice, right? So maybe he had gone to get some deodorant or whatever. And he combed his hair, and he’s putting on his best face, because he wants to be taken seriously. And not as a homeless person, I don’t know. But those are, those are things that you would try and put into a police report, so that the person reading the police report would go, Oh, wait a minute, this wasn’t a homeless guy. This was someone who lives on the street, who had some really important information. So the way you describe Randall, is going to be really important for Sam. Because Sam is then going to draw conclusions. Oh, this isn’t your run of the mill stereotypical person who comes off the street. This is someone who’s right. And this is a red problem. So Danielle was right, this is a red problem. You’re you’re you’re getting close to making sure that the double factor problem of corruption, the endemic corruption of the police department is there. But you know, you made a sidestep and you move from worldview to shame. And shame is about performance and self respect and third party respect. So you moved the genre is, is a little jig jaggy here because it should be about the double factor problem of corruption. So again, I went blue, and I always lose people when I go up here. But I hope that overt and covert is an important thing to think about, because what is the report, police reports purpose, to tell what happened, why the guy ran out. And so a really smart detective will put the covert thing to facilitate. Oh, we’ve got a bad apple as our lieutenant and anyone in internal affairs who reads that report will go, oh, let’s take a look at the lieutenant. And they’re not going to say, Oh, it was just some homeless guy who came in for 10 bucks. So ruins that justification system through the covert action of the narration

Tim Grahl  48:39

that, yeah, that is super helpful. I feel like asking the question, the reports there to answer the question. Why did Randall run out? And then thinking of it in this way of the plausible I mean, these are all things I think we’ve talked about, but I forget them in the process of like the plausible deniability of the report where, you know, at the end of this, Watson can just say like, I just read the report. I didn’t know that’s all I did was tell you what happened. Where, like Dawson would probably write a different, a different report.

Shawn Coyne  49:26

That’s really important what you just said, Tim Dawson would write a different report. So that was a big insight that you just had, because now you’ve got very specific on your narrator. And so now you’re getting better in your redzone because you’re understanding who was telling who, what, who was talking to whom, and why. And if Dawson had written that report, you’d be like, Hey, dude, here’s how you cover up for the lieutenant. You tell them that that’s a homeless guy who smelled a sweat and piss who was rocking back In fourth, and was completely unreliable and a mess. So Dawson, that’s the report, Dawson would write, the report that Watson will write will be like, This guy was on the level. He went, he went the extra, you know, amount of time necessary for us to take him seriously. He turned down the $10, he turned down the oatmeal, he gave me justifications of why he was there. He combed his hair, he did his best. He was acting in the best interest of passing on this information. And then all of a sudden, this guy who was really doing his best, freaked out and ran away when he saw the lieutenant, draw your own conclusions, folks. That’s the report that will get the lieutenant in jail, not the report that we’ll talk about how he smelled like piss and sweat. That’s a Dawson report. That’s not a Watson report.

Tim Grahl  51:04

I mean, so it’s my next steps to take this draft, not rewrite it from the ground up. But start working to change the sentences to match what we’re talking about.

Shawn Coyne  51:18

Okay, all three of us are nodding there. Because, yes, and what I want you to do is go sentence by sentence, and change the words, but keep the sentence structure the way it is, as best you can. So I want you to to do your best and not restructuring what you’ve already written with new sentence structure. Right, so that we can compare and contrast using the exact same format as the previous one. So I next week, I if you say to me, I just started from the beginning again, I’m going to say we’re not doing the podcast this week. Okay. So keep that in mind, and we’re gonna hold you to it. And it’s fine if we skip a week on the podcast. But this is going to really, really help you understand the redzone. And this is, this is, this is a really important thing that we’ve discovered here at Story Grid. And we’re doing the the narrative path, you know, a seminar the workshop in November to really get this redzone under control so that people can have tools and can slow themselves down. And just concentrate on what’s the difference between a police report from Dawson and Watson with very specific ways to be able to track that, what what why do I What, what is the value in the blue have to do with the red? Oh, well, that’s very important. Right? How because it goes to the green, these are all tightly wound, they’re like threads. And each thread winds around the other. It’s like a double helix. And so the red is really the place where the communication zone lands. It’s the channel from the blue to the green as the red. And the red really needs to be constrained. And it’s like, Leslie, and I talk about this sort of like an internal combustion engine, right, you have a piston. And then you have a spark that sends gas to drive the piston through a cylinder, which turns the crank shaft of the car. So if you have no cylinder to constrain the piston, the piston will flip flop all over words, and your car doesn’t move. Because all the energy is just being dissipated into a million different places. So that cylinder, metaphorically is the redzone. it constrains the piston moving forward upward so that the crank shaft can turn the car. So you want to make that cylinder super well constructed. And parts that make up the cylinder or the value shifts. These questions we talk about the narrative device, it’s Sam, it’s the author. It’s all of this beautiful stuff that you the you’re you’re sort of like creating the cylinder of the engine of your car, when you are talking about the red zone. And the green zone is the gas, your sparks, Spark Spark, Spark Spark Spark, right. And the blue. That’s the car. The car is going from one place to another to show how change happens. And it’s an enabling function for or your single audience member, that will enable them to navigate their own car of their own mind, when they face the same double factor problem in their own lives, these double factor problems are inescapable, we have a lot of them, we have like 12 of them, those additional rows, right. And those 12 are constantly on the table for us as we navigate the world. So the redzone is super important, because it’s the constraining function, that makes sure that the piston is going in the right direction, after you apply the gas of the green, so that the blue car can move from Chicago to Los Angeles or wherever. So you’re concentrating now you’re, you’ve got the piston, and the piston is good, but your cylinders a little wacky. So when you fire the gas at the bottom, it goes cheer on. And it sort of moves the car. And it does move, but it’s flipped floppy. And it’s not coherent, it’s noisy, you got a knock in your engine, right? So we want to fix the cylinders, that are constraining your pistons. So that they’re very, very perfectly aligned, so that it’s very efficient in the up down movement of the energy transfer that drives the car.

Leslie Watts  56:29

And I would just add one thing to that one adjustment to the assignment for next week is to, even if you only get a couple of tropes done, or a couple of tropes worth of the manuscript done, that’s fine. Like really focus on going slowly and applying your understanding of the of the narrative device to what you’re reading, because it’ll be better to do you know, do those that a little bit, very carefully, then try to do the whole thing and not nail it.

Tim Grahl  57:03

Yeah, I think the thing that keeps running through my head now is I’m like, I could see now like, Watson getting home from work, before he’s written the report. And he’s just like, oh, fuck, you know, like, now I’ve got this thing. And now what do I do? And I can see him like the conversation he has with his wife, where he’s like, Look, I know what’s going on here. But if I like try to do this, I don’t have a witness that anybody will listen to. But I know exactly what happened. You know, what the fuck am I got to do? You know, and I can see his wife being like, I’ve seen you do this before just write the report. But write it in a way where any idiot would know exactly what happened. And so then that starts getting as like he’s trying with, and that’s getting into the word choice and what you’re getting out with the sentence by sentence of like every single sentence cease to scream. It’s the lieutenant without him saying, thanks for listening to this episode of The Story Grid Podcast. As always, make sure you go to story grid.com Sign up for the newsletter so you don’t miss anything happening in the Story Grid Universe. If you want to see the show notes on this episode, the transcript, my seen anything like that, you can always go to story grid.com/podcast to see that for this episode or any past episodes. We’ve been revamping a lot of the content on our website as well. So if you go to story grid.com And just scroll down on that homepage, you’ll see a lot of new articles that we’ve been putting up. And we have a new resources section as well. We’re putting out daily videos on YouTube, Instagram, Facebook, Tik Tok, I don’t know everywhere Facebook. So if you’re interested in any of that, make sure you follow us there as well. As always, the number one thing you can do to help out the podcast is just tell another author about the podcast or go to Apple podcasts and leave us a rating in review. Thanks as always for listening and being a part of our work here at Story Grid. We’ll 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.