Episode 275: Hero, Victim and Perpetrator: The Must-Have Relationships in Your Story

Tim Grahl  00:00

Hello, and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m the CEO of Story Grid, and I’m a struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne. He’s the creator and founder of Story Grid, and a writer and 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. This week, we’re continuing the series talking about my drafts, rewriting the masterwork I witness by Ed McBain. So last week, we talked a lot about changes I need to make to the protagonists in the story, figuring out how to tell truth in fiction. And so I rewrote the scene focused entirely on accomplishing that goal. And I’m happy to say I made some real progress here. And so it was good to hear Danielle and Leslie and Shawn, give some good feedback on what I’ve done. But we did talk about several other things, and I need to make changes on the one that really stood out to me is this kind of trinity of victim, perpetrator and hero and getting really, really clear, especially in crime. But anytime you’re looking at that triangle, that Trinity, getting really, really clear on the relationships between all of those people in that triangle. And how one of the issues with my scene is that two of those relationships are not working well together. So we talked a lot about that. And this is a thing that goes into so many stories. So I think you’re really going to enjoy, it helped me out a lot. So I’m excited for you to learn alongside me. So let’s jump in and get started.

Danielle Kiowski  01:42

Okay, so last time, we went over the need to make the protagonist more compelling by understanding his essential tactic more, making sure that’s coming through on the page, making sure that he has those break down moments that are so essential to our Sam understanding and connecting with him as as a simulated person. So Tim, you went away and worked on that and sent over your draft to the scene earlier this week. And so I think the thing to do is look at how you did on the updates to that concept of the protagonist and his red being. And then from there, we can move on to the things that we’d like you to change for next time. So thinking about how we were looking at Randall, last time, the complaint that we had is that he was to put together in a couple of ways. So you had taken out the rocking, you’ve taken out anything that could have marked him as someone who was untrustworthy. And so this was a reaction to something that we asked you to do before with changing up the narrative device, right, but took it too far and, and took away the things that made him seem like he was wounded. And so that took away the power of your scene, because he’s seen a murder, of course, he’s going to have some trauma from that. And we want to make sure that’s coming through on the page, as well as showing that he’s not an integrated person yet that he has to go, he has to undergo transformations in order to get to a place where he is actually put together. So looking at this draft, I thought that you made some really great improvements on that concept. Right. So he we have the rocking back. And I think that that is a really interesting qualification to have for Randall because like a couple of things. One is it plays into people’s perceptions of what it of how homeless people act. So it’s setting up that that bias of oh, this is a guy who I know this guy, right. And then what you do is you show us know, he’s rocking because he is deeply traumatized. So it’s not it subverts that expectation and takes it from being about a preconceived notion of this class of people into this particular instance of explaining how he got to this point. So I think that’s really great. I love having that back in there. And then I think that you made some really, really good progress on that trope that we keep talking about, where he is telling his story to Detective Watson. So when Randall is telling that story, what we talked about last time is that you need to have his official script. So his version of what happened, and then you need cracks to arise in that official script, so that he’s trying to cover stuff up. He’s trying to make it seem like he’s giving the whole story, but we’re going to know from his having breakdowns that he does not actually, he’s not actually telling the full story. And there are things at play that he doesn’t want to share. So what I love in this draft is that at the end, you put a summary of what he have what happened, what he saw, and what happened up until the point that we see him at the beginning of the scene. And I want to take a moment to focus on that. Because sometimes, you know, you’ll do stuff. And it’s just these great practices that I think we really want to talk about, because they are great practices for our listeners to do on their own too. So you wrote a bunch of stuff that is not going to end up in the draft, right? And it is so important, because that’s going to give you what you need to make sure that you’re communicating what you want to communicate, and if so, and it shows us. So, you know, I’m seeing the breakdowns happen in that trope. And it’s clear that Randall is not telling Watson the full story that he has things to hide. What’s great about that passage that you wrote is that, as I said, that’s not going to end up in the draft. But I know now as your editor, okay, I need, I’m going to read that trope, I’m going to come up with what I think happened. And then I’m going to say, Did Tim give me the clues that I need to infer the things that he meant for me to infer. And so I loved having that, because it does give you that map to figure out whether your signal is clear enough without being too on the nose. So if you included that it would be on the nose, but I just want to encourage everyone who’s listening, put on the nose stuff in your first draft, put it at the bottom like that as reference notes. And that way, you’re going to make sure that you’re keeping your your signal clear and consistent. So I loved that, I think that it is a lot closer to where it needs to be. And with that said it was very helpful having that passage, because I don’t think that all of the clues to your signal that you want to convey, are coming through in that trope. There are some things that are coming through like, yeah, he stole the badge in the in the wallet. Got that. But I think that there’s still room to work on. Making sure that you are dropping in the clues that are going to give us the full story and the most important parts of the story that you came up with for Randall. And so I think that would be where I would focus on today is just iterating on that execution of the protagonist essential tactic, making sure we’re getting his full covert action expressed in that trope. No.

Tim Grahl  07:52

Yeah, I hesitated putting that passage at the bottom because I think sometimes I can do this thing where like, you know, when, you know, people say, well, that’s not what I meant. And it’s like, yeah, but that’s what you said, you know, so it doesn’t really matter what you meant. And so I don’t want to do this thing where I’m like, trying to get you to like the scene better, because you now know all of this stuff. But then I was like I did, I did. It was helpful for me. Because we had kind of started doing that as a as a dialogue last week. And so and it helped me kind of drop into it a little better. So I’m like, Well, let me just write out what happened between the murder and and when he shows up at the police precinct. And then I felt like it was easier to kind of write that in. And honestly, my my concern was that, that the scene actually reads like, he is the one that did the murder. Like, I didn’t know if I went too far over the line of like, somebody’s gonna read this and be like that dude killed him. You know, instead of the witness him being a witness, he’s the perpetrator. And so I do feel like, and I’ll be interested to see if you agree, when you say it’s not all in there, I don’t think I was able to get in that the cop was still alive when he when he stole the badge. And I kind of went over it three or four times and felt like, you know, I start especially with the last few weeks and everything. I’m like, I would rather change less things and get them more right, than change too many things. So I was like, I kind of went back and forth. And I just sent it the way it was.

Danielle Kiowski  09:43

Yeah, I agree with you that that is the component of it, but I don’t think is in there. And I think that’s important because his as we talked about last week, his leaving Barnes alive is the most damning Part. So his Theft of the Wii, I will also had questions about, about the theft itself. You know, thinking about Randles motivation, why he’s stealing the badge, as well as the money, those kinds of things, that those are some questions that I have lingering about the theft. But those are secondary, I think, because the theft is secondary. And really, if you have to leave the theft off the page, or if it’s just like, a way that we understand that he was close to the body, something like that. That’s the role of the theft. The theft isn’t about creating guilt for Randall, the guilt is coming from his leaving Barnes alive. So that’s the most important thing we have to communicate to Sam. And, you know, and Watson has this kind of magic moment where he’s like, so you’re not sure he was dead. And I’m like, oh, so So Watson, he can’t have these kinds of magic moments of insight. It all has to be coming out of what Randall is saying. So he has to slip somehow. And let let him know that he knows something or he’s seen something that he couldn’t have seen if Barnes was already dead. Or, you know, protest too much about something. So one of the ways that we know that Struthers was having an affair with the lieutenant’s wife is that Struthers says, Well, of course, I didn’t know who she was at that time. Okay. Right. That’s an that’s something you don’t say, unless it’s not true. So those are the kinds of things I would say to start working in.

Tim Grahl  11:34

Okay. Can we talk about the moment? Where could you talk about where you think the moment is that he breaks down? And just your thoughts on that? Because that’s the part I’ve been having trouble getting it. So I want to just before I say anything, just kind of see if you’re thinking it was in the same place that I was thinking and then yeah,

Danielle Kiowski  12:00

okay. So the breakdown that I’m seeing is when Watson says, But you said he was going to come after you next? How could he if he doesn’t know you saw or what you look like, I Randall blank, you know, I live out there. If there’s a killer running around, he could grab me next. I live on the streets, people die every day. I’m always looking over my back and you cops don’t care about us. Don’t help us at all. Just let us live out there like animals until someone you care about gets hurt, then you’re all about us. And so that’s where I’m seeing the breakdown. And I think it’s really nicely executed. Because so when we look at the masterwork pattern, Struthers says, We I got a family, I got kids, he’s trying to build sympathy for himself by changing the subject to something that is beneficial for him. So that’s the type of breakdown, where you run away from the current topic, you change the topic to something where you can win. And that’s exactly what you have Randall doing here as he goes from, well, you know, how, why are you worried about this? And he says, Well, you don’t care about me, you know, and so he’s, he’s moving into this area, where he has ground to stand on, he’s saying, it’s very clear that nobody is going to protect me. And he’s building sympathy for himself. So that’s, that’s where that breakdown happens.

Tim Grahl  13:24

Okay. And you think, yeah, that’s where I was thinking, and do you think my setup because I felt like in the masterworks scene, the setup was in the moment, and my setup was earlier. So I didn’t know if that change worked. Because he reacts what what Watson reacts to in that moment is something that Randall said right at the beginning. Which was the that he’s afraid he’s gonna come after him next.

Leslie Watts  14:04


Danielle Kiowski  14:06

I mean, that’s background information. I think he’s reacting to I was hiding. So he gets new information that makes it not make sense that Randall felt that he was going to be a target. So I think that’s okay. You know, you don’t want what you don’t want is like, at the beginning, Randall says, Well, I was hiding behind the girder and then I saw this happen, and then he’s like, but, you know, you do want those, the back and forth, but that’s new information that inspires Watson’s input. So I think that’s okay. Yeah. So this Yeah, I mean, I think we we get there the idea that he that Wilson has seen him, so that’s not so we know that that that’s not a true part of the story, is that he was hiding there the whole time. Right, I might make some changes to make that a little bit clearer. But if the foundation is there, and so then, and we know that he created the theft, so it really is just about the, the timing of the death, which as I said, is the most important thing. So if you have to de emphasize? Well, I think I think if you have to stack rank them, the timing of the death is most important. The clue that Wilson has seen him before is next important, and the theft is really, really just down from that. So if you have to de emphasize it, that’s fine. And I

Tim Grahl  15:42

think you’re right. I think you’re right, that the theft is there just to place him hovering over the body to see that he’s still alive.

Danielle Kiowski  15:51

Yeah, yeah. And I think I want to address your concern that people might think he did it. I think that’s true. And I think it’s fine. I think that when we read eyewitness, we might think Struthers did it. But when we see the fear reaction, at the end to Wilson, I think we learn that we were wrong. And again, I think that because part of the message that you’re trying to convey is that people blame the homeless for things that are not on them, that people marginalize them and and have these preconceived notions about them. I think that kind of reversal is actually helpful to communicate your signal.

Tim Grahl  16:39

Well, I think that’s funny that that’s his a few weeks ago was when Sean was like, that’s a worldview plot, stop writing a worldview, plot, just write the crime plot. And now, the signal I wanted to put through with the worldview plot is coming through clear now that I focused in on the crime. The crime? The idea, yeah. Okay, so I need to, I need to rework it. I think I can do it. I think when I was, when I was feeling that fix, it wasn’t that I couldn’t do it. It was that I didn’t, I had already changed a bunch. And I didn’t want to change more. Until I had some feedback. So I can make that change of de emphasizing, emphasizing that he was still alive in de emphasizing the robbery. What is there something else that I could I mean, what’s an let’s so let’s say, let’s say I turned it in, and I had done that. Right? What would we work on next? Because I feel like I could probably do that in something else on the next draft.

Danielle Kiowski  17:51

Well, before we move on from talking about Randall, I wanted to see if Leslie or Shawn, you have any thoughts on on Randall, upside from what we’ve talked about already, because I think nailing Randall down is the most important thing. And then we can talk about other things that are auxiliary to that. But we want to make sure we fully explore that part of the draft.

Shawn Coyne  18:11

Well, I think I would agree with everything that you’ve said about Randall. I think it’s much better. I think the signal is much clearer. There is some there’s something that’s still squishy for me in terms of the the signal that you talked about in the backstory at the bottom, when you mentioned that Randall was servicing the man who got killed. And that didn’t. The man that did the killing? Okay, so I’m a little bit confused, because I thought that what was going on was that the the murder victim was being surfaced by Randall, and that Watson stumbled in and attack them. And now that I see that, that is different. I’m wondering if that was just a bad read on my part. And I, it’d be interesting to know if that was. If Leslie and Danielle felt the same way, or if this was just, maybe I didn’t read it deeply enough or quickly. I read it too quickly. The relationship between the protagonist and the antagonist is one of the things that I was concerned about, but if that signal has been clear that they were, you know, a client and you know, John then I think I’m better about it because I was gonna say, I didn’t know what the relationship Why was Watson In this place at this time, and now I understand, but that brings up the question, why was the victim there? Did he just stumble upon them?

Tim Grahl  20:07

So the set? Well, so you’re saying Watson, I think you mean Wilson. And it’s probably because I have like eight different son names on this, that will change eventually. But yeah, the setup is Wilson, Lieutenant Wilson, that murder is their meeting with Randall. And then the cop stumbles on them, they’ve kind of beat cop stumbles on them. And the reason the cop gets killed is he just found his lieutenant breaking the law. And so the lieutenant reacts by murdering him to keep him quiet, it’s a reaction more than a plan, but just reacts and then runs off. So that’s the setup that I’m I was trying to get across.

Shawn Coyne  20:54

Okay, so that makes sense. To me. The The only thing that is a little bit fuzzy is that those relationships didn’t weren’t clear to me. They’re not clear to me. So you need to revise so that they are. So that the beat cop who’s who ends up being the murder victim. I’m not sure why he was there other than it seems to me that wills Wilson, and Randall, are probably this isn’t the first time that they’ve made this transaction. And so Wilson is also a lieutenant in the police department. And I think he would be pretty good at finding a place that would be hidden from other eyes. So the fact that the victim accidentally stumbled upon them, strikes me as highly improbable. So I think, oftentimes, we forget that there’s a trinity of relationships between perpetrator, victim and hero. And the the relationship between the the hero and the victim is not clear in the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim is not clear. So it’s hard for me to understand why Wilson would kill the beat cop who stumbles upon him so violently so quickly. So there there, there’s something that just doesn’t seem true or real, about the setup. Because if the relationship between Randall and Wilson that have a transactional relationship, and that they’re both professionals, Randall knows where to go to be unseen. Wilson certainly does. So the fact that they were seen seems improbable. So the only way they would be seen if that is that if someone were tracking them, and had knowledge of this possibility of this transaction happening. And that would seem to me to be the role of this, this cop who stumbles upon them. And then we have to establish what’s the relationship between Wilson and the victim? Beyond just like, you know, there’s many things that you could do before you would kill someone. Hey, dude, okay, you caught me. Why don’t we keep this between ourselves? You know, that promotions coming up? I can get you off the street, get you behind the desk. What do you say? Right? That’s what you would do before you would kill someone I suspect. Because you want Minimum Viable reduction, you want to get rid of the problem with minimum viable risk, right. So if you kill someone, the risk of being discovered is pretty high. So there had to be some relationship between Wilson and the victim that is not on the page. So this, this is, again, we’re really in the the tightness of this construct of hero, victim and perpetrator. And when you have a crime story, that has to be very, very clearly signaled. And right now it’s a little squishy, I get the relationship between the hero who’s Randall and the perpetrator who’s Wilson, but I don’t know where the victim is in this trinity. In this triangle in this triangle of relationship, you know, so it could be, I’m just throwing out a concept here that may or may not work for you. Maybe the beat cops, a woman. And it’s Wilson’s wife, who stumbles upon this transaction. I don’t know. But maybe that’s, that’s a little bit too far. But what I’m looking for is the minimum viable, very loud signal of relationship between the perpetrator and the victim, which would enable and make sense that the perpetrator would go to such great lengths so quickly, beyond just being startled and being caught at in a transaction, because you’re very vulnerable in that transaction that you’re describing. So they’re just they’re sort of having sex, right? So. So when you’re in that position, you’re very vulnerable, you’re literally your, your vulnerabilities are exposed to the world, right? So moving quickly, from vulnerability to violence, there’s a gap between that happening first you want to cover up, I would suspect, and then you would start to problem solve, you freeze, then you want to excuse me. So this is a breakdown at the foundations. And what we talk about in Story Grid all the time, is the process of breakdown. First thing you do is freeze. Second thing you do is run away, how can I get out of here as quickly as possible. And the third thing you do is fight. So what happened is, Wilson went from zero to fight. And we don’t see. And we haven’t heard, because Randall hasn’t told us the freeze, and the flight before the flight. So Randall was the witness to the murder. So when he doesn’t, he immediately says, Oh, he just clubbed him to death with his his baton. That doesn’t. That seems like a lie to me, because he’s not really giving the full truth. And remember, he’s there to give the truth. He’s not there to cover up. He’s there to cover up his, his his thievery to protect himself. But he’s not He wants to give the truth. So he’s gonna say, first, this happened, there was a freeze. The next thing that happened was a flight. Sorry, I’m gonna do that again, because my internet’s a little shaky. So what Randall is going to want to do is first explain the freeze. This has to be in a script, right. The second thing is the flight. And the third thing is the complete meltdown fight. And so the means to describe the relationship between Wilson and the victim are going to be in those in that script that Randall gives Watson. I think this is my hunch. So this is a way of telling Sam, your single AUDIENCE MEMBER The relationship between the perpetrator and the victim through the use of the witness of the hero. Randall because random remember Randles goal is to make this an iron clad perfectly reasonable, perfect description of what happens and he does so much so that Watson lets them get away with the the crime because Watson knows, yeah, the guy lifted the wallet after and I’m gonna let that go because there’s a higher, higher justice at stake here, which is getting that murder. So I think I think I really did kind of come to the focus of the problem here is what’s the relationship between Wilson and yeah,

Tim Grahl  29:37

I? Well, when you said it has to be ironclad, I’m like, well, it is ironclad if it’s true, right. So you noticed that like,

Shawn Coyne  29:49

I’m gonna stop you there. Truth is what I just described in that series, sequential movement, a breakdown. It’s calm Plex the truth, right? So you don’t go from zero to a million miles per hour? Because it doesn’t make sense.

Tim Grahl  30:06

Yeah. And like in i in the Master Work scene, those first two had happened already, because the kilt the lieutenant showed up there to kill her. Or it had happened off the page or something. Well, no, what I was saying is like, No, I like what I liked about you saying is, Randall is there to deliver exactly what he saw leaving out any role he had in it, but he didn’t have a role in the killing. So he just has to tell the straight truth, the straight shot truth in so if there’s something off about the straight shot truth, that means what you’re describing is off is. So yeah, I, I, I Well, I think one of the things I was wondering is like, is it helpful at this point to go through some options in also, because I think some of the options would arise how much of that freeze flight fight has to be on the page? Because like, again, in the Master Work scene, we only saw the fight, but we can spin up the story really easily. Like we don’t have, like, our mind automatically fills in the first two. But with my setup, if that setups true, where like, it’s just a beat cop that happens upon them, which like, I don’t know, maybe I’m, maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t know how much I, I agree with the fact that like, like, random shit happens all the time where like, you make a good if you make a good plan of how we’re not going to get caught. I still get caught, you know. But I think what you’re saying is, if that’s true, then we need to see it, not just immediately go. If I am going to keep it where it immediately goes, I’ve got to change the relationship between the victim and perpetrator, where that we can easily fill in where that happened. So like if it was his like wife that stumbled upon them or something, or would that doesn’t even make sense either. Like, there has to be something? I guess I’m trying to think like, Okay, well, then what are my options for fixing this problem? When I’m thinking about the relationship between the victim and the perpetrator, like how do I start going through the process of fixing the fact that the relationship between them doesn’t work right now with what I have?

Shawn Coyne  32:31

will be before I address that, I do need to address what you just said about random shit happens. Okay? Because this speaks to the setting the context of your story. Okay. So I’m just waiting for the video to come back on. Okay. So the setting of your story, the context of your story is 2022 in Nashville, Tennessee. The setting and context of McBain is 1950s, early 50s, New York City. So you need to understand the difference of the content in both of those contexts. The content in 1950s, New York, they have things called Beat cops. Now what a beat cop is, is someone who literally walks the street and checks the neighborhood. And they have, you know, patterns that they have to go through. And so they poke around. Now, what happened from 1950 to 2022 in policing is extraordinarily different. So what the police do now is they don’t get out of the squad car. They are in constant communication with the central command. And there’s a lot of surveillance. There’s a lot of cameras on the street. Everywhere you look is a camera. Okay, so the surveillance cameras up 2020 To serve the purpose that the original beat cops do. So the reason why I’m saying this is that the probability that there is even a beat cop as you’re defining it in Nashville in 2022. doesn’t ring true to me. Because the majority of policing is done by squad. So when you have a beat cop, you’re bringing 1950 into 2022. So that goes through in my mind as an editor that doesn’t make sense. Beat cops, don’t walk the straight anymore, right? Because they have surveillance cameras. Anyway. And when they do leave the car, they turn on their camera. So we’re constantly being videoed. Okay. So that means that if the lieutenant of a police department is going to be serviced by a prostitute, he is going to be very clear about finding a place where he will not be under the surveillance of the police department, the video cameras, because that will be the signal that will send the squad car. Okay, so that would mean that the only way anyone would discover the probability of anyone randomly discovering these two is pretty slim. So that means there had to be directed action from the victim to discover them. That was their goal state to discover the lieutenant in whatever they call it the flow, flaunting director or whatever it’s called. Right. So that was the goal of this victim was to get the goods on Wilson. Why? Because the only way he would discover him is if he had targeted him for. So I’m hoping that when we’re exploring the context and content of the time period of your story, it’s enabling you to start piecing together who would target the police lieutenant, to for a shakedown or confrontation, this is a pretty powerful figure here. So to target them would require a lot of motivation, either a personal motivation, like they already have an intimate relationship, and they’re mad that they’re cheating on them, that’s a good one, or a professional one. I’m going to get the goods on my boss so that I can get a promotion. And then I get that hold it over his head for the rest of my career. And he’s going to be my bitch, right? I’m going to have power over the power. That’s awesome. So somebody wants either power over the power for professional in impersonal, they don’t care about the lieutenant, they just want his power. Or they want have a personal relationship with the lieutenant. And it’s a very personal blow to their understanding of their relationship. Both or deal with relationships. one’s personal and one’s impersonal. So that’s a good split. To think about thinking like, Well, how do I establish this relationship? or personal relationship better than an impersonal one? Or is it better to do it as an impersonal to personal? Well, a personal one, this is just fun to talk about. A personal relationship requires many interactions. It requires a long history of building up of a commitment and a responsibility. So personal relationships require more time on the page to establish I suspect, than impersonal ones because that means that the impersonal does not is all about one aspect of relationship, the power of the other person,

Tim Grahl  38:39

I guess I would say like an eyewitness. One word establishes a very long personal relationship, and that’s wife. And so where if it was not personal, you would have to explain more. Although I was leaning towards writing the unperson will just so it would be different. And I had some thoughts about that. But to me, it’s like, you can establish a personal relationship pretty quickly because it was really clear labels, or an impersonal at the

Shawn Coyne  39:13

very beginning of the story. You can’t drop it in three quarters of the way through, because then it seems like a trick. So when you’re establishing the story, and you’re establishing the roles of the players, hey, you know, his wife was murdered. That happens very early on in the ED McBain scene. So you’re like, that’s a granted, that’s a that’s a constraint of the story from the very start. When you bring in a constraint three quarters of the way through, it doesn’t ring true. It’s like oh, he just threw out the hole. Right? So that’s what I you know, he’s just like, oh, it’s his wife. Oh, you know, it’s like, okay. So it’s, you know, you can’t you can’t formalize these rules unless you take in the whole of the the You know this the story itself? So I don’t mean to tell you it’s this is a hard and fast rule. It’s always go for the impersonal if you’re writing a short story, no, you can, you can put the personal end, but it’s got to be a straight began.

Tim Grahl  40:14

I mean, I could see a scenario here, where the witness, because if as soon as somebody comes on them, so if that person is there on purpose, he runs and then watches from a distance you watch it escalate to the point where you see the flight, I think is easy to go out the window. Because the only reason to run would be if you weren’t seen there, like if you could still get away without being seen. And but then we could see the like, the the negotiation happened by just watching an argument escalate from afar. Yeah, so, I mean, we could watch from afar as the witness as a argument escalates between the two. And this also makes me start thinking that it can still be a cop. But it would be in plain clothes. Like even the witness doesn’t know it’s a cop until later. Or until it finds a badge. And it’s in the in the pocket. But I liked the idea of, of every of the things we’ve talked about I lean towards. It’s somebody basically trying to set up a blackmail situation to get what they want.

Danielle Kiowski  41:42

Can I just pop in and address one thing you said, which is that slight would go out the window if you’ve already been seen. So I just want to call that out. Because the freeze flight fight progression is not reasoned, it’s not rational. And so you don’t stop and think well, does it suit me to fly in the circumstance? Instead, you just do it. And so and it might not be physical flight, but it’s something like changing the subject does I mean, that’s what you have Randall doing, right? So changing the subject, or, you know, questioning someone’s authority, that kind of thing. That’s just going to happen naturally. And so I just want to call that out. Because it still is really important to include that, even if and especially if actually, it seems irrational. It’s like, it wasn’t me. And it’s like, I just saw you do it. No, but it wasn’t me. I didn’t do it. You know, that kind of thing. That’s something that people do, because they’re belying an emotional reaction.

Leslie Watts  42:42

So I have a few things on a on a different topic. And one of the things I want to talk about is the is the opening. And what I think that you’re accomplishing with that, with the adjustments that you made there, that now when I read those, especially the first two paragraphs, I get this sense that he’s wedged. Right that that Randall is is wedged, he’s in a EES inner corner, he’s in the last place he wants to be. Right. And I think that’s a really lovely way to open it. Because the you know, the words that you are choosing are valence in such a way that I’m having this experience. As I’m reading it, a feeling wedged, right? I’m assuming I’m relating to the protagonist and feeling that too. It’s different from what Ed McBain does in eyewitness, but it serves it’s a similar function. And so I think that’s a really those adjustments that you’ve made there are really really nice and the only adjustment that I was thinking about is actually in the third paragraph in its in how we how we understand that the that the shirt is new, and I was wondering like maybe there are some creases in it or something like that like, like how we know a shirt is new as opposed to old so and then that kind of it brings that detail. It transports that detail from the ED McBain story into your story but in a different way, which I I think that was kind of fun. Then the other thing I wanted to mention is that is it there’s this moment in the street in the ED McBain story that I’m that I missed in In reviewing it this time, and it’s the moment when when capelli notes about Struthers, I’m not seeing stubbornness in him. It’s fear. And so this is an this is his assessment of the trustworthiness of the of the of Struthers. And I think it’s really important because it, it marks a shift for capelli. So when we get around that in around that area, I think the line that you’re using for that is the rocking stopped again and his yellow bloodshot eyes slit up to mine, I think it’s about that place. But it’s it’s not performing that function. In the same way that for example, what you do with the wedging in the in the opening is doing the same thing that Ed McBain is doing, but just in an in a different way. So I think that on the assessment comes later in your story, and it’s I think it’s the line, the last thing this man wanted was attention from me or any other cops. And so I think if you find a way to move that assessment of trustworthiness, earlier than you’ll be performing that function, because in the function it performs is it changes the way that we’re looking at Randall. And that’s what we really want. So that little bit of binding that we get is helping Sam or the reader reassess their own conclusions about the protagonist. And that’s a really important thing to happen at that point, before he proves that he’s, you know, being No at all. He’s, he’s not. It’s before we go into the talking about the story fully. So it’s like that. That opening tells us who he is and what you know, that that’s, it’s an actual, it’s an assessment that’s coming after the fact right? Remember when we talked about the ED McBain story, we talked about how you read it through, you get to the end, it’s kind of puzzling, you go right back up to the start. So it’s actually leading with capelli his conclusion. And, and then that point when he says, I saw not stubbornness, but fear there is like the next note in that series of notes. And so I think that’s a really important thing. And if you wanted to, you might consider the repeating that sense of his being wedged. Right, like as a kind of, you know, a suggestion in some way, in the same way that that opening does, to repeat that sense. And that Watson is able to see that and is communicating that to Sam.

Tim Grahl  48:40

Yeah, actually. I didn’t love forced as that verb in that first sentence. So it’s interesting to hear you say that, because I actually kept going back and forth between forced and dragged. Because I’ve, in my mind, it’s like, the, the guilt is what kind of like, he didn’t want to, I felt like he came in with his heels in the ground, and he was being pulled in by something else instead of almost like you, I don’t know how much this matters. But like, when you’re talking about him, like I felt more like he’s being pulled by something than pushed by something. And so so and I feel like it’s the guilt of the fact that he let the guy is what ends up dragging him in. And so since we’d like to talk ad nauseam here about verbs that was that was the one I was struggling with, too, is like the opening line. Anyway, that I just wanted to mention that since you had brought up the opening, not to talk you out of liking something, but Yeah,

Leslie Watts  49:58

can you can you see You have that’s what you’re creating in that. And then if you feel like oh, wedged is not what I was not really what I want here, then how you could make adjustments so that the sense is that he is being pulled rather than pushed?

Tim Grahl  50:20

Yeah, I don’t. For me, and I don’t feel like his, to me a wedge is when you’re getting pushed from two sides. And to me there’s there’s only one, one thing. And that would be the guilt that’s pulling him in. Because there’s no other reason for him to come in. It’s not like he’s getting chased. Or it’s not like, I mean, I guess you could make the argument that he was, you know, Wilson, that Lieutenant might come after him later. But I keep thinking of it more as like he could have just walked away. And so the only thing that got him in there was his guilt for letting the guy die. So I don’t I don’t think of it as a wedge. I don’t know.

Leslie Watts  51:11

Yeah. Yeah. I mean, it’s interesting, because it’s, it’s a highly subjective reading of it. But it felt really strong. And this is kind of, you know, this is part of my, the simulation that I run at the read levels, like, what does that feel like? Oh, it feels like being wedged. Okay. So then, witnessing a murder had forced, forced feels like pushing rather than pulling. So I think your instinct on that is correct. So if you want to, you know, so there may be another another verb that suggests that, and maybe, I don’t know, if the synonym finder that we’ve talked about before, might have some, some variations on that word that you could play with, and that you could, you know, if you’re looking at the rest of the story, you might put though you might see other verbs that that would be that could be tweaked in that way as well.

Danielle Kiowski  52:24

I just wanted to offer a perspective here, because Leslie, I agree with your reading about the wedging, I think that that’s very clearly in there. And I agree with the characterization of forced as pushing. What I don’t agree with is that the target should be pulling, because I feel like guilt. You know, guilt, guilt is an emotion, not something that you’re pursuing. So when we talk about pushing and pulling, I think we shouldn’t, as with most things in store, I think we want to get out of that emotional realm. And we want to talk about the goal state and the objects of desire. What does he want? I think if you are being pulled towards something, you’re saying, this police station is my Oasis, this is where I’m going to find peace. This is where I’m going to find serenity. In the context that you have, the police station will never be that for Randall, because of the marginalization because of the bias that exists. So I think that the pushing is the correct valence for the setup that you have, because the way that I think about it, is that he has, there’s danger on the street, this is pushing him away, he wants to avoid that danger, right. So that’s pushing him off of the street. There’s marginalization, and all of the attendant things in the police station that’s pushing him out of the police station, he does not have a place to belong. So he can’t be pulled anywhere. He’s pushed out of everywhere, and it’s just where am I being pushed out of the least. And that’s, you know, I think that’s, that’s getting it what it is to be a fish out of water is that you’re pushed out of everywhere, you don’t belong anywhere, and you’re just looking for the place where you don’t belong, the least, where you can have a temporary place to sit and you know, maybe accomplish some sort of an object of desire, but, you know, it’s getting at that idea of getting those foundational ideas of that fish out of water of that the best bad choice and, and it is that being pushed from all sides instead of pulled in two directions. He’s not pulled in two directions. To me, he’s he’s pushed from everywhere. And he’s just that that wedging, I think is very accurate to describe what’s going on.

Tim Grahl  54:56

Okay, I mean, so I feel like the next thing For me to work on, is getting the hierarchy of the important things in that we talked about landing on something between the victim and perpetrator. And then making sure that’s in there. And so to me, the exercise would be basically re adding to rewriting that section at the bottom to include that. And then going through the story the same way to look for opportunities to signal that to the audience. Does that sound like a good place for me to work?

Danielle Kiowski  55:35

Yeah, I think that sounds great.

Tim Grahl  55:37

Thanks for listening to this episode of The Story Grid Podcast. For everything Story Grid related, check out story grid.com, make sure you sign up for the newsletter, so you don’t miss anything happening in the Story Grid Universe. If you want to see the show notes for this episode, or any past episodes, including the scenes that I’ve written if you want to look at those, and so you can actually see those alongside the feedback I’m getting. You can see all of that at story grid.com/podcast. We’re also posting this episode and all the past episodes from the past four months or so, when we started doing this eyewitness project. All of them are going up his video podcasts on YouTube as well. We’re also publishing daily shorts on YouTube, along with some other content, where we’re diving into all of the different content genres as well. Lots of great content on YouTube, and the other social media platforms where we’re putting stuff up every single day. So make sure you check us out there as well. If you would like to check out the titles we’ve been releasing from Story Grid Publishing, you can do that at story grid.com/books. As always, thanks for listening. Thanks for being a part of the community here at Story Grid. If you want to support our show, it’s really easy. Just tell another writer about the show, get them listening. And you can also go to Apple podcasts and leave a rating and review. Thanks so much, and we’ll see you next week.


The Book

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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.