Episode 279: Writing or Just Pretending? When there is Zero Flow and Everything is $h*t

Tim Grahl  00:00

Hello, and welcome to this Story Grid Podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m the CEO of Story Grid Universe. 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 an editor and storyteller with over 30 years of experience. Along with him is Leslie watts, the editor in chief of Story Grid Publishing, and Danielle Kiowski, the Chief Academic Officer of Story Grid University. So in this episode, you get a special treat, Shawn rewrote my scene. So he was trying to teach me really get me to help see the narrative device. And so he rewrote my scene. And so he shares his changes and why he made the changes. And then you get to hear Lesley and Danielle, give him feedback on his writing. So this alone was a joy for me to not be in the hot seat as much all by myself and to actually have Shawn be in that hot seat. But then as we got through that, it brought up these other things for me. So Shawn, at a point in this episode asked me, like how I’m feeling and I had all kinds of emotions around this, and not in a bad way, just like feeling lots of different things. And one of the things that came out was this constant feeling that unlike watching myself, right, you know, instead of just writing, it’s almost like, I remove, I’m one removed from the writing. And I’m looking down on me writing, and I’m trying to make sure I’m doing it right. And we talk a little bit about why that is, the reasons it’s good, the reasons it’s not helpful. And then we go into some other things around this process that have been really helpful for me that I have kind of forgotten along the way. And so it’s a really great episode, a lot of cool stuff in it. And I think some stuff that’ll definitely help you understand your own writing journey as well. So we’re gonna go ahead and jump in and get started.

Shawn Coyne  02:02

Okay, so we’re back this week, Tim, and from what we were doing last week, just to give a summary here, we were identifying moments where the signal was still too fuzzy, and there was too much noise in your iteration of Ed McBain. It’s short story, the witness eyewitness pardon me. So from what I recall, you were asked to do one trope. And that trope was to the purpose of the change in the trope was to, to do a number of things. The first thing was to to establish the differences between our narrator and his colleague, Dawson. And the way that we believe what would best suit that would be in an interaction between Dawson and Randall, the witness? So we asked you to change the the offer of $10 for Randall to leave from Watson, who’s the narrator to Dawson. So first thing I want to ask you is did you execute that trip?

Tim Grahl  03:32

Alright, I forgot about that part. That particular part, which may have messed up the whole thing, but the way the first of all, I really put this off this week, I think I was tired of working on this. And so and I’ve been working on another project that, frankly, was more interesting. And so I kind of put this off and then. So I think that kind of bit me because it put some time in between the instruction and when I did it, which meant I forgot some things. But the way I looked at this was I needed the thing I remember the most was that the trope didn’t turn and it wasn’t clear what what Dawson wanted. And so I looked at it from the standpoint and and you said to nail the narrative device, so, too, so I tried to really keep it you know, just the facts. So I wrote it from the standpoint of Dawson wanted the guy to leave. And then Watson wanted him wanted to do the interview but needed to do it in a way where he had Dawson’s permission. So I went back and reread, looked at the trope detail that We did for eyewitness that that y’all did for eyewitness. And then I looked reread the trope. And then we went back and rewrote my trope trying to be having very clear that Dawson wanted the guy to leave, but couldn’t directly tell the guy to leave because he was a witness. And Watson wanted to interview him, but needed Dawson’s permission to actually do the interview. And so, now they have conflicting once, which I didn’t have in the trope last week. And, yeah, that’s the perspective I wrote it from.

Shawn Coyne  05:38

Okay, so let me just repeat what I think you said. And then you can let me know if I was correct. So the instruction was to nail the narrative device. Right. So that would mean to really clean up the, the words so that they read like a police report? Is that correct? Okay. And then the second one was to introduce a turn, such that there was a shift in the trope where we see the intentionality of Dawson and the intentionality of Watson sort of shifting. So one guy wants one thing, and the other guy wants another. Okay, so I did something that I don’t know how you’re going to feel about it. But I can tell that you’re bored with us. And that’s okay, because I think we’re all getting bored with it. And so what we’ve been trying to do is to induce your changes, without any sort of clear messaging of what we mean by what we’re what changes we want. Okay, so from what I understand that what you just said that your your goal state was to conform the narrative device of a police report in your, in your work, to the narrative device, a police report in ED McBain ZZ work, and also to be able to have an interaction between Dawson and Randall, such that we learn a lot about Dawson, and how he sees Randall and how Randall sees him. So is that correct?

Tim Grahl  07:35

Yep, that’s correct. Okay.

Shawn Coyne  07:37

All right. So what I decided to do was, I know if this is getting really long winded and boring going through this work, so I figured I would just bang out something that I think would be more in tune with the narrative device, and also accomplish the trade off the interaction between Dawson and Randall, for you so that you can see the difference between what I believe a narrative device of a police report is versus what’s currently on the page. So I’m just going to walk through a couple of Beats here in this trope and and show what you’ve done versus what I’ve done. Pardon me? So the first sentence of your story is witnessing a murderer had forced the man into the last place he wanted to be. Okay. So, in my estimation, this is not a police report. Because it is making a value judgment about what the witness wanted. It’s the last place he wanted to be he didn’t want to be here. How is a police detective going to know what a witness wants or doesn’t want, he won’t he won’t be able to because he can’t read the thoughts of the witness. So that would be the first thing that a police report wouldn’t do is ever try and read the thoughts of another person. So generally, a police report is about describing showing what happened, just the facts. So the police report is about third person omniscient narration. It’s about doing your best even when you’re using first person is to present your your observations as factual descriptions as opposed to explanatory telling of motivations. So I followed up by writing the following sentence in in in contrast, the witness appeared on the breezeway floor directly beneath the mirror image of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department blue and gold insignia at Oh 214. So this was a way of establishing the facts of when this police report began. This is the inciting incident that compelled the police report itself. So it establishes who came in when they came in where they were sitting, and how they were behaving as they were sitting. Next, you have a couple of sentences about the description that describes or that explains the behavior of Randall in the bull in the breezeway floor. And so again, I think you’ve made making value judgments about Randall from the point of view of Watson, the detective, the narrator, and the very first, the second sentence begins, I entered the bullpen. Now, that’s, I think, a mistake because we don’t want the SAM the person reading the police report, to think that this is a subjective explanation, as opposed to an objective description of facts. So when I, the first person enters into the story is very important. You want to establish the sensibility of the police report before you bring in the word I. So let me just continue that what you wrote, I entered the bullpen and noticed him hunched down on the breezeway floor under the mirror image of the Golden blue Nashville Metropolitan Police Department. He rocked compulsively back and forth, his lips moving, but talking to no one. Okay, that last phrase there compulsively is a value judgment. How is he supposed to know this is a compulsive behavior? He This is the first time he’s seen this person. It’s the first interaction he’s had with him. So to say somebody is being compulsive means that you have many interactions with them to be able to come to a value judgment about their behavior, his lips moving but talking to no one. How do you know he’s not he’s talking to no one, he might be talking to an imaginary friend in his mind. So that’s another value judgment that is that can be poked at if you’re, you’re a defense attorney for you know, the victim. So the way I followed up was, I wrote and these are descriptions, I hope, mostly, he’d wedged himself into the southwest corner, curled into a hunch, he methodically rocked back and forth. The difference between methodically and compulsively is methodically is there is a method he can observe the back and forth as a certain rhythmic method, as opposed to compulsivity, which is requires multiple interactions of view, methodically is almost like, you know, a physics calculation. He there’s a rhythm to his method, right. And then, his long sleeve shirt, I’m sorry. Yes, his long sleeved buttoned down was creased along the arms and tucked into a ragged pair of cargo shorts. His hair was semi dreaded, but secured into a tight ponytail. He was an hour or two short of a five o’clock shadow, and his lips moved, but neither detective Dawson or I could hear what he was saying. So now, I’m moving from the description of the witness into a description of the observers of the witness. There’s Dawson observing the witness. So my purpose there, the function of that was to transition from a description of the witness himself, what he looks like, where he’s setting how he’s behaving, to the observers of the witness. So we’re making a transition from the camera pointed at the witness to another observer of the witness, and then another, the observer of the observer of the witness. So it moves the camera moves from a close shot of Randall, pull back to Dawson, observing him, and then me i The narrator so we’ve got this nice camera shifting transition that smooth so in the mind of Sam she can hopefully, you know, feel through and see that that that camera movement intuitively. And now we’re also prepared for someone Do something and so now we’re going to get Dawson to speak. So Dawson now says some bum dos some bum, Dawson pushed through the bullpen door and into the breezeway, but held the door open with his foot as he reached into his trousers. He held out a $10 bill. So now the I the Watson witness is describing the observers movements as he is moving towards an interaction with the witness in the breezeway. And so now he’s extending a $10 bill, but he’s not approaching, he’s, he’s holding it out, like a pork chop, come and get it. He’s treating the witness almost as an object like an animal, come and get your steak and then go away. And he’s not engaging, he’s not going into the environment in which the witness is. So this says a lot about Dawson. Now we get to hear the reaction from the witness to Dawson, you the lieutenant. So this is interesting, too, because now we’re seeing that the dog didn’t go for the pork chop. The dog was was asking for information because he has a mission. And he’s saying, Are you the person that I need to talk to? And now what we get is someone who’s not answering a direct question. So now, Dawson replies, No, but I work for a living Barnes said, here’s 10 bucks, why don’t you head down to Mr. Whiskers, you still have time to grab a fifth before they close? And then the witness stopped rocking. So now we’re heading back to the view camera of the narrator Watson, the witness stopped rocking. And he’s referred to him again as the witness. So he’s hammering home that signal to Sam, this guy is innocent. He was a witness, but didn’t respond. So it’s a freeze moment. It’s a breakdown. Because Randall is not playing that game. I don’t want the $10. I’m here for a reason. It’s a freeze. I don’t know what to do. I’ve already explained I need to talk to the lieutenant, and you’re trying to get me to leave. Dawson shrugged. So Dawson doesn’t care. I walk through the closing door, meaning Dawson is closing the door, because he doesn’t care and waited for the man on the floor to look up. And that, in my estimation, is the nice transition into a new interaction between our narrator and Randall, the witness, we don’t even know what’s Randles name yet. So anyway, I’m not I’m sure I didn’t do this perfectly. And I’m sure there’s lots of tweaks to make to it. But the important thing is, the rubric was to fix the narrative device. I think I’m much closer to that than you are. And also to introduce Dawson as someone who interacts with Randall and shows who he is through that interaction. Instead of telling who he is, through speech, the way he behaves, to the witness is clear signal to Sam, that he doesn’t give two shakes of a lamb’s tail for for this witness. He’s trying to get him the hell out of there. So that’s, that’s sort of where I came to. And I’d like to hear, there’s a lot of information that I pulled out, because you have a lot of dialogue here that I deemed expositional clams, meaning you’re trying to give all this information to Sam, that she doesn’t really care about yet. There’s probably things that need to be put into mind. That will signal later on. But I hope this, this is clear. And before I tell you to follow this rubric, I want to hear from Danielle and Lesley to see if they agree. And of course if you have any questions first, that’s fine.

Tim Grahl  19:41

No, I mean, I can see clearly the changes and what a big difference they make and how you Yeah, it’s so clear when I compare the two that your choices of words and all of that makes a A lot of sense as far as like, getting the narrative device, right and getting that kind of how we’re looking at what’s going on,

Danielle Kiowski  20:08

I think we can both offer our comments and then decide from there where to go, because we’re probably seeing different things, you know, we’re seeing this for the for the first time. And what I’m seeing is that at the green level, the execution has a lot more detail. And I think, in particular, as you pointed out, as we went through switching from things that are details that act a little bit on the nose to details that allow for more experiential reading. And I think that’s, it’s hard to describe how to do that. So I think it’s really nice to be able to see it on the page. But the problem that I’m having with both versions is that they are taking as given the, the motivation of the interaction between these two, these all of these avatars, these three avatars. And one of the things that we talked about last time, was that we developed an object of desire for Dawson, that’s not coming through anymore. So it wasn’t just that we were having him interact with Randall as a as an on the Surface Tool to, to display. But this was supposed to be a convey or of his corruption. So the idea was that Dawson is in league with Wilson, he doesn’t want Wilson to get caught. So if he sees a credible, credible witness, he’s trying to get rid of him not because he doesn’t like homeless people, not because he’s thinking of the precinct, any of these reasons. He’s trying to get rid of him because he knows this guy is a threat. And I don’t think that comes through here, because he’s let the guy set up in the breezeway, and he’s rocking back and forth and everything. So he’s only going in as sort of a housekeeping mission, like, let’s clear up the precinct. And Dawson I think needs to be more targeted toward trying to get trying to get Randall out before Watson. And then what we had talked about for Watson is that he feels threatened because he’s like, Hey, I’m the guy interviewing these people. You’re not supposed to be pushing witnesses out at all. And I think that, that while the objects of desire, like I want this guy to leave, I want to interview him, they are different. They’re not, they’re not opposed directly in the way that we had talked about them being last time. So that would be the most critical factor is that I think this represents those green level changes, but that the green level changes, while helpful, don’t fix the red level issues that we’re still having here.

Leslie Watts  22:58

I agree with what you were talking about, about the green level. And I think there are there were a couple of other things that we’re not that we’re not quite doing. And I’m trying to figure out, right, because when we chain when we have the pattern seen that we’re trying to iterate, and it’s all about trying to figure out what’s, what’s relevant in there, what do we need to preserve? And what do we need to what, what is? What can we vary in order to create our own pattern? And so I was thinking about the, you know, the requirements that we talked about are the essential elements of the trope, as we talked about them when we did the trope analysis. And so we’ve got introducing the witness. And we’ve got this negotiation of the strategy between, in your case in this story, Watson and Dawson, and then demonstrating the opposing worldviews and then Watson winning the opportunity to apply agency to Randall. So, I think here, I’m not sure if we’re accomplishing that, and I think part of that is because of what you were talking about Danielle? So I think that that, you know, that’s a something that we want to we would want to think about. And I think that if we’re, if we, you know, kind of, I’m thinking about this in terms of, you know, how are we functionally doing things? And I think, as a as a comparison we have the Sean’s draft is doing a lot of those things, but I think the thing that that draft is not fully accomplishing is that the twist that’s in that first sentence, which is the thing that when we get to the end, and we get the and then we and we go back to read it again then we get that that witnessing a murder or in in ED McBain version we have he had seen a murder, right? So we get this that assessment of credibility, which is I think, Shawn, you were talking about how labeling him a witness as opposed to a suspect or just a random guy coming in, I think was trying to do that. But I don’t think it quite gives us that. The that, that hint of what’s to come, and it actually, you know, his failed the failed conclusion that that capelli is trying to capture in there. So I think that yeah, so I think those are just some, some things that that I noticed in these, you know, when we’re looking at these two drafts, and and thinking about thinking about which parts of the pattern scene are, you know, that we really need to preserve and I think that is one of them. And I think that the winning the opportunity to do it, and not just not just by default, but actually winning it the opportunity to exercise his agency talking about Watson there. And then the other thing is there’s a there’s a line we don’t have, we don’t make reference to this in the the essential elements of the trope, but But to me, there’s something in this line that may be important, and that’s from McBain, none of us underlings will do. And I think that’s an attempt by in that story, it’s an attempt by capelli to make a connection with Magruder. And so and I think we can decide whether that’s important or not. But but I’m not seeing that in this in this iteration of that. So those are the things that came to me in looking at these to compare it to the theoriginal.

Shawn Coyne  27:40

Yeah, I agree with all that. Yeah, I did not do the interaction between Watson and Dawson, which is which is necessary in this trope. And the the motivations of Dawson are not clear beyond him just not liking homeless people. So I think both of your comments are spot on. I also think that I did not go through the tropes before I bang this out. But I don’t know that I would have figured that out anyway. So essentially, what it seems to me is that we’re a bit closer in character to the narrative device. So I think we’re getting closer to description without a preponderance of explanation. So that’s good. The second one is we’ve established the the reversal that we’re going to do at the very end of the story, which is when Watson gives the $10. It’s a signal for Randall to get out. And I think we’ve established that the relationship between Dawson and Watson needs to be in here, and it’s not now. So I cut all that interaction, which was not, you know, the right thing to do, we need that interaction, because we need to establish, we need to plant the seeds of corruption in Dawson’s behavior beyond just trying to get somebody out of the breezeway. And we also need Watson to fight to get to interview this guy. And right now, he’s not he’s just sort of rescuing a poor, you know, just shoveled guy. Whereas he needs to go wait a minute now, and we don’t have any information about the victim either. So Barnes is mentioned in yours, Tim, and he’s not in mind. So that’s another thing that we need. So So there’s three things So we need an interaction at the red level between Dawson and Watson. We need Barnes as victim in there. And we need. Lastly, what was the other thing? And I think this might I think, Leslie, your comment about the first he had seen a murder. I agree with you. I don’t know that I that you would be able to have that solution yet until you did the whole story. But witness is a good stopgap, I think. But I totally get what you mean in that. And you can only do it once and I did it twice. So you can’t refer to him as witness twice, if you want witness to stand out as a reference. So that’s another thing that needs to be cut. Anyway. So Tim, what do you think about that? Do you feel like this was instructive? Do you feel like you would know what to do to revise my draft? Using those three things that need to be in it from Leslie and Danielle?

Tim Grahl  31:11

You know, I am full of emotion right now. Oh, not in a bad way. I mean, okay, no, no, just

Shawn Coyne  31:18

all emotions are bad or anything.

Tim Grahl  31:21

Yeah, that’s right. No, I feel. I mean, first of all, we’ve had like, huge issues recording this episode. So that shit drives me up the wall anyway. And then, like, hearing, Leslie did yell, critique your writing. I was like, Yeah, how’s that feel shot? So there’s that for I kept like, just like laughing it like, you know, because I’m hearing them say the same type things. They say to me, but they’re saying them to you. And so I was like, oh, okay, so I don’t know if that brought me joy. But, and then like, so I really I really did like, looking at, I was so so first looking on first kind of glance at when you were going through what you’ve wrote, I’m like, Okay, this is so so clearly better from that narrative design device, point of view, right, or, I don’t want to use our terms incorrectly. But basically, from that narrative device of like, police report, I feel like I see that. And like even just the the switching of the words from compulsively to methodically and from torn up pants, which I think was a part that we ended up having to redo that you didn’t say in this one. But in an earlier version that we re recorded. You said, you know, the difference between what I wrote of torn up cargo shorts and ragged cargo shorts of like torn up, you know, anybody could have a torn up pair of pants for any reasons. ragged means they’re old and worn down, which is what a homeless person would have on. So that kind of language is super helpful. But then it’s like. So that was helpful. And then as Danielle went through it, and Leslie went through it, and then you’re you all were discussing it, I just started having this, like, Dread, of just like, there are 1000 things. I mean, really, probably, let’s call it a dozen things that have to fit into these, like 12 sentences or something. You know, and then I’m just like, I don’t. And we’ve talked about this. I mean, we talked, Shawn and I, you talked, we talked about this offline last week, just in general about writing. And I think I, I don’t, I don’t know exactly how I feel. So I’m going to just kind of start talking and see if something useful comes out. But we’ve talked about how like, a lot of this will have to at some point, the vast majority of these things have to become something you do automatically, right? So if like, you know, using jujitsu, again, as a, as a metaphor, it’s like, you know, when you first start learning a particular move, you’re like thinking very hard about every portion of that move. And then once it gets in there, you can like do that automatically. And then you can think of something else to add to it, right? And I see this when I’m learning something new after training for six years, and then I’m running a class where I’m training somebody that has been training for three weeks, right? Like there have their like, just where their hand goes is like not even natural yet. And so. So I’m thinking about like, okay, so I gotta have like, I got to Have this narrative device running, I gotta make sure like Watson and Dawson are arguing. But at the same time, I got to get in there that Dawson, you know, wants to get rid of this guy, but not just because he’s a bum. But because he’s, you know, with Wilson. And it’s like, again, just from this one, you know that, you know, eight minute interaction that three of you had, like, if I had written them down, I’d have a checklist that doesn’t long. And I can’t do that many things on purpose. At the same time, you know, I can’t hold all of those things in my head consciously. So then, then I start getting into these places where I’m just like, I don’t I really struggle with how like so before we started this series on the podcast, we went through a scene in Wizard of the Earth, see, and had me, you know, rewrite that several times. And by the end, when I got one, when we finish with it, and you were happy with the scene I wrote. I was like, really connected to everything happening in the scene at that point. Like, I felt really connected to the protagonist, I felt really connected to the mentor figure, I felt really connected to the perpetrators in the scene. I understood the system they were working in, I understood what was complex about the system and what was chaotic about the system. Like I understood all of that stuff. By the time we I was writing, by the time we were done working on it. And that’s, I think, why you guys call that good enough, because I got all that stuff, right. And I just, I don’t know what it is about this scene, but I can’t get myself there. Like I have. I can’t hold all of this in my like, I’m not, I don’t, I’m not, I don’t know if connecting is the right word. But I can’t get myself to the point where I know what’s going on. And I don’t know if that’s like, a lack of skill set on my side. I don’t know if it’s just this particular scene. You know, we’ve even talked about, you know, weeks ago now, just like how, and I was. So I’m, I’m working on another kind of thing that I’m super connected to like, because it’s me, it’s me just kind of telling my own story, basically. And I was, Candace, and I go for walks most nights. And we’re always just, you know, I’m telling her about this. I was like, when I’m working on the scene that we’re working on on the podcast, it’s like, it’s like, I’m pretending to be a writer. Like I’m pretending to write about something. I couldn’t get the language, right. It’s almost like when you first start learning how to dance or something, and like you’re trying to dance like how you see people dance on YouTube, right? You’re not actually dancing from yourself. And it’s like, when I first started learning how to write marketing copy, I’m like, I’m gonna write marketing copy, like Ramit Sethi writes marketing copy. And so I tried to like, be him while I was writing it. And of course, it’s complete trash. And then you eventually, like, integrate it in. And now I do it in my own voice. And it’s the same thing where I talk about jujitsu is like, you learn to move very methodically, the way that it’s taught to you, and then you have to eventually integrate it into where it works, the way your body works. And so when I’m writing, and I’ve sent you a couple of things I’ve written over, throughout the last three or four months, and you’re like, This is amazing. And it’s all behind the scenes, because it’s just stuff I’m working on. And that’s when I feel like I’m writing from that place where I’m, I’m writing it. And in this, I can’t get past, pretending like I’m writing this or, or acting like I’m writing this or like trying to pretend like I understand all the shift that’s supposed to be going on in this seat. So when we talk about me going back and like writing another version of this, I’m like, well, which of those things am I supposed to work on? Am I just going to like try to get the narrative device right but then we’re going to talk about all the shit I missed on the read level, or whatever. You know, and I mean, and we’re down now you we’ve got me down. Like, I’m not just not allowed to write a book, or a series of scenes, or a scene. I’m now down to like 12 sentences and I got them wrong on like, eight out of 15 of the things I’m supposed to get it right and I you know, I don’t mind getting stuff wrong. and reworking it, but I’m like, and is this something like I’ll eventually break through because that’s what you know, happens. But so that’s like a very long winded of what I’m my myriad of emotions.

Shawn Coyne  40:18

I’ve got, I got a few thoughts if you want to hear him, of course. Leslie and I were talking about this the other day, because we were talking about something else, and it came up. And she had a really amazing insight, which was about understanding your frame as, as an individual person. So I am a fish out of water. So we have these breakdowns of, you know, kinds of protagonists, right, you have a fish out of water, who’s coming into a pond that they’re not familiar with, right? So the fish out of water always feels alienated and out an outsider. Right? Okay. So that’s, that’s one concept. The other concept that we have is an indigenous member of the pond, an indigenous member of the pond is integrated into a network. And when somebody comes into their network, that’s the disturbance. So the indigenous member of the pond views the world in a certain way. And Kent has a very difficult time, even considering that they are not that they are not part of something. So we have a default, the way we look at the world in those terms, right? So this is a hypothesis This isn’t. I don’t know that anybody’s done any psychological research on this, but I think it’s, it’s, it’s a good plausible argument. And that this default, is how we view ourselves. Is this, am I always lost? Am I always trying to find a safety net work that will enable me to integrate, right? Am I an explorer? Am I a fish out of water constantly in search of my pond? So when you look at the world that way, and you haven’t found your pond yet, right, you’re always in your mind, like, I’m going to find my pond soon. And each new pond, you’re like, This is it. And it’s not. So the fish out of water lives in the exploratory space. And eventually, they get very comfortable in that exploratory space. And then they start to see every pond is not my kind of pond, right? So they start to believe a story that they tell themselves, that there’s no safe pond for them. And that they will be, you know, these these pilgrims without a home for for eternity. Right? Which is wrong, right. But that’s kind of your your default mode network of how you kind of, when things get stressful, you get to that place. Now, the other one is the indigenous member of the pond, which doesn’t like things to change. And so they like to stay in the comfort of home. And they don’t see why they need to leave home. What homes great, and they’re not really interested in exploring. So you’ve got these two sort of polarities within you. And part of becoming a storyteller is to flip flop, to be able to start thinking about, I wonder what it would like, be like to feel part of something? And what if that network really was a good network, and they were a big part of it, that would be pretty meaningful. Right? So I think the problem that you’re facing is that and when you say when you’re writing about your own stuff, it’s it’s a lot easier, right? Because you’re locked in your story. And it’s very compelling. And when you are telling your story, it feels right, because it is right, because it’s yours, right? You don’t make a lot of false moves when you’re describing all the great things or all the horrible things that have happened to your life. Why because they’re yours. But when you extend outside of yourself, that becomes difficult, because it requires you to look at your own stuff, your the own your the the events of your life from a new frame. So for me, looking at the world as if I were integrated into it, and let’s say I was in A pond that really accepted and cared for me is difficult for me. So I, the way I frame the world I that’s that’s one of my my things right? And you can have the opposite to so when you feel homed to be able to go the other way is difficult to so when you’re looking at a story like this Ed McBain story What does it have in it is the central protagonist is a fish out of water. And to think like a fish out of water, if you are a fish out of water can be painful. Right? But to think of an indigenous member of the pond is less stressful. So what did you do in your first couple of iterations of the story, but you made Watson the protagonist, unconsciously, because that’s the way you frame the world. Because that’s more comfortable to you. And it’s that I’m not criticizing you, that makes perfect sense. And I think it’s, it’s fine. And what we’ve been asking you to do is go to to get a break frame, and you’ve got to look at being a fish out of the water, but it can’t be you. You’ve got to think of another person who was trying to get into your world. And you either enabled them to come into your world or you kept them out. And so that way you move away from this very, you know, all the Eye of Sauron staring at your own life, and oh my god, I don’t want to go here. Instead, you move outside and you start thinking about events in your life from the perspective of the players who were in those events, who weren’t you. So for example, I was saying this to Lesley, like if you need to think of a good mentor, don’t think of yourself as the times that you were a mentor, think of the people who mentored you. And then you will be able to find a through line that will enable you to think about avatars as human beings, as opposed to stick figures that you may manipulate in Story Grid structuring stuff. So it makes perfect sense to me that you’re you’re coming to the end of your line with this because you’re right, you haven’t connected to it. It’s not it’s not coming naturally to you. And, you know, you had a similar problem with the wizard diversity, because you had difficulty understanding that there are complex networks that are neither fully tyranny nor fully chaotic, that there are these in between complex systems that have both inside of them, they’re not fully one or fully the other. So neither neither is Randall in your story. Randall is integrated into his community of where he lives. He’s got his church, he’s got his friends, he you know, he knows what to do. He knows how to navigate in that world. He is an indigenous member of the pond. But this is he’s has to go into a new pond by necessity. And so now thinking of him in those terms, you might think of an event in your life where you were the indigenous member of the pond, and you witness somebody having difficulty getting inside? And how would you enable them to get inside and to do their part to make the network better? That’s what the ED McBain story is about. It’s about a detective who sees somebody who has information, who’s bringing them in and testing them to see does this is this person on the same virtue level up? Do they want justice? Are their motivations, you know, pure? Yeah, I’m gonna have to say they are even though he’s corrupt to a certain extent. And then you do the hierarchy of who’s the most corrupt, do the calculation. And then that guy gets to leave and the police report shows who the real criminal lives. So I don’t know if that was helpful or not. But I hope it explains that you’re feeling reluctance and and I don’t want to go there and I can’t get it and it’s not ever gonna happen. And why don’t I just do these things that I’m uncomfortable with? Yeah, you can. You can keep doing that. But what I’m saying is that at some point, the more you press against this, you’re going to have a frame break. And then it’s going to be wonderful because then you’re going to expand and level up as a as a storyteller, to move beyond those stories that are so, you know, vibrant and salient to you because these are yours, like running down a dream was a terrific book. That’s your story. It’s clearly signaled, I didn’t have to talk to you about valence language when you wrote that book. But when you do try to step outside your comfort zone, it’s scary. And so the valence thing becomes difficult, and you get confused, because you’re not really sure, because in order to really properly valence it, you have to enter an imaginal space, where you’re you’re seeing the world through other people’s eyes. Those people who were in have major events in your life, that that were critical moments in them. And so like, I think of the mentors in my life, and I say to myself, boy, I had no idea the sacrifices that person made to help me, they didn’t have to help me. And you know what, I didn’t treat them very well. I took from them. And I never said, thank you. And imagine how they felt when I did that. That must have been bad for that. Right? And, look, everybody does that. But you need to say to yourself, but isn’t that amazing? They did it anyway. They helped somebody who didn’t even really appreciate what they were doing for them. And they don’t hold any ill will that I know of. Isn’t that awesome? So that’s the way to sort of, you know, and in this Randall case, right, like, what where was there a moment like maybe you worked with somebody who was homeless, and you wanted to get them back on their feet? And you wanted to hear their story? And nobody else did? What was that? Like? Did anybody ever share with you something that they have never told anybody else? Because that’s what Randall does with Watson. He shares a traumatic event in his life that is tormenting him. That’s what that’s what Daniel pointed out last week, right? That poor guy, he saw somebody a disfigured body, somebody whose morphology was completely out of whack. Of course, it was terrifying. Of course, he ran away. And that’s what Watson discovers with Randall. Oh, okay, I got it. Now. This poor guy, he’s, he’s a witness says this guy has nothing to do with the killing. This guy’s an innocent witness. He’s blaming himself for something that he witnessed. And he couldn’t have done anything about it. Fate came down and put him in a place at the wrong time at the wrong place. He experienced a lot of trauma, he had the courage to come in here and confess it. And that is amazing. This guy does not deserve to go to prison. This guy’s just a witness, he’s not a killer. And in that way, you can try and math, you know, in this imaginal realm, instead of making it about what When was I a victim, you think of when did I have an interaction with another person who was a victim, and they told me exactly what traumatic event happened. And then I understood them at a level that I never would have, without them telling me that, and I respect that, for being able to move forward in their lives after experiencing that trauma. That’s what this story is about, and bringing to justice, those people who are responsible for causal injury. Anyway, I don’t know if any of that helped. But it’s uh, it but knowing when you’re feeling this resistance, and you’re like, Ah, this sucks are never gonna get it. That’s when you’re close to get it yet. Right, recognizing this is never going to get what I want. That’s usually when the revelant relevance realization turns and you go, Oh, actually, that’s not what I wanted. I wanted the other thing, oh, my gosh. And then you then you’re able to move forward. But you’re, you’re you’re courageous. You come up against these roadblocks. You get hammered by us. And I’m glad you got to say that. Yeah, nobody can write perfectly. No way. They were easy on me. They probably had five or six other things they could have said about it. But they they they focused on the salient ones. The ones that I would need to work on next. And so it’s what we’re discovering in the podcast is the ordering. Like what’s the best order of attention? Right? Which one? Should we should we be concentrating on sentences when we’ve got blue and red problems? No, we should be really nailing down what the red and the blue are before we start working the green. So you’re at a place where we’re starting to move from the red and the blue into reworking the green. So you’re making progress. And that’s why I did do the green so that you could see green from your own work that was derived from your work. That’s your work. I just moved the the words around, change them off. I moved it from explanation to description. So I don’t know if that’s helpful. But

Tim Grahl  55:59

well, so should my homework be. I mean to take another crack at this trope, then. Is that the homework?

Shawn Coyne  56:06

I’m not sure what the homework is.

Danielle Kiowski  56:10

Well, I wanted to bring something up that that came up for me, Shawn, as you were talking in Tim, as you were talking about not connecting to it. I would suggest maybe going back and rewatching last times episode, last week’s episode. And like watch yourself, because what I saw is someone who was getting excited about really about finally cracking the avatars. And you were coming up with stuff you were coming up with will Dawson’s gonna go into the breezeway and he’s trying to get this guy out. We didn’t come up with that you came up with that. And then Watson pulls it out, because now he’s mad because this guy is trying to take his place. And you have this whole thing. And I was excited to see what you came up with this time because it seemed like you were cracking through that. And then something happened in the middle. And it’s like, you reverted back to rote Lee following the Master Work pattern, as you’re saying, like, it wasn’t you anymore. It was, well, I’ve just got to change the change the names on the Master Work pattern, and we’ll call it good. And, and I don’t know what happened. But the guy who was on last week’s podcast and the guy who wrote that trope, like they that that something happened. And so I think that trying to reconnect with the state of mind you were in when you were brainstorming that stuff, and really coming up with exciting ideas for it might be a way into rediscovering the spark that you were starting to define for the story.

Tim Grahl  57:47

Okay. I mean, yeah, I don’t disagree. I start to feel this, like I start to feel just this, like. And this is the part that I’m not sure how we get around this, or in this is I think, just what we keep coming up to every time is just like, I think when I sit down to write, I’m like, I’m just, you know, am I gonna? I’m just gonna get it wrong again. You know what I mean? So it’s like, it’s hard to, you know, it’s like, most weeks when I turn it in, I think I’ve got a lot of it, right. And then I hear all the ways I get it wrong. So I’m like, okay, you know, I’ll go back and work on it again. And then it’s like, and then I reached this point where I’m like, you know, what, I don’t want to do this anymore. You know, because, and so I like, detach from it, so that I don’t have to worry about well, you know, I didn’t try that hard anyway. So if it’s wrong, it’s wrong, you know. So, so, yeah, I think you’re right. And I have to go through this of just like you know, it’s just part of the process.

Leslie Watts  59:25

So if you’re, if the if the homework is to go back and through and and look at this trope again, um, the one thing I want to talk about or just mentioned before, you know, before we break is that is really tuning into the, what the avatars are trying to achieve. Because if we go if we go back to the pattern, then in eyewitness capelli He is trying to solve a crime. And when we look at the we haven’t looked at this in a while, but but in the in the pattern of Beats, his behavior is all about achieving that goal. And so while he feels bad about Struthers, I don’t think he’s not necessarily trying. It’s not that he wants to hurt Struthers or that he wants Struthers to get, you know, it’s none of that. It’s just that capelli is there because he’s a cop, and he wants to solve a crime. And so that and that is what’s what is consistent about his interaction with both Magruder and Struthers and so that really tune, you know, however, you need to, you know, do it to connect with that in those intentions of the individuals. So, you know, so I think I, we may have talked about this in the past, but, but that, once you, you get the narrative device, right, so that, you know, in my head, I’m moving these things around, I’m putting these words on the page, in order to help Sam solve a problem. So that’s the, you know, once we’ve, we’ve got the other things figured out, then we, you know, we move to that narrative device, okay. So everything I put here is for that, and then underneath that, is how the, how the avatars are motivated and, and how they’re, they are acting consistent with that. And so, you know, I’m bouncing around a little bit. So go back to the narrative device. And, and what we want to remember about the narrative device is that what’s in the, what’s in the report is more important than what actually happened. Right. So in, in your case, are in eyewitness, and in your case, the detective who wants to solve the crime, is writing the report, because he wants to solve the crime. That’s, you know, so like, really holding that front and center will, I think, help you with all those 12 things that, you know, though all the other things, right, so if you, when you come up against something, and you’re like, I don’t know what to do with this, and screw those guys, or whatever it is, you say, when you’re, you’re to yourself when you’re working through that is just come back to that, okay. I, I am Watson, and I want to get this guy. How can I do it? That’s what this report is meant to do. So in it, it’s the same as if I’m Tim Grahl, the book launch guy, and I need to help this author sell a about their first 1000 copies. It’s, it’s precisely the same exercise, though it is, you know, obviously, you’ve got to change domains. And you’ve got to, you know, there are things that there are differences that matter. But at bottom, it’s the same thing. And you already know how to do that, because you have done it. And so it’s just getting those pieces lined up and remembering what Wait, what’s my goal right now? My goal is to nail this guy. Okay, cool, when you make choices through that lens. So maybe that helps with all the Yeah, it is hard to hold 12 You know, or probably 200 more like it, things that you’re trying to accomplish all at once, which is why we want to narrow the focus right down to what are you trying to accomplish? I gotta get this guy. The lieutenant is a bad egg and he needs to be removed. So with that, maybe that will help with that with that process.

Tim Grahl  1:04:20

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’d like to check out the show notes, the transcription, my writing the scene I wrote and then Sean’s rewrite for this episode. All of that can be found at story grid.com/podcast We’re continuing to put these episodes and a lot of other great content out on YouTube. So make sure you go to our YouTube channel subscribe there so you don’t miss any of the videos that we’re posting there on a weekly basis. And as always, if you want to support the show you You can do that by telling another author about the show or go to Apple podcasts and leave a rating and review thanks as always for being a part of our work here at Story Grid and 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.