Episode 282: Final Edits of a Short Story: Beat Construction and 624 Analysis

Tim Grahl  00:01

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 he’s a writer and editor with over 30 years of experience, along with him as 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, I actually make some progress. So I’m going to spoil the episode a little bit, and just let you know up front, they actually liked my writing this week. And it was a surprising to me as it will be for you at this point. And what always surprises me about this is every project I’ve done, whether it’s writing, or business, or anything else, that’s really pushing me to learn something new, really pushing me outside of my comfort zone to the edge of what my understanding is, whatever metaphor you want to use, is that I always reach this moment, this moment where I’m like, this is not going to work where I just kind of lose the will to live. I feel like I’m just banging my head against the wall. Nothing’s ever going to work. And that always is the moment before something starts to fall into place. And what’s crazy about it, even though I’ve been doing stuff like this long enough to know it’s coming, it never makes it easier. And so I went back and look, the draft that I turned in this week was just the first two tropes of eyewitness by Ed McBain rewritten in my own words, right? Just first two trips, this was my 10th draft. That is long as I as far as I can remember from recording the episode, they literally only wanted me to change one word. And so it was really great to hear and hopefully you feel some relief as well. Because sometimes we worry about you the listener to have like, man, they’re just watching him struggle, getting all of this feedback, and then making the same mistakes again, you know, I get tired of like trying and it not working and trying and not working you guys having to sit through all of that, you know, I get your emails, I get your comments, I see like sometimes you get frustrated on my behalf. And what I hope you get out of this is that you know, sticking with something, continuing to bang your head against that wall. Try different things. And what you’ll see in this episode is I tried just one simple little idea, I had to make it easier on myself, and then unlock the whole thing. And so I really hope you enjoyed the episode, I enjoyed the episode, I enjoy the few episodes, where it’s mostly good feedback. So I hope you get a lot out of it. And you enjoy the episode. And I’m looking forward to finishing up this project soon. And what I hope you get out of this too, is just when you feel stuck when you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall, you know, it might be the 10th draft until you start to get things right. So anyway, I’ll let the episode speak for itself. Let’s go ahead and jump in and get started. Okay, so it’s been a few weeks since we last recorded with all four of us. And the homework I was given then was to rewrite the first trope in this police report style and really focus on that. And so then, we did the episode where it was just me and Danielle talking and helped me kind of get into the head of the protagonist in a better way. And so I decided to just do the first trope and the second trope. So I would have a chance to apply that with Randall is the protagonist. And so I did a version of that a couple of weeks ago. And then for this episode, I decided to just take another shot at it because Leslie and I were talking about just my struggle with this idea of writing it as a police report in using this style. And in how I I just don’t naturally write that way. I don’t naturally think that way. So what I did is I wrote a version of the two tropes in, in well, how I would just normally kind of write it with, you know, me first person writing it. And then I went back and rewrote that version, trying to make it very much in this style of a police report. And so that was kind of what I spent my time doing. To figure out what I’m trying to say I went back and looked at the tropes and tried to figure out what I was trying to say do it in something that felt natural, then go back and rewrite it. So all three of those versions are there for you to look at. So we’d love to hear what you think.

Shawn Coyne  05:02

Well, if I could, if I could jump in and just take a quick, you know, blue level examination of what you’re trying to do here is that in my estimation, we experience a story on three kind of levels, visceral levels, right? And the first one is what I call it, we sort of hear the story in our minds, right? We hear the voice of a narrator, as we’re reading and how well we’re hearing that voice, and how consistent the voice is. It contributes to the experience, right? So we’ve got the hearing capability of Sam, our single audience member, and we want to make sure that Sam is hearing the story in the way that we want her to hear it. So that’s sort of the narrative device, how do we figure out the best way for Sam to hear the story? Okay, the second way we experience a story is we feel it. And the feelings are sort of these strange limbic responses in our stomach and our mind when we’re when we’re experiencing a story, we start to feel certain emotions as the story is running through us. That’s the second level. And that’s sort of the the red level that we like to talk about at Story Grid above the surface. The hearing, just to take a step back is the on the surface level. It’s sort of as if we are hearing someone telling us a story. Okay, lastly, we have the blue level. And the blue level is the ability for us to picture this as we’re hearing it and feeling it, we start to see it sort of on the screen of our own mind. And so I was talking to my my wife the other day, and we were driving through an old neighborhood that she grew up when she was very, very young. And she said to me, Oh, now I see where a lot of I’ve said a lot of the stories that I’ve read, so when they would talk about a library, hey, that’s the library I see. When I read a story that features a library, and there’s the park. And it was beautiful to experience because I could I knew exactly what she was talking about. So I was entering her her dream world in a way that was very visceral and interesting anyway, so that, on the surface is what how we hear the story. above the surface is how we feel the story. And beyond the surface is how we see the story. So what what you and Lesley were talking about were how you were hearing the story and how Sam is hearing the story. So when when we make a decision about how we want to, you know, tune, send the voice and we’re talking about narrative device. So the great thing about working with a masterwork Is that all you need to do is listen to how the narration is speaking to you. And then sort of categorize it. What kind of narration is is this a friend talking to another friend? Or is this formal? Is this a formal report? And when you read Ed McBain story eyewitness, it’s pretty quickly, you know, intelligible that it’s a formal report. It’s very straightforward. It’s just the facts. There’s very little qualification about people’s states of mind. They’re just reporting actions. So generally, after I read the update that you did, I thought he’s getting it. This is this is in good shape. Yeah, there are things that are, are too qualified, like you use the word, asshole. I don’t think anybody would use the word asshole in a police report. That’s a small quibble. Even if he did say that, they would want to not repeat that in the police report, because then it would become a signal to the people reading the report about the the emotional attachment that the writer has to that character. It’s sort of like ratting somebody out, or they say the word asshole and in the thing, and he’s he’s not treating the witness very well. So they’re, they’re very, they’re minor quibbles that I would say that I would change in your presentation here. But I think it’s much more in tune with the police report. So that’s my estimation. So if you if I had to give you a great I give you like, A minus B plus.

Leslie Watts  09:49

Yeah, I I echo this is Sean sentiments on that because when I when I started reading this, it took me back to reading police reform It’s good. I used to do that at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. And so it was, it was framed, right, it feels like that. And so I hear it as a report and it feels like a report. And so and then something kind of magical happened in being able to, to hear and feel it. And then exactly as Sean is saying, then I couldn’t really imagine it happening. And so there’s something that locked in, in the way that you’re presenting it. Now, that’s really that I think, well, let me just say, is really working for me. And I think that,

Danielle Kiowski  10:43

yeah, that it’s

Leslie Watts  10:46

it’s really, it’s, it’s really, it’s really rocking now, in that way. And I, I know, we want to talk to Danielle. And the only other thing I want to make sure that we follow up on is how it felt to you. But I want to hear what what Danielle thinks about this one to one a

Danielle Kiowski  11:09

third, I guess, all of all of this. And I think the the hearing is definitely there, I’m I’m hearing your narrator’s voice. It also has what I what I call the right texture of the story, that’s more how I viscerally experience the story is through. I mean, the way the way that it’s textured, it’s hard to explain if, if you don’t also feel that, but it has the right feeling to me. And some of the details that I’m pulling out that are really nice are that you are collapsing the right things. So as I went through the one that came before, where it’s just how I would write it, or I being you in this case, it was nice to do that. Because then I found as I was going through the police report version, I had a little bit of dread on my I hope he doesn’t include that moment. And you never did, you never included the moments I was afraid of you including. And so. So I think that that is really nice. Also, you have incorporated some of the feedback that we had before, where you have the evidence followed by the evaluation in order to present a strong argument in the binding. So the place that I’m thinking about that is where Randles voice quivered. As he spoke, I came to the conclusion, this man was not working in angle, he was petrified to be in a police station. So you’re incorporating that multi sensory testing of trustworthiness. But you’re doing it in such a way that it is simple enough and objective enough that it fits with the narrative device. So good, good work all around. It looks great to me. Good.

Tim Grahl  13:04

Yeah, I will say, as far as how it felt. writing it out. What I was picturing is I think, you know, weeks ago, I said something about like, you know, I’m picturing he went home that night, you know, poured himself a drink. He’s sitting at the table, and his wife comes in, and she’s like, what happened? And he tells her what happened. So I’m like, let me just write the version, that he would just tell somebody where he doesn’t have to, like clean anything up. Right. And that was super helpful for me to like, just get down what I’m trying to say. And then when I went back and did the second version, as the police report. Yeah, I just started trying to any, like, get rid of anything that was just qualifying collapses as much as I could. And then that one part you pulled out in, you know, about that was I specifically went back to that part, and I witnessed and like read it like three, four or five times and was like, Okay, how did because he put cuz that was the part where he did put something extremely qualifying in right, that was his estimation of what happened. So I’m like, how did he do that in a way that didn’t come across as overly qualifying and I was like, okay, he just said I saw this. This is the conclusion I drew from what I saw. So I rewrote that version. The other thing is, hang on, I lost my train of thought of something that Lesley had said. What part did you pull out Lesley

Leslie Watts  14:54

Shaw. I think Sean pulled out a piece the piece about throwing I was under the bus.

Tim Grahl  15:04

Yeah, I’ll come back to that. Oh, the quivered. Yeah, that part. Okay. So the other piece was that, you know, was that part where the voice quivered? And I was like, I like when I see put a different verb than a different verb than a different verb. And then I’m like, I don’t know, quick, because I felt like quivered might be too, like, too much of like, getting his opinion in there instead of just what happened. But I’m like, I don’t know. You can see something quiver and quivers, you know, so it was just, it was the amount of light going over that in my head. I would like to. So that was the part where he said, Hey, asshole. So the other thing I did is, anywhere there was dialogue, I just copy and paste it in. Because I thought that the dialogue is the place that I’m allowed to throw Dawson under the bus without using my own words, I’m using his own words. So that’s why I left that in, in particular, because I thought it was a really good way to, you know, he could just say, like, in a one of the, you know, several weeks ago, Y’all said, like, there’s probably cameras in there. So if they check the cameras, it needs to match what actually happened. And so I’m like, this is a really simple way for him to be like, hey, you know, this is what he said, I put it in the report, you know? Anyway, so good to hear the good feedback on it. But yeah.

Leslie Watts  16:42

So I want to talk a little bit about, about something that you mentioned, that was really hard about this, and to when we were talking you and revisit that is that you said it’s really hard to to make it seem subjective. And by that, I think you meant to make it valence, just so that Sam understands what’s being communicated to make it what I took from that was that you were saying that it’s really hard to, to valence, a police report that is supposed to be objective and presenting just the facts. And so and, and that, yeah, it’s really it’s Dawson. Is that to conform to the controlling idea that we are the, you know, the idea that we have about this story about how you send a signal without or with plausible deniability, is that, that he would probably smooth it over though, because CCTV is going to pick up what he actually does. But the interpretation of it can be the, you know, sort of the spin that that he puts on it is going to be you know, can’t he’s got a little wiggle room, there is what I mean. So, taking out the words and describing the actions in such a way that it’s a little hard to tell, or it’s up to interpretation, whether he was giving him money to kind of help a poor guy out, or he was giving him money to pay him to get out. That that gives that would give our our author who is Watson, the benefit, it would give him the benefit of that plausible deniability, while also staying true to what objectively can be observed through other means. Does that make sense?

Tim Grahl  19:00

Yes, that makes sense. Okay, so is there any other feedback on this? And then what would you say needs to happen next? So should I go on to write the other I think there’s five more tropes? Or, or would you like to see me iterate something else on these particular ones? And then my other question I meant to ask earlier was, how was the handoff to? Because that’s the part I’ve struggled with a ton is handing it off to Randall as the protagonist and then maintaining him as the protagonist. How did how did that come across?

Shawn Coyne  19:45

Well, for me, it worked because what you’ve got is and this is this is a really interesting point that that may or may not meet his his power which makes us step back. And it makes us start to feel for him. Because up so specifically, here’s the trade off. Hello, sir. I said, my name is Detective Wilson, my colleague tells me you witnessed a crime. You’re not the lieutenant, are you? So when Randall says you’re not the lieutenant, are you? That is a very salient and counter intuitive response from someone who seemingly seems to be powerless. And so that trade off enables us as Sam to go, Whoa, what’s going on here? I wonder what’s going on in his head. So it transfers very, very smoothly. Sam’s attention. So Sam is no longer attending to specifically, Detective Wilson. She’s now like a wonder why he’s so insistent about seeing the lieutenant. And so that switch really works. Because you’re, you’re having the witness, have the courage to stand out and shine above these detectives who just want to get his ass out of the bullpen. So that’s a very, very subtle, but very clear signal to Sam, whoa, take a look at this guy. Maybe she puts your attention over here now. And then from that point forward, we do start to feel for Randall and we start thinking as if we are Randall, as opposed to Watson. So it I thought you did that very, very well. And I think part of the trick for doing that is to have the have the trade off figure who is now going to be responding, put forward a courageous act, so that they shine, they’re more charismatic than the previous protagonist. It’s sort of when you’re, you know, you’re walking through a mall or something. And, you know, it’s just a sea of people. And then you turn a corner. And then there’s, there’s a giant, you know, guy in a bear suit, like giving kids candy and stuff, you’re like, oh, what’s with the bear? Right? So it’s sort of that that is the the effect of this kind of transition, is that Randall is just this background player, and then bang, you’re not the lieutenant, are you? Then he becomes wielding, he has more secrets to reveal than the narrator. And that’s, that’s how you make the transition. So it has to do with this, this this universal value that we all have that I’ve sort of identified recently, which is we were attracted to charismatic, shiny things. And the transparent ones are more ethereal, and they kind of fade into the background. So when you’re trying to bring someone into the protagonist, chair, you need to have them make a statement that makes them shine with intrigue and excitement more than the other figures that had been previously on stage. And that’s what this does. Because he is doing a counterfactual to expectation. Sam is all Sam’s information that she has about Randall. Yeah, he’s a he’s a vagrant. He’s not worth your attention. And then bang, he’s like, I’m going to call you out. You’re not the Lieutenant. I asked to talk to the lieutenant. Where’s Lieutenant? That’s not what somebody who is unimportant. Does they go oh, sorry, man, get out of here. So nicely done. And if you see how a tiny little change like this can have very, very big signal to Sam. So I think you handled this transition perfectly.

Leslie Watts  24:30

I said the thing that I want to I agree that this handoff is beautiful. And just really well executed. It’s the thing that I talked about, about parallel parking. It’s like did you put the car exactly where you intended to? And and you did and so that’s wonderful. That the only thing I wanted to eat, ask a question about is to me the ignoring Dawson’s protest is a little All extra something right? Like it’s not in the original. And so what I just want to explore about why we might include it or why it might not be a good fit here. So when we I don’t know who wants to respond to that I’m I’m mainly posing the question, because it kind of it feels a little off to me. It’s not in the original, but I don’t know if it’s the if that is a bad thing, or if it means that it’s it’s a, it’s a lovely innovation. So does anybody have any thoughts on that? I

Tim Grahl  25:38

mean, the original eyewitness or the original version that I wrote, You mean, eyewitness

Leslie Watts  25:43

there? Yeah, the original eyewitness.

Danielle Kiowski  25:45

Yeah. And mechanically, because I think what what you’re saying about the charismatic attachment is absolutely right. And it’s about what Sam wants to do. But we also have to have the mechanics to enable her to do what she wants to do. And mechanically, that transition starts a couple of lines before. And so this is, again, something well, and I say a couple lines before, I think actually that the way that you’ve elevated the first trope makes this trope play nicely. It’s like because we already care about Dawson or not. So is it? Yeah, it’s Oh, Watson. Yes. Sorry. There are so many so many different names here. Yeah. So because we already already care about Watson. It’s, it’s more of that play of equal, so we’re willing to make that shift. So that’s set up in the first trip. But getting back into the mechanics, what happens is that you have a very strong first part of the sentence, I continued across the bullpen, ignoring Dawson’s protest. So now, it’s not just like, oh, cool, we agree that I can go question the sky, and he’s leaving, now it’s an output in that first half of the sentence. So that’s where the elevation of that first trope pays off mechanically, to allow that to be an output. Then I entered the breezeway, that’s differentiated as a new input. And then you have the witness looked up at the noise, then lowered his eyes back to the floor. So what’s really lovely here is that you have Randall looking up. And it’s it’s a breakdown that we don’t know if it’s a payoff when we find out that he is a strong agent. But the word that I really want to pick up on here is, is the noise. So it’s out the noise. And so what that’s doing is that it’s telling us so to back up, this is from Watson’s perspective, he doesn’t know that Randall looked up because you heard a noise. But he’s projecting into Randles experience and saying, because he looked up, he must have heard a noise. So you see, he’s projecting into his consciousness, and he’s simulating what it’s like to be Randall. And what that is telling us as the audience is, YouTube should be doing that. And we do that for our protagonists. And so just that tiny inclusion of agonist so good work.

Shawn Coyne  28:27

Well, Mike, my gut about it is that a police report has delivered bread crumbs inside of it, right? So the bread crumbs are very, very subtle qualifications that are signaling to the internal affairs department. So the trick is, you can’t have too many bread crumbs. So asshole, I think is too loud, of a bread crumb, if you will. So he would, he would cover up and he would say, hey, he said instead of Hey, asshole, and then the ignoring but it’s sticky. It sticks in your mind, why wonder why Dawson was protesting. And it’s gonna make you want to reread this police report, and maybe even check the cameras, and maybe even check the audio. Right? So in my estimation, this is really well done, but you can only do it once. So I would choose if I were Tim, to keep the Dawson’s protest because it’s very, very subtle. But it does pass a lot of information to Sam. Whereas the asshole could be Oh, this guy’s got a bug in his ass about about his partner. Oh, I can see where this is going. He’s gonna blame his To partner and now we’ve got to deal with not just this murder, but this, the morale and the thing. But if it’s just that, ignoring his protest, because it’s a little bit plausible deniability, right? Well, what why was he protesting officer? Oh, I think he was just protesting because he was irritated by the vagrant. Really? You think so? Or maybe you think it’s possible, he just wanted to get him out? Because he really did have information? I don’t know. I’m not saying that. Right. So I think it’s right on that sweet spot of could tip either way, depending upon the reader. And so you really want this to be fully subjective, with tiny break crumbs that will tip it one way or other and what what the this police report is supposed to tip into is, we got a problem here, folks, chaos is starting to take over the police department. Let’s take our eyes and attention to what’s going on here. We’ve got rampid corruption, it’s it’s it’s all over the place, from my my partner all the way up to Lieutenant. So that’s how I would respond. That’s how I would support that choice. If I were your editor. And somebody raised the question, I would say no, I think we got to keep this yet.

Tim Grahl  31:29

I was just gonna say, you know, on the version that’s at the top, Danielle had said, this looks like this reads more like Dawson is just being lazy, instead of actually actively trying to keep them apart. And so that was the part I tried to ramp up in this version is like it’s the way I was thinking of it. And I don’t know how much of this came through and and how much that matters. But when Watson first walks in, he doesn’t want to talk to that guy, either. Like no police officer is looking for more opportunities to interact with the homeless. But Dawson working so hard to keep him from talking to him is what spikes his interest of like, now I’m going to talk to him because, you know, it’s like when your kids are like, no, no, don’t go in there, you know, and you’re like, Well, now, I wasn’t gonna go in there. But now I have to go in there. And so that was also another thing of like, again, I for me writing out the version, just that I think that’s what was causing me so much trouble in the previous ones, as I’m like, trying to get in what I feel like needs to be in without getting it in the way I would normally get it in. So just giving myself the freedom to just write it exactly how I wanted to write it. And then, you know, the it was basically just an editing job on that version of just like pull that out, pull that out, pull that out. Okay, that has to stay? How do I get it in there in a way that a police, you know, so then I could like, I think trying to do both at the same time, I just don’t have the skill set yet. So being able to do one version. And then now I switch over to only doing one thing, which is turning what I already wrote into a police report, that was way easier than trying to like do them both at the same time. And so, yeah, that that is a tool, that’s something that stuck in my head now is like if I ever get stuck like this, again, I’m going to just write the version I want to write. And if it’s if it needs to read differently, then I’ll just edit it into that, then trying to do them both at the same time. I feel like if I maybe did that, let’s say I was writing a book, and it was all need to read like a police report. You know, maybe by the fifth sixth seventh scene, I could start doing it on my first draft. But I would need to, I would need to like build up that muscle because that that alone that made it again, I’ve literally just like, Okay, how do I write that as a police report? And I would type it out? How do I write that as a police report, I type it out. And it was an it took probably the same amount of time to write them both, as it did the right just one version of the previous ones I was turning into it just went so much faster.

Danielle Kiowski  34:30

That’s super interesting as a process. I I do want to note that I think that’s relying heavily on your intuition, which worked in this case, right, mostly, but we have the asshole in there. And so So I think that it’s I think that’s great to to get the draft done and then and then I still think that the the kind of stuff that we’re doing about pulling out those indices. Your words and looking at them. That’s what’s going to make it more reproducible for you in the future. Because you know, when you’re talking about doing the book and pulling out, like doing this 567 times, what you would be doing is learning the fine points of what works in the narrative device. And so, then by the seventh time, then you would be essentially training your intuition to look for the right details. So I think that that’s, and also doing a very detailed post mortem of why you made those choices, like the noise thing, right? Like you said, yeah, I totally did that intentionally. But maybe next time you will, you know. And so, like, I do want to get back to to this example, because I think that’s a really good illustration of how you’re, how you’re doing some things intuitively really well. And so I wanted to look just a little bit closer at the two examples of the ignoring Dawson’s protest and the Hey, asshole. So what I wanted to point out is one that as Sean is saying, Hey, asshole is very shiny to us, because of it being profanity. But what’s really interesting is that when we look at it from a perspective of narrative function, it is doing less for the story. And it’s that that is the problem. Because when you say, he says, Hey, asshole, would you take 10 bucks to leave? You can grab a fifth that Mr. Whiskers before? No. So it’s just extra. So that is what we would call like gratuitous profanity, not because it’s excessive, right. But because as I was saying before about the transition, it makes it into an output. And I want to go up a level of analysis. So to really ground this in the analysis that we did, that first trope is all about sizing up the team. And so it’s about checking out what Dawson’s essential tactic is, because at the beginning of it, Watson doesn’t know, he needs to know by the end. And so when capelli does the same thing to McGruder, he succeeds in getting Magruder on his side, because they’ve they’ve decided, all right, if you want to waste your time, that’s fine. Because McGruder is just out for himself. He just wants points with the captain. What’s different is that Dawson is actively corrupt. And so I think it’s very important mechanism where it’s like, oh, now I can I can call in you. So what happens and eyewitness is that capelli buzzes Magruder says, Hey, we’ve got something, calling some guys for our lineup. McGruder hears, oh, we’ve got something. But I’m stuck in here with a witness. So that means you McGruder can go ahead and get point highest drink and get. So he thinks, Okay, I can get points, right. So he calls him in, but that that moment won’t be there in yours. Because Dawson’s not looking for points. With the lieutenant. He’s already got it. They’re already in cahoots. They’re colluding. And so he wants to instead, he he’s probably going to get his buddy to salient to him that like, hey, our plan is in jeopardy are

Tim Grahl  38:31

Yeah, I haven’t thought I have not thought downstream. But I did do that. That actually I did do on purpose. Because I was thinking the scoring point staying is something that’s important, but not not like, important to the there. What came to me as I was writing is there is not a moment there is there’s literally nothing Watson can do. That would get Dawson to let him talk to this witness to get his permission. Because Dawson sees it as a threat to himself and the lieutenant and there’s there’s nothing there’s nothing. And so that’s where I’m like he’s the only way I can actually get him in there is if he just ignores him, and just does it anyway. And so that part I did do on purpose. Because when that came to me was just this like, Oh, well. No any other if there’s if he ever if Dawson ever let him then then the what we have set up is what Dawson wants his his need in this or whatever it does. It’s not real because he wouldn’t actually do that he would go all the way to the end of protecting him stopping short of like tackling him you know, something like that. That would obviously raise the stakes too high. So that’s why I just had him walk in there and just stop talking because I think Watson realizes there’s nothing I’m going to say to him. That’s going to let me in there. So I’m just going to do it anyway.

Shawn Coyne  40:13

Well, that also, that’s also a really. We also have to remember there’s another change in this story, right? So this is not 1950s police precinct. This is full surveillance. So Dawson cannot just tackle Watson, because it’s all being taped. So he needs to come up with another tactic. And the protest isn’t working. So what Danielle was saying is fascinating, because she’s absolutely right. So he’s gonna go see if he can get a cup of coffee, which the coffee station is right near the lieutenant. And then he’s going to mumble something. And so now, the the atmosphere of full surveillance is on the page without you ever having to write, oh, well, there were surveillance cameras all over and everything that we taped in the CC, you know, and there’s another trick that I would always subtle tricks, but what you would do is put like, you know, Nashville police station, oh, 601 24 frame 36. And that would be sort of the entry at the top of the thing, which would tell Sam, oh, this is a police report. So these are tricks that I would use as an editor if I was under deadline, and they but the writer could not fully execute the police report. You can use little signs like that, to sort of help Sam along if the signals are a little noisy. So but anyway, that I just wanted to follow up on Danielle’s point, because she’s absolutely right. It really, really locks in that first trope. And seeing now we’re moving into the next trope. And it’s clear, also what what’s the other thing that we were talking about? You’ve got to put the problem space on stage. The problem space is corruption, then it’s lacking. And so you did and you did it very well. And now there’s an intrigue in anticipation of what’s going to happen next. He’s pissed off his partner, he’s talking to this homeless guy who doesn’t even want to talk to him. Something seriously going on here. And that’s called Narrative drive. That’s the engine that is generated. You’ve got governing and generator functions. And then you have the narrative engine, which is now clipping along at a nice pace.

Tim Grahl  42:52

Okay, so any other feedback because when I just scan through for you, like one that stood out to me that I thought you guys might call me on is when I said, so. I’ll take a run at him. I said and approach the breezeway. Dawson shouted at me to stop I got it, he said evenly. Like, that was a qualification of the what I was trying to get across was Dawson shouted, and then he like calmed himself down and spoke evenly to me. So it’s, you know, like, but that was one that I was like, ooh, I wonder if they’re going to call me on No.

Shawn Coyne  43:35

Again, I think it was the appropriate pitch for the narration because it’s serving a purpose. Okay, plausible deniability. Hey, this guy is under control. He said evenly. So the message that you sent across was, he got a little bit heated, and then he pulled himself back, which is a tell like, if this guy is worthless, why would you bring yourself back down? So I thought that that choice was good, was good and okay. And I think it was in, in keeping with the narrative device, it’s a little bread crumb, not a big one evenly. It could be complimentary, and it seems as if it’s objectively like you said without emotion so I didn’t have a problem with that. And maybe Leslie or Daniel that but it’s the kind of thing that was so smoothly in the story that it didn’t stand out, like asshole did, right. So it served its proper purpose. It was in tune. So it’s think about hearing again, hearing is a melodic rhythmic and, and harmonic experience, harmonic experience. And so when you’re listening to narration when it’s Both rhythmically flowing, melodically flowing and harmonically flowing, you don’t even it’s flowing, it’s flowing. And it feels as if and flows so well, that when he writes it is his his narration just goes right. Like, have you ever read any of his non fiction work, but especially the baseball book is fantastic. And it really just flows. Moneyball. And it feels as if you’re just right there in the room. So and what’s his, what’s his voice? It’s Michael Lewis. Malcolm Gladwell, another very fluent, beautiful narrative flowy. Writer. So when that’s working, all of those subtleties of the of the pitches are in keeping, and they lead you down a primrose path such that your cognitive system says this must be true. So there’s great cognitive experiments where they they will give like different font sizes and strange kind of Serif fonts to people the exact same content. And they would say, could you read this? How true Do you think it is? And if it’s a weird, funky font, and it’s difficult to read, they go, I don’t know, it’s the one who knows. But if it’s in a very fluid font that’s easy to read. They think it’s more true. And it’s the same content. It’s the same thing with narration, the more fluid and melodic harmonic and rhythmic it is, and the balancing of that, the more truthful, it comes across to Sam. And so there’s a reason why I’m saying these things. And Leslie and Danielle and I were trying to get that, that rhythmic flow of the narrative device such that it feels effortless to read. And when it feels effortless to read, and we can hear the voice. Sam says, this is true. This is not false. This is not bullshit. This is true. So knowing how to vary the that the melody, the harmony and the rhythm of the narration. You know, it takes a while to learn. I mean, these these great narrative nonfiction writers are, they’ve been doing it, you know, years and years and years and years, such that they have a voice Jimmy Breslin had a voice. You know, Rachel Carson had a voice. All the great. Nora Ephron. You read Nora Ephron and it’s like sitting next to the funniest person in the world. Hilarious. And so this is about learning different, you know, melodies, rhythms and harmonies and attuning them to the demands that Sam is asking for. And so Sam is a loves police procedurals, you better give Sam the tune that she wants to hear her story on where she’s gonna say, this is somebody faking? It’s not working. This is some fake police. This is nothing like Ed McBain. Right. So that’s why we use masterworks why, because we want to tune into the frequencies by which they harmonize bring rhythm and melody to their narration. So this is what you said earlier, was really good. Okay, I don’t know how to do that. So what I’m going to do is I’m going to write the content the way I would do it, and then I’m going to take this and I’m going to compare it to Ed McBain and I’m going to change mine. I’m going to rip out the qualifications. And that’s the way I’m going to do it. And then you also set a brilliant thing. I bet after I do that seven times. I might not need to do that as much as I did before. And then you’re starting to learn how to speak like Ed McBain. This is how actors work. You know how you become a very good actor. You practice. You try a bunch of things. You fail all the time and you’ve got a director. And it could be three directors saying none no start from step one. Try it again. And guess what you say the same words over and over and over and over again. It’s not the content. It’s the The way in which you say it. And you’ve got, it’s not just delivering a monologue, either you have to be in play with the other people on the stage. And so what, what makes a great play? While the play is great, that’s a good thing to start. And then it’s rehearsal. And then it’s more rehearsal. And then it’s more rehearsal. And oftentimes, they always say, terrible preview. Great show. Why? Because people panic. They don’t get it, they don’t get it. They don’t get it. And we’ve got to, we got a lunch tomorrow. And the dress rehearsals terrible. You know what people say when they go home, we’re going to kick ass tomorrow. Why? Because everybody’s about to kill themselves. And when they get on the stage tomorrow, and when shit hits the fan, they’re going to nail it. And that’s usually what happens. People get panicky when everything’s going great in theater. That’s why everybody’s a mess in the theater. And that’s why it’s fun to be in the theater because everybody’s right on it. And so it’s okay, if you go Batty, every now and then and then you but you’re learning by doing by trying by imagining by listening by seeing by feeling if you don’t listen, see and feel as the creator, how the hell do you expect Sam to listen, feeling and see what you’re trying to communicate? If you won’t even do it? Why would she? You’re not going to be able to communicate with her if you’re not trying it. And so what does that mean? That’s so ridiculous. It’s it means exactly what you did. I’m going to do it my way. And then I’m going to think try it again. Like the last the last episode we did. It was like everybody’s ready to throw up their arms. And guess what happened? You’re like, oh, you know what? I’m going to try it again. You had a terrible dress rehearsal. And then you you delivered something. You did the first two tropes, and they work really well. Just minor tweaks. This is really coming along. And it seems effortless now, right? Well, it wasn’t, we’re in month six on this, this thing. But it’s paying off.

Tim Grahl  52:28

You know, when you said that, I saw this video, this interview with Gerard Butler about that famous line and 300 where he’s like, he yells This is Sparta. And he kicks the guy into the hole. And he talked about how he had like, done it over and over and over. And you know, they were taking take after take after take and they they actually call it it was like alright, you know, we got we got one that’ll work. And he just goes you know what, let me just try one more time. And then he just like, he’s like, I just decide, I’m just going to scream it at the guys as loud as I can. He goes and of course that was like, that’s the line everybody remembers from the movie. But when you’re talking about actors doing that, that’s that’s what came to mind. So, so at this, I mean, should I just then finish the scene? Is that my homework is do the rest of the tropes or do you want me to do anything on these? What What should I work on next?

Shawn Coyne  53:26

I’m game to let you run and see if let you run and finish this thing. And let’s just see how it goes and use the same technique that you use before. And let’s see. Let’s see what happens.

Tim Grahl  53:39

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. Along with that, if you want to see my scene from this week, or any of the transcripts or anything from past episodes, you can see all of that at story grid.com/podcast. Also, if you’re interested in any of our titles, we have masterwork guides, we have Beats, we have all kinds of things to help you with your writing. You can go to story grid.com/books. As always, we appreciate you listening, continuing to listen and if you want to support the show, a really great way to do that is simply tell another author about the show, or go to Apple podcasts and leave us a rating and review. Thanks as always for being a part of our work here at Story Grid. We’ll see you next week.


The Book

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.

First Time Writer

Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.


Is this your first crack at writing and finishing your book? Are you lost on how to tackle this project? This is the place to start.