Episode 283: Line Edits: Putting the Final Touches on Eye Witness


Hello, and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. My name is Tim Grahl. I’m the CEO of Story Grid, and I’m struggling writer trying to figure out how to tell a story that works. Joining me shortly is Shawn Coyne. He’s an editor and writer with over 30 years of experience. And he’s the creator and founder of Story Grid. Along with him is Leslie watts, the editor in chief of Story Grid Publishing, in Danielle Kiowski, the chief academic officer story officer Story Grid University. So as you know, we’ve been working on this iteration of eyewitness by Ed McBain since I think, April, April or May, something like that. And I’m happy to say this is the last episode in that series. So as you’re about to listen to, we’re cleaning up the final bits of my story, fixing a few things, and getting it to the point where it’s done, and it’s publishable. And so what we decided a few weeks ago that we’re going to do with this is take the final version of my story. And I witnessed by Ed McBain, and then all of our analysis of it of the 624, the genre, the beat by beat analysis, the trope analysis, all of that. And we’re going to put it together in one volume that we’re going to publish through Story Grid Publishing. So the final version of the story of my story is going to be in there all of the breakdown all of the analysis that we’ve kind of spread out through this entire podcast, we’re going to put that all together in a book, and we’re going to publish it through Story Grid Publishing, probably in first quarter of 2023. So we’ll make sure to let you know for all of you that have been listening along, when you’re able to get your hands on that we’ll announce it on the podcast and our email list and everywhere. But I just really appreciate you coming along. For the ride with me. I think it’s been really it’s been really good for me, I’ve learned a lot. And I’ve heard from a lot of you that you’ve been learning alongside me. So we’re really excited about it. The next couple of weeks, we’re going to be talking about the Story Grid Guild, and some things that are happening there. And then we’re going to be starting a new project in December. So I’m excited to share all of that with you. But for now let’s go ahead and jump in and finish off with this final episode. Looking at eyewitness by Ed McBain All right, so before we really jump in today, I have to say something that that happened a few days ago that was kind of funny, is


you know, Shawn, and I were talking I think it was when Sean and I were talking it was basically like talking about what we do as Story Grid and how we spend our time. And, you know, we should mostly spend our time doing things that we enjoy doing. And the first thing that came to my mind was like, you know, I just love doing the podcasts like it’s just so enjoyable. I get to meet with these people every three every week and get three just brilliant opinions on my writing. And and I was like wait a second, like that is not normally how I feel. I’m like, Oh, it was two weeks of good feedback. And I forget the light 10 weeks before and I’m like this is amazing.


So I thought that was funny.


So we’re continuing to work on our I’m continuing to work on writing my iteration of I witnessed by Ed McBain. And the last two weeks ago, I wrote to tropes that worked well. So then last week, I expanded it and rewrote the entire short story. Y’all gave feedback on several different things. Specifically, probably, for me, the part that I knew was going to take the most work was writing the first the first sentence or two in the last couple of sentences. And so you gave me a lot of great feedback last week actually went back and listened to the last bits of last week’s episode when I was working on it of


Danielle, going systematically through the beat, and then Leslie’s overview of the 624. So I went through all the notes, if you’re listening all the notes or comments in line in the Google Doc that we link to so you can go back and look at those.


But I sent it to you and


yeah, it’s your turn now to give feedback. Well, since I’m, I’m the blue guy, and I didn’t give you any comments on the document because I’m like the Stalter.


My read of it was that it? It’s a line at it at this point. And all that means is a meticulous look at each word choice. Tightening up some sentences. I thought, I think that the first couple of sentences still need some work, but I did get a chill at the end. I thought that the way you solve the ending problem


was was pretty good. It made me go Oh, nice how he tied that up with the difference of


the way the


lieutenant looks at homeless people versus the way Watson does. I thought the the $20 turnover worked well.


I just thought,


I think you’re at the end of the road here. In terms of iterating. I did not do the level of analysis that Lesley and Danielle did. So I’m interested to hearing what they think. But generally, if I read this


on submission, I would say yeah, this is this is a person who knows how to write a story. And it’s definitely something that’s publishable. So that’s where I came down on it.


I don’t. So let me just turn it over to Leslie and Danielle, but that’s, that’s where I am.


I think so. So, you know, we had a lot of green feedback last time. And I think when you’re seeing about a line edits on, I think we are at that green level. And that’s where we were last week to really, you know, we’re we’re, we’re just figuring out what the words on the page need to be, because we’ve done a lot of, of structural work.


And that said, I think that there are there are just a few areas to fix. But what concerns me is that, especially with the changes in the beginning, from last time, it seems like you’ve lost your way in the narrative device. And, and I find that concerning because


while it is in one place.


What that says to me is that the the is that you’ve lost the process for applying that narrative device. And so I think that is actually symptomatic of a bigger read problem.


Because it’s not consistent with the rest of how you how you wrote the story.


The ending I think,


is better.


I like the exchange of the money I and I think that the


how you solve the problem of having an look at the picture and then get interrupted. I think that works. I’m not sold on the last four lines. I think those needs some tweaks. I think those are at the very green level, though. So to me, I think the biggest issue right now is happening in those first lines. And I And I’m concerned that it means that we need to take a step back and really reevaluate how you’re relating to this narrative device, because we can just fix it, right? But the point is for you to learn the skill, and making sure that you learn the skill of that narrative device may mean that we need to delve into this a little more. So I’ve always had an issue with the first beat of eyewitness, and how it matches the narrative device, where I have felt like,


I have felt like it doesn’t. And then when I think about the fact that you guys have never expressed that, it makes me feel like I must not understand what I’m missing. Because to me, the first beat of eyewitness is very evaluative and doesn’t, doesn’t really hit on that like, because it’s like, yes, he’s saying what he saw, but he’s making a big jump to say the murderer had sunken into the brown pits of his eyes. It’s like maybe he was just tired. You know, like you’re making the evaluation, that the murder is what caused the way that he looked. And so I did struggle with how to write a first line


that that accomplish it. I don’t really understand why honestly, I don’t understand why that’s allowed in this very strict narrative device of a police report. Because to me that does not read like a police report that reads like


I’m evaluating the sky. And so what I tried to do is


mere, you know, I couldn’t figure out a good way to do it, but as clean as Ed McBain because I do love the fact that like


what’s the Struthers know who’s the who’s the detective, isn’t me


Groups know


whose capelli capelli says Now what the hell got into him? Well, all of a sudden in the first line is he had seen a murderer like that. So clean and good.


I did try to do something like that where it’s like he asked is a bomb ever a useful witness, and I started with the weight of witnessing a murder. So anyway, I’m Yeah, I agree with the first line


not being in the device of a police report. And I definitely, I’d like what I had before, which was just starting with, to me, that’s how a police report would start is I entered at this time, and this is what I saw. And so if y’all could get me on board with why that first line still works. And I witness besides the fact that it just makes a great reading experience, but I feel like it.


It doesn’t jive.


I’ve always felt like that. We’ve just never gotten around to really talking about it.


Yeah, I think I can address that a little bit. Because yeah, you’re you’re absolutely right, it would not appear in a in a police report. But it’s a kind of,


because this is a police report, in the form of a short story or short story in the form of a police report. Right? There’s some things that have to give way in the narrative device in order to make it a story.


And so


yeah, so we should have, we probably should have mentioned that at a certain point in the past. But but having it come up now is really great, because then we can talk about what is what do we need this to do? Right that, that opening line, show Sam, how to interpret everything that follows. And so in sometimes in a story, you’ll have a preface, right, that is not part of the main part of the story. It’s not a preface in that case, it’s a prologue. But I’m getting my piece mixed up. But but the the prologue is helping to get you get the reader where they need to be


in order to hear the story. Right, but it’s not part of the story proper. And so I think that that’s what the the function that that’s serving there. And while it kind of when I was reading the the changes you made, it jumped out at me, but I think some of the fixes are not that I don’t think it’ll take a lot to fix it. But but but good for you spotting that, hey, wait a minute, guys, this doesn’t actually work. And, and, and mentioning that because I think that that it’s it is something in between a literary story and a


and a police report. So when you’re when you’re thinking about if you think about it in terms of this is kind of a prologue This is showing this is getting Sam in the right frame of mind.


What do you what changes might you consider making to that, that opening? So if I’m looking at eyewitness,


which I am right now.


We we could open the story on beat two and it would work. He sat now with his head in his hands his fingers nervously exploring the narrow puram we’re in the story and we can keep going.




when I look at I like that you


the way you talked about that being a prologue, but I’m not sure like what


I mean, I guess the frame of mind that Ed McBain would want somebody to be in with that first beat those first two sentences was like


immediately empathizing with who would become the protagonist of the story. Right? So I immediately feel bad for this guy, because he’s seen a murderer and that had affected him deeply. Right.


Do you remember when we talked about it last week? Do you remember why we said oh, you’re you need to add that sentence. What was what’s it doing functionally in the in the story? So, so we don’t have the inciting incident. On the on the page for




For Randal


until much later in the story, if we don’t have that there. Now there may be other ways to accomplish that.


This but if we’re following the pattern, this is how McBain does it he gets that that inciting incident in the first line, he had seen a murder. So we need to establish that it’s the inciting the global inciting incident of a crime story and in that, so we do need that somewhere.


There may be another way to accomplish it, though.


So I think that


one other thing about it, like, to me what’s not what’s not working about it, you know? Like, how is it not fitting


the pattern and the way that Ed McBain sets it up, is it feels a little, this is the wrong word, but it feels a little flowery. It feels like there’s a little too a little too much. And I actually think that cutting a few words would would


cut that down a little bit. So something like witnessing a murderer had rounded his back sloped his shoulders and darkened his eyes, comma as if he had recently emerged from a year underground. The the year underground might be a little much a little heavy. But But I think just cutting those extra words already makes it read a little more smoothly helps drop us into the story more quickly. Yeah, so talk. And I’d like to hear from both of you on this is like what you so


the goal of this is to establish the inciting incident.


And we’re we have a little bit more leeway with the strict police report narrative device.


So I would like now that I understand that specifics like that, of what what I miss what is what about this part miss because it was very much like


it’s like I felt like, like when your child tries to imitate you, but he doesn’t really understand what you’re doing. So he just tries to kind of act like you. That’s what I felt like as I was I was like reading his sentence. And then I was like, I’m gonna write something like that, but I’m not really sure why I’m writing it this way. Can I just drop in here for just a bit?


I think another way to sort of look at this is in terms of


like writing an essay. So police report, I suspect


they would like an opening sentence that’s very decorative.


So that


so when I say decorative, I mean minimal qualification. So something like that. It was wrong period. That’s a declaration of a full of our evaluation. Right? So the bottom line is a declaration.


Watch out. That’s a declaration of sentience, right because it doesn’t qualify that much. It just alerts you to a






So McBain when he writes he had seen a murder. That’s the entire police report. And what follows is the support the argument that McBain capelli is making that this person actually did witness the murder.


So when you’re looking at the beginning of your story, the purpose at the beginning is sort of your thesis statement of the police report.


The witness was true.


He didn’t lie. That’s that’s the purpose. But you can’t say, Randall the homeless guy is on the up and up.


Why? Because he doesn’t know how deep the corruption goes.


So the the purpose of this opening statement is to give the answer to declare and to put down a clear indication that this guy witnessed the murder and his testimony should be taken seriously.


But we don’t want to qualify it too much because then it’s gilding the lily of that


declaration. So it’s like whenever you’re, whenever you get into sort of a disagreement with someone who’s, who always says, Just tell me the facts. I don’t want to hear anything about how you feel. Just tell me the facts. Right? So Fact Number one, it was wrong. Fact number two, well wait a minute,


it was wrong is a fully deeply qualified statement, because it’s decorative. So at the beginning of the, of the police report, they’re gonna want to get what, what Watson believed to be true as quickly as possible. So a simple declaration is qualitative. It has embedded qualification in in it, but you don’t want to put too much in of real qualification. Because you’re just going to give facts from that point on. And that’s a really nice transition, thesis statement. And then tell me the story. So it’s sort of like the, the headline, and then tell me the story.


headless body and topless bar, that’s a famous headline for the New York Post that oh, my gosh, give me the details, right. headless body and topless bar, just simple declar the fact of truth.


So that’s kind of the way I see this opening. And I agree with both Daniel and Lesley. Yours is it’s trying too hard.


It’s trying to prove the the truth of the statement in the actual statement. And you’ve got another 1000 words to do that.


So you want to make it very clean and quick. And almost so that the reader Sam


would almost gloss gloss over it. He had seen it Yeah, he’d seen a murder and


and then Oh, I get it, this whole thing is about proving that he had actually seen the murderer, and that they he actually identified the killer.


So that might be a little bit too abstract. But declaration is, is different than qualification and description. Declaration is a statement of abductive factual combination of inference and deduction. So there’s a triangle, right, there’s a triangle of proof. There’s one just one side of it is just deducing the facts from first principles.


That’s called deduction. The other one is induction. Induction is your Wait a minute. That can’t be true. It’s sort of like your insight thing.


Right? He looked at the picture. And then he got all squirrely, that meant the lieutenant’s the killer. So that’s induction. He never pointed at the guy and go, that’s the killer, right.


And then the third one is called abduction, which this is from Charles Sanders purse. And abduction is the combination of both deduction and induction. And the language that you use for abduction is declarations of statements. The language that you use for induction is description so that you can enable somebody to induce a truth and the language of deduction is explanation. So what you have are three tools for the writer, you have description that helps for getting Sam to in to have her own induction, meaning her own insight about what’s going on. You have explanation that is telling that will get Sam to follow the reason that the logic of it, and then you have abduction, which is a little sneaky thing, that’s a combo of description, and explanation, showing and telling. So that declarant of stuff is where the the true nature of the storyteller pokes through. It’s almost like


the voice of the Creator speaking.


So I hope that triangle helps because that’s what Sam is trying to do when she’s reading a story. She’s trying to deduce, induce and then add Deus. And What’s brilliant about this short story, McBain starts with the abduction first glosses over it and then


And he goes all the way circles down to the very bottom, which reifies the very first sentence. So that’s very, you know, I’m just talking in linguistic and argumentation representations here. So it’s a little tricky. But that’s always a good thing to remember this, that narrator has three tools, declaration, explanation, and description. We want to minimally declare. So you really save up to use that declare button only a couple of times, because declarations are can be very loud, especially if there’s a lot of qualifications around them.


Because then it’s like, what’s this writer trying to tell me? Why is he so on the nose? Right? That’s the on the nose thing.


So whenever you read a sentence, like


he really had a hard time connecting to people because of his childhood when he did it in any manner. Right, that’s called on the nose narration because


he didn’t like people that’s declaration.


He didn’t like people because it exhibited a bit. That’s too much description and qualification to a declaration.


That’s kind of I think, where this is where this went off the rails is that you’re like, oh, wait a minute, this is the one moment where I do simple declaration with minimal descriptive qualification. So when I talk about qualification, or quantification, that’s in the descriptive realm of, of narration. So more qualification, and more quantification is more description. More explanation is


describing if A equals B and B equals C, then C equals A, and walking you through an argument logically. So What’s tricky about writing is you want to have that beautiful deductive logic, and also the inductive description that enables the abductive. catharsis.


So I don’t know what good that was, but I hope it I hope it did, you know, speak to this problem in a Blue Zone kind of way. So


that’s my job here is to be the blue guy. So


I’ll stop there.


Yeah, I think that that that eliminates what the mode of the sentence needs to be. But


a couple of thoughts that I have


are like one that


in the rest of the story, you went more explicit with your narrative device than Ed McBain did and so you have


I think,


I think that because it’s stricter in your story, which is nice and works.


You have that wiggle room to add that little bit of literary but not but the problem is that the gap is wider.


Right? Because if you say like okay, Ed McBain says like here, your narrative device went stricter. And your beginning sentence went flower year. And now your gap has widened. Right? So you want to like make sure that your gap is is within tolerance.


So that’s one thing and then the more important thing to me


is coming out of Shawn, what you’re saying about


about presenting this reasoning and Leslie, what you’re saying about the inciting incident?


I don’t think that this story is answering the same question that Ed McBain is answering, and that is working. But it also needs to work in your first sentence. Because in establishing the inciting incident, as Leslie’s talking about, you are establishing what is important and thematically resonant about this inciting incident.


So Ed McBain is saying, Hello, this is a murder, not a mugging. And that is different because


he’s using this valence term for the crime to indicate what actually happened because the question here is about what actually happened.


And in your story, I really think the emphasis is more on whether Randall status is something that should


that should stand in the way


have his being taken seriously. So all of those other elements are there, right? Like, did it? Did he see it? How close was he? Who did it? Why did they do it? All of that is there. And those are important because those are crime elements. But the emphasis in your story is, do we listen to this guy or not? And when I read that first sentence, I do not know that Randall is homeless.


And I think that


it’s very important to get that question


out there in that first sentence, because, because that’s what answers


that last piece.


Can a guy like this be a useful witness? Yeah, a guy like this is worth listening to like, I think that you have to introduce that kind of, you don’t have to be very explicit about it. Like, we should always listen to homeless people like that would be very on the nose. But hinting at the importance of status in the story, I think is going to be key. So one of the things that


y’all said last week, was to do one of the pieces and try to tie the other one in and I feel like


what you just said.


So you had said you had you had some thoughts about the last four sentences. So now I want to hear those because I feel like that will affect this because that I feel like I do get that in and at the end. And so we can get that right. I think it’ll help me get it in the beginning. I don’t know if I’m thinking about that. Right? Yeah, I’m just


the last four lines, they just don’t


they’re not hitting and so we need to or I need to look at that why that is happening in my experience. So


looking at this versus eyewitness


you know, when capelli says


hold on, I should have pulled up the text so that I can capelli says Now what the hell gone into him all of a sudden.


Lieutenant Anderson shrugged. Really? I don’t know. I don’t know.


i What’s going on here for me. I want to talk about something that Leslie said in the last episode because it was so true. Which is this is a Whose side are you on scene and so everybody’s answering that


right and in when we get to the end that’s what we’re looking at.




when I read this did he tell you anything is abem ever useful witness I think that


I think that Watson is prematurely


signaling that he’s


on the lieutenant side capelli is leaving it really open ended right he’s like you can sink yourself if you want or you can and really is gonna sink himself either way because he’s either gonna confess to a murder or lie right but he is giving him this open ended Hey, buddy, show me who you are.


And and Watson here is giving him an out like this is a very directed


all right, we’re all going to be on the same team here. Now when we talked about that last time we talked about okay, they’re going to be want to be luminary they’re going to want to be we were talking about that for Wilson. But here I think Watson is taking on a lot of the modes that we talked about for Wilson last time.


Yes. So when I was thinking through this


I was and then comparing it back to the master work




the part


yeah, this was man it’s so tough to like hit everything because I the way I was thinking about this was


one I’m keeping in mind the even though I have some things in my story that are not the same we’re still looking at this as


it I always forget what it is. It’s like I know what it is the controlling idea of


what is it


that exactly for some reason, that will not stick in my head. So


I felt like


okay, so I do this trick with people.


I do this with my


kids all the time. So they say, they say, Hey, remember when I showed you that video on YouTube, about whatever, whatever, and I have no memory of it. So I just say, Okay. And they take it as I do remember it, but I’m not confirming that I remember it, I just say, okay, and then they keep talking. And I find this works really well, whenever somebody is trying to pay remember this? Or do Hey, have you ever heard of this, and I just go, okay, and then they just keep talking. So it’s this way of like me not actually saying anything, or confirming anything, but it gets me to what I want, which is for them to tell me whatever they want to tell me, right? Because then if I say no, then they’re going to pull out their their phone and try to find this YouTube video that I’m sure I don’t want to watch again. So in this case, I was kind of thinking of something like that of like, what can he say? That is saying nothing.


But teeing Wilson up to decide what he wants to do with it. Because he doesn’t want to say no, he didn’t tell me anything, because that’s easy to find out that that’s not true. Right. So that would be a lie, that there’s evidence against that. But he also doesn’t want to say he also doesn’t want to admit that he has said anything.


And so


and then I was thinking like Wilson would try to redirect him. Because of all the things we talked about last week. And I thought, yeah, but Watson already knows who Wilson is, he already knows exactly who he is, and what he would try to be doing. And he also is figuring out in his head, what he’s going to do about this. And so my thought was, this was a really simple way to take a question he does not want to answer, which is did he tell you anything? And give it right back to Wilson, that will actually redirect Wilson away from this question.


And kind of signal Hey, we’re on the same team, you don’t have to worry about me, knowing he’s got a report to write.


So that was like my thinking and how I was trying to address this.


Is by by him saying is is abem ever useful witness his asking the question. He’s actually not stating anything. He’s just asking, he’s just stating something in a form of a question that will get Wilson to stop asking him questions that he doesn’t want to answer. So I’m not saying I nailed anything. But that was my thought process is what got me there.


My sense is


that this is making


Watson more important than he is.


Wilson is really the star of this little exchange,


where his I mean, both, of course, anytime you have an interaction, both of them have to have really important goals and everything like that. But I think,


you know, when we talked earlier about earlier, meaning weeks ago, about the interrogation,


what we said is that Watson is neutral, and he’s just throwing out things to try and get people to tell him stuff.


Right. And here, what you’ve done is, is switched that, so Wilson is throwing out stuff. And now Watson is going into that.


He’s not managing anymore. He’s the one now who is having to do all these calculations. And so he’s not that tester of trust, like he was previously. So I think this


represents a shift in really his essential tactic.


And that’s why it’s, it’s not working. And so.


So I think that a lot of the mechanical things that you’re talking about, okay, he wouldn’t want to answer this.


Yes, but how could he still be in that kind of neutral mode? Because saying is above every useful witness? Technically, you’re correct, that asking a question doesn’t


commit him to anything. But there are gradations of that. There are questions that by asking them you imply certain things, and that’s what’s going on here.


So maybe, maybe it would be helpful to just kind of tell you what I’m thinking. Did he tell you anything? What do you think? That is super non committal. that I think would be more in line with what what Watson is doing


Is that he’s turning it back on him. He’s telling, he’s saying, I’m not going to show you any of my cards, you show me your cards first. Right? And then what do you think? And then that’s where we could talk about. That’s where now Wilson can introduce the propositions that we needed. So here, he’s not introducing a proposition.


He is agreeing


with Watson’s proposition.


And what happens here, like going down to the beat level again.


When you get redirected, you have the option to accept or reject that redirect. If you accept that redirect, and you say, Yes, we can go down this conversational path that’s enabling.


If you in turn a redirect, or if you defeat, then you’re rejecting that redirect, and it becomes depleting. So here, not that I’ve seen


that is a that’s enabling because it’s accepting that redirect.


And so what we need is four.


We need for him to


subvert that question we need for him to redirect out of what Watson is trying to do.


Because we need Wilson to be depleting and redirecting in this last line. So let me let me back up a second, because I just realized something because I’ve been switching back and forth is that


and I witness,


this is one beat long. And


capelli is the input or


in the lieutenant is the output her


and mine.


I have to Lieutenant as the input her.


And then, like I haven’t done a beat breakdown. But basically, the lieutenant speaks first. And then Watson responds.


And so one is that, maybe that’s a problem, because one of the things we realized last week is one of the problems you were telling me to fix. I had already fixed once I fixed something upstream. I forgot what it was.


But and also, then I started thinking, Okay, well, if I if I do that, where, you know, Watson’s the input, or Wilson’s the output or, and it’s one beat that whole.


Lieutenant try now now I started thinking, Well, how am I going to get the lieutenant to redirect him and Watson agree to be redirected? And like one input output exchange led by




I don’t know.


No one needs to agree to be redirected.


What I’m saying is here he does. And that’s a mistake, because that switches him back into enabling. So I think that’s a really good thing that you’re picking up on that, yes, Watson should be the input, or Wilson should be the output or


I feel compelled to state again, that they should have different names. And


but they, but yeah, so so they, so Watson should be the, the input or and that’s going to put him more into that neutral.


Like he can, he can continue his mode more there, because he’s not being prompted to


roll with the punches he’s being given. So I think that’s a really good catch. And you should do that. But I think also


I think that, that the


being really clear about this propositional statement, right is above every useful witness that needs to come from Wilson.


And so I don’t want to


I don’t want to trust that fixing the input or output or we’ll just do that because it could, but it could also fix it unintentionally. And so I think we need to be explicit about why he’s the one delivering that he’s the one delivering that because he is the one offering the proposition under which this hierarchy works. So he is essentially giving Watson


a criterion. If you agree with me about this proposition, then we’re on the same team. And if you don’t, you can get out




And what Watson does with that is that he writes the report. And his first line says, You know what, you can trust these people.


But without that,


without Wilson at the end saying, people who are on my team, do not trust homeless people


that that circular


dynamic doesn’t work. Yeah. And if I could follow that up just with another, another reason why this all makes sense, is that Watson, as the author wants to show that young cop how to how to do plausible deniability, right? This is how you do it. This is how you know how you shrug or how you right? How you don’t. This is abem, ever a useful, useful witness coming out of Watson’s mouth makes him look complicit. Right? It’s like, it’s a


he’s joining that team in an O. He’s, well, he’s only covertly disagreeing. But he, but that’s not going to so what the message that was sent to Sam, that young cop is that it’s okay to lie.


If your heart’s in the right place, and I think,


I don’t think that’s what’s what you want to say with the story. I think, you know, based on what you the way you’ve talked about it, it seems like what you want is, you want Watson to have that plausible deniability without committing, like looking like he’s committing, it’s gonna be just okay. Right? Or a shrug? Or? I don’t know, right? Something like that. So he’s, he’s not tacitly agreeing.


Yeah. And I would say he’s not even just tacitly agreeing. But I would take it a little bit farther, that he’s the first one to bring up this prejudice.


And so, so he’s having to make assumptions about what Wilson is thinking. And that shows that,


you know, I think that these that, that everything you said, Leslie is right, and, and just want to take it a little bit farther, where it’s like,




he’s instigating at that point, where he is offering up.


He’s offering up a terrible way for them to be together. So it’s not only it’s not like, oh, you know, I’m not gonna say anything about you being a really prejudiced person, because I want to make sure that I, that I get along here and he’s proactively being like, Oh, well, we don’t like these people. And that that’s why that makes him complicit.


So, from to reiterate this,


Watson needs to stay in that mode of just getting the other person talking.


And so he’s going to be the input or that gets Wilson to output.


And basically, I’ve got, I’ve got the right thing, I just have the wrong person saying it at the right time.


About is abem, ever useful witness and may not be those exact words. But that’s the sentiment that needs to come from Wilson, because then that would be redirecting. And all of the things we’ve talked about, which would tie back into the first sentence needs to be declarative.


About, like a thesis statement, like you said, Shawn, but my thesis statement has to be different than just it’s a murder, because my story is not about whether or not a murder had been committed. It’s about do we listen to people, people like Randall, when they come in trying to help us.


Did I sum that up correctly?


Yeah, I hate to to point something else out. But I just noticed that this is a


there’s a little bit of a problem even before the ending pay off. I think your your ideas about the effects are correct. But there is a small problem just before that where


Wilson says


detective Dawson says you’ve been questioning his witness. Yes, sir, I answered. I’d like to speak with him now. He looked at Perkins come with


Have me. Perkins looked between Wilson and me three times? No, his eyes settled on me. You have any spare change? I’m just looking for some help. Okay, that’s problematic because there’s no way that Randall would say no to the lieutenant.


Also, the way the lieutenant walks in and says Dawson says you’ve been questioning his witness. Dawson never said that this guy’s was a witness. He said that he was not, you know, not somebody they even pay attention to. So, we need to, you need to think about what Dawson would actually say there and then


figure out how to get Randall Perkins out of the situation without him blatantly saying no to the most superior officer in the station. So


I think if you look at McBain McBain sort of did it with with no dialogue.




you know, sort of a I he was out the door before I could do anything.


So anyway, this this is a small tweak, but it’s an important one because it it sets it escalates tension here. And to a degree that’s a little bit unresolved, it is unresolved. Like what that doesn’t make sense. Why would the lieutenant let some homeless guy tell him? No, that’s doesn’t work. So


and then then again, after this, after you clean that up, then your your strategy for fixing the last beat and the top of the story are valid. But you do need to think about that.


Well, while we’re on the subject of the parts between the beginning and end,


one of the things


one of the pieces of feedback last week, was that when he called out when Watson called out Randall it was too on the nose. And I adjusted that line.


It was before. Let me see you in pull it up here.


He said.


Watson said if you weren’t close enough to hear what they were arguing about, how’d you get such a good look at the killer? And I adjusted it to


so you were able to see him clearly but not hear the argument. Question mark. Does that work? Is that better? Yeah, that was great. That was great because it had plausible deniability into it. I was just clarifying what you said. And then when he breaks down, it’s a message to Sam. Oh, that was a clarification question. That wasn’t a


you know, a poking at the at the logic question. Right. So there’s two kinds of questions, clarification questions and challenging questions. So when you can you can question where you can have plausible deniability. You’re just asking for clarification. You weren’t. You weren’t, you know, challenging. So that you switch that from a challenge to a plausible deniability clarification question. And then when Randal broke down, it said, Oh, he thinks that he was poking him, but he was just asking for clarification. So that worked really well. I Yeah. So you did a really nice job with that, in my opinion.


And then there were two spots where I, where I referred to the lieutenant is big. The big man. I took one out, but I left the other in.


And I did it.


Hold on.


I should mark these beforehand.


Oh, thanks, Danielle. He said


it’s basically when he’s like, you know, Watson’s like, look, I’ve got a I gotta have more than this. And he says, I believe you but I need something to convince the big man to take us seriously. And I honestly I always liked that I put the take us seriously because I was trying to get him


to to get Randall to see them as a unit working together towards a common goal, instead of like us against each other. And so it’s like, I want them to hear you and you want them to hear you but we got to work together to get there. Do you think that that and that’s why I left


Big man in there because if it’s more like, it’s more loose, and, you know, and like, Hey, I think it’s a little too loose. I think it’s, it’s a little too colloquial. So I would say the boss


instead of the big man, because the big man is sort of like, when you just meet somebody and you use like familiar colloquialisms like that, it’s it sends a little bit of an error message to us, like, this guy’s getting a little bit too familiar with me. But when he says the boss, you can relate that’s more of a categorical that’s more generic than the big man. The big man is, you know, like, Hey, big guy. It’s a little bit like, what? Something’s weird here. So I would change it to boss. Just personally, I think you can get away with the big man, but I don’t think it’s as good.


So and I liked the fact you took out the other one. And I do agree with you, us, us is a nice way of really building a relationship with somebody without saying, hey, let’s we’re in this together, buddy. Instead, it’s like the boss has to take us seriously. So yes, I agree with that. So that’s, again, when I when I started I said this is a line Edit Project. That’s a line at it, I definitely would would change and I would change it and I’d say hey, here are my changes. Let me know if you think anything’s wrong. And chances are the writer would go Oh, yeah, I wrote boss


because it’s, it’s less salient in the read big man. Sounds a little bit off. But boss, that works.


Yeah, I had one other item in trope six, that I wanted to talk about that.


So this is the realizing the exes an existential threat trope. So the what? It’s Randles reaction when he figures out you know, when he recognizes Wilson, it feels a little too conscious to


to present right? In the in the McBain piece he’s like, No, you know, and he’s like, I don’t have anything to say. And he’s out of there like a shot here. It’s like he looks three times. And then no, you have any spare change.


You know, I’m just looking for some help is a little that’s a little too together for an existential threat being realized, I think. And so I think having his reaction, it doesn’t have to be a full on break down. The Running away is the break down but but just


a little less smooth, a little less having it together. There would be another suggestion I have. Well, as Shawn was talking about that section, I think there’s several things I can do to clean it up about


basically, with the way that Wilson says I’d like to speak with him now come with me, it like immediately pushes everybody into a corner where there’s only one way out. And so I feel like I could basically have him come in and establish himself. And then immediately, like, immediately, Watson and Randall, start playing this game. Like, you know,


where like, you know, your, you know, when your parent walks in and you and your brother were fighting but now like your best friends. It’s like It’s like he walks in and immediately




Watson kind of, I think I can fix it. I think I know how to fix it. I don’t know yet but I’ve got I’ve got my hands around it.


But I agree. Yeah, I think that whole thing doesn’t work.


Because once he


think I’ll just stop there. I think I’ve got my head around it. But I agree. Yeah, it’s just too it’s all of it’s a little too much and doesn’t ring true.


Because I feel like it would just happen faster. Like as soon as he walks in. They would start breaking down and getting him out as fast as possible.


Okay, so I feel like at this point, you know, I’ve got what I need to try to finish this up. So I’m happy to stop there. 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. As I mentioned at the beginning, this is the final episode of our series looking at eyewitness by Ed McBain. It goes back for several months. So that if you’re just jumping in now you’re going to want to make sure you go back and start from the beginning to get the full analysis and watch as I iterate through what ends up being 12 drafts 12 or 13 drafts of my version of iterating on eyewitness by Ed McBain so it was a really good project. It was really frustrating at times, lots of new learning lots of new skills that I’ve come across. And I’m really happy with the final version that we’re putting together. So again, soon, in the next few months, probably first quarter of 2023. We’re going to take everything we’ve done with eyewitness by Ed McBain put it in one volume that you’ll be able to access and buy through Story Grid Publishing. So we’ll announce that when we get there after the new year but thanks so much for being a part of everything we do here at Story Grid. As always, if you want to share this, this podcast with a writer friend of yours, that’s the best way you can support the show, or go to Apple podcasts and leave us a rating and review. Thanks so much for being a part of what we do 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.