Launching the Masterwork Experiment


Brokeback Mountain on the New Yorker website

Anne Hawley is the author of Restraint, a love story set in 19th Century London. She’s a Story Grid Certified Editor specializing in literary and historical fiction, and is the producer of the Story Grid Editor Roundtable podcast.


[0:00:00.5] AH: Hello and welcome to the Story Grid Podcast. This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better writer. My name is Anne Hawley and I’m subbing in for Tim Grahl who’s on a well deserved vacation. I’m a Story Grid certified editor, but I’m also an experienced novelist trying to ground my craft more solidly in the Story Grid methods created by Shawn Coyne. 

Over the next 10 episodes of the show, Shawn and I are going to put those methods to a very specific test. First we’ll strip down a masterwork and analyze it in detail, beat by beat. Then I’m going to try to write a brand new novella using exactly the same beats but in a whole different setting and style. 

Will I wind up with an innovative original story or a mere hackneyed copy? I guess we’ll spend the summer finding out. In this first episode of the series, Shawn reveals the title of the master work we will be using and lays out the experimental parameters that I will have to abide by. So step into the writing lab with us and let’s get started. 

[EPISODE]

[0:01:06.2] AH: Good morning, Shawn. 

[0:01:06.5] SC: Good morning. 

[0:01:10.2] AH: What are we doing here?

[0:01:13.9] SC: Well, first off, I would just like to say thank you for agreeing to be a part of this experiment. This is very much an experiment and as Seth Godin says, sometimes things just don’t work out. But I think it will. I think it will. And let me just sort of give you my global conception of what I’d like to do here. And you were chosen for a number of reasons, but, you know you’re a pro, you’re a pro writer who wants to try something unique and fun and different.

So here’s generally what the global concept of these next 10 episode series four Story Grid Podcast will be.

All right. So what I’m calling this is the Master Work Experiment. And the masterwork experiment is really about taking a very, very high resolution look at a work of art that, I believe, and I’m sure you will believe to when I mention what the work is, is of such a high quality that we can learn a lot from it.

So the first stage is to really describe a masterwork in the highest resolution of detail possible. And what that means is really doing the big picture global foolscap page and then moving into a scene by scene and even beat by beat analysis of how the master writer created the master work. So that’s all part of what I call the description, the description of why and how a masterwork works from the point of view of Story Grid methodology. 

So this is going to be a big part of are 10 part series, is literally going through the masterwork that I’ve chosen that I think you’re going to love. It’s a Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx. 

[0:03:21.2] AH: One of my favorites. Wonderful. Wonderful Story. 

[0:03:28.2] SC: Yes, it’s just an incredible love story. Also, the other thing I really love about it is that it’s so perfectly wrought and it’s done in, I think it’s under 11,000 words. So we’re talking about a super duper novella slash long short story that captures, you know, the global movements of an epic novel. 

So that’s one, you know, that’s the primary reason why I chose it. And I thought of you because of your novel Restraint and your deep understanding of a particular period in time. That is great fodder for love story. So that’s, I hope I’m getting this right, but it’s sort of regency era England, is that correct? Yeah. Okay. 

So the idea here is that what we’re gonna do is we’re going to analyze through Story Grid methodology, Brokeback Mountain down to the beat by beat sort of level and then that’ll be the description part of this experiment. And then we’re going to take those descriptions of those particular movements throughout this story and we are going to prescribe a series of beats for you the pro to adapt into a brand new, innovative story set during regency England. Yeah. So this is no small task and I really tip my hat to your willingness to go on this crazy experiment.

[0:05:14.5] AH: Can I just say that I’m glad that the origin story that we’re using is only what, 10,000 words? Cause beat by beat analysis at longer than that is a real job.

[0:05:25.9] SC: Yeah. I suspect we’re going to come in somewhere in the neighborhood of a 100 to 120 beats for the entire story from beginning to middle to end. And now when I say we’re going to come up with these beats, we’re going to sort of do a little trick and it’s a Story Grid trick where we’re going to break down and see where we think key moments in the story are breaking. And then we’re going to sort of abstractly come up with a phrase, a short phrase that will indicate what kind of beat that is. 

For example, you know, one of the key scenes in a number of novels is stranger knocks at the door, right? So you could actually break stranger knocks at the door into a series of beats and using the same sort of abstract methodology like getting ready for work, would be maybe their early beat in stranger knocks at the door.

Then the next beat would be strange or knocks at the door. And then the third beat could be something like recognizing the enemy. And so what we’ll do is we’ll sort of plot out a series of these beats and then you will be given a homework assignment to construct a scene like Annie Proulx based upon the beat structure that she used, you will be given homework to create a scene based upon that description of abstract movement. 

Now this sounds a lot more complicated than it really is and I’m confident that you’re going to catch on pretty quickly because you’re as, as big as story nerd as I am. And I’ve seen the spreadsheets that you’ve created and they’re even more intense than mine. So the reason why I wanted to call this an experiment is because one of the — we have some rules here and I think the rules are going to be constraints, if you will.

So the constraints of this experiment are you and I will separately do our, our analysis of Brokeback Mountain without consultation with the other. And then we’ll get on the podcast and we’ll sort of compare notes and we’ll walk through our analysis. And then at the end of each of these shows, we’ll figure out some homework assignment for you to do for the following week. And then hopefully by the end of our 10 week cycle, you’ll have some sort of rough draft of, for lack of a better description, Brokeback Mountain set in regency England. 

[0:08:18.1] AH: Okay. Sounds like fun. 

[0:08:20.4] SC: Yeah, it’s kinda cool. So the constraints that we’re going to use is we’re going to use Brokeback Mountain as sort of our control. And what I mean by that is when you and I agree on what we believe to be the beat structure, you can’t divert from that. So what that means is if you don’t particularly like a single beat in the story, you’re going to have to write that beat anyway. 

[0:08:50.9] AH: Tough luck, Huh? 

[0:08:51.5] SC: Yeah. Tough luck. 

[0:08:53.3] AH: Okay. 

[0:08:55.1] SC: And another couple of things are, if you don’t like this sort of tragic ending of Brokeback Mountain, that’s too bad. So we’re really gonna take this control system to the nth level because looking at this as an experiment that might not work. We’re not going to be able to tell if it works unless we really do apply all of the constraints from the control. 

If we start sort of wavering and moving around and changing things, we’re not going to get a real indication if it’s actually possible to follow a masterwork at that sort of resolution and see if, if we could create something original, unique and fun. 

[0:09:47.4] AH: Don’t you feel like the constraint of the time setting that I’m going to be working in might force some of those things to change? 

[0:09:55.8] SC: Well, I think that is a way of wiggling out, if you will, because we can make up all kinds of sort of rational arguments of why this isn’t going to work for this particular thing and I think part of the creative process will be to figure out some work around, for example, the two characters in Brokeback Mountain are from sort of the lower working class in a particular era.

What is it like 1950s do you think? 

[0:10:31.7] AH: 60s it’s, I think, based in 1963.

[0:10:33.5] SC: Okay. So it’s early 1960s and these are lower middle class, lower actually lower working class guys who are sort of, if they don’t get work, there’s a real possibility that they could eventually starve. It’s that sort of a life and death that they find employment. 

So you know, extrapolating that and moving it onto regency England by definition will really limit your choices on the characters in your sort of, you know, shadow story. And those limitations might prove pretty difficult to solve. 

[0:11:16.9] AH: Okay. 

[0:11:18.6] SC: But what I’m asking of you, and I’m happy to sort of throw out and spitball ideas too, is that instead of saying, “Well, that’s just not gonna work because X, Y, and Z , so I’m not going to do it that way. I’m going to use different characters from a different class.” So the constraint of the class of the two cowboys in 1963 we need to sort of have an analogous set of characters from regency England, which would obviously put them downstairs. 

[0:11:58.4] AH: Right. The servant class or the agricultural class. 

[0:12:02.2] SC: Exactly, so that’s what I mean by sort of really holding these constraints tightly. It’s going to prove to be I think painful and ultimately it will allow for new thoughts, new ideas, new ways of looking at regency England and you probably haven’t thought of before or not. That’s why it’s an experiment. 

[0:12:30.7] AH: I’m already thinking about them. 

[0:12:32.4] SC: I bet you are so so generally in in an experiment. That’s one of the things you want to establish before you do anything you want to establish your methods and materials. So the methods we’re going to use are the Story Grid methods, methodology, the materials we’re going to use our Brokeback Mountain and the prescriptive advice from the beat to beat progression of that story.

I’m trying to think if I’m missing anything. I mean obviously this is an ambitious project, but I think at the very least both of us are going to learn a lot. Me as your coach, sort of seeing how good I am at helping you define the sort of beat abstractions is going to be a challenge for me. And then obviously their myriad challenges for you, ’cause you’ll, you’ll be the artist creating a brand new work and sharing that work along with our listeners, you know, as appropriate. 

[0:13:41.4] AH: Well, I’m, I’m game to share rough drafts. I guess, if Tim can do it, I can do it. 

[0:13:48.3] SC: Yeah. And um, the other thing is that I think he can go to thenewyorker.com and look up Brokeback Mountain because it was originally published in the New Yorker as a short story. And I think you can just read it off the website for all those people who are listening in, so they can follow along.

[0:14:12.9] AH: Yeah, yeah. Last time I looked, which was, um, when The Round Table Podcast was doing the movie, the short story was still online with The New Yorker. 

[0:14:18.7] AH: Oh, great. Great. So, you know, I highly recommend you buy the book because then you can make little notes as Anne and I go through this, it’s really a remarkable short piece that became such a great movie. It’s a really nice masterwork to to try this with. And also the fact that it’s under 11,000 words. That’s a real testament to her skills. Let me open it up to you now. I’ve sort of spoken a little bit too much.

What are you thinking? What are your thoughts? What are your feelings? Do you have any questions? I’m sure it’s a little bit overwhelming right now. 

[0:15:00.4] AH: Well, you’re right. Part of me is like, no, no, no. I can’t possibly follow that story beat by beat, but I think I can actually, it’s an interesting challenge because I have been kind of blocked in my writing and so these narrow constraints, I’m already starting to think, oh well, let’s see, I could pick a couple of servant characters. I can, I can start to see a story where for the last quite a while I haven’t been able to have any sense of a story to write. So this is an exciting prospect for me. But I do have one question about this, this sort of beat types. How far do we abstract them? I mean, talk a little more about that.

[0:15:35.8] SC: Well, my feeling about that is we will create an abstract notion together that you can enact. Right? So if you don’t get it, if you don’t understand my interpretation of a particular beat, then that’s going to be part of our process. Right? 

So you’ll go, “I don’t, I just don’t know what you mean, Shawn,” and then I’ll have to dig up a new metaphor, a new analogy, because when you say something like ‘getting ready for work,’ yeah, I think you could probably understand exactly what that means, what that entails.

[0:16:14.2] AH: Sure. And that’s adaptable to any time period and because people have always worked, right?

[0:16:21.9] SC: Exactly. But if I say something like this is the gift, the explicit gifts, a resolution, you might be a little, “I’m not sure what you mean by the word gift. I don’t know what you mean by resolution.” So we could really start sort of picking that apart so that we can get to something that’s actionable for you. 

The other thing that’s going to be fun is because we’ll be sort of working independently and then sharing our work in terms of the descriptions of these beats, we’ll probably break at different points. So we can, probably our first attempt at this, we’ll probably get through maybe a thousand words of it, maybe 1500, who knows? It depends on where we’re breaking the beats. And then you could say something like, “Well, I broke it here and here’s the reason why.” And I can go, “Well I broke it here and here’s my reason why.”

And then you know, we can negotiate what will work for you as the artist writing a new story as opposed to me, the coach. Right? Okay. So what’s ideal is that we reach a consensus of thought so that we don’t rely upon the coaches interpretation if it’s not helpful to you. So I’m going to play the part of coach you play the part of athlete slash, writer and if I can’t coach you to perform and enact a particular beat, we have to keep working on that beat until you, you get what I’m saying? 

[0:18:09.2] AH: Okay. Interesting. Well I have, I will tell you, I’m filled with misgivings here. This is going to be a really interesting challenge. I’m just thinking through the story and thinking how just broadly it could be adapted to, you know, a period 150 years earlier and my mind tends to go to things like, well, let’s see, there were horses and they had horses and that and that’s, I know, not the level of abstraction we’re talking about here. 

[0:18:37.8] SC: Right. No, no. We’re talking about human actions caused by unexpected events throughout a series of beats. As opposed to setting and that sort of thing. The point of view, we’ll just use any pruse which is third person omniscient with the occasional, I believe there’s some free and direct style in there. I’m not really sure off the top of my head. I’ll have to go through it. 

But when I say that I’m only talking about like shared thoughts from I think, how do you pronounce it? Ennis or Ennis. 

[0:19:16.4] AH: I think it’s Ennis, that’s how they said it in the movie. 

[0:18:19.9] SC: Okay. Then that works for me. All right. So Ennis in my estimation, from what I recall, he’s really the protagonist of this story because we begin with him and we end with him. We sort of track his emotional movements throughout the story. So, Ennis is, he’s the sort of the central focus of the story.

So we’re going to be tracking his actions, et cetera, as well as the secondary character, secondary characters. But the protagonist just a little bit under that is Jack Twist who ends up being, you know, his companion. Anyway, I’m already getting into the weeds and we haven’t even — 

[0:20:07.3] AH: So you know, I’ve never really understood what constitutes a beat and that’s going to be one question that I will definitely be starting with. 

[0:20:16.96] SC: Okay. I will confess right now that I have just more recently been doing more and more beat work. The concept of the beat comes from the actors tradition and in acting you sort of divide up a performance into little moments and those moments they call beats. So if you’re an and you get a scene and you need to perform, you divide the thing up into little beat moments. You come up with your global sort of action and then you divide that action into the little micro actions which are called beats.

And so the arc of the scene for the actor is divided into beats. Now in terms of writing and storytelling, I sort of smoodged that concept of the beat onto the global scene, which is the building block of storytelling. And so this is a long way of saying that I think there are going to be different kinds of beats, meaning some beats will be very clear. They will clearly be moments of story action where we have sort of an unexpected event that causes a crisis that leads to a climax and a resolution. 

Those are like sort of mini-units of story that mirror the structure of scenes, sequences, acts, global stories, subplots, etc. That’s how I define a beat in the Story Grid book. Now I also think that there are writers beats and what I mean by that is there are sort of psycho technology tools that a writer we’ll use to set up the movement of the story.

So, for example, there is probably something that I would call interstitial tissue and what interstitial tissue as a beat would be, would be a transitional moment, a passage that moves sort of the story from one place to another or sets up the introduction of an unexpected event. So interstitial tissue might not — 

[0:22:51.3] AH: say that three times in a row. 

[0:22:54.7] SC: I know really — it might not have the traditional five commandment form of a store unit. However, as a tool for a writer to transition between scenes or moments in a scene, it’s a useful sort of writers beat. So, again, when you go through your beats, you’ll do it probably one way and I’ll do it another and then we’ll compare notes and I think what will come to is a consensus from the mind of the creative writer and a consensus from the mind of the architecture of an editor.

We might be able to find a happy medium where we both will agree — well, there’s a couple of categories of beats. Some are literally writers’ tools, like a pencil, transitional, you know, beats and some are story beats. 

That’s kind of where I’m heading now. Coincidentally as I’m preparing materials for the ground, your craft course that I’m teaching, I find that this beat analysis is starting to divide along those two lines. There’s sort of the architectural beat that a writer will use to frame the story points, the story beats to build into a scene and then there are the, you know, the story beats themselves. 

So, I’m sure we’re going to definitely suss it all that stuff out very quickly as we start moving through this. But that’s a really good question. My recommendation to you now is to trust your writer’s instincts and not worry so much about editorial architecture or Story Grid, interstitial tissue stuff.

[0:24:57.6] AH: Okay. I have to learn to say it first. 

[0:24:59.7] SC: Let me, let me dump that on you later. Just sort of follow your process as a writer and say, you know, yeah, that’s definitely a beat. We’re transitioning into something new. I’m going to make a line there. And so just sort of follow your nose and then, you know, between the two of us, I think we can make it more clear. 

[0:25:22.3] AH: So shall I start with a spreadsheet and instead of scenes do beats on the spreadsheet? 

[0:25:29.1] SC: I think the first thing that we should do is globally define what this story is. So we’ll, what we’ll do is we’ll start with the six core questions the editor asks, and we’ll run Brokeback Mountain through those questions and answer all of them so that we know exactly, you know what this thing is in terms of genre, you know, obligatory scenes, conventions, beginning hook, middle build and ending payoff.

Then we can transition into, sort of, diving in hundred words by a hundred words to delineate the beats. So what, what I think we should first do is both of us will create a foolscap, global story grid page, and then we’ll compare those and let’s say that, the next session that we have came and then after that, then we’ll sort of break down. If we were to map this novella out, we’ll break it into just scenes, right? 

So we’ll do a Story Grid spreadsheet for each of the scenes. They’re probably between you know, eight to 10 scenes in this entire novella. And then once we break down the scenes, then we’ll start at scene one and we’ll break down, seen one into beats and then we’ll do the same thing for the rest of the scenes and by the time we’re done, we will have broken down not only the global foolscap page, not only the scene by scene Story Grid spreadsheet, but also a beat by beat Story Grid spreadsheet that you will use, maybe you know, maybe we’ll break it up and you’ll fly blind and we’ll give you one of these beat by beat scenes and, and you’ll try one and we’ll see how it goes. 

I think we should sort of play it by ear at that point, but I think the methodology, the Story Grid methodology, the whole point of it is to have a very clear progressive way of looking at the project from a global point of view. Then moving down a level of analysis to get the scene by scene point of view, then go even further at the microscopic level and look beat by beat. Then once we have all that description, then we can take the beat by beat description and apply it as a prescription, a prescription to writing an original work. So that’s the structure of this experiment. 

We’re going to use the method of Story Grid to break down the material of Brokeback Mountain in such a way that hopefully by the time we describe it really at that level, you’ll then be able to use those concepts to create an original work that is set in a different time period and you can bring to bear all that you know about regency England into a story that mirrors Brokeback Mountain

[0:28:55.5] AH: One question that leaps to mind, and I imagine people listening are leaping to the same question. Won’t this just be a copy of Brokeback Mountain then? 

[0:29:01.3] SC: I don’t know. You know, E.L. James copied, what is it? Twilight, and she came up with a different concept by changing — she took out vampires and made them sadomasochistic lovers. It was, that was fan-fiction that was fan fiction, but it was based upon the conceptual architecture of Twilight. So whether or not that happens, maybe it will be just a pretty blatant copy of Brokeback Mountain, but I don’t know that it will be. And the worst that happens is that you have recreated the magic of Brokeback Mountain set in regency England. And I think that’s a pretty cool thing in and of itself.

One of the things that Steve Pressfield told me he used to do while he was in the trenches learning how to write was he would literally pull out, The Sun Also Rises and then he would pull out his typewriter too, and he would literally type it, he would read type the entire novel, so that he could start to feel the cadences and rhythms of Hemingway. 

And he believed, he still believes to this day that that process of making something that’s sort of abstract, literal finger pushing aided him in his own creativity. So we’re not doing that. 

[0:30:37.7] AH: Oh, I was going to say I’m willing to do that 10,000 words. 

[0:30:42.8] SC: Well, we’re taking that concept and we’re blowing it out, basically. By looking at not the literal words, but the underlying architecture of this story and seeing where we come out when we mirror that architecture. 

[0:31:00.6] AH: Another question that comes to my mind here is, as I recall and in this, you know, Annie Proulx lives in Wyoming, she’s imitating like the dialect and that’s such a — it’s a big part of the story. And is that a form of beat too or is that just a stylistic — I don’t want to muddy the water here, but how much, how important is choices like that that she made? 

[0:31:28.5] SC: Those are stylistic choices that are up to the writer. So whether or not you want to use this style that comes up with the same sort of way of speaking as regency England is up to you. I don’t see that as a constraint. The only constraint that we’re really going to hold fast to his, the architectural constraints of the Story Grid methodology. 

Stylistically, those are all choices that you get to make and you know, setting a description, exposition, dialogue, those are all in your control. That’s all your wheelhouse. And that’s why, you know, deep down I don’t think that your draft by the end of this experiment will really feel that close to Brokeback Mountain, because you are going to be applying Anne’s artistic choices onto architecture. 

So, you know, it’s like those old houses that Sears and Roebuck used to sell, they were basically kits of homes where, you know, the individual owner would figure out, you know, what kind of siding to put on, where to put the chimney, whether to use bricks, etc. And if you go and look at those old craftsman homes, the general sensibility of the home is absolutely specific, but each individual home that people have decorated and built is very unique at the same time. 

[0:33:14.2] AH: I live in a Sears kit house actually. 

[0:33:17.1] SC: Oh my gosh. Well I’m sure it’s unlike any other Sears kit house. 

[0:33:20.5] AH: It has changed a bit over the 120 years that it’s been here or so. Right. Yeah. Interesting. That’s an interesting analogy. I can work with that. So let me understand a couple of things here. The beats that we’re going to ultimately be analyzing once we get the foolscap down and, and the scenes can be either sort of a story beat or what did you call it? Like an artist tool beat. What, what did you refer to that as? The like the setting beats and things like that. 

[0:33:53.9] SC: I called them interstitial tissue. 

[0:33:55.7] AH: I put that right out of my mind, Sean. interstitial tissue. Okay, got it.

[0:33:59.8] SC: And the reason why is that there are literally, you know, sort of the tendons and the ligaments that connect the bones of the story together. So if, I always use the analogy of the story skeleton. So I look at the interstitial tissue as those little sort of mechanical pieces that connect everything. 

So that’s the metaphor that that works for me. You could also look at this as sort of like, you know, nails or hinges or whatever you want to call them. 

[0:34:38.2] AH: Choose your metaphor. 

[0:34:30.8] SC: Yeah, they’re more right. Our toolbox things that unfortunately a lot of people mistake for actual writing. But there, you know what I mean? Like, yeah, so all that stuff that people think is writing is what I’m talking about. But the real story stuff is the essence and the actual thing that people connect to.

[0:35:04.2] AH: Now, you know, in the Level Up Your Craft Course, we look at the 15 core scenes. Yeah. And it seems to me in a novella of 10,000 words, it would be pretty hard to get 15 core scenes. Can we look at like 15 core beats or how does that work?

[0:35:20.8] SC: That’s probably what we’re going to come down to. But without having, you know, put my microscope on the thing yet, it’s hard for me to answer. But you know we’ve talked about this before. I think just you and I personally in that the 15 core scenes are — they’re expressions of fundamental emotional movements and whether or not, like Annie Proulx knew she didn’t have to make this thing a novel. 

In fact, the challenge for her and the challenge for all writers is to boil down the big epic things into the most, purest story that you possibly can. So I think what we’ll find is that we’re going to find sort of those, those obligatory scenes and conventions of love story in tiny little moment beats as opposed to long form scenes. I mean right off the top of my head, you know, the proof of love scene, what I call the proof of love scene in a love story is literally probably 10 words in the novella, which is when Ennis goes to Jack’s house and takes the shirt, Huh?

[0:36:46.8] AH: Yeah. Great moment. 

[0:36:49.2] SC: Yeah. And so there you have Annie Proulx boy boiling down. You know, he finally recognizes that that was, that was his person, you know, that was that, that was his one shot. Yeah. It’s a beautiful moment. Talk about not gilding the lily. I mean that woman is just such a great craftsperson that she was able to do proof of love in such a beautiful way that we don’t even really recognize that sometimes as the proof of love scene. 

You sure feel it though? You feel it when you insure do in the movies. Yeah.

[0:37:29.3] AH: Well, so my task is to read and analyze and come up with foolscap. And the sort of main big scene structure. For next time. 

[0:37:39.8] SC: Yeah. Let’s do that next time and I’ll do the same thing and then we’ll just sort of bat it around and if we agree on things we’ll, and then we’ll just sort of post the consensus of our thinking, for the listeners and they can see our, our full scalp page. And then we’ll take it from there. Then we can move into, you know, scene by scene and beat by beat and then really get into the belly of the beast. 

[0:38:06.2] SC: And when are you thinking that I should actually start writing? Because I’ve already started in my head. 

[0:38:12.1] SC: I know. I think the best thing for you to do is if you feel compelled, there’s no reason — part of me is saying don’t write anything until we have the prescriptive beat by beat prescription to write scenes. And the reason why I say is you may fall in love with something that you write that you’re going to mangle and trying stick into the beat that isn’t really going to work. 

But you know, we’re all really good at bullshitting ourselves into believing that it can work when it’s really, we put a lot of thought and hard work into something. So if you can refrain from it, that doesn’t mean you can’t make little bits and notes like, my two characters are X. They, they live here. 

The year is Y, the wolf is at the door for each of them for the following reasons. You know, that kind of stuff. These are sort of mental notes. Some people like to write them down, but yeah, definitely do that. But I would refrain from sort of thinking about what the beat is and then giving yourself your own prescription before you and I really come to a consensus.

[0:39:35.5] AH: Okay. I think I can refrain. Okay. But I, I have to tell you it’s pretty inspiring. I mean, I feel, I say again, these very narrow constraints are daunting, but there’s a lot of creativity here. I mean this is a really interesting creative challenge.

[0:39:53.5] SC: Yeah. I think it should be really fun and at the very least we’ll learn a lot.

[0:39:56.2] AH: Yeah. And by the end of the 10 weeks I might have a draft of something and that would be very exciting for me. 

[0:40:04.3] SC: Definitely. 

[0:40:05.4] AH: Well, let’s get to work then. 

[0:40:06.1] SC: Okay. 

[END OF EPISODE]

[0:40:10.8] AH: That wraps up part one of our 10 episode. Experiment for everything. Story Grid related checkout storygrid.com. Be sure to pick up a copy of the book Story Grid and sign up for the newsletters so you don’t miss any of the cool stuff that is always happening in the Story Grid universe. A link to the original publication of Brokeback Mountain on the New Yorker website is in the show notes. 

We hope you’ll read along and join us in our analysis because it really is a terrific story. I’ll also be publicly posting my foolscap, my beat, his spreadsheet, and my own drafts scenes as I write them all at storygrid.com. 

You can support our summer experiment series by telling other writers about us and by leaving a rating and review on Apple Podcasts or Stitcher. Shawn and I will be back next week to compare our foolscap pages for Brokeback Mountain and get this experiment underway. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

[END]

About the Author

Valerie Francis is a Certified Story Grid Editor and best-selling author of both women’s and children’s fiction. She’s been a Story Grid junkie since 2015 and became a certified editor so that she can help fellow authors, in all genres, become better storytellers. To learn more, visit valeriefrancis.ca
Comments (6)
Author Valerie Francis

6 Comments

ANNE HAWLEY says:

Thanks, Ja’Nese. I just got access to the comments, so forgive my late reply. I hope you’re still enjoying the podcast.

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ambermeyer37gmailcom says:

I’m a big fan of the podcast and have been following from the beginning. I’m so intrigued by this idea I’ve decided try my hand at applying it to one of Agatha Christie’s short stories. Not sure if it will work in the mystery genre, but I thought it would be fun to give it a try. I’ll let you know how it goes. Best of luck to you both in this experiment.

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ANNE HAWLEY says:

Hi ambermeyer37. Sorry to be slow in responding: just got access to the comments on this post. Which Christie short story are you looking at? And how’s the project coming? I don’t see any reason why the experiment shouldn’t work equally well with any genre of story. I’m discovering that the key is to go deep into the meaning of each scene or beat, and let the externals slip from view.

So, for instance, the masterwork might have a certain type of red herring, and you don’t have to replicate that type of red herring, but rather figure out WHY Christie put that red herring where she did, and figure out a red herring for your mystery that has an analogous significance to your characters, within your setting.

I’ll be interested to know how your project goes!

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