About the technique of writing stories. Good for what it is, but note it's not part of the War of Art series.
I tried novels but I learned practically nothing because I was alone and kept making the same mistakes over and over. It wasn’t until I got to Hollywood and began writing for the movies that I really started to understand what a story was. So when I went back to novels after that, I had a sound foundation.
Nobody wants to read your shit. They’re just busy.
What’s the answer?
1) Streamline your message. Focus it and pare it down to its simplest, clearest, easiest-to-understand form.
2) Make its expression fun. Or sexy or interesting or scary or informative. Make it so compelling that a person would have to be crazy NOT to read it.
3) Apply that to all forms of writing or art or commerce.
When you understand that nobody wants to read your shit, you develop empathy. You acquire the skill that is indispensable to all artists and entrepreneurs - the ability to switch back and forth in your imagination from your own point of view as writer/painter/seller to the point of view of your reader/gallery-goer/customer. You learn to ask yourself with every sentence and every phrase: Is this interesting? Is it fun or challenging or inventive? Am I giving the reader enough?
If you want real credit, you have to write a script on your own and have a hit on your own.
It isn’t enough to catch the reader’s eye. You can do that with cute kittens or a wet T-shirt. You also have to sell the product. There must be a message, and that message must stick. It must have meaning in terms of the product. It must make the reader/ viewer think, “Hmm, that makes sense,” or, “Hmm, I like that.”
Come up with a concept. A concept takes a conventional claim and puts a spin on it. A concept establishes a frame of referenc - e a context that makes the viewer behold the product with fresh eyes. Avis Rent a Car’s “We’re #2 so we try harder.”
Every work of art is founded on a concept. A diet should have a concept. An invasion of a foreign country should have a concept.
A high-concept movie is a film
1) whose narrative idea can be communicated in ten seconds or less
2) as soon as you hear the idea, you can imagine all the cool scenes that are certain to be in the movie
At the inception of any project I ask myself, “What is the concept?” I won’t tackle anything until I know the concept.
Shut up and let the professional do her work.
Med opened a huge flat file drawer and began poring through magazines and photography books. I asked him what he was doing. “Stealing.”
It ain’t stealing if you put a spin on it.
A fake writer (or artist or entrepreneur) is just trying to draw attention to himself.
THE HERO’S JOURNEY
1) Hero starts in Ordinary World.
2) Hero receives Call to Adventure.
3) Hero rejects Call.
4) Hero meets Mentor. Mentor gives hero courage to accept Call.
5) Hero crosses Threshold, enters Special World.
6) Hero encounters enemies and allies, undergoes ordeal that will serve as his Initiation.
7) Hero confronts Villain, acquires Treasure.
8) The Road Back. Hero escapes Special World, trying to “get home.”
9) Villains pursue Hero. Hero must fight/escape again.
10) Hero returns home with Treasure, reintegrates into Ordinary World, but now as a changed person, thanks to his ordeal and experiences on his journey.
Cue up any movie from Casablanca to The Martian, including films with seemingly rulebook-defying structures like Pulp Fiction or Charlie Kaufman’s Adaptation. At the heart of each, in one form or another, you will find the hero’s journey.
Every convention in every genre is a station in that genre’s version of the hero’s journey.
A book or movie that works is undergirded by a theme. Nothing in that book or movie is not on-theme.
Start at the end. Begin with the climax, then work backward to the beginning. This back-to-front method. It works for anything - novels, plays, new-business pitches, music albums, choreography. First figure out where you want to finish. Then work backward to set up everything you need to get you there.
“On the nose.” This is the most heinous crime a movie writer can commit. Dialogue that is “on the nose” expresses exactly what is being portrayed non-verbally by the actors.
I never wrote anything good until I stopped trying to write the truth. I never had any real fun either. Truth is not the truth. Fiction is the truth.
Write nonfiction as if it were a novel. Give it an Act One, an Act Two, an Act Three. Make it cohere around a theme. Give it a hero, and make that hero embody the theme. Give it a villain, and make that villain stand for the counter-theme. Make the narrative build to a climax, and have that climax resolve the conflict of the narrative in terms of the theme.
I‘ll do between ten and fifteen drafts of every book I write. Most writers do.
Thinking in multiple drafts takes the pressure off. If we know we’re going to do fifteen drafts before we’re done, we don’t panic when Draft #6 is still a mess. “Relax, we’ve got nine more tries to make it work.”
Organize your material (even though it’s technically not a story and not fiction) as if it were a story and as if it were fiction.
The universal principles of storytelling:
1) Every story must have a concept. It must put a unique and original spin, twist or framing device upon the material.
2) Every story must be about something. It must have a theme.
3) Every story must have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Act One, Act Two, Act Three.
4) Every story must have a hero.
5) Every story must have a villain.
6) Every story must start with an Inciting Incident, embedded within which is the story’s climax.
7) Every story must escalate through Act Two in terms of energy, stakes, complication and significance/meaning as it progresses.
8) Every story must build to a climax centered around a clash between the hero and the villain that pays off everything that came before and that pays it off on-theme.
the universal structural elements of all stories? Hook. Build. Payoff. This is the shape any story must take. A beginning that grabs the listener. A middle that escalates in tension, suspense, stakes, and excitement. And an ending that brings it all home with a bang.
Shawn Coyne edited and published (and titled) “THE WAR OF ART”
The hero of The War of Art is the reader. The villain is Resistance. The All Is Lost moment happened in the reader’s heart long before she picked up the book.
what does an artist do? The artist enters the Void with nothing and comes back with something.
Which idea, of all those swimming inside your brain, are you compelled to pursue? Here’s how you know - you’re scared to death of it. Its accomplishment will seem beyond your resources. Your pursuit of it will bear you into waters where no one before you has sailed. To hunt this beast will require everything you’ve got.