Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Believe Care Invest: Killing Floor

Why Jack might be hard to identify with: He’s a Republican homeless drifter. Who can identify with that? 

  • It’s tricky because he doesn’t have a life: He’s just drifted into town, seemingly for no reason. No job, no friends, no history he wants to talk about. So he doesn’t have much life for us to believe in, but he has a very consistent voice, plainspoken with a lot of periods, and a very unique way of looking at the world.
  • I mean, it’s very tricky that a tweedy Thatcher-hating BBC writer with no military or police background (who’s never lived in America) can one day choose to write about a badass Clinton-hating American military-policeman-turned-drifter (who’s never lived in England). And Child insists he does no research! It’s really remarkable that he’s created a believable voice, but it’s totally convincing. He has really channeled this guy, seemingly out of the ether.
  • The first paragraph is “I was arrested in Eno’s diner. At twelve o’clock. I was eating eggs and drinking coffee. A late breakfast, not lunch. I was wet and tired after a long walk in heavy rain. All the way from the highway to the edge of town.” We can tell he’s being falsely arrested, and there’s no bigger humiliation than that.
  • We love what he can see, and what he knows. As he’s being arrested, he notes: “The guy with the revolver stayed at the door. He went into a crouch and pointed the weapon two-handed. At my head. The guy with the shotgun approached close. These were fit lean boys. Neat and tidy. Textbook moves. The revolver at the door could cover the room with a degree of accuracy. The shotgun up close could splatter me all over the window. The other way around would be a mistake. The revolver could miss in a close-quarters struggle and a long-range shotgun blast from the door would kill the arresting officer and the old guy in the rear booth as well as me. So far, they were doing it right.”
  • But then they make a mistake and Jack convinces us he could turn the tables, but he’s too smart to do so: “The guy with the shotgun came closer. Too close. Their first error. If I had to, I might have lunged for the shotgun barrel and forced it up. A blast into the ceiling perhaps and an elbow into the policeman’s face and the shotgun could have been mine. The guy with the revolver had narrowed his angle and couldn’t risk hitting his partner. It could have ended badly for them. But I just sat there, hands raised.” We believe him.
  • As he’s being arrested, he tips the waitress, so we know he’s a good guy. (And he does so in a very manly way: “I crammed egg into my mouth and trapped a five under the plate.”  Lots of cramming and trapping in this book!)
  • He gives us lots of news we can use has he describes his arrest. Number one: Never say anything at all, not even to acknowledge your rights. “Again I didn’t respond. Long experience had taught me that absolute silence is the best way. Say something, and it can be misheard. Misunderstood. Misinterpreted. It can get you convicted. It can get you killed.”

Monday, December 21, 2020

Believe Care Invest: Gone Girl

Fun fact: There are two of my books that I never did BCI for! Here’s the first one! 

Why Nick might be hard to identify with: We’re invited in this first chapter to assume that he’s killed his wife. By the time we’ve found otherwise, we’ve got lots more reasons to dislike him, such as the fact that he cheated on her.

  • Sure he’s creepy, but he’s creepy in oddly specific ways. Here’s the opening paragraph: “When I think of my wife, I always think of her head. The shape of it, to begin with. The very first time I saw her, it was the back of the head I saw, and there was something lovely about it, the angles of it. Like a shiny, hard corn kernel or a riverbed fossil. She had what the Victorians would call a finely shaped head. You could imagine the skull quite easily.” He’s a thoroughly convincing creep, because he notices things non-creeps just don’t notice.
  • “At that exact moment, 6-0-0, the sun climbed over the skyline of oaks, revealing its full summer angry-God self. Its reflection flared across the river toward our house, a long, blaring finger aimed at me through our frail bedroom curtains. Accusing: You have been seen. You will be seen.”
  • He feels guilty about everything. He has been seen, and will be seen, which turns out to be prophetic, as he will be the subject of national scrutiny shortly.
  • He’s in a bad marriage: “One of us was always angry. Amy, usually.”
  • He’s lost all to the modern world: “Blame the economy, blame bad luck, blame my parents, blame your parents, blame the Internet, blame people who use the Internet. I used to be a writer. I was a writer who wrote about TV and movies and books. Back when people read things on paper, back when anyone cared about what I thought. … I had a job for eleven years and then I didn’t, it was that fast. All around the country, magazines began shuttering, succumbing to a sudden infection brought on by the busted economy.” Flynn used to write for Entertainment Weekly, so she’s mining her real-life experience for pain she went through and gifting that pain to her character so that he will be more sympathetic to us
  • He moves home (supposedly) to take care of his mom. He says to his twin sister Margo, “I’ll come back, Go. We’ll move back home. You shouldn’t have to do this all by yourself.”
Why Amy might be hard to identify with: She seems a little dippy, and unliberated.

  • Crucially, we don’t hear her speak in modern day, Nick just sums up their brief morning conversation without quoting her, so modern-day Amy is not real to us yet. If we’d heard her talk there, and she was well-characterized, and then we jumped back to the diary, we might have been able to guess that the diary was fake.
  • Once we arrive at the diary, we get a totally different voice from Nick, with exclamation points and nonsense words: “Tra and la! I am smiling a big adopted-orphan smile as I write this. I am embarrassed at how happy I am, like some Technicolor comic of a teenage girl talking on the phone with my hair in a ponytail, the bubble above my head saying: I met a boy!” This is also a thoroughly convincing voice, partially because it is so different from Nick’s.
  • We’ve sensed from the title, from Nick’s creepiness, and from the words “The Day Of” that she’s going to disappear in the present day.
  • In her diary from five years earlier, she’s embarrassed that she’s surrounded by “real” writers, but she just writes quizzes for women’s magazines.
  • But then she points out that she actually can write: She says in parentheses: “(Adopted-orphan smile, I mean, that’s not bad, come on.)”
  • Indeed, she has good observations: “Carmen, a newish friend – semi-friend, barely friend, the kind of friend you can’t cancel on – has talked me into going out to Brooklyn” She’s perceptive in a totally different way than Nick. She’s emotionally and sociologically perceptive, he’s physically and economically perceptive.

Saturday, December 19, 2020

TV Checklist Spreadsheet!

The hits keep on coming! Last week, I shared a massive spreadsheet of all of the Ultimate Story Checklists I’d done for movies. That was an update of an old one, but I’ve never done one for the TV checklists, so here it is making its big debut! This one was especially hard to do, because the checklist has changed gradually over the years and I never went back and updated the old ones, so this was a massive pain. I hope you enjoy it! 

UPDATE: I alternate colors for the different sections of the checklist now. 

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Reviews Are Always Appreciated!

Hi, has my book/audiobook or the podcast been helpful to you? If you haven’t done so, and if you have a few minutes, could I ask you to review the book and/or podcast in these places? (Preferably, with, y’know, five stars, which is just a handsome number of stars) 

Of course, it’s always important to get lots of Amazon reviews. (Scroll down and click Write a Customer Review)

Maybe you like my audiobook? You can review the book on Audible. (Click on “More options”)

And hey, what about the podcast? You can like and review us on iTunes. (I don’t see how you can do it here, but you can do it by searching for The Secrets of Story Podcast in the iTunes store, then clicking on Ratings and Reviews)

Or you can review the podcast on Audible! We don’t have any reviews there yet. (Once again, click on “More Options”)

Thank you all so much for your support throughout the years.  The book and audiobooks make great Christmas gifts!  The podcast, alas, makes for a crappy Christmas gift because it’s free.  

Thursday, December 10, 2020

It’s All Built to This

UPDATED: I realized The Fugitive wasn’t on there!  And I added alternate colors for different sections of the checklist. 

Hi guys. Many years ago, I tried collating all my existing checklists into an Excel spreadsheet, but it was sort of slapdash. Since then I’ve shortened and finalized the checklist and analyzed a lot more movies, and I’ve needed a better resource for writing my book, so hoo-boy, folks, I finally did it for real. 

It’s all come to this. This things really works beautifully. Did our recent Head-Heart-Gut podcast leave you wondering how it works in more examples? Just download this checklist and scroll down to Head-Heart-Gut and you’ll have 29 examples all lined up in a row. It’s a beautiful thing. I know I’ll find it useful and I hope you do too.

Tuesday, December 08, 2020

Episode 24: Agency with Parker Peevyhouse

Parker Peevyhouse returns to discuss when a character should break their own rules, which results in discussion of The Mandalorian, Knives Out, and whether superhero movies suck. Check out this blog post we cite a few times.

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Believe Care Invest: Weeds

Why Nancy might be hard to identify with: 
  • She realizes the teen she’s dealing to is dealing to 10 year olds, then, to get him to stop, threatens to reveal that he’s gay.
  • She’s hypocritical, saying to the PTA that they should ban sugary drinks from the school vending machines, but indirectly dealing drugs to them. You might think we wouldn’t, but we actually identify with like hypocritical characters.
  • The way she talks about race with her black suppliers feels refreshingly real.
  • Her husband just dropped dead and now she has to raise two kids.
  • She’s cruelly gossiped about by the other PTA moms, “I think she got a little botie between the eyes”
  • Nobody respects her. Her supplier Heylia says, “looking in the dictionary the other there, saw your picture sitting up in there, next to ‘dumb as white bitch’” Nancy responds, “Alright, alright, fine, I’m a bitch-ass bitch.”
  • She finds out the teen she’s been dealing to has been dealing to 10 year olds and genuinely feels bad about that.
  • She subtly trips the bully chasing her son.
  • She’s resourceful in solving her problems, even if it’s distasteful.
Five Es
  • Eat: She’s dieting, “I miss carbs”
  • Exercise: No.
  • Economic Activity: She’s a very active drug dealer.
  • Enjoy: She enjoys snarking.
  • Emulate: She wears an imitation bag to look like the richer housewives
Rise above
  • She cracks down on her dealer for dealing to kids, so there’s some money she doesn’t want.
  • She tries to keep Celia from fat-shaming her daughter.