Anatomy of Genres John Truby

anatomy of genres john Truby


[00:00:00] Joe: Hey, it’s Joe Solari and welcome. Today we’re gonna be talking again to John Truby. How

[00:00:06] John: you doing, John?

Hey Joe, it’s good be with

[00:00:08] Joe: I, again, I just, we were talking a little bit before, sorry, but I just want to say, What an amazing piece of work you put together here.

And we’re gonna cover some really cool stuff and I got some questions. Probably nobody else is gonna ask you, given my focus. But we’ll make it quick and short. For anybody that’s watching this thing, just go buy this book. Like we’re gonna talk about some really cool stuff and you’re gonna understand why this book is important.

But if you’re serious about writing,

this thing is gonna be a lifelong. ,

[00:00:34] John: how about that for a plug? I love to hear it, Joe, as but that’s really the why I wrote it because I wanted it to be a manual, a guide for people that they could use for the entire writing life.

And I really think it’s going to, it’s gonna be that way for people. It I really believe it’s gonna revolutionize how they work. Yeah.

[00:00:52] Joe: Yeah. We’re on the business of writing here. I love the fact rule number one is the business of writing is buying and selling genre. So can you just like riff on that and tell people like why that’s rule number one.

It’s like in the first three pages.

[00:01:05] John: Yeah it’s in the first chapter, I talk about these three rules that determine the storytelling business, and that’s whether you’re working as a novelist or in film or in television. It all, it applies to you. And the first is, you said, is that, that this is a business.

It doesn’t buy and sell writers or in film, buy and sell directors or actors. It’s in a business of buying and selling genre. And so if you want to have any chance of success at all, you have to know how your particular genres work. And I go through that in, in the first half of each chapter. I devote that to the 15 or 20.

Plot beats that are found in each of the 14 major genres that I talk about in the book. And you have to hit those you don’t have to hit them in that order, which is what I talk about in the second half of each chapter, which is how you, how do you flip the order to make it seem unique to the reader?

. But you have to hit those beats. And if you don’t master those beats you are not in the game. It’s that simple. And like on that

[00:02:09] Joe: idea, . What taught you that? That was really the game, that it wasn’t people were buying writers or directors, that it was really about genre.

[00:02:16] John: In the first chapter I talk about the first Star Wars, the original Star Wars.

That cha, that was the, a total game changer that changed the storytelling business for all time in all mediums. And that was, I think, 1977. , and what that taught the studios. And then of course it went to the publishers. What that taught the studios was that. We are not selling to just the United States, we’re selling to the world.

And what travels the world? Its genres. Its story forms. . And that’s what, and since they’re in the business to make maximum amount of profit, they realized that. It, it has to be in a very recognizable and popular genre. And then this brings up rule number two that I talk about in the first chapter, which is that if you want any chance of success, you have to mix multiple genres.

, you have to combine genres. And again, that came from Star Wars because Star Wars was not one genre. It was. It was probably four. There’s probably more than that, but it’s at least four. And that and that came from, it took ’em a while to figure out why that was so important. And really that’s just come about in the last 20 years or so, which is that in every medium there’s.

A major increase in plot density. In other words how many plot beats are happening in the same amount of time o over the same 300 pages. And the problem for writers comes from the fact that what separates the top 1% of writers from everyone else is the ability to write complex.

So that’s what we’re talking about. If you’re trying to be successful at the professional level, you’ve gotta be in that top 1%. . And what does that mean? You’ve gotta be able to write complex plot. This raises the next big problem that you have, which is that there are more techniques that go into plot.

then all the other major writing skills combined. And we were just at the 20 Books conference for Indie Novelists. And you know what I saw there, I talk to tons of writers there and it’s, I hear this everywhere. They, they, and I tell ’em what I do and they say, oh I know all about.

I use three X structure, or I use the Hero’s Journey or Save the Cat. And then I have to tell them the bad news, which is, those books are fine if you’re a beginner, but if you’re trying to get into the top 1%, And be a successful professional. You gotta know way more plot techniques than that.

And those books simply do not, number one, provide practical techniques. And number two, they don’t provide practical techniques at the professional level. And so that’s why this book is the Anatomy of Genres is so important because it gives you those plot beats and what happens when you. Genres instead of just 15 to 20 plot beats for year, 300 pages.

If you add, you combine with just one more genre, you got double the plot beats. You add a third genre, you got triple the plot beats in this same amount of time. And that’s what readers are looking for. They’re looking for a great story and that’s how you get it.

[00:05:18] Joe: Yeah, I think that’s such a, an important point.

and I, you talked about 20 books, and when I was reading this, I was thinking about how, you brought up those books, but I hear a lot of people talk about, oh I write in the genre of X or Y and they talk about tropes as if they’re plot beats. And to your point about there’s. , like what they were doing in the past, you could go into say a genre like science fiction and maybe specifically into military science fiction.

And because there wasn’t the competition, right? I’m we’re, I’m only talking like five years ago, right? Like the time that you and I have known each other. Yeah. You could go in there with a mediocre plot and hit like the obvious beats and sell books and probably make six figures. Correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think those days exist anymore.

[00:06:02] John: No, absolutely right. Absolutely right. And, but this, another thing I always tell writers is you’re not competing against everybody writing stories. You’re combining com. You are competing against, The writers writing in your genre, those are the people. You’ve gotta separate yourself out from the crowd and what might have worked for you in the past.

For example, let’s say you are really good at marketing your work. That’s great. That’s still very valuable, but no longer, you’ve gotta separate yourself in the story. And this is what a lot of writers don’t understand. They think if I’m not successful, it’s because I’m not marketing it correctly.

I’m not spending the ad dollars and so on and so forth. No, that’s probably, I’m, I would say 99% of the time, that is not the reason. , it’s certainly important, but it’s not the reason. The reason is in the story, and probably the reason is in the density of the plot and your ability to not only hit those plot beats, and this then gets into the third rule that I talk about in the book, which is you can’t just hit those plot beats.

You’ve gotta transcend the. And what does that mean? It means you’ve gotta do, there’s a number of ways you transcend the genre, which means rise above. And one of the ways that you do it is you execute the plot beat different than anyone else’s has executed it because keep in mind, , all of these people who are writing in your genre they’re all hitting those beats, right?

So you can’t just get away with hitting those beats if you’re just hitting the beats of the form that just gets you into the game. It doesn’t let you win the game. And to win the game, you’ve gotta execute those beats in a way that the audience, the reader has not seen before, because then the reader gets to have their cake and eat it too.

In other words, they get to not only get the beats that they love, which is why they go back again and again to that genre, but the, they get to see those beats in a way they’ve never seen. And so you it’s, I liken it. The, I use the analogy of the beats are the structure of the body. The executing the beats in a unique way is the skin.

You’re putting a different skin on those structural bones. And and another way that you transcend the genre, and again, separate yourself out from everybody else in your form, is you change the order of the beats. The order of the beats. And of course I go through that in the first half of every chapter.

The order of the beats have been determined over decades and sometimes centuries. And in the case of myth over literally thousands of years. And the reason in those beats are in that order is not because somebody just said, oh, wouldn’t it be fun to tell this particular story that way? Those are the beats.

That’s the order of the most dramatic way to tell those beats. It’s the most dramatic sequence that builds you to the biggest climax. So you wanna pay attention to the classic way that those beats are done. , but don’t be, don’t be enslaved by it. You’ve got to then change the order as well, so that you breaking the reader’s expectations.

They know how the beats build. They may not be able to put names to those beats, but they know, if they love romance, they know how those romance beats work. So if you can do it in a way that, in a sequence that they haven’t seen before, that again, is gonna separate you out from everyone else.

. Yeah.

[00:09:16] Joe: I it was interesting when I was reading this because one of the things that I’ve been observing and doing some work around is you The marketing piece is really about the appeal of the book, right? Is it worth, is it gonna be worth my precious reading time? Yeah. The quality of the book is never, atta, is never determined until they actually read the book.

And in today’s world where, You better catch ‘ em in the first sentence to get ’em to the end of the first paragraph, right? Like that net Netflix attitude about if I don’t like the opening scenes, I’ll just go check something else out. Or if I’m in KU I’ll just flip to my next book.

I think that, what’s really exciting to me when I was reading this is there’s stuff here that can help an author understand okay, you can get your marketing great. And when they open up the book and they read. , I call it the barrier to entry and exit, right? In the beginning, it’s a barrier to entry.

It’s am I gonna give you some of my precious Right. Reading time, I’ve only got a that’s the finite commodity in this whole thing is Yep. There’s only so much reading time in the world and the amount that I get in my lifetime, I’m, I may rather read a book I’ve already read than read a new author.

Yeah. But if I read your. and I go over that barrier. Now it’s a barrier to exit. Now the quality is there, and I’ve had that emotional connection with your characters and your story world. Now I’m gonna say the exact opposite. It’s no, I’m prepared to not read other people’s stuff and read your stuff.

Yeah. And to me this seemed to be like, okay, you just added like a. Ton of understanding and tools to that

[00:10:38] John: toolbox. Yeah. And you, what you said is absolutely right. You have to, you do have to catch them early in the story. That has been true for some time. But. But what you’re talking about then is, let’s say you get, you catch them up front you then, you can’t go through a period of, 200 pages where nothing really as much is happening.

And then, oh, I’ll I’ll just get ’em with the big ending. No, it doesn’t work that way. If they are not tracking the quality of the story every bit e every step through, they’re gonna. . And this obviously especially true if you’re writing a novel series, you it, you may get them for one book, but the real question is, how am I gonna get ’em to read the second, third, fourth book, and so on.

That’s the real challenge for the indie novelist. So what, and that requires, once again, what the, what I said about the plot density, this, multiply that by five times if you’re writing a novel series. Novel series has the most plot. Of any medium in the. And so the question is, can you provide that level of plot that sustains over multiple books?

That’s where genres are your savior, because genres are a plot system. It’s already been worked out, and if you can take that plot system, know what your main genre is, And really nail those beats and then add the other beats from the other genres on top of it, you’re gonna get the plot density and you’re gonna be able to extend the, that plot through multiple books.


[00:12:09] Joe: You set some pretty lofty goals in this thing. You pretty early on. You say that this isn’t just about like book mechanics, but this is about the philosophy

[00:12:17] John: of life and it’s clear that

[00:12:19] Joe: you’ve read a few philosophers because you’re, drawing on some of that to build your case.

I’m really interested in hearing you talk more about that and how. That this may, it sounds a little lofty, but the, you’re trying to bring these people on a spiritual or life journey in this story. And how you can use this as a tool

[00:12:37] John: to do that. You’re absolutely right, Joe. But there’s a very practical reason for it, and it gets back to that third rule of how the storytelling business works.

That third rule being you have to transcend the genre. I mentioned that there are the first two ways that you do that, one is you execute the beat in a different way. Two is you execute the se. Of beats in a different way. The third way, and by far the most important, has to do with theme. Now, theme is is probably the most misunderstood element of storytelling.

Nobody knows what it is and what they think it is the old Samuel Goldwin line who said, if you wanna send a message, send. Western Union, meaning, don’t tell the audience what this story is about. Don’t, as we say in the writing world, don’t be on the nose. . And so what do writers do?

They say I don’t want to be sending a message because that’s the worst thing you can do, so I’m not gonna have any theme at all. And so what they’ve just done is they’ve caused themselves a massive amount of potential for catching the reader and holding the reader because what these genres are really about, the reason people go back to them again and again, is not the plot beats.

They know the plot beats, they love them, but they know. The reason they go back to each to, to a particular genre again and again, is because of the deeper life philosophy that’s embedded in that story form. . And it turns out that each genre has a specialized, a highly worked out life philosophy for how to live a successful life.

And it includes a set of values by which you should live. And that’s what happens. When a really good writer is expressing theme, they don’t do it as a message. They don’t tell the reader what the message is in the dialogue. No, they do it through the story structure. What does that mean? They do it through the beats because it turns out.

This is one of the most interesting things to me as I was writing this book, is it turns out that genres aren’t just, each genre isn’t just a plot system, it’s a theme system. That theme has already been worked out, and it’s automatically connected to those plot beats. So if you hit the plot beats, you are going to be expressing that theme on some level.

What the second half of each chapter does though, is say, look, this is what the life philosophy of this genre is. You need to know it forward and backward in the deepest sense in order to really get the most outta it and express it in your particular sport. If you can do that, you’re doing something.

Nobody else is doing. I always say the biggest thing that distinguishes the top 1% of professional writers from everyone else is the ability con to construct advanced complex plot. That’s true. What distinguishes the top 0.1% from all of the writers is the ability to express advanced theme through that.

And this is what, this is why this book is so important and why I think it’s really gonna be the secret weapon that writers are gonna be able to use, which is, I lay it out very clearly just as I lay out the 15 to 20 plot beats that you have to hit. I lay out in great detail, as you’ve probably already noticed.

all of the deep themes that are being expressed in that story form. And if you tap into those, you tap into those, you are setting yourself apart. You can be alone on the mountaintop, basically. Yeah. That’s how valuable it is. Not to mention that. And you said it in a larger sense. There’s a larger goal, which is for all readers, everywhere, not just writers, but readers, which is that this, these themes, this life.

Is powerful wisdom by which we can live our lives. And I want readers to understand what is embedded in the stories that they love, because that has a massive effect on our lives. We’re not aware of it, but it is a massive effect on our lives. And so that’s what I, that was the deeper goal that I had in this.

Oh, and

[00:16:38] Joe: It’s pretty evident. I I was, when I was reading through it and I was one of my philosophies with people when I’m talking to them about their marketing and this is that I believe a lot of readers read because they’re looking to have experiential and actually real human needs.

yeah. That they can’t get in their own life, whether you look at a system like Maslow’s Hierarchy or the human given system. Yep. And that just really lined up with that whole idea of there’s these thematic experiential stories that to have a full life you need to experience. If you’re not going on that journey yourself, then you do it.

In reading or watching movies. And yeah it just seemed to be like such a nice fit to that idea and giving more, again, more tools to do that.

[00:17:19] John: Yeah. It’s, it, Joe, I can’t emphasize enough how important that is and how little it’s known by the vast majority of writers. And that’s why I mentioned, This idea that it’s a, this book is really a secret weapon for writers to do because nobody else is playing in this game.

, this is, this has never been put in a book before about writing ever.

[00:17:39] Joe: Like as an example, like you think about most guys have watched The Godfather right, and can quote the majority of the movie . Why is that? , keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Like that that, that has meaning beyond just some line in a movie, right?

Yep. Can you talk to, because I know you go into the crime and you do it at this much higher level, not just Hey, make sure that there’s a bad guy and a good guy, but there’s this overarching theme. Can you kinda unpack that for people? Sure. That movie,

[00:18:07] John: The.

In the very beginning of the book, I talk about what most people, writers, and readers think a story or a genre is about, but what it’s really about and it’s often quite different. L let me just give you some examples. And I’m quoting here from the beginning of the book. Myth represents a journey to understand one’s self and gain immortality.

Myth is really about how do. Gain immortality, when we talk about the gods and the superheroes and so on. No. The deeper message is how can we gain immortality in this limited time that we have on this earth? And myths says you do it by discovering your


[00:18:44] John: what you were born to do.

But myth doesn’t define it in terms of. That destiny is coming, is being given to you from above or from the outside or somewhere? No. It says you discover your destiny by discovering your deepest capabilities. What? What is the person you want to be? And that is something you have to create yourself.

But myth says, if you can find those deeper capabilities and develop them, you will have a good life and you’ll have a form of immortality that lasts much longer than you’re actually on this Earth. N another genre I talk about in the book is memoir, and memoir is not about the past, which is what most people think.

It’s about creating your. Fantasy form. Huge popular form. A lot of the writers at the conference were working in the fantasy area, and fantasy is about finding the magic in the world and in ourselves, and then turning life into art. In other words, what fantasy is really about is how do you make your own life a work of art?

, how do you love to? With style, live with freedom, and in other words, there’s a difference between living and surviving and living a great life. , and that’s what fantasy is really about. Again, we don’t think that way because it’s, to us plot-wise, it’s all about the hero in some fantastic imaginary world that they explore.

And that’s really fun. That’s really great. But the deeper theme is much more powerful and it’s tapping something, as you said, some basic human needs that we have as human beings. Detective fiction detection, detective fiction shows us how to. Successfully, it’s about the mind. And it does that by comparing different stories about what is true.

And finally, the love story. I talk about that as the final and the highest genre love stories reveal that happiness comes from mastering the moral act of loving another person. In other words, again, what? What Most readers and writers of romance. Think it’s about showing that emotional connection between two people Now, no question about, that’s super important, and that’s what tracks the main line of the story.

What it’s really about is two people trying to master the moral act of loving another person. In other words and love stories tell us that you do that by learning how to sacrifice some of what you want individually. In order so that your partner can gain what they want. And then what they both learn by the end of the story is that together as a team, we’re both gonna be much more fulfilled than either of us will be alone.

This is the type of theme that. That these genres teach us all the way down to the most basic level, the most primal genre, which is hard. So the, they all have this kind of deeper life wisdom that taps into the reader in a way that they’re not even aware of. , but it has tremendous power. Just to go back to that Star Wars example.

Star Wars wasn’t just successful because it mixed multiple genres. That was a huge reason. It was mostly because it expressed a religion. It didn’t come right up and say, I’m, this is a religion. No. But you know that, that whole thing about the force and the Jedi Knights and so on, that is a religious message that had tremendous power, worldwide power, and again, it transcended culture no matter, didn’t matter where you lived in the world.

, the idea of being part of the Jedi Knights and living that set of values was incredibly powerful and appealing to people.

[00:22:19] Joe: Yeah I I think people think that that stuff just magically happens, right where they see . You’re right. People just say, oh, like, why is it that? JK Rowling’s books have taken off, right? And it’s like there’s something that happened in that world where people connected, right?

Because I’ve done this before at conferences where I show a picture of Harry Potter and I ask people like, how do you feel about. this character. And sometimes they can’t even put those words that it No. That emotion into words. It’s so deep. Yeah. And then I show ’em a picture of JK Rowling and they’re ready to throw stuff at the screen.

And it’s but wait a minute. This is an imaginary person. Doesn’t exist. And this is a real person that created that. But it’s it’s this connection, this emotional deep connection that people have had with that story experience. , whether they saw themselves at that character or they felt they were a sidekick, however it is, they went on that journey, that life journey with that character, and it changed

[00:23:09] John: their life.

Yes, exactly right. And one of the things I love to do is to talk about the Harry Potter stories and break them down to see, because again, people think that, oh, it is just a good story and I just had this real strong emotional connection with the characters. No, that is created very specifically.

In terms of using a number of professional techniques to get that effect. It doesn’t just happen because you, the writer, feel that way about the character. It happens because you are able to track that. Emotional connection from the very beginning of the story all the way through the end. But just to, to riff on some of the things that we’ve already been talking about Harry Potter, combination of four major genres.

The it is one of the reason it’s so successful is it is a mixed genre story. Now, the reason it’s so successful is the way it created the story. A, any fantasy writer, science fiction myths, so on, they know about world building. They know how important it’s, what they don’t know is how to do it and how to do it in a way that it has a, an emotional connection to the reader.

It’s not just a matter of, oh, I’m gonna come up with all these fantastical things that I’m gonna throw into the mix. No it’s very specifically created, and that’s one of the things I go into in the book, in both the myth chapter and the fantasy chapter is how do you. not only a detailed and original story world, but one that connects and matches the growth of the hero.

That’s the thing that so many writers don’t know how to do, and that’s how you get, again, the big payoff. That’s how you separate yourself from everybody else writing these, for example, fantasy stories, interest.

[00:24:49] Joe: A little bit of a change here in tech. So there’s a lot of folks that probably already know who you are from the anatomy of story, right?

Yeah. It’s When did you

[00:24:58] John: write that? Anatomy of Story came out in 2008. Okay. But that was a book based on a course that I have been giving around the world for over 30 years. And had over 50,000 writers take that course. And those writers, those various students have collectively earned over 15 billion in terms of books, films, and television at the box office.

Wow. It is been an extremely successful course and book in fact that book has sold over 200,000 copies in nine different languages. And that book was, I think, very important and I think the way it’s read today. Is that it’s again, my intention from the very beginning with that core, with that book was I want to include all of the professional level techniques you need to know in order to write a professional level story, no matter what the genre is.

And I think that it succeeds in doing that. But again, . The reason that I then wrote the Anatomy of Genres was that the one thing that book doesn’t cover, Is it says nothing about genres. And in this world today, you can’t just write a really good story. You have to write a really good story in that particular genre, and you have to transcend it.

That’s why the in writing, the anatomy of genres, I felt was so important to deal with the problem that writers face today. It’s designed to solve the major problem that writers face. .

[00:26:29] Joe: Interesting. And thinking about those two, if somebody is looking at those two books, like now that you’ve put this out, is there anything that you think about differently about the first book or is it that’s the systems really work well together?

Just trying to get a feel.

[00:26:44] John: Totally, yeah. It totally builds The anatomy of genres totally builds on the anatomy of story and why do I say that? Because in the anatomy of story, I go through the seven major building blocks of every great story. In other words, these are the seven beats that must be in any story, no matter how short, in order for it to be a good story.

And then in the plot, the chapter on plot and basically the Anatomy of Story book goes through the major areas of writing a book, writing a story. . So for example, it goes, starts with premise, then character then plot story world symbol. Writing scenes, writing dialogue and so on. It goes all the way up through the process, starting with the ground level, the structural base, and moving all the way up to writing scenes and dialogue.

And so in the plot section, I go through not just the seven steps of a great story, but the 22 steps. And this is really where you get into a, having a plot that is constructed, that is complex enough to deal with the professional level. Now here’s the. Anatomy of genres. Each genre handles those seven basic steps in a different way.

They all hit the seven steps, but they do them in a different way. Let me give you a perfect example. What makes the detective story the most complex plot of any genre story there is the fact that they take step number three, the opponent, and hide it until the final. When you do that, you create all kinds of problems for the writer.

you also create massive complexity in the plot, and if so, if you know how to do that, you’re gonna have a great plotted story. So what’s the difference? It’s the 22 steps would not allow you to write. Detective story at the level that you now need to write it in order to separate yourself from all other detective writers.

And that’s what, and that’s what those specialized plot beats are. Because every genre has handles the seven steps in a unique way, but also adds certain story beats, certain plot beats that are unique to that four form. You have to know both of those, and that’s. Anatomy genres had to be written and why it builds on the anatomy of story.

No, that makes a lot of

[00:28:57] Joe: sense. It’s a great way of explaining it and thinking about like how, if you just pick that book up and you’re like, you created that problem with the opponent piece and then to understand that now that’s how I gotta do it and I have to do it in a smart way.

Yeah. And then thinking about how, if you’re trying to. Detective with something else that confounds the

[00:29:15] John: problem even further. And that, you’ve just brought up a really important point that I’m glad I, that I can talk about with your listeners, which is that.

I’ve said early on that it is absolutely essential that you mix multiple genres anywhere from two to four, and that’s absolutely true. The problem comes with how you do it. Cause most writers, when they try to mix genres, they end up with story chaos. Now why? Why is that the case? It’s because every genre has its own predetermined hero, predetermined.

Predetermined desire line that the goal of the hero that provides the spine of the story and 15 to 20 plot beats and a specialized theme. All right? So if you use more than one and don’t know how to mix them, what you end up with is too many heroes. Too many opponents, too many desire lines, which means you have multiple spines and a story will not work with multiple spines, and you have all of these plot beats and you have no idea how to put ’em together.

And so here’s the, here is the most important technique for handling that. Again, I talk about it extensively in a book, but the first most important trick is choose your primary genre. Choose, make one of them the main story form that you’re dealing with, and the what that does is it gives you your main character, your main opponent, the single desire line that’s gonna track the spine of the story and the 15 to 20 plot beats that must be in this story.

Then what you do is you take the other genres that you wanna mix in, and you take the plot, beats that from those other genres that work with the main genre, but only if they work with the main genre. And why do I say that? Because certain beats, again, a lot of these beats are simply taking one of the seven steps and doing it in a very unique way.

And so what happens is when you’re mixing certain genres, plot beat. The same plot beat will be an opposite. They, you can’t do ‘ em both in the same story. So that’s why you choose your main genre first. That gives you the 15 to 20 plot beats that have to be there. Otherwise the reader is gonna say, no, this is not my kind of story.

That’s not what I’d like. But then you then take the plot beads from the other forms, add them in. Mix them in, weave them in where they work with the main. . And then what you’ve got is you’ve got the benefit of multiple genres, but you’ve also got the fact that it’s a single storyline in a genre that your readers are gonna recognize.

And where this is also going to help you out is that, and this is a very important trick for being a successful writer in today’s world, which is you are going to write using mixed genres, but you’re gonna sell using. you’ve got to be able to tell your readers, this is the form I work in.

Yeah. And so if you don’t, then you know, they don’t know where to put you and Amazon doesn’t know where to put you, and so on and so forth. And if you get put in the wrong category, then you’re really in trouble because they’re going to, if they’re going to actually confuse what you’ve done in terms of market.

With what you’ve done in terms of quality of writing, they’re gonna say, this is really a lousy story. When it’s just, it’s not the story that they expect because it is not in the genre that they expect it’s to, to be reading it in. So this is why it’s so important, your genres when you write, but know the single genre for when you sell.

[00:32:33] Joe: Having you, I’m sure you’ve worked with some people. While you’re writing this, been writing this thing, for the past five years you’ve been working with some people,

[00:32:40] John: That have started to apply this.

[00:32:42] Joe: Can you share how you’ve seen some of your students or some of your people you’ve coached like how they’ve adopted this and how

how, when like the penny drops

[00:32:52] John: for him? It you get to it. You’re getting to a really key point, which is can you execute what I’m asking you to execute? Yeah. Uh, Cause I’m asking you to execute at the highest level and I’m, I will often use so writers can understand what they’re really dealing with.

I will of often use a sports metaphor that is, if you want to, if you wanted to play professional sports, for example, I would love to be the point guard on the Lakers. But just because I want to doesn’t mean I get to Right. . Yeah. You may wanna be a top writer. That didn’t mean you’re gonna get there.

And bec and when we’re talking about professional athletes, we’re talking about the top 1%. We’re really probably talking about the top 0.1%. And so that’s the kind of level that we’re competing with in terms of professional storytelling. . One of the things that the indie novel world has given us it’s the greatest moon for writers that we’ve probably ever had after the printing press.

What it allows us to do is it allows us to get our voice out there. It allows us to get our story brand out there, whereas if you are writing in film or television, you don’t get to do. It’s a minimum of a hundred million to make a movie. , that’s just to make the movie, not to sell it.

So you can’t just write a script and say, okay, here it is guys. Now go do your thing with it. No, but with a novel you can do that. It’s out there and you start building your brand. But what is gonna allow you to sustain and build the brand is the quality of the storytelling. And so I’m asking writers to do something very difficult, which is what it is.

Learn how to write complex plot in your genre. And be able to express advanced theme through that plot. And that’s why when I talk about the book initially, it can be a little intimidating for writers cause they think, I don’t know how to do that stuff. I know you don’t. That’s why this book is there and that’s why it’s, I lay it out and that’s why it’s over 700 pages because for every genre, there’s 14 major genres that are covered in there for every genre.

The first half of each chapter goes into great detail for the techniques of how you express the 15 to 20 plot. Beats of that form tells you exactly how to do it. The second half of the chapter then tells you, this is the theme of this genre and this is how you express it through your plot beats. And so I take by the hand step by step.

And so even. , what I’m asking you to get to is a very high level. I’m trying to give you the tools to get there. No, I,

[00:35:22] Joe: It’s, it comes across that way to me it was it was like a, probably not the best analogy, but it’s almost a recipe book. Yeah. In the sense of it’s explaining to you how you can make a good quality, whatever baked good or whatever it is.

that now you can be a cook and follow the recipe, or you can be a chef and learn from that, and then start to say you know what? I get this, but what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna take out a little bit of salt and have a little more sugar. And, but at least you have a place to start and understand okay I really.

What are the components that I need? Yeah, exactly.

[00:35:54] John: And that was part of what I say in the very opening chapter is the anatomy of story was, this is how you write a good story. The anatomy of genres is how do I write a great story? So it’s not just you.

You’re absolutely right. It gives you the recipe, it gives you the beats that you have to have. But then, and this is the part I think that is revolutionary about the book, is it says, okay, now I’m gonna take you from being a cook to a chef. This is how you get to the highest level writer in that particular genre.

. And that’s, that is, I think what we’re, certainly writers are going to find the 15 to 20 beats listed in the order that they’re, that they’re supposed to be in that story. They’re gonna find that very helpful. But what they’re, what is I think gonna really blow their minds in terms of being helpful to them.

To become really the best writer they can be is all the stuff in the second half of each chapter about theme, about expressing this kind of powerful story, wisdom to your reader, which gets the emotional connection between reader and story. That is what sets the best apart from everyone else. Yeah.

And I,

[00:37:01] Joe: I would say that another big thing that’s changed is. In the time that you and I have known each other is you, there was a time where you could see, you could look in the marketplace and see something that was doing okay or doing well and maybe just put some improvements on it Yeah.

And be more successful with it. Yep. But that’s gone away because people are so quick to get into these markets and Fast with, analysis to say, okay, this is a new thing, and then it gets oversaturated and the audience gets like, wow, this is just another right. Whatever book. If you’re going to be in a space where you’re really carving out your own career, you’re gonna have to figure out, you’re gonna have to take this and then figure out your recipe off of this.

Yes, it’s a great place to say okay, how I’m gonna be doing this is. , the dirty secret is it’s really what I’ve done is I’ve taken fantasy and I put the gangster movie inside it or heist or whatever. And I know that. And these are my things that I do for my recipe and then the fans can’t ever put like a thumb on it.

Oh, it’s this. But emotionally they just wanna go on that journey. .

[00:38:00] John: Yeah, exactly. You’ve gotta be, as the writer, you’ve got to be the person who knows technique-wise how to do that. But you’ve touched on a couple of really important things there. One is that one of the ways that you transcend the genre and separate yourself out from the crowd is to mix genres that are not normally mixed before.

And this is again, a way that you not only mix the genres, so you give the reader a lot of plot beats, but you also give them a sequence of beats that they’ve never seen before. They’ve never seen those two, three, or four story forms put together. Now let me give you a good example. The film Inception, hugely popular film is a combination of heist story and science fiction.

Now, we’ve never seen that. And so as soon as we saw that, everybody said, wow, that is really original. That’s really cool. Now they didn’t say, oh look, the writer put together heist in Science fiction. We don’t normally see that. That’s really smart of that guy. No, and they shouldn’t be thinking that.

No , that’s your job as the writer to put those together seamlessly. But to know upfront, wouldn’t it be cool if I put these two together? Same. Same as true with Harry Potter. She put together genres that had never been done before. It with this idea of, obviously we’re talking about fantasy, we’re talking about a number of myth elements, which, some of which she borrowed from ancient Greece and the classic old myth stories that we know and love.

She also has number of elements from horror and she mixed all of that with English boarding school. It was like, this guy is going to a boarding school. To become a wizard. Now how brilliant is that? It’s just it’s and now everybody is trying to get some kind of Wednesday is on now and it’s, yeah.

Yeah. It’s

[00:39:43] Joe: interesting. Genre and .

[00:39:44] John: Exactly. And it has xmen elements and so on. So that’s part of what you’re doing. But what, as I say, what’s really crucial is to have the skills to be able to. Create something unique that no one else has seen. you know this so very well, that to be at the top level in terms of selling your work, you have to have a unique story brand.

And this is one of the biggest problems I see with writers. Not just when they first begin but what they continue to make this mistake year after year, which is they think I’ll come up with, I’ll, my story is. This film combined with that film where meets and they tell me that, and they, isn’t that cool?

Isn’t that great? And I say it might be, but . But just putting those two together doesn’t mean anything because all you’re doing is doing a copy of two things put together and the storytelling business doesn’t need to pay you a lot of money for that. They can get that from every. , that’s generic.

What you’re trying to do is create a unique story brand that no one else is doing. They have to come to you and you only, and that’s where the big money comes from.

[00:40:55] Joe: Absolutely. Like you think about a writer like David Mamut, right? Who’s Yeah. Really distinct. Yep. Storytelling style and how he does things and some people don’t.

Other people like, I can’t get enough.

[00:41:08] John: And that’s the thing, if you do like it, he’s the only guy you can go to . And he gets very well paid to do that. Aaron Sorkin is the same thing. You may not like these long monologues and these long walk and talk dialogue scenes that he does.

He’s the guy that does that. And yeah, a lot of people love it. And so if you love it and there are a lot of people that do. He’s the only guy you can go to. That’s why they pay him a ton of money. Yeah.

[00:41:32] Joe: Yeah. I I just watched Glen Gary Gillum Ross with my kids. Yeah. And everyone always thinks of the famous Alec Baldwin scene.

It gets quoted so much, but the guy that’s amazing in that thing is Ed Harris. . And the, that character development there and the stuff that he’s doing is amazing. Yeah. And it’s one of those things that, and watching it a second time, I could actually detach a bit and see the mechanics of it and it’s yep.

You can see how everything was so thoughtfully laid out. Yeah. And how much work goes into to doing something like that.

[00:42:00] John: Exactly. Exactly. And it’s just, I can’t emphasize it enough to your listeners how important creating your unique story brand is. And that, as I say, that doesn’t come.

Primarily from marketing, and I don’t wanna put down marketing in any way, shape, or form. You and I both know how incredibly important it is, but it’s gotta come before you market. It’s gotta come from creating a story that no one, but you could create. That also is a well told story. So it’s at the professional level in terms of the mechanics, in terms of the structural elements, but that it’s also.

So original in what you’ve been able to do by transcending your form that it’s just clearly your work. You have become not just a craftsperson, a re a regular writer like everyone else. You’ve become an artist of your particular stories. And that is, that’s the top, that’s where you get to the top.

And it’s not just in terms of getting to the top in terms of critical success, it’s in terms of popular. . And

[00:43:02] Joe: I would argue that when it’s done, the way you write, the way you’re talking about it is marketing. Because if I put my best marketing strategy ever and I put it on a mediocre book, I’ll never be able to sell book too.

But if I have a somewhat crappy marketing strategy on a book, that’s amazing. It doesn’t matter what happens after that . That’s the part that people don’t understand is that it’s that point I was making earlier. It’s like marketing is about the appeal. Are you gonna read this? When they open up the book and read it, the quality decision is made in as that, that living, that waking dream unfolds in front of their mind’s eye.

And if it’s crappy, they’re gonna be like, there’s only another 3000 books that came out today on Amazon. Maybe I’ll read one

[00:43:46] John: of them. People do not have the time to spend reading a book that doesn’t blow them away. No. And that’s why I always say exactly what you’re saying, which is the most important marketing you do is when you first write the book.

Yep. That is so

[00:44:01] Joe: true. John, it’s been great talking to you again. What, where can people find you? What parting messages do you have? Which do you wanna shamelessly plug other than your book ?

[00:44:10] John: The let me just tell people where they can go to buy the book. Go to anatomy of and that anatomy of genres, that’s all one word.

That’s, the title, anatomy of a Genre. Dot com. And you have a number of choices there of different kinds of bookstores that you can buy. Just buy at your favorite bookstore and also when you purchase the book, keep your receipt and send it to us at my website which is, and people will get a.

And that bonus is a class there’s two classes that they can choose from. One is the class that I did on Avatar, and the other class is a class I did on Westworld, a TV show first season. And in these classes, I break down using all the techniques from the. I break down these two classics and explain exactly how they work.

What are the beats? How do they sequence the beats? What is the transcendent theme of these stories and why do they enter the area of greatness? And then, underneath that is, the suggestion. How can you, the. Do the same thing Now, I’m not, I don’t ever promise anybody that I’m gonna help them become a great writer.

That’s their job. But I believe that my job is to give people the tools, the knowledge, the information that they need. as a basis to get there. Then how they apply those tools that’s up to them. And and on, you can see other courses in story software that I have that, that I won’t go into at this time.

But I’ve just, the main thing that I want people to take from this is this. Is going to change your writing of life. I truly believe that. I, it took me five years to write it for a reason, because I wanted it to have all of the professional techniques that you need to know to have a chance to get into that top 1%.

So I hope you will buy the book. I think you’ll find it is well worth the cost. Oh, yeah. I,

[00:46:09] Joe: It was one of those things that right off the bat I was getting value out of it. I think that if you are serious about being a writer, this is one of these things you need to have on your shelf.

[00:46:18] John: In print

[00:46:19] Joe: so you can put your Post-it notes in it. Yeah,

[00:46:21] John: for sure. That is a great point, Joe. I strongly recommend that people get it in print because you are going, you are gonna be marking this book up,

[00:46:28] Joe: yeah, this is already getting tabs in it. . Yeah. Awesome. John, it was great having you on.

Again. Really appreciate you taking the time to share this and thanks for doing all this hard.

[00:46:36] John: Thank you for having me on. It’s always a pleasure to talk with you. I love your knowledge of the story business and it is, it’s just great to have a good conversation like this. Awesome. We’ll be talking.

[00:46:47] Joe: Bye.