Transcript of John Truby and the Story Rescue Worksheet[00:00:00] Joseph: Hey, it’s Joe Solari here and welcome back to the Business of Writing. Today. I have a special guest, John Truby. How you doing, John? [00:00:08] John Truby: I’m doing great Joe, and it’s great to be with you. [00:00:10] Joseph: We met actually we met a few 20 books ago. We, a mutual friend introduced us and and then, I’ve seen you around that conference a few times and thought it would be great to have you come on and talk a little bit about what you do and specifically from the perspective of as authors look at their story, maybe looking at it a little less precious and more like a product and how you can really help with the idea around improving product quality. [00:00:41] John Truby: Yeah, absolutely. It’s so important. [00:00:43] Joseph: So why don’t you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do and, I’ve read your book it’s one of those books you keep going back to and it seems every time I find something new and I’d love for you to explain how you came up with that, your 22 steps and what got you to hair. [00:00:58] John Truby: Sure. The book you’re referring to is called The Anatomy of Story, and it’s a class that, a book that kind of evolved out of a class that I’ve been given for over 30 years now. And it was designed as the class that we give people all of the techniques they need to know in order to write at the professional level.
regardless of what the media might be, whether it’s film, novels, television, whatever. And of course that’s, quite a lot of techniques and it is a very packed, dense book. But what that came out of was really working with writers and doing my own writing, but also consulting for all of the major movie studios in terms of how to take a script that has some strong marketing elements, but the story is not there.
And so I became an expert in really doing script doctoring, script consulting, work in, and really focusing on story and because that’s really what determines whether a book or a film sells. And this is really at the heart of what we want to talk about, which is the idea that.
What I’ve found and I saw this in the 20 Books conference, I found that, writers are very focused on learning these marketing techniques, which are of course incredibly important. The right blur of the right cover, and so on and so forth. You’ve gotta have that, you’ve gotta have that, but what I found was, and I was really quite shocked by it, was that they didn’t realize that the single most important marketing element for your book is the story itself. , it’s in the story, and it’s how you write that story. And so what I found is that writers were missing this massive element that could not only make them, give them a better story, a better book, but more importantly it would help them sell a lot more books.
And so I really have been focused the last few years on working with novelists to try to help them write stories that can sell. And that basically comes down to the product quality, the quality of the work, but also a very specific kind of way that you tell the story, which most writers are not familiar with.
Yeah. It was interesting. Like you, when you first started talking to that point, I was like that you said that this, the studios would bring you in when they had something that had some good, something good for the market, but didn’t have a story, right? Like that they know that they needed both pieces, that they could see that there was some commercial element that they.
Prey on, but without that other piece, it wasn’t gonna do anything. Exactly. And this marketing element what Hollywood refers to it as they call it, the, they refer to it as a high concept, premise. And premise of course is your story stated in one line? . And what they often do is they’ll see a script, They’ll buy a script that has a high concept premise, meaning it’s very marketable.
It has some elements in it that, that they think that they can sell to an audience. But a high concept premise is a single line. You then have to turn that into 110 page script that has a story that drives all the way to the end, and it has to have tremendous narrative drive. And this is the element that Hollywood studios always look for.
Does the story have tremendous narrative drive? It also happens to be what the readers are looking for in reading all. This is by far the most important element in a book or book series that sells, big time. And so what I do and when I’m working with writers that the system that I talk about and teach is really designed to create maximum narrative drive and a story.
And where this becomes especially important for novelists is writers who are writing novel series, because then you have to extend plot over multiple books. And this is a skill that frankly, most writers do not have. And that’s why I put so much focus on that. On that topic, before we dive deeper into this whole thing of narrative drive, can you talk to how that is?
You mentioned the idea of series, and certainly that is, multiple books and having arcs that go across that. But in, in today’s world of media consumption, we doesn’t matter which media you’re looking at, that’s what the audiences want, is they want something that they can consume over seasons or series or how is that changed anything or made this more important?
How does that play into your idea of narrative drive?
Narrative drive has become more important over the last few years in every medium in worldwide storytelling, there is nothing else that’s even close to it. And what we talked about narrative drive, we’re talking about the forward propulsion of the story that gets the reader to want to turn the page.
And so this has become more important because you are, you’re competing as a writer. You are competing with all of these other writers. And the question is, which book am I going to read? The book that they wanna read, what really distinguishes the top sellers from every other writer is the amount of plot that is in the store.
This is the single biggest distinguishing feature of it. And so the question becomes, how do I create that much plot, especially when I have to extend it over multiple novels? This is very difficult to do. It requires a tremendous amount of technical knowledge in work to be able to do that. But the reason it’s so important for writers, especially for any novels, is that.
By far the most important element in terms of allowing you to make money on your books is read through. You have to have maximum read through, and that what that means is that, first of all, you got a lot of, you gotta write a lot of books fast, and it also means you need a ton of plot to carry this story through over multiple books.
And as I say, this is something the biggest distinction between not only top sellers and every everybody else, but the top professionals versus amateur riders, is the ability to create that much plot and the most important set of plot tools. Falls under the heading of Narrative Drive.
It’s a particular kind of plot that we’re gonna try to create and try to extend that over multiple. Sure. And I think, we talked about this earlier but the point of in the marketplace, this is one of the things that isn’t it’s like product quality in cars. As time goes on, there’s just an expectation that all vehicles have certain things.
Like you can’t buy a car that doesn’t have abs and a ton of airbags in it now. Whereas if you go back 20 years, that was the, ooh, big deal. There’s only a few cars that had it. So if you don’t start to have these more sophisticated pieces of story structure and , some of the tools you’re talking about you’re gonna get left behind because there.
There’s just a level of expectation to have that. And I think also you observe over time, you’re age, you’ve seen how just on tv, what could be a, a series and the content that was there was so light. Whereas today’s reader or expects so much more sophistication, right? Like they know this stuff, so they wanna see their mind challenged and they wanna have turns in the plot and they wanna have surprises.
Yeah. And you made a great point there, Joe, because in many ways the biggest competition that Indie novelists have today is not just other indie novelists working in their genre, it’s really the TV. And what they’re doing as Anie novelist in writing a series of books is essentially writing a TV series in book form.
Now, the readers are not just familiar with other authors in their genre. They’re very familiar with all these fantastic TV shows that we’ve been seeing for the last 20 years, in this golden age of television. And the one thing I always tell writers when I’m teaching my television class is Television Eats plot.
It is a massive plot eating machine . And so the writers in television who work on, in these writing rooms and writing these series, they have to learn how to pack a great deal of plot, not just in the episode, but in the entire season. And then they have to do it again next season. And this season afterwards.
And potentially this could run on for multiple years. So you, that is tremendous challenge that writers have. And similar tody novelists TV writers have to write this stuff really fast. The time element that they have to produce high quality work in is unreal. But any novels have that same kind of time crunch that they have to deal with.
So what that does is it puts a tremendous premium on writer who can produce high quality work, meaning, high plot content in a very short period of time. Great. Why don’t you help us with that and talk about the narrative drive and some tools that you think would help some of the folks watching to tune this up really quickly.
Yeah, great idea. Let’s do that. First of all, let me give people a link that they can download a worksheet that I think you would find very helpful. And if you wanna, work through that worksheet as we’re going through it and we’re, you and I are talking, I think the writers can find that really helpful.
That link. That’s a great idea. Yeah, let’s, It’s at truby.com/sari. Now this is what I call the Story Rescue Worksheet, and it goes through some really important techniques that can immediately kick your story up to a whole other level, and especially to give it strong narrative drive. Now the first thing that’s important to understand, I think, is a distinction between character and plot.
There. I found a really interesting tendency on the part of novelists, especially indie novelist, where they think of these two character and plot as in opposition to each other. And they and in that opposition, they choose character first. They say I’m really more focused on the characters.
I figure out the plot as I go. It’s not a big deal to me. There, there some people say I don’t want too much plot because it just kills the characters. . The first thing we have to do is get past that misconception. It is a huge mistake and it will basically kill your right if you think that way.
In, in, in fact, character and plot at the deepest level are identical because character is revealed through the plot. And plot is simply the character unfolding through action. And so what that means is if you want a great plot, you have to have a great character to create that plot. And similarly, if you wanna have a great character, you have to have a very complex plot that will test that character to the deepest level of their capability.
So once you realize that, that these are intimately linked, and then in fact I believe the single most important principle and technique of story is that the plot should come out of the Charact. Now, what that means is that the character is what we work on to establish first in the story. Even though we want to have a very complex plot that can extend over multiple books, that isn’t how we catch the reader.
The way we catch the reader is by setting up a great character. And I always find it very helpful to think in terms of this important distinction to get maximum read through for your work Character is what catches the reader, but plot is what keeps them. And so what we need to do is create this really strong character that is going to catch the reader.
Now, there are a lot of techniques for doing them and the first thing that I talk about in the story rescue worksheet is we set up that great character at the premise line. And what I mean by that is that you want your hero to be an underdog who has to overcome extreme. When you create a character who is an underdog, that is, he’s going up against really powerful opposition.
He has really very little chance to win. You create a tremendous emotional connection between that character and the reader. And it’s probably the best way of setting up that emotional connection really fast. And again, this is what is so important. We have to not only execute the technique, we have to do it quickly.
So if we make that character an underdog right from the beginning, right from the premise line, then we’re gonna create that audience identification. And this emotional connection is what’s going to be, what we’re going to, we’re gonna the kind of the sounding board that we want to create for the entire novel series.
If we don’t have a strong character with a great emotional connection to our readers, In the very beginning, we are not going to get read through for multiple models. It just cannot happen cuz the foundation isn’t there. And I think that especially folks that are getting a lot of their revenue from something like Kindle Unlimited, where their books are part of a subscription, it’s even more concentrated and intense because it’s easy for a reader to open up that book and read the first sentence or the first paragraph, and if they don’t feel it, they just close it and go to the next book.
Exactly right. Exactly right. And this is why I talk about also very important technique, which I refer to as the character bank. And this is especially important when you’re writing a novel series because when you’re writing a novel series, you are creating a universe. You are creating an entire story world.
and that story world is populated not just by all of these fantastic elements that we might have, say in a Lord of the Rings. Most importantly, it’s populated by a set of characters, and these set of characters are then going to not just the hero, but all of the characters and how they relate to each other.
That is going to be the support that you get for the rest of the series and beyond. This, by the way, is the whole concept behind Star Wars. It’s the concept behind Marvel, and it’s why Disney bought those franchises. It’s because they have a character bank there that filled with fabulous characters that they can generate stories in all mediums for the rest of time.
This is ideally what the indie novelist wants to do. Now, once we set up this, Powerful main character and we really hook the reader with that. Then comes time for us to start applying all these plot techniques and there’s really three major areas where we get, where we have techniques for creating maximum narrative draw, and those are premise, desire and opponent.
Now, I’ve already mentioned premise. That’s The one line story description. That is really a one line description of the plot of the story. The second major area though is desire. This is what the character wants. And the second technique that I talk about in the story rescue worksheet is that you wanna give your hero a specific goal.
The more specific, the better. And Joe, I can’t tell you how many times writers have a problem with this. They give the character a goal, which is not specific enough, and therefore the whole story falls apart. Why? Because the desire line, the goal of the character is the spine of the story. And therefore, we need a spine.
In writing a series, we need a spine, not just for one novel, but for multiple novels, for an entire series. And that has gotta be provided by what the hero wants in this series. Now, there’s a technique you can use to figure out if your goal is specific enough, which is there a specific moment in time when the reader knows yes or no?
Whether the hero accomplished the goal or not. If that doesn’t exist, then the goal is not specific enough and it will not work to support your entire series. With that, what I, I would think some authors are like, they may start out where they think they know what the goal is, right? And as they go in the series and they’re kinda learning the story themselves and that changes.
How do you address something like that? It’s a huge problem. You put your finger on one of the biggest that writer’s face, and it becomes exponentially worse when you’re writing a novel series. And that’s because if you get the spine wrong, or if the goal is accomplished after one book or halfway into the first book, then you’ve gotta create another spine.
. That means you basically created two different stories. Because that spine, that desire line is the story. Everything else hangs on that. And so if you don’t know, if you’re not clear about what that spine is, what that goal is, not only for one book for, but for all of the books in this series you will not get to where you need to be.
In fact, my, what usually happens is that the writer gives up on the series entirely. Because they, they run into a writer’s block and, writers have this thing about writer’s block. They think writer’s block is because, I just, I was frustrated with this story. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do.
I wasn’t all that motivated by it. I lost interest in it, and so on and so forth. Writers. What doesn’t come from the psychology, it comes from the structure of the story. It comes from the fact that a writer writes themselves into a corner and they can’t get out . And so what do they do? They give it up.
And so what they’ve done is essentially they have thrown away a fantastic story idea because they couldn’t execute it and the main reason they couldn’t execute it, they came up with the wrong desire line, or they came up with a goal that is accomplished too easily or accomplished halfway through the store.
So this is why it’s so important to plan out your novel in your novel series. You simply cannot play it to professional level if you try to wing it and come up with this stuff as you go. It just doesn’t work. A after technique two, this, having this specific goal before you cut off of that, what, So I think about The show that my wife and I have been watching a lot of his billions.
Have you seen that? I have not seen that, but I know what you’re talking about. Yeah. And there, it’s amazing writing, and if I’m gonna use this as an analogy, we know that the prosecutor’s trying to get the billionaire and we know that the guy’s done some bad stuff. And who I think we’re in season three or four now, that, that play between those two people continues on.
But every single episode there tends to be almost like a mini goal. And it could be really very to your point, very specific. He needs to get the paperwork into the office by a certain period of time. And all the things that have stopped him from just that simple goal. If he doesn’t get the papers filed, the course ca court case can’t move forward, or something like that. How do the, how what’s your system talk about with kind of those like the art overarching series goals versus the story goals? Joe, you put your finger again on a critical structural element here when you’re writing a novel series. And here’s the technique. You have to give the hero a goal for each book and a goal for the entire series.
This is absolutely essential and let me give you an example from Harry Potter the Harry Potter Sourcers Stone. Harry has two goals in that book. One goal has to do with this series. It is what Harry wants to do in all seven books, which is to defeat vor. the version it takes in sourcers stone is that he has to stop whoever is stole the SORs stone.
Who is that? It’s vor working through using the body of Professor Corll. So then there is a goal just for that particular book, which is to win the House Cup for Griffindor. And sure enough, when you get to the end of the story in the final battle and then what the scene that follows right on top of that is that first he defeats Vold more, so he takes care of gold, number one, and then he wins the House cup for Griffindor because of all the great things that he and Ron and Hermoine have done and of both goals.
Then in the next book we set up, Again, a specific goal for that particular book, which is also under the rubric, under the heading of the overall larger goal, which is to defeat V. Makes sense. And again, both goals have to be very specific. Now there’s another technique that I talk about in the Story Rescue worksheet, which again, has to do with desired.
And I spend a lot of time in my system by talking about desire and opponent, because these are the two most crucial elements for making any story work. There’s hundreds of techniques that go into great storytelling and storytelling with intense narrative. But the two areas where most of these techniques revolve around has to do with desire and opponent.
That’s the DNA of the of the book. That’s how the story works in that interplay between desire and opponent. because the opponent is the person trying to prevent the hero from getting his goal. And so that’s the person that the hero is competing with for the goal. But this other technique having to do with desire is we don’t just wanna give the hero a specific desire.
We wanna make it an intense desire. The more intense the hero wants, the goal of the better it is. And this is a very important technique because what we’re really doing here is we’re upping the stakes. And a basic rule of story is the higher the stakes. The more popular, The story doesn’t necessarily make it a better story, but it makes it a more popular story.
And again, if we’re going from narrative drive, the maximum amount of narrative drive, we want the hero to want the goal with the most intensity possible. So it’s not just, Boy, wouldn’t it be nice if I could get that goal? It’s, I’m gonna die if I don’t get it. I’m absolutely desperate to get this right.
And you can have all kinds of reasons why they’re desperate to do that, but you need to pump up that desperation level as high as you can get it. Now I mentioned that other key element in how you’re setting up the structure for your novel and for your novel series is the opponent. And again, in the worksheet, have some techniques there that you can use that will immediately kick your story, your opposition up to another level.
And what is that? You wanna give the hero one main opponent over the course of the book and over the course of the series . Now your character’s gonna fight a lot of different people, but you want one main character to be the person that is really the one that he has to be. And the reason for this is, there’s a ton of reasons for that, but one is that it focuses the story.
You’re getting this you’re getting, everything comes down to these two characters butting heads. And so it heightens the conflict. And the more conflict we can get in the story, the more plot we get, the more plot we get, the more popular the book is. So we wanna be able to have a main opponent who is present throughout the entire book and series.
Now that’s easy to say. It’s not always easy to do. For example, if you are doing a, a science fiction story, a space opera, whatever, where the character goes to a lot of different planets traveling around the universe, so on and so forth, how do you keep the opponent around? That’s not easy to do.
And and there are a lot of techniques for doing that. For example, the when they use in, in, in Star Wars where they, at the end of each film, at the end of each individual story, it focuses down to a battle between the hero and the main opponent. So even though, Darth Fedder isn’t literally hanging out with him every minute of the story we’re getting a funnel effect where we’re gonna bring these two.
In conflict, two ahead at the end of that story, and then we restart the funnel at the very next film. But it is absolutely essential that you have a single main opponent. This intensifies the conflict. It also is, gives us a character that the reader gets, has an emotional connection to. We’re always trying to get the most intense emotional connection with the characters.
We can’t, not just with the hero. Lot writers don’t understand that. It’s also gotta be with the opponent. We want an opponent that the reader loves to hate. And so that just, again it increases the engagement that the reader feels with your story and with your world. The other thing on that I’ve noticed in some books where I’ve really connected[00:26:49] Joseph: when the author does a good job at giving you accessibility to the opponent.
And, at some level there’s a lot of, there’s a lot of bad stuff that we would like to try and, as people we imagine doing, we never do because of our moral compass. But to be able to kinda imagine it and connect with that from a villain’s point of view sometimes is just as much fun as, being the hero.[00:27:11] John Truby: It is not only just as much fun in many ways, it’s the key to the whole book.
What you’re talking about is incredibly important and let me explain it in two different ways. One is that if we can create an opponent who isn’t just a heavy, isn’t just a villain in other words, they’re more a more human opponent. Makes the fight between them and the hero much more subtle, complex, emotionally layered, and it’s a lot more fun to read as opposed to the super villain who is just evil right there. That is a black box. We can’t get into that. It’s just, I know they’re on the other side.
They’re the bad guy. Okay, the story’s gonna play out and we’re gonna have to beat this guy. But if you have this human opposition on human level, on the emotional level, wow. It just when the hero defeats the opponent, it’s just so much sweeter. And it’s also, you get this often a bittersweet quality.[00:28:11] Joseph: Yeah, [00:28:12] John Truby: absolutely love. But there’s a second reason, even more important reason for what you just said being so important. Which is that in many ways, the main opponent is the key to the plot. And this is something that most writers do not understand, and it comes from their understanding of plot itself.
They think that plot is what happens next, and they see it as really this hero’s journey where the hero goes on this journey and encounters a series of unconnected obstacles. That is not plot, That is, at least it’s not a good plot. It’s a very episodic story, and that’s one of the cardinal sins of storytelling is an episodic story, meaning that individual events, individuals seen stand out, but they don’t connect and they don’t build.
What plot really is it is a scheme, It is a grand strategy that the opponent is using. In order to defeat the hero. And so the reader experiences that scheme from the point of view of the hero and all of these, attacks that are coming at the hero, that the hero has to deal with and figure out and overcome and so on and so forth.
So we’re experiencing it from the hero’s point of view. We’re on that heroes journey. But in terms of the writer creating the plot, the trick is to understand and see the plot, first of all, from the point of view of the opponent. This is, by the way, especially true in the genre form that is, has the most complex plot of any genre, which is the detective form.
It is one of the key techniques, and I talk about it in my system, that it’s one of the key techniques that you figure out the crime and. How the crime is covered up, hidden away, first of all, from the point of view of the opponent and then the hero you will then slot in terms of how they are going to uncover the reveals of how the opponent did the crime.
But in all storytelling, in all genre, you always wanna think of the plot, first of all, from the point of view of the opponent because that will do more to figure out your story than anything else you can do. It will also give you an understanding of plot, not as individual events, not as these tactical moments, but it’s a grand strategy that where all of the attacks by the opponent are linked together as part of a grand scheme and in many ways linked to what the other opponents are doing.
To put the maximum amount of pressure on the hill is one of the most important techniques there is.[00:30:47] Joseph: Yeah, that’s a great point. And you made me think about again, the season we just finished with this billions where there’s now been enough setup between the two antagonists because you’re really, at this point, you’re not sure who is the hero and who is the villain.
That’s, I think, is, makes a really great story in that the prosecutor at the end of this season you think that he has been wiped out. Yeah. Because he did some insider trading and this billionaire foiled this, used his financial acumen to ruin this whole trade. Where the reality was, you find out was, is the prosecutor did this because he knew he was the ultimate bait.
To the other guy that he could not pass up the chance to do something to him personally knowing that he was doing this inside trade. Yes. And it was actually, he pulled off the plot and this.[00:31:38] John Truby: That, that’s a perfect example of what I’m talking about. A plot is grand strategy. Yes. Yeah.
And it’s grand strategy in the example you’re talking about that occurs over the entire season. That that, all of that has to be coordinated in the, in by connecting the individual episodes together. And as you pointed out a moment ago, each one of those episodes, just like the individual novel and series, has its own individual Desir.
. But then we’re gonna link those desire lines in an overall season and it’s all gonna be based on a grand strategy of hero and opponent back and forth as each tries to win.[00:32:15] Joseph: Yeah. And to that point you can see how. Your experience is deepened because you know that animosity has been building, right?
You’ve seen wins and losses both ways in how both is prepared to go further and further to accomplish their goal. Yep. And again, it’s like I said, it’s like both have admirable qualities and both have despicable qualities.[00:32:40] John Truby: Yeah. And that’s another key technique in story, which is you never wanna think of the villain as the bad guy.
As think of the opponent as a villain. The opponent in a story might be a better human being than the hero. The definition of an opponent in a story is simply the character on the other. That’s it. it’s the character trying to prevent the hero from getting his goal. And what one of the marks of really advanced storytelling, whether it be a novel film or television, is that you make that opponent a very complex individual with some positive features, and you make them actually right about certain things.
Not about all things, but about a lot of things. , that, in, that, as you point out with billions it makes that connection between the two of them so much richer. And that means the connection of the reader, the viewer to that story is that much deeper. Now,[00:33:34] Joseph: I don’t know if you’re gonna get into it in your repair sheet, your rescue sheet, but I know it’s in your book where you talk about, the idea of at some point the companions.
Are the ones that kind of pull the hero off the ledge, like the hero’s prepared to do something so drastic and that it has to be the retina around him that our reflection on that behavior and help him come back. What’s, Could you talk a little bit to that? Sure. I know I’m not, I’m paraphrasing it poorly, but No, that’s close.[00:34:00] John Truby: That’s close. It’s, when we’re talking about the friend, the ally. , is a major story role. There. There are a few roles that characters have in stories. Hero opponent. The one you’re talking about is the ally, and this is the person who structurally is the one who is helping the hero get his goal.
That is the simple definition. Now, where they become interesting as character is not just as helpers to get the goal just, Oh, the hero needs me to do this in order to win. No. Where they become interesting is that over the course of the story, as the hero becomes more desperate to win, and typically in the early and middle part of the story, the hero will be losing to the opponent because the opponent at that point is still too strong.
So what does he do? Typically, he starts to take immoral methods in order to win. I’m so desperate I’m gonna do this that I normally wouldn’t do because I have to win. It’s a, I cannot lose this, right? And so what, and I, and by the way it is, I do talk about it in the story rescue sheet, and what the ally then does is the ally becomes the conscience of the hero, and the ally says to the hero, Look, I know what you’re trying to do.
I’m trying to help you get it. But you can’t use those methods to do it because you’re losing your soul. And so the ally tries to pull the hero back off the ledge. Now, at that point in the story, though, hero’s not ready to come off the ledge. He’s not ready to back off of these immoral methods.
In fact, he does the reverse. He takes it up another notch and typically immorality becomes even more extreme. But that gives us, again, one reason it’s so valuable is that besides the primary conflict between the hero and the main opponent, and then a secondary conflict between the hero and other opponents, we also get this internal conflict between hero.
And so you’re getting, as the story progresses, the density of conflict just increases. Again, that makes for a great story and it increases narrative drive.
What’s the next technique that we should be looking at? We’ve been talking about the main home. and that is absolutely crucial to setting up the overall structure of the store, but it’s not sufficient. In order to really come up with a great plot and to have one with intense narrative drive, you have to have at least two other characters who strongly oppose the hero and what that means.
It, and that doesn’t just mean only two. You can have more than two, but you need at least two because what this does is it allows you maximum density of attack against the hero, and you get this effect. This, I call it the kind of a Gatling gun approach where. The main opponent attacks, hero deals with that second opponent attacks, third opponent attacks, then back to the first opponent attack.
So we get this bam. This density of conflict increases tremendously. And in fact, what you go, you, the amount of plot that you get when you add at least two other opponents increases the plot exponentially. It’s unbelievably valuable technique. Now, another technique that’s connected to that, that you may use, sometimes they ha you see it, sometimes you don’t, is that the secondary opponents are connected to the main opponent under the surface.
And what that does is that increases the plot because it goes back to that grand strategy idea. that is, all this stuff is connected under the surface. The hero doesn’t know it and the reader doesn’t know it. And so as we go, as the hero goes after his goal and fending off and dealing with all these attacks, he’s gonna get, reveals, he’s gonna get insights about, Oh my God, I didn’t know that about that character.
I didn’t know he was connected to her, so on and so forth. And you get this not only a density of conflict, but you get a density of reveals. And this is really where plot becomes great. This is when you talk about masters of plot, you talk about the best sellers. That’s, that if you broke them down structurally, that’s what you would see.
You would see intense conflict from multiple opponents. And you would see a number of reveals. That the hero is getting at the, and the audience is getting at usually the same time about what’s really going on. And every time you have one of those conflict moments where you have one of those reveals that’s a plot beat and you know the reader doesn’t know it, they don’t say, Hey, that’s a great plot beat.
No, they’re just reading it and having a great time. . But for you as the writer, it’s important to know where you are getting those plot beats where you’re getting that intense narrative brought. It comes from maximum conflict from multiple opponents and maximum number of repeat.
Wow. That’s a lot of stuff. . Yeah. There. And I’m scratching the surface here. I’m really scratching the surface here. Please believe me. But it’s just, but these are all techniques. So the reason I wanted to talk about these techniques with you, Joe , is that, I find these are among the most important.
If you can get these techniques that the ones that I list for you in the story rescue sheet , you’re just gonna kick your level of storytelling. And I don’t care where you start. You may be a very advanced storyteller now you may be just beginning, doesn’t matter wherever you are, if you use these basic techniques because they’re so based on the.
The way that the whole story is structured. it will do more for your writing and for your book than almost anything else you can do. Now, again, there, there’s a whole lot, there’s a hundreds of other techniques that go into maximum narrative drive that I talk about in my course, my story for novels course.
But in terms of the most important ones, those are the ones that I wanted to talk about today. Sure. For the folks that are watching this, if they download this and how would you kinda suggest attacking it? Just with. There’s seven techniques and each technique has a box with a question.
That is gonna work as a prompt. And what I’m hoping is that people will just write down the answer to those questions. , and the story worksheet explains these techniques I’ve just talked about , and it’s all about then applying these techniques to this particular story you’re working on.
Very little writing is required, but the change, the effect will be massive. Yeah. So that’s why I call our worksheet is because I want people to just put it down right there on the paper. And when you’re done, there’s, I think seven techniques there. When you’re done there’s gonna be a big difference.
Great. Great. It’s been great having you on where, what. If folks are interested in learning more, we like, we’ll have the link so they can download this. But why don’t you give ’em a little feel for some of the other stuff you’re doing with the story for novelists and your screenwriting course and some of the other stuff.
Yeah, good idea. The story for novels course. These are techniques that, that come from that course. And what I did with that, what I wanted to do with that course is it’s four modules. It is incredibly complete in terms of how do you tell a great story in the novel form. And the reason for that is based on the idea that the story requirements for the novel form are greater than any other need.
For example, compared to film is not even close. The amount of story, the amount of plot that you need for a great novel. And for a novel series is just exponentially greater. So what I do is I go through all of the techniques that I think are important to know, to write both a great and a popular novel.
And the all these techniques apply whether you’re writing a single novel or whether you’re writing a novel series. So it’s extremely complete, goes all the way from the structure through point of view, through writing pros, through the business of storytelling business of novel writing. So it’s really complete.
It’s one, one of the course I’m most proud of. And again, it was designed to give writers all the techniques I think are required to write both a popular and great novel. I believe it’s important that you do both. And I think one of the we talked at the beginning about misconceptions that Indie novelists have.
One of them is that they think they have to choose, Am I gonna write a really great novel that I really care about that’s critically successful, or am I gonna write a popular one? Not? So this is completely false. These things go together. And the example I always use Is Lord of the Rings popular or is it great?
It’s obviously both. And one of the reasons that it’s so great is because of all the elements that go in that made it popular. It’s very readable. We wanna read this. And at the same time, we see that quality. And as I mentioned earlier, people who. What we all see all these great television shows. The quality on there, it’s not just, it’s great plotting.
It’s great story. The quality of the writing is unreal. It’s so good. That’s what we’re responding to. So that’s why it was so important for me in the story for novel course to provide writers techniques that will allow them to do both. But you probably know some of these guys because they took your class or you worked with them in the industry.
But you can see how over time shows, groups of writers have gone from one show to others, and how the game just gets getting better and better. And you can almost draw lines back to things like Hill Street Blues and where these folks worked in teams and they were all picking up each other’s game.
Yep. Whether that was competitive or. Joe, again you’re asking great questions. In, in, in this talk we’re having what you put your finger on there was the reason that TV moved into the golden age. It went from the little brother to film that wasn’t really respected to the premier art form in the world right now.
And the reason is that the medium itself changed from a single episode story to what we call serial storytelling. In other words, they started writing TV shows as a novel. They went back to Charles Dickens and these kind of serial stories you talked about, Billions and so on. They’re all serial structured stories, which means we get these multiple threads that extend over multiple episodes over multiple seasons.
And once they started writing television as a novel and a novel series, the medium itself took off. So it is just, all of these techniques that you’re seeing in television are exactly the same techniques that were learned by studying how the great novel writers wrote. And I, I know for the folks that watch this show, and I know from my own clients that, there, there’s a lot of authors that are, listening to what you’re saying.
They’re getting things like story grid, they’re watching master classes, they are trying to pull all these things and take the. Take the good stuff and throw away the stuff that doesn’t work for ’em. And yep there, it gets back to whole concept that we’re talking about is that the product quality, the bare minimum that’s gonna be acceptable is gonna keep continuing to move up and you go back a few, that is the single most important feature in terms of being successful, in terms of carving out your position in worldwide competition because again, we’re talking about worldwide competition here, that it has never been, the competition has never been this intense.
And what distinguishes it is, am I at the level of quality that these other people are at? And if you cannot get that level of quality, you don’t enter the game. They don’t give you permission to enter the game. You may publish a novel, but that doesn’t mean anybody’s gonna read it. And it’s because you have to reach that minimum level.
And it’s a very high level right now, what that minimum level of quality is. But that’s who you’re competing with. And unless you can write a series of novels that both quickly, but a very high quality, you cannot compete in the game. And I’ll tell you one other thing, Joe. The thing that I have discovered over many years of working with writers at every level, I worked with a lot of really successful advanced writers in every medium.
And you know what the distinguishing feature is about them. They are constantly trying to get. Their drive to improve their game, to become, the top pro that they can be is just intense and they don’t care where they learn it from. As you said, you, there’s different sources you can go to take the good stuff, get rid of the stuff that doesn’t work.
But what’s behind it is the drive to get better because they know that if they’re gonna compete and continue to win at the professional level worldwide, they have to be at the top of their game. You to your point about the competition, I think that one of the misconceptions is with the change in tra traditional publishing and there, there’s not these gatekeepers, right?
Yeah. So that’s great. There’s not these gatekeepers that are AERs of quality, but now there’s almost a perfect system of quality analysis. It’s the marketplace. Absolutely right. And all these books can go in there and the market is gonna determine in a very efficient way, just like stock price and, any of these predictive markets, it’s gonna, it’s gonna figure it out really quickly and then attribute to those that are more popular.
And we can, that’s a whole nother show is what makes popularity. But once that starts to happen, it’s like that’s gonna have that cumulative advantage and it’s gonna continue to do better and better. But your day in court to get evaluated is very short and sweet. Like Absolutely. And as you pointed out earlier you got a few sample pages.
That’s how quickly you have got to establish your quality . But you’re absolutely right. I couldn’t be I’m a massive fan of, The indie novel movement. I think I couldn’t be happier that we’ve gotten rid of the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. Why should somebody, some stranger in a publishing house, tell me what is a good story or no?
, I wanna go directly to my readers, but as you just pointed out, they are going to tell you very quickly that marketplace is very efficient in saying, Okay, we’ve got rid of it, these fake gatekeepers from traditional publishing, but I, you now talking directly to me, the reader, and if you don’t prove your quality real fast and then sustain it over not just one novel, but multiple novels, I’m gone.
Yeah. It’s like when they invented the remote control and televis. And that’s, by the way, one of the reasons that the television went to serial storytelling is because if you aren’t giving me great stuff all the time, I’m changing the channel. Yeah. And the same is true in the Indian novel world.
I couldn’t agree more. I, I think that’s something that folks are going to see that it’s a big differentiator in the success. And, for example, I was just talking with some folks in a particular genre that is doing really well financially. And it’s one of these things that it’s offbeat and, it’s, some people would think it’s porno or erotic or whatever,
But once people hear that, it’s It’s a genre to make money in. You’ll see people flood into that. Yeah. And that may have worked a few years ago because there wasn’t quality and there wasn’t people there that had established a brand. But now that’s not gonna work like it used to. You can’t just jump on that train because the folks that are there already have established an audience and they are listening to that audience and they know what that audience is expecting over a series of books.
And the audience is in kind, is seen this so many times. It’s Oh, here comes all the people that are rushing in. I’ll give you a shot, but if you don’t deliver on my expectations, you don’t get a second try. That’s absolutely right. Absolutely right. Once, once you have a number of writers who are already in that category, that sub.
They have established their brand and their emotional connection to the reader. It’s real tough to dislodge them. They have the beach, they’re already there. So to establish a beach head in that environment means you gotta come in with real great stuff right away. And again, that’s where that quality thing comes into play because that is what distinguishes it.
People can recognize quality immediately. They read all these books, they see all the TV shows and so on. They know quality, they know it right away. So you got to be able to know your stuff. And what I’ve been trying to, to get across is that what they don’t realize is what’s under the surface where you’re creating that quality from.
. And you, the writer, know that it’s coming primarily from the structure. And if you can get that right, especially from right from the very beginning, right from that premise line, then you’ve got a chance to establish your own beach head in a place where many people have already been. Yeah. And I think that’s where you see real longevity is the folks that, you might say I don’t think that guy’s a very good writer, but it’s he’s carved out this audience.
Yeah. He knows how to connect with them. He knows that their story expectations he’s delivering and, the, people want, they want a perfect mix of familiar familiarity and novel. Yep. It’s gotta have both something new, but I don’t want it too new. . , So I, I think that it’s, Joe, it’s one of the things that I, that one of the techniques in the story rescue work she didn’t talk about, which is how you play the genres because it is a genre world.
And what you just said is absolutely right. They want something established, meaning something in the genre that they’re, that’s what they’re reading. That’s what they want, that’s what they’re there for. , but then you gotta put a different skin on it. You gotta put a different twist on it. And it’s that combination of something recognizable that I love and a new face on it that is what catches the reader, and then it’s that quality that holds them.
You made an interesting point just a moment ago that I wanted to pick up on, which is a lot of times writers will say, Oh he’s not a very good writer. And what they’re saying is their use of words. Their pros is not very good, but that is not even close to the primary determinant of what makes a popular story.
, their ability to tell a story. It’s their storytelling ability. And that comes from the structure. So it’s a big mistake to write off somebody and say yeah, they sell all these books, but they’re not a very good writer. Really let me tell you what they are good at. They’re good at telling a great story.
And that’s what you’ve gotta do first. And again, that comes from the structure. No, that’s a great point. John, we’ve we’ve gone for almost an hour here, . This is a lot of great stuff. I really appreciate you coming on and sharing this with us. And, for the folks watching to be able to have a tool like this for free is pretty awesome to help you.
Improve the quality of your product and see if it makes a difference in your sales. Joe, I appreciate it. I have had a blast. As you can see, I love getting the story and I love talking about the indie novel world, which I’m so excited about and so high on, and I just I just wanna help writers get to where they want to be in terms of their career.
And I think if they just do a few key things they can really succeed in that world. And I just hope I can help them get there. Oh, great. Thanks a lot, John, and we’ll definitely have you on again. Great, Joe. All right. See you next time. Bye.