Monthly Archives: February 2010

Your Next Deconstruction Challenge

If you’ve just arrived here via Copyblogger, welcome!  We’re all about going deep into the infrastructure and principles of effective storytelling, and we’d love to have you join us.

shutter island imageJust saw Shutter Island, the Martin Scorsese film starring Leonardo DiCaprio based on the Dennis Lehane novel.  And I’m here to tell you, if you’re a writer of novels and/or screenplays who hopes to better wrap your head around the inherent power of narrative structure and character arc — in other words, story architecture — you should see it, too.

Not as a ticket-paying, popcorn-chewing audience peer, but as a note-taking, inquisitive budding author going to school on the best in the business.

Why?  Because I continue to believe that the most empowering skill-building thing we can do as writers is to critically analyze and deconstruct stories other than our own.  We can read the “how-to” until our eyes bleed, but when we see the principles in action we become believers.

Shutter Island is a clinic in delivering a clearly-delinated four part contextual structure, with each quartile separated and empowered by expositional milestones (two plot-points and a mid-point) that define the very essense of their mission.

It is those four very different contexts that make the story work.  That make any story work. 

Of course, if you don’t know what you’re looking for, then the deconsruction process won’t deliver a fraction of the benefit as compared to an informed process.  So I invite you to bone up on four part structure using the archived posts here on Storyfix, or my ebook on the topic.

The Payoff

In a few weeks I’ll post a deconstruction of BOTH the novel and the movie.

For now, see if you can spot the game-changing first plot point, the mid-point context shift and the fuse-igniting second plot point.  If you’re feeling ambitious, try to spot the two pinch points in the middle of Parts 2 and 3. 

At a very minimum, try to sense the different narrtive contexts between each of the four parts — set-up/orhpan… response/wanderer… attack/warrior… hero/martyr.

Fair warning, though.  Shutter Island is dark and frightening, and it isn’t remotely what you think it is, based either on the movie preview or the first half.  And that, in itself, is an opportunity to sit at the feet of perhaps the best literary thriller authors we have in their respective mediums, Dennis Lehane and Martin Scorsese. 

If even a fraction of their genius rubs off, we’ll all be orders of magnitude better for it. 

Image credit: Wolf Gang

Quick note: my publisher has completely revised the website for my new novel, Whisper of the Seventh Thunder (, with a cool new look and new content.  Please check it out.


Filed under Story Structure Series

Writing… All Over the Place

Dogs and cats.  Yankee fans and Red Sox fans.  Conservatives and liberals.  Studio projects and independent films.  We live in a divided global culture that thrives on tension and occasionally throws a punch.

Thank God we’re less concerned these days with race and sexual preference than we are with Team Edward versus Team Jacob.

But then there are screenwriters and novelists.

This is the hook for an article of mine that’s running on, a great site for, well, screenwriters.  The piece is called “How to Talk to a Novelist About Writing” — click HERE to check it out.

More Referrals

I also did a major guest post on, which is sort of the Time Magazine of the blogging trade.  It’s called, “The Greatest Writing Advice.  Ever.” — always a risky way to title a blog post, but 57 out of 59 commenters thus far agree.  Check it out HERE.

My friend Jennifer at is celebrating two years online today… swing by and check out her great site HERE.

Another buddy, the profilic Suzannah at, is running a cool piece today, “Should You Make Your Children’s Book into a Series?”  My vote is yes.  Check out her site and read the article HERE

Wonderful article today at about something near and dear to all our hearts, “Dealing With Author Rejection.”  Unless you’re Stephen King, check it out HERE.

And then there’s James at, who doesn’t need my help attracting traffic, mostly because the site is stocked with good stuff from all corners of the writing trade, including six guest posts from yours truly in the Fiction section.  Visit James HERE.

And finally… I just received the first off-the-press copies of my new novel yesterday in the mail.  This is always a moment that rocks your world no matter how many books you’ve published, and it rocked mine.  My publisher, Lloyd Corricelli, and his designer really nailed this thing, and once I had my hands on it I was blown away at the rich colors and the texture of the cover, as well as the design and readabilty of the interior pages.

If you’re ordered the book from Amazon, thank you so much, and you’ll see what I mean soon when it arrives.  If not, you can read more about it HERE, and if you like what you see, order it HERE.

About Next Week…

The first half of the first draft of the manuscript for the six core competencies book I’m writing for Writers Digest Books is due to them by March 15th.  The title, by the way, will be: Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Writing.

Given this last minute time crunch, next week’s posts here on Storyfix will be reprisals of some of the better early posts from last summer.  Since the bulk of you weren’t around then, and I can’t assume that everyone has gone back into the archives in depth, this should be new information.  And if you’ve already read it, it’s good to circle back in context to some of the more advanced stuff I’ve been posting lately.  I’ll post a new article per day… so if you know any writers who aren’t subscribers yet, let ’em know that this is a good time to dive in.

Thanks to all my Storyfix friends, including the guy who thinks I look cheesy in my jeans and leather coat.  Hey, it was a book jacket photo at the direction of a professional photographer, who happened to be a beautiful woman who thought it was kinda hot.  Hot cheese, I guess.  What can I say.

Have a great writing day.


Filed under other cool stuff