Monthly Archives: March 2013

A Webinar, Three Spiffs, and a Promise

(Check for an update on the “Side Effects” Deconstruction at the end of this post.)

I truly believe that writing workshops can change your life.  Or that they should change your life. For many a killer workshop can become the primary catalytic event in the entire writing journey, a moment of clarity that flips the switch from hazy notion to bona fide Epiphany.

Those Epiphanies are the best part.   I like to think I specialize in them.

So let me cut to the part when I invite you to attend my Webinar this week, and then overtly and proudly bribe you to do so.  Officially it’s a spiff, a premium bonus for your money and time, but bribe has a certain literary panache to it, don’t you think?

I do this with great confidence.  Because what you don’t know (until now), is that my goal for this Webinar is to OVER-DELIVER.

Here’s the 411:

My 90-minute live workshop runs this Thursday, March 21, at 1:00 Eastern.  It’s being hosted by Writers Digest University, the best in the business.  Tuition is $89… but keep reading, there’s a discount for Storyfix readers.

This week’s title:

“From Good to Great: How to Apply the Principles of Story Physics to Craft the Best Fiction of your Life.”

This is not a rehash (“Good to Great” has been used before, but more as a theme and a generic goal than a branded product description; the context here is about the standards for an outcome).

Let me tell you what you’ll get… why you should drop everything and tune in.  Or if you can’t, opt-in anyway because the webinar is recorded and you’ll get the whole thing, uncut, at your convenience within a few days later.

You can read the official course description, and sign up, HERE.

You’ll see that this is a somewhat advanced course, taking the power of the Six Core Competencies to an applications level – with a focus on WHY this will make your story better than if you don’t.

WHY has everything to do with the power of STORY PHYSICS.  And when was the last time you heard THAT covered at a writing conference?

In fact, here’s the titles they wouldn’t let me run:

           What to DO to your story to make it Better than all the other stories in the Inbox, so it will actually SELL…

Beat the pants off the story to be read after yours, or before it, by out-writing the guy with his name on the title page…

How to turn a vanilla concept into a triple chocolate thunder story that requires a beach towel for a napkin and a CPR kit applied by a psychologist when the read has finished…

How to write a story that changes lives…

How to give yourself a shot at immortality, or at least an A-List career and a shot on NPR…

How to legitimately aim WAY higher than self-publishing…

How to Know and DO what Grisham, Baldacci, Connelly, Demille, Stockett, Brown, Collins, Scott Z. Burns and other Bestselling authors and screenwriters Know and DO…

How to Finally Understand what all those Rejection Slips Weren’t telling you…

Yeah, I’m pitching this really hard. 

Because I believe in it.   It’s proven, hard-core, center-of-the-writing-proposition stuff.  This is a 90-minute experience that can, if you hear it and let it in, completely change your writing life, by putting your story on steroids.

I won’t soft-peddle it, I won’t mince words about what is required to bust out and cause your story to pursue the realm of greatness.  Nobody else is saying this stuff, quite this way.

In fact, I’ll tell you right now: it’s story physics. 

The forces the ignite and drive all the components and principles and parts of a story, including your genius prose.  And if you’ve never heard of them, it won’t matter, they are in complete control of how your story works.

And they don’t land on the page by accident.  They happen through choices – informed choices – made by the authors who understand them.

This workshop will define and present those choices to you.

And we’re offering three incentives, in case this outcome isn’t enough of an incentive, to help you pull the trigger on this and join the fun.

The Discount

Storyfix readers get ten bucks off the regular fee.  Your cost is $79… just find the Discount box (on the left) on the WD shopping cart form and enter this code: WDS321LW.  (This discount expires the next day, and it not valid for post-airing archive purchases… but does apply to access if paid pre-broadcast.)

The Freebie

All participants will receive a personal critique (by me) of answers to three key questions about their story… answers that will either send you down a path of greatness, or not.  I’ll tell you which, and why.

Or, if you’d like deeper feedback on your story than that…

The Spiff that Would be an Opportunity

As you know I offer a $100 Story Coaching Service that looks closely at your story’s concept and infrastructure, as well as the other core competencies.  If you’d rather have than THIS as the spiff instead of the Freebie 3-question format described above, just send me your online receipt showing your registration…

… and I’ll do THIS level of Q&A evaluation with you for HALF price ($50… or $75 for a 3-day turnaround).  Use Paypal (to with that transmission, and you’re in.  (I can also invoice you through Paypal, which allows you to use a credit card without having to have a Paypal membership.)

This deal gets you the 90-minute webinar AND the Coaching document for a total of $129 (paid separately – $79 to Writers Digest… $50 to me).  Keep in mind, the Coaching alone costs $100 (and is worth orders of multiples more, based on feedback)… so this is your chance to get the Webinar, as well, for only twenty-nine bucks.

The Secret Strategy

Don’t tell anyone, but here’s an even better deal, especially if you’re in a writing/critique group, or if you teach a writing class of any kind (this material is very student-friendly, too): have some other writers over, serve coffee and turn the volume up on your laptop.  You all get the 90 minutes of Webinar for ONE discounted tuition, and a whole truckload of material to kick around, debate and use as benchmarks for your team critiques.

Divvy that up any way you’d like.

So there it is.  Four ways to beat the system and get a career-empowering mentoring experience for your writing.

I promise to rock your writing world by tearing down the wall between you and your highest dream.  I’m not saying it will be easy, but the code will be broken, the gates swung wide and your adrenaline turned up to 10.

Quick note on “Side Effects” Deconstruction

I just bought and read the film script for “Side Effects.”  An early draft, actually, which illuminates a before-and-after feel for how the script evolved and the edit was completed.  I’ll be posting an article on this, discussing what we can learn from it, very soon.

You can order a PDF copy of the “Side Effects” script, or dozens of other current and classic films, for $15… HERE.  (No commission to me.)


Filed under Write better (tips and techniques)

“Side Effects” (deconstruction #4) – The Debatable First Plot Point

(NOTE: this post is loaded with links that will take you back to basic introductions to the story structure concepts being referenced here… I encourage you to go there if you’re new to, or foggy about, any of these terms.)

Relative to my last post, my wife said, “You sound like a whiny little bitch.”

Some of you may have thought the same thing with regard to my announcing that the “Side Effects” deconstruction is over.

Okay, she didn’t say that… but I realized that’s how I may have sounded.  But the blow-back was clear, and on two fronts — you really did appreciate this (a Sally Fields moment for me), and, you want more.

With the Beat Sheet (scene log) and the summary of the story milestones up and available,  the structural stuff about this story has been covered.  But just as valuable is a discussion of some of the finer points of the story, especially when they translate to an upward view of the learning curve.  So I’m delighted to continue on that track, intermittently with posts on other stuff, over the next couple of weeks.

The finer points are what separates the published from the unpublished, so this is where the gold is.

The movie (“Side Effects”) is still out there.  I encourage you to see it, and warn you that after reading this deconstruction you’ll want to see it again.

The FPP in “Side Effects”

Some stories give us a First Plot Point that is as obvious as spotting an NBA center at a convention of jockeys.  But when a story is peppered with Part 1 Inciting Incidents (“Side Effects” has two, possibly three, depending on what you are about to read), and when the agenda of the story is mischievous and cloaked in stealth (totally the case in “Side Effects”), the FPP can be slippery.

Which is perfectly okay.  Brilliant, even.

This film has a highly debatable First Plot Point (the link here is different than the one above), in terms of what story beat represents it, and where it falls.  In my deconstruction I suggested that the FPP was when Dr. Banks prescribes Albixa to Emily (the anti-depressant drug that becomes the McGuffin of this story), thus lighting the fuse on the whole caper.  He’s been manipulated into doing so, and thus it represents the transition from setup to response.

Debate potentially enters the conversation, though, when you look at what I have already labeled as the first Pinch Point — when Emily stabs her husband to death.  Clearly this is the more dramatic story beat, certainly one that changes the story for the hero (Banks) in a more visible and actionable way than does the Ablixa prescription moment (my FPP nomination) described above.

Compounding this potential confusion is the location of this murderous moment within the story.  The optimal position of the First Pinch Point is the 3/8ths mark (37.5 percent in, squarely in the middle of Part 2).  In “Side Effects,” it happens at the 33rd percentile point.

Which is early.  In this case, perhaps confusingly so.

Which poses the question… is the husband’s murder an early Pinch Point, or a late FPP?

Could be either, and by either standard, since it actually does fit the definition of both milestones.

If the murder is the FPP, then the earlier prescription of Ablixa (which also fits within the classic definition for the FPP) becomes another (the third) Inciting Incident.  Given that (per definition) the “quest” launched by the FPP is that of the hero, and that the earlier (by about ten minutes) Alibxa prescription moment doesn’t visibly begin the hero’s quest in terms of his own awareness (in fact, we don’t even realize that was a potential FPP until later)… gray is cast on which point it was.

Certainly, the husband’s murder fills the FPP bill (as well as the Pinch Point criteria), other than its location (it’s quite late for an FPP, even in a film; a book FPP target is optimally at 20 percent, in a film it’s 25%).  It visibly launches Banks’ problem and the quest that springs from it (classic FPP criteria), it is defined by the conflict it injects into the story (ditto), and it clearly separates a Part 1 setup context from a Part 2 response context.

Just as clearly, in this story, it does everything a Pinch Point is designed to do.

It can’t be both.  A story needs both… and they are always separate story beats.

So which is it?  What’s the point of this discussion?

My answer: it doesn’t matter.

Until Scott Z. Burns weighs in on this, we’ll never really know what he intended in this regard.

Which is my point: we may not ever really know, the audience won’t care from a technical point of view… but THE WRITER MUST KNOW.

The writer needs to be clear on this.  Because success — the optimizing of story physics — depends on a clear contextual shift from Part 1 (setup) and Part 2 (response), with the FPP — like a 21st birthday separating adolescence from adulthood — being that story-changing milestone.

We can be sure Scott Z. Burns was clear… even if we’re not.  Even if he gave us a handful of killer Inciting Incidents that may or may not muddy the water in this story.  The muddiness is by design… it is the narrative strategy (one of the six key realms of story physics) of this film.

And that is the other tasty morsel of learning here.  

As writers we have options.  We always have the latitude, freedom and creative leeway to do it however we want.

Up to and including self destruction, if we don’t understand these structural/contextual principles and apply them purposefully and strategically.


Need more basics? Use the SEARCH FUNCTION to the right, enter “First Plot Point” to link to over 100 posts that cover this and related topics (including those linked within this post).  The further back into the archive you go, the more basic and introductory these discussions will be.

Or you could just buy my book, “Story Engineering,” which covers story structure in depth, as well as the other five of the Six Core Competencies of storytelling.


Filed under Side Effects Deconstruction