Monthly Archives: March 2016

Art Holcomb on… The Nature of Talent

A guest post by Art Holcomb

Let me tell you a story . . .

I had my first public success as a writer when I was 13. I wrote a play as part of a six grade class competition that — against all conceivable odds — went on to be professionally produced at a theater in San Francisco in 1968.

It ran for 6 weeks.

A play.  Written by a sixth grader.

What a wonderful feeling – perhaps the greatest feeling of my life to date. And I learned an important lesson about myself that day – which was that I could create!

In the years that followed, I came to live for that rush, for the fire I felt.

Sadly, as a result, I became quite prideful, and even a bit stuck up. Because I discovered that I had TALENT! I believed that I could do something that few others could do.

And so it has for many years. I wrote and published and was convinced that I was a star.

But then a day came in college when I called upon that talent to get me through… and it failed me.   I came up empty – literally – and thought I was done for sure.

I felt like that, lost in an ever-increasing dry spell . . .

. . . that lasted for 11 years.

After trying everything I could to create again, I reached out to someone who was to be my first writing mentor – famed science fiction writer David Gerrold.

I was so desperate that I drove over 120 miles once a week just to attend a class with David.

The weeks that followed were like torture – watching other students thrive while I still struggled to even one well-written sentence together.

At some point, David took me aside and we talked frankly about what was going on. As a result, he soon had me start doing the work: setting deadlines, shouldering my way through my daily pages and disciplining myself to produce work on a regular schedule.

Eventually, my productivity and quality came back and I got back in touch with my abilities once I realized that creativity works best in harness and under the thumb of a good work ethic.

I realized that I was able to change my life – once I stopped believing that my talent controlled my destiny.

And I learned the real truth about that TALENT:

What was once a source of great joy and power had, in fact, done exactly what the universe intended for it to do – give me just a glimpse of what it was like to be a producing artist – to be the writer I could become.

Because talent only gives you the taste of that fire, the rarest preview of all the things that could be.  It tells the lucky recipient of a future lying just beyond the horizon.

But the truth is – that future lies ahead for anyone willing to fight for it.  Because talent never lasts.

It was a long hard battle for me to reach that sense of fire and joy once more.  To be able to PRODUCE and to CREATE.

I never took it for granted again.

I never again mistook my skill for my talent.

I am here today to do perhaps what no one else has ever done for you.  To tell you what I know to be absolutely true.

That, for each person willing to do the work, there is a fire that can live forever inside of you. A fire to create, which warms the soul and ignites the imagination.  My life would be hollow without it and I am grateful every day that I get to write and create and weave stories that can move friends and strangers alike.

So — enjoy your talent — but always see it for what it is: just a taste of the fire. And know that you cannot depend upon it forever.

Know that a lifetime of joy from writing comes from a lifetime of struggle and dedication, and that – if you do the work every day – the universe will reveal itself to you as you reveal yourself to it.

So – keep writing. Keep going deep into yourself.  Demand more from yourself at every turn.

Because what is waiting for you just beyond that horizon – will amaze you.

(Larry’s comment: Amen.)

ART HOLCOMB is an accomplished writer, Hollywood script/story advisor and well-known writing teacher, as well as a frequent contributor to Check out his website HERE.


Art was recently interviewed by Creative Screenwriting Magazine, where he is a frequent contributor.  It’s a great look at the man and his contribution to the writing conversation, which includes a long-running contribution to this website and to it’s creator… check it out HERE.


Storyfix was recently named by Angela Han’s website, Global English Editing (, to their list of “The 120 Most Helpful Websites for Writers in 2016,” placed at #2 in the “Helpful Tips on Writing” category (out of 19 named, and ahead of some of the monster sites you’re familiar with).  Click HERE to check it out.

They also have a helpful roster of the “55 Most Helpful Apps for Writers.”


If you haven’t done it yet, check out my upcoming Mega/Master 4 day writing workshop, co-presenting with Jennifer Blanchard in Portland, OR, April 3 -7.  Go HERE for more information, or click on the ad in the left column. There’s still room, and we’ll even feed you.  But fair warning: be prepared to go deep, where your darkest fears and wildest writing dreams dance to music you may not yet understand… but after this, you will.



Filed under Guest Bloggers

Part 7… of a 101-level Series on the Basics of Story

How to “Pinch” Your Story for Greater Dramatic Effectiveness

Register now for a FREE tele-seminar on March 16, on Story Structure.\ Details await at the end of today’s post on Pinch Points.

(As an introductory tutorial, go HERE to read my guest post on on basic story engineering.  But please come back to learn more about a highly effective secret weapon in the war against reader apathy and waning dramatic tension.)

An Introduction to Pinch Points

Story structure exists to help us keep our narrative sequence on track, relative to exposition and pace.  All four quartiles of a well-executed story have specific contextual missions that imbue each scene within them with just the right focus, avoiding the story-killing tendency to ramble or jump the gun relative to your hero’s proactive confrontation with the core dramatic issue.

Two of those specific quartile-empowering contexts — Part 2 and Part 3 — get a little help with a specific narrative moment that brings the story’s core dramatic focus back to the forefront – called a Pinch Point.

The pinch point resides in the exact middle of its assigned quartile, one each for Parts 2 and 3.  The reason why, like much of story structure itself, connects to other aspects of how a story should unfold.

Let’s look at Part 2 to better understand this. 

The context of every scene in your Part 2 quartile is showing your hero responding to a new story path, in the presence of pressure, threat, danger or opportunity, which was put into play – as the primary focus of everything – at the First Plot Point.  Which was, as you should know, the transition moment from the Part 1 setup and the Part 2 hero’s response to the First Plot Point twist (new information that enters the story at that point).

With this focus on the hero’s response, it would be easy to actually push the source of the story’s conflict, the core dramatic element, toward the background.  Which is not good.

Let’s say your story is about a family running from a bear, which appears at the First Plot Point to disrupt the family outing and is now chasing them through the forest.  Very tense, right?  But you have to do more than show us the family running away.

You have to show us the bear, as well.

Within the quartile mission being showing the hero’s response, we need a time and place to remind the reader of the source of antagonism (the bear, in our example).  The Part 2 Pinch Point does just that, literally putting the focus back on the source of antagonism (the bear) to remind us of the proximity and threat of the danger at hand.

The hero hasn’t forgotten about that –   he’s running from the bear, after all — but the reader might have, so we need to get the villain back into the game.

But what if there’s no bear, you ask. 

No villain at all.  What if my story  is driven by a horrible disease or an approaching storm?  Same thing, each of those is the source of the story’s antagonism and threat, which creates drama and conflict in the story.  The Pinch Point functions exactly the same… show us the disease and its power to destroy lives, or show us the storm and the violence that approaches.

In Part 3, also in the precise middle of the quartile, you need to show us the villain (source of antagonism) once again.  Yes, you can show it to us as much as you like in other places, which means you use the Pinch Points to show the antagonism in an evolved, much closer proximity, which in turn heightens drama in doing so.

Pinch Points become a secret weapon in the war to win the reader’s emotional engagement. 

Why?  Because fiction is based on conflict that causes drama, and these two structural milestones give that drama it’s moment back on center stage. In the case of the Part 2 Pinch Point, it might even be the reader’s first glimpse of what threatens the story’s hero.

Join us in Portland, OR, April 3 -7, for a massively intense and interactive workshop that brings all of these structural and character-driven story essences together into one cohesive story plan, regardless of your story development process.


Free Teleconference Workshop on Story Structure!

Join story coach Jennifer Blanchard and me for a lively hour of discussion on the critical realm of story structure, including how it applies with flexibility to any story, every time.

Massive value.  Zero cost.  What could go wrong?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Live at 7:00 pm Eastern time (adjust your arrival accordingly)

Click HERE to register.

If you receive a “you’re already subscribed” message, that means you’re still subscribed from the last call we did… so you’re all set.

All registrants will receive call-in details via email on the day of the call… which is Wednesday, March 16th. 



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