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Thread: The Magic Story Pill

  1. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by danialworks View Post
    Story:

    Albert Stover is the stingiest, most hated food critic in New York. He needs the whole restaurant all to himself or you won't get a 5 star review. But walking home one night, bundles of doggy bags held lovingly in his arms, he encounters street urchin Molly, thinner than a pencil, and paler than a ghost. Molly crawls into a dingy stairwell to sleep, turns over, and is surprised to find some of the food has been left just for her.

    theme:

    Anyone can feel moved to share.
    Danial's grade:

    PASS.

    The story proves the theme.

    Well done.

    --Lee



  2. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by harryd View Post
    Theme: You can't judge a book by its cover.

    A priest is amazed when he finds what appears to be an unconscious angel on his doorstep. When his parishioners discover the creature, they are all anxious to please it. While the priest is initially happy at the increased attendance at his church, he soon becomes concerned when it appears that the creature is taking advantage of the townsfolk. When he confronts the being, it reveals that it is indeed taking advantage of the people, using their beliefs for personal gain, threatening to decry him as a disbeliever if he tries to cause trouble, but offering to cut him in if he plays along.

    I was initially thinking of just summarizing The Truman Show under the theme: No matter how gilded the cage, the heart yearns to be free. But, instead I decided to try to do something a little more original.
    Harry's grade:

    PASS.

    The story proves the thematic/moral argument.

    As this story expands, the theme might shift, because there's a lot of room for it, but if it remains, then it would be interesting to see the many different ways that people misjudge a wide range of books by their covers.

    Nice work.

    I'm reminded of Blood Simple, the brilliant neo-noir film by the Coen Brothers.

    Anybody know the theme to THAT film?

    "Don't make assumptions."

    That's it. Period.

    Know why?

    Because from the first frame to the last, every character who makes an assumption is wrong wrong wrong.

    If you don't recall it, watch it again with this in mind, and you'll be amazed at how well the Coens crafted the story to blend with an otherwise typical film noir-styled story.

    --Lee



  3. danialworks Guest

    Story:

    A famous inventor is bored one day and goes to visit his wife at the construction job where she's the site manager. He's absolutely amazed at how many nails get used each day! So he builds a laser guided machine to pound in 100 nails in less than two minutes. But at the site the next day, it starts to rain, and the nail machine fizzes and dies in the wet weather. The inventor is so worried he's disapointed his wife! But she takes him to the nearest wall, shows him her trusty hammer and a handful of nails, and happily pounds the first nail in where it belongs. All is right as rain.

    theme:

    Simple is best.



  4. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by danialworks View Post
    Story:

    A famous inventor is bored one day and goes to visit his wife at the construction job where she's the site manager. He's absolutely amazed at how many nails get used each day! So he builds a laser guided machine to pound in 100 nails in less than two minutes. But at the site the next day, it starts to rain, and the nail machine fizzes and dies in the wet weather. The inventor is so worried he's disapointed his wife! But she takes him to the nearest wall, shows him her trusty hammer and a handful of nails, and happily pounds the first nail in where it belongs. All is right as rain.

    theme:

    Simple is best.
    Danial's grade:

    PASS.

    Nice, clean...and simple.

    Good work.

    --Lee



  5. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Little Billy rushes out of his boring old house in search of summer adventure, and at first, his encounters with men from the future, genetic monsters, and aliens is kind of fun, and he manages to successfully defeat all of them through sheer determination and boundless energy, until he runs into Little Lily, the cutest seven-year old on the planet, and suddenly his brain turns to mush, he can barely move or speak, until she takes pity on him and leaves. Feeling lucky to have survived the encounter, Little Billy rushes home to his safe, boring house, and he never plans to come out again, at least not till tomorrow.

    Okay, that was written on the fly...without a lot of thought, except to have Little Billy search for adventure, find it and succeed in his efforts against a series of antagonists...until he meets the one creature he's powerless against, a cute little girl, and at this point, it's too much adventure for him, so he retreats to the one place he knows he's safe: his boring old home.

    What's the theme to this story?
    Well, there are many possibilities that could fit with this, but let's try:

    When the going gets too tough, even the tough go home.

    --Lee



  6. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    Theme: With the proper planning you can have your cake and eat it too.

    All summer the grasshopper plays his banjo while the ants work to save food for winter. When winter comes the grasshopper freezes and starves while the ants hold an indoor bluegrass jamboree.



  7. LeeNordling Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by RonaldMontgomery View Post
    Theme: With the proper planning you can have your cake and eat it too.

    All summer the grasshopper plays his banjo while the ants work to save food for winter. When winter comes the grasshopper freezes and starves while the ants hold an indoor bluegrass jamboree.
    Ronald's grade:

    PASS.

    Nicely done and encapsulated.

    Thematic storytelling helps you determine what does and doesn't belong in your story.

    Do you all see how this applies to the projects you're working on?

    Have you identified your themes?

    If not, why not?

    --Lee



  8. drgerb Guest

    I don't know why but this time around, the assignment seemed hard for me. This is the spot I usually mess up on: Figuring out what my stories are actually about and figuring out which scenes to cut, which don't add to the overall story. This is where I want to keep everything I wrote and I don't want to leave anything out, because that piece I cut may unknowingly MAKE the story. I have a hard time trashing parts. And figuring out the backbone of my stories is a hard thing for me to do because I love all the little parts.

    It's like take out one screw and the whole machine may fall apart. I don't want to take out the wrong screws without even realizing my rugged old machine is about to fall apart. Anyway... Once I sat down and tried, I think it was easier. Find a theme then type a short synopsis where everything leads back to the theme. Seems simple enough. Let's see. Lol.

    Theme: Violence begets violence. (Martin Luther King, Jr. quote, woot)

    Brad and Jim are both junior high school students. Brad continuously makes fun of Jim until one day Jim decides he's had enough. Jim walks up to Brad and pushes him with all his might. Brad takes a few steps back and pushes Jim back. Jim swings and misses at Brad just before Brad knocks Jim out.


    I was going to do another one but decided to just go ahead and post this first. It seems easy enough, if you think of a theme first then build your story around that. This practise might help me think of some ideas somewhere down the line. Think of a quick theme, then elaborate on it, change it, write a story around it, etc. Seems like an interesting brainstorming excersize: Writing themes.

    It's a bit harder for me to pick out one of my wet projects and squeeze out it's theme. But it's something I'm going to practise on. Woo.



  9. LeeNordling Guest

    Roberts's grade:

    PASS.

    Congrats for forcing yourself to keep this simple, Roberts.

    Good, clear theme, and the story proves that theme.

    To your thoughts, I believe the hardest part of becoming a professional writer is learning to rewrite.

    Like everybody, I had a very tough time learning to do that, dump paragraphs, move 'em around until they found their rightful places in the stories, changing stuff to make it work better, and there is only ONE thing that helped me learn to do that: thematic storytelling.

    Daniel previously noted the subjectivity of my assessment, and he's right; my answers are subjective, but not completely so.

    When you have a measuring stick, an evaluation tool like a moral argument, it's easier to step back, look at the story within the context of the theme, and make a more objective assessment about whether or not something fits.

    And when you just KNOW something doesn't fit, it's easier to take that something out or change it into something else.

    It really IS The Magic Story Pill, because you can use it to make the assessment about whether something is "right" or "wrong."

    More so, you will be able to EXPLAIN what your story is about, and you'll be more confident that you achieved your editorial goals.

    ONE CAVEAT: intuitive writers have a really hard time with this. Some will never figure it out. Some won't want to, and some won't be able to, because they just don't analyze.

    If you don't analyze, but there are problems with your work, then LEARN to analyze. It will be excruciating; it will hurt; it will seem like the tallest flight of stairs you've ever climbed.

    But if your intuitive story sense doesn't bring home the bacon (and mine didn't), then you need to develop a new process, and this is the best one I know.

    There are some generic screenplay books on story structure, but few (except John Truby's) allow for the flexibility to develop your own personalized sense of story.

    In the fairness of full disclosure, I learned thematic storytelling from Truby, and he helped me to understand, for the first time, what a story really was, and how to write one.

    Until then, I was more of a short-story or comic strip guy, because I just couldn't wrap my head around bigger, longer stories.

    Now I can, and do.

    Now I know and can explain EXACTLY what my stories are about.

    It really is The Magic Story Pill for those who are willing to swallow this theory.

    --Lee



  10. RonaldMontgomery Guest

    Quote Originally Posted by LeeNordling View Post
    Ronald's grade:

    PASS.

    Nicely done and encapsulated.

    Thematic storytelling helps you determine what does and doesn't belong in your story.

    Do you all see how this applies to the projects you're working on?

    Have you identified your themes?

    If not, why not?

    --Lee

    1. OK, the twitter posts you used to do first thing in the morning make a lot more sense now.

    2. No, but you can bet I'm going to Come to Jesus tonight on all my in-progress writing.



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