Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 year ago

Friends & Fiction Sunday Bonus Episode: Writing Craft with John Truby & Leslie Lehr

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Join F&F for a special Sunday Bonus episode focused on the craft of writing. F&F welcomes the writing instructor, essayist and prize-winning author of seven books, including this year’s A Boob’s Life (which is in development for HBO Max by producer Salma Hayek), Leslie Lehr. Joining Leslie is her husband—screenwriting guru, director, highly sought-after writing consultant, and The Anatomy of Story author John Truby. https://leslielehr.com/ https://truby.com/ 

Welcome to Friends and fiction. Five best selling authors and the stories novelist mary Kay Andrews, Christine Harmel, Christie Woodson, harvey patty Callahan, Henry and mary Alice Munro are five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their credit In 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviews and fascinating insider, talk about publishing and writing and to highlight independent bookstores. These friends discuss the books, they have written the books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love books and you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. Mhm Yeah. Hi everyone welcome to our sunday night Friends and fiction bonus show on the craft of writing. We have so much to look forward to tonight. I am Patty Callahan and I'm mary Kay Andrews and I'm sitting in patty's lab not there yet. I'm Christine Harmel and I'm not sitting in anybody's lap, I'm sorry and this is Brendan new york times, bestselling authors, endless stories to support indie bookstores. Tonight you are in for such a treat. You'll meet john truby teacher extraordinaire and author of the acclaimed Anatomy of Story and Leslie Lear his wife the author of a boobs life. I just love that title and author consultant. We'll be talking about story structure about writing personal stories and about how they work together. I'm so interested in this as husband and wife alongside each other. We are so lucky to have two of the premier writing coaches in the country along with practical proof of their prowess as Leslie's new book, A boobs, Life takes the world by storm. This episode will be one long, glorious writing. I want a practical prowess, primer again, nope, always in our continuing support indie bookstores tonight. Our bookstore the week is Copper Fish Books, a great little indie store in punta gorda florida, that's a great friend of the show and a huge supporter of the Fab five, get 10% off with code F F 10 and we also want to say thank you so much to our august partner Caroline's cakes, one of our favorites this month. We are taking a bite out of summer with Caroline's all month long. The Fab five of Friends eviction will be telling you about our beach bag, must have our favorite reads of the summer are ideal Labor Day Weekend and of course our favorite Caroline's cakes, flavors on our individual facebook and instagram pages and we're going to offer you the chance to win the ultimate Labor Day weekend beach bag brimming with swag from friends and fiction and Caroline's information is under announcements on our facebook page. So now I want to tell you about our incredible guests on our sunday bonus writer, craft episode. First ladies First Leslie here is a writer and author consultant who explores the duality of today's women to navigate a new path between sexy and sacred Sami Hayek is developing Leslie's critically acclaimed new memoir, a boobs life and I'm very jealous into a comedy series for HBO max. She's a prize winning writer and her books include What a mother knows a target, recommended read Wife goes on great title and 66 Laps which was...

...winner of the Pirates Ali Faulkner prize. Her nonfiction books include Welcome to Club Mom Club grandma, Both exerted excerpted on price dot com and she's also been featured on Oprah Leslie. Personal essays have appeared in the new york times modern love column narrated by Katie Couric on N. P. O. As well as many, many other places. She has worked on movies and it's a novel consultant for True the writer's studio. She also taught for 10 years and the writers program at U. C. L. A. Leslie has two daughters, two cats, one husband, john Truby close to the beach is possible in southern California. What a life john Truby is Hollywood's premier screenwriting instructor and story consultant Over the last 25 years. More than 50,000 people have attended his sold out seminars around the world called the best script doctor in the movie industry. Truby serves as a story consultant for major studios and production companies worldwide and has been a script doctor on more than wait for this. More than 1800 movies, sitcoms and television dramas. Whoa treaties. Former students work have earned more than $15 billion dollars at the box off West. His classes also regularly attended by top fiction writers and novelists. In addition to a sold out seminars, john trivia remains on the cutting edge of technology having created and developed Tribbey blockbuster, the best selling software designed to intuitively help writers learn and understand the art of developing their story ideas into professionally structured novels and scripts. Wow! I mean I'm sold, where do I say? I have talked him into coming on, so let's bring them on. Uh Hi, hi, hi wow, we are so happy you are here. I cannot tell you how much both of you in different ways have meant to me through the years. So we'll get into that later. But there is so much to talk about, kristen you want to take it away? Yes, So john, let's start with you. Can we have an overview of your book, anatomy of story. So I know it's about in depth story structure. Um and I would love to start with why you don't apply the three act structure we've all been drilled to incorporate and instead you teach the seven steps, which I think my copy is not as dog eared as patties, but I think our weight weakness and need um desire, opponent plan plan, battle, self revelation and new, equal new equilibrium. Did I get that right, john she can like starstruck? I know I don't have the time to go into detail for all seven plus, we actually haven't paid for your writers workshop here. Can you talk a little bit about why those things are important and why that's the structure you like to follow. Well, I began teaching story structure because I found that three act structure, which is what is normally taught, especially the screen writers did not work at the professional level. It was really designed to help people start writing their first script, which is a very intimidating thought when you're first starting off. And so you think, well I got to climb this mountain in one step And along comes three act structure that says no, it's not that hard. All you all you have to know is that there are three acts with 2-3 major plot points. And so that gave writers and confidence to really start into their first spread. The problem is that it's...

...such a simplistic way of structuring a story that you cannot get being on the beginner stage of storytelling with that. And not to mention that it doesn't have anything to do with writing a novel, which is a much more complex plot than you find in a screenplay. And so what I was looking for was a way of structuring a story that was organic to the story, meaning what it had to do with what your unique main character is doing in that story. And that's what makes it a structure that not only works universal, but it also makes your story unique. And one of the big problems with react structure is that it gives you cookie cutter stories, it gives you stories that everybody else is writing. And so there's no way you can set yourself apart from the crowd. So the seven steps that you just mentioned are the steps that the the main character goes through in trying to reach a goal. And so it attracts both their external journey, which is going after the goal, as well as the internal journey where they overcome the basic weaknesses of their life and to a self revelation where they grow and become a better person international. No, I love that. That was the workshop in a nutshell. That was the perfect nutshell. So, and that structure works equally for um film or novels. Yes. And essays. Everything has non fiction and fiction. I totally Yeah, because that's why the title of the book is the Anatomy of Story. It's not the anatomy of screenplay, because these are, the book really collects a number of slew of what I believe are professional techniques for writing a great story in any media, wow. So it's almost about internalizing those story beats and those things that you have to achieve, and then applying them to whatever medium you're in. I love that. Brilliant. Yeah. And I love one of the classes because I listen to your classes and the one I'm listening to right now is on myth and I love that you can break those down and then apply them to love story to mythology, to mythology, geek. So it's it's really fascinating. But Leslie, I want to talk about a boobs life, which has been optioned by Salma Hayek and then we'll dive into story structure and your classes in a minute. But you and I both survived breast cancer. And I know I turned to you right when I was diagnosed because you were in the middle of it and you were very beautifully public about it. But at that time we both said we will never write about this. We will never write about this. And I kept my bow. And you didn't. I was angry. I know. And thank God you didn't keep your bow because this book is about so much more mm breast cancer. So I want you to tell everybody and tell us about the book. And then I want you to talk a little bit about how you used truby structure in the book because it is memoir Yeah, it's very an antidote and it's a mix of everything. It's a mix of uh yeah, non narrative nonfiction narrative and in fact it's kind of a blend of that. The personal stuff written with narrative style is fiction. Modern nonfiction. Anyway, um I had originally written uh modern love column based on kind of our romance right before I got sick. And it was more about being sexy and then uh realizing you're not that sexy when you're bald and stuff. So I thought I was done. You know, I got really lucky. It got published. Um and I totally used the seven steps, but that was really my thing. I didn't keep a journal of being...

...sick. I went public like two friends. I found people reaching out to me that was very helpful. But yeah, I was not going to write about it. My code name was sick of pink cancer chat rooms. We talked about that so much. Yeah, It's thrilling. That color for me for a really long time. And so it was just, it took takes over your life. You know, it's a lifestyle. So I was done with it. And then years later it took a really long time for my brain to come back after chemo and we're excited. Really sharp. I immediately got clients back. I could analyze stuff better than everything, but that created. Well, spring, I was still on meds for five years and I don't know your experience, but it kind of messes with you. Yeah, I couldn't like I didn't have that normal thing anymore. So, and then one night, you know, a few years ago, I got out of the shower after this whole, my whole life, you know, after going through all of this stuff, I got out of the shower that night, it's exactly as the book starts with the opening chapter. Yeah, I'm never supposed to have this romantic evening. You know, we were had only been married a couple of years and we had moved, I had survived and I was gonna be okay And I got out of the shower and my boobs were crooked and I was so mad, so mad and he accused me of being obsessed and I thought I'm a woman, I'm not obsessed, I'm a feminist. You know, like that can't be true. And then I realized my whole entire life had kind of been dictated by wanting breasts, wanting abroad, wanting bigger boobs, wanting to hide them for work, wanting to, you know, I push them up to date. And then my mom talked me into getting a boob job that I got sick and then my kids were on different reactions to their boobs, my daughters and nieces and I just thought, okay, dana was off because we're crooked. Yeah, I was, he couldn't understand. And so we went right to sleep like guys, do you know when we had just moved in and I had all my boxes in the next room, that was my office and I started pulling out pictures and scrapbooks. My favorite ones were on top. And I had this picture of me and my mom, my little sister, all of us red bikinis. And I immediately cracked up because we were dressed in little red strips cutting having our nipples. And I remember how hard it was for my sister who was 1.5 who could not keep the strip over her nipple and it cracked me up and I thought, wow, that's when it starts. And so just looking through my life, and I realized that I could track my whole life this way. And then I started doing research, which was kind of an easy thing for my brain to do. And I found out that there was a reason my life tractor, because there was this particular obsession that I wasn't even aware of how much you're elected. And I thought I have this is my next book. This will be an easier thing than making something up. And so it was a real combination of adding that research and and, you know, learning how this obsession started. But by using my life as an example. And I originally thought of it as a series of essays, kind of standard. Yeah. And I definitely use the seven steps. It's just like, all you guys know, when you write a novel, every chapter has to have the rising action in question and the partial answer. And then the next question, that's kind of the seven steps of every chapter and essays are the same way. And so I wrote I started writing and I made a list of all the parts of my life affected by boobs and there was a story to everyone. And so I just want okay to put these all together. And that's what I did. Yeah, I had seven steps. What was my weakness need? I really started with was I gonna fix my boobs again. That was the initial question. And then it became this bigger picture, you know, with women's quality and our bodies know that Well, that picture was like the greatest thing I've ever seen of y'all in this little bikinis. I mean that absolutely, I was like this, I don't even know that was a thing, I'd never seen that. It's associated with people can figure out what you're talking about those pictures in the...

...book. Yeah, yeah. So john in your book, you talk a lot about premise. In fact, there's a whole chapter devoted to it. So could you define premise for us? And do you think it's important for a writer to know the premise at the very beginning? I just went, oh it is, oh my gosh, oh, that's me on the right my hip is recovered, It was like brushing your teeth. I've never seen a baby suit like that before, were since it's so cute. That's hilarious. Um okay, but okay, but john so how do we get from the premise to what you call the goal? That was a lot of questions. Do you want me to start? That's fine. It's just difficult to follow a picture of the street girls what you maybe you can share your liberal? We'd feel more, you're allowed to show your just not fair. You the premise, I consider one of the most important steps in the entire process is probably the most difficult step in the process because you have the least amount of to go on and yet unless you explore that premise, we're probably going to write yourself into a trap And so I always recommend take a great deal of time to explore the premise because nine out of 10 story ideas that you come up with are not going to be worth a book and so you want to figure that out before you've written a book and discovery. So but basically premise is your story idea stated in one sense and by forcing yourself to compress it down to reduce it down to just this basic lean structure, you see what works and you can probably predict what are the structural problems you're going to have to solve to make it work. And so that's why it's so important to really spend time on it and then what you do is you simply use various techniques once you have that one line sentence to keep expanding it out, first of the seven steps, then you move to, you know, other steps, you know, certain genre elements and so on and so forth as you slowly but surely make a longer and longer store. I think you've just explained, you know, so many of us, I think all of us at one time or another have taught at a writer's workshop and we've all dealt with writers who are very excited because they have an idea and I'm going to have to remember that to tell folks an idea is not a premise. Yeah, I mean, I think we kind of talked about that a little bit when we were all in Beaufort and somebody was asking us because we had all sort of talked about an idea that we had kind of gotten from someone else that we knew and someone was like, oh, so you're taking your idea and really, but an idea is not really a story, They are very different things. I mean, You know, that one little sentence is very obviously so important, but you do have to figure out is it, is it worth 400 pages and a year of your life important? And unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes that I find writers make before they really got some experience is that they'll come up with an idea that they get very excited about and they immediately start writing the story, they immediately start writing the book. And what inevitably, inevitably happens is because they haven't done the structural digging up front to find the gold of the idea. They write themselves into a structural dead end and they can't get out and they throw away the idea they based that never happened. It's one of the problems that writers said, yeah. Um you know, I remember...

...john beck in my newspaper days, I was a reporter for 14 years in the last 10, I was at the Atlanta Journal Constitution and they brought in, I was a feature writer and they brought in a writing consultant and I kept hiding from him until he finally cornered me and said, why are you avoiding me? And I said, well, I'm afraid of you because I don't want you to critique my work. I'm worried that you will. I said, I've been riding a bike for 14 years and if you make me look down at my feet as I pedal and figure out what I'm doing, I'll fall off the bike and I would never learn how to ride a bike again. So that's a long way of saying that a lot of novelists like me are resistant to structure. And I know I've been resistant. Um I, you know, talk to us about why you think why you both Leslie you and john why do you both think structure is so important and how can it help me? I think that you have an innate sense of structure you obviously have been reading for a long time and I think that is the most important tool and the structure is something that you you know, can it's like analyzing a poem and you don't know how it works. But when someone is trying to build from the ground up, the structure is important. And in fact, in almost all my books, I've changed the structure around, I played with different structure and it's kind of like sometimes you're reinventing the wheel and you have to figure out how the structure is going to work, but with someone like, like you ladies who are, you know, incredibly accomplished and maybe aren't conscious that you're using a structure. You are, it's just underneath and you're so practiced at that, you aren't defining the words. But I think for people who are learning and come at it and maybe a more anal way I want to stay for some of us who are more methodical and afraid of throwing out eight million pages. I mean I do outlines and note cards and figure it out and then I change them around. But I have the comfort of knowing the important story elements are there, I'm going to get to the end, I know what I'm talking about and if I changed things around which I do every day, it's because it worked better for how that part of the story is working. But the structure is sound, it's like, you know, the building materials of a house, you can build all different designs, but I mean, you definitely have a structure at all your stories, You're just not looking at it that way without the, you know, the glasses that see the bones kind of thing. Yeah, that's a release that, I mean, is I think the central question and it's the question that writers, it's usually posed as somebody says, are you a plotter or a cancer and, and I consider that to be a false distinction because there are elements of both approaches that are used. The trick is combining that. And so it's not, it doesn't have to be one or the other. Um but the reason I say it's so important is because I find that the main difference between the top professional writers and virtually everyone else is the ability to plot. Um writers have been writing for any amount of time, know the importance of a strong main character. You're usually they're usually able to write good dialogue. But when it comes to plot, they think, well, I'll just figure that out as I go. And the reason that is so dangerous is because the plot is as more techniques that go into great plotting than all other story techniques combine. That's that's how huge it is. And the biggest problem writers have is that they have the wrong understanding what plot is they think the plot is driven by the main character. Well, there's a truth to that. The main character should drive the plot. What they don't realize is that plot is actually what the what...

...the author and the main opponent come up with to try to put the hero in the greatest possible difficulty. Uh that again, say that again, I love that. Say it again. What plot really is, is what the author and the main opponent come up with to put the hero in the greatest possible difficult and the reason that's so difficult for writers to get is when they think in terms of plot is just the sequence of actions that the hero takes. They think well then the opposition is just the obstacles that the hero has to overcome. Well that gives you that gives you a a story that is episodic where none of these obstacles are connected. The only way you can come up with a great plot is if you look at the big picture from the point of view of the opponent and understand what is the sequence of obstacles that the opponent is going to construct that will eventually defeat the hero. So it's only by looking at that big strategic picture that you come up with a plot that not only puts the hero in the greatest amount of trouble, it also creates the greatest number of surprises for the reader and that's where we get great plot. That's awesome. I love that. I always think it's all the hero reacts to the trouble to get what she wants. Which is another way. It's all you know, sometimes it's semantics. Yeah. All right, wow. Forward. Motion narrative drive is the yeah, the problem is to always always tell writers is that even though you want the hero to drive the action, if you try to plot the story that way you're going to run into huge problems. It's only by starting with the opponents plan first that you can figure out the ideal plot that the hero then has to uncover and salt does the does the opponent have to be a person or can the opponent's b forces were coming? The opponent can be a force of nature. But if you have a story like that, you are really limiting what you can do with it. Let's say there's a shipwreck, what what's going on? He was right about that essentially it's a real thing that happened. But then you got to know why she can't figure out what she wants to figure out. So it's all those things. But I definitely have my heart is with the main character and then it's like what's stopping her? So you have to think about those things, but you can certainly start off with and have one of the main opponents be a force of nature. The problem with nature is it tends to repeat the same beat. Well, we have a hurricane and then we have an earthquake and then we have a snowstorm and so on. You know, these are all different forces of nature, but it's the same beat basically in sport. And the only way you really get complexity of plot and complexity of story that the reader will be maximally interested in is in the opposition between human beings and most you know this because you often a lot of you have family members or an award, you are stopping them or you know, other people who are different opponents. So it's not just like I think one person who's always the bad guy, it's like, right now, I think the person getting what they want and that makes sense. Different. Well, no, I mean, it's so, that's so true. Like, I'm just sitting here thinking about, I'm like, wait nine books in like, am I learning how to write a novel now? Because I'm not sure I've been doing it right? You know, you can great. I mean, I'm doing it, but I am I doing it correct? I always just feel like I can do my next one better and stronger and...

...have more surprised. No, I mean this is so great, but then that's so true. I mean, that really is like, that's what's driving the plot. It's not the main character is what the main character is up again. So that's that's awesome. Um okay, so john you say to write something that will change your life, which I love that quote. I mean going forward, yes, and it's like reading that just makes you think like, yes, that's why we're here, like, at the end of the day, like, our readers are great and all that's great. But we, I think we all kind of right, because we're a little bit selfish, right? Like we're writing a story that, that we love, that's going to change our life in some way, but what do you mean when you say that? Well, I think, I think it's probably the most important piece of advice in the book, because I think when a lot of people think about being a writer, they think, well I'm you know, fame and fortune and and obviously we all want to make good money from writing our stories. But the problem is that if that is your first and main motivation, you, I believe you tend to come up with story ideas that are a copy of some story you saw in the movies or in a book or something six months before and so you try to put a little slight, you know, switch on it. Well that might work, but in terms of the process of writing the book, what is that going to do for you? To me the process, especially when you move up to the upper levels of being a professional writer, you've got to fall in love with the process itself, I mean, you know, you're going to write a book, you know, you're going to be able to sell it and so on, but you also want to book that is so important to you, that you can feel so passionate about that, you can get that passion into the book and that passion that will also be read by the reader and so you get this kind of this this double effect, this double pay off, which is you not only get that great book that the audience loves that we were lives, but you also get a book that changes your life and there is no to me, there is no better benefit from the craft of writing. It is the greatest tool for creating a good life that there is. Yeah. And it is like falling in Love. I feel like, like I think it's the I mean it's the closest thing I've ever done to falling in love, you know, that's not falling in love, right? Do you guys feel like that? I mean when you're like, that's what I always, some people say, what's it like when you have a news story and you're like in it, and I feel like it's like falling in love. It's all you want to do, and it's all you think about and it's just like that obsession and you're pretending to pay attention to other things, but you're like, what happened next to my mom will be like, hello with us, where are you? All right? So, Leslie, for a second, I want to talk more than a second, I want to talk about your modern love column, How I got here and falling in love with john and saying you'd never marry, but then you did marry again. But then you did. And now y'all are teaching and working together. So Leslie, how's that going? I totally recommend it. It's so much fun. It's like, you know, we don't actually work together, we never work on the same project, but he's my stuff, I mean his stuff, we have very different skills and you know, I want his stamp of approval before he read every chapter and would say he would make things in my book like the history stuff. He was like, I'm embarrassed to kind of give my opinion sometimes and he'd say no, I think you're really saying this is like, you're right. And that sounds so much smarter than how I said he's working on this genius book right now and I have to go through every chapter and first it makes me really proud that I'm married to this genius and he's really funny and no one was going to get the jokes maybe, but me. But then I know I can compress it...

...so that a regular person can understand it and help organize it in ways that he's not seeing. So it's like we can be editors for each other and it reinforces the value of our work. It's also really fun to say, hey, I'm, you know, shouting in the other room. Do you how do you spell this or what do you think if let this last night? I was like, what do you think if this guy comes down on christmas morning and does this as opposed to this? And he's like, no, no, I think that was the first time. Like I just wasted a half hour doing it the other way, you know, But I completely, and then he'll get mad at me last night. Got mad at me because I haven't said the cats and it was late for their dinner because I was so involved in my story. I'm like, okay, okay, but he's the only person who will get that, you know, because the things we love, so it's a wonderful thing and if you can be with somebody does the same thing with you as you do it, it's a gift because they understand the obsession as you know, as Christie was saying, people don't get that, you're not really there all the time when you're in a lot of people. Okay, so now john and Leslie you both say that a character must have a strong arc and the moral dilemma dilemma dilemma dilemma is different, it's a different, that's a different word. So tell me more because I know that when I've, when I've taught writing explaining a strong story arc is not the easiest task to take on with, even with experienced writers who don't think in terms of that, you can start jumping um Mhm. Character arc is one of the most if not the most difficult of all concepts for it's hugely difficult to to understand, but when you do get it, it makes a massive difference in the quality of your story and in order to get it. Part of the problem that writers have is they think that character change happens in the last scene, it happens right at the end of the book and so on and somehow the character just changes. Just like a light switch to do you flick and they don't realize it's not it doesn't happen at the end although it happens to the reader at the end where it really happens is at the beginning it's where you set up and this is the part that writers don't get they don't understand how to set up the character change. So for you guys, Yeah, yeah. You're professionals, you've known how to do all this forever. But for those who were not, we're gobbling it up, we're like taking I'm taking notes. Have no pride. one of one of the the reasons that the seven steps are so powerful is that the first step the weakness need is the setup For character change. And the 6th step self revelation is where it happens. And for me, the most situations that I had dealing with other writers is that if the if your protagonist hero knows what's really wrong stories over. So they have to be going around solving the story in ways that are different and bigger and stakes higher as you all know until the end. And then they figure out what really the problem is and then you can they can make that critical decision to change. So it's really tricky to keep building on it without revealing that. And one way that I can explain to people easily is that, you know, your character is going to do really stupid things and as terms of a moral dilemma, do you think that maybe aren't right to solve what they think their their goal is, but ultimately they're trying to fulfill this personal issue they have and they don't know about necessarily, I don't know about right. And so they're going to do things badly and hurt other people and not, you know, and until they figure it out, they will be better people and figure out how to be happier...

...and whether it's at a better place or giving up on the goal or not getting the goal, but certainly it's, they're gonna not be perfect. I always find if the characters me, I'm happy to make myself be the bad person, so I have no trouble. Like I think it's like female guilt thing anyway, we're always my fault, I'm sorry, but if you kind of look at your character that way of like they're going to do something but they're gonna mess up to get it done because they don't really get what they need. That's one way I can explain to people and it's just really, you all know, are familiar with the rising character. There are some stoic characters as we know the superhero franchises, these people stay the same and yet the most popular movies and I'm sure john has big opinion about this are the ones where we know it used to be just superman who had clark yet, but now we have all these back stories of the superheroes who are troubled, you know, or and make mistakes and hurt people and you know, the whole dilemma and batman thing of who's going to die, who is not going to die. So the more troubled in darkness and moral issues, the character has, the more interesting it is the bigger that arc is going to be more exciting the story, the higher the stakes. So even when you're talking about, you know, women in relationship issues and and nice summer novels, there's going to be something they need and we know what it is, but the reader has to kind of go on the journey with the character to find it out. I think I think one of the most important distinctions in setting up the weakness needed the beginning was sets up, the character change is a distinction that I made, which is between a psychological weakness and a moral weakness. Most writers give their character strictly a psychological weakness, which is a weakness that affects them, but no one else in order to have a really big character change, the character has to have not only a psychological flaw, they have to have a moral flaw, which means that at the beginning of the story, the reader has to see this character hurt someone else at the beginning of the story and it doesn't even have to be like a big thing for their conscious of it could be just a lie or bad behavior, but they're not taken, but it indicates a deeper moral flaw, which is simply something they're not aware of. Its a selfishness that they have, that they're not aware of. And again they're not hurting someone else. We have to see that in an action, we can't just say they have a moral flaw, you have to see it played out. But if you can give your character both a psychological and moral flaw at the beginning and then as lessons just saying over the course of the story, they make moral mistakes in trying to reach the goal. Then the payoff at the end, when you get a character change is going to have double power because they're not only going to fix their psychological flaw, they're going to see how they've been wrong morally in the story up until that point. That is a dynamite powerful ending. Oh, I love that. Yeah, yeah. Gosh, it's funny because I feel like so much of this is stuff we do by instinct, but to put put words to it, I think is really powerful and helps us to do it better. Um Leslie you have not only used this structuralist approach to write your novels, but of course you also consult on the process before you met john, were you as much of a structuralist as you are now, or is that kind of evolved uh as the two of you have been together? Um I went to film school and I mean I was always writing, I did a lot of essays and stuff. Um and then I studied, you know, was in production, but I actually took his class uh huh right out of reform school and was writing in between projects, I was in production, but I always was like, oh, I could write better than that, that movie, it's not good and I could do something better and I don't care about it. So I was writing between and then when I,...

...you know, was home and with a child, I thought, okay, I got to make this work also have to go back to work and I'm not sure how that's gonna work. Um I just got more serious about it. But I had a friend who said, you got to take this class by this new guy, you know? And so I took this class and I honestly have a notebook of like coffee spilled notes from that class I took in the late eighties of his uh every time I used and every single thing I wrote and my first couple books were nonfiction, my essays, I still use the theory, you know, my novel, that enterprise, all that kind of stuff. And then when I started, so I was using his structure and actually I was teaching it also. And so when I was I was always like I was teaching the steps and it's actually 22 big steps and then the seven ones or the ones I'm concerned as a novelist and in my essays and things. And so I always was, here's how you're a good way to do because it worked for me when I was just write and write and write, I was going out so many pages, I still throw it pages but at least I know you know where I'm trying to get and and trying to hit all the beads and my stories. Now my structure gets a little too complicated. I'd like to simplify my next book, although that's hard to do because it's so fun to play with it. It's like a puzzle. So I always was like it and I was doing structure and always his because the stuff I learned in screen in film school at USC and I want to end me while I was there was, wow, it was always like girl stuff and that muddy middle is really hard. We were talking about the muddy middle today. Yeah, I read about pigs in the muddy middle, you know, getting through that and making that the most exciting part, it's easy to write the first chapter in the last chapter is the most fun. So the ones we work the most because they have to be sharpest your reader. But to get through that middle and make the story exciting for everyone, including you and not get bored of the story, it works. So I always, even when I was S L A long before we We've been married I guess almost 11 years now I was married 20 years before that we actually met when I was engaged, my first husband and together after that anyway. But so yeah, I know I've always always been like this. I think there's a security in knowing what I have to do later and then I get to play in between. I love that. Yeah. All your wisdom, both of you is incredible. I know we could talk for hours and I have I want to know what you're writing right now john because if it is another writing book, I need an early copy to critique. I want to see those early pages, but I feel like we could talk and a lot of papers I'm up for it and you both have affected my life so much Leslie by talking to me during breast cancer. And john my dog eared copy of Anatomy of Story has changed the way I right through the years and how I purposely drill down these ladies here we talk all the time. You have to know what your character wants, why they want it. Don't know they want. So both of you, thank you so much but don't leave, we have one more really important question for you. Okay. But first a few quick reminders for our book. Loving community. Don't forget to check out our Friends and fiction podcast. Not only are the shows like this one on the podcast but we have in every friday Writer's Block podcast with Ron block. In this past week we have an episode on diverse voices. And Ron was a co host to talk to Monica west about revival season and wanda Morris to talk about all her little secrets in this coming friday. Me and Christie and Ron talked to Allison Larkin about her new novel and Tracy lang about her debut. We are the brennans. Yes. And in case you have not heard patty mary Kay and I all have...

...winter books coming out. We've barely mentioned it. It's just where you can honestly do you. Yeah, I mean, I know it's surprising you. Yeah, but if you are interested in getting signed for sedition of all of those books um as soon as they come out Plus special friends and fiction swag plus a private Q and a video with the three of us that you won't find anywhere else. Check out our winter subscription box with Nantucket book partners. And of course if you are not hanging out with us yet in the Friends and Fiction official book Club. You are missing out. It's a separate page run by our friends Brenda Gartner and lisa Harrison and we hope you'll come over and join the fun over there next week. I know you can't wait, I'm going to host back by popular demand. The darling demented Karen carter. Yes, I'm anticipating another costume drama and along with that, another reason why you want one of this next week is Patty is going to share the exclusive first look at her once upon a wardrobe trailer. And so of course this is an episode. You do not want to miss chi am scouring my costume closet even as we speak. I might have to come up with an excuse to miss that one. I don't know, I'm still traumatized here. Do not know that was amazing. She was great last year. She's going to be great again. So Leslie and john, before we go for both of you, we all want to know so we can avoid it. What is the biggest mistake you see writers make? Mhm. My two Okay, what is I am shocked at how many writers don't read books? Uh huh. Very good point. And something, wow! Everybody's following you all and everyone and if you can't buy the books, get them from the library that's still in the books you have to read to be a good writer. The other thing for me is that I had someone called me last week who um gentry client who had nothing to do with the story that he wanted to write that he thought it would sell. Uh and that's just the Kiss of Death as john said. So those are my two things right? Something you loved, right, that you are passionate about writing and read other books. And I really think that all books can inspire you read and everything you can, you'll see what you want to do, what you don't want to do what's done well isn't done well, but it's really important to read. And then also you'll get those natural signposts as as many of you have without actually knowing what you're doing and then you can always hold them later. But it's really important to read some great advice. I think the biggest mistake that that I see, I mean they really did. One of them is that one that I mentioned earlier, which is come up with an idea that they're very excited about and immediately start writing pages without figuring out the seven major structure steps because without that the story is going to fall apart. But as I've, as I've worked with writers over the years, it has gotten more into this area of plot. That that is the area where the biggest distinction between the pros and everybody else and we have to learn the key techniques of how plot really works. And if they don't, they're going up against the wall, that is really hard to break through. So interesting, wow! Well, we've given us a lot to think about. I know this is an episode that I'm going to be re watching. But before we leave, we just want to say thank you again to Caroline's cakes for helping us take a bite out of summer. Don't forget to enter our big giveaway that you can find on our facebook page, under announcements and john and Leslie thank you so much for sharing so much about your inspiration, your process, your...

...life, your relationship. I feel like I'm about to take apart my entire work in progress we're doing today anyway and just ask some of these really important questions about especially the opponent and what they're doing. So it's not just internal from the character, but so to all of you out there, thank you for joining us. We encourage you to grab the anatomy of story and a bug's life from coverage of your boobs. That's my message how, how America's obsessing obsession shaped me and you. So uh so we love guys, thank you so fun. Thank you. And to all of you out there, you are such an amazing book loving community and we thank you for joining us on our sunday night bonus on the writing craft. Goodnight y'all tonight. Thank you for tuning in, Join us every week on Facebook or YouTube where our live show airs every Wednesday night at seven p.m. eastern time and please subscribe to our podcast and follow us on instagram. We're so glad you're here.

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