Friends & Fiction
Friends & Fiction

Episode · 1 month 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. Fivebest selling authors and the stories novelist mary Kay Andrews, ChristineHarmel, Christie Woodson, harvey patty Callahan, Henry and mary Alice Munroare five longtime friends with more than 80 published books to their creditIn 2020 they created friends and fiction to provide author interviewsand fascinating insider, talk about publishing and writing and to highlightindependent bookstores. These friends discuss the books, they have writtenthe books they're reading now and the art of storytelling. If you love booksand you're curious about the writing world, you're in the right place. MhmYeah. Hi everyone welcome to our sunday night Friends and fiction bonus show onthe craft of writing. We have so much to look forward to tonight. I am PattyCallahan and I'm mary Kay Andrews and I'm sitting in patty's lab not thereyet. I'm Christine Harmel and I'm not sitting in anybody's lap, I'm sorry andthis is Brendan new york times, bestselling authors, endless stories tosupport indie bookstores. Tonight you are in for such a treat. You'll meetjohn truby teacher extraordinaire and author of the acclaimed Anatomy ofStory and Leslie Lear his wife the author of a boobs life. I just lovethat title and author consultant. We'll be talking about story structure aboutwriting personal stories and about how they work together. I'm so interestedin this as husband and wife alongside each other. We are so lucky to have twoof the premier writing coaches in the country along with practical proof oftheir 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 bookstorestonight. Our bookstore the week is Copper Fish Books, a great little indiestore in punta gorda florida, that's a great friend of the show and a hugesupporter of the Fab five, get 10% off with code F F 10 and we also want tosay thank you so much to our august partner Caroline's cakes, one of ourfavorites this month. We are taking a bite out of summer with Caroline's allmonth long. The Fab five of Friends eviction will be telling you about ourbeach bag, must have our favorite reads of the summer are ideal Labor DayWeekend and of course our favorite Caroline's cakes, flavors on ourindividual facebook and instagram pages and we're going to offer you the chanceto win the ultimate Labor Day weekend beach bag brimming with swag fromfriends and fiction and Caroline's information is under announcements onour facebook page. So now I want to tell you about our incredible guests onour sunday bonus writer, craft episode. First ladies First Leslie here is awriter and author consultant who explores the duality of today's womento navigate a new path between sexy and sacred Sami Hayek is developingLeslie's critically acclaimed new memoir, a boobs life and I'm veryjealous into a comedy series for HBO max. She's a prize winning writer andher books include What a mother knows a target, recommended read Wife goes ongreat title and 66 Laps which was...

...winner of the Pirates Ali Faulknerprize. Her nonfiction books include Welcome to Club Mom Club grandma, Bothexerted excerpted on price dot com and she's also been featured on OprahLeslie. Personal essays have appeared in the new york times modern lovecolumn 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'sstudio. 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 beachis possible in southern California. What a life john Truby is Hollywood'spremier screenwriting instructor and story consultant Over the last 25 years.More than 50,000 people have attended his sold out seminars around the worldcalled the best script doctor in the movie industry. Truby serves as a storyconsultant for major studios and production companies worldwide and hasbeen a script doctor on more than wait for this. More than 1800 movies,sitcoms and television dramas. Whoa treaties. Former students work haveearned more than $15 billion dollars at the box off West. His classes alsoregularly attended by top fiction writers and novelists. In addition to asold out seminars, john trivia remains on the cutting edge of technologyhaving created and developed Tribbey blockbuster, the best selling softwaredesigned to intuitively help writers learn and understand the art ofdeveloping their story ideas into professionally structured novels andscripts. 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 arehere. I cannot tell you how much both of you in different ways have meant tome through the years. So we'll get into that later. But there is so much totalk about, kristen you want to take it away? Yes, So john, let's start withyou. Can we have an overview of your book, anatomy of story. So I know it'sabout in depth story structure. Um and I would love to start with why youdon't apply the three act structure we've all been drilled to incorporateand instead you teach the seven steps, which I think my copy is not as dogeared as patties, but I think our weight weakness and need um desire,opponent plan plan, battle, self revelation and new, equal newequilibrium. Did I get that right, john she can like starstruck? I know I don'thave the time to go into detail for all seven plus, we actually haven't paidfor your writers workshop here. Can you talk a little bit about why thosethings are important and why that's the structure you like to follow. Well, Ibegan teaching story structure because I found that three act structure, whichis what is normally taught, especially the screen writers did not work at theprofessional level. It was really designed to help people start writingtheir first script, which is a very intimidating thought when you're firststarting off. And so you think, well I got to climb this mountain in one stepAnd along comes three act structure that says no, it's not that hard. Allyou all you have to know is that there are three acts with 2-3 major plotpoints. And so that gave writers and confidence to really start into theirfirst spread. The problem is that it's...

...such a simplistic way of structuring astory that you cannot get being on the beginner stage of storytelling withthat. And not to mention that it doesn't have anything to do withwriting a novel, which is a much more complex plot than you find in ascreenplay. And so what I was looking for was a way of structuring a storythat was organic to the story, meaning what it had to do with what your uniquemain character is doing in that story. And that's what makes it a structurethat not only works universal, but it also makes your story unique. And oneof the big problems with react structure is that it gives you cookiecutter stories, it gives you stories that everybody else is writing. And sothere's no way you can set yourself apart from the crowd. So the sevensteps that you just mentioned are the steps that the the main character goesthrough in trying to reach a goal. And so it attracts both their externaljourney, which is going after the goal, as well as the internal journey wherethey overcome the basic weaknesses of their life and to a self revelationwhere 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, andthat structure works equally for um film or novels. Yes. And essays.Everything has non fiction and fiction. I totally Yeah, because that's why thetitle of the book is the Anatomy of Story. It's not the anatomy ofscreenplay, because these are, the book really collects a number of slew ofwhat I believe are professional techniques for writing a great story inany media, wow. So it's almost about internalizing those story beats andthose things that you have to achieve, and then applying them to whatevermedium you're in. I love that. Brilliant. Yeah. And I love one of theclasses because I listen to your classes and the one I'm listening toright now is on myth and I love that you can break those down and then applythem to love story to mythology, to mythology, geek. So it's it's reallyfascinating. But Leslie, I want to talk about a boobs life, which has beenoptioned by Salma Hayek and then we'll dive into story structure and yourclasses in a minute. But you and I both survived breast cancer. And I know Iturned to you right when I was diagnosed because you were in themiddle of it and you were very beautifully public about it. But atthat time we both said we will never write about this. We will never writeabout this. And I kept my bow. And you didn't. I was angry. I know. And thankGod you didn't keep your bow because this book is about so much more mmbreast 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 structurein the book because it is memoir Yeah, it's very an antidote and it's a mix ofeverything. It's a mix of uh yeah, non narrative nonfiction narrative and infact it's kind of a blend of that. The personal stuff written with narrativestyle is fiction. Modern nonfiction. Anyway, um I had originally written uhmodern love column based on kind of our romance right before I got sick. And itwas more about being sexy and then uh realizing you're not that sexy whenyou'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 mything. I didn't keep a journal of being...

...sick. I went public like two friends. Ifound people reaching out to me that was very helpful. But yeah, I was notgoing to write about it. My code name was sick of pink cancer chat rooms. Wetalked about that so much. Yeah, It's thrilling. That color for me for areally 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 reallylong time for my brain to come back after chemo and we're excited. Reallysharp. I immediately got clients back. I could analyze stuff better thaneverything, but that created. Well, spring, I was still on meds for fiveyears and I don't know your experience, but it kind of messes with you. Yeah, Icouldn'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 wholelife, you know, after going through all of this stuff, I got out of the showerthat 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 hadonly been married a couple of years and we had moved, I had survived and I wasgonna be okay And I got out of the shower and my boobs were crooked and Iwas so mad, so mad and he accused me of being obsessed and I thought I'm awoman, I'm not obsessed, I'm a feminist. You know, like that can't be true. Andthen I realized my whole entire life had kind of been dictated by wantingbreasts, 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 intogetting a boob job that I got sick and then my kids were on differentreactions 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 inand I had all my boxes in the next room, that was my office and I startedpulling out pictures and scrapbooks. My favorite ones were on top. And I hadthis 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 stripscutting having our nipples. And I remember how hard it was for my sisterwho was 1.5 who could not keep the strip over her nipple and it cracked meup and I thought, wow, that's when it starts. And so just looking through mylife, and I realized that I could track my whole life this way. And then Istarted 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 thisparticular obsession that I wasn't even aware of how much you're elected. And Ithought I have this is my next book. This will be an easier thing thanmaking something up. And so it was a real combination of adding thatresearch and and, you know, learning how this obsession started. But byusing my life as an example. And I originally thought of it as a series ofessays, kind of standard. Yeah. And I definitely use the seven steps. It'sjust like, all you guys know, when you write a novel, every chapter has tohave the rising action in question and the partial answer. And then the nextquestion, that's kind of the seven steps of every chapter and essays arethe same way. And so I wrote I started writing and I made a list of all theparts of my life affected by boobs and there was a story to everyone. And so Ijust want okay to put these all together. And that's what I did. Yeah, I had seven steps. What was myweakness need? I really started with was I gonna fix my boobs again. Thatwas 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 likethe greatest thing I've ever seen of y'all in this little bikinis. I meanthat absolutely, I was like this, I don't even know that was a thing, I'dnever seen that. It's associated with people can figure out what you'retalking 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 awriter to know the premise at the very beginning? I just went, oh it is, oh mygosh, oh, that's me on the right my hip is recovered, It was like brushing yourteeth. 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 thepremise to what you call the goal? That was a lot of questions. Do you want meto start? That's fine. It's just difficult to follow a picture of thestreet 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 oneof the most important steps in the entire process is probably the mostdifficult step in the process because you have the least amount of to go onand yet unless you explore that premise, we're probably going to write yourselfinto a trap And so I always recommend take a great deal of time to explorethe premise because nine out of 10 story ideas that you come up with arenot going to be worth a book and so you want to figure that out before you'vewritten a book and discovery. So but basically premise is your story ideastated in one sense and by forcing yourself to compress it down to reduceit down to just this basic lean structure, you see what works and youcan probably predict what are the structural problems you're going tohave to solve to make it work. And so that's why it's so important to reallyspend time on it and then what you do is you simply use various techniquesonce you have that one line sentence to keep expanding it out, first of theseven steps, then you move to, you know, other steps, you know, certain genreelements and so on and so forth as you slowly but surely make a longer andlonger 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 awriter's workshop and we've all dealt with writers who are very excitedbecause they have an idea and I'm going to have to remember that to tell folksan idea is not a premise. Yeah, I mean, I think we kind of talked about that alittle bit when we were all in Beaufort and somebody was asking us because wehad all sort of talked about an idea that we had kind of gotten from someoneelse that we knew and someone was like, oh, so you're taking your idea andreally, 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 yourlife important? And unfortunately, one of the biggest mistakes that I findwriters make before they really got some experience is that they'll come upwith an idea that they get very excited about and they immediately startwriting the story, they immediately start writing the book. And whatinevitably, inevitably happens is because they haven't done thestructural digging up front to find the gold of the idea. They write themselvesinto a structural dead end and they can't get out and they throw away theidea they based that never happened. It's one of the problems that writerssaid, yeah. Um you know, I remember...

...john beck in my newspaper days, I was areporter for 14 years in the last 10, I was at the Atlanta Journal Constitutionand they brought in, I was a feature writer and they brought in a writingconsultant 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'twant you to critique my work. I'm worried that you will. I said, I'vebeen riding a bike for 14 years and if you make me look down at my feet as Ipedal and figure out what I'm doing, I'll fall off the bike and I wouldnever learn how to ride a bike again. So that's a long way of saying that alot of novelists like me are resistant to structure. And I know I've beenresistant. Um I, you know, talk to us about why you think why you both Leslieyou and john why do you both think structure is so important and how canit help me? I think that you have an innate sense of structure you obviouslyhave been reading for a long time and I think that is the most important tooland the structure is something that you you know, can it's like analyzing apoem and you don't know how it works. But when someone is trying to buildfrom the ground up, the structure is important. And in fact, in almost allmy books, I've changed the structure around, I played with differentstructure and it's kind of like sometimes you're reinventing the wheeland you have to figure out how the structure is going to work, but withsomeone like, like you ladies who are, you know, incredibly accomplished andmaybe aren't conscious that you're using a structure. You are, it's justunderneath 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 analway I want to stay for some of us who are more methodical and afraid ofthrowing out eight million pages. I mean I do outlines and note cards andfigure it out and then I change them around. But I have the comfort ofknowing 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 everyday, 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 ahouse, you can build all different designs, but I mean, you definitelyhave a structure at all your stories, You're just not looking at it that waywithout 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 thequestion that writers, it's usually posed as somebody says, are you aplotter or a cancer and, and I consider that to be a false distinction becausethere are elements of both approaches that are used. The trick is combiningthat. And so it's not, it doesn't have to be one or the other. Um but thereason I say it's so important is because I find that the main differencebetween the top professional writers and virtually everyone else is theability to plot. Um writers have been writing for any amount of time, knowthe importance of a strong main character. You're usually they'reusually 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 isbecause the plot is as more techniques that go into great plotting than allother story techniques combine. That's that's how huge it is. And the biggestproblem writers have is that they have the wrong understanding what plot isthey think the plot is driven by the main character. Well, there's a truthto that. The main character should drive the plot. What they don't realizeis that plot is actually what the what...

...the author and the main opponent comeup with to try to put the hero in the greatest possible difficulty. Uh thatagain, say that again, I love that. Say it again. What plot really is, is whatthe author and the main opponent come up with to put the hero in the greatestpossible difficult and the reason that's so difficult for writers to getis when they think in terms of plot is just the sequence of actions that thehero takes. They think well then the opposition is just the obstacles thatthe hero has to overcome. Well that gives you that gives you a a story thatis episodic where none of these obstacles are connected. The only wayyou can come up with a great plot is if you look at the big picture from thepoint of view of the opponent and understand what is the sequence ofobstacles that the opponent is going to construct that will eventually defeatthe hero. So it's only by looking at that big strategic picture that youcome up with a plot that not only puts the hero in the greatest amount oftrouble, it also creates the greatest number of surprises for the reader andthat's where we get great plot. That's awesome. I love that. I always thinkit's all the hero reacts to the trouble to get what she wants. Which is anotherway. 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 alwaystell writers is that even though you want the hero to drive the action, ifyou 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 canfigure out the ideal plot that the hero then has to uncover and salt does thedoes the opponent have to be a person or can the opponent's b forces werecoming? The opponent can be a force of nature. But if you have a story likethat, you are really limiting what you can do with it. Let's say there's ashipwreck, what what's going on? He was right about that essentially it's areal thing that happened. But then you got to know why she can't figure outwhat she wants to figure out. So it's all those things. But I definitely havemy heart is with the main character and then it's like what's stopping her? Soyou have to think about those things, but you can certainly start off withand have one of the main opponents be a force of nature. The problem withnature is it tends to repeat the same beat. Well, we have a hurricane andthen 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 beatbasically in sport. And the only way you really get complexity of plot andcomplexity of story that the reader will be maximally interested in is inthe opposition between human beings and most you know this because you often alot of you have family members or an award, you are stopping them or youknow, other people who are different opponents. So it's not just like Ithink one person who's always the bad guy, it's like, right now, I think theperson getting what they want and that makes sense. Different. Well, no, Imean, 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 cando my next one better and stronger and...

...have more surprised. No, I mean this isso great, but then that's so true. I mean, that really is like, that'swhat's driving the plot. It's not the main character is what the maincharacter is up again. So that's that's awesome. Um okay, so john you say towrite something that will change your life, which I love that quote. I meangoing 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 readersare great and all that's great. But we, I think we all kind of right, becausewe're a little bit selfish, right? Like we're writing a story that, that welove, that's going to change our life in some way, but what do you mean whenyou say that? Well, I think, I think it's probably the most important pieceof advice in the book, because I think when a lot of people think about beinga writer, they think, well I'm you know, fame and fortune and and obviously weall want to make good money from writing our stories. But the problem isthat if that is your first and main motivation, you, I believe you tend tocome up with story ideas that are a copy of some story you saw in themovies or in a book or something six months before and so you try to put alittle slight, you know, switch on it. Well that might work, but in terms ofthe process of writing the book, what is that going to do for you? To me theprocess, especially when you move up to the upper levels of being aprofessional 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 tosell it and so on, but you also want to book that is so important to you, thatyou can feel so passionate about that, you can get that passion into the bookand that passion that will also be read by the reader and so you get this kindof this this double effect, this double pay off, which is you not only get thatgreat book that the audience loves that we were lives, but you also get a bookthat changes your life and there is no to me,there is no better benefit from the craft of writing. It is the greatesttool for creating a good life that there is. Yeah. And it is like fallingin Love. I feel like, like I think it's the I mean it's the closest thing I'veever done to falling in love, you know, that'snot 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 newsstory and you're like in it, and I feel like it's like falling in love. It'sall you want to do, and it's all you think about and it's just like thatobsession and you're pretending to pay attention to other things, but you'relike, 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 wantto talk about your modern love column, How I got here and falling in love withjohn and saying you'd never marry, but then you did marry again. But then youdid. And now y'all are teaching and working together. So Leslie, how's thatgoing? I totally recommend it. It's so much fun. It's like, you know, we don'tactually 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 wanthis stamp of approval before he read every chapter and would say he wouldmake things in my book like the history stuff. He was like, I'm embarrassed tokind of give my opinion sometimes and he'd say no, I think you're reallysaying this is like, you're right. And that sounds so much smarter than how Isaid he's working on this genius book right now and I have to go throughevery chapter and first it makes me really proud that I'm married to thisgenius and he's really funny and no one was going to get the jokes maybe, butme. But then I know I can compress it...

...so that a regular person can understandit and help organize it in ways that he's not seeing. So it's like we can beeditors for each other and it reinforces the value of our work. It'salso really fun to say, hey, I'm, you know, shouting in the other room. Doyou how do you spell this or what do you think if let this last night? I waslike, what do you think if this guy comes down on christmas morning anddoes this as opposed to this? And he's like, no, no, I think that was thefirst 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 mebecause I haven't said the cats and it was late for their dinner because I wasso involved in my story. I'm like, okay, okay, but he's the only person who willget that, you know, because the things we love, so it's a wonderful thing andif you can be with somebody does the same thing with you as you do it, it'sa gift because they understand the obsession as you know, as Christie wassaying, people don't get that, you're not really there all the time whenyou're in a lot of people. Okay, so now john and Leslie you both say that acharacter must have a strong arc and the moral dilemma dilemma dilemmadilemma is different, it's a different, that's a different word. So tell memore because I know that when I've, when I've taught writing explaining astrong story arc is not the easiest task to take on with, even withexperienced writers who don't think in terms of that, you can start jumping um Mhm. Character arc is one of the mostif not the most difficult of all concepts for it's hugely difficult toto understand, but when you do get it, it makes a massive difference in thequality of your story and in order to get it. Part of the problem thatwriters have is they think that character change happens in the lastscene, it happens right at the end of the book and so on and somehow thecharacter just changes. Just like a light switch to do you flick and theydon't realize it's not it doesn't happen at the end although it happensto the reader at the end where it really happens is at the beginning it'swhere you set up and this is the part that writers don't get they don'tunderstand 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 thosewho 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 sopowerful is that the first step the weakness need is the setup Forcharacter change. And the 6th step self revelation is where it happens. And forme, the most situations that I had dealing with other writers is that ifthe if your protagonist hero knows what's really wrong stories over. Sothey have to be going around solving the story in ways that are differentand bigger and stakes higher as you all know until the end. And then theyfigure out what really the problem is and then you can they can make thatcritical decision to change. So it's really tricky to keep building on itwithout revealing that. And one way that I can explain to people easily isthat, you know, your character is going to do really stupid things and as termsof a moral dilemma, do you think that maybe aren't right to solve what theythink their their goal is, but ultimately they're trying to fulfillthis personal issue they have and they don't know about necessarily, I don'tknow about right. And so they're going to do things badly and hurt otherpeople and not, you know, and until they figure it out, they will be betterpeople and figure out how to be happier...

...and whether it's at a better place orgiving up on the goal or not getting the goal, but certainly it's, they'regonna not be perfect. I always find if the characters me, I'm happy to makemyself be the bad person, so I have no trouble. Like I think it's like femaleguilt thing anyway, we're always my fault, I'm sorry, but if you kind oflook at your character that way of like they're going to do something butthey're gonna mess up to get it done because they don't really get what theyneed. That's one way I can explain to people and it's just really, you allknow, are familiar with the rising character. There are some stoiccharacters as we know the superhero franchises, these people stay the sameand yet the most popular movies and I'm sure john has big opinion about thisare the ones where we know it used to be just superman who had clark yet, butnow we have all these back stories of the superheroes who are troubled, youknow, or and make mistakes and hurt people and you know, the whole dilemmaand batman thing of who's going to die, who is not going to die. So the moretroubled in darkness and moral issues, the character has, the more interestingit is the bigger that arc is going to be more exciting the story, the higherthe stakes. So even when you're talking about, you know, women in relationshipissues and and nice summer novels, there's going to be something they needand we know what it is, but the reader has to kind of go on the journey withthe character to find it out. I think I think one of the most importantdistinctions in setting up the weakness needed the beginning was sets up, thecharacter change is a distinction that I made, which is between apsychological weakness and a moral weakness. Most writers give theircharacter strictly a psychological weakness, which is a weakness thataffects 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 amoral flaw, which means that at the beginning of the story, the reader hasto see this character hurt someone else at the beginning of the story and itdoesn't even have to be like a big thing for their conscious of it couldbe just a lie or bad behavior, but they're not taken, but it indicates adeeper moral flaw, which is simply something they're not aware of. Its aselfishness that they have, that they're not aware of. And again they'renot hurting someone else. We have to see that in an action, we can't justsay they have a moral flaw, you have to see it played out. But if you can giveyour character both a psychological and moral flaw at the beginning and then aslessons just saying over the course of the story, they make moral mistakes intrying to reach the goal. Then the payoff at the end, when you get acharacter change is going to have double power because they're not onlygoing to fix their psychological flaw, they're going to see how they've beenwrong morally in the story up until that point. That is a dynamite powerfulending. Oh, I love that. Yeah, yeah. Gosh, it's funny because I feel like somuch of this is stuff we do by instinct, but to put put words to it, I think isreally powerful and helps us to do it better. Um Leslie you have not onlyused this structuralist approach to write your novels, but of course youalso consult on the process before you met john, were you as much of astructuralist as you are now, or is that kind of evolved uh as the two ofyou have been together? Um I went to film school and I mean I was alwayswriting, 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 reformschool and was writing in between projects, I was in production, but Ialways was like, oh, I could write better than that, that movie, it's notgood and I could do something better and I don't care about it. So I waswriting between and then when I,...

...you know, was home and with a child, Ithought, okay, I got to make this work also have to go back to work and I'mnot sure how that's gonna work. Um I just got more serious about it. But Ihad 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 spillednotes from that class I took in the late eighties of his uh every time Iused 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, allthat kind of stuff. And then when I started, so I was using his structureand actually I was teaching it also. And so when I was I was always like Iwas teaching the steps and it's actually 22 big steps and then theseven 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 forme when I was just write and write and write, I was going out so many pages, Istill throw it pages but at least I know you know where I'm trying to getand and trying to hit all the beads and my stories. Now my structure gets alittle too complicated. I'd like to simplify my next book, although that'shard to do because it's so fun to play with it. It's like a puzzle. So Ialways was like it and I was doing structure and always his because thestuff I learned in screen in film school at USC and I want to end mewhile I was there was, wow, it was always like girl stuff and that muddymiddle is really hard. We were talking about the muddy middle today. Yeah, Iread about pigs in the muddy middle, you know, getting through that andmaking that the most exciting part, it's easy to write the first chapter inthe last chapter is the most fun. So the ones we work the most because theyhave to be sharpest your reader. But to get through that middle and make thestory exciting for everyone, including you and not get bored of the story, itworks. So I always, even when I was S L A long before we We've been married Iguess almost 11 years now I was married 20 years before that we actually metwhen I was engaged, my first husband and together after that anyway. But soyeah, I know I've always always been like this. I think there's a securityin knowing what I have to do later and then I get to play in between. I lovethat. Yeah. All your wisdom, both of you is incredible. I know we could talkfor hours and I have I want to know what you're writing right now johnbecause if it is another writing book, I need an early copy to critique. Iwant to see those early pages, but I feel like we could talk and a lot ofpapers I'm up for it and you both have affected my life so much Leslie bytalking to me during breast cancer. And john my dog eared copy of Anatomy ofStory has changed the way I right through the years and how I purposelydrill down these ladies here we talk all the time. You have to know whatyour 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 questionfor you. Okay. But first a few quick reminders for our book. Lovingcommunity. Don't forget to check out our Friends and fiction podcast. Notonly are the shows like this one on the podcast but we have in every fridayWriter's Block podcast with Ron block. In this past week we have an episode ondiverse voices. And Ron was a co host to talk to Monica west about revivalseason and wanda Morris to talk about all her little secrets in this comingfriday. Me and Christie and Ron talked to Allison Larkin about her new noveland Tracy lang about her debut. We are the brennans. Yes. And in case you havenot heard patty mary Kay and I all have...

...winter books coming out. We've barelymentioned it. It's just where you can honestly do you. Yeah, I mean, I knowit's surprising you. Yeah, but if you are interested in getting signed forsedition of all of those books um as soon as they come out Plus specialfriends and fiction swag plus a private Q and a video with the three of us thatyou won't find anywhere else. Check out our winter subscription box withNantucket book partners. And of course if you are not hanging out with us yetin the Friends and Fiction official book Club. You are missing out. It's aseparate page run by our friends Brenda Gartner and lisa Harrison and we hopeyou'll come over and join the fun over there next week. I know you can't wait, I'mgoing to host back by popular demand. The darling demented Karen carter. Yes,I'm anticipating another costume drama and along with that, another reason whyyou want one of this next week is Patty is going to share the exclusive firstlook at her once upon a wardrobe trailer. And so of course this is anepisode. You do not want to miss chi am scouring my costume closet even as wespeak. 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 lastyear. She's going to be great again. So Leslie and john, before we go for bothof you, we all want to know so we can avoid it. What is the biggest mistakeyou see writers make? Mhm. My two Okay, what is I am shocked athow 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 agood writer. The other thing for me is that I had someone called me last weekwho um gentry client who had nothing to do with the story thathe wanted to write that he thought it would sell. Uh and that's just the Kissof 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 Ireally think that all books can inspire you read and everything you can, you'llsee what you want to do, what you don't want to do what's done well isn't donewell, but it's really important to read. And then also you'll get those naturalsignposts as as many of you have without actually knowing what you'redoing and then you can always hold them later. But it's really important toread some great advice. I think the biggest mistake that that Isee, I mean they really did. One of them is that one that I mentionedearlier, which is come up with an idea that they're very excited about andimmediately start writing pages without figuring out the seven major structuresteps because without that the story is going to fall apart. But as I've, asI've worked with writers over the years, it has gotten more into this area ofplot. That that is the area where the biggest distinction between thepros and everybody else and we have to learn the key techniques of how plotreally works. And if they don't, they're going up against the wall, thatis really hard to break through. So interesting, wow! Well, we've given usa lot to think about. I know this is an episode that I'm going to be rewatching. But before we leave, we just want to say thank you again toCaroline's cakes for helping us take a bite out of summer. Don't forget toenter our big giveaway that you can find on our facebook page, underannouncements and john and Leslie thank you so much for sharing so much aboutyour inspiration, your process, your...

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

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