SEASON 3: 

Beginnings & Endings + Sequences

Writing a novel is a massive project, and like all big tasks a winning strategy is to break it down into smaller, more manageable pieces. This season, Valerie looks at two of a story's Acts (the Beginning Hook (or first Act) and the Ending Payoff (or last act)) and how they work together. And Melanie breaks the Acts down even further into Sequences.  

There are a handful of stories that theorists use as great examples of the craft, and Toy Story is one of them. (Chinatown is another, but sheesh, enough already!) Yes, the animation was groundbreaking for its day but that’s not what makes this film special. All the fancy tech in the world (or even the best actors in the world) can’t save a film from a script that doesn’t work. If you’re writing a buddy story, a story with two protagonists, or want to better understand character development, this movie—and this episode!—is for you.

It’s not uncommon for a subplot, or secondary character, to take over a story – especially when a writer is still learning the ropes. So, how do you keep a subplot in check and what do you do if it starts taking over? In this week’s episode, Valerie and Melanie discuss just that.

When fans talk about this movie, they usually mention the music. But an amazing soundtrack can’t save a story that doesn’t work. More importantly, for our purposes, music is outside the purview of the writer. So the question remains. Is the writing of this film solid, or does it rely on hits from yesteryear to gloss over its weaknesses? Tune in to find out.

This week, Melanie and Valerie fell into a discussion about whether Good Will Hunting is a miniplot story, or an archplot story with a couple of subplots. What’s the difference? Why does it matter? And how can not knowing put your work-in-progress at risk? Tune in to find out.

Filmmakers have special effects, costuming, casting and music to help them tell their stories. As novelists, we’ve got 26 characters, a handful of punctuation, and our readers’ imaginations. That’s it. So how can we put our readers’ imaginations to work for us? Tune in to this week’s episode to find out. Happy Hallowe’en!

If you’re writing a story with multiple protagonists, or multiple storylines, this episode is for you. This is a tricky kind of story structure to pull off, and there are a few different ways it can work, but does Sliding Doors pull it off? Is this an innovative way to approach story, or is it just a gimmick. Tune in to find out! Oh, and yes, there are cell phones in this movie – Gerry has one. When you listen to the episode you’ll know why that’s important.

Well, this was an interesting experience. Mercury was retrograde and it led to all kinds of technical issues and re-recording. In the end, to improve the audio, Melanie had a towel over her head. It’s natural to want our work to be perfect before we send it out into the world, but sometimes we’ve got to just go with it. So, if you’re hesitating to submit your work, take a listen to this week’s episode, and then, ship your work. We did.

Valerie and Melanie are kicking off a brand new season of the Story Nerd podcast with a high level look at both sequences, and the beginnings and endings of stories. If you want to learn how the first act of a story telegraphs the last, or how to break your manuscript down into easily-manageable sequences, be sure to tune in.

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