SEASON 9: 

left-brained stories

This season, Valerie and Melanie are both studying the same topic: left - brained stories (a term Valerie has made up!). These are stories that are primarily designed to appeal to a reader's intellect and while they tend to include mysteries, spy stories, crime stories and thrillers, left - brained stories can fall under any genre. They can also have main characters with dramatic arcs.

Left-brained stories (mysteries, crime thrillers, spy stories) are among the highest selling books on the market today. Readers can’t get enough of them, and that means the bar for authors is really high because we have to create a puzzle that our readers haven’t seen before. Add to this the fact that the fundamentals of storytelling work in a slightly different way than they do with other stories. In this episode, Melanie and I summarize all the lessons we’ve learned over the past 10 episodes and we share our greatest

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Are you planning to use a twist at the end of your story? Have you ever wondered how M. Night Shyamalan pulled off this famous gotcha ending? If so, this episode is for you! Melanie does a deep dive into story twists and surprises so that you can craft an ending that delights your reader. I focused on the Central Dramatic Question which is a key part of creating Narrative Drive (and you must have brilliant Narrative Drive if your reader is going to get all the way to the

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Now this is the epitome of a left-brained story. THE LAST OF SHEILA has puzzles within puzzles, an intricate plot that has been expertly set up, and a cast of characters who aren’t who they seem to me. There are so many amazing things about it, I hardly know which of them to highlight for you here so I’ll give you a bit of trivia: this movie was Rian Johnson’s inspiration for THE GLASS ONION. Oh, and if you solved the mystery before the murderer was revealed, tag me on

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This film offers two hugely valuable lessons to writers of all genres. The first is about the inciting incident and when it needs to happen. The second is about unlikeable characters and how to handle them. In Gosford Park, it’s the victim who is unlikeable and that adds an interesting dimension to the murder mystery storyline. -V. (The following summary was generated by AI.) Do you ever wonder what makes a story irresistible? In the realm of literature and film, the magic often lies in the subtle weave of narrative

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In our last episode about our most embarrassing literary moments, Melanie and I said that line writing (or prose writing) means learning to write a narrative. We also said that there are specific techniques involved in writing a narrative, but we didn’t say what any of them are. So that’s the purpose of this little mini episode. We reveal a line writing secret about one of the most valuable narrative techniques available to us as authors and storytellers. -V (The following summary was generated by AI.) Have you ever found

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No one is born knowing how to write great prose. Like any other kind of specialized writing (ex., newspapers, academia, web, etc.), writing prose is a particular skill that can, and must, be learned. While Melanie and I were meeting to discuss our upcoming webinar about line writing, we started to share (horror) stories from the early days of our own literary careers and boy, are they doozies! Hoping that our mistakes might help you avoid the same pitfalls (or maybe just give you a good laugh) we hit the

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Readers are on a need to know basis. That means that, as storytellers, we only tell them what they need to know, and only when they need to know it. In this adaptation of John le Carre’s novel, the filmmakers could have told us everything we needed to know about Issa in the first few minutes. Instead, they sprinkled the details a little bit at a time, and as a result, the audience’s curiosity goes into overdrive. Melanie and I still think the book is better (shocker, right?), but this

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The movie had both me and Valerie on the edge of our seats. When we come across a masterful movie we pull out as much as we can for you. This episode is chock-a-block full of info about point of view, narrative drive, clues, and liars. We also examine how the twist in The Good Liar is set up and pulled off. I continue to track the clues and motives this week…or should we say I track the lies. Valerie discusses how point of view and narrative drive work together

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A comedic take on a murder mystery had so much potential, but unfortunately, the creators of SEE HOW THEY RUN wasted it with what can only be described as lazy writing and lazy editing. This is what happens when the writers of murder mysteries aren’t also superfans of the genre, or when they try to cut corners. This week, Valerie discusses the unfortunate skinny wrist reveal, and Melanie walks us through all the clues and red herrings. Do you agree with their analysis? (The following summary was generated by AI.)

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It’s a long episode this week because there’s a whole lot to talk about in this excellent adaptation of John le Carre’s bestselling novel. Melanie gives her top tips for writing mysteries and Valerie discusses the type of protagonist we usually find in left-brained stories. One question lingered for them both: When did George Smiley discover who the mole was?

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By the time we get to the end of our manuscript, we can feel drained creatively. The temptation to phone it in looms large. But be careful. No matter how good the rest of your story is, if the ending is weak, the novel/film will fail to impress. This is just one of the lessons that Valerie and Melanie learned this week.

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This week Valerie and Melanie continue their study of left-brained stories. They step into the outback to discover how Australian crime writers create an atmosphere of isolation by combining plot and setting. Melanie is tracking clues, motives, and murderers’ actions to discover the techniques used to raise questions and divert attention in the story – and there are many! Valerie investigates the Central Dramatic Question and Character Archetypes.

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It’s time for a brand new season of the show and this time around, Valerie and Melanie are studying the same topic: left-brained stories. Never heard of it before? Don’t worry. Valerie made up the term to describe any story that has a puzzle of some kind and invites the reader/audience to try to solve the puzzle before the author reveals the solution. Left-brained stories tend to be mysteries/crime stories, thrillers, and spy stories but they can show up in any genre. In left-brained stories, storytelling principles are applied a

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