The Paris Review’s “My First Time” video interview series. Writers talking about their first big work’s success and what it took. Watch the trailer for the series, and fifteen installments in the video and playlist below.
How the Dan Harmon Story Circle Can Make Your Story Better
BY STUDIOBINDER ON
The act of storytelling has always been with us. Anthropologist Joseph Campbell took stories from around the world and found they all shared the same basic structure. Campbell’s Hero’s Journey laid out each of the fundamental steps in this story structure. A few decades later, Dan Harmon took this same idea and created the Story Circle. In Dan Harmon’s Story Circle, there are 8 essential steps that can guide almost any story from Fade In to Fade Out. Let’s walk through each step with examples so you can apply this foolproof structure to your next great idea.
JOSEPH CAMPBELL STORY STRUCTURE
The universal language of storytelling
There are two universal languages. One is math…the other is story. Storytelling is built into the human experience. It’s how we pass on our history, where we can learn how to live, and answer questions about “right” and “wrong.”
It doesn’t take a PhD in English Lit to understand what makes a story good or bad. We all know what a story should do, even if we can’t articulate it. Perhaps the most common storytelling element that “makes or breaks” a story is structure.
Our goal for today is to lay out one such narrative formula: the Dan Harmon Story Circle. Let’s start with a quick definition.
CLICK THE LINK for More Video On The Story Circle as Well As Useful Worksheet Packets – All Free – Just Reblogging This Content with Source Rather Than Stealing It
Here are some sources that discuss what an Essay is, from its origins, and pulling it back from being a totally cookie cutter form used by uninterested students when given an assignment to choose a thesis and defend it. An essay, literally ‘an attempt’, is an exploration of a subject, to do with life, that brings in the personality and experience of the writer to some degree.
FROM A HISTORY AND POETICS OF THE ESSAY:
– 2013 by Jeff Porter
The essay occupies an odd place in the history of literature. One moment, the essay is a marginal form, barely alive on the fringes of poetry and fiction, the next, the trendiest thing in town. Recently, its fortunes have been on the rise. Wherever you look, the essay turns up: in graphic memoirs, in blogs, on the radio, in poetry. Its proponents range from Ira Glass and David Sedaris to Andrew Sullivan and Julie Powell, not to mention filmmakers such as Agnes Varda and Harun Farocki. No other genre is as infinitely adaptable as the essay.
In its directness and intimacy, the essay is the ideal literary form for the twenty-first century. Overwhelmed by an endless flux of information, we inwardly crave the momentary stay against confusion promised by the essay. We relish, as Scott Russell Sanders wrote, “the spectacle of a single consciousness” confronting the chaos of cultural overload to which we awake each day.1 The trademark of the essay is its intimacy, the human voice addressing an imagined audience. We also relish the opportunity to lose ourselves in the wandering thoughts of the writer. In his Dictionary of the English Language (1755), Samuel Johnson defined the essay as “a loose sully of the mind; an irregular indigested piece.” What Johnson saw as disorder we see as an experiment in form and sensibility. We eagerly embrace the essay’s nonlinear quality, losing ourselves in its unpredictable twists and turns and moody swings. Yet getting lost in an essay is not the same as getting lost in a novel. Novels have plots; the essay is famous for rambling, its paratactic structure favoring breaks and digressions over continuity—the kind of disjointedness criticized by Johnson. What Johnson didn’t like appeals to us now. It is the mindful-ness of the essayist, no matter how digressive, that offers us a refuge from the hullabaloo of the world, the discursive slippage from one thought to another.
Most readers know that the word “essay” comes from the French essai. The verb form, essayer, means to attempt, to experiment, to try out. The standard definition of the genre holds that an essay is essentially a way of trying on a thought or an idea like a hat. The fitting room in a French clothing store, by the way, is called a salon d’essayage. On an artsier note, the Club d’Essai was the name of an experimental sound studio directed by the inventor of musique concrète, Pierre Schaeffer, in Paris after the war.
In a way, all thought is experimental and remains so until it can be fixed in a sentence. We are all essayists for a brief moment. As O.B. Hardison, Jr. has noted, Roland Barthes suggests that the essay may have even preceded the concept of genre, owing to its ability to emulate the genesis of thinking.2 If there is something that is fundamental about the essay to the play of the human mind, as Montaigne insisted also, one wonders why it took so long for the form to evolve. Why wasn’t there a Bronze Age essay, for instance, something written by the hero in retirement (surely Nestor would have had something to say after the burning of Troy) or perhaps set down by the stay-at-home wife, the caretaker of the oikos, a meditation on crushing olives or weaving while waiting the warrior’s return? Given the wanderings of Odysseus, his irrepressible digressiveness and curiosity, not to mention his fondness for the personal anecdote, the Odyssey might have been that Ur-essay. It could at least have contained essay-like intervals—“On Cyclopes” or “Of Listening”—enlivened by shrewd reflections on the credulity of men and the cleverness of fish.
February 8, 2021 by PG
From Dave Farland:
I don’t often give actual tips on how to compose stories. I tend to focus my lessons on storytelling to things that you can’t learn elsewhere. Yet from time to time, it might be worthwhile to actually give a few technical tips. Today we will go over one on how to improve your dialogue.
A few years ago, I listened to a bestselling writer give perhaps the worst advice on dialog tags that I’ve ever heard. He told new writers, “Never use the word said. It’s boring and repetitious. Worst of all, it doesn’t really tell us much about the feeling behind what has been spoken.”
His advice was that you should “mix it up, and never repeat verbs that deal with speaking on the same page. If you are forced to use the word said, he suggested that you add an adverb to it in order to define the quality of the words spoken.
Given his advice, you might have a teen “mumble” one sentence:
“I don’t want to go to church,” she mumbled.
While the reply would use a different verb:
“Well you’re going to go, Missy,” Dad retorted.
The problem that arises is that we find ourselves using a lot of verbs that seem rather silly when put into a string of tags. Thus, you might have people mumbling, shouting, profaning, teasing, snarling, squealing, averring, blaming, and so on in rapid succession.
I am a regular listener to a lot of old radio drama type shows, with favorites including Sherlock Holmes (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce), CBS Radio Mystery Theater, and classics like The Whistler, The Creaking Door, and others. Last year around Halloween I listened to a much more recent radio drama style podcast titled ‘LIMETOWN’ and it was great! Ever since I’ve been looking for new ones to check out. Right now I’m a few episodes into ‘The Left Right Game’ which is also very entertaining and cool. Spotify is recommending me a few others, so I thought I’d post some of them here. Let me know if you know any others that are worth sharing!
Two Paths for the Extremely Online Novel
Lauren Oyler’s Fake Accounts and Patricia Lockwood’s No One Is Talking About This ask the same questions about the internet. Their answers sound nothing alike.
“WHY WOULD I want to make my book like Twitter?” the narrator of Lauren Oyler’s new novel, Fake Accounts, wonders. “If I wanted a book that resembled Twitter, I wouldn’t write a book; I would just spend even more time on Twitter. You’d be surprised how much time you can spend on Twitter and still have some left over to write a book.”
Oyler knows about Twitter. She had her first big social media hit when she reviewed Roxane Gay’s best-selling essay collection Bad Feminist for the blog BookSlut in 2014. The review dripped with piss and vinegar; it starts out, “I have always hated Roxane Gay’s writing,” and it doesn’t let up from there. Oyler is a consistently entertaining critic. Even when you don’t agree with or understand her arguments, they’re amusing. Which is to say, she isn’t boring. (That’s the nicest thing anyone should say about criticism, by the way. A critic one agrees with all the time—a critic who makes perfect sense—cannot possibly be interesting.) As Oyler describes herself, she’s an honest skeptic in a blurber’s world, a swashbuckler lunging to pierce marketing hype. Writers worry about getting reviewed by her, and they should worry, which is exciting. High standards are a critic’s gift. Her first novel is surprising, then. It’s a book I’d expect her to flambé, had she not written it.
Review by Felice Arenas
An ode to, inspired by, or Western Unioned from the same morality-subverting center of its namesake’s films, Bring Me the Head of Quentin Tarantino, Julián Herbert’s short-story collection, emerges from magical realism to crash the penumbra of the depraved. A photographer’s most gruesome work might be his unborn son. Smile! There’s a magnum opus in a conceptual artist’s mouth. Impersonate a literary great and make thousands of pesos to score crack. It’s obvious Herbert enjoys examining the corruption of his native land, Mexico—“there’s no human experience beyond the reach of a bribe” and “most Mexicans are genetically incapable of distinguishing between a criminal and a policeman”—and he excels at rendering memorable, oftentimes apologetic characters who dwell in tightly constructed worlds that feel weirdly unobjectionable and totally nuts at once.
FIYAH is a quarterly speculative fiction magazine that features stories by and about Black people of the African Diaspora. This definition is globally inclusive (Black anywhere in the world) and also applies to mixed/biracial and Afro-appended people regardless of gender identity or orientation.
We publish poems and stories between 1k-5k words in January, April, July, and October. We also hold monthly flash fiction contests between the 1st and 15th of each month. Flash stories must be under a 1000 words and be inspired or based on the chosen theme. Full details for submission guidelines at https://apparitionlit.com/submissions/.
EYE-CATCHING HORROR, GOTHIC & DARK FICTION
Submissions for It Gets Even Better are open now!
A MAGAZINE OF SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
As writers, we have to consider not just the work we do on our projects -creating worlds, characters, and plots- but also must take consideration of marketing our stories to the world. So let’s talk a little bit about trying to get our work published going into this new year 2021, and make a resolution to not let our stories sit on the shelf, but to put in a reasonable amount of effort into sending them on their way into the world. Whether submitting to publishers and calls for specific deadlines which our work may fit, or making connections with agents, and putting together queries and packets to send off to our dream publishing house, or keeping a blog and self-publishing some items to keep in contact with a readership, PUT IN SOME WORK on GETTING YOUR WORK OUT THERE!
Some people may have a reticence to share their work, out of fear of rejection or a related fear that their voice isn’t strong enough yet. This is totally natural, but the best way to overcome this, AND make your voice more confident, is to just keep going AND send your work out. PLOW AHEAD and keep trying! If you get rejection slips, don’t worry! You can’t win if you don’t play!
Try to find a balance between working on your vision and reacting to criticism when it comes in. If you get rejection slips that are impersonal, known as “form rejections” which have no content telling you how your work might improve, it most likely does not mean your work is so horrible it doesn’t deserve response. Far more likely is the reality that that particular publisher had so many submissions that they couldn’t respond personally to them all. So take it in stride, and don’t hyperfocus on that setback. Don’t use it as an excuse to slow down and get discouraged about your work.