The Magic Words (Bonus Episode)

Cheryl reads the first chapter of The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults. The book is available as of September 6th, 2016. In this bonus episode, Cheryl reads the first chapter exclusively for Narrative Breakdown listeners. Like what you hear? Buy the book! Want to win a critique of your full […]

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Misunderstood Characters

Why a misunderstood character can be very useful. Featuring Cheryl Klein and Matt Bird! Check out Cheryl’s The Magic Words, and Matt Bird’s The Secrets of Story — the best creative writing books of the year. Yes, we’re a bit biased but it’s true! Mentioned in this episode: The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for […]

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Writing Dialogue with TV writer and Playwright Adam Gaines

TV writer and playwright Adam Gaines talks about writing quality dialogue and more.   Check out Adam’s two play collections! Mixtape Fire Sale   Direct Download Link for the episode More about this show, for new listeners: This is a creative writing podcast and a screenwriting podcast. In The Narrative Breakdown, Cheryl Klein, James Monohan, […]

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TV Writer and Novelist Drew Chapman

TV writer and novelist Drew Chapman discusses the challenges of writing thrillers in both mediums. Drew’s latest novel is The King of Fear, the sequel to The Ascendent. He is currently writer and co-executive producer on TNT’s Legends. (Note: Our guest goes by Andrew Chapman for his TV and film work).   Thanks for listening! We’re […]

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Dark Subject Matter

Two thriller writers go deep into the dark subject matter of their genre. Mentioned in the episode: Alex Dolan’s THE EUTHANIST Alex Dolan’s website Jonathan Stone’s THE TELLER Jonathan Stone’s website ThrillerFest Vertigo Seven The Narrative Breakdown’s episode on Thriller Types and Tropes (starring Matt Bird) True Detective Season 1 Cormac McCarthy   We’re entirely user […]

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Writing a Critical Review

Film and music critic Tim Grierson talks about the craft of writing reviews. Tim’s review of BIRDMAN for Deadspin Tim’s review of SPY for Screen Daily Tim’s review of SPY Deadspin Tim’s review of ALOHA for Deadspin Tim in conversation about animation director Don Hertzfeldt Tim in conversation about WHITE MEN CAN’T JUMP Tim discusses filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul We’re […]

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Writing a Gender Other Than Your Own

What should you consider when choosing the gender of your main character? Two exciting debut thriller authors, Alex Dolan and Gwendolyn Womack, join to discuss this topic and related issues. Gwendolyn Womack’s website The Memory Painter Alex Dolan’s website The Euthanist A Reunion of Ghosts (Alex’s recommendation) The Expats (Gwendolyn’s recommendation) The Accident (Gwendolyn’s recommendation) International […]

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Creative Non-Fiction

Veteran journalist Barry Newman talks about 43 years of writing literary non-fiction for The Wall Street Journal.  Mr. Newman’s book, NEWS TO ME, features ruminations about the craft as well as many examples of his work. Barry’s website and book link We’re entirely user supported at present and welcome your donations to narrativebreakdown@gmail.com via PayPal.   […]

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Literary Agents

Literary agents! What do they do? Why do you need one? How do you get one?  And when can we do lunch?  Cheryl talks to Brianne Johnson of Writers House about these topics and announces her own new project. Links related to this episode: Writers House Brianne’s Publishers Marketplace Listing Another interview with Brianne Johnson Brianne’s […]

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Screenplays of 2014

Matt Bird joins us to discuss a selection of quality screenplays from 2014. We look at what makes these scripts tick and what the takeaways are for writers. Mentioned in the episode: Matt Bird’s blog series on the best screenplays of 2014 Selma  Nightcrawler Whiplash Edge of Tomorrow Snowpiercer Boyhood Amistad Mississippi Burning Schindler’s List […]

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Romance and Relationships

Kass Morgan joins us to discuss the romance genre and relationship stories in general. Mentioned in the episode: Cheryl’s blog post about Romance tropes The 100: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense_and_Sensibility Eleanor and Park: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eleanor_%26_Park Sense and Sensibility: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sense_and_Sensibility Pride and Prejudice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pride_and_Prejudice Cheryl’s review of a Pride and Prejudice adaptation Ann of Green Gables: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jbClLH8nvUM Emma: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Emma_(novel) Rust and […]

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Transmedia Storytelling

Bernie Su of Pemberley Digital talks about his company’s online adaptations of classic novels and how he makes transmedia storytelling work, both narratively and financially. Mentioned in the interview: Pemberley Digital The Lizzie Bennet Diaries Emma Approved Frankenstein M.D.  Emma Approved Fashion Looks Bernie Su talks about Transmedia Storytelling Article on Emma Approved and its […]

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Radio Journalism

NPR reporter Ailsa Chang on the ins and outs of her job and how she constructs a radio story. Mentioned in the interview: Serial, the documentary podcast everyone’s talking about Ailsa’s story about Senator Landrieu, featuring the man by the oak tree A piece about Mitch McConnell Ailsa did before the 2014 midterm elections A […]

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When Stories Lie

Cheryl, James, and Matt Bird discuss unreliable narrators and deceptive points of view. Mentioned in this episode: The Murder of Roger Ackroyd Atonement We Were Liars Fight Club Primal Fear The Sixth Sense Gone Girl Lee Child’s “A Simple Way to Create Suspense” Flowers for Algernon Millicent Min Girl Genius The Usual Suspects You, the […]

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Bonus Ep – Native American Lit Panel

In this bonus episode, authors Eric Gansworth and Joseph Bruchac and their editors, Cheryl Klein and Stacy Whitman, discuss the particular pleasures and challenges of writing, editing, and publishing Native American young adult literature. Relevant links: Eric Gansworth’s website Joseph Bruchac’s website Stacy Whitman’s website Cheryl Klein’s website Debbie Reese’s website (mentioned in the conversation) […]

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Ken Levine’s Narrative Ambitions

Ken Levine, co-founder of Irrational Games and creator of BioShock, talks about video game writing and his goals for advanced storytelling in games. By the way, Ken is writing the screenplay for WB’s remake of LOGAN’S RUN. Thanks to Scott Cierski for suggesting this topic. Mentioned in this episode: Ken’s talk about “Narrative Legos” Irrational […]

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Writing for Video Games

James talks to Jerry Bonner, a screenwriter who switched to writing for video games. Check out Jerry’s articles at HNGN. Jerry’s Twitter Games mentioned include: Ride to Hell Prisonscape   (coming in 2015) Tynon The Legend of Zelda Mass Effect 2 Mass Effect 3 Half Life Super Mario Brothers Karateka Metal Gear Solid Red Dead Redemption […]

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Stories in Video Games

Video game critic Tom McShea talks about the best storytelling happening in video games. Games mentioned include: The Legends of Zelda THe Walking Dead The Last of Us Mass Effect 3 Dragon’s Lair Arcade Game Laserdisc Sleep No More (a theatrical experience in NY) Fallout 3 Bioshock Bioshock Infinite In other news… It’s good to […]

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Query Letters

How should you compose your query letter when submitting a manuscript? Cheryl and author Katy Beebe discuss the do’s and dont’s. By the way… Thanks for listening. Sorry we’ve been away! We hope to be more consistent in the fall but could use your help. Our PayPal donation email is narrativebreakdown@gmail.com Any amounts are appreciated […]

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Graphic Novels vs Screenplays

Chad Kultgen on writing a graphic novel, creating a new comedy for NBC, and getting his novel adapted into a major motion picture. Plus, Cheryl and James announce a new opportunity for listeners. Listeners! We’re celebrating our 40th episode. Thanks for your support over the last couple of years. We’d love to do more shows, […]

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Character Goals and Philosophies

We’re back with a great episode on character goals and philosophies, including how those goals can change. Featuring the return of Matt Bird and Cheryl Klein. Direct Download Link for the episode More about this show, for new listeners: This is a creative writing podcast and a screenwriting podcast. In The Narrative Breakdown, Cheryl Klein, […]

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Using Meta-Data, Labels, Colors, Keywords, etc.

Scrivener expert Gwen Hernandez talks about using meta-data, labels, colors, keywords, and annotations to streamline projects and ease the re-writing process. To varying degrees, these techniques can be applied in other software, not just Scrivener. And for those not familiar with Scrivener, we provide a brief introduction to the application that has become one of […]

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Artificial Intelligence and Us

HUMAN – AI relationships with Phillip Chernyak and Chris Shields. We look at plots and themes of the past and, inspired by the film HER, challenge writers to explore new narrative territory involving robots, artificial intelligence, and technology. Mentioned in the episode: HER Top Ten Data Episodes from Star Trek NG (1986) Robot and Frank […]

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Copyright Issues for Writers

An introduction to copyright, libel, public domain, options, fair use and other related topics of importance to writers, featuring two Park Avenue lawyers from the firm of Satterlee, Stephens, Burke, and Burke – Mark Fowler and Mark Lerner. Referenced in the episode: Copyright Term and the Public Domain (the Cornell link) RightsofWriters.com – Mark Folwer’s […]

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Middle Grade with Author-Editor Jill Santopolo

Cheryl talks to author and editor Jill Santopolo about middle grade fiction as well as the secrets to productivity. Referenced in the episode: Jill Santopolo website Sparkle Spa Series Alec Flint books Vermont College of Fine Arts Because of Winn-Dixie Books by Lisa Graff A Tangle of Knots Harriet the Spy Chasing the Milky Way […]

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History as Source Material

We talk about using history as the source material for your writing, looking at iconic history-inspired films, non-fiction films nominated for the 2014 Oscars, and helpful resources for finding out about true lives and events that might inspire you. Screenwriter Jason Ginsburg returns as co-host. Let us know what you think about the ethics of […]

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Flaws Part 2: Flip-Side Strengths

Matt Bird returns to discuss character flaws in relation to their flip-side strengths. Referenced in the episode: Audiobooks.com The Cockeyed Caravan Matt’s Ultimate Story Checklist Tootsie Sherlock Elementary The 40-Year-Old Virgin The Americans Almost Human The Hurt Locker The King’s Speech Also, the iPhone/iPad app The Storyometer has been updated, featuring many more prompts and […]

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Storytelling in Front of a Live Audience

Storyteller Melanie Hamlett discusses the techniques of spoken word performance as well as her primary source material – an adventurous life fueled by insatiable curiosity. In the near future, look for her book SEX WITH CLOWNS. Referenced in the episode: Melanie’s Blog Links to some of Melanie’s stories Melanie’s story about a night with a […]

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On Horror

We discuss horror films with help from two aficionados – filmmakers Phillip Chernyak and Chris Shields. What makes horror tick? When is it effective or ineffective? How should a writer approach the genre? Mentioned in the episode: Chris Shield’s Horror Podcast – The Brood The Conjuring The Fly (1986) Nightmare on Elm Street. Scream The […]

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Writing for Hire with Kass Morgan

We talk with author and editor Kass Morgan about her novel THE 100, soon to be a TV show on the CW. Topics include working with a packager, applying or not applying her own rules, and the challenges of writing an ensemble story. Follow Kass on Twitter. Mentioned in the episode: Alloy Entertainment Battlestar Gallactica […]

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Character Flaws Part 1

Character Flaws: What are they? Why are they important?  How do you go about picking flaws?  How aware should characters be of their flaws? Should they be resolved?  This is meaty subject so we’ll definitely have to do a part 2. Links to the shows, films, and books we discuss are listed on this episode’s web page: Wikipedia on Character […]

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Dialogue Tags, Macro Editing, and More

We address listener-submitted topics, including ebooks, dialogue tags, and macro editing. This is our 25th (silver anniversary) episode. Thanks for listening! We mention Wool’s publishing deal. Click the link for more info. Direct Download Link for the episode More about this show, for new listeners: In The Narrative Breakdown, Cheryl Klein, James Monohan, and other […]

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Thriller Types and Tropes

Matt Bird is back for a breakdown of the thriller genre. We discuss transgression / noir thrillers, conspiracy thrillers, action thrillers and more. No need to pay for an MFA program. This episode is a graduate-level class that will benefit writers of all genres, not just thrillers. Films and TV Shows we mention: Breaking Bad […]

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Rainbow Rowell on Crafting Relationships and more

We interview the delightful Rainbow Rowell, celebrated author of Eleanor and Park. Topics include crafting relationships, writing from the gut, building believable characters, the “New Adult” genre, pacing, and Rainbow’s upcoming novel, Fangirl. Other things we mention: Attachments The Fault in Our Stars Direct Download Link for the episode More about this show, for new […]

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Beyond the Basics with E. Lockhart

How does an advanced writer think? Find out as we go beyond the basics of writing with Printz and National Book Award finalist E. Lockhart. We cover many topics, including the challenges of working within one’s own high concept structural choices. Links to what we reference, in order of mention, are listed here on NarrativeBreakdown.com: […]

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Keeping a Journal

Do you keep a journal? What do you write in it and what role does it play in your creative work? We talk to author Corey Ann Haydu about her own epic diary and related side project, as well as her upcoming novel, OCD LOVE STORY. Direct Download Link for the episode More about this […]

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Selling Your Writing

Chad Kultgen is back to discuss the ins and outs of selling novels and scripts. He also gives a great overview of the different ways to break into television writing. Chad has authored four novels and sold many TV shows and screenplays (including The Incredible Burt Wonderstone ). Check out his work on the interweb. […]

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Brainstorming Episodic Concepts

We survey common episodic concept categories and then conquer the blank page with strategies for brainstorming the next big hit. Featuring screenwriter Jason Ginsburg. (Apologies if you were one of the early downloaders of this episode since it contained a few technical glitches and some repeated content since we had to re-record parts. But the […]

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Subtext

The topic is subtext: Why, when, and how you should use it. Cheryl and James, along with guest co-host Matt Bird, discuss several examples, including provocative theories about The Great Gatsby and The Hunger Games. Check out Matt’s excellent Cockeyed Caravan blog post about subtext. And check out Cheryl’s post on the same subject. As […]

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Revision Techniques 1

Cheryl Klein discusses some of her revision techniques, honed through years of editing award-winning work at Arthur Levine Books, including Harry Potter. This discussion will be useful to prose and script writers alike. We also reference Anita Nolan’s excellent essay on revision. For many more revision ideas, check out Cheryl’s book, Second Sight. As an […]

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