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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Absurdist Fiction

Author David S. Atkinson discusses absurdist and weird fiction. Mentioned in the episode: David S. Atkinson’s website Not Quite So Stories Rudyard Kipling’s Just So Stories George Sanders H.P. Lovecraft Lewis Carroll’s  “Hunting of the Snark” Nikolai Gogol Franz Kafka Angie Tribeca Eugène Ionesco Etgar Keret Nathaniel Tower Aimee Bender Timothy Gager Treating a Sick […]

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Writerly Habits

Cheryl Klein shares her perspective on the habits of professional writers in a frank and illuminating conversation. You can now pre-order Cheryl’s new book, The Magic Words: Writing Great Books for Children and Young Adults Mentioned in the episode: Mac Freedom AntiSocial Waste No Time Francisco Stork Daniel José Older Written Kitten Laini Taylor   […]

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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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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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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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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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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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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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Author Trent Reedy

Writing about a culture other than your own, balancing pace and tone, using a highlighted chapter list: these are some of the topics covered in our fascinating discussion with the versatile novelist Trent Reedy. Referenced in the episode: Trent Reedy’s Web site WORDS IN THE DUST DIVIDED WE FALL TRILOGY: BOOK 1 BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA […]

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Author Bill Konigsberg

Novelist Bill Konigsberg on identity, free-writing, creative flexibility and learning as you go. Referenced in the episode: OPENLY STRAIGHT OUT OF THE POCKET Piper Center for Creative Writing (at Arizona State) Bill Konigsberg’s Web site Ned Vizzini’s IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY Attention! Listeners of the Narrative Breakdown can now get a FREE audio […]

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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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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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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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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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The Power of Irony

Matt Bird and James Monohan discuss the various types of irony you can use in your writing to add depth, build empathy, earn laughs, create meaning, and ultimately hook your audience. We start with Matt’s general description of irony as being “a meaningful gap between expectation and outcome” and go from there, using examples from […]

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Crafting Subjectivity Within Objective Point of View

When writing prose from a third person (objective) point of view, what kind of techniques can you use to portray the subjective viewpoint of your characters? Cheryl and James explore this challenge, using Hugh Howey‘s hit thriller WOOL, along with HARRY POTTER, as fodder for the discussion. We’re glad to be back in action on […]

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1st Person POV in Film

Filmmaker Jack Tomas joins James Monohan to discuss first person point of view techniques in screenwriting and film directing. Examples include Peep Show, the hit British comedy that employs only point of view perspectives. As an alternative to iTunes, you can listen right here: Direct Download Link for the episode More about this show, for […]

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1st Person Point of View

We talk about the pros and cons of writing from a first person point of view. Referenced writers include Woody Allen, Jonathan Ames, Jane Austen, Suzanne Collins, Larry David, Charlie Kaufman, Jaclyn Moriarty, Trent Reedy, David Sedaris, Francisco Stork, Lisa Yee, and more. Links: Cheryl Klein’s blog. James’ brainstorming app for writers, which just came […]

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Generating Characters for an Ensemble Cast

Matt Bird joins us again for a look at stories that have an ensemble cast of characters. We brainstorm how to go about generating multiple main characters, focused vs. unfocused ensemble stories, and polarized traits vs. full dimensionality. Plus, a digression into a racially-related subtopic helps make this the most controversial episode yet. See you […]

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Character Development > Essence and Action Traits

Cheryl and James do an overview of character traits, introducing the distinction between Essence Traits (what a character “is”) and Action Traits (the traits that more directly lead to plot-related behavior). Examples include Indiana Jones, James Bond, The Big Chill, the work of Joan Bauer, Mad Men, The Hunger Games, Back to the Future, and […]

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Scene Construction 2 > Power Dynamics and Beats

In our sexiest episode yet, Cheryl and James break down the popular train scene from the James Bond film Casino Royale between Bond (Daniel Craig) and Vesper (Eva Green). Topics include scene construction, power dynamics, scene beats, character tactics, dialogue, sexual tension,and Cheryl’s unabashed weakness for quality banter and Daniel Craig’s perfectly formed…nevermind. Links: The […]

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Inciting Events Part 2

James and guest writer and filmmaker Jack Tomas continue with our discussion of Inciting Events, including lots of examples from novels, films and TV shows as well as several references to the Hero’s Journey and Joseph Campbell. While James teases the Inciting Events section of his upcoming iPhone / iPad app – a creative writing […]

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Beginnings and Inciting Events part 1

Cheryl and James talk about inciting events as well as how good storytelling is more like a striptease and less like a visit to a nude beach. Direct Download Link Or listen right here: Subscribe in iTunes

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Character Morality

How can you make your characters more interesting via their morality? How do you define the morality of your character? And how can you play with moral status and use it to tell a good story? Cheryl and James look at Harry Potter and his virtues and flaws, the moral grey of Severus Snape, Katniss […]

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