In this episode, I interview Shawn Coyne of storygrid.com. We discuss how important conflict is in storytelling, and he shares about his upbringing and why stories are so essential to the work he does and why he’s passionate about it.
Shawn Coyne created Story Grid to help authors tell stories that work.
Shawn has edited and published hundreds of books. His longest collaboration has been with writer Steven Pressfield. He edited a number of Steve’s books including The War of Art, Gates of Fire, Turning Pro, Tides of War, and The Authentic Swing. He’s also Steve’s literary agent, manager, and his business partner in Black Irish Books.
Shawn has ghostwritten a number of books that were bestsellers as well as co-wrote one, The Ones Who Hit the Hardest with Chad Millman, Editor-in-Chief of ESPN, the Magazine.
(03:21) When you hear the word successful, who’s the first person that comes to mind and why?
(05:01) Sounds like success, in terms of impact, in terms of peace of mind rather than financial success is probably where your heart lies, right?
(05:41) Shawn’s background
(10:38) It’s so interesting to me the common thread I see in how important adversity and struggle is in developing good story. I thought it would be great to have you on to get your story but also get your sense for the importance of adversity and struggle in developing good stories. When I look at the story grid and I look at the five components – the beginning hook, the middle build and the ending payoff – which are the core components of the story grid, I see inflection points all throughout there. Can you tell us maybe why you think those moments are so important in developing a good story?
Stories are so deeply ingrained in human beings. We all see the world through the point of view of stories. The story that we live by is our own personal story.
(15:30) German word Weltanschauung meaning worldview
Storytelling is instrumental in so much of what we do, not only to convince us to buy products, but it’s also about self-realization. Discovering what it is that I really want to do in this world. What is it that is going to compel me and bring meaning to my life.
(19:35) Somebody who is a good writer is somebody who’s a good observer and somebody who’s a good observer is somebody who understands or wants to understand the human psyche much deeper.
(19:53) What you talked about the first step which is the avoidance. A person just naturally wants to avoid conflict, avoid struggle, avoid adversity. In our lives, it happens a lot.
Conflict is not a negative thing. It’s an important thing.
(23:59) One of the things that I think about a lot is this struggle in writing. The writing process itself is an arduous, blue collar task for a lot of people, and we have this tendency to avoid struggle. What are the ways that you see successful writers, the ones that you’ve worked with, get over those bouts of resistance? Would you go back to The Story Grid as the thing that helps you to lean in to those moments?
(32:00) Can you point to one or two areas that you’ve seen with the writers you’ve worked with, or just feedback from readers on areas that they struggle with most with the story grid or just the writing process in general?
(36:24) I’m interested in the feedback that you’re getting on the process so far.
(39:37) It seems that writers fall into one of two categories in the way that they lean. Like either they’re more of an artist or more of a craftsman. Do you feel like, if that’s true, that it’s harder for an artist to develop craftsman-like, structural things, or the other way around?
(44:31) What book or books have most influenced you in your life, in your work, and why?
On the Good Life by Cicero
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
(45:47) Is there a film or couple of films that have most influenced you, as a person and a viewer, and as an artist yourself, and why?
(47:01) If you could have dinner with one person you admire, past or present, who would it be and why?