NaNoWriMo Prep with Scrivener and Story Grid

National Novel Writing Month is upon us! What to do, what to do?

Why, open up your Scrivener program and get to work! What work you ask? Stick with me, I’ll show you the ropes for getting your Scrivener platform comfortable, personal, and ready to go.

I’m going to walk you through personalizing the colors and fonts for your Editor, Inspector, Binder, and Corkboard. Make it your own. Import photos. Choose fonts and colors that calm you, motivate you, and inspire you.

Use the Labels and Status to help plan your strategy to finish your 50,000 words.

Use Keywords to help you track your POVs, Settings, and Sub-plots on the Corkboard and get a bird’s eye view of your whole manuscript.

Use the metadata to outline your scenes before November first.

I made my first YouTube video walking you through Scrivener and showing you how to set up and prepare. Enjoy! I hope I’ve helped you.

Writing Better Stories

Do you need an editor for your Military Thriller manuscript?

Does your Science Fiction or Fantasy Novel need a helping hand?

What about a Book Mentor for your next story?

My name is Randy Surles, an Editor certified by Shawn Coyne in the Story Grid Method of story editing. If you need structural editing for your novel, help with a couple scenes, or mentoring as you write, please consider contacting me for a free consultation (and free scene analysis).

Check out my Testimonials to see what other authors think.

More Story Analysis

If you want to see more applications of the Story Grid methodology, below are links to my analysis of various novels and television shows in blog posts and podcasts:

Story Grid Showrunners Podcast – Parul, Melanie, and I analyze hit TV series using the Story Grid methodology.

My blog posts analyzing other Television series – my person take using the Story grid 5 Commandments to look at my favorite TV series – Jack Ryan, Batgirl, For All Mankind, Hanna, and more.

Novel analysis – I analyze some of my favorite books using the Story Grid 5 Commandments and 6 core questions – First Blood, Old Man’s War, Waylander, and more to come!


Parul, one of my fellow Story Grid Showrunners hosts, and I teamed up to host a webinar on Reedsy in order to discuss the Anti-Hero?

What is an Anti-Hero/ Anti-heroine? How do You create one? Why do we love them?

See our Webinar Notes.

Story Grid Book

If you want to learn more about writing a story using the Story Grid methodology, go to the Story Grid Webpage to find free videos and articles on how to implement the methodology.

These articles contain information about the 5 Commandments of Storytelling and the Editor’s 6 Core Questions from the book The Story Grid by Shawn Coyne. They also give details on obligatory scenes and conventions for specific genres, such as the thriller, love story, war story, crime story, and more.

For an example of how these techniques are used, read Jane Austin’s The Pride and the Prejudice with annotations by Shawn Coyne.

Editing Services

If you are interested in hiring me to edit your manuscript or if you need help writing a novel, check out my editing services. Also, see my Testimonials page for comments from previous clients.


Scrivener + Story Grid – Part 1: The Set Up

Hey all, It’s been almost a year since my first post about how to use Scrivener and the Story Grid together to create an incredible writing experience. They were some of my most popular posts! So, after using Scrivener for my editing projects for the last year, I’ve learned a number of new, nifty ways to use the tool in conjunction with the Story Grid Methodology that I’d like to share.

Read More

Scrivener vs. Living Writer

by Laura Graves

Have you heard of Living Writer? A quick Google search for Scrivener will bring up Living Writer’s website. While Scrivener has long been a staple software for authors everywhere, I had never heard of this new option, so I decided to check it out. Here’s what I thought:


Living Writer’s main distinction and selling point is how intuitive their product is. From start to ready, it really does take no time at all to figure out. The app includes helpful tips and tutorials to help you get familiar with the features quickly and easily.

Scrivener, on the other hand, is notoriously difficult to navigate. Classes, YouTube videos, and blog posts abound to help novice users muddle through the complex software. The learning curve is steep, and can be incredibly frustrating.


Living Writer is a subscription service as opposed to a one time purchase, and comes in at $9.99/month.

Scrivener is a one time software purchase of $49.


Living Writer is, simply put, beautiful. The visual appeal is undoubtedly superior to the clunky, cluttered look of Scrivener.

Living Writer’s “Editor”

Scrivener’s “Editor”

Updates and Availability

Thanks to its cloud-based, all online structure, Living Writer is able to provide updates on a continuous basis, which means users will not have to purchase an updated version to access new and improved features. It is also available on any computer or smart device with internet access, meaning you can work with the same app on whatever device you have.

Scrivener is software, and as such must be purchased and installed on your Mac or PC only. Updated versions may be released every few years and made available for purchase, but users will have to wait until that happens to see any improvements. Additionally, the Mac software comes out much sooner than the PC version (at the time of this writing, only the original Scrivener is available for PC, whereas MacOS is already on Scrivener 3), so if you are a PC user, your software is already out-of-date in comparison to your Mac using friends and colleagues. 


In this area, Scrivener is the clear and obvious winner. A big part of what makes Living Writer so ‘intuitive’ and easy to use is the fact that it does not do much. Other than the “Board” function (pictured below) and “Notes” bar (shown on the right hand side of the picture above), it really is no more useful to an author than Google Docs. In fact, in some ways, Google docs is superior thanks to its commenting feature (also present in Scrivener). 

Living Writer’s “Board”

Scrivener’s “Corkboard”

As for the “Notes” bar, this is the Living Writer version of Scrivener’s Inspector. Unlike the Inspector, however, the “Notes” bar is specific to each chapter, which means if you want to track the same information for each chapter/scene (such as Shawn Coyne’s Five Commandments) you have to add those boxes to the notes bar of every single chapter.

After I contacted customer support, a representative told me that both the commenting and ‘scratch pad’ features are forthcoming, but until then, writers will have to do without.


While Living Writer is very aesthetically pleasing, it is not customizable. With Scrivener, options for text, color, background, etc. abound. Just take a look at my Scrivener compared to Randy’s (I’ll let you guess which is which):

Everything from our fonts, background colors, presence of rules, width of the binder vs. the editor, toolbar and more is different. If you care to take the time to play with it, Scrivener has seemingly endless options for adjusting the appearance to fit your personal preferences exactly.

And the Winner is…

Living WriterScrivener

Ultimately, it will come down to your personal priorities. For me, while Living Writer excels in the areas visual appeal and ease of use, Scrivener’s abundance of features and customization means that it offers both authors and editors more bang for their buck, making it the clear winner. While it does take a minute to get the hang of, I think Scrivener is worth the effort.

Have you tried Scrivener or Living Writer? Both? Which did you prefer? Let me know in the comments below!

About the Author

Laura is a wife, mother, editor, blogger, and aspiring author. She spends her days chasing children, reading manuscripts, pretending her house isn’t a wreck, and Googling every question that comes to mind. She uses Scrivener to apply The Story Grid to manuscripts she edits, as well as for her own personal writing projects.

I work hard on my webpage content, so if you learned anything, please buy me a coffee. Thanks!

Learn more about writing a story that works at

Let me help you tell a better story. Check Out My Editing Services.

Run Hide Fight – The Story Grid Way

by Randy Surles and Laura Graves

★★★★☆ 4 out of 5 Stars

With Randy being a  Story Grid Certified Editor, and me his protege, we can’t help but apply The Story Grid to every book we read and movie or TV show we watch, and The Daily Wire’s Run Hide Fight was no exception. Overall, it was a great movie, packed with action, tense scenes, and engaging characters. The protagonist, Zoe Hull, was compelling, well developed and interesting to watch as she fought back against the quartet of school shooters. For their part, the antagonists embodied perfectly my thoughts on school shooters. The chubby social outcast,  mentally ill and easily manipulated sidekick, and lovestruck girlfriend made a believable band of accomplices for the main villain, Tristan Voy. As for Tristan, he was one of the most interesting and compelling villains I have seen in a long time. Too often in action movies, audiences watch the hero take on a large but seemingly incompetent group of bad guys. Tristan, on the other hand, had a well thought out plan that he carefully and competently executed from start to finish. At the end of the movie, audiences are really left feeling like if it weren’t for Zoe’s keen observation, instincts, and skills that Tristan would have killed the entire student body and then walked away a free man.

The reason for the missing star comes in with some lacking obligatory scenes and conventions. While the movie was very tense and exciting, it could have been made better by the inclusion of a few key scenes, and as such, we are only able to award it 4 out of 5 stars.

What is The Story Grid?

The Story Grid is a method of analysing and editing stories. It focuses on many different parts, but for the purposes of this article, we are going to focus primarily on Obligatory Scenes and Conventions. Obligatory Scenes and Conventions are the necessary elements of each Genre that audiences expect to see. Leaving out even one will disappoint your readers (or in this case viewers) and leave you with a story that does not work as well as it should. Each Genre, as identified by The Story Grid, has its own set of these Obligatory Scenes and Conventions. Let’s take a look at them for the Action Genre, how they were used (or omitted) in Run Hide Fight, and our ideas for how they could have been better implemented in order to reach that 5 Star rating.

Obligatory Scenes 

An inciting attack by the villain.

Tristan and his gang attack the school by driving a van into the cafeteria and killing some students.


This was a great inciting event that effectively ratcheted up the tension quickly and set the tone for the movie.

Hero sidesteps responsibility to take action.

After realizing what is happening, Zoe tries to escape


This scene was believable and realistic. Of course Zoe would try to escape, of course she would want to save her own life. The viewers cannot even fault her for this decision, as we would surely do the same thing in her position.

Forced to leave the ordinary world, the hero lashes out.

Zoe’s ordinary world is a normal High School where ‘nothing that happens matters’. Once this turns into a dangerous world, she becomes very assertive and tells students on smoke breaks not to go back in unless they want to die. Her attitude and demeanor is harsh, impatient, and frustrated.


This too is believable and compelling. Her classmates are a little put off by her attitude, but the viewer cannot really expect her to use a calm and reasonable tone in this situation.

Discovering and understanding the antagonist’s MacGuffin (Villain’s object of desire).

Tristan wants fame and notoriety, Kip wants revenge on classmates who teased him, and Chris and Anna just want to please the boy they love.


All of these MacGuffins are interesting and effective. It is also really compelling that Kip, who has the least valid reason for participating, is talked into switching sides by Zoe. I also found it interesting and refreshing that the main Villain, Tristan, did not have any grievances, but rather was seeking fame, attention, and notoriety for his genius and the execution of his carefully crafted plan. This piece was made even more interesting and compelling by the fact that, unlike most school shooters, Tristan was not suicidal, and actually had a carefully crafted exit strategy.

Hero’s initial strategy fails.

Zoe recruits Kip to help her, but Kip dies trying to stop Tristan.


This was a great sequence. When Zoe is able to talk Kip into seeing the evil of his actions and changing sides, the audience feels like she might finally have the advantage against Tristan, only to hit another low when Tristan kills Kip.

Realizing they must change their approach to salvage some form of victory, hero reaches All is Lost moment.



The lack of this scene is part of the reason we subtracted a star. There isn’t much of an all is lost moment here. Zoe never gets to a point when she feels she won’t be able to make a difference and stop Tristan and save more students. She never gets to the point of almost giving up. When she realized Lewis had been shot, there was definitely an opportunity for this. Zoe could have debated whether to give up her goal of stopping Tristan in order to get Lewis out of the building and to the EMTs, but this thought does not seem to cross her mind. Instead, she just gets him somewhere safe and gets back to business.

The Hero at the mercy of the Villain: the central event of the Action story, what the reader is waiting for. The hero’s gift is expressed in this scene.



The closest we come to this is the scene where Chris is about to kill Zoe, and she is saved at the last minute by her father shooting him with his sniper rifle. The problem is that Chris is not the Villain, he is only a lackey. There is also a point when Zoe and Tristan meet in the last quarter of the movie, but Tristan doesn’t have a chance to threaten her. Chris is actually more threatening, with Tristan protecting her (at least temporarily), and then Kip comes in and starts an exchange of fire. Ultimately, there is no showdown between just Zoe and Tristan (think Die Hard ending).

The hero’s sacrifice is rewarded.

This also isn’t realized well, her reward is survival and she saves her friend too, but without the showdown with Tristan, this is somewhat watered down.


Hero, Victim, Villain: These three roles must be clearly defined throughout the story. The protagonist must be a hero.

Hero: Zoe

Victim: everyone at the school

Villain: Tristan (and his gang)

The hero’s object of desire is to stop the villain and save the victim.

Zoe’s goal throughout the movie is to stop Tristan and save as many of the people in the school as possible.

The power divide between the hero and the villain is very large. The villain is far more powerful than the hero.

Tristan has a team of four, bombs, and guns; Zoe is alone and initially unarmed.

Speech in praise of the villain.

This is not really present in the movie, no one speaks about any advantages or specific ruthlessness that Tristan had before this attack.


This is another place where the movie could have been stronger. Information about how dangerous Tristan is and how thought out his plan was is sprinkled throughout the movie, but never compiled in this way. When the Sheriff puts all of the pieces together, he just makes the comment that this kid is always one step ahead. Instead, he could have listed off everything Tristan and his crew did, like starting the fires to clog the roads and tie up emergency services, calling in the fake bomb threat 30 minutes away so that SWAT was unavailable, and the ruthlessness of slitting his own mother’s throat while she sat in her chair watching television, and how all of that shows that they were not just dealing with some bullied kid, but an intelligent, sophisticated criminal.

Additional Thoughts

The other big change that we wish they would have made was to the ending scene. As is Zoe’s Crisis Question was “Should I tell the police or go after Tristan myself?” We think it would have been much more interesting and tense if it was, “Does Zoe believe that Tristan is dead or not?” As she talked to the Sheriff and he explained that they found Tristan’s body burnt to a crisp, Zoe can question him, feeling unsure that Tristan is really dead and institing that SWAT continue to look for him to be sure. When the Sheriff then dismisses her, she could decide to go hunt Tristan down. We think this would have been a more satisfying ending. We did really enjoy the ending where she makes Tristan think that she is going to crush his head, and she repeats the speech that her dad gave her.

As a former Special Forces Green Beret, Randy also had some thoughts to include about some of the tactical details of the movie:

  • The backpack bomb is not realistic.  Making a timed bomb with that large of an explosion would take materials that these students wouldn’t know how to rig, much less have access to and be able to afford.
  • How did they get so much bomb making materials for the big bomb? And it looks expensive and complicated for high school students to afford and make. This is unrealistic without some backstory or explanation.
  • Could dad really make that shot? I find it convenient storytelling that all the shots Zoe’s father made were from the same side of the school. When you set up a sniper shot, you find the best location for that specific shot, but it’s very rare that a sniper wouldn’t have to move sites to get a better shot in the building.
  • On a positive note: Anna’s poor shooting is accurate. I have found that people who don’t regularly shoot pistols or haven’t had a lot of practice literally can’t shoot the broad side of a barn. Most of the shots made by the bad guys were from close range or made by a shotgun, so I found this very realistic.

As a book editor with no sort of military experience, I just enjoyed all the shooting and blowing stuff up.

Despite the changes we would make to strengthen the plot, this entertaining movie was definitely worth the watch.

What’s the Big Idea?

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Title: What’s the Big Idea
Author: Leslie Watts and Shelley Sperry
Published: 2020
Genre: Non-Fiction; How to
POV: 1st person Omniscient (We), 2nd person, 3rd person Omniscient
Theme: The parts that make up a Big Idea Book
Object of Desire: Define and give readers the tools to create a compelling Big Idea Book


Publisher’s Summary

A Crash Course in World-Changing Nonfiction Writing

Do you have a book idea that you know the world needs? Whether it’s self-help, business, money, health, or some other topic, how do you put it together into a book that people will read and tell their friends about?

What I liked

  • Used many different examples from popular Big Idea Books
  • Broke down the elements of the Big Idea book into smaller pieces with great examples and definitions
  • Defined the different types of non-fiction books and let the reader decide what kind of book they were writing
  • Short and Concise (about 80 pages long)

What I Didn’t Like

I know that they have an example of a Big Idea Book in another Story Grid Masterwork Analysis Guide book called The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, however, I would have liked to see a couple foolscap summaries of 4-5 non-fiction Big Idea books (like Saved the Cat Writes a Novel has) at the end of the book in the appendices for example, for comparison sake.

The Lawyer

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The Lawyer: Collector's Edition: 3 Books Michael Gresham Series - Kindle  edition by Ellsworth, John . Mystery, Thriller & Suspense Kindle eBooks @

Title: The Lawyer

Author: John Ellsworth

Published: 2016


Publisher’s Summary

Michael Gresham is a criminal attorney with a client accused of murdering a judge’s wife. As the story progresses, the judge whose wife was murdered suddenly tries to hire Michael Gresham for himself. New revelations have the judge backed into a corner in this legal and financial thriller. Can an attorney battle the system and win the notorious case other lawyers turned down? Can Michael Gresham turn the tables on those who would see him dead? And who is going to pay for the injury and disfigurement they left him with?

A legal financial thriller that introduces the first in a ten-book series about Michael Gresham, the Chicago lawyer who defends hopeless cases every day. Watch from your front-row seat as Michael walks into this courtroom drama a huge underdog. Cheer him on as he uses all his wit and cunning to defend the indefensible.

Story Grid 6 Core Questions

Genre: Thriller; Legal

POV: First person, Michael Gresham

Theme: Life is preserved when Michael outwits the villains and brings them to justice

Object of Desire: Wants: get his life on track; Needs: to see justice done

Obligatory Scenes

An Inciting Incident indicative of a master villain. There must be victims: Mextel poisons thousands of Mexican citizens and some Americans

Speech in praise of the villain: Mextel supports the cartels communications and uses them for security, hit men

Hero becomes the victim: Gresham stands accused of Federal crimes and faces up to 20 years in jail

Hero at the mercy of the victim: Cartel kidnaps Gresham and burns him alive, kills his girlfriend to be, and hurts his brother

All is Lost Moment: Top defense lawyer drops his case because she fears he will lose in a trail; Gresham decides to defend himself and gathers his allies (his gift is he is his best lawyer).

False Ending: The judge was dirty from the beginning and hired Lamb to kill his wife who in turn tried to squeeze the judge for more money.


MacGuffin: Mextel wants to get off Scott free from knowingly poisoning people

Investigative Red Herrings: ex-wife drama, Judge and Lamb case, brother’s Mextel case, FBI fraud, cartel involvement, Crips

Making it Personal: Mextel and the Judge want to put Gresham in Jail and/or kill him especially so Mextel can get to his brother

Clock: Dates for court appearances

Act 1: Gresham defends Lamb in what appears to be a losing case until he gets a hold of video showing the FBI beating a confession out of Lamb and Gresham wins his case

Act 2: Gresham appears to be having good luck when he is hired to defend the judge for $250K against accusations he tried to hire a hitman against Lamb, but then Gresham is tricked and charged for federal crimes

Act 3: Gresham is kidnapped and burned and his brother is hurt and his would be girlfriend is killed, then his lawyer drops him and he decides to defend himself but Marcel discovers Ramons don’t plan on testifying so he appears safe.

Act 4: Gresham succeeds in negotiating $60 million from Mextel and screwing them over by revealing their scandal, then teams up with the Judge to bring Lamb down and finds out that the Judge hired Lamb to kill his wife the whole time

What I liked

1. Constant twists and complications and obstacles

2. I couldn’t see the ending coming

3. He tied up all the loose ends

What I didn’t like

I have to tell you, I don’t usually read Legal Thrillers, but I actually loved the whole things and couldn’t put it down. Read it now!!!!

The Latte Factor

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Why You Need The Latte Factor To Start Living Rich Right Now Regardless Of  Your Income

Title: The Latte Factor

Author: David Bach

Published: 2019

Publisher’s Summary

In this compelling, heartwarming parable, Bach and his bestselling coauthor John David Mann (The Go-Giver) tell the story of Zoey, a twenty-something woman living and working in New York City. Like many young professionals, Zoey is struggling to make ends meet under a growing burden of credit card and student loan debt, working crazy hours at her dream job but still not earning enough to provide a comfortable financial cushion. At her boss’s suggestion, she makes friends with Henry, the elderly barista at her favorite Brooklyn coffee shop.

Henry soon reveals his “Three Secrets to Financial Freedom,” ideas Zoey dismisses at first but whose true power she ultimately comes to appreciate. Over the course of a single week, Zoey discovers that she already earns enough to secure her financial future and realize her truest dreams—all she has to do is make a few easy shifts in her everyday routine.

The Latte Factor demystifies the secrets to achieving financial freedom, inspiring you to realize that it’s never too late to reach for your dreams. By following the simple, proven path that Henry shows Zoey, anyone can make small changes today that will have big impact for a lifetime, proving once again that “David Bach is the financial expert to listen to when you’re intimidated by your finances”


Story Grid Analysis

This story is a fictional narrative of how an ordinary person, with an ordinary income and life, can make extraordinary decisions about how to live their life and ultimately live the life of their dreams. As such, whit is not a normal non-fiction David Bach book, but a parable. The last 25% of the book includes charts that support the theme of the parable.

6 Core Questions


Worldview: Revelation


3rd person limited, Zoey


Wisdom prevails when Zoey learns that she is already rich

Object of Desire

Zoey wants to earn more money; Zoey needs to be financially free

Obligatory Scenes (Worldview)

An Inciting Opportunity of Challenge: Zoey is burdened with student loans and credit card debt

Protagonist denies responsibility to respond to the opportunity or challenge: Zoey questions Henry’s advise and listens to her friend Jeffrey and her mom.

Forced to respond, the Protagonist lashes out against requirement to change behavior: Zoey listens to everything Henry says, but ultimately thinks that she needs to take the higher paying stressful job to make her life better

Protagonist learns what their external Antagonist’s Object of Desire is: The antagonist is the society that promotes this way of life, and she learns that those around her live that life and so embrace it and can’t escape and influence others to live the life of debt (friends inviting her to lunch and out for after work drinks that she can’t afford)

Protagonist’s initial strategy to outmaneuver antagonist fails: Zoey caves to her friend’s judges to take the new job at her company

During an All is Lost Moment, Protagonist realizes they must change their black/ white view of the world to allow for life’s irony: While on her deathbed, her mom makes Zoey promise not to settle in life

The action moment is when the protagonist’s gifts are expressed as acceptance of an imperfect world: Zoey takes the steps suggested by Henry, sets up her 401K and automatic savings plans

The Protagonist’s loss of innocence is rewarded with a deeper understanding of the universe: Zoey gets closer to her mom in the last six months of her life and her dad after her mom’s death, goes on her vacations, learns photography. Her gift is that she is richer than she thinks, and she can be rich on her income doing what she loves.


Strong Mentor: Henry

Big Social Problem: Not having enough money

Shapeshifters as hypocrites: mom

Clear Point of no return: after her mom makes her promise not to settle in life

Ironic win-but-lose or lose-but-win bittersweet ending: mother dies of cancer, but Zoey gets to spend quality time with her and life her dream life in the end

Act 1

Zoey is in oppressing debt when her friends gets her an interview for a higher paying, more stressful, and less fulfilling job which she pursues in order to overcome her debt problems.

Act 2

Zoey meets a barrister named Henry who mentors her that she already makes enough money to meet her needs if she just thinks about money a different way, but she remains set in her beliefs that she needs more money to be free.

Act 3

On the verge of telling her boss that she wants to quit to take the other job, she finds out that her mother has cancer, and while visiting her mother in the hospital, her mother tells her not to settle in life. Zoey decides then to follow the advice of Henry and sets everything in motion to reach the financial freedom that Henry said can be hers.

Act 4

Zoey returns to work, sets up her 401K and automatic savings dream accounts and credit card payments on automatic, and asks her boss for 6 weeks vacation every year. He mother dies of cancer, but Zoey is able to spend quality time with her beforehand, and she starts spending quality time with her father. 3 years later she is living her life on her terms, eradicating debt slowly and saving for retirement.

Why You Need The Latte Factor To Start Living Rich Right Now Regardless Of  Your Income

What I liked

1. Everyman/ woman idea overcoming their financial problems

2. I like the parable and the narrative is told well

3. The ending has a bittersweet ending, her mother passing away, so it’s not all rainbows and butterflies

What I didn’t like or thought could have made the book better

1. I almost want to say it could have gone a few more chapters and shown the struggle to keep on the right track, the temptation to take money out of your accounts to address emergencies and the alternate options during those times. No doubt her mother would have large medical bills that her dad would need help to take care of, so there are some real issues that will plague her until her mother’s death, and more bills that she will have to pay after it is all over. I think there was an opportunity to show those difficult decisions that people have to make in the real world.

Legion of the Damned

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Mass Market Paperback Legion of the Damned Book

Title: Legion of the Damned

Author: William C. Dietz

Published: 1993

Publisher’s Summary: When there’s no hope for the terminally ill or a condemned criminal they have one last chance to survive. And that’s to join the Legion and become a cyborg. Both more and less than human, these warriors are the most elite fighting force in the Empire, they are the Legion of the Damned.

Genre: Action/ Science Fiction

POV: 3rd person omniscient, Over 12 POVs

Theme: Life is preserved when the Legion doesn’t give up and defeats the alien invasion

Object of Desire: The Legion wants to survive; The legion need to save the human race


Obligatory Scenes

  • Inciting attack by the villain: The aliens with their human traitor start destroying human world settlements in the outer rim
  • Hero sidesteps responsibility to take action: the emperor orders the legion to stand down and not protect the outer rim
  • Forced to leave ordinary world, Hero Lashes out: The legion does not evacuate and defends their homeward
  • Discovering and understanding the antagonist’s MacGuffin: The aliens want to destroy humanity
  • Hero’s initial strategy against villain fails: though the Legion wins the initial attack, they are depleted for the subsequent attack
  • Realizing they must change their approach to salvage some form of victory, Hero reaches all is lost moment: the aliens attack on over 300 doppelgänger’s zones, the legion evacuates its command post and fights a guerrilla war, but they don’t think they can win.
  • The Hero at the mercy of the villain event; the central event of the action story, what the reader is waiting for. Hero’s gift is expressed in this scene: Booly defends key terrain against the traitor Baldwin and over 300 aliens (outnumbered two to one), but he uses the known terrain and the human forces take out the air support and his forces win in the end. Booly’s gift is tactics and use of the locals who know the terrain.
  • The Hero’s sacrifice is rewarded: Booly becomes the king of the Naan’s, humanity wins, Legion gets their homeward back.


  • Hero, villain, and victims must be clearly defined: Hero: the Legion (Booly), Villain: Aliens (and Baldwin the traitor), Victims: humanity, Naa, legion
  • Hero’s object of desire is to save the Legion and humanity
  • Power divide between the villain and the hero is large: the aliens had the firepower and numbers but were surprised and outmaneuvered in the end
  • Speech in praise of the villain: the aliens can not be negotiated with, they only want to destroy the human race

Act 1

Aliens attack the human race with he help of a human traitor. The emperor of the human race debates with his military chiefs whether to defend the worlds of the outer rim, or withdraw all military units to protect the center of the empire, then he finally decides to withdraw, leaving those in the outer rim to fend for themselves.

Act 2

The Commander of the legion (based on the French Foreign Legion of old, made up of criminal and terminally ill who are remade into cyborgs) is taken prisoner before she can initiate a coup because she disagrees with the strategy the emperor has chosen. The Legion’s hombres comes under attack and they successfully fend off the aliens to everyone’s surprise.

Act 3

The Emperor and his lead military chief initiate an attack on the legion’s homeworld, but have to withdraw when a band of rich businessman, calling themselves the cabal, hire elite security forces to the Legion commander and all of her imprisoned legion soldiers to begin a coup. The emperor’s forces are deposed, but the emperor escapes with his senior military commander.

Act 4

The emperor attempts to negotiate with the aliens but is immediately destroyed and the aliens again attack the homeward of the legion. Meanwhile, the human race launches a space attack against the alien fleet, denying their ground forces air support. The legion and the human race fleet defeat the aliens and take many prisoners.

The SF Site Featured Review: Legion of the Damned

What I didn’t Like

1. I read the digital/ Kindle version – there were many different scenes in each chapter, and the book did not divide the scenes with ***, but only an empty line. Because of this, it was difficult for me to determine when a scene was changing and was somewhat frustrating.

2. Omniscient POV – I remember a lot of science fiction being told in 3rd person omniscient back in the 1990s. There are so many POVs in this book it is hard to empathize with any one of them. I think that if this was rewritten, I would advise to select a few specific POVs to tell different parts of the story from the ground, the politics, and the fleet in order for the reader to settle into the characters.

3. Plotlines note fully developed – there are some plot lines that don’t have a beginning, middle and end. There are two separate love stories that develop super fast. Dietz put a lot of technology, love stories, politics, and war into this book and some of the scenes are great and the ending is great, but the middle build is a little hard to understand sometime.

Image from:

Legion of the Damned by Rotaken : ImaginaryWarhammer

What I liked

1. The action scenes are top notch!

2. The technology is super interesting.

3. The Legion history and honor is very well written and believable.

Image from:

Check out other books in the Legion of the Damned Series!

5 Reasons for Using Scrivener to Plan you Book

Scrivener has loads of features, and or some they can be overwhelming. I often hear about people complaining that they only use 10% of the actual features that Scrivener probably offers and they want to know more.

Here are 5 things to make your Scrivener experience just a little better, and watch the YouTube video at the end of the post for step by step walk through instructions:

  1. Word Counts – Using project word counts is a simple way to keep daily and total project word counts. Under the PROJECT tab, select SHOW PROJECT TARGETS.
  2. Use labels in the binder to organize your chapters and scenes. Right click the chapter or scene, select LABELS. You can change the label titles. You can use this to track scenes by POV, location, or whether you have completed writing the scene.
  3. Use Snapshots to save each version of your scenes. This is different than saving the manuscript (which Scrivener does every 2 seconds), this saves versions of each scene and allows you to compare current versions with previous versions. Open your inspector (the blue circle with the white i inside), select the fourth tab. Click the plus sign to save the current version of the open scene and name that version with a unique name.
  4. Use the Corkboard to plan your book. it’s like having a bulletin board, cork board, index cards, colored markers, push pins to plan your book. Under VIEW MODE at the top of the screen, click on the center icon (it looks like a yellow/ orange table).
  5. Make Scrivener your own, choose your background colors or upload your own background photos/ pictures. Change the font/ color of your text in any part of Scrivener. Under the SCRIVENER tab, select PREFERENCES and go crazy!
5 Reasons to Use Scrivener to Write your Book

Showrunners 034: A Game of Thrones Season 2

What’s the lowdown?

One sentence review from the editors?

Randall: The intertwining storylines are so intriguing.  Great setup.

Mel: The Game of Thrones has officially started in this season with everyone wanting to be the next king, no matter who has a right to it and who does not. 

Parul: The hunger for power in Season 1 (society genre)  continues and kicks off a war. 


What’s the Global Genre?

In a multi-plotted saga like Game of Thrones, how do you work out the genre and why should you? So why we dissect it is to help us understand why we love it, and why it’s compelling. By analyzing this masterwork, we come to understand how stories are constructed and we might be inspired for our own stories. 

How do we determine the genre? One method is to look at the core event of the season. What is the big showdown that happens towards the end of the series? We have the big battle scene, which is the core event for a war story. But we also have an attempted revolution – Stannis tries and fails to overcome the Lannisters. This is the Society genre. Power battles still rein within the Lannister households and amongst every house

We have a range of values that run through the season from victory to defeat.

Of course, there are other storylines going on alongside these:

  • Horror: (core series storyline): White walkers emerge ready for battle  (life/death)
  • Action: The Stark children are on the run to save their lives. Jon is beyond the wall (against nature – cold, against time – missing uncle, against state – wildlings)
  • Love: A twisted power/ love game between Melisandre and Stannis Baratheon. Robb Stark falls for Talisa Maegyr, culminating in their secret marriage. 

What are the objects of desire?

Lannisters: To win the war and beat down the revolution and to keep Joffrey in power

Renly, Stannis, Daenerys: To gain the throne

Starks: Peace and revenge for the death of Ned Stark

What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, Ending Payoff?

Beginning Hook: Tyrion becomes Hand of the King, tries to prepare for war, and rein in Joffrey’s worst instincts. Meanwhile, others lay claim to the throne Renly Baratheon, Stannis Baratheon, Robb Stark sends Caitlyn Stark to broker an alliance with Renly Baratheon. Daenerys is weakened

Middle Build: Robb wins a decisive victory against the Lannisters at the Battle of Oxcross and angers Joffrey. Littlefinger convinces Catelyn to exchange Jamie Lannister for her daughters. Tyrion uses subterfuge to find Wildfire to use in the upcoming battle against Stannis. Daenerys takes refuge in the city of Qarth. Theon betrays the Starks and takes on Winterfell but the children manage to escape.

End Payoff: As Stannis bears down on King’s Landing, Tywin must decide whether to ride for King’s Landing or move against Robb. Tyrion leads the first attack against Stanis but it’s his father Tywin who saves the day and destroys Stannis. The Lannisters form an alliance with the Tyrells through marriage.  Daenerys fights and plunders Xaro’s treasure ready to buy ships to sail to Westeros.

What are the Obligatory scenes of the Global Genre (War/ Society) 

Editors choose one to discuss. For the full list see the download available.  

  • Randall: Inciting Attack – Rob Stark has numerous victories against Lanisters off-screen
  • Mel: Protagonists’ initial strategy to outmaneuver antagonists fails: Attempts to trade Jamie for the Stark girls fail because of his escape attempt causing friction between Catelyn and Karstarks. Tywin continues to lose battles to Robb Stark. Half of Stannis’ fleet gets destroyed. Tyrion tries to put pieces in place against Cersei to gain more power over her but gets almost killed in the battle by one of her hired gold cloaks.
  • Parul: The Big Battle Scene: protagonists’ gifts are expressed or destroyed – Stannis attacks King’s Landing, Tyrion uses wildfire to defend the seas, but Stannis presses his attack on land and Joffrey hides while Tyrion leads a counterattack.  Tywin saves the day against Stannis in a last-minute surprise attack

What are the Conventions of the Global Genre

  • There is one central character with offshoot characters that embody a multitude of that main character’s personality traits  – Characters like Davos and Jon Snow are the moral end of the character spectrum, versus Joffrey and Cersei who are power hungry and crazy. We have a full spectrum of characters here. 
  • Big Canvas.  Either a wide scope external setting or the internal landscape – The intrigue of the 7 kingdoms and the mystical element of the white walkers who are beyond the wall.
  • A clear revolutionary Point of No Return. The moment when power shifts must be clearly defined and dramatized – Stannis’ forces are destroyed, he has no navy or army or money.
  • The vanquished are doomed to exile – Stannis returns to Dragon Rock
  • The power divide between those in power and those disenfranchised is large – Stannis clearly outnumbered the Lanisters
  • Ironic win-but-lose/ lose-but-win ending – despite overwhelming forces, Stannis loses and Tyrion’s gallant attempts to save King’s landing are shown up by his father saving the day. The Lannisters win is a blow for the Starks.

What’s the point of view?

The point of view has not changed. Similar to the book of G.R.R. Martin, we use multiple point of view characters. So instead of repeating ourselves, let’s answer a FOCUS Question:

What’s the controlling idea/theme?

War lacks meaning and revolution fails when leaders are obsessed with the game of thrones and fail to address the real enemy (and using dishonourable methods)

Focus on: How to write a series? How to hook a reader/ viewer in the first episode/ chapters?

Mel: As mentioned in the last episode, I think GOT captured the viewer so well because right in the first scene, the show revealed the truth about the existence of those mysterious creatures, later called the White Walkers. We as viewers know the rumors are true and we know the ultimate danger lies beyond the Wall, but we have to witness how all the forces play their game of thrones instead without paying attention to what’s happening. So using Dramatic Irony, when the viewer knows more than the characters, was an amazing choice to hook the viewers into this series. As well as not dealing primarily with the fact to what the viewer has become witness to – just revealing it piece by piece over time.

Randall: It’s a good idea to plan the series out through the number of books – and by that I mean, plan what the big reveals are in each book, the important events and the main points of conflict, and do the setups for the big reveals.

What was your favorite part?

Leave your answer in the comments.

Randall: Tyrion stepping up and taking charge of the defense of the castle.

Mel: When we finally see a part of the army of the dead. Because we have spent one entire season seeing all those lords playing their game of thrones while the real threat becomes more and more imminent. And seeing the dead army was just such a great cliffhanger for the next season.

Parul: Tyrion playing political games with Baelish

Thanks for joining us and we’ll see you next time.

Showrunners 033: Game of Thrones Season 1

What’s the lowdown?

This is a series with a mini-plot, multiple characters that each pursue their own storyline but come together for a larger story arc. In this first season of Game of Thrones, you’ll see multiple storylines weaving together. But the value at stake is power – the clue is in the name: the Game of Thrones. This is closely linked to the action genre with its values of life and death. And you’ll see other genres laced throughout which we will share in our show notes. 


One sentence review from the editors?

Randall: This is really one of my favorite series, and the screenwriters did such a great job with the first season.  It’s a great example of how to write a screenplay from a really excellently written book series.  And the author (George R. R. Martin) did such a great job connecting the plotlines throughout the books/ seasons.  This had to take so much planning, Harry Potter level planning.

Mel: Awesome fantasy story masterpiece with very deep, three dimensional characters, an amazing story and throughout plotline, as well as the best title music and video.

Parul: It is Society Genre combined Action at its best, everybody wants power and everybody will die. 

What are the Editor’s Six Core Questions?

It’s a great way to analyze any story and figure out if it works. Here are the questions. We’ll touch on them in this podcast, but the full notes can be downloaded afterward.

  1. What’s the genre?
  2. What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre?
  3. What’s the Point of View?
  4. What are the objects of desire?
  5. What’s the controlling idea/theme?
  6. What is the Beginning Hook, the Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?

What’s the Global Genre?

Mel: GOT consists of such a huge landscape of plotlines and characters that it is really hard to boil down to one external genre.

If you ask yourself this question, you need to know first: Who is your main character? If you just watch Season 1, you might have thought it was Ned Stark until he was beheaded. You now realise that every character in GOT may die.

If you have already watched the entire series, you know that the story revolves around Jon Snow. Internally I think it’s a Status Admiration Story for him because he is able to adapt his worldview with the new information that presents itself.

Status Admiration: When a sympathetic protagonist with nobility of character and motive, along with a sophisticated worldview, encounters misfortune they will rise in spite of it. 

For the global external genre, I’d say it’s horror. But that seems most valid if you take Jon Snow as your main character and look at GOT across all seasons.

For season 1, I’d say it’s more a society story turning around power and impotence mixed with life and death stakes.

Parul: It’s not uncommon for a series to have an overarching storyline and for each season to have another. In Season 1, we see the House of Lannister against the House of Stark. This is about power and impotence, and each character’s position of power or lack of power is closely linked to the threat to life they face. 

They are playing a game of thrones, but with drastically different positions of morality. Ned Stark’s principled position leads him to make the wrong move, and he is killed. He was attempting a revolution, but he failed. This is the Society genre with the values of Action and morality close by.

Ned Stark is the main character for us, BUT we do see the children in the beginning of an Action story (inciting attack, hero at the mercy of the villain) and we see the Northerns including Rob Stark and Daenerys Targaryen preparing for war. 

What are the objects of desire?

Starks: To have justice restored and power shifted to the rightful heir 

Lannisters: To have power and get the throne

Daenerys: To have power and get the throne

What is the Beginning Hook, Middle Build, Ending Payoff?


Parul: It’s tricky to know what to cover. There are so many things happening. We start the series with the men mysteriously killed and this is the Inciting Incident for the Series and the horror genre, but in this specific season we’re tracking Ned Stark as a Society Story.

Inciting Incident: 

Society (core season storyline): King Robert Baratheon, Ned’s old friend, travels to Winterfell after the death of Jon Arran. Ned and Catelyn prepare for his arrival and suspect he wants to recruit him for the Hand. (Episode 1) (power/impotence)

Other storylines are also kicked off in the beginning: 

Horror (core series storyline): Men mysteriously killed North of the Wall (Episode 1) (life/death)

Action: To hide their incest, Jaime pushes Bran from the high window. 

War/Love:  Daenerys is forced to marry the Dothraki warlord, Drogo, in exchange for an army to conquer Westeros and reclaim the Iron Throne

Progressive Complications: Jamie pushes Bran from the tower when Brandon sees Jamie with Cersi, Brandon doesn’t die and an assassin is sent to kill him, Lady Stark travels to tell Ned of her suspicions, the Night’s Watch recruits are not what Jon Snow thought it would be, Sansa betrays Arya

Turning Point Progressive Complication:  Ned Stark discovers that Jon Arran was murdered. (Episode 1) (life/death)

Crisis:  Does Ned Stark still assume the role of the Hand of the King knowing that his life might be in danger or stay safe but leave the King without a trusted Hand? (Episode 1)

Stakes: Ned senses that something is happening, Winter is Coming – if he leaves, he won’t be able to protect his family and the Northern Kingdom.  If he doesn’t go, he will be turning down his friend and his king, and he knows he is probably the best person to talk sense into his friend and advise him for the sake of the 7 Kingdoms (not drive the 7 kingdoms into war again) (life/ death)

Climax: He agrees to become the Hand of the King. (Episode 1)

Resolution: He begins to see how much power the Lannisters have over the king and the 7 kingdoms (debt, Cersei’s influence over the king when she insists that Arya’s wolf be killed) (Episode 2 and 3) and becomes entangled in the political games of the court


Inciting Incident: Ned Stark discovers that John Arryn might have been killed (E4)

Progressive Complications: Ned discovers the bastards, clues to the mythical White Walkers returning in the North, Brandon almost killed by brigands, Brandon has visions, Daenerys becomes empowered and her brother is killed and she becomes pregnant, Robert orders Daenerys’ death, Mormont betrays and saves Daenerys, Bronn saves Tyrion and starts working for him, Catelyn kidnaps Tyrion, Ned confronts Cersei about her children

Turning Point Progressive Complication:  King is dying from a hunting wound (E7)

Crisis:  Does Ned Stark confront Cersei and Joffrey or swear fealty to Joffrey and leave King’s Landing? (E7)

Stakes: If he does not try to assume his role as “Protector of the Realm”, the kingdom will be left in the Lannister hands who he sees as the wrong heirs since Joffrey is a bastard son of his mother and her brother.  If he stays, he puts himself and his daughters in danger.

Climax: Ned refuses to show fealty, shows them the document signed by King Robert and declares Joffrey is not the rightful heir  (E7)

Resolution: Ned Stark is taken prisoner and all his men are killed (E7)


Inciting Incident: Rob Stark finds out about his father’s death and assembles his armies to fight the Lannisters (E8)

Progressive Complications: Jamie is captured, Drogo gets sick and dies, Daenerys loses her baby, Lannisters lose fight with Rob Stark

Turning Point Progressive Complication:  Sansa gets Joffrey to agree to show Ned mercy if he admits publicly that Joffrey is the rightful king (E8)

Crisis: At his public execution, does Ned Stark admit that Joffrey is the rightful heir and abandon his principles? Or risk death and stay principled? (E9)

Stakes: Sansa and Ned’s death if he does not agree; if he agrees, then the truth will be hidden and he might die anyway or at least be assigned to the Night’s Watch

Climax: Ned confesses his crimes and publicly swears fealty to Joffrey (E9)

Resolution: Ned is killed anyway, Sansa is captive, Arya escapes, Tyrion is made Hand of the King, Daenerys emerges from the fire with Dragons (E9 and 10)

What are the Obligatory scenes of the Global Genre (Society) 

Editors choose one to discuss. For the full list see the download available.  

  • Mel: There is an inciting threat or challenge to the reigning power: Ned Stark discovers that the death of Jon Arran was murder, that the Lannisters are seeking power
  • Randall: During an All-Is-Lost Moment, the protagonists realize they must change their approach in order to shift power from the antagonist to themselves: In person, Ned Stark realises that he and his family will die unless he pledges loyalty to Joffrey
  • Parul: The protagonists’ gifts are expressed in the Revolution Scene. (Core Event) This is the Core Event and Climax of the Society story where the power either changes hands from the subjugators to the subjugated (protagonists succeed) or the subjugators remain in power (protagonists fail). The winner and the loser are made clear: Ned Stark confesses to his crime in front of the audience, and Joffrey still orders his execution.

What are the Conventions of the Global Genre

Editors choose one to discuss. For the full list see the download available.  

  • Parul: There is one central character with offshoot characters that embody a multitude of that main character’s personality traits ( the mini-plot). In Game of Thrones we have the full cast of characters in each family. E.g. Starks: Ned Stark is one of the main characters (steady, warrior), Catelyn Stark (emotional, impulsive), Arya Stark (rebel, fighter), Sansa Stark (obedient, power seeker), Rob Stark (King in Waiting), Jon Snow (black sheep of family, honourable, noble)
  • Randall: There is a “big canvas:”: Winter is coming, Whitewalkers are returning, political game of thrones
  • Mel: The power divide between those in power and those disenfranchised is large and evident to the audience: The hunger for power is evident, we see how badly treated prostitutes and lesser men are treated. The ease at which life is discarded shows the power divide. 

What’s the point of view?

Mel: Multiple point of view characters are needed to tell a story that is so complex and stretches over many regions, houses, schemes, and overall history.

Still, I’d like to point out something GOT makes a lot of use of Dramatic Irony.

Here’s an example:

The first episode starts with the encounter of men from the Night’s Watch with a White Walker. One guy survives and deserts the Night’s Watch and flees south. He is ultimately killed for deserting the Night’s Watch because his news of the undead walkers sounds like  an old tale. No one believes him. Something the people from the North have stopped believing in, and his news won’t influence their judgment.

Even though that moment is not the inciting incident of the story itself, it is an inciting incident for the viewer because we are indeed witnesses to the existence of the White Walkers. We have seen them, too! We know what the deserter talked about is true. So the GOT story uses Dramatic Irony a lot. Dramatic irony is when the viewer knows more than the characters because we are witness to the schemes and actions of many characters!

The inciting incident for the story that is wrapped up between the seasons could be the death of the Hand of the King because with that the whole drama starts unfolding.

Randall: Other examples are the fact we know who pushed Bran out the window, but the characters spend the whole first season trying to figure it out and they never actually do, which is part of the narrative drive of the next season.

The screenwriters do a great job intertwining the pieces of the puzzle – The writers could have given us that first scene with the White Walkers and not directly connected it to the deserter being killed, that would have been a weaker version of dramatic irony.

What’s the controlling idea/theme?

We gain or maintain power and save our families’ lives when we prove our ruthlessness, status, and authority through bloodshed and political bargaining.

What was your favorite part?

Randall: I like the dragon reveal at the end. I was so surprised when Ned got killed.

Mel: Too many to count, but seeing how huge that Wall is was truly amazing because it reveals an undeniable threat to what might lay beyond.

Parul: After all the bloodshed and loss, it’s wonderful to see Daenerys rise from subjugated to power.

Next series:

Game of Thrones 2