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!

Webinar

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.

The Story Grid

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.

Thanks!

Manuscript Editing Services
Manuscript Editing Services

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

How I can help you improve your Story

I just completed an editing session last weekend with a new client. Her name is Briauna and she started a podcast called Teaching Myself to Write Novels. She decided to put some of our recorded session on her podcast, so if you are interested to see how I work with authors, here is a recorded live session.

Briauna does about a 5 minute introduction and then the recording of our session starts. We spoke for a little over two hours, but she edited it down to about 30 minutes. We cover the first part of the book pretty thoroughly, but the middle and ending of the book are mostly cut out (probably because she didn’t want to ruin the ending for her potential readers).

Here is the Google Podcast Link:

The purpose of this session was to help iron out the 15 core scenes of her book which is Story Grid lingo are the 5 commandments of the three acts, what we call the spine of the story:

Act 1 – Beginning Hook

  • Inciting Incident
  • Turning Point
  • Crisis Question
  • Climax
  • Resolution

Act 2 – Middle Build

  • Inciting Incident
  • Turning Point
  • Crisis Question
  • Climax
  • Resolution

Act 3 – Ending Payoff

  • Inciting Incident
  • Turning Point
  • Crisis Question
  • Climax
  • Resolution

Let me know if you have any questions about my method!

If you like my Posts – Buy me a coffee.
Thanks!

The Story Grid

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.

Thanks!

Manuscript Editing Services
Manuscript Editing Services

Showrunners 27: Killing Eve S3 Ep 8

In two weeks (June 19, 2002), we’ll have a summary episode where we talk about the six core questions and release our foolscap.

Reminder: Please watch the TV-Series Killing Eve Season 3 Episode 8 before you listen to the following episode. We not only give away spoilers, but we talk about the global story, and it’s just more valuable for you if you know what we are talking about because we reference a lot.


Initial Observations

Mel – Seems like the biggest crisis, and the highest stakes were neither for Villanelle nor Eve, but for Konstantin in this final episode, while Eve and Villanelle were only bystanders. If I wouldn’t love the character of Konstantin that much, the episode would have been lots more disappointing.

Parul – 50% thriller, 30% love, 20% morality 

Randy – Finally.

Read More

What is an Anti-Hero?

Join Parul and I on a Reedsy YouTube Webinar as we discuss the Anti-Hero? What is one? How do You create one? Why do we love them?

Read More

Scrivener + Story Grid Part 3: Collections and KeyWords

This is the third part in a three part blog about using the author tool Scrivener in conjunction with the Story Grid Methodology developed by Shawn Coyne.

These are the topics I covered in this series:

  • Part 1 – Set Up
    • How I set up Scrivener to edit or write a new manuscript – My Way
    • How I incorporate the Story Grid guidance inside Scrivener
    • How I incorporate other writings methods
    • Using a Global Value Tracker
  • Part 2 – Using and setting up Meta Data
    • A new way to use Meta Data to track the 5 Commandments for each scene
    • Using Meta Data to Track the Literal and Essential Action as well as Value shifts
    • Review of tracking Story Grid Spreadsheet Data using Meta Data
    • And We’ll review the export feature that allows you to export all your metadata into an excel spreadsheet that resembles the Story Grid Spreadsheet Shawn Coyne uses
  • Part 3 – More Tips
    • Using Keywords to track Sub-Plots
    • Using Collections to Track Main Characters, Locations, and Unique Elements
    • Using synopsis to Track Beats
Read More

Showrunners 26: KE S3E7 Beautiful Monster

You can download the podcast at Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, or whichever platform you use, or click above and go to the Story Grid webpage to listen.

Reminder: Please watch the TV-Series Killing Eve Season 3 Episode 7 before you listen to the following episode. We not only give away spoilers, but we talk about the global story and it’s just more valuable for you if you know what we are talking about because we reference a lot.


Initial Observations

Mel – I’m lost. I’ve lost interest in the show because it couldn’t keep me engaged, but it’s because of all the previous episodes, not this one in particular.

Parul – We’ve veered off the global genre

Randy – World’s worst assassins

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Selling Girls in America Podcast – Bonus Edition: COVID-19 Effects

Due to recent current events surrounding the COVID-19 health crisis and shutdown of numerous systems we wanted to update you on the impact this is having on sex trafficking.

Throughout the show we reference a recent report that Guardian Group put together to lay out the impact. You can find Part 1 here.

To listen to the podcast, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcast or your favorite podcast platform, or go to the Guardian Group Webpage.

Resources:

Intro to Sex Trafficking Training

Tools for parents to keep their children safe while online more.

If you’d like to join this fight during this critical time you can donate here.

Thank you for listening!

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.

Thanks!

Manuscript Editing Services
Manuscript Editing Services

Showrunners 025: Game Is Over – Killing Eve Season 3 Ep 6

When the 3rd season is over, we’ll have a summary episode where we talk about the 6 core questions and release our foolscap.

Reminder: Please watch the TV-Series Killing Eve Season 3 Episode 4 before you listen to the following episode. We not only give away spoilers, but we talk about the global story and it’s just more valuable for you if you know what we are talking about because we reference a lot.


Initial Observations

Mel – Very unexpected, and not believable beginning, and then the characters became unreal for me, too.

Parul – I like many scenes, glad the investigation is back on track, but I’m worried about the global story

Randy – No way!

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Showrunners 024: The Villain’s Back Story – Killing Eve Season 3 Ep5

If you want to see previous episodes of the Story Grid Showrunners Podcast, check out my episode list or go to www.sgshowrunners.com

When the 3rd season is over, we’ll have a summary episode where we talk about the 6 core questions and release our foolscap.

Reminder: Please watch the TV-Series Killing Eve Season 3 Episode 4 before you listen to the following episode. We not only give away spoilers, but we talk about the global story and it’s just more valuable for you if you know what we are talking about because we reference a lot.


Initial Observations

Mel – A documentary about life in remote Russia that has a tragic, but expected ending.

Parul – If I’m looking for a silver lining – here is a good way to look at how one might introduce a villain’s backstory

Randy – WTH?


Recap: What happened in the previous episodes: 

  • Villanelle asks Konstantin about her family
  • Villanelle does a job for him and got the address for Grismet, Russia
  • Dasha tells Villanelle that the 12 want to meet her, but she must be good
  • Eve chooses Niko over herself – going to Poland to reunite with him
  • Dasha kills Niko in front of Eve and Eve is crushed


5 commandments for Eve

Eve wasn’t in this episode.


5 commandments for Villanelle: 

  1. Inciting Incident: Villanelle returns home to her family.
  2. Turning Point: Borka tells Villanelle that her mother blamed him for embarrassing the family because he didn’t win the food competition.
  3. Crisis: Shall Villanelle confront her mother about their past and everything that’s been left unspoken OR shall she continue to enjoy this family life?
  4. Climax: Villanelle confronts mother with the childish behavior she used to do (tomato sauce in eyes and knife in hand)
  5. Resolution: Mom wants to throw Villanelle out, but Villanelle tells her mother that she put her darkness onto her. So Villanelle kills her, and burns down the house, but makes sure her two brothers are not in the house.


Thoughts about the Format

Randy: Well, I think they made an error in judgment here.  Either Eve is the main character of the story or she is sharing that position with Villanelle.  I kept hoping that episode would end with an Eve bit to entice us along.  There were some classic Villanelle scenes, but this wasn’t necessary.

Mel: Did they want to keep up the excitement about Eve seeing how her husband has been killed that they made an entire episode about Villanelle being with her family? 

I mean last week we already talked about the change of format when each character had their one piece in the episode and it all led to one event that was announced at the beginning of the show.

But this episode was just one single, very long scene that fulfilled the five commandments in a weak way with an episode’s showdown that I suspected from the beginning. After all, it’s Villanelle.

I noticed sometimes tv series end with a great cliffhanger and the next episode they don’t get back to that incident and show some other characters, but this episode was just stalling. Maybe they need to stretch the material they have, but if they continue like this, who wants to see season 4? They should worry about telling a great and tight and entertaining story that abides it’s genre because this is not the show from season 1 anymore.


Parul: They’ve kept Villanelle’s humor and psychopathic tendencies in here.

Aside from the missing big elephant of Eve & the Twelve which is what this story is all about, they have ruined any sort of empathy I had for Villanelle – her family didn’t seem that bad. The mother said she ‘had darkness’, but I didn’t understand the dynamic between them. Why did the mother give her away, what is this darkness she spoke of? What did the writers want us to feel about Villanelle after this? That she is completely unhinged? She’s become wholly unlikeable and I’m more confused about her background than I was before.


Thoughts about the Global Story

Randy: I don’t see how this episode progresses the global story, maybe they will surprise me.  The story should always progress towards the wants and needs of the main characters, moving forward, and the crisis should get progressively harder, the best bad choices should get progressively harder to make.  I don’t see this here.  Maybe they were trying to make us feel that this was a hard choice for her, but it didn’t seem like it.

Mel: Did they run out of ways of exciting kills? I mean, this entire episode went against everything we loved about the show Killing Eve. and after devoting 40 minutes to Villanelle entirely, the payoff should have been amazing. But we don’t even see how Villanelle kills her mother. She’s just lying on the ground while Villanelle sets the house on fire and it explodes. Something we’ve seen so many times before in other stories. And setting a fire didn’t even come as a surprise, because we were told in the beginning that Villanelle set the orphanage on fire.

Parul: Everything goes back to the genre for the Season, this is a thriller and both for the series as a whole and for the Season itself, we should be seeing progressive complications that get in the way of the villains being caught. This episode was a microscopic zoom in to a villain’s backstory, and doesn’t progress the story. 


Spotlight on the Backstory  

Examples of stories with effective backstories: Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, the L Word.

How we might have written this differently:

Parul: We’re missing speech in praise of the villain. We’ve moved from Season 1, where we had a speech in praise of the Villain (remember how the killer had eluded MI6 for years across multiple continents) to speech to weaken the Villain. For example, if they had given us the true cause for Villanelle’s mindset or why she ended up with the twelve, then we might have had a speech in praise of the villain. You might have had a scene with the mother telling Villanelle to give up her job, and Villanelle telling her mother how powerful the twelve are. Or you could have the Twelve appear at the mother’s house – after all, they know everything right? They could have killed her entire family to force Villanelle back to them. This episode could have been a reason for Villanelle to truly hate the Twelve and join forces with Eve.


Morality Genre

Villanelle certainly dealt with a ghost from her past who haunted her because she never seemed to have gotten over her mom abandoning her when she was still a child.

But this doesn’t mean punishment for Villanelle in the sense of the morality genre when you feel like you live in damnation for all the things you did wrong, but freedom. She’s rid of her burdens now.


What can we expect in the next episodes?

Parul: It seems like they are pushing Villanelle’s character to become less sympathetic, which is a shame. I’m guessing that Villanelle will reunite with Eve, but I can no longer see a reason for the two to have any spark, or for us to want that for them.  

Randy: I mean, whatever happens next will be surprising to me i guess, but not in a good way.  I hope we don’t see another funeral scene for Niko.  Maybe we’ll have a whole episode dedicated to what Eve is doing while Villanelle is family bonding.

Mel: I’m not expecting anything anymore. I’ll just get disappointed. But if they want to make up for the lack of story, then they need to deliver a fast-paced episode with great unexpected turns. But I guess, they will switch back to Eve and maybe make one episode entirely about her and the mess she’s in. I hope you see the irony 😉


What were your favorite scenes?

Randy: She won the dung throwing competition!  The crazy dance scenes.

Mel: Seeing Villanelle happy as she won the different challenges and at the end the competition. You know, at least someone had a reason to smile in this episode.

Parul: I appreciated the absurdity of an Elton-John loving family in Russia, given how flamboyant he is, and how homophobic Russia is supposed to be. The dancing was awkward but the subtle humor was good.

Story Grid Showrunners Podcast

If you want to listen to more Story Grid Showrunner Episodes, subscribe on Apple Podcasts or Google Podcasts, or on whichever platform you prefer to listen to your podcasts. If you liked the episode, please comment on Apple or Google Podcasts, it helps other listeners find us and spreads the word to other writers and editors.

Also, you could visit my Story Grid Showrunners webpage which has a list of all of our episodes and links to listen to the recordings.

The Story Grid

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.

Thanks!

Manuscript Editing Services
Manuscript Editing Services