Category: Vital Insights

How Much Work Do Your Story Details Do?

Posted by Frank Marcopolos in Essays, Random Crap, Stories, Vital Insights. 1 Comment

26th September

From "Burn Notice." Fionna on the left, Carlos on the right.

From “Burn Notice.” Fiona on the left, Carlos on the right.

This picture is from the television series “Burn Notice,” currently burned. This screen-cap shows how you can subtly insert meaning into a shot, without calling attention to itself. (This applies to writing, too.) This scene takes place in an artist’s house, so there are always canvases hanging around. In this particular scene, these two characters are breaking up. The male character, Carlos, says to Fionna, “You’re traveling a path with Michael…and I can’t go down it with you.”

When I first watched the scene, I didn’t notice the painting–but it was there, obviously. And when you back and watch a second time, the scene has more impact because of its presence. Now, the director could have chosen ANY painting to be there, or nothing at all, just a wall in the background. But making those subtle choices is really what separates excellent art from the rest.

On the podcast, based on what I learn from my writing group, I talk about details all the time–which to use, which not to use…with the basic point being that the creator must at all times be in control of their creation. With details, this means using ones that resonate with your larger theme. And this assumes, of course, that you have a larger theme in the first place. But once you do, then it’s your job to choose the best details to represent that theme throughout the piece. And those are the kinds of things that make the reader want to come back to your writing for more, more, more.

These techniques, of course, can be applied to any art form to create a long-lasting bond with your audience. Which isn’t to say I’m an expert at doing so, only that I’m learning all of these things along the way. And I happen to share them in a handy podcast format.

What do you think? How much work do your details do?


Saturday Show #24: Richard Ford, Bernard Malamud, J.D. Salinger, and Friedrich Nietzsche

Posted by Frank Marcopolos in Saturday Show, Stories, Vital Insights, Writing Group. No Comments

15th June

Saturday Show #24, The Austin Writing Group #13. Relevant Links and Show Notes:

Functional Diagnostic Nutrition

Things you can buy with your dollars:

Rock Springs by Richard Ford
Man on the Moon by Milos Forman
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
Beyond Good and Evil by Nietzsche
The Complete Stories Bernard Malamud
Isis and Osiris by Plutarch

Topics dujour:

~ Creating a bond with your audience
~ Using tricks to create a “likeable” main character
~ Ayn Rand – Is there such a thing as true altruism?
~ The problems of ambiguity
~ The greatness of ambiguity
~ Surface theme vs. deeper theme
~ Emotional POP at the right time in the story
~ Is all art really a subconscious manifestation of something larger?
~ Real vs. Fake
~ Who is the REAL you? Are you your name, or is your name you?
~ Existence precedes essence
~ The vital importance of the Isis-Osiris myth
~ Dirty realism
~ Learning to be subtle, but not too subtle
~ “A reader should FEEL the theme of a story, not KNOW it consciously”
~ A reader can come up with their own theme(s), regardless of writer intent


The Secret Psychological Structure Behind Interpersonal Interactions

Posted by Frank Marcopolos in Almost Home Novel, Vital Insights. 1 Comment

29th October

Mr. Bly. Genius.

There’s a secret structure to human interactions, and if you don’t know what it is, you’re losing.

Even worse, you’re being laughed at behind your back.

“The knowledge of how to build a nest in a bare tree, how to fly to the wintering place, how to perform the mating dance—all of this information is stored in the reservoirs of the bird’s instinctual brain. But human beings, sensing how much flexibility they might need in meeting new situations, decided to store this sort of knowledge outside the instinctual system; they stored it in STORIES. Stories, then…amount to a reservoir where we keep new ways of responding that we can adopt when the conventional and current ways wear out.” ~ Robert Bly

The secret structure of human relations is revealed by Dr. Paul Dobransky in his groundbreaking work on the “Operating System” of the human mind. [More info here: and here:] As outlined by Dr. Dobransky, people fall into one of four types of temperaments, labeled King, Warrior, Magician, and Lover. Unlike other theories such as Myers-Briggs, Dr. Dobransky’s system allows for human growth, evolutionary development, and the effects of the decisions of free will over time. Meaning, you can determine EXACTLY how well-balanced (or not) you are.

As a disciple of Dr. Dobransky, I have taken this groundbreaking theory and applied it to a fictional setting. Since the system is designed to reveal the exact workings of human “character,” it only makes sense to apply it to fictional characters in a story designed to influence the destiny of the reader. After all, as pre-Socratic philosopher Heraclitus first pointed out, “Character is destiny.”

Almost Home. Bad Title. Great Book.

So, with that as a backdrop, what are some of the themes addressed in ALMOST HOME? They include the following:

– How should you conduct yourself in the face of enormous challenges?
– What is the superior way of dealing with, and vanquishing, our foes?
– What is the one sure-fire way to eliminate failure?
– In our evolution through adolescence, what is the optimal way to transition from youth to adulthood?

And, of course, in terms of style, the novel is written in a fun, emotionally-engaging way that turbo-drives the narrative forward. It combines the techniques of Dwight Swain with the witty humor J.D. Salinger to create a powerful, resonant story—the only sure-fire method humankind has ever created to make life-changing concepts take root in your mind.

And you get all of this in ALMOST HOME for less than a Starbucks coffee. Download it now.

“We are still beginners in the labor of learning how to live. We really don’t know what we are doing.” ~ Robert Bly