The Top 3 Things You Need to Know About Your Protagonist or Ideal Reader

Image by pasja1000 from Pixabay 

A common mistake I see people make in book creation is to focus on plot or structure way too early in the process. While these are absolutely important aspects of the book creation puzzle, we need to take care of a few other important pieces first.

As I always say, the people come first. This means that before we can begin to think about plot or structure, we need to get to know our characters. When I say “character,” I mean the protagonist, antagonists, and supporting characters in your novel or memoir. I also mean the Ideal Reader for your non-fiction, self-help book.

Here’s how it breaks down for each.

Fiction—Protagonist, antagonists, supporting characters… The people who help and hinder the protagonist on her quest.

Memoir—You and your family, friends, exes, and more… The cast of characters who have helped create the story of your life, for better or worse.

Non-fiction, Self-help—Your Ideal Reader and You… If you plan to weave your own story into your book.

So, how do we get to know our people?

Here are three essential points we need to consider in character development (think of your Ideal Reader for your non-fiction, self-help book as a character in the story you’re writing about and responding to).

Deepest Desire
Fiction—This is the state of being the protagonist in your novel wants more than anything—what the story is all about.

Memoir—This is the state of being you, as the protagonist in your memoir, looked for throughout your life—possibly unwittingly—that has led you through the thrills and tribulations of your life.

Non-fiction, Self-help—This is the reason your Ideal Reader wants your help—the state of being they yearn for AFTER they’ve experienced your method, program, or process, which you will walk them through in your book.

Deepest Wound
Fiction—This is the event or situation that happened in your protagonist’s life—likely early on—that causes them to yearn for their deepest desire.

Memoir—This is the event or situation that happened to you at some point in your life that likely caused you to repeat unhealthy patterns and/or changed your life and who you were.

Non-fiction, Self-help—This is the event or situation in your ideal Reader’s life at some point that makes makes her want her deepest desire (and your help).

Deepest Fear
Fiction—This is the belief your protagonist has about what will happen if she doesn’t realize her deepest desire and likely creates an unconscious obstacle to her success.

Memoir—This is your belief about yourself or about the world that allowed persistent unhealthy patterns to remain in place… until, of course, you gained the perspective necessary to change the pattern and write your memoir.

Non-fiction, Self-help—This is what your Ideal Reader fears will happen if she doesn’t (or in some cases, if she DOES) realize her deepest desire.

So… why is knowing this information so important?

When we begin to know our people this deeply, the plot begins to unfold naturally. And when we begin to see the plot unfold, we can begin to think about structure. Because when we understand the whats and the whys behind our people’s actions, we can begin to envision mileposts along the trajectory of their stories.

To put this all in context, think about your best friend. When you first met her/him, you had an unformed opinion about who they were. As you got to know them over time, they became more real and easier to empathize with. This is how we want to think of and treat our people—our characters and Ideal Readers… by understanding and caring about their deepest life experiences and feelings.

This quote says it all:

“Knowing a person is like music. What attracts us to them is their melody, and as we get to know who they are, we learn their lyrics.” – Anonymous

After we know more about our people—and memorize their lyrics—we can then move forward with the creation of our book. The way this takes shape is different in the non-fiction, self-help book than in the novel or memoir.

Come back soon for the next post—How to Create Structure in Your Non-Fiction, Self-Help Book—and I’ll give you a few tips and tricks.

Until then, do some writing on the three points above for all the major players in your story, and let me know in the comments below what you discover.

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy writing

5 Narrative Devices to Consider When Creating Story

Image by Comfreak from Pixabay 

In his book, My Reading Life, Pat Conroy says, “The most powerful words in English are “Tell me a story.” 

And I agree.

Stories and narratives are far more than entertainment. Story validates us, connects us, heals us. The individual and collective narratives we live and re-tell shape us and the world we live in. 

Understanding how our individual stories shape our collective narratives is essential, I think. So, as writers, giving clear and rational thought to the ways in which we tell stories is also essential. 

While the list below is not an exhaustive one, it offers five narrative devices we can consider when sharing stories. (Keep in mind that narrative device is different from story arc. Think of story arc as living inside the container of narrative device.)

1. REAL-TIME NARRATIVE

Real-time narrative, is fairly self-explanatory. It is a story told in real time. For example, if a week passes in the protagonist’s life, the story will take the reader or viewer through that time period as well.

Real-time narrative is generally used in TV, film, and theater but can be found in some literature.

Examples of real-time narrative

Literature—Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf | Ulysses by James Joyce | A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Screen—24 (TV) | ‘night Mother (film) | My Dinner with Andrea (film) | 12 Angry Men (film—also a stage play)

Theater—‘night Mother by Marsha Norman (also a film) | American Son by Christopher Demos-Brown (also a film) | Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee (also a film)


2. CHRONOLOGICAL NARRATIVE

This one is also self-explanatory. It’s a story told in the order in which it occurs. It’s sequential, even though dreams, flashbacks, or memories may be used to fill in backstory or create layering.

Chronological narrative is the most common storytelling device used. Grab a novel from your shelf, and chances are, it’s told using the chronological narrative device.

Examples of chronological narrative

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (In this novel, Atwood even heads chapters with specific dates.)

The Voyage Out by Virginia Woolf (It’s been a while since I read this novel, but I do believe it fits.)

Katerina by James Frey (Frey does a fair amount of dipping into the past, but the story, itself, is chronological.)

Acquaintance by Jeff Stookey (My current read. So far, chronological, with minimal mentions of the past.


3. REVERSE CHRONOLOGICAL NARRATIVE

Reverse chronological narrative is just as it sounds. A story told in reverse.

Examples of reverse chronological narrative

Literature—How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez | Time’s Arrow by Martin Amis | Counter-Clock World by Philip K. Dick

Screen—Two Friends by Jane Campion (TV movie) | “The Betrayal” (Seinfeld episode) | The Sweet Hereafter (film) | Memento (film)

Theater—Betrayal by Harold Pinter (inspired both the Seinfeld episode and The Sweet Hereafter) | Merrily We Roll Along by George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart


4. EPISTOLARY OR DIARY NARRATIVE

Epistolary or diary narratives are stories told through an exchange of letters or emails, or through diaries, journals, blog posts, or recordings.

This type of narrative is believed to have started in the mid-seventeenth century.

Examples of epistolary or diary narrative

Literature—Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes | The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky | The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows (also a film)

Screen—13 Reasons Why (TV) | The Handmaids Tale (TV—based on the novel) | The Carrie Diaries (TV) | Bridget Jones’ Diary (film) | The Lake House (film) | Julie and Julia (film)

Theater—Love Letters by A. R. Gurney | Dear Elizabeth by Sarah Ruhl | Hate Mail by Kira Obolensky and Bill Corbett

5. BREAKING THE FOURTH WALL NARRATIVE

This is traditionally thought of as a device used in playwriting, when a character in a play breaks from the illusion of the story on the stage with the other characters and speaks directly to the audience. We also see this in film when a character speaks directly to the camera.

This narrative type can be accomplished in writing and literature, as well, in a couple of ways. The first is the use of second person “you,” when the narrator or character speaks directly to the reader. With this type of narrative, we might also see something like, “So, dear reader… What would you have done?”

Examples of breaking the fourth wall narrative

Literature—Orlando by Virginia Woolf | The Dark Tower by Stephen King | Puckoon by Spike Milligan

Screen— House of Cards (TV) | Malcolm in the Middle (TV) | Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (film) | High Fidelity (film) | Amélie (film)

Theater—William Shakespeare and Bertolt Brecht plays


Check some of these out and see the effect each has on the reading/viewing experience, then consider ways you can use them in your own writing.

Please leave a comment below if you can think of or come across others. I always love adding to my lists!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Johnnie
XO

How to Use Mercury RX in Aquarius in Your Writing Practice

Writing doesn’t always mean perpetually moving forward without pause. We flow and ebb. We wax and wane. As does the creative process.

I always recommend that writers use Mercury Rx as an opportunity to re-visit, re-consider, and re-vise their work rather than forging ahead with new projects or new pages on a current project. (Of course, I would never suggest that you not write if the impulse is strong, but if you don’t have a pressing deadline and the work will not be harmed by a step-back, Mercury RX can give a 3- to 4-week window of time to breathe and re-set.) I think of Mercury RX pauses a times to tend to what’s already there.

This RX is in Aquarius until February 20, so when we understand how this energy impacts us, we can consider more specific ways to use this planetary influence and continue to honor our writing practices.

According to The Mercury Retrograde Book by Yasmin Boland and Kim Farnell, during a Mercury RX in Aquarius, “You feel creative and ideas flow thick and fast.” They also say, “your final decisions should wait.”

This Rx, then, is ideal for brain dumping. This is not a time to think about writing polished prose, starting a new project, or launching into the void with a current project if you’re uncertain about certain aspects of it.

Allow yourself to pour the thoughts and ideas in your head onto the page. Treat the brain dump like a long free-write. Write stream of consciousness if that feels right. Be as detached as possible to the words’ purposes right now. The goal is to do a purge and get it all out so that you can begin to sort through it all when Mercury goes direct again on February 20.

This is also a good time to re-consider all things writing. Here are some questions to ask ourselves during a Mercury Rx in Aquarius.

  1. If you’re in a writing group, is it meeting your needs?
    If not, is the group structured in a way to allow for adjustments? If not, do you need to leave the group and find a new one or simply go off on your own for a while?
  2. Are you ready for technical malfunctions?
    Aquarius is all about tech, so be aware that your laptop and other devices may (almost definitely WILL) experience snags and upsets. Back up all your important work, even if you have it on the Cloud. And be prepared to either let the writing sit until the problem is solved or write by hand (never a bad solution, as science has shown that writing by hand has all sorts of positive benefits for us).
  3. Do you have in-progress work or a “waiting-to-be-started” file?
    Almost all writers have a backlog of ideas either in their heads or in a digital or paper file somewhere—stories, situations, and people that have bubbled up at random times felt to hold enough significance to warrant deeper consideration. Many of these are in different stages of completion. Some are merely random ideas accompanied by vague notes. If you find that something on your list no longer resonates, remove it. If something sparks you further, keep it, move it up the list, spend some time thinking about how to expand it and bring it to life when Mercury goes direct again on February 20.br>
  4. Are you prepared to wait to take praise and/or criticism to heart?
    Boland and Farnell also recommend avoiding confirmation bias during this time. What that might look like in your writing practice is a perceived, overblown sense of the worth or lack of worth of a project, which can arise from our own belief systems and thought patterns and be reinforced by comments from others who provide feedback on our work. If you have a reader or readers and someone raves about your newest pages, take it in stride, and wait until Mercury is direct again. Likewise, if someone harshly critiques your work during this time or finds only room for improvement, avoid the temptation to deem yourself a a bad writer. It could be that the person providing feedback has been afflicted with some kind of communication disruption themselves (thanks to the Mercury RX). Best to set those pages aside and be willing to revisit after February 20 with your own objective eye. Decide then for yourself if the pages truly are superb or if they do, in fact, need some kind of attention.

As for me, I’m using this time to print out the draft of my novel, which I completed during NaNoWriMo last November (and have been tinkering with since), along with ALL the random notes I’ve jotted down and typed up. (There are SO MANY!) I’ll be organizing these pages and creating an action plan to begin my revision process. I can’t wait!

I hope you’re navigating this Mercury RX without too many bumps or bruises. I’d love to hear how you’re using it to manage and enhance your own writing practice. Please leave me a comment below and let me know.

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy writing!

Johnnie

XO

35 Movies About Writers and The Writing Life

If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I don’t believe a solid, healthy writing practice is dependent on “inspiration.” It’s about commitment and dedication and being willing to put fingers to keyboard to pen to paper even when we don’t feel like it. Even when it’s hard or not our best.

That said, though, I AM inspired by much in life. Movies inspire me. Especially movies about writers and the writing life. If nothing else, they remind me that I’m not alone in the world with my magical, weird writer’s mind (which I wouldn’t trade for anything) and the importance of the truth telling we do.

Below are 35 movies (listed from oldest to newest) about the lives of writers.

Sunset Boulevard (1950)

A screenwriter develops a dangerous relationship with a faded film star determined to make a triumphant return.

Director
Billy Wilder
Writers
Charles Brackett, Billy Wilder, D.M. Marshman Jr.
Cast
William Holden, Gloria Swanson, Erich von Stroheim, Jack Webb, Cecil B. DeMille, Hedda Hopper, Buster Keaton


All the President’s Men (1976)

“The Washington Post” reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Director
Alan J. Pakula
Writers
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward (book)
William Goldman (screenplay)
Cast
Cast Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jason Robards, Jane Alexander, Meredith Baxter, Ned Beatty


My Brilliant Career (1979)

A young woman in rural, late-19th-century Australia aspires to become a writer, but her ambitions are impeded first by her social circumstance and later by a budding romance.

Director
Gillian Armstrong
Writers
Miles Franklin (novel)
Eleanor Witcombe (screenplay)
Cast
Judy Davis, Sam Neill, Wendy Hughes, Robert Grubb, Max Cullen, Aileen Britton, Peter Whitford, Patricia Kennedy, Alan Hopgood, Julia Blake


The Shining (1980)

A family heads to an isolated hotel for the winter where a sinister presence influences the father, who’s working on a novel, into violence, while his psychic son sees horrific forebodings from both past and future.

Director
Stanley Kubrick
Writers
Stephen King (novel)
Stanley Kubrick, Diane Johnson (screenplay)
Cast
Jack Nicholson, Shelley Duvall, Danny Lloyd, Scatman Crothers, Barry Nelson, Philip Stone


An Angel at My Table (1990)

Janet Frame was a brilliant child who, as a teen, was misdiagnosed with schizophrenia. Explore Janet’s discovery of the world and her life in Europe as her books are published to acclaim.

Director
Jane Campion
Writers
Janet Frame (books)
Laura Jones (screenplay)
Cast
Kerry Fox, Alexia Keogh, Karen Fergusson, Iris Churn, Jessie Mune, Kevin J. Wilson,
Francesca Collins


Henry and June (1990)

In 1931 Paris, Anais Nin meets Henry Miller and his wife June. Intrigued by them both, she begins expanding her sexual horizons with her husband Hugo as well as with Henry and others. 

Director
Phillip Kaufman
Writers
Anais Nin (book)
Phillip Kaufman and Rose Kaufman (screenplay)
Cast
Fred Ward, Uma Thurman, Maria de Medeiros, Richard E. Grant, Kevin Spacey,
Jean-Philippe Ecoffey


After a famous author is rescued from a car crash by a fan of his novels, he comes to realize that the care he is receiving is only the beginning of a nightmare of captivity and abuse.

Director
Rob Reiner
Writers
Stephen King (novel)
William Goldman (screenplay)
Cast
James Caan, Kathy Bates, Richard Farnsworth, Frances Sternhagen, Lauren Bacall


Barton Fink (1991)

A renowned New York playwright is enticed to California to write for the movies and discovers the hellish truth of Hollywood.

Directors
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Writers
Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Cast
John Turturro, John Goodman, Judy Davis, Michael Lerner, John Mahoney, Tony Shalhoub,
Jon Polito, Steve Buscemi


The Player (1992)

A Hollywood studio executive is being sent death threats by a writer whose script he rejected, but which one?

Director
Robert Altman
Writer
Michael Tolkin (novel and screenplay)
Cast
Tim Robbins, Greta Scacchi, Fred Ward, Whoopi Goldberg, Peter Gallagher, Vincent D’Onofrio, Dean Stockwell, Sydney Pollack, Lyle Lovett


The Pillow Book (1996)

A woman with a body writing fetish seeks to find a combined lover and calligrapher.

Director
Peter Greenaway
Writers
Sei Shonagon (book)
Peter Greenaway (screenplay)
Cast
Vivian Wu, Ewan McGregor, Yoshi Oida, Ken Ogata, Hideko Yoshida


With a Friend Like Harry (2000)

Harry knew Michel in high school; they meet again by accident, Harry inserts himself in Michel’s life… and things take a sinister turn.

Director
Dominik Moll
Writers
Gilles Marchand, Dominik Moll
Cast
Laurent Luca, Sergi López, Mathilde Seigner, Sophie Guillemin, Liliane Rovère, Dominique Rozan, Michel Fau


Wonder Boys (2000)

An English Professor tries to deal with his wife leaving him, the arrival of his editor who has been waiting for his book for seven years, and the various problems that his friends and associates involve him in.

Director
Curtis Hanson
Writers
Michael Chabon (novel)
Steve Kloves (screenplay)
Cast
Michael Douglas, Tobey McGuire, Frances McDormand, Robert Downey Jr., Katie Holmes,
Rip Torn


Adaptation (2002)

A lovelorn screenwriter becomes desperate as he tries and fails to adapt ‘The Orchid Thief’ for the screen.

Director
Spike Jonze
Writers
Susan Orlean (book)
Charlie Kaufman (screenplay)
Cast
Nicolas Cage, Tilda Swinton, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper, Susan Orlean


American Splendor (2003)

An original mix of fiction and reality illuminates the life of comic book hero everyman Harvey Pekar.

Directors
Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Writers
Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner (comic book series)
Shari Springer Berman and Robert Pulcini (screenplay)
Cast
Harvey Pekar, Paul Giamatti, Shari Springer Berman, James Urbaniak, Daniel Tay

Swimming Pool (2003)


A British mystery author visits her publisher’s home in the South of France, where her interaction with his unusual daughter sets off some touchy dynamics.

Director
Francois Ozon
Writers
Francois Ozon, Emmanuele Bernheim, Sionann O’Neill
Cast
Charlotte Rampling, Ludivine Sagnier, Charles Dance, Jean-Marie Lamour, Marc Fayolle,
Mireille Mosse


Secret Window (2004)

A successful writer in the midst of a painful divorce is stalked at his remote lake house by a would-be scribe who accuses him of plagiarism.

Director
David Koepp
Writers
Stephen King (novel)
David Koepp (screenplay
Cast
Johnny Depp, John Turturo, Maria Bello, Timothy Hutton, Charles S. Dutton


Sideways (2004)

Struggling writer and wine enthusiast Miles takes his engaged friend, Jack, on a trip to wine country for a last single-guy bonding experience. 

Director
Alexander Payne
Writers
Rex Pickett (novel)
Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor (screenplay)
Cast
Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh


Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2005)

All but abandoned by her family in a London retirement hotel, an elderly woman strikes up a curious friendship with a young writer.

Director
Dan Ireland
Writers
Elizabeth Taylor (novel)
Ruth Sacks Caplin (screenplay)
Martin Donovan and Dan Ireland (additional dialogue)
Cast
Joan Plowright, Rupert Friend, Zoe Tapper, Robert Lang, Marcia Warren, Anna Massey, Georgina Hale, Millicent Martin


Capote (2005)

In 1959, Truman Capote learns of the murder of a Kansas family and decides to write a book about the case. While researching for his novel In Cold Blood, Capote forms a relationship with one of the killers, Perry Smith, who is on death row.

Director
Bennett Miller
Writers
Gerald Clarke (book)
Dan Futterman (screenplay)
Cast
Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Allie Mickelson, Kelci Stephenson, Craig Archibald, Bronwen Coleman, Kate Shindle, David Wilson Barns, Michael J. Burg


The Dying Gaul (2005)

A grief-stricken screenwriter unknowingly enters a three-way relationship with a woman and her film executive husband – to chilling results.

Director
Craig Lucas
Writer
Craig Lucas
Cast
Peter Sarsgaard, Patricia Clarkson, Campbell Scott


The Squid and the Whale (2005)

Follows two young boys dealing with their parents’ divorce in Brooklyn in the 1980s, one of whom has a declining writing career.

Director
Noah Baumbach
Writer
Noah Baumbach
Cast
Owen Kline, Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, William Baldwin, David Benger,
Anna Paquin


Trumbo (2005)

In 1947, Dalton Trumbo was Hollywood’s top screenwriter, until he and other artists were jailed and blacklisted for their political beliefs.

Director
Jay Roach
Writers
Bruce Cook (book)
John McNamara (screenplay)
Cast
Bryan Cranston, Diane Lane, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Maldonado, John Getz, Laura Flannery, Helen Mirren, David James Elliott, Toby Nichols, Madison Wolfe


Reprise (2006)

Two competitive friends, fueled by literary aspirations and youthful exuberance, endure the pangs of love, depression and burgeoning careers.

Director
Joachim Trier
Writer
Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Cast
Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman Hoiner, Viktoria Winge, Odd-Magnus Williamson, Pal Stokka, Christian Rubeck


Stranger Than Fiction (2006)

I.R.S. auditor Harold Crick suddenly finds himself the subject of narration only he can hear: narration that begins to affect his entire life, from his work, to his love-interest, to his death.

Director
Marc Forster
Writer
Zach Helm
Cast
Will Farrell, Emma Thompson, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah,
Kristen Chenowith


Atonement (2007)

Thirteen-year-old fledgling writer Briony Tallis irrevocably changes the course of several lives when she accuses her older sister’s lover of a crime he did not commit.

Director
Joe Wright
Writers
Ian McEwan (novel)
Christopher Hampton (screenplay)
Cast
Kiera Knightly, James McAvoy, Saoirse Ronan, Brenda Blethyn, Harriet Walter


Ruby Sparks (2012)

A novelist struggling with writer’s block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.

Directors
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris
Writer
Zoe Kazan
Cast
Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Chris Messina, Annette Bening, Antonio Banderas, Asasif Mandivi, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould


Stuck in Love (2012)

An acclaimed writer, his ex-wife, and their teenaged children come to terms with the complexities of love in all its forms over the course of one tumultuous year.

Director
Josh Boone
Writers
Josh Boone, Rick Bitzelberger
Cast
Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, Lily Collins, Nat Wolff, Kristen Bell, Logan Lerman, Liana Liberato, Michael Goodwin, Stephen King (voice)


Adult World (2013)

A naive college graduate, Amy, who believes she’s destined to be a great poet, begrudgingly accepts a job in a shop while she pursues a mentorship with reclusive writer Rat Billings.

Director
Scott Coffey
Writer
Andy Cochran
Cast
Emma Roberts, Summer Shelton, Chris Riggi, Shannon Woodward, Catherine Lloyd Burns,
Reed Birney, Manu Gargi, Cloris Leachman


Nightcrawler (2014)

When Louis Bloom, a con man desperate for work, muscles into the world of L.A. crime journalism, he blurs the line between observer and participant to become the star of his own story.

Director
Dan Gilroy
Writer
Dan Gilroy
Cast
Jake Gyllenhaal, Bill Paxton, Michael Papajohn, Marco Rodriguez, Kent Shocknek, Pat Harvey, Sharon Tay, Rick Garcia


Spotlight (2015)

The true story of how the Boston Globe uncovered the massive scandal of child molestation and cover-up within the local Catholic Archdiocese, shaking the entire Catholic Church to its core.

Director
Tom McCarthy
Writers
Josh Singer, Tom McCarthy
Cast
Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Live Schreiber, John Slattery, Brian d’Arcy James, Stanley Tucci


Let Them All Talk (2020)

A famous author goes on a cruise trip with her friends and nephew in an effort to find fun and happiness while she comes to terms with her troubled past.

Director
Stephen Soderbergh
Writer
Deborah Eisenberg
Cast
Meryl Streep, Dianne Wiest, Candace Bergan, Gemma Chan, Lucas Hedges


Shirley (2020)

A famous horror writer finds inspiration for her next book after she and her husband take in a young couple.

Director
Josephine Decker
Writer
Susan Scarf Merrell (novel)
Sarah Gubbins (screenplay)
Cast
Elisabeth Moss, Odessa Young, Michael Stuhlbarg, Logan Lerman, Victoria Pedretti, Robert Wuhl

If I’ve missed one you know and love, please leave the title in the comments below, and I’ll add it to the list!

Sending you mad writing mojo…

Happy viewing!

Author Interview – Montrell “Chillin the Poet” Goss


What compelled you to tell the story/stories in your most recent book? (And specifically, why this genre?)

I wrote this story because a lot of the stories I listened to growing up were negative. They dealt with bullying and deaths. They had darkness. For example, the big bad wolf in The Three Little Pigs bullied them so he could eat them. In Goldilocks and the Three Bears she was responsible for breaking and entering and who looked bad? The bears. Those are just a couple of stories read to me over and over as a child. Hearing these stories put me in a place and created negative thoughts and from those thoughts, I became a bully. I found myself replaying what was read and taught to me. 

What obstacles—either inner or outer—did you encounter while writing the book?

When I was younger, a lot of my teachers judged me for not having a dad and labeled me a statistic. But I saw that what I learned was not right. So, with writing Chillin the Courageous Coyote Meets the Young Kids I was able to learn about myself, break the barriers and overcome the obstacles of judgment, and treat people who looked different than me or did not have as much as others may have had in a better way. 

How has writing your most recent book changed or added value to your life?

My book is not a traditional children’s book because my characters do not represent a certain race. They are multi-colored because I want every child to relate to the book. I have seen people not carry my book in their stores because I am a black author. However, through writing this book I have also gained a lot more respect and understanding from people that do not look like me. 

Did you self-publish, or did you go the traditional route? Why did you choose the route you chose, and what was that process like?

I chose to self-publish this book because I believe in myself, and I believe that people seem more genuine when you are self-published and trying to become more in life and become successful because they have seen my struggle and all the hard work it took to publish my books.

The process is easy for me because I have a team. I write the book and the team works on the other areas of the book before it can be published. For example, an illustrator from Forever Tattoo, a tattoo shot in Portland that sponsors me, helped me with the art for my first children’s book. I also have an editor I’ve worked with for the past few years

Are you friends with other writers? If so, how do they influence your writing? 

I am friends with other writers. We feed off of each other’s energy. We share thoughts and learn different writing styles from one another. It also helps see different views and brainstorm ideas. 

Do you maintain a regular writing practice? If so, what does it look like? If not, how do you stay engaged in your writing projects?

I stay engaged in my writing projects by writing the book. I go full force writing and completing it to have it out for people to purchase. My process for writing can be different, depending on the day. Sometimes I write every day. Other times, I write when I feel inspired, like when I’m watching a movie or a show and hear a word that inspires me to write. I also like to do free style where I just listen to music and say what is in my mind.

How many other books or stories do you have in progress right now?

I am in the process of writing my second book in a five-book series. In this story, we’ll find out if Triple C (Chillin’ the Courageous Coyote) will go to school. Stay tuned to find out.

Do you view writing as a spiritual practice?

I don’t view my writing as a spiritual practice, but I do believe that writing is a gift from God, and I use writing as a tool to speak. 

What would your life look like if you didn’t write?

Without writing I feel that my voice would not have been heard as much. Writing is a platform for me to speak to people in ways to share my story. Everyone has a story, and sometimes, they need to hear someone else’s story to help them speak. I believe that I do that for people. 

Why do you write?

I speak to people. I show people no matter the challenges in life they can overcome them. For me, I could not read or write well. I did not have any help from my teachers, so I taught myself and pushed myself. I took my pain of not knowing how to read or write well and turned into my passion. Now I am a published author.


Montrell “Chillin’thePoet” Goss grew up in a single-parent household. He is the youngest child among five siblings: three older brothers and a younger sister.

Growing up illiterate, Montrell made it his passion to teach himself how to read and write. Throughout his life, Montrell “Chillin’thePoet” Goss has experienced different adventures and achievements. Working as a coach, summer camp counselor, behavioral specialist with the school system, and now full time author “Chillin’thePoet,”  he has found himself in many positions that have allowed him to act as a male role model, and mentor to the people, especially youth, around him. Now the author of six books, Montrell’s mission is to try and help change stereotypes and statistics within the school system and his community through his writing. 

To learn more about Montrell and his work, visit his website: https://chillinscreations.com/