Story Nerd

Story Nerd

The Story Nerd Podcast demystifies story theory so writers spend less time studying and more time writing. Literary editors and writers, Valerie Francis and Melanie Hill, analyze a film a week as an example of a storytelling principle. The show focuses on concepts common to all stories across film, television, novels and screenplays.

Episodes

September 28, 2022 32 min
Valerie and Melanie are kicking off a brand new season of the Story Nerd podcast with a high level look at both sequences, and the beginnings and endings of stories. If you want to learn how the first act of a story telegraphs the last, or how to break your manuscript down into easily-manageable sequences, be sure to tune in.
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To wind up the season, Valerie and Melanie summarize what they've learned about the hero's gift expressed and forces of antagonism, and they offer their best advice about how you can get these storytelling principles working in your own novel. This is an episode you'll want to bookmark!
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September 14, 2022 34 min
It's hard to know quite where this film went off the rails, but certainly, one of the main problems is that there isn't any real conflict or tension. Just as tension begins to form, it fizzles, and so too does the viewer's interest. Why did this happen and how can you avoid it in your story?
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If you've ever been told to "show, don't tell" then you'll want to listen to this episode because the truth is that exposition (i.e., "tell") is an effective storytelling tool. This film is a brilliant example of forces of antagonism, the hero's gift expressed, and just about every other storytelling principle you can think of — including exposition.
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August 31, 2022 45 min
Well, the good news is that as writers we often learn more from the stories that don't work, than from the stories that do work. Booksmart is a great example of what not to do. Are you making any of the same mistakes as these screenwriters?
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This might be one of Agatha Christie's best known mysteries, but does it work for a modern audience? This week, Valerie and Melanie analyze Sir Kenneth Branagh's version of Christie's classic tale, and discuss just how far into a story the inciting incident can be. And don't miss Melanie's super sleuth skills in action as she uncovers a major plot hole that has to do with Poirot's famous moustache.
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The writing in this film is nothing short of masterful. Among the many reasons to study it is the way it develops Society as a force of antagonism. The heroine isn't just battling men, she's up against women, societal attitudes, and institutions too.
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August 10, 2022 50 min
In the first 10 pages of your story, you need to give the ending away. Sounds crazy, right? But, it's true. Why on earth would we do that? It would ruin the story, wouldn't it? Nope. When done right, it makes the story better. How would we do it? Listen to this episode to find out.
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August 3, 2022 42 min
Did you know that if the alter ego doesn't have a gift to express, the superhero doesn't have a superpower? In this episode Valerie and Melanie discuss the importance of Carol Danvers's gift, and how expressing it ultimately enables her to both outsmart and overpower the forces of antagonism.
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This week's episode is a bit of a throwback to season one, as Valerie and Melanie debate the genre and whether the antagonist is a monster, or a man who is monstrous. (In the world of storytelling, there's a big difference!) What do you think, is The Invisible Man a horror or a thriller?
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July 20, 2022 39 min
You can't go wrong with a performance story; it's a crowd-pleaser every time. With this genre, the opponent is usually the sole antagonist. But this film has a whole host of antagonists working together to complicate the plot and make life for the heroine very, very difficult. How did the writers weave together multiple forces of antagonism so seamlessly? Tune in to find out.
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July 13, 2022 39 min
We're kicking off a new season with a focus on two new storytelling principles! In Season 2, Valerie is studying The Hero's Gift Expressed and Melanie is studying Forces of Antagonism. Legally Blonde is a beautiful example of both!
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July 6, 2022 34 min
In this episode, Valerie and Melanie review their key takeaways from the ten films they studied this season. Tune in to learn their best advice for authors, ah-ha moments and resource recommendations.
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June 29, 2022 43 min
Dune is a true feast for the eyes, and it's got the Oscars to prove it. However, none of the awards (or nominations) were for the writing and there's an obvious reason for that. Join Valerie and Melanie as they do a deep dive into the storytelling aspect of this popular film.
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If you plan to blend genres in your novel, then do yourself a favour and tune in to this week's episode of Story Nerd. Maybe it's a western and maybe it isn't. Maybe it's something entirely new. Jane Campion and the entire team of professionals brought their A-Game to this one!
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June 15, 2022 47 min
Oh dear. The scales have fallen from Melanie's eyes this week as she analyzed one of her favourite films. The "spectacle" of film sure does make the movie-going experience a whole lot of fun, but when we strip away the soundtrack, the CGI, the costumes and the actors we admire, we're left with the story. Sometimes that makes us love our favourite stories even more, and sometimes it doesn't.
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Puzzled about what it takes to write a great mystery? Then grab your notebook because this episode is chock-full of tips. No red herrings in this show, we promise!
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There's no question that Aaron Sorkin is a master storyteller, and the craft on display here is next level stuff. But, it doesn't necessarily mean the story works. In this episode, Melanie attempts to untangle the genre while Valerie discusses the hazards of prioritizing elevated writing technique over fundamental storytelling basics.
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While this film may not be listed among Pixar's Top 10, there's still plenty to love about Turning Red and we need more stories that explore these themes. From a craft perspective, Melanie sees it as a good example of how the beginning of a story sets up the end, and Valerie considers whether the red panda is a metaphor that works.
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In this episode, Melanie takes us on a deep dive of spy stories, their conventions and subgenres. It turns out that what we usually think of as spy stories might not be spy stories at all! Meanwhile, Valerie examines the testing plot and offers advice about how to write historical fiction that works.
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