Word Count 7: Story indecision, Invisible Women, an innovative book marketing campaign and CokeZero

by Suw on June 28, 2022

Hi there,

Last week, I was congratulating myself on making a swift decision to book a spot on a script editing course. This week, I am vacillating over whether to take Robert McKee’s three-day Story and one-day Comedy courses in November.

McKee’s book Story is a classic of the story analysis genre and his in-person course gets good reviews, even if he himself sounds like a bit of a reactionary curmudgeon: He enforces £10 fines if you’re caught looking at your phone and if you’re late you’re not allowed in, which makes me wonder if he’s ever actually encountered the London Underground.

The four days come in at a whopping £1,048 plus travel and food which I’d estimate at about £350. On the one hand, the course isn’t until November and I could save up. On the other, would I get £1,400 worth of learning out of it? And on the third hand, what else could I do with that money?

More pertinently for me, though: Do I want to  take part in what sounds like awful pedagogy? Do I really want to spend four days fearing public humiliation? The whole thing feels like it has a bit too much patriarchal bullshit in it for my tastes.

Writing women: How does Default Man affect your female characters?

Caroline Criado-PerezI’ve long been a fan of Caroline Criado-Perez’s insightful feminism and ability to explain in stark terms how women are so often treated as if we’re just small men. If you want to understand the challenges that women come up against every single day, you can do no better thing than sign up to her Invisible Women newsletter.

As women, we’re so used to a world designed for and aimed at Default Man that it’s easy to forget how skewed the world is. And I suspect that many men have just never realised that women aren’t treated as their own class of people. Every decision based on male data, ignoring women, is a choice made by another human being. A bad choice.

Your characters will make these bad choices, and your female characters will have to live with the consequences. There’s so much opportunity to create challenges for your characters whilst illustrating real world problems, and Criado-Perez’s newsletter provides a rich vein for you to mine, as does her excellent book, Invisible Women. If you haven’t read it, you really must.

Innovative book marketing campaign of the week*

LJ Ross

Crime author LJ Ross, who is best known for her DCI Ryan series, is giving away five “golden tickets” worth £2,000 each, in the form of vouchers to attractions and businesses in some of the Northumbrian locations featured in her novels. This is the second time Ross has run this competition, so it must work!

I love this campaign, it’s generous, clever and heartwarming. It supports local independent businesses, who’ve had a hard time of it over the last three years, and it’s a great hook for traditional and social media coverage. It seems that Ross is a keen supporter of non-profits and prizes in support of the arts, literacy and local business, and I have to admit that makes me more likely to buy one of her books.

The closing date for this competition is Thursday 30 June and you don’t need to buy a book to enter, so if you’re in that neck of the woods get to it!

* Possibly year.

Read this: The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr

One of my favourite books on story is The Science of Storytelling by Will Storr. Rather than use the lens of arcs and beats, Storr explores the psychology of stories. If we are to write captivating narratives, we need to understand why people keep on reading. And to create compelling characters, we need to know why people act the way they do. Leaning on scientific research in the areas of psychology and neuroscience, Storr provides a very readable guide to understanding our readers, our characters and, indeed, ourselves.

The Science of Storytelling is unlike any other book on writing that I’ve ever read, and it’s one that I go back to again and again. In fact, I love it so much that I scanned my hard copy and put it on my iPad so that I can mark it up with notes. Unlike many books that read well but ultimately aren’t actionable, this one has so much good information you will need to read it more than once. It’s a book worth embedding in your subconscious so that your storytelling mind can draw from its wellspring with ease.

Obligatory cat picture

Meet CokeZero, one of the cats featured on Ewan Spence’s new podcast, My Cat’s Tale. Like many cats, CokeZero loves to wrestle and her human, Kira, realised that CokeZero was probably her ring name, her real name being Kokoro which is the Japanese for ‘heart’ or ‘spirit’. Of course, she has lots of other names, such as Cake and Conk and Cork, amongst many others.


Not that I’d ever give a cat multiple names. Copurrnicus/Moolie/Moolie Woolie/Big Guy and Grabbity/Princes Pinknose/Princess Fluffytail/Madame Pantaloons/The Girl/Moolie Girl/Girly Whirl would both know absolutely nothing about that at all.

Ewan also talks to the human companions of Stevie the Evil Cat who thinks he’s Jason Statham, and Moet, a rescue cat who went blind as a kitten from neglect, so if you’re a cat person, give My Cat’s Tale a listen wherever you get your podcasts and follow on Twitter and Facebook.

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget, if you’re interested in any of the authors or books I’ve mentioned in my newsletters, I’ve added them to my Bookshop list where possible.

All the best,


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