Kat: Story Telling: An Agent’s Perspective

In the video linked below, Julian Friedmann (Agent Provocateur) labels agents “pimps” and writers “egotistical”. He’s outrageous, funny, and anyone who wants to be a successful writer should at least listen to his advice.  Here’s a preview of what he has to say:

Millions of people want to write. Why?:

  1. Sheer Egotism
  2. Immortality
  3. Getting back at people who put you down.
  4. Trying to make the world a better place.

His favorite quote (and mine from his talk) is by Samuel Johnson who said after reviewing a friend’s manuscript: “Your work is both good and original. Unfortunately the part that is good is not original and the part that is original is not good.”

And a few bits of wisdom:

  1. “Agents are in the business of rejection.”
  2. Most of what he sees isn’t very good, in fact “it’s extremely boring”. (because let’s face it, most of our lives are boring).
  3. He believes the best stories follow a formula: Pity. Fear. Catharsis
  4. Great writers have experienced LOTS of rejection.
  5. “It takes an incredible amount of courage to put your soul on paper and have…people trample all over it.”

The video runs just over 18 minutes, but there’s some good stuff in there. Check out The Mystery of Storytelling and then come back share which comment outraged (or amused) you most.

10 thoughts on “Kat: Story Telling: An Agent’s Perspective

  1. Great TED talk. Now I’m asking myself–is that scene entertaiing? Or is it just some message I’m trying to send.out of egotism, a desire for immortality, a desire to change the world or to get back at someone? Thanks for posting!

    • I think as long as we stick to Jenny’s rule on scenes (conflict, moves the story forward, etc. etc.) the rest of it isn’t worth thinking about.

      What I found more interesting was his perception of writers and the manuscripts he sees. From here on out, I’ll have a different mindset when I sit across from an agent/editor.

  2. It looks interesting. I’ll put it in my queue to watch while I’m on the elliptical (that is my TED talk time). I always thought I wrote to get the voices out of my head. It must be for some other reason. 🙂

    • It’s complicated for me. On one level some of what he says hits home, but honestly, most of the reasons he lists wouldn’t keep most of us going for very long. We have to love writing to keep at it the way we do.

  3. Really interesting and enjoyable link, Kat, thank you! I don’t think I’m writing out of egotism or in a quest for immortality. I know I’m not trying to get back at people who did me wrong – I’m of the ‘best revenge is living well’ school. Perhaps I’m trying to make the world a better place. I think that’s what a good romance does, so I’ll sign up for that 🙂 .

    • I noticed he didn’t mention love of the thing or artistic expression or because something undefinable pushes us to do so. I also think we have more than reason for writing, at least I do, and I find I’m motivated to keep going by different things at different times.

  4. My favorite line: “You will be rejected by people who probably aren’t as creative or talented as you.” Words to live by.

    As for why I write? It’s to make the world a better place for ME (I guess that’s egotism?). I like to write. I like the challenge. Of course, I’m not published yet, but for me, it satisfies my brain.

  5. Good video. Tough audience.

    The thing I took away from it was Aristotle’s Poetics. Friedmann talks about it as a progression: pity (compassion for the characters), fear (fear for their safety?), and catharsis. Luckily, I was on YouTube, and found two interesting videos to help explain these. There’s a five minute, sped-up overview of Poetics here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Kqxm6DJ2dI and the principles applied to a tragic infomercial here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=41cMNrh7yYA

    Oh, and Friedmann doesn’t tell us is that it applies to tragedy, not comedy. Comedy is a different beast, and that book is lost to time, apparently.

    But what he said about fiction serving as a practice ground for fear made a lot of sense to me, and kind of tied back to the discussion we had about Kay’s post about Scott Adams.

    It’s really hard for me to make characters pitiful. I want them to be strong right from the beginning. And I despise the place where the author makes the characters pitiful from the beginning, and doesn’t give us anything to admire and respect. The little, unloved orphan snivelling in the muddy ruts of a village road — I feel like the author is deliberately manipulating me with that scenario. I want to see at least some spark of . . . dignity? anger?

    Really good food for thought.

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