E26 – Interview With Our Mentor J. Thorn
In this episode, Miss Catherine M.H. introduces her Revision Wizards co-host, V.E. Griffith. VE goes over his love of plotting his own fantasy stories and the use of Scrivener. As an editor, he enjoys helping writers understand their own writing better, and teaching them how to grow their craft. He’s always learning and growing as a writer and has some great tips to share that will help anyone starting their editing journey.
Three Story Method: Foundations of Fiction by J. Thorn and Zach Bohannon
Three Story Method: Writing Scenes by J. Thorn
Three Story Method: Cowriting with ChatGPT: AI-Powered Storytelling
Find J. at https://theauthorlife.com
The Revision Wizards are at https://www.revisionwizards.com
V.E. Griffith’s website: https://www.vegriffith.com
Miss Catherine M.H.’s website: https://www.scribes-pen.com
Transcript at: https://revisionwizards.com/?p=2341
V.E. Griffith 00:00:00
Welcome to the Revision Wizards podcast. I’m Ve Griffith, and I’m joined by my fellow magician and co host, ms. Catherine MH.
Miss Catherine M.H. 00:00:08
This is episode 26, and this time we’re talking with our friend and mentor, J. Thorn. Once again, I’ve had some tech issues that VV was able to work around. You won’t be hearing my voice, but you will hear my awesome co-host work his magic and carry on with this interview. So with that, let’s both take a listen.
V.E. Griffith 00:00:29
So, okay, if you could tell us your name and your pronouns today.
J. Thorn 00:00:33
I am J. Thorn, and my pronouns are he, him.
V.E. Griffith 00:00:36
Well, great. Thank you very much. Okay, we’ll start because we’re both Three Story Method editors, and we wanted to focus a little bit on that today. Can you give us a brief rundown of how you came up with the idea for the Three Story Method? Where did that book come from? And the supporting materials?
J. Thorn 00:00:54
Yeah, like most good ideas, it came from a conversation in a bar. I don’t know if that’s true or not. I don’t know if most good ideas come from a bar, but either that or the shower. Yeah, that or the shower, right? Yeah. Well, you’ll know why it wasn’t the shower when I tell this story? I don’t know. Maybe you won’t. Maybe you wouldn’t make assumptions, but me and my good buddy and business partner Zach Bohannon were in New Orleans doing well. We didn’t call it then, but it was the first authors on a Train experience with Joanna Penn and Lindsay Broker. And we were sort of at the end of that trip, and we were sitting in a bar, and I don’t drink, but Zach was having a beer and probably a burger with no cheese and barbecue sauce. And we were talking about the trip and the experience and just how transformative it was. And we started talking about doing more author events because the one we did with Joanna. and Lindsay, we were just four friends hanging out. It wasn’t a workshop. It was just the four writers kind of hanging out. And Zach and I kind of had this idea, like, wow, we could host events like this for other writers. And when we told Joanna and Lindsay, they were both like, that sounds amazing. We’re not part of that, but that sounds amazing. I was like, cool. Zach and I. So we talked about it, and we started developing these different workshop opportunities. So Authors on a Train obviously became one, but we also did these world building weekends where we would we would pick a city, and we would pick a city that sort of had some sort of significance to a genre. Like, the best examples we did Sci-fi seattle. Seattle is really known for, like, aerospace technology. And so we went to Seattle and we did a weekend workshop with folks there working on a Sci-fi project. And basically what we would do is we would create these anthologies, charity anthologies, and everyone who was at the event would would write a short story and contribute to it. And in that process, we were teaching the way Zach and I had co written up until that point. And I don’t remember which one of us said it to the other, but we were like, you know what? We should codify this. We should document this process. Because we were just stunned at how the attendees, they just couldn’t get enough of it. They’re like, oh my gosh, this is so helpful. And it’s like, you know how when you’re good at something and you’ve done it for a long time, you kind of forget that you’ve built that skill set or that you learned that stuff? And so for us, it was like, oh, right, we’ve been doing this for years together, but other people don’t know about it. And so that was where three story method began. It was like, let’s create a system. Let’s develop a framework that we can just sort of hand off to other authors, whether that’s at events, and eventually that led to the book and other things. But really it began because it was something we shared with other people. It wasn’t our plan, but as we shared this process, they were like, wow, that’s great. We want to learn that too.
V.E. Griffith 00:04:09
Cool. Okay, Miss. Catherine is having some connection problems, but we’ll go on. She’s a pantser and a real over-writer. She writes a lot. How do you feel like the three story method helps pantsers who hate to outline? Or is it something that a pantser would use after the story is done and sort of fix it in post?
J. Thorn 00:04:30
Yeah, I would say it’s that. When we were co writing I won’t make absolutes here or sweeping generalizations, but I think it’s extremely difficult to co write with someone and both of you be panthers. It’s just really hard to pull off. When Zach and I were writing together, we had to have a plan. We had to know where the story was going, because it’s different if you’re by yourself. You can go off on tangents. You can cut things, you can add things, but if you’re writing with someone else, you got to have a plan. Otherwise it kind of grinds to a halt. So, in all honesty, the three story method was developed to be the front end planning tool, so that you didn’t waste time and didn’t waste words. However, I’ve gone back and forth on that spectrum my entire career. I’m trending more towards pantsing now, which is a whole another conversation, but I’ve gone from sort of like hardcore outliner to show up to a blank page, and I’ve been everywhere in between on that. And I think what we realized early on was that pantsers were finding three story method valuable, not because it helped them to outline, but because they used it as an analytical tool on their draft, and so there isn’t one way to use it. Different people use it in different ways. I think the evolution of the tool is such that it seems to be a much more powerful tool at the scene level versus the global story level, which is that’s just kind of how it’s evolved. So if you look at the three C’s in the scene, whether you’re planning that out ahead of time or you’re looking for it after you’ve drafted, either way, it’s extremely powerful. I think there are probably better methodologies for global storytelling, like Save the Cats is one that I reference and use all the time. But, yeah, I don’t think there’s a wrong way to use it. I don’t think it excludes pantsers by any means, but it was developed as a planning tool.
V.E. Griffith 00:06:32
Okay, well, the world has shifted just a little bit with AI. And I know that you’re one of those leaders in the author community who’s sort of blazing the trail here. How do you see the three story method playing a role in teaching our artificial tools and how to use those artificial tools with the three story method?
J. Thorn 00:06:56
Yeah. Blazing the path or burning the place down. It’s going to be one of the two. I’m not quite sure where it’s going to end up. Yeah, it is a fast moving conversation. The pace of change right now is overwhelming for everyone, myself included. It’s really hard to keep up. It’s normal to feel frustrated, disappointed, frightened, and I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. I don’t know how I feel about it long term. Some mornings I wake up and I feel like AI is going to save the world, and other mornings I wonder if I’m going to wake up in a world still controlled by humans. But here’s what I do know, and here’s what I’m very confident in saying right now. As of what I see right now, the stuff isn’t going away. AI is not going to be I don’t care what you see on TV. It’s not going to be regulated. It’s not going to be banned. It’s not going to be stopped because this is a global thing. Now, if the United States takes some sort of draconian measure and there’s some I don’t think this is possible, but there’s some way that they ban or regulate or restrict that development is just going to go to other countries. It’s going to go to China, it’s going to go to Russia. So AI, as a concept, is going to be part of our lives for the rest of our lives. That I absolutely believe is true. And so that’s the approach I’m taking. I’m being very pragmatic about it. I’m somewhat optimistic. I think if you’re not optimistic, then you’re going to have a miserable life. If you’re waiting for AI to take your job, then the time you spend worrying is just wasted time in my opinion. So I try to be pretty positive about it, and I am most days, but it’s inevitable. I don’t think it’s something you can stop. As we’re having this conversation, I’m getting ready to publish a three story method book on co writing with Chad GPT. So I’m embracing it, I’m playing, I’m trying. I will also acknowledge I’m doing this from a place of privilege, in that most of my revenue and my income comes from author services and editing and client work. It doesn’t come from royalties. So I really don’t care what anyone thinks about me using AI in writing. Not all authors have that privileged position, and there is still a lot of stigma attached to it. And in fact, there are groups roaming the internet as trolls who are trying to take down authors who are experimenting with this new technology. So it’s a crazy time. I just don’t see it rolling back and I don’t see it going away.
V.E. Griffith 00:09:44
Well, tell us about this new book that you have. This episode is going to air in July, so tell us about it. What’s new? What’s different? What do you bring into the table with it?
J. Thorn 00:09:58
Yeah, by July, this whole conversation about Chat GPT might be completely dated. What I did was the first thing I did is I went to what I knew and what I realized when I started experimenting with chat GPT and really with AI prompts in general is it’s not the prompt, it’s not the AI. You almost have to become a director instead of a writer. So if you think of, in movie terms, a director is a storyteller, but they’re not necessarily putting the words down on the screenplay, right? But they have creative control of whatever piece of art is being created. And when I started playing with chat GPT and I saw some of the sort of snarky comments online of like, well, look what it returned. And I’m kind of like that’s, kind of like saying word doesn’t work well because you can’t type. Right? What you put into it is what you’re going to get out of it. And what I started to realize was there is this very nuanced, experiential approach to prompts that depending on what you put in, is going to be highly dependent on what you get out. And old computer programmers used to call this GIGO for garbage in, garbage out. It’s not that straightforward. But the idea is, I believe that a new skill set that writers will either develop or they will cease to be writers is this idea of directing the AI and being able to tell it what you want. And the reason I hook this on the three story method is because that makes a tremendous difference. Right? So I’ve published dozens of novels and I’ve been in this industry for a long time and I’ve written a lot of words. And so if I sit down and I have chat GPT write me a scene or a short story. My prompt is going to look very different than someone who is brand new to creative writing. And they’re just sitting down, they don’t know how to direct the AI, and I do. So I think at least for now, I mean, the AI might get good enough that this is irrelevant, hopefully not by July. But I really feel like there’s an opportunity here for experienced storytellers to take all of that wisdom and all of the skills and all of the knowledge that they’ve accumulated and use that to teach other people how to direct the AI. And I think that’s going to be the case for text based prompts, for images, for video. Eventually it’s just like putting a camera in a hand of a professional photographer. They’re going to take a very different picture than I am.
V.E. Griffith 00:12:39
Okay, that’s really cool. I’m personally looking forward to playing with the AI and seeing what I can do with it. I’m not as far advanced as you are. I really need to sit down and learn how to write the prompts and teach it the three story method because I use that as an analytical tool also, and I’m really looking forward to it. What do you see happening next for the three story method? Where are we going, oh, fearless leader?
J. Thorn 00:13:08
Well, I think right now, not sure. I hadn’t planned on another three story method book. I know that you guys are certified editors, so you know that sort of internally I said that. I’ve kind of said all I want to say about writing process. I kind of opened the door for editors who have different expertise to be able to write within that brand because it’s a very respected brand in the indie publishing community. But for me personally, I had said, well, like I said, I wrote the flagship book and Zach contributed to that. And then I wrote one on writing scenes, and I was kind of like, I don’t know, there’s a few others, but I think I want the editors to kind of take the baton and run with it until a month ago. And then I realized, like, wow, I could use Chat GPT and I could apply three story method principles and that would be a very different kind of book. So, like, if you go on Amazon, there’s already a flood of write ten x faster and get filthy rich with Chat GPT. And that’s not what this is, and that’s not what I’m trying to do. So I think with three story method as a brand, we’re kind of in a holding pattern right now. I don’t have plans on certifying any more editors. I feel like the editors who serve our community, I think it’s a good ratio right now, and I don’t want to upset that. So I’m not going to certify any more editors. And I think there’s still some technology that has to shake out and I think there’s opportunity using AI as an author coach or a book coach, I think that’s something three story method editors can choose to pursue if they want, and I’d be happy to help. As far as the brand is concerned, I know Zach and I, we have talked about starting the workshops up again, and all the workshops we’ve done have been we’ve used three story method as sort of the foundational element of that, but the pandemic had kind of sidelined that we did authors on a Train, California. We got back from that about three weeks before the world shut down, and we’ve had a hard time getting live events up and running again. And I don’t know, we sort of bring it every couple of months. We’re like, hey, how about now? And it’s like, Nah, not quite yet. So maybe 2024, we’ll bring some events back. And again, those will be based three story method.
V.E. Griffith 00:15:43
Okay. I’m looking forward to and I’ve never done one of those events myself, obviously. I did the Three story method Editor certification, and I’ve done it twice, which I absolutely loved and found it really helpful for both my own work and for assisting clients.
J. Thorn 00:15:58
You’re a masochist.
V.E. Griffith 00:16:02
You guys are my favorite people I know.
J. Thorn 00:16:05
I loved having you.
V.E. Griffith 00:16:08
All right, well, where can we find you on the net? Where can I look you up and harass you?
J. Thorn 00:16:14
Yeah, theauthorlife.com is the place to go. Everything is there. All the resources, books, podcast. It’s also where you can join the community. Zach Bohannon is taking over the reins. I’m still part of that community. I’ll still be in there, but he’s kind of going to inject some new life and some new blood into the leadership element of that. And so, yeah, it’s strong as ever, and it’s a free community, so if anyone’s listening and they want to join, you just have to apply. But there’s no charge. And we’re really proud of the people there and the spirit of that community. We believe it’s like no other online. We feel like we have the best author community out there, so come join us.
V.E. Griffith 00:16:53
Yeah, I’m in several author communities, and the author life community is the one that I started with, really, and the one that I love the most. It’s my go to for questions, for comments, for any kind of author interaction. So it really works for me. Okay, great. Then with that, we will go ahead and hang it up for this week. Unless we missed anything. Did we miss anything?
J. Thorn 00:17:19
I don’t think so. I think we hit the highlights.
V.E. Griffith 00:17:22
Okay, then we’ll leave it here and see everybody next time. Thanks very much for listening.