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What’s the point of storytelling? Why do we need good stories, and what do they have to teach us about the choices we make?

What Makes Great Stories: Shawn Coyne

In this episode of Character Test, I talk with one of my favorite editors about his own journey through book publishing and what it takes to write—and live—a great story.

Shawn Coyne is an editor with over twenty-five years of experience in New York publishing. He climbed the ranks at Big Five publishers for years before founding his own publishing company. He’s also the creator of Story Grid, an amazing tool for understanding story and editing books. He trains writers and editors in what it takes to write a great story at storygrid.com.

Listen to our conversation on the podcast on Apple Podcasts, Android, Spotify, Stitcher, SimpleCast, or here below:

Great stories are created by great characters, and not only does Shawn understand how to tell a great story, but he’s an inspiring character himself. In this episode, we talk about some of the most impressive—and most challenging—parts of his own journey, like:

  • How he went from biochemistry to book editing.
  • Why he decided to start his own publishing company, and why that wasn’t as satisfying as he expected.
  • What he’s learned from story theory that helps him make tough decisions.
  • What Hannibal Lecter and Fitzwilliam Darcy have in common.

I’ve been following Shawn for a long time, and he’s always fascinating to talk to, but in this episode he shares stories that I’ve never heard anywhere else, including how he met his wife, the time he seemed to get a promise of admission into Harvard Med School but then chose to join a theater company instead, and how he bounced around NY Publishing while slowly losing faith in it until he quit for good.

It’s a fascinating interview and I know if you’re a writer you’re going to get so much out of it.

You can find Shawn on storygrid.com and hear more of him on the Story Grid podcast.

Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting
Joe Bunting is an author and the founder of The Write Practice. He is the author of the #1 Amazon Bestseller Let's Write a Short Story! You can follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).
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