Top Gun for Story Structure & Life Lessons

I watched a tutorial today based on the movie Top Gun illustrating how a story structure (or screenplay) loops around in a circle, where you are back to the state of equilibrium at the end after everything you throw at your protagonist. Of course it must include an arc that has led the protag from here to there and they are presumably much better off/more mature, etc.  Isn’t that how life is supposed to be? We are constantly seeking that equilibrium after life throws us for a loop? Pun intended. And we should get from point A to point B older, wiser and better?

But, if we look to the spiritual side of things (yes, getting deep here), I think in life’s lessons if God is out of the loop, you won’t reach the better end of the character arc. You will get from point A to point B and will not be better off, may be more immature, and certainly won’t be wiser.  You will instead be frustrated, angry, confused, broken or lonely.  Too many people end up there.  And that’s not a fun story to read let alone live through.

Thankfully, the story featured in the tutorial was one of my favorite movies of all time: Top Gun (1986, baby). But if Goose wouldn’t have died and Maverick didn’t have to go through somewhat of a spiritual struggle (with God, I’m presuming—in a secular movie, I like to make assumptions), it wouldn’t have been as transformative. And I’m sorry, but you can’t get a better story for learning the landmarks of story structure than Top Gun (this is my own analysis):

Hook—Maverick gets chance to go to Top Gun because top pilot has melt down

Set-up—Off to Top Gun Academy, romantic interest introduced

First Plot Point—Screws up and has to prove credibility

Midpoint–Goose dies, Maverick blames himself

Second Plot Point—instructor Viper tells him about his father, regains confidence

Resolution—graduation, ready for future

Climax—Best mission of his life, uses lessons he learned

Post-Climax—Buzz the tower, of course! And will come back as instructor

Maverick’s character arc is phenomenal. Plus the movie has Tom Cruise before he got weird and Val Kilmer at the top of his game—win win!

Would you look at that I just blogged in a loop.

Professional VS. Brutal (Who Would Win?)

As a hospital nurse, I educate patients to take their “medications as directed” and tell them why and common side effects, etc. Plus at discharge, nurses address lifestyle choices on the surface level and send patients out the door, hoping for the best and hoping the primary care offices can take over from there. We say what we are supposed to say and make sure patients and families understand all the instructions. But, has anyone ever tested whether brutal, frank, coarse honesty works even better? I bet that hasn’t been tested. Too risky. Hurts feelings. No one would consent.

Okay, but I’m using my imagination because it’s my blog.

For instance, instead of saying,” you must taper your prednisone as instructed or you can potentially experience weakness, fatigue and gastric upset,” we say, “if you don’t taper the steroid, you’ll feel like shit.” Which would actually work better? Instead of saying “you must quit smoking because it increases your risk of heart and lung disease,” we say, “if you don’t quit, we’ll be booking you a hospital bed in six months for a complication your bank account can’t cover.” Hmmm, might it be food for thought? Might it have planted a bigger, faster seed toward change? How about for alcoholics, instead of handing off the list of resources and keeping our fingers crossed that something might work, we say, “if this doesn’t end, you will eventually need a new liver, but you won’t qualify for one so better plan on turning yellow and having a beach ball abdomen we have to drain fluid from.” Hmmmm, again, totally inappropriate, but would it work?

Now, to be brutally honest with myself, I wouldn’t be the best person to deliver frank statements. My compassion and gentleness are gifts that thankfully surface while I’m working. Sometimes, though, I wonder if my smile and gentle nudges make a difference. Well, if they don’t, at least my prayers might. And with that, God please bless my patients, they know not what they do. (LOL, just kidding, sometimes).

Between Good Sleep and Bad

In the morning, I stand at a precipice

If well rested, I stand still

Keep my plans for the day, perhaps

A run, a story, at my will.


If well rested, I stand still

And oversee the day’s events

Grocery, laundry, never dawdle

Get things done—it just makes sense.


Keep my plans for the day, perhaps

Yummy dinner in the crock,

Vacuum, pick up, feed the dog,

But too soon, it’s three o’clock!


A run, a story, at my will

I had thought at start of day

And not waste a rested brain

On slick diversions, candid play.


In the morning, I stand at a precipice

If not rested, jump and blame

Poor sleep for lack of progress

Odd . . . the day still looks the same.

My Eyelid Has a Message

My left eyelid has been twitching for about two months. I like to work with objective data, so I’ve made some observations during an eight-hour drive home from North Carolina and during mass on Sunday: the twitch can occur up to 6 times in an hour, but mostly it’s about 3 times an hour. According to, “The most common causes of eyelid twitch are stress, fatigue, and caffeine. To ease eye twitching, you might want to try the following: Drink less caffeine. Get adequate sleep.” Excellent advice. Except when stress comes from work, kids, husband, or trying to get published, I’d like my eyelid to know I’m doing the best I can, give me a break. And fatigue? Well, that has a remedy, it’s called caffeine. Get adequate sleep? Actually, I usually do even though I’d love to say I stay up late writing, but every time I’ve tried it, I have to rewrite everything the next day anyway. Drink less caffeine? Where will my jolt of energy come from to deal with the work, kids, husband, and writing? In other words, the eyelid twitching is here to stay. Just hope it doesn’t affect my writ-it-it-ing. Oh, sorry, my eyelid was twitching.

Alice was Curious. Aren’t You?

Curiosity prompted Alice to try mysterious potions in Wonderland. But under what circumstances would you drink from an elixir marked “drink me”?

a. If my doctor told me to.

b. If it promises to get rid of unflattering cellulite.

c. If the label is written in pretty cursive frosting.

d. If it will turn me into Super Literary Agent who publishes whatever book I read.

e. None of the above, but . . .  (Aha! You must answer with a comment!)

If you answered a) you either have a very trustworthy doctor, or you are from the silent generation. If you answered b) you may need to seek help for being delusional, but promise you’ll let me know if I am wrong. If you answered c) you and I may be related. And if you answered d) give me a call.