A New Story [Perhaps]

An excerpt from a new story in the paranormal field. Copyright Rose Brimson & Cage Dunn 2017 (of course).


Scene 1

“It’s a beautiful old house. Probably best described as original, ’cos it needs a fair amount of work, but I’m sure there’ll be someone to do work in the area – it’s a farming region, so lots of trades in those places.”

The words seemed to ring in Anna’s head as she sat in her car and stared at the house. Yes, it was beautiful. Once. A long time ago. Not now. Original. Yes. Raw timber because the paint had flaked off decades ago. That real estate agent was going to cop it when she found him. And the contract of sale would be withdrawn. She had three days left of the cooling-off period.

How long would it take to get the deposit back?

Hot sun streamed onto her denim-covered legs and she opened the door to get out. At least she could look around, and tell the miserable, low-down, rotten-stinking-lying pretty-boy prick that she’d inspected the place and found it to be not as advertised. That would be enough to ensure she could back out.

One of the windows glinted. A movement? From inside? No. Just a breeze. Were there still curtains? Or was it the casement falling out? She shook her head. Stupid, really, but she felt a need to look. To check. To make sure.

All her savings, all her money, was tied up in this. Her future. Hmmmppphhhh! If she were a bloke, she’d spit on it.

There were no trees to park under, no bushes, no shrubs, no green lawns – no grass at all, just dust and gravel and rocks – and so hot the black asphalt stuck to her sandals as she ticky-tacked across the road to inspect the house that should have been her new home.

One hand grabbed the veranda post as her foot landed on the first step and sank. And sank. She stepped back with a gasp.

Rotten.

Her fingers clawed at the soft timber of the post. Rotten.

She glared at the boards on the wrap-around veranda. Holes, warped boards, the hum of wasps from somewhere below the gaps. Rotten.

Nails stuck up at odd angles, lay on the surface, or produced rusty circles on the timber. Anna raised her eyes to the entrance. The door hung partly open, twisted into a shape that meant that’s probably where it’d been for decades. Rotten. Everything was rotten, rotten, rotten.

Her chest expanded with a gust of breath as she stepped backwards and turned back to the front gate. The long grass to left and right was too tall to walk through with sandals on, but she had to get around the back. She had to see just how bad it was, document it all and compare it to the photos on the web, so she could back out of the deal.

So far, her life hadn’t changed at all.

Puffs of dust followed her footsteps down the rutted driveway. The equally-spaced paths were well-tamped. Nothing would ever grow there, and it gave her a safer place to walk. But she stomped anyway. Just in case of Joe Blakes. That would really be the final straw.

The back door was open, resting against the torn-off flyscreen framed in curlicues of pink-painted wood. That would be worth rescuing. Except not by her. She wouldn’t be here, would she?

No.

Anna stepped up onto the concrete slab that passed for a patio or veranda. The timber that held up the roof was solid, but paint peeled in long scrabbles down to lay at the base. One fingernail pushed as hard as possible and didn’t sink in. She turned toward the back entrance, squealed as a spider web drifted down across her forehead. She swiped and slapped until she was sure it was gone.

Crap!

A grimy bannister brush lay against an old timber fruit-crate. She leaned down and picked it up, held it up in the air as she stepped through the back door, literally, when it crumpled to frothy lumps at the first turn of the old handle.

Crap!

More and more like her life, but with more dust.

The light was dim. The layers of dust and grime didn’t help. Ash and greasy yellow marks slid along the walls of the kitchen. Anna knew it was the kitchen because of the table, the chairs, the trough-sink, and the wood-stove tucked into the wall.

A wood-stove. She’d always wanted a wood stove. A dream, because she remembered the tales of her gran and the time it took to get it started, the time it took each morning to prepare, the time it took to ensure enough wood for the season. But it was beautiful. Solid iron, all the doors and lids, the lid-lifter hook, the green enamel doors, the black sliding grate. Two fingers caressed the cold enamel, ran along the full length of the old lady. Bits of ash drifted to the floor.

Anna smiled and looked around. The small door on the left, between the stove and the trough, showed a pantry. Things were set up on shelves, too dust-covered to see what they were, or had been. She closed the door and turned back to the large kitchen. Sun glowed into the window on the far side. No curtains, just dust and webs. And one or two egg-sacs. It was a good home for spiders and such. But not her.

The double door had to be persuaded to move in the grooves. She’d have to change this to a top slider, and get rid of the bottom bit; that’d make it easier to maintain. The room behind the doors must have been the living room, lounge room. The fireplace was huge, but with a small central grate. Blocks of wood lay in neat piles to either side, and the hearth was swept clean. Except for the dust, the fire was ready to be lit. A small triangle of kindling sat in the grate waiting for the spark.

The two chairs, overstuffed and overworn, sat at an angle to the fire. One had an antimacassar over the back and one on each arm. The other was unadorned, dark and stained, but the rose pattern – red and white and green – was dimly visible. She ran a hand over the arm. This one hadn’t been used. It was just one of a pair. She touched the antimacassar chair. Body grease, a deep indentation on the seat, the shape of a body almost outlined. This chair had been well-used. Maybe there were two for symmetry.

She looked around. An ornate bookcase with glass doors hid objects with shapes that were indiscernible, but she wasn’t going to open it to see what it was. Not with that amount of web to fight through.

Two doors led off the main room. She shoved at the door nearest the front window, but didn’t budge it. The other one slid open to reveal an iron bed-stead, wardrobes that spoke of art-nouveau designs. The rug on the timber floor was a hunters design, an original, probably hand-woven if the tie-offs on the upturned corner were any indication.

Anna didn’t lean down to check. She felt a tickle at the base of her scalp and turned around, expecting to see someone.

Nothing.

She walked back to the lounge room. Empty. Still. She looked out the windows. No one out there, so sign of movement. As she walked up to the front door, she noticed the lack of window coverings. No curtains, no blinds, no mosquito or fly screens.

If she believed in ghosts, now would be the time for her to consider that what she’d seen from outside came from the other realm, but she didn’t.

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” the loudness of her voice was shocking in the echo of empty space as she retraced her steps through the kitchen and out the back door.

“I didn’t take any pictures,” she said. The stillness of the air and building remained. Nothing moved except her breath.

The open area to the south of the concrete block outside the back door had a double trough and a hand-pump. It was irresistible. She pushed on the pump. Rusty red water gushed into the concrete trough. Maybe this place had been empty longer than she thought.

She stepped off the veranda and walked the length of the ruts to the back fence to get an overall view of the house.

The double chimneys on the south side were stone and brick, grey and red, in a design she’d never seen before. The roof was square, even if the iron was rusted and lifting like wings in several places. The gutters were gone; the hooks remained and she could see the internals. No rot in the roof that she could see. It was fixable.

Her phone peeped. She pulled it out and checked the message. Deleted it. Skimmed to the website for the house and enlarged the pictures as she compared the real with the e-real. If she put a gauze in front of her face, it looked the same. A dusty, sort-of block-out effect that blocked nothing but the worst of the decay. The house looked just like it was advertised.

She wouldn’t get her money back. Wouldn’t be able to back out of the contact.

The only choice she had was to make the place liveable.


Unedited, so subject to change at no notice at all (until publication). Title: something about a Ghost …. and Gold …. and a Country Town ….

the house

 

The Answer

Why are you doing it? I was asked (topic: the presentation next week). Why, indeed.

The shortest and simplest reason is because I wasted so much time and effort trying to learn something everyone seemed to think every writer knows without thinking about it – structure. After all, there’s the 3 acts, the Aristotle’s incline, the beat sheet, the story board, the chain of events, the snowflake method. What I’ve learned in the last year is that all these methodologies can be exceptionally vague in the way they try to spread the word (or is it that it’s too many things to different people?) about structure but can be vague and don’t make it quite as clear as it needs to be – and because structure is 80% of the work in the first stage of ‘a good story well-told’ I consider it absolutely necessary to share what I’ve learned. And I learned it by doing it, by doing it again and again and again until I understood, quite clearly, what it meant. And how to adapt it to how I work best. If I had known about it before …

It, in this case, is structure. Not that it ever seems to be called story structure. Other things, like Outline, Incline, Snowflake, Journey, Chain of Events, Beat Sheet, Story-board, and the big one – the three Act paradigm.

But it’s both more and less than all of the above – which, by the way, are methodologies, not an end in themselves. They are a beginning, a preparation for story, not a plan.

Worse, when you read up on these methods, the words become more and more vague and less elemental (except recently, and only few). And structure is more, much more, than a few vague words that state the story must move through these stages and blah, blah, blah.

It is more than that. Structure is the defined base-plate that steps a story through what comes first and why; what comes next and why; where the big things are waiting and why; how to use these milestones/points/turns to leverage a story into a gripping and powerful tale that takes a reader through the flow/movement of scenes, into the skin of the main character and how he deals with the problems and conflicts – to the end.

That’s it, in a nutshell. It’s the basic 101 stage that should be taught in all classes for creative writing. And I’m going to spread it thick and fast and far and wide. Why? Because when I get too old to write my own stories, I want to read good stories. I want new writers to understand the simple things easily so they can go on to create mind-bending concepts and premises for their stories. I want it all.


There may be no rules in Art, but there will be no Art without a solid and practical understanding of Craft. And structure is as basic as it gets, the ABC of the language of story-telling.

 

I think now I know enough to help others learn it. This is my opportunity to pass on what it’s taken me so long to learn (those 10,000 hours of apprenticeship).

Anyway, short story long (that’s me all over), this is my paying it forward.

And my hope is that every person who attends the presentation next week will take the opportunity to do the practical tasks associated with learning this, and then pass it on to anyone else they meet who needs to know about it.

I want to give them to opportunity to pay it forward.

 

 

A Presentation

Next week I’m going to offer a presentation to a group of young writers. What I want to do is share what I’ve learned on my journey through the apprentice stage of writing – because it shouldn’t have been so hard!

boof-at-work

Looking for something?

I want to share how I learned to understand structure. Maybe I should put that word in capital letters, because it’s important. More important than having a ‘knack’ or a ‘gift’ or a good work ethic.

Why? Because 80% of the work that goes into story is polished and shined and pummeled into shape by using the methodology and options available through structure.

No kidding. I could’ve saved myself from retiring so many novels and stories if I’d understood structure.

Do you understand structure? Know what it is and how to use it to create a good story, well told?

This is the blurb for the presentation:

Structure – From Concept to Storyboard (an introduction)

There may be no rules in Art, but there will be no Art without a solid and practical understanding of Craft.

Structure is one of the elements of Craft for the Art of Writing.

Structure is: what comes first, what comes next, what goes where, and why; it is the movement of scenes – the action-reaction, goal-obstacle, who-where – through the story that takes the reader to ‘the end’.

So, if you want your stories to have everything leveraged to a higher level just when it’s most needed, better and more compelling milestones, more effective scenes that draw the reader into turning the next page, and the next … and the next, then you need to understand what structure is, and how it makes a story memorable/powerful/compelling.


And my resources: Save the Cat, by Blake Snyder (should be read first, to get a cool intro and find the categories for your story); Story Engineering, by Larry Brooks (read second to get a deep and thorough understanding). That will do for now, but Syd Field should also be considered an expert.

Why do I think it’s important?

Because whether the story is a cave painting, a greek play, a 3-Act drama, a classic book, a modern novel, a radio-play, a b&W movie, a CGI-chair-shaking epic, or a 4-D, goggles-reqd futurist movie, the story needs to be ‘felt’ by the audience. Do you think a reader, caught up in the moment of high drama in a story, is going to care whether the grammar is perfect? Or if there are no $5 words? Or that the sentences are long and drifty and dreamy?

I don’t, because when I’m in a good story, well told – it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is the story and ‘what happens next’ and what compels me to turn the next page.

And that, in a nutshell, is why structure is 80% of the first work effort of a new story, and why you need to know it.

Are you going to be there?

cropped-header1-words

And what it’s based on: here.

Min-Min

A short story, copyright Rose Brimson 2017


“Down; look down – don’ look at the light,” Colly said, as he held Mibba down by the head – it hurt!

“Uncle! Uncle! Leggo – you hurtin’ me!” Mibba scrabbled in the dirt, tried to get purchase. Colly gripped him tighter at the back of his neck; ripped out hair, tore strips of skin with his ragged nails.

“You shut your mouth, boy, an’ keep your head Down.” A thrum in the ground settled in Mibba’s ankles, rattled his bones. “Don’ you let them min-min lights see us.”

“What? Uncle – Colly! Lemme go! You hurtin’ me!” Mibba kicked Colly in the shins – the only thing he could see – and darted forward.

The bright light thrummed through his bones; a skirr of sound spun his ears in the wrong direction; wind with no sense of touch sang words that lifted his heart and burned his soul.

No shadows. Mibba could see no shadows. Only lights – two, no – three lights, that bobbed and danced and held his soul in thrall. Dance. He had to dance. It was what was required. To get inside. To be with the lights. The Min-Min lights. The lights that were the true soul of the Ghost Gums. The souls of all the People who had gone before. For him. They were here for him.

“Come away, boy.” Colly’s voice was a distant star, barely a speck of dust in time.

The lights danced away. Mibba had to go with them, had to follow, had to be one with the spirits.

“Don’ mess with it, boy – is sacred, but not for you. Not this time. Come back, boy – wait a while, make your own song first.”

So slowly, the lights moved on, away – gone.

Mibba opened his eyes. Dirt rubbed at his skin – harsh dry grit. The desert. He was in the desert. Learning. From his uncle. Why? He looked up, pushed himself off the dirt to a sit, then squat. Where was his uncle? Why was he alone? In the desert? He would die.

The lights were gone. The Min-Min lights. A scientist from the other world might call them bits of ball lightning, but Mibba knew better. The lights had touched him, spoken to him, shared their world – for a moment.

“You can’t muck about with country, boy,” his uncle’s voice was close, but Mibba couldn’t see where he was. “It’ll bite ya if you don’ know how to sing back. You gotta learn your own song-story before you mess with Naji.”

Flames flickered in the distance. A fire-pit. Mibba stood. He would walk to the fire. His uncle would be there. Had to be there. No one else was out here, in the middle of dark country; in the middle of traditional dark country.

Had it been only weeks since he had found his blood family? Since he found out he was one of the People? Such a short time; so many things had happened. He was in the middle of the middle of nowhere, and he had a song-line to learn. Or die.

His People, the blood of his People, were the custodians of this place. And its song. The story of the dark country, of the lights of lost souls, of stories and songs to hold the world in a solid piece. He knew none of this before. Did he really want to know? If he learned the stories, would it kill him?

It had killed before. He knew it. Saw it in the lights. The ones who ran from it; ran from shadows of shame and guilt and smoky dreams of honey stolen from children. Mibba could not run. The lights had left him empty of his other life, the life that didn’t have need. Or consequence. Or love. It had stuff that wasn’t real, wasn’t needed, wasn’t necessary to spirit.

Tears burned down his cheeks, touched the slip of leaf held in his lips. Eucalyptus drifted in tiny spirals of pain up his nose, ran out again in more heat, more salt.

The fire-pit loomed up, large flames burst with pops and roars and sizzles. The small stem bits of a grass tree exploded with spirals of colour and life.

“Sit, boy, an’ we’ll talk about it.” His uncle’s voice was hollow; the black skin that glowed in the reflection of flames was striped with white and yellow ochres. The sticks rapped out a rhythm that kept his heart beating. Feet folded under, collapsed Mibba’s legs to the warm ground; his arms flopped. He would die if the sticks stopped. He knew it. Big brown eyes watched him, kept him in this world, but only just – a bare breath of desire, of knowledge, kept him where he was.

Did he desire life? This life, where he had nothing – except the blood family who’d finally found and claimed him? Or the other life? Beyond the lights, part of the lights, part of country. It would take him for Guardian, close his past from him, make of him Other.

Honey mixed with bottlebrush whispered hot fluid onto his tongue, opened his physical body to the surroundings. Huge trees whispered to his ears, asked him to wait, to sing their song back into life. Shrubs that hid ants and crickets and snakes and lizards asked him to speak their story, tell of their lives, bring them back to the world.

Flies and hornets and wasps droned and blitzed, chorused and crackled, asked him to speak the words of life and journey, sing the chants for life and death and significance. Mibba cried for them. He was not what they needed. He was only a boy. A boy without knowledge, without story. He knew nothing of this life, of the words the Naji needed to stay alive. He knew nothing.

“Look into the smoke, boy. See which way the smoke leads you. Watch the trails to see where your story leads. Watch, boy, and learn your words. Learn your country”

Patterns waved in the still air. Smoke curled and drifted and swayed into the night. No moon or stars lit the way, only the smudge of oily smoke showed the path.

Mibba opened his eyes wide, tried to see to the sides of the path. Nothing. Blackness hid everything from him. Darkness was all he saw. Eyes darted back to the smoke, fearful of losing his way without it. Followed it. Found where it led.

The moon opened its face, brought light into the deep hollow in the ground. Water glistened at the bottom, a long way down. Marks in the dirt showed many different tracks.

This was the place of life. This was life. This was the Naji of this place, this moment. The smoke drifted up, coiled into a spring and unwound a new path. Mibba followed, looked up when it went up, looked down when it went down, spun in circles when it spun spirals around him.

The entrance to the cave swallowed the smoke. No light, no smoke. Should he go in? Was this his journey? If it was his journey, was it beginning or end? Did it matter? He would not go in if the spirit of this place didn’t want him to enter. One foot lifted, drifted in the air. Wind swirled and lashed at his head. Mibba turned away, walked back down the path.

Now he knew. This was the end path, the end of story. Life came from water and spirit of country and the lives of the things that came with it, were both from and in country. Death came to all, but the path of life was a circle, and always led to the end.

“Look into the flames, boy, see the whole story.”

Flames lit the deeply lined face on the other side of the fire. An old man; his uncle had become an old man with grey hair and long legs painted with orange and yellow and white stripes of country. Shadows and light danced and swung and moved in the air behind his uncle. Mottles of trunks endured and lived in the spirals of light; spiders and feathers and furs and barks shone for a moment. Their moment.

“Is this my place?” Mibba asked. “My country?”

“Not yet, boy. First, you have to sing it into being. You have to have story of place, story of you, and sing them into you. You sing the words of the sacred place and you become part of country.” Sticks cracked in the fire. “You become People when you sing yourself into the story of people in your country.”

Shadows became long and twisted. Time became short and crippled. Mibba’s eyes became dry and scratchy. His mouth opened. Words came out. Not ordinary words. Words of power, of country, of magic – words of home. He sang; the words became one long word; the place became his place in the world; the story was tomorrow, today, all times before now and all times before time. He sang his whole history as if it were happening now. It was. He became. Whole.

 

Sun shone on the shiffle of grass tree. Kangaroos scratched at dusty fur from the shade of scrubby shrubs. Insects droned and buzzed. Birds called and chattered and sang. Mibba opened his heart to place, opened his eyes to life. His uncle lay asleep on the other side of the cold coals in the fire-pit.

The lights were in him, now. They were part of his journey. If that was not how it was supposed to be, it would not have been. He smiled. It was not the end of his journey. It was not the beginning. It was simply his journey, and he would choose his path with help from the knowledge that came from his song-lines, his story of country. And the Min-Min Spirit-lights that lit up his soul.


tripletrunk

Choices

It could have been this, or that, or something else. I should have applied for ‘real’ jobs, or set up a market stall, or …

But I write. It means I have to make choices about a life of minimal money/cash flow. It’s been a few years now since that decision changed my life. Has it worked? Was it worth it?

Well, the choice to write has worked. I’ve written a lot of words, done a lot of work, a few courses, read hundreds of books, and learned a lot. And I wrote six books last year – that’s a helluva statement. [some have since been ‘retired’ but …]

The choice to write was an easy one – the money thing is a bit tougher. My hair is much longer than it should be; my dentist is a distant memory (I should say: a dark and distant memory, shouldn’t I?); clothes and shoes are re-runs or re-fits. Of course, I still eat, and our bills get paid, and when I start writing well enough for readers to pass along the names of my stories, well, then it all comes good (doesn’t it?). [that will probably be a disappointment, won’t it?]

But the life? I wouldn’t have it any other way. Life is tough, sometimes not having ready cash is a pain-in-the-proverbial (like when you need a new printer!) because it slows down the output! And that’s all that matters.

The life of minimalism I chose is the right life for me because I live in a world created for me, by me, to do-see-be the real me. The chameleon, the changeling, the ghost, the monster, the scared-heroic-nasty-helpful-needy-greedy-lovable characters on the page are part of me (and not, but you know – they are for that moment).

The minimalism of my life enables me to ‘put on the skin’ of these characters, to live their life and dramas and achievements – so I have a full life within those pages/stories.

Outside – not so much (shoulder shrug). I do go out, and I garden and walk and do things – talk to neighbours and the postie and strangers who walk past – but the real life is now in the lives I create, in the people and places that are not outside my window or on my street or in my city or country – they’re probably not even in this world or on this planet. And I love that – it’s my world, even if my name and my body are not in there. My people are there, my heart and soul and yearning and learning are in those words where they live. In the pages of my books/stories.

So, is my life minimal? Not at all!


Back to the Main Work now – due for completion 31 March 2017 (or thereabouts! Have to do the editing, don’t we?).

How to go one more week without –

Was it a promise I made? Did I say something to someone about having a break from this daily grind – for a whole month? Surely not! Not this manic, obsessed, driven, etc. words-gotta-get-out person!

But I did. Whether I promised someone else, or the promise was to myself, I need some time to get my mind back together.

And then something really weird happened. Because I’ve already written up dozens of beat sheets, some with accompanying ‘stuff’, it was easier to let it sit there and wait for me to come back. There’s one on the top of the pile, and while I’m doing other stuff, ordinary life stuff, the story comes to me in ways that are ten times more powerful than the original idea. Really.

The bones of the story are the same. The characters are the same. The journey is the same. But how it all comes together, the things that make it zing with power, or move it forward or backward or sideways – are More. More direct where they need to be pointy; more sublime where they need to be subtle; more intriguing where they need a touch of mystery and depth; more unique where they need to diverge from the norm.

One more week – to the day – and I’ll be able to go back to my workstation and put all these potent refreshed moments of the story into the life of It.

True, I’ve snuck in a first draft of the first scene, and it’s been critiqued. Which was good, and it highlighted how I get carried away with ‘what’s in the head’ instead of ‘character in action’ but it hasn’t stopped the forward movement (in my mind) of the plot, of the story, of the moments in the story that needed time to be thought through to make it the a ‘good story, well told.’ Sometimes, I forget about that last bit.

But it’s the most important bit. Why tell a story about a good idea if it’s not told well? Who would be interested in nothing more than a good idea, or something they’ve read (pretty much) before?  Would I?

No.

So giving myself this time, whether it feels like a sentence or a chain or a hindrance, is the best thing I can do for my story right now. While I’m learning the new process, putting it all together in a way that will stay with me and get better and easier and faster, I’ll stick with the ‘break’ and see just how much it works to keep the story in mind after the initial mud-map is created.

I promise you this, it will be good. Stuffed the schedule, though, but who cares? It’s only a month behind the commencement date, so I’ll do what a creative person does: I’ll say that the schedule dates are not the beginning of the month I’ve written, it’s the End. So Feb becomes end Feb, not Begin, Middle, or anywhere else in Feb. End. Fixed.

We’ll see how that works too.


 

How it all comes together …

The last few months I’ve been trying out a new process (yes, yes, yes – a process is the way it’s done [before the procedure of outline], and I’m talking about from Idea to Concept to Premise to Beat to Balance Sheet to [finally] Outline) and it’s proving a little difficult at certain points.

Don’t get me wrong – I love how it works, and I can see how (in the end) it will make my life so much easier (and the novels so much better), but when undertaking a new way of doing things, it is sometimes difficult to retain the focus to the new way. There’s always something that pops up its head and says ‘I’m much more juicy to chew on than that silly thing! Come play with me.’ Or: ‘That’s so hard – come play with me the way you used to.’

But the power and passion that comes from understanding the new process is (well, can be) All-Encompassing. I can feel the bits that lack the full gamut of story; I can stand up and walk around the picture I create with these things; I can feel the life of the characters as they do their thing (always remember: character in action [yes, still a weak point that has to be considered when outlining each scene]). It is power, and once I get my head around how to turn that switch on for each and every idea that compels the passionate embrace of a story unfolding, it will be worth it.

For the moment, I struggle through each section, each scene, each character arc. I put words in the final outline that sound like a good journey – and then I see how it could be made much more dramatic, with much higher stakes, and an outcome that evokes a full-body response in terms of emotion.

Well, that’s me – if by the time it’s finished and the context of that connection is still there, I’ll be the happiest chappie (writerly type) in the world (kitchen).

So, back to work (where’s that cat – he’s supposed to do this editing task?) to discover new things about how to make it betterer, gooderer, and uber-interesting (compelling, in fact).

And that brings me to the apprenticeship of writing. I’m the person who’s been doing the story thing since I was a kid, but when you have a life in the country, when you do country school stuff and have limited access to resources and personnel who could point the way – what is there to do [pre-internet, but even now internet is a variable thing out there]? And when you finish school, life insists you need to earn your way (and writing? who does that? layabouts, that’s who – get a real job!) by enslaving your soul to the multi-national (or worse, government).

But now that’s over, and I’m free (sort of, still have to pay taxes, etc.) to put my words in the proper order to make them into stories that become novels that end up out there in the world. And it’s been a long and hard path, because first I had to learn things:

1. Everything’s changed, and the rules of novel are mucho different;
2. Most of the resources (books and tutors) are as much in the dark as everyone else;
3. The people who do know what they’re doing and talking about don’t talk to plebs (the ones who do are very hard to find – gold dust in the river of muddy life);
4. The words used are vague and wobbly – and big! – to make it harder to break through and in (and hide their vagueness of comprehension);
5. The young writer/s suffer the condescension of published author/s (yes, it happens).
01. One thing hasn’t changed: People still have the passion for putting story together.

BUT …

Now my apprenticeship is over. Last year I wrote several novels (yeah, a bit rough, or even a bit worse than rough) and what I learned through the process of doing that practical work, of keeping my eyes and ears open for what worked and what didn’t, and the act (verb) of continually seeking (see, my own journey) the Way. And I found it.

This year, I will write (and co-write) at least the number of books I wrote last year, but these ones will be not only be good, they will be better, and by the end of the year, I want to have the concept of Best in there.

Next year will be the Best Story I Ever Wrote (unless I get to it this year, of course).


So, back to work … … …

 

 

 

 

Oh, A Schedule?

Apparently, it’s a good idea to have a specific and defined schedule to avoid going off-track (or off-tack, as I would be more wont to say).

So, a schedule. Very specific . An outline of the efforts to achieve something.

Hmmmmmmmm.

Write a new post for this site each Sunday; write a blog post for 5bayby14u each Wednesday.

The books? Okay, I’ll start with the books I want to put out this year. But some (most) of them are co-author projects . . . Same deal? Okay, here goes:

Complete and publish ‘The Third Moment in Hell’ [specific?] In January 2017.

Monis Glinker – Priestess Unburdened Feb-Mar 2017.

Monis is the eldest of the priestesses; her last remaining daughter will take the role of Highest at the next summer solstice, but . . . the Beast takes her daughter, and now Monis has nothing. Unless . . .

She uses the secret magic and takes the body of her daughter, puts her own soul inside the dead body. There is now a task to complete – defeat the Beast. Vengeance for the lives it has taken. No other priestess has the secrets of the ________ – because IT kills them, as it would have killed Monis if the ceremony had gone ahead. But now she has a purpose – and nothing to lose.

The Mirror Portal: Book III of The Narrung Sagas. March 2017.

The Once Lost: An Anthology of Ideas. No idea – work on it as it comes.

The A-Z of Short Stories (the title will be amended one day) – work on it as it comes.

A Woman’s Footprint in the Stone of Time – Mar-April 2017 (Title needs some work?).

One small footprint, been there in that stone for 40k years. An ancestor – how does she know – cos she puts her foot in the solid stone and it fits her foot and leaves no gaps and brings a piece of story to her song. So she sings it, at that special time, for the young women to hear of how it all came to be.

Permission to be Human – Apr-May 2017 (with Rose Brimson )

Cover that up!  Nan and the id tag – show it when required on the street, in the market, in the houses where she works as a cleaner.

Always, she’d look wide-eyed up and down, no one must see, no one must know who doesn’t already know. The tag quickly tucked back in the hidden pocket – ‘til the next time it’s needed.

Then the burglaries started. No smashed windows or doors, so the cops said an inside job. They go to Nan, search the house, go out back to the shed, find the gift from old Mrs Marsh – just a simple and useful tool to help with her work because her hands were so sore, so painful from the arthritis. But old Mrs Marsh doesn’t understand how people are, so Nan has to hide it.

Too good for a half-caste – revoke the permission; revoke the right to tenancy – kick her out! Take her to jail to wait for the judge, then boot her back to the bush – where she belongs!

No clothes, no money, no tag to give her permission to be human.

Country Gonna Bite Ya – May-Jun 2017 (with Rose)

It’s about a BOY who HATES that he has to be responsible for his girly tagalong sister – she’s even scared of horses and can’t help with any of the REAL jobs – she’s a PAIN.

Silence is a Lie – Jun-Jly 2017

Annandan, Land of Dragons – Jly-Aug 2017

Dream Slider (unknown, cos I still don’t have a BS or an outline, but if it’s on the list, it gets looked at occasionally, and notes get added, so it’s in there, and maybe for this year).

Dream Walkers (ditto)

Cat Whisperer (ditto)

Dragons and Beer to Go (ha, ha – we’ll see what happens, shall we?)

And [because the focus group liked the idea and humour of it {Harrison and Olivia}]

Pick, Lick, Roll, Flick – 2017 (YA, humour [yeah, yeah, yeah – how can you write about something funny if you don’t have a sense of humour? We’ll see, shall we?].

3 boys find a recipe for a lozenge/lolly – it makes them smart – but they stole the only copy from the guy who paid $1m for it (now lost – and they made amendments to the original due to lack of ingredients) – and he not only wants it back, he wants payback for the camel snot they left him covered in.

_________

Other Stuff:

SpecFicChic Anthology – Submissions due for completion by July – have yet to decide what to do for that, but I still like the idea of Monster in the House-Horror-Scary works. New ones.

Write up a proper plan for structure, using all the things I’ve learned – and have the blanks up and ready to roll (end of Feb at the latest).

__________

And there you have the specific list for 2017 – an impossible task to complete it all, but I’m more than one person now, so with the help of Rose and Karl (and maybe . . .?) it will happen. The stories will be completed; they will be good; they will be read and enjoyed.

Oh, and the path that leads to the track that might provide some small level of cash benefit might appear on the map at some stage. [See, sense of humour.]

Slim big yawn

The Writer Hard at Work

The Discovery of Q’s

 And now we’re up to Q4. That’s the fourth quartile of the story construction message. Is it the most important part? Yes, but only if Q1 is the bookend to Q4.

Since I discovered this particular form of words about story structure, I’ve become a convert. Yes, I liked to plan, and I did outlines and chapter/scene discovery pieces, but this has put it all together – much like the first time I built a house (okay, more of a shed really, but we lived in it for a while – and it didn’t leak!).

So, what happens in Q4? We lead up to ‘the end’ and we do it in such a way that the story shows the MC (main character) undergoing the metamorphosis from level 1 characteristics to level 2, and now here, to level 3. The final change (even if only temporary) of the inner person; the overcoming of the internal things that let him down, or held him back, or tried (this is the operative word in Q4 – ‘cos it doesn’t work anymore) to make him fear the consequences (etc.) are finally overcome to enable the MC to be the hero of the story. And he has to be the hero – what’s the point of doing the whole story about this person if he can’t be the hero of his own story?

There’s one very important rule for Q4 – no new info!!!! Very important. The MC has to use only the information he’s earned and learned on the way through the story, and this is where it all comes together, where it plays out the hand in the winning layout, where it gets him to the point of no return – to win (however that win may present itself) the day, the girl, the dog, or the personal satisfaction.

There’s a lot of chat out there (e-world) where story is created backwards – find the climactic end-point (q4) and write the story backwards from there. I like this, but I also like to have at least three (3) points of extreme emotional context associated with that climactic moment before I write up an outline (or now: the Beat Sheet!!!! One of my own creation, because (yep, you guessed it) I’m a know-all who likes doing things my own way – I just steal ideas!) and then let it sit in the pile of other outlines until the story muse yells loud enough that I take it out and ‘do’ that story.

 

So, in recap:

Q1: Title (the first thing a reader sees, so make it the most appropriate name for the story)

Opening Image: book cover and the first opening on the MC.

The six things (see Snyder: Saving the Cat) that come back in Q4 to show the level of change in the MC.

The Inciting Incident: This is the kicker, the breaking of the status of MC’s world, but it’s often not the First Plot Point (PP1).

PP1: The decision to DO something made by the MC – note the distinction: the MC does this, they choose, and then they step out on the path they chose.

Q2: the running, hiding, planning, strategizing that leads up to the MidPoint (MP). MC can’t win any clashes with the baddy, even if we have to meet up with whatever this is halfway through Q2 – it’s called the 1st Pinch Point (1pp). It happens somewhere near the middle of Q2 because the reader needs to know and feel and experience exactly what it is that the MC has to overcome.

Q3: from MP to 2pp to PP2; MidPoint to the 2nd Pinch Point to end the quartile at the 2nd Plot Point. This is the place to fight back with power, with energy, with knowledge. Of course, you don’t win with the first attempt – but you do learn something more, something that changes the MC, something that alerts the inner demons that their time is almost over. But of course, it’s not over, not yet. And the 2pp will show just how strong and intelligent and overpowering the baddy has become, won’t it? There’s always that point where the person gets kicked just once too many times and they consider the option of giving up and letting it all go. But then something happens.

Q4: The PP2 is the last moment of new info for the story – most often, it’s the point where the MC finally sees how it could all come together – and it usually involves some level of defeating those inner characteristic demons before he really sees.

And when he does win, and the Q4 holds all the answers to how the MC has changed (see the six things) from the beginning of the story to the end, and the final image, and the sense of achievement (or some sort of feeling, an emotional grabber for him) or revenge or . . . [your story] and he can walk away at ‘the end’ showing how he learned something, he gained something, he Did It and survived (or died for the right reason).

The End.

Now it’s time for a new story for the new year.

Ready? Let’s Go!

Just remember, the Reader (most important person in your world) appreciates being able to follow the story as if they walked the map of your story – and that’s why the structure works. And for those of us who might have thought it a constraint – within those boundaries is the scope for a Whole Lotta Creativity!

Q3

This is the point where most stories fail, and the reason is simple: the third quartile is the beginning of the fight back, it is the point where the obstructions are too much, especially the character’s own inner demons.

The third quartile of the story is from the mid-point to the 2nd plot point (PP2). In that journey, the reader meets (right in the middle of Q3) the 2nd Pinch point (2pp). Remember what a pinch point is? It’s the place where the ‘enemy’ of the MC (main character) gets ahead, takes back power, wins (or appears to win), etc. It’s the vision (for the reader) of the antagonist. And it’s strong, powerful, seemingly invincible (including the fight against the inner demons). The bad guys are doing better than the good guys, and someone is going to be licking his wounds and questioning his right to be in the world, especially this world.

And the darkest part of the journey is just before he hits the PP2. Why?

Because 25% of the story (the setup) worked towards the power of the PP1. And then 25% of the story worked towards the MidPoint. And now (you guessed it!) 25% of the story works towards the PP2. These three power points are what matters. Hit them hard, make the reader feel them in the bones.

Well, maybe not Hard hard, but know that this is the point where they belong, and what they do, and why you have to hit them at all.

The Q1 is the setup (all of Q1) that leads to the PP1. The Q2 is the response to the PP1, so if PP1 isn’t powerful enough to send the MC on the journey of a lifetime – through hell and high water to Do Something – then it needs to be re-thunked. So it becomes a thunk – a moment that sends the MC on the story journey.

The Q3 is the beginning (note that word) of the ability, the things learned and put into action, to begin the fight back. It’s not the point where the MC can win, but he can begin to work on the problems, overcome one at a time (look carefully at the inner demons, and how long it takes to work on something as simple as being able to say ‘hello’ to a neighbour if you’re agoraphobic), and move forwards and then severely backwards.

The last few major points in the Q3 is the (quoting from ‘Save the Cat – Snyder’ here): Bad guys close in; All is Lost; and Dark Night of the Soul. (If you haven’t seen these before, I highly recommend reading his book and enlightening your author-over-mind.)

 

Next time (don’t know when, ‘cos it’s holiday season, and I’m off to do the things we all know we shouldn’t do) is Q4 – the finale, the resolution, the end.

See you then. Oh, and keep reading.

The Third Moment will be hitting the e-shelves in Jan due to the shut-down of stuff over the holiday period.

Ciao!

This is where to find the previous piece Q2, which has another link to Q1.