Finishing Things

I’m working on my third million dollars. Yes, I gave up on the previous two…

Continue reading “Finishing Things”

Character Hijackery

Imagine setting up something really, really complex, like an Ocean’s 11 style casino robbery, or maybe a game of Sorry – okay, maybe not that one – but something really complex, that you’ve puzzled over for months until now, now, this very minute, you’re ready to go. To pull the trigger, dial the phone, hit Execute, or RUN, or whatever it is that sets your plan in motion. Good for you.

You’re a writer, you know how it is. You slave away over your work, because you love it, and it’s good for you, and because you have something that needs to be said.

I’m working on Novel Number 3, tentatively called The Terrible – it’s a joke that plays out in the… rats, I’ve given it away. Well, forget that part.

So, it may seem like I’m rambling, but I’m giving you crumbs. Clues, if you will. Because you’re smart, and you’ll piece it all together.

Did you get anything yet?

Sigh. Okay, here it is. I’ll use little words: I’ve started a third novel. My first, MARIGOLD’S END, is under revision, my second, DROPPINGTON PLACE, is self-published, and I can’t sit here on my hands and just die, can I? I mean, can you?

This third novel is carefully laid out, with four strong central characters. Well, it was four, but, just yesterday, I needed a transition piece, a moment that both gives us time and place and setting, but that also starts the storytelling ball rolling.

So I created this simple fellow – not much more than a name, really – to carry the news of the French ambassador’s arrival. Not so bad, huh? Except that he needed a little background, and a little definition, a little purpose…

And then the son of a biscuit stole my whole story! He’s none of the four dried up, dowdy guys I’d so carefully designed. He’s young, he’s brave, and he’s innocent.   Suddenly, the four guys are bit players to this kid’s story. What the heck? It’s like Ensign Checkov taking over the Enterprise! R2D2 piloting the Millennium Falcon. Wait, what?

All seriousness aside, I’ve been thinking about this story for a while now. My first novel was a labor of love – and very, very hard to write, rewrite, and… I think I’m on the seventh version. The second novel was just plain fun – I wanted to explore Elizabethan words, and magic, and make a young adult story that was positive and generous.

This new one, tentatively called The Terrible (I think I mentioned this already – please try to keep up), is my story. It’s my… my way of giving back. It’s set on the French/Spanish border in the year 1657. No, it’s not the Three Musketeers, but that book has always been my go-to for inspiration and grounding.

So, The Terrible is the story I was created to tell. It’s the novel that I became a writer to write. It’s the story – I think. I know you have a story like that – it’s why you write.

If it turns out bad, I’ll come up with some clever way to dismiss it. But, it won’t be bad, because this is the story. This is my story.

But, and here’s the part that is just crazy, this new guy’s story isn’t mine. I’m somewhere in this book, but I haven’t found out where. You know the guy has power, because he took over my whole dang life story just by getting named!

More to follow…



Designing a Book 



At first you think, whoa, I am, like, so going to write this book that it’s just going to be the best darned thing anybody has every gosh darned read. Then you sit down at the word processor…

It was a dark and stormy night…backspace, backspace, backspace

You may wonder why I’m dead… backspace, backspace, backspace

You’re not the boss of me, Timmy snarled… backspace, backspace, double backspace, control-X

All right, so, that knock at the front door is clearly not your muse, come to enlighten you…

My book, DROPPINGTON PLACE, has gone through iteration after iteration, the story orbiting around plot point after plot point, through about 17 “hot-dang, this’ll be good” rewrites, and finally sat down and breathed out.

That’s when Byron, the protagonist, stepped in. It turns out he really did have a story to tell – something serious he wanted to say. His story is actually pretty good – a little calm compared to previous editions of his book, but pretty good.

In the original story, Byron finds himself transported to a world of paper, run by a magical being called a homunculus. However will he get back? Assisted by two human friends and a couple of paper people, he eventually gets the homunculus to send him home. Yawnzers, kids. It’s a cool idea, but, like the paper world he visits, seriously flat.

Byron recently announced that he was not happy in the 3D world. His father has left. His mother has “episodes” that pull her emotionally far away, and he misses his best friend, left behind when they moved to a new town. He finds his escape from his woes by building paper houses.

The paper world into which he is thrust holds much more mystery for him, and might even be a place in which he can find respite. We spend most of the story wondering, with him, if the place is real or a dream. The homunculus is a paper copy of a 15th century playwright, and stands in as sort of a father figure for Byron.

We still have all the interesting paper stuff going on, and there’s a bad guy, but that’s no longer what drives the story.

The motor behind the story is Byron’s emotional arc, as he learns to cope with the many difficult issues he must face.

Fine, fine, well and good. Jeepers, mister, you’re a GENIUS, but having a character arc don’t do crackers for the structure of the book.

To remedy that ill, I broke the cracking-good synopsis for DROPPINGTON PLACE into chapters, to wit:


Chapter 2

At first the fascinating paper world is appealing, as it provides an escape from the woes of the real world. But, after seeing a 3D human like himself turned into a 2D paper person, he realizes he is in danger.


Chapter 3


Searching for a way out, he meets Hailey, a strikingly bright and hopeful 12 year old, who hopes to assist the tiny man requesting help. She uses her knowledge of magic, gained through reading a series of young-adult novels, to explain and understand the paper world. Together they witness Hobbs turn a 3D human into a 2D “flatso” as Byron calls them. They realize that Hobbs is the way out, and decide to visit his castle, Hobbs Manor…”


Now Byron can say all the stuff that’s important, but the rhythm of the book is a flow that can be managed and developed. Each character can say their important stuff, but this outline tells them when to say it.


There is a danger, my writer friend, of getting too detailed in the outline – I know some writers who fall into this sinister little trap. They write and write, not on the book, but in the outline, and solve all of their puzzles so thoroughly that they now see no need to write the book!


So, sketchy and loose, detailed but easy-peasy, that’s the road for Byron!