Monday, December 5, 2011

Imperial Odyssey - The Sarnisian Wizard

[Please be aware that this story is under the strict copywrite of The Imperial Odyssey Franchise]
(Here is the third place finisher in the Imperial Odyssey short story contest announced 12/5/11)
[If you wish to read the 2 entries that out did me they are here:
Sorry if the formatting is off I just did a quickie job of reformatting from a PDF format.
Grimbold Lesling never liked mornings. They reminded him too much of Mondays, which he hated even worse. And don’t get me started about Monday mornings, of which this was.
Grimbold hadn’t had a real job in so many years he couldn’t remember what it was like,
but Mondays remained despised.
Grim, bleary eyed, was slapping randomly at the bed stand trying to turn off the blasted alarm, which, ironically, was not ringing. Eventually he woke sufficiently to realize the ringing was all in his head and turned his head to check the time. The clock read 3:05 AM Feb 3, 2053. If there was one thing Grimbold hated more than Monday mornings it was waking early on a Monday morning with a hangover.
Grumbling at the cruel world which would allow such pain and misfortune, he pulled the covers over his head exposing his bare feet to the cold of the night. He scrunched up pulling his feet back into the comfort of the warm bedclothes and promptly fell back asleep.
In what seemed like seconds later he was rousted awake by his perimeter alarm. He bounced out of his rack slapping his bare feet on the ice cold steel floor. He hopped and twisted until he tracked down his five day old socks and slipped them on and ran up the stairs to check the periscope. A quick look showed nothing on the screen. This was more worrisome than finding something. He silenced the alarm and kept one eye on the scope screen. His hole ran at near total darkness, only the faint red glow of dials and the scope monitor illuminated his close-cropped black hair and angular, frowning, countenance and broke the total blackness only found underground. Grim’s head began pounding and the realization that he was wearing nothing but thin shorts in the sub-zero hole came to the forefront. He scurried back down the stairs and dressed his large muscular frame as quickly as possible. He popped open a bottle of pills and downed a handful, chasing it with a glass of recycled water that was left over from who knows when. He ran back up the stairs to check the scope again. One bloodshot eye caught something moving on the edge of the scope. It was like a dark ripple of wind in the air. He knew it could only be one of two things: a samurai in all black or a hallucination from the remnants of the mescal he had taken
some time ago. One was as dangerous as a psychotic Derom’Soray with a pair of AK-47s, the other an annoying leftover from a celebration. In his current mental state he couldn’t recall which was which. He sat there in the dark, immobile, trying to figure out how to differentiate the two.
It finally came to him that the chances of a hallucination setting off the perimeter alarm were pretty low and simultaneously, or maybe a few seconds before that, he couldn’t remember which, there was a momentary flash of a black clad man in the moonlight where the ripple had been.  He slapped a switch and his abode went completely black. He had momentarily broken off all Intel from the surface but, of much more importance, he had made his subterranean home virtually invisible. He secretly hoped for slightly more than
of much more importance, he had made his subterranean home virtually invisible. He secretly hoped for slightly more than virtual.
He fumbled around in the total darkness until he found his ear buds and shoved them in his ears. He risked being detected by flipping a switch turning on the area microphones. He could hear the samurai sneaking near his hole. It sounded like elephants stomping around on broken glass in his hungover head and he twisted the volume knob to a more reasonable level to accommodate his temporary sensitivity to sounds. He detected another movement uphill in the forest near his exhaust port. He wasn’t worried about it being detected as he had closed it off in a vain attempt to warm his hole. When the samurai had passed his hole and was showing a single minded interest in tracking something other than Grimbold, he yanked the plugs from his ears and powered his hole back up. He set his periscope to infrared to follow the intruders through the forest and make certain they didn’t double back. Surprisingly the samurai was not generating much of a heat signal and, in fact, appeared often to move without leaving any heat trail at all. The board clock read 6:45 Mon Feb 3. Dawn was nearing so Grim switched the scope to light enhanced mode. He was
just in time to see the samurai reach his target. He was befuddled when the man drew his sword and, using the hilt, hit the prey smack dab in the forehead causing him to drop like a rock to the soft forest floor. Grimbold  was gaining interest now. Normal samurai behavior would have caused the target to fall to the ground in two separate segments. He kept adjusting the light enhancement to maintain the best periscope view. The samurai pulled a length of rope from under something at his waist and tightly wrapped his prey. He grabbed hold of the limp body and lifted him to his shoulder like it was a five pound bag of potatoes. And began walking back toward Grim’s hole. He stopped suddenly and studied the landscape. Grim soon figured out why the man had stopped. He felt the roar of a Zintoniean APC traveling across the bare expanse he called home.
Grim, on any other day would have popped out of his hole and shot a few grenades in front of the carrier, but his headache and this unusual and intriguing situation kept him at his scope. In a blink the pair disappeared. He ran a full search of the area and there was nothing. He turned the light enhancer to full gain and still no luck. So intent was he on trying to locate the pair he nearly failed to recognize the thud behind him.
Grim, employing his lightning reflexes, turned around drawing his gun in the same motion. But before he could aim it at the intruder he felt an intense pain in his shooting hand and his gun dropped harmlessly to the deck.
The man in black spoke. Either Grimbold was still under the influence of the mescal or the guy spoke in some very strange language.
“I don’t know what you’re saying but no matter, you are here uninvited and that has meant death to innumerable Zits,”
Grim stated, “Its a mystery how you got in here without going past me or setting off the alarms, but that is moot now as you are about to die at my hands.”
He rose to turn those words into actions and kill him with his bare hands.
The man in black, so quick all Grim saw was a blur, pulled a small device from somewhere, shoved an ear bud into Grimbold’s left ear and pressed the device to Grim’s chest, where it stuck fast.
“I do not come to harm you,” the black man said, “I am in need of hiding for the day. I will be gone at nightfall.”
“So, you do know English!”
“No, the device I have given you is a universal translator. It will allow you to understand thousands of languages. It is my gift to you for the inconvenience of my presence in your abode.”
Grim’s headache was abating thanks to the pills, but this man’s presence was creating a completely new one.
The man pulled at his head covering and it slipped off revealing his shiny blue face, pointed ears, and a pair of ice blue eyes. Causing Grim’s eye brows to lift of their own accord.
“Niecro Nighana at you service.”,He said with a slight bow.
“Lesling, Grimbold Lesling,” Grim stated, unknowingly imitating the introduction of a literary super agent from the past.
Through the fog Grimbold had pulled enough information with which his head could grapple.
“We’ll dispense with how you managed to thwart all of my entry defenses for the moment and I’ll ask why you are here in my hole?”
“I needed to remain non-existent to the Zintonieans.”
“Good answer,” Grim admitted, “But why this hole in particular?”
“I sensed that you would be reluctant to kill me off-hand, being the curious person you are.”
“You gathered all that in the short time you’ve been here?” Grim said, glancing down at his weapon on the floor.
Niecro reached down, picked up the gun, and handed it to Grim, “I gleaned from your thoughts that you would rather unravel a mystery than kill an unknown person before I teleported into your hole. I thought it would be better safe than sorry.”
“I’m not sure how you know that particular English phrase, or how you teleport, but I’ll go along with you for now.
Who’s the chump?”
Niecro prodded the limp figure with his boot, “I’ve been trailing him since he left our home world without authorization.”
Their conversation was interrupted by a shell bursting within a few yards of the hole. The sound was deafening, the hole rocked like a ship at sea and dust shook loose from every crevice engulfing them in a cloud.
“Seems the Zintonieans are as curious as I am. Unfortunately their curiosity is limited to what you will look like blown to bits.”
“Do you have a camouflaged jacket I could borrow?”
“Not one that would fit.”
“No matter I need a disguise.”
Grim pulled a camo jacket from his locker and handed it to the alien. It was nearly as big as he was. He slipped it on and disappeared.
“Now that is plain rude,” Grimbold rubbed his head dislodging dust from his scalp.
He heard another shell explode at some distance from him and then another even further away. Then a long period of the sound he liked best, silence.
Niecro reappeared in front of him.
“You know that is rather annoying. You might try knocking at the door.”
“I apologize. I needed to get back here without drawing the Zintonieans back with me,” he handed the jacket back to Grimbold.
He examined the dusty jacket, now with several bullet holes and a rip in it.
“Haven’t you ever heard of returning borrowed items in better shape than you received them?”
“I’m sorry for that. I had to draw fire from them in order to send them off in the wrong direction and they were either better trained or luckier than most Zintoniean soldiers.”
“Sent them on a wild goose chase, did you? Great. I will accept the jacket as is considering the favor you’ve done for me.”
“Oh, it was not a favor to you. I needed to be free of them, since I am not authorized to be on your planet and they would have made my mission more difficult to complete had they remained.”
“Well, anyway it worked out in both our favors so, as my mother always told me the enemy of my enemy is my friend.”
“Your mother gave you erroneous advice. An enemy of your enemy could be antagonistic to you also.”
Grim looked down and shook his head, “It’s just a saying, my friend, just a saying.
“I suppose you arrived here in your own transportation, no?”
“Yes I did”
“How far away is it?”
“Fifteen Kilometers southwest”
Grim grasped his head in both hands trying to relieve the renewed pain and released a string of expletives, “Right in the middle of Zintoniean controlled area.”
“I can guarantee they have no way of detecting my ship.”
“Okay. How exactly do you move through ten klicks of Zintoniean space with a prisoner on your back without being noticed?”
Niecro rubbed his hand over his shiny blue chin, “I hadn’t thought that far ahead. I was so intent on capturing him.”
Grim was glad the hallucinations had past, but the headache seemed to get continually worse as he pondered strategy for this alien half-pint policeman.
“Well my suggestion is to let things cool down a bit and let the Zintonieans back off of their high alert before we get you back to your ship.”
“We? I have no intention of getting you involved in all this.”
“Well popping into my hole kinda undid that plan. I know the lay of the land, where the Zits hang out, and how to get by their scouting parties. So even if you don’t want it you are going to need my expertise.”
Grimbold’s headache had finally disappeared. And he lay flat against a rock, infrared-binoculars held up to his face. He was watching a Zintoniean patrol in spread formation, their carrier in the center, as they slowly moved westward.
“Well looks like we got time for a rest. It’s going to take some time for these scouts to move out of our way.”
Grim could see the spot where Niecro claimed he had left his ship. No ship was in sight, but he figured the little blue guy had figured a way to bury his ship. He wouldn’t put anything past him at this point.
Grim, with his head clear, was scheming. He knew an engineer who was smart enough to reverse engineer the universal translator thingy. They could make a fortune on the black market. He just needed to ensure Niecro made it off-planet. Since he wasn’t supposed to be here, he would be in no position to claim patent infringement.
Niecro and his ‘package’ were dressed in all black, Grim was in dark camo from head to foot. He longed for the old days when a Gilly suit would add to one’s disguise. But the flattened glass-like terrain didn’t lend itself to being well hidden on the featureless landscape broken only by an occasional boulder.
Grim whispered, “So what’s with your friend here? What did he do so wrong that made it worth your while to follow him to a forbidden planet and risk your neck?”
Niecro sighed, “This is a secret mission. I’ve already told you too much about him.”
“All you’ve told me is you tracked him off of your home planet and down here.”
“You see? That is too much.”
“Well at least tell me your home planet.”
“That would not reveal much, I suppose. Sarnisia. It’s a long way from here and not easy to find. Even I would have difficulty finding it without knowing its coordinates.”
“Are all Sarisians ninjas like you?”
“I am not ninja. I am Eloth’Naka. There are very few of us.”
“Quite a mouthful, huh? Are you like policemen?”
“Eloth’Naka are warriors, like yourself. We do sometimes acquiesce to the requests of the ministry. But we are in no way policemen.”
“Then why didn’t you kill this guy?”
“That is not the way of the Eloth’Naka. Our powers are a gift from the Prophets. The Prophets do not approve of us killing.”
Grim let out a quiet whistle, “That’s a new one on me. I’ve never met a warrior that didn’t kill. Doesn’t sound like it would be a very effective way to engage an enemy.”
“Well I am a Virtuoso not a Master. Perhaps I could explain it better if I was a Master.”
“You’ve got me quakin’ in my boots.If you aren’t a Master I’d hate to come across one in a dark alley.”
They both fell silent, each to their own thoughts. Grimbold was biting his lower lip. Niecro could have been mistaken for a stone.
The Sarnisian broke the silence, “May I ask why you are engaged in a counter-evolutionary movement that is destined to fail?”
Grimbold remained silent for a long time before answering.
“These Zits, they act like they are the saviors of our world. Helping to create peace and harmony among our nations,” His eyes glazed over and he looked down, “I guess they did that. But, I paid a heavy personal price for that peace.”
He kicked a stone hard with one of his number 12 combat boots, “My wife, Cassandra, got in the way of one of their peace keeping missions and they shot her dead. No hesitation, like she was a piece of meat. I want these creeps to go back to where they came from and I’m gonna spend the rest of my life trying to make sure that happens.”
“I am sorry for the pain the Zintonieans have caused you.”
Grim got back on his feet and checked the lay of the land, “Looks like we can move now. We have about thirty minutes to cross this plain before the next patrol passes.”
Niecro slung his prisoner over his shoulder and started off, Grim behind him with his M-16 at the ready. The ground sounded like thin ice cracking and sometimes like breaking glass. The smell, to which Grim had mostly become immune, was the smell of the thousands of bodies that had been incinerated when the nuclear bomb had leveled the area during WWIII.
Twenty minutes later they reached their objective. Niecro closed his eyes for a moment and then reached out his hand and pressed a small object in his hand a shuttle-like craft appeared out of nowhere. Grimbold was past the point of being astonished at this little man’s tricks and took the magic in stride.
Niecro turned to Grim and clasped his hands together, “I thank you for your invaluable help. May the Prophets bring you peace.”
Grimbold Lesling answered uneasily, “Yeah, may your Prophets help you get out of here. And you better make it quick!”
He had just spotted an air patrol jetting nearby.
“They’ve spotted us! Get going. I’m outa here.”
With that Grim took off at a full run back across the plain. He heard the throaty sound of the Sarnisian craft starting its engines. He turned back, stood at attention, and saluted as the craft lifted into the air.
Seeing something out of the corner of his eye, he turned in time to witness a Zintoniean missile drive into the ground at his feet and explode.

Monday, November 7, 2011

7 Ways to use Exposition Correctly (improved)

[New & Improved! (Is it possible for something to be both and improved?) This updated with examples for points 4,5 & 6]
The basic purpose of exposition is to tell the reader something he must know to understand and believe in the character and story. Rarely should exposition exist in a pure state. You can combine it with narration, description, and dialogue.  But any passage who's fundamental purpose is to impart exposition to the reader should be deemed an expository passage. Long passages of expository writing and description are considered passe in modern fiction and yet it is impossible to write a story without some amount of exposition. Therefore one should endeavor to make the exposition a part of the narrative flow. The method used to impart exposition is completely dependent upon the chosen point of view. violating this rule creates a story bogged down with useless detail and explanation. The characters become unrealistic and the story becomes unbelievable. Note this example:
I sat in front of the fire well aware of the boy approaching from behind.
The boy was frightened, but continued to approach. He had dealt with outlaws before and knew how cruel they could be.
This is horrible. How is it possible for the narrator to know what the boy was feeling and how could he be privy to the boy's thoughts concerning  previous encounters with outlaws?
1. Let the character give the information to the viewpoint character through dialogue.
I sat in front of the fire well aware of the boy approaching from behind.
"Mister? I'm scared," the boy said as he continued to approach, "I've had dealings with outlaws before. I know you guys can be cruel."
2. let the viewpoint character narrate the expository information in such a way that it is apparent he received the information from another character. For example:
The boy told me he was scared. He had dealings with outlaws before. he said he knew how cruel we could be.
3. Information the viewpoint narrator wants to convey to the reader about someone who is not present can be presented through dialogue with another character:
"I tell you Frank, that kid was scared out of his wits. Seems he had dealings with outlaws before and new we could be cruel."
4.When two characters are privy to information that needs to be told to the reader it can be expressed in a disagreement or an argument. This is a simple concept where the information is generated in dialogue.

"I don'r understand why didn't you take the boy down?"
"He said he was scared."
"No kidding, that doesn't answer the question."
"He left me curious. Apparently he had dealings with outlaws before and knew we could be cruel. I wanted to find out the particulars of his dealings. It could be he met up with one of our gang before. I wanted to make certain he hadn't told anyone else."
5.Information about the past can be expressed through the reminiscences of two or more characters.

"You remember that boy who tried to sneak up on your camp one night?"
"How could I forget? He was scared out of his wits. I thought he'd pee his pants."
"He had dealing with outlaws before, right?"
"Yep, Seems he got caught in a box canyon that some outlaws were using as a base camp. No one was there when he first got there so he began provisioning himself out of their store of victuals, he was in the middle of it when the guys returned from a heist all excited and ready to cause havoc. They caught him and took all their aggression out on him before spanking him, taking all his provisions, including that which was rightfully his  and sent him on his way under threat of death."
"Well, it's no wonder he was afraid of outlaws."
6. convey information about the past through the unspoken thoughts of the narrator.

I remember that boy was scared witless. He'd had experience with outlaws before and was not very enthusiastic about have to deal with another.
7. You should test your story for faulty exposition before your final draft by asking yourself  these questions:
a  Is the information absolutely essential so the reader may understand and believe in the character and story?
b. How would the viewpoint character know this information?

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Friday, November 4, 2011

Dwell With the Lamb - a New Quest

[Sorry to those of you who don't like cliffhangers. It's getting on toward noon on the west coast of the U.S. So I've got to blog it as is. Somehow I wrote 800 words and didn't say a thing. Maybe I should get a job as a political speech writer. If I finish the scene soon enough I'll amend the post and let you all know.]

Benjamin hadn’t seen the shaman that saved him since his return to the reservation. He relished the thought of being able to thank her in his own voice.

Rebecca drove him out to the old trailers that most of them used as hunting cabins, but the shaman had made it her home. Benjamin watched the cloud of dust the old truck raised as it drove over the dry riverbed used as a road in the summer.
Benjamin knew that Rebecca came this way many times a week to ensure that the two orphans that lived there permanently had food and water, as well as schooling them. That was why she had been there the first day he returned. He also knew there was always a tribal woman there to take care of them. He had ridden along with Rebecca several times on her treks there. He came along for the ride and to visit the forest he had lived in for so long. He never thought they would be making the trip solely for him.He didn’t know what to expect when word passed to him that the shaman wanted to see him. But he had heard much about her in the days he had spent as a human. Most of his friends had told him she was evil and did spooky things. He knew another side of her if there were two sides of her and not just the ramblings of ignorance inventing a fearsome woman where none existed.
When they arrived Rebecca squeezed his hand and smiled as she opened the truck door. Benjamin smiled a hesitant smile, as he was unsure of himself and unsure of the situation. He inquired around as to where the shaman was. A rough old man in an ancient cowboy hat pointed to the forest and said, “She went into the forest early this morning.”
Benjamin’s heart beat loud in his ears. He would have to revisit the places he had been as a wolf. He rustled up his courage and with a huge sigh walked into the forest. The forest floor was replete with pine needles requiring a good eye to follow the shaman’s tracks. Benjamin’s wolf eyes were well trained in tracking even though he used scent most often to track. The ability of his wolf eyes had carried over to his human eyes. There was a faint lingering scent but his nose was not sensitive enough to discern a path, so he had to rely solely on his eyes which slowed him down.
What seemed to Benjamin to be several hours he came to a rocky clearing with a dusty game trail meandering though it. He bent down and examined one of the shaman’s tracks. She had passed this way less than two minutes before. As he hunched over the track he became aware of an animal scent. He judged by his depleted sense of smell that the animal was very near. He heard a growl from just above his head on the boulder to his right. He knew that growl well. He knew his human body could not fight the coyote, nor could he outrun it. He wracked his brain for a possible alternatives to what was sure to become a deadly encounter. The only item he had available for his defense was a knife sheathed to his belt. In his mind he could count the number of bites and tears he would sustain before he would be able to kill the beast. It was not hopeful. His best chance lay in doing the unexpected.
With out a wind up he leapt upwards and grabbed the coyote by the throat and slammed it to the ground on its back. He pressed his chest against the animal’s front legs and pressed hard on his neck. His side was being raked hard by the coyote’s rear toenails, his jacket absorbed most of the scratching. But the coyote was whining through its constricted windpipe and was close to death.
He lost his grip on the coyote’s throat and its back legs stopped defending itself. The coyote was changing shape under his hands. Benjamin was baffled. Where the coyote once was now lay the shaman coughing and choking.
“Good job, Benjamin,” the shaman croaked though her coughing.
“How did you do that? How did you become a coyote? Was it a hallucination?”
“No, Benjamin, I didn’t tell you the complete truth when I was telling you about spirit animals. Some people like me have mastered a skill of metamorphing ourselves into an animal that is of the nature of our spirit guides. My spirit guide happens to be Iceye’ye. As difficult as the trickster is at times, I always try to keep in mind he is the creator of Nimi’ipuu, the people. He is cunning, wise, and a pain in the butt.”
“Thank you for saving me from my animal prison.”
“Pshaw. I’ll accept the thanks, knowing how it has changed your life, but I have to admit I didn’t do it purely for you. I had my own agenda. I was losing young hopefuls to video games, girls, and cars. Not necessarily in that order of course. I needed to get you back to quell the fear of tradition. This generation of the Nimi’ipuu can ill afford to lose the past. It makes us what we are and teaches us better ways to live.”
“Well regardless of your motives you saved me and I am grateful.”
“You might want to hold off on praising me. I’ve got a task for you and you probably won’t like it.

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Thursday, November 3, 2011

6 Tips on Writing a Powerful Synopsis

[I was prompted by someone who was having difficulty writing a synopsis and ended up writing a chapter]

1. Outline it.
    I think this is the most important point of all. I don't mean the old Roman numerals and ABCs, use whatever method you are comfortable with to build a framework for your synopsis. Many times you can reduce the framework of your story to its most significant points. Take out a hacksaw and rip your story to pieces and find the absolutely necessary elements of the main story line or plot that gets your protagonist from the beginning to the end.
2. Do the math.
    I know that you may be a writer because math stumped you. So here  is a simple table to help you out.
# of words in story      number of words in synopsis
100,000                       480
80,000                         390
60,000                         250
40,000                         160
20,000                         80
10,000                         40

If you wrote a tome over 100,000 words I would stick to a maximum of two printed pages or 500 words. Any more and you chance losing the interest of the reader assigned to your novel and that puts your novel at the bottom of the pile or worse, on the rejection list unread. If you feel these numbers are too restrictive remember these are guidelines but I would suggest staying within 10% of indicated number (10% would be the number with the 0 loped off :-)).

3. Adjectives and verbs
    Get out your word finder and thesaurus and find the most powerful, exciting, and descriptive adjectives and verbs possible to build your synopsis. I don't mean to get flowery or grotesque to an extreme. Although, if your story IS grotesque to the extreme, ignore that advice. But you want you verbs to describe direct action. and your adjectives should excite the reader. Remember you are trying to engage the reader so they will want to read the story.

4. So far the tips are intended for both indie pub and traditional publication. We will divide the two here.
indie pub
    If you are writing to your readership obviously don't give away the climax or details you want your readers to discover through the story to build the excitement and drive the reader to the end. So be careful what you reveal.
Traditional Publication
   Don't hold anything back. Don't think that leaving a cliffhanger in your synopsis is going give you a better chance to be read. Publishers want to know that you can write the beginning, middle and end of your story in a compelling manner before they take the time to read the story. Holding back the climax is certain to hold back your story from being considered.

5. Think poetically.
   By which I mean work within the constraints of the framework you've built and use a minimum of words to convey the essence of your work. Don't take me literally and rhyme.

6. Edit, Edit, Edit, Edit
   Condensing 100,000 words into a mere 480 should not be daunting if you follow these steps. But imagine if you will any errors in your synopsis multiplied by 200. Remove any words of which you lack a complete working knowledge. Thesauruses are great tools if you use them to help you remember  synonyms you know and not to use big words that you don't know. Make certain there are no passive sentences, no spell check idiocies, and finally the result is the best possible representation of your story.

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Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Dwell With the Lamb - Mother's Meals

Benjamin had a smile on his face for the first time since he was back. He had found himself thanks to his father. He not only could remember things that had been forgotten, he could express anything he thought. He felt free for the first time since turning into a human.

Not everything he remembered was good. He just felt good about remembering them. He remembered how his parents would argue over how to raise him. He remembered how difficult it was to live within two cultures. One on life-support the other foreign and unfriendly. That was not only a conundrum within himself, but was the recurrent theme of his parents arguing. His mother argued for a Christian life among the white man. His father argued that to lose the past was to lose who they were. He could only imagine what they fought about after he disappeared during his vision quest.
But his father had healed him using Indian medicine. Benjamin doubted there was white man medicine that could have cured him.
His family was at the dinner table, a great meal set before them. His mother said they should have a celebration. Benjamin wondered how they could afford such a meal.
“What are you thinking about, Benjamin?” his mother asked, “You seem to be lost in your own world.”
“Nothing really, mother, just taking in this sumptuous meal.”
“You deserve so much more, like the prodigal son. Which truly you are.
“It’s just fabulous that you can talk again. Now it can be like it used to be”
Benjamin had doubts about that. Too much had changed in him. Too much had changed for his parents. They weren’t the same people. They acted different than they had before he had left. He had learned so much abut life that he could not express to them as it had happened to his wolf-self and there were no human words that could describe his thoughts and feelings of his life as a wolf.
He had learned not to gag on the burnt meat his mother served and was beginning to actually have a taste for it. He took a bite of the turkey his mother had cooked for him. He had some trouble with the vegetables not being used to them yet. The red jiggling thing on his plate had him baffled. It did look like meat or vegetable so he avoided it.Partially to distract himself from the odd items on his plate and partly to satisfy his curiosity he spoke up.
“What was it like for you two when I didn’t return?”
His father spoke up, “It was terrible at first. Your mother was inconsolable. I felt so lost. Once you were gone for a week, because all those before you have returned within a week, all the men searched for you. The hunters who are very good at tracking picked up your trail, but tracing week old tracks was difficult for all of us. It took us three days to track what we thought were your prints to a large meadow where your tracks mixed with a very large wolf. Some say they saw the wolf in the trees across the meadow and claimed he was a giant. Your tracks ended there but we crossed ten mies all around that site in hopes of finding more tracks and found none.
"It was odd that there were no bones, but with a wolf that large we figured he had crushed your bones and ate them. The men gave up but I continued to search for an entire year but found no other traces of you. I finally gave you up for lost or dead.
“You were our only child and we were too old to have another child. We were both devastated. We thought our son, who we loved beyond measure, was gone for good. And we mourned for you until the day you returned.”
Benjamin was caught up in a memory of a group of humans gathering around his boulder as he watched from the other side of the meadow.
“That large wolf had to be me. I didn’t recognize any scents when I came back later to investigate.”
He was going to add that he recognized many of the scents of the people he had met, including his father, but he figured they wouldn’t understand. Humans don’t appear to have the same ability to distinguish scents like he could, even today, and to call attention to that might upset his mother.
“Looking back,” his father said with pride in his voice, “it appears you made as good a wolf as you do an Indian.”
Benjamin smiled and returned his attention to his plate. The discussion had left him with an uneasy feeling that he couldn’t quite put a finger on. Maybe it was nothing, but he needed to take his time and review what was said. Maybe he still wasn’t getting all the human words right.
He thought about Rebecca and wondered once again about her strange reactions to him. What was she thinking? Was it interest in him as a mate or that of a playmate? She wasn’t clear about anything and her scents were undefinable. He did know that his heart beat a strange pattern when she was near him. He didn’t know if the signal from his body was a positive thing or a negative thing. He did not remember having those feelings before the vision quest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dwell With the Lamb - Father Heals

Benjamin was watching television, his favorite pastime as it allowed him to access a wide variety of human interaction in hope of gleaning enough information to understand his new world.
 His father walked into the living room and asked, “Benjamin, may I talk with you for a little while?”
Benjamin nodded his head and turned off the T.V. With the remote control, another human magic he had just learned to accept.
Joseph pulled a chair opposite Benjamin and sat down. He grasped Benjamin’s hands in his and stare into his eyes. Joseph’s dark eyes were pools of ink to Benjamin. His hands were warm but dessicated like stiff old leather. He smelled like a father should smell in Benjamin’s mind, a hint of wild herbs and dried sweat. Joseph squeezed Benjamin’s hands so tight as to feel uncomfortable to him.
“Benjamin,” Joseph said, “it has been enough time now. I understand that your thoughts have been mixed up for a long time, but time has passed. You have been among your people long enough now that you know our words again. You were always slow to speak allowing others their words first. That was not wrong, it was just your way.
“But, your silent time has reached its end. It is time for you to retake your position among the people. In order to do that you must speak. The words are there let your voice open and release those thoughts.”
Joseph placed one hand hard over Benjamin’s throat. His hand, that was warm in Benjamin’s hand, became a flame of heat on his throat. Benjamin’s eyes darted left and right as fear rose within him. The burning increased as it rose upward inside Benjamin’s head generating a conflagration within his mind.
“Now, Benjamin, remember your human tongue!”
Benjamin had never experiencing fear like this before. He felt trapped, unable to do his own bidding, only look into his father’s eyes and feel the fire within him.
Then came a moment when the heat dissipated. And Benjamin felt a connection from his thoughts to his throat he didn’t remember ever feeling before.
“Father,” it came out more like a frog’s croak than a word, but it issued from Benjamin’s mouth.
His father pulled him to him and hugged him tight and shouted, “Thank God, your voice has been healed by his power!”
Ben’s voice gained strength and vibrancy as he spoke, “I am thankful, father, for your healing hand. I don’t understand how, but I understand that you wanted to help me to regain my voice. I have had many words in my head I have been unable to express. So many thoughts for so long. From the day I became human to today.”
Benjamin hugged his father with all the love and unspoken affection he had held within him.
“Benjamin, it wasn’t I who restored your voice, I was just the vehicle. God, in his infinite mercy has deemed that your voice should return. You should give all praises to him.”
“I don’t understand this God you speak of, but I do understand the love of a father toward his son and his desire to have him a whole being, and I am grateful to you for your gift.”
Benjamin’s mother walked in the front door with her hands full of groceries, grousing about something under her breath.
Benjamin stood and said, “Mother, I can talk now.”
His mother’s full load of groceries hit the floor with a loud crash of cans and bottles.
She ran to her son and hugged him so tight he lost his air.
“Thank God, Thank God,” She repeated over and over again.
As her voice trailed off, she looked down at her husband and sniffed the air.
“Joseph, why? Old Indian cures are hogwash and you know it, yet you apply your superstitious nonsense on your own son. Some of those so called cures were methods of death, and yet you risk your own son to the old ways!”
“You can’t argue with success. God, through the tribal cure has made our son whole again.”
“I say he chose to heal him of his own accord, showed him his infinite mercy, and removed the torturous method of the old way.”
Benjamin sensed that they were traveling old ground from which they had never found an exit and remained silent.
His mother gave him a kiss on his cheek and began picking up the spilled groceries. His father grasped Benjamin’s hands and gave him a big smile. Benjamin noticed his father’s once dry hands were now damp and hot.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Dwell With the Lamb - Church

Benjamin had no idea what to expect today. His father was driving his mother and him to church. His mother had tried to explain what it was about but he couldn’t comprehend. He had no point of reference with which to compare it.
He limited himself to enjoying the car ride. Watching the world go by at incredible speeds. It was an exhilarating experience each and every time he rode in a car. It was even more exhilarating to sit in the back seat. He wasn’t distracted by the talking going on in the front seat and the angle he had of the land passing by made him feel he was racing over the landscape at amazing speeds.
He wasn’t happy about the clothes his mother chose for him to wear. The thing around his neck threatened to choke him and he tugged and tugged at the noose trying to loosen it so he could get a full breath of air.

He was in awe of the ornate building in which they were seated. So much to see it overwhelmed his recently reacquired human senses. When the congregation began singing Benjamin wanted to add his howl to the mix, but realized no one else was howling like he would have and in his shyness he unknowingly averted an unwanted attention getter.
The pastor exhorted on Matthew 5:43, within the midst of the Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Benjamin understood exactly what he was saying and wondered why within this large book the pastor chose only these words to speak about. He wondered who this Jesus person was and why the man was repeating his words and explaining what he meant.
Benjamin’s understanding was limited to the words as spoken and not their application in his life. As a wolf, he understood that sometimes vengeance was delayed but never forgotten. How could one not deal out retribution on someone who hurt a member of his family? He decided that, while the words were beautiful, they could not be applied to his enemies. They had killed his family without reason and did not deserve his love, only death. His anger was overwhelming and he was not able to enjoy the music that was sung afterward. He followed his parents to their car deep in thought. His mother spoke to him but he did not hear what she said and she didn’t appear to need a response from him. He remained in his deep meditation.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dwell With the Lamb – Cattlemen Encounter (cont)

[only about 200 more words but you get introduced to Maya Blackfeather, Benjamin's mother.]

“I don’t know what’s got into you, Benjamin,” Rebecca focus was split between keeping the truck on the dirt road and Benjamin’s attitude, “You’re not a wolf now. As a wolf I’m sure you could fight them, at least one at a time. But you barely have control of your human body. You still are doing things like a wolf. I heard you growling at them as they left. They would have wiped the floor with you, Benjamin.”
Benjamin sat bouncing as Rebecca drove through the many ruts in the road caused by flash flooding. He began to cool down and listen to her.
“They rule us in town. If we press charges against them the judges throw out the cases as unjustified. The white man has control everywhere except on the reservation.
”Don’t get me wrong. There are many Nez Perce that live among the white man, all over the world, but here locally is the only place I know that we have trouble and it is mostly that group of ruffians that drive the opinions of the townspeople and hassle us.”
She turned onto turned onto the paved road that was the main road to the housing area and pulled up to Benjamin’s house. She helped Benjamin carry the many bags they had accumulated while shopping into the house.
“Where have you been?” Maya Blackfeather was by no means happy with her arms crossed and a deep frown.
“We went to town to buy clothes for Benjamin. His old ones were too small for him.”
“You should have asked me before taking him among the white men. You could have gotten him into big trouble.”
“We’re fine, Maya, nothing happened,” Rebecca said, not mentioning the confrontation with the men.
Benjamin grabbed Rebecca by the shoulders and rubbed his cheek against hers. He could feel the goose bumps rise on her skin and the warm breath she exhaled into his ear. He backed off, picked up the packages and went upstairs to his room.

Friday, October 28, 2011

7 Ways to Use Exposition Correctly

[Since I didn't have a chance to work on my WIP today I'm back to writing fundamentals]
The basic purpose of exposition is to tell the reader something he must know to understand and believe in the character and story. Rarely should exposition exist in a pure state. You can combine it with narration, description, and dialogue.  But any passage who's fundamental purpose is to impart exposition to the reader should be deemed an expository passage. Long passages of expository writing and description are considered passe in modern fiction and yet it is impossible to write a story without some amount of exposition. Therefore one should endeavor to make the exposition a part of the narrative flow. The method used to impart exposition is completely dependent upon the chosen point of view. violating this rule creates a story bogged down with useless detail and explanation. The characters become unrealistic and the story becomes unbelievable. Note this example:
I sat in front of the fire well aware of the boy approaching from behind.
The boy was frightened, but continued to approach. He had dealt with outlaws before and knew how cruel they could be.
This is horrible. How is it possible for the narrator to know what the boy was feeling and how could he be privy to the boy's thoughts concerning  previous encounters with outlaws?
1. Let the character give the information to the viewpoint character through dialogue.
I sat in front of the fire well aware of the boy approaching from behind.
"Mister? I'm scared," the boy said as he continued to approach, "I've had dealings with outlaws before. I know you guys can be cruel."
2. let the viewpoint character narrate the expository information in such a way that it is apparent he received the information from another character. For example:
The boy told me he was scared. He had dealings with outlaws before. he said he knew how cruel we could be.
3. Information the viewpoint narrator wants to convey to the reader about someone who is not present can be presented through dialogue with another character:
"I tell you Frank, that kid was scared out of his wits. Seems he had dealings with outlaws before and new we could be cruel."
4.When two characters are privy to information that needs to be told to the reader it can be expressed in a disagreement or an argument. This is a simple concept where the information is generated in dialogue.
5.Information about the past can be expressed through the reminiscences of two or more characters.
6. convey information about the past through the unspoken thoughts of the narrator.
7. You should test your story for faulty exposition before your final draft by asking yourself  these questions:
a  Is the information absolutely essential so the reader may understand and believe in the character and story?
b. How would the viewpoint character know this information?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dwell With the Lamb - In Town & Cattlemen Encounter

[Surprise! I got into a creative mode yesterday and couldn't escape, so in addition to my short story work I added to the novel. The first part in italics I already shared. The new stuff is at the bottom in normal text. Sorry it's not a lot but it rounds out the scene which ended quicker than expected and runs right into the beginning of the next which I think is kind of an interesting conflict brewing.]

Benjamin tried to keep up with Rebecca, but the multitude of people walking in the opposite direction kept bumping into him. Rebecca grasped his his hand and forced him behind her letting her spread the wave of pedestrian traffic which was much more accommodating to the beautiful young woman.

Benjamin tried to resist the embarrassment he felt at being lead a by a woman. Suddenly she made a left hand turn and pulled him into a clothing store.
“We’ve got to find some clothes for you for all occasions.”
Benjamin was overwhelmed with the vast array of textiles that assaulted his eyes. He couldn’t focus on anything and he had a strong urge to run. But Rebecca was still gripping his hand and her calm demeanor helped him to relax somewhat.
He focused his attention on just a single item a rough looking gray thing that smelled of sheep with a dark zig-zag pattern all over the item.
Rebecca asked, “Do you like that sports coat? It’s herringbone. Looks like wool,” she grabbed the coat and examined the label.
“Yep, wool. Want to try it on?”
Benjamin shrugged his shoulders, a gesture he had learned recently that expressed non-commitment in response to a request.
Rebecca held the coat up against his chest, the hanger uncomfortably in his face, “Not bad. I think it should fit. Try it on.”
She removed the hanger, which surprised Benjamin. He had thought the hanger was part of this clothing.
She handed the coat to him. The look of confusion on his face was enough for Rebecca to take back the coat, “Hold out one arm.”
They went through the process of dressing Benjamin with Rebecca’s assistance.
“That fits perfect and you look good in it. Sophisticated.”
“Can I help you?” the nasal voice came from a very thin older lady dressed in a smock the the name of the store embroidered on it.
“I think we are doing fine by ourselves, ma’am.
“Do you have money?” she asked rudely.
Rebecca sighed and pulled a credit card out of her purse and handed it to the clerk. The clerk walked back to the front of the store. Benjamin had stared at the woman wondering if she belonged to the tribe that killed his family.
Rebecca, grabbed his arm, “Don’t worry, Benjamin. We get treated this way often in town. It is our own fault. Or I should say some members of our tribe are at fault for stealing, drinking and causing trouble in town. You learn to accept it.”
The woman returned and handed the card back to Rebecca, not saying a word and left to assist a white woman who had entered the store.
They ran into a logistical problem when it came to pants, but eventually Rebecca got across the message that he needed to put them on in the little rooms with the curtains.
When they sat down for lunch at an outdoor Mexican cafe they had several large bags full of clothes.
“You do understand what I say, right?” Rebecca asked.
Benjamin nodded, then took a bite of his burrito. He enjoyed the many different flavors that human food had. He liked eating just for the sake of tasting, not just to fill his belly.
“Do you remember me from before your spirit walk?”
Benjamin shook his head.
“We… we were friends. Good friends. Maybe more than friends. Do you understand?”
Benjamin shook his head.
“We cared about each other a lot. I don’t really know how to say this. Things have turned out so wrong. So difficult for me to comprehend the changes. When you were gone we mourned your loss. We thought you were taken by a wild animal. Your father never gave up hope. He said you could take down any animal even with your bare hands. But the rest of us were realistic. If you were okay you would have returned like the rest. I didn’t know what to do. I thought we would be together. I never thought about anyone else, even after.”
Benjamin just stared at her watching tears streaking her face.
“And now you are back. I am so happy you are back. But, I don’t know how you feel. I don’t know what you are thinking. You are different in some ways… but I still love you.
“I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Rebecca stood up and ran to the bathroom. Benjamin just watched her go and ate his burrito. He wondered why it was so hard to see. His eyes were filled with unshed tears.


He heard a loud voice behind him on the street, “Do you smell that? What is that God awful smell?”

He heard several men laughing. He turned to look. There were seven of them.
“Oh I see it now. It’s that Injun. I guess they don’t have water on the reservation.”
The man was staring into Benjamin’s eyes, “Do you have scissors? You need to cut that stinkin’ hair too.”
Benjamin sniffed the air. The men all laughed again.
The same man asked, “What’s the matter? Can’t you smell your own stink?”
Benjamin knew these men. Even though he couldn’t smell as well as he used to, he knew their scents. These were the ones.
He stood and faced them returning their angry stare.
“Oh ho, looks like we got an uppity Injun here. You going to start an uprising are you?”
The men all clenched their fists and moved in closer.
Rebecca interrupted the stand-off, “What is going on here?” She yelled, “You men have better things to do than fight with a boy! Go on! Leave us alone!”
The men backed down, opening their fists. The leader turned away and gestured with his hand like there was nothing there worth thinking about and they all walked away.
“What’s the matter with you? Rebecca asked Benjamin, “Do you have a death wish? They would have hurt you bad, maybe even killed you. They are bad men and they love to fight with the people of our tribe.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

6 Points in Developing a Theme

[No more WIP for a while as I am involved in writing a short story for a sci-fi franchise that has dibs on the material. I should finish it soon and we'll get back to the story at hand.]
1. Traditionally, stories portray a struggle between good and evil (although the definition is often in the mind of the protagonist and may not match the readers definition of good and evil).
2. All stories demonstrate that certain people have had experiences that make a statement about life, leaving the reader with a conclusion about the nature of existence that can be verified in real life. This is called the theme on the story.
After reading a story, the reader comes to some conclusion about life, that he may or may not have known before, as the author has shown it to be in the story. He can apply this discovery to life and test it for veracity. some conclusions about the nature of life may be very complex and will require the reader to use a great deal of intelligence and literary skill. For example the conclusion that crime does not pay is a somewhat valid but poor interpretation of Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment. But whether simpler or complex the conclusion that the reader reaches is what I am calling the theme of the story.
3. An author's interpretation of his statement of purpose results in the theme of the novel.
Sorry, information out of sequence,  I will discuss later the development of an idea for a story that will define statement of purpose. but the short version, when an author states his purpose in writing a story he is going to prove something about life. The only way he can do this is to prove that something is either good or evil. It is quite possible to put on the yoke of someone else's values, but the safest and most productive choice is for the author to utilize his own values of which he is most familiar and most likely to create a fully formed truth.
4. The theme of a story is derived from the struggle between good and evil.
This is not to say that an antagonist must be pure evil and the protagonist must be pure good. That would result in the most boring of characters in any type of story with the exception of the allegory where characters take on the stereotypical traits of personality types.
When the environment generates good the protagonist must, ordinarily, represent evil and vice versa. I'm not using good and evil as absolutes here, but working within the terms of the author's particular vision.
5. In a traditional story either good or evil triumphs, and the result of the struggle between the two is the theme.
6.This should be obvious but bears mentioning. Thematic significance of a story arises from an exaggerated impression of life.
An ordinary expression of life would not be significant to a reader and would actually make it doubtful the reader would finish reading the story.
[Next stop the bane of all authors: exposition]

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Dwell With the Lamb - A Human

[Returning to my WIP. The beginning of this scene is the first snippet I wrote. My method of dealing with a new idea is to first deal with proof of concept and getting a feel for my ability to write the subject effectively and my enthusiasm for the concept. If either fail I put the idea on the back burner.]

The heat of the afternoon was blowing in on a gentle breeze that barely ruffled his mottled, glossy, and thinning coat. The temperature was warm for an early spring day. He stood on an escarpment of dark gray cracked granite jutting from the peak of the bare knoll on the edge of the forest. The color of his fur blended well with the granite making him invisible to prey and foe alike. The huge beast lifted his snout to sample the wafting air. A cornucopia of information flooded his brain creating a landscape of smells. The accuracy of his sense of smell was better than his eyesight which was limited to what was in front of him, which in this case was for the most part forest.

Everything smelled as the wolf expected, There were a few insignificant details that he noted for later like the rabbit’s nest that was closest to his spot was empty, but he could smell succulent young rabbits wandering with their mother in the valley below, no doubt, looking for new shoots that appear after a rain as long as the one that passed through two days earlier.
He made a quick visual scan of the distant craggy snow-covered mountains and then turned and trotted down the knoll. It was time to refresh the no trespassing signs once again.
As he followed his own scent around his perimeter, his jaw hanging open and tongue lolling to cool his svelte body, he pondered once more how he would avenge his family. Thoughts that came unbidden over took his mind once more. He was not a lone wolf, he was an avenger wolf. He would find a way. They would pay for what they did. Each one, whose scent was memorized in his mind, would pay with their life.
He stopped dead in his tracks, an unknown scent ahead. He always moved toward the blowing wind both to mask his own scent and alert him to the presence of others and this unusual scent put him on full alert. He eased himself into a gap between two boulders where the tall brown grasses acted as a shield and lowered his body into his hunting position. This provided for concealment and wound his body like a spring so he could lunge whenever necessary either at prey or intruder or off and away should the danger be too great for him, a rare occurrence. The scent was human, but not one of the cattlemen. Still his heart rate increased as the woman passed by his hiding spot. That a human would be so deep within the woods intrigued him. That she didn’t smell wrong confused him.
He leaped out from hiding bounding well beyond the faint trail and moved down toward the river where he could parallel her from a concealing distance. She appeared to be oblivious to her surroundings and made a considerable racket as she moved down the game trail. He followed her to the clearing that his pack had used as a resting spot during the spring and summer months once they ceased their nomadic winter foraging.
This place held significance for the wolf beyond its utilitarian facet. It was where he had first spotted his eventual mate as she and her pack scampered through his claimed territory. He had always been tolerant of roving packs, allowing them to hunt in his area so long as they continued on in a timely manner. He had been laying atop a large rock allowing it to cool his body after a long chase.
When he saw the female he felt something inside that felt good and right. Without a thought he sat up, lifted his head to the heavens and let out the most melodic, mournful, and lonely howl a wolf had ever uttered.
The female stopped immediately and looked at him expectantly. The loner stopped and approached the female. They introduced themselves to each other and th female returned to the pack which moved to a pine tree with a low over hanging branch and settled down to rest. The female kept looking over at the lone wolf on the rock.
The woman stopped at that very same rock. She studied the ground with a professional air. She climbed the steep ground up to the top of the rock and again stopped and studied the ground. She lifted her head and looked around at the surroundings. She had a wolf’s eye he thought. Best to stay at a good distance.
The woman climbed down from the rock and began to gather stones using her skirt as a basket. Once she appeared satisfied she sat down among a group of smaller rocks large enough to conceal her completely from above, but left her exposed to the lower land. After arranging the stones in a circle she arose and headed to the river. The wolf had to scramble to stay out of her way. She filed several gourds she had hanging from her ample waist and on the way back up toward her camp she picked up fallen branches and pine straw until her arms were overloaded with wood. She set the wood aside and placed pine straw and kindling in the stone circle. After which she sat cross legged and closed her eyes and began humming. Soon the humming became a howl. A howl to draw a pack together. It struck the lone wolf in the heart and he wanted to approach. His wolf sense convinced him that she was a danger no matter what his body was feeling.
They both sat motionless for several hours. But as the sun went down the woman stopped howling and lit the fire she had built in front of her. She took dried herbs and sprinkled the fire creating a dance of colors.
The wolf found it difficult to not look at the fire, but he know if he looked at the fire his eyes would shine in the dark revealing him in his hiding place.

Monday, October 24, 2011

7 Basic Story Building Concepts

[Some of this is review, but pertinent to the concepts expressed in this lesson]

1. A complication is something unpleasant that happens to a protagonist which gives rise to a chief motivating force of the character.
The complication motivates the protagonist to alter the status quo but the chief motivating force should not only drive the protagonist away from the complication but create a tangible objective. Creating this tangible objective we have created the means for sustaining the conflict inherent in the complication, but also a driving force that can be sustained even after the complication has been overcome or relegated to the background. It changes the personality of the protagonist in that he will act differently to situations than he would have if the complication had not occurred.

2. The major complication can be put into a question for the reader. Will the chief motivating force of the protagonist succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective?
This is a necessary storytelling device and drives the reader to to keep reading.

3.Will the chief motivating force succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective?
This is of primary importance for the writer to answer for himself before embarking on the writing phase of storytelling. It shapes the entirety of the story. I know many writers, like myself, loath outlines (I prefer to build a loose framework to allow freedom of movement for my characters). But, writing down the answer to this question help to cement the direction your story will follow in your head and can subconsciously affect your writing to encourage the stated outcome. The answer to this question also drive the writer to reveal something new about the character that may otherwise have been left hidden.

4 Another basic. In stories with plot each event that causes a minor complication must result in conflict for the protagonist by hindering or preventing his chief motivating force from reaching its tangible objective.
Very basic, but for new storytellers, if a minor complication does not result in conflict for the protagonist it is not germane to the story and should be reworked or eliminated. you may be thinking that minor complications to the antagonist may be needed to drive suspense. In a tight story line any complications for the antagonist (providing the antagonist is not the environment) should be the direct or indirect result of the protagonist following his chief motivating force.

5. Stories with story line begin with the cause (character traits) to produce events which result in effects (minor complications).
Here lies the major difference between the two types of stories. Stories with plots begin with events external to the protagonist and create the causal chain that drive the story. A story with story line the character's personality gives rise to the conflict and creates the causal  chain that drives the story.
You may be thinking that there is no reason not to allow both to occur in a single story. I totally agree, but I am describing traditional story telling here. As in painting one should know the rules before breaking them.

6. To make a minor complication more interesting and exciting to the reader the writer must exaggerate it. This is the corollary to statement that you should write about the most important day of your protagonist's life. Writing true to life is not exciting enough to hold a readers interest, after all a reader seeks stories as an escape from the true to life problems.

7. More exaggeration. The protagonist must stand to lose or gain something of value if the complication is solved or unsolved. To make certain something of value is at stake, the author must make the complication deep enough by exaggeration
I'll leave the reasoning for this as an exercise for the class.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

6 Steps in Developing a Story

1. Begin a story with an event outside the character of the protagonist that starts a chain reaction of causally related events.
  This is basic to story telling; However, occasionally a new writer will meander through world building (a no-no) during the beginning of their story and lose the impact of the start of the plot or story line.

2. Creating causally related events in a story one creates a single (sometimes more than one) major complication and minor complications within the framework of the major complication, including an ante-climax complication that resolves the major complication.
I know, blah blah blah. In other words,  every story has a main arc involving the protagonist in which a major complication is dealt with and over come at the end of the story. There are also minor problems in sub-arcs that may involve the protagonist or could involve other characters which are resolved before or simultaneously with the major complication.

3. Okay real basic. A complication in traditional stories is something unpleasant that happens to a character which, if the character had the freedom of choice, he would have chosen not to happen.
   This provides the reader with an unknown that will engage the reader through the whole of the story, so we are talking both major and intriguing. Will the chief motivating force (the drive in the protagonist created by the complication) succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective? In most stories  the answer is yes. In the tragedy the answer is usually no, although there is a variant of tragedy where the chief motivating force drives the protagonist to resolve the major complication and yet is unaware of his success and in despair does something tragically irreversible.

4. The major difference between a story with plot and a story with story line.
   In a story with plot the emphasis is on the events and the protagonist emerges from the story with his character relatively unchanged from what it was in the beginning. This is sometimes referred as circular storytelling. How can a plot which can be described as a linear progression be circular? It actually isn't. Tthe plot is linear while the internal workings of the character is circular. He may go though many trials and tribulations that change him dramatically but with the resolution of the major conflict the protagonist returns to his former personality and situation with only more life experience to show for all his troubles.
In a story with a story line the emphasis is on character, and the protagonist always emerges from the story with his character different from the way it was in the beginning of the story because of character development or character disintegration (more on that in a later post). This may seem contrary to logic on first blush but once you dig deeper into the mechanics of each it becomes clear.
A story with plot is always external to the protagonist. He is contending with things happening outside of him and his basic personality shapes how he deals with each complication altering the state of the story but not the personality of the protagonist.
A story with story line deals with the internal struggle of the protagonist and how he must change himself to deal effectively with each complication.

5. Lets look at readers for a moment. In every story there comes a point of recognition in the reader at which he knows whether the chief motivating force is going to succeed or fail to reach its tangible objective.
In a plot driven story the point of recognition should always be delayed until near the end of the story. The climax may end the story or a very brief  post climax tying up the loose ends of subplots.
In a story line driven novel the point of recognition may be reached at nearly any point in the story. The protagonist may be blind to the truth and reality of the situation and the chief motivating force will continue to struggle to reach its tangible objective.

6. More Mumbo Jumbo, read carefully. As a result of the irreversible causally related events that have preceded it, an event must occur that causes an ante-climax complication (or more than one). This in turn forces the protagonist to make a decision that resolves the major complication, or that decision is forced upon him by another character or characters.
This is complex in the reading but simple in writing a story. I'll have to give an example. In The Grapes of Wrath the ante-climax complication that resolves the first major complication occurs soon after the Joad family arrives in California. They come to the conclusion that they have been tricked by the hand bills about California and have simply traded one bad environment for another one. They are then faced with with the second major complication of trying to survive in the new environment and keep the family together. This is a complication affecting each of them individually and as individuals meet up with new irreversible causally related events culminating in ante-climax complications that finally resolve the major complication and divides the family into individuals taking separate courses.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ten ways of setting the stage for the main conflict in a story

   1. A change within the environment that affects the protagonist
       This is one of the principles used in To Kill a Mockingbird. Scout comes into conflict with her environment when it changes from one of carefree childhood to one of social responsibility as she grows up.

  2. Uprooting a protagonist from one environment and placing him in a strange environment
      Lord of the Flies is an excellent example of this where the plural protagonists are placed on an island as the result of a plane crash.

  3.Placing a protagonist in an environment that is in conflict with the environment of others
     One of the principles used in The Grapes of Wrath. Upon their arrival in California the Joad family finds themselves in an environment (the migrant workers) that is in conflict with the environment of others (the fruit growers).

  4. Placing a protagonist in an environment he wants or needs to change
      This is the principle used in Silone's novel Fontamara. The protagonist, Berardo, is in perpetual conflict with the poverty-stricken land, but even age-old conditions are altered for the worse when the rise of fascism brings Bernardo into open conflict with this new environment.

  5. Giving a protagonist an environment to conquer
A classic example is Balzac's novel Old Goriot, in which Rastignac tries to conquer the environment of upper-world Parisian life.

  6. Placing a protagonist in an environment from which he wants to escape
   In the opening of The Grapes of Wrath the Joad family wants to escape from their impoverished environment in the dust bowl of Oklahoma.

  7. Placing a protagonist in an environment in which he is not wanted
    In Tom Jones Tom comes into conflict with an environment in which he is not wanted because of his supposed bastard birth.

  8. Placing a protagonist in an environment for which he is unsuited by character
  In The Winter of Our Discontent Ethan Allen Hawely is unsuited by character for the environment of corrupt commercialism.

  9. A change in the status quo of the protagonist within the environment
In To Kill a Mockingbird Atticus Finch is in harmony with his environment until he makes a decision to defend Tom Robinson. This decision changes Atticus's status quo by bringing him in conflict with the racial bigotry that exists in the environment.

10. A change in the status quo of an environment
This principle is demonstrated in Gone with the Wind where the status quo of the South is altered by the Civil War.