Category Archives: Creative Writing

What is an Epilogue?

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This article was written by Jerry Jenkins and sent to me today. I thought I would pass it on. Enjoy.

Full disclosure: I’m not a huge fan of Epilogues. That’s not to say they’re all bad.

In fact, I’ve ended several of my novels with Epilogues.

Done right, they can be a powerful way to leave your reader satisfied.

But beware! Approach your Epilogue wrong and you can ruin the end of your story.

So, let’s talk about what they are, whether you need one, and, if so, how to write one.

What Is an Epilogue?

As you might imagine, an Epilogue is the opposite of a Prologue, so it comes at the end of your novel as opposed to the beginning.

The word comes from the Greek epilogos, or “concluding word.”

It’s intended to provide closure and resolution, and it’s often set in the future to explainwhat becomes of your principal characters.

The questions are whether or why a novel needs an Epilogue. 

I agree with many editors who insist that a story with a strong ending shouldn’t need an Epilogue. 

Still, as I’ve said, not all Epilogues are bad. Done properly — and under the right circumstances — they complete your story and tie up loose ends.

So how do you determine whether your novel needs an Epilogue?

First, don’t mistake an Epilogue for an Afterword.

  • An Epilogue ties up loose ends from the story.
  • An Afterword focuses on how your novel came to be — largely to promote you and any of your other books. 

The most important aspect of a good Epilogueis its purpose.

It should either show the reader what happens to your main character after the story ends (for instance, jumping ahead a few years and showing your character with a spouse and a child) or it should pave the way for a sequel or even a series.

One thing an Epilogue should never do is reiterate your theme or remind your reader the moral of your story.

If you didn’t accomplish that in the story itself, an Epilogue will not fix it.

Most importantly, after reading your Epilogue, your reader should leave satisfied, never confused. 

What an Epilogue Should Never Do

  • Leave the reader wondering what it meant.
  • Compensate for a weak ending. 
  • Be long or complicated. 
  • Serve as a cliffhanger. You can hint at a sequel, but a cliffhanger will only frustrate your reader.

When To Use an Epilogue (and when not to)

As celebrated editor Allister Thompson puts it, “If there’s nothing else to say, don’t be tempted to say it!”

Effective Epilogues 

Look up these Epilogues online and compare them. 

1: Moby Dick by Herman Melville

This Epilogue shows how you can use one to release tension. Moby Dick closes at such a frenetic pace, the Epilogue serves to reassure the reader that Ishmael survives the shipwreck and is rescued.

2: The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

This Epilogue is set 200 years after the story and focuses on a historian who reveals he found Offred’s story and transcribed the tapes.

3: Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling

This Epilogue provides a glimpse of Harry and his friends 19-years in the future. 

4: Animal Farm by George Orwell

This Epilogue covers Manor Farm many years into the future. It tells the fates of the main characters.

How To Write an Epilogue in 3 Steps

What Is an Epilogue

Step 1: Set Your Epilogue in The Future

Provide space between the end of your novel and the Epilogue. 

How long depends on your story. It may be a few days or hundreds of years into the future. The key is what you want readers to know about what’s become of your characters.

Step 2: Set Up a Future Narrative

An Epilogue can set the scene for a sequel. Tell just enough to make clear that more is coming.

Step 3: Don’t Forget Your Hero

If you’ve written a great protagonist, your readers will want to know what happens to him next.

Epilogue FAQs

1: How do I start an Epilogue?

The best place to start is the future:

  • What’s become of your main character?
  • Answer any other questions your reader might have

2: How long is an Epilogue?

As long as it needs to be, but the shorter the better.

Get to the point and wrap it up.

So Should You Write an Epilogue?

Most books DO NOT need an Epilogue.

Write a strong ending and you shouldn’t need one. But as I’ve said, at times an Epilogue can work. It’s your call, and that’s part of what makes you an author.

Amanda’s New Life

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Amanda’s New Life

This is a Flash Fiction story from my book Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes. A book of short stories with genres from romance to the supernatural. There is something for everyone to enjoy. amzn.to/15HB87j I hope you enjoy this little piece. It’s something beside Covid-19.

by Shirley McLain     4245 Words

The bed was empty, but Amada knew it wouldn,t be empty long.  Jasper would be sure she met her quota for the day.  This endless, meaningless sex was not what she had planned for her life.  If it weren’t for my asshole stepfather and spineless mother, my life would be different.  I couldn’t stay there and let him continue to use me.  My mother didn’t believe me when I told her what was happening.  I think she knew, but she didn’t want to stay by herself.  She let that creep stay around, so I didn’t.  I’ve learned how to take care of myself, and she could’ve learned also.

The sheets on the bed were changed and Amanda took a quick shower.  She felt little of the filth on her was washed down the drain.  She was just getting out of the shower when the doorbell rang.  She knew it would be her next customer.  With the towel wrapped around her body, she opened the door.

What a surprise, there was a child about six years old standing at her door.

“Hi there, what can I do for you, sweetie?”

“Are you Amanda?”

“Yes, my name is Amanda.”

The child reached into her pocket and pulled out an envelope and handed it to Amanda.  Amanda’s name was written across the front of the envelope in an unfamiliar handwriting.

 “What is your name, Darling?”

“It’s Annie Lynn.”  The child kept shifting from one foot to another, looking around.

“Well, Annie Lynn who brought you here?  Come in so I can close the door.  Standing in the doorway in a towel doesn’t look too good.  So how did you get here?”

“I was put in a taxi and the driver was told to bring me to this address.”

“Where are your parents?”

“I don’t have any.  I lived with my Nanna until two weeks ago, when she died.  I stayed with a friend of hers until today, and she sent me here.”

“Let me read this letter, and maybe it will tell me why you were sent to my door.”  Amanda opened the letter and started reading:

               Dear Amanda Thomas, you do not know me, but I was a friend of Frances Jones, who was the adopted grandmother of Annie Lynn.  This is going to come as a shock to you, but Annie Lynn is your daughter who you adopted out at birth.  She no longer has any living relatives.  Before Frances died, she told me to contact Mr. Andrew Paul, her attorney when she died.  I did as I was requested to do and was mailed a letter, with instructions only to read it when Frances died.  I received the letter two days ago.  I was informed you were Annie Lynn’s mother and your address.  I was also instructed to send Annie Lynn to you.  That is what I have done.  Enclosed you will find the birth certificate showing you are Annie’s mother and no known father.

at the Don’t bother trying to find me, because you won’t. The child did not know me, and I do not live within two thousand miles. Annie is a sweet girl, so take loving care of her. You are all she has.
“Annie Lynn, do you know why you are here?”
“Nanna’s friend said I would be living with you from now on.
“I can’t explain everything right now, but I will explain as soon as I can. Right now, let’s put your suitcase in the bedroom, and I’ll get dressed, so we can get something to eat.”
Amanda knew she’d to get out of her house before the next john showed up. She had to be able to think and decide what to do. She couldn’t believe someone could just send a little girl to a stranger. I guess I did that very thing when I gave her up for adoption.
Amanda quickly dressed in a pair of blue jeans, tee-shirt, and tennis shoes. She and Annie Lynn caught the subway to Amanda’s favorite Italian restaurant.
“Do you like spaghetti, Annie? It’s one of my most favorite things to eat.”
“It’s my most favorite thing. I like it with garlic bread. Can I have bread with it?”
“Certainly, I’m going to have some myself, along with some big fat meatballs.”
Annie didn’t talk much. She would answer a question when asked, but otherwise, she sat and looked at Amanda. Amanda smiled at her and tried to make lighthearted talk, but Anne Lynn didn’t want to engage in conversation.
“Tell me about your parents, and Grandmother, Annie.”
“My Nanna told me my mama and daddy were in a car wreck and went to see Jesus. I was just a baby. I stayed with my Nanna, and that’s all I know. I do have a picture of them that Nanna gave me. My mama was pretty. She had dark brown hair like mine, and it was long too, just like mine.”
“I’m sure she was because you certainly are. I think you and I aren’t staying at my house tonight. We are going to buy a pair of PJ’s and a toothbrush and then we are going to a hotel. I think we will have an adventure tonight since we are getting to know each other. What do you think of that idea?”
“Ok, whatever you want to do.”
Amanda knew she couldn’t go back to her house because of Jasper. He would be waiting for her, and there is no telling what he would do. It wouldn’t matter in the least if there were a child around. She couldn’t have Annie hurt.
They finished their meal and made their way back to the subway. Amanda knew of a hotel they could stay at that Jasper knew nothing about. It would give her time to think and decide what to do. They got off at the mall entrance and walked to JC Penny’s buying clothes for the next day and some PJ’s. They went on to CVS Pharmacy and bought toothbrushes and toothpaste. They were ready for the night. They got back on the subway and rode to the station closest to the Twin Towers Memorial. She had a friend who lived in China town. Ming owned a small hotel. She would give Amanda and Annie a room for as long as needed.
Ming had once been one of Jasper’s girls, but she got lucky and was able to get away from the business. She went home to her family, who accepted her back with open arms. The hotel once belonged to her parents, but since their death, it’s hers.
Amanda opened the front door to the hotel, stepped into the small lobby with Annie right on her heels. Ming was sitting at the desk looking at a magazine. When she looked up and recognized Amanda, she immediately ran out with open arms to hug Amanda.
“Hi Ming, How are you doing?” It’s so good to see you again, my friend.”
“This is a surprise, Amanda. I am so glad to see you. Who is this pretty young lady?”
“This is Annie Lynn; she is living with me now. I’m wondering if you could put me up for a couple of days. I have to make some decisions, and I need a quiet place to think.”
“You didn’t even need to ask. Let me take you to a room with two beds. We need time to talk a little later. I am on the night shift tonight, so just give me a call anytime. She took a key off the hook behind the desk and walked them to the elevator. You are on the third floor in 312. It is one door down from the elevator on the right.”
“Thanks, Ming, you don’t know how much this means to me. I can’t thank you enough.”
“You don’t have to, that is what being a friend is all about. I will talk to you later.”
Amanda and Annie Lynn found their room without any problem. It was nice and clean with two queen size beds plus a microwave, refrigerator, and coffee pot.
“We will have a fabulous time camping out here and getting to know one another. Are you tired, Annie? It has been a busy day for you. Let’s get you a bath and put your PJs. Then we can watch some TV until you get sleepy.”
Annie Lynn went into the bathroom and started running water for her bath. Amanda made sure she had a towel and washcloth. Annie climbed in the tub and tried to lean back, but she was too small to hit the back of the tub. Amanda laughed and turned the water off and handed her the bar of soap.
“Let me know when you want me to wash your back. I’m going to be watching TV while you are in the tub. Amanda left the door open to the bathroom and sat down on her bed. She took her cell phone out of her purse. She had twenty-four messages. “I’m not even going to look at these things. I am sure most of them are from Jasper, wanting to know where I’m. This is the end of that life for me.” All of the messages disappeared with a push of a button, and she felt relieved not to have to deal with Jasper anymore.
Annie Lynn finished her bath, and Amanda helped her dry off. After Annie put her PJ’s on, they both laid down on one of the beds and started watching Finding Nemo on the TV. Annie Lynn seemed to enjoy watching it.
Amanda couldn’t keep her mind on the TV. She kept running the words from the letter repeatedly in her mind that this child was hers. Amanda never thought she’d see her again. She remembered seeing the little, tiny bundle held in front of her, right after delivery. How small her hands were, and her large dark eyes were trying to focus in the light. Then they left with her, and that was it. She never saw her daughter again. She left the hospital two days later and went to her friend’s house. That friend was the one who introduced her to Jasper.
After her recovery from giving birth, things started to change at the friend’s house. It got so bad she couldn’t stay there anymore. Jasper was there to take her to his place, and she could stay there. I was a sixteen-year-old girl who’d just given her baby away, was abused at home, felt unloved, and unwanted. Besides that, I didn’t have a choice without money.
One thing led to another, and Amanda finally started turning tricks for Jasper, to keep him from beating her. Over the last six years, she’s made a lot of money. She gave Jasper what he thought his cut was, but he didn’t know what the john’s were paying her. She saved enough money so that she could support her and Annie Lynn for a long time. She could go back to school to get her education.
Annie Lynn had drifted off to sleep. Amanda left the bathroom light on, turned the TV down low, and went to the lobby to talk to Ming.
“Hey, Ming, can you talk now?”
“Sure, come on behind the desk and sit down. I appreciate the company. I was beginning to get sleepy. Let me get us a cup of coffee. It has been a while since you and I have gotten to visit.” Ming walked over to the counter in the breakfast area and fixed two cups of coffee. When she sat down again, she turned and looked at Amanda.
“Why are you here, Amanda?”
“Ming, Annie is my daughter. I had her adopted out at birth, but the adopted family is now dead. She arrived back to me today. I can’t go back to the life I had. I have to decide what I’m going to do. I have a lot of money saved in an account Jasper doesn’t know about, so I don’t have to worry about money.”
“If you had money, why did you continue that life?”
“What else was I going to do? I couldn’t go back home, and turning tricks is what I know. I was making a substantial amount of money, and most of the time, I wasn’t unhappy. I just need time to think about what I want to do now.”
“You know you are welcome to stay here as long as you need to. Jasper might be in New Jersey, but you know as well as I do if he wants to find you, he will.”
“Yes, I know Ming. I won’t be here but a couple of days. By then, I’ll know where I’m going. I do appreciate your help.”
“I told you before, that is what friends are for.”
“I’m going to go back up to the room. I don’t want Annie Lynn waking up and not finding me there. I will talk to you tomorrow.”
Amanda went back to the room, and Annie was still sleeping soundly. She put on her PJ’s and turned off the TV and bathroom light and crawled into bed. She wasn’t sure if she would be able to go to sleep or not.
She tossed and turned most of the night. She kept running everything over in her mind and trying to decide what to take. The clock on the bedside table showed three A.M. when she finally drifted off to sleep. She then started dreaming of her mother and father.
Amanda’s eyes popped open at eight the next morning. Annie was sitting up in bed with the TV playing on low and was watching cartoons.
“Good morning,” Amanda said. “Did you sleep well?”
Annie just looked at her and nodded her head up and down.
“How about we get dressed and go get up some breakfast. Do you want to do that?”
“Sure, I like pancakes.”
“Then the pancakes it will be. I’ll find out the address of the nearest IHOP (International House of Pancakes). They make a great pancake breakfast. I hope you have a large appetite.”
They got up and got dressed, brushed their teeth, and headed downstairs. Ming was just getting ready to go off duty.
“Good morning, Ming. I hope your night went all right. Where is the nearest IHOP? We want a pancake breakfast this morning”.
They got the directions they needed and left the hotel. It was a beautiful day with a bright blue sky and warm sunshine. The IHOP was not far, so they walked and enjoyed the sun.
Amanda chatted away while they walked, but Annie Lynn was quiet. Amanda was hoping as Annie gets to know her, she would open up a little bit. Stop pressuring yourself, Amanda; this is only her second day with you. Give her time to adjust.
They had a fabulous breakfast and walked down to the waterfront to watch the boats coming and going. As they sat on a bench looking out at the water, Amanda had the urge to talk to her mother. She took out her cell phone; looked the ringer was turned off, so it couldn’t disturb her or Annie. She had twenty messages. She deleted every one of them without listening to the first sound. She hoped her mother would be living in the same house, and that ass she was married to wouldn’t be home during the day. She dialed the number she remembered. The phone began to ring. After the fourth ring, Amanda was about to hang up when a female voice said, “hello.”
“Hello, I would like to speak to Martha James, please.”
“This is Martha James, how can I help you?”
“Amanda felt this lump begin in her throat. She wasn’t sure she could speak. “Mama, its Amanda.”
She could hear her mother scream, “Oh my precious girl. Where are you? How are you? I can’t believe I’m finally getting to talk to you.”
“Mom, I’m in New York right now, and I’m doing well.”
“Amanda, will you come to see me?”
“Mom, I can’t come back there as long as your husband is around.”
“Oh, Amanda, he hasn’t been here for six years. He left not long after you did. I’m living here by myself. Please come home. We have so much to find out about each other. I love you, and I don’t want to lose touch with you again.”
“Mom, I love you too. I will be home in two days, and I am bringing someone for you to meet. No, there is no husband. It’s going to be a surprise. I will see you as soon as I can.”
Amanda hung up the phone and turned to Annie Lynn. “Annie, we are going to Oklahoma to visit my mama. We may even stay there.”
“Are there Indians there?”
“Yes, but not like the ones you see on TV, our Indians look like you and me, except their skin is darker. I think you will like Oklahoma. There are many lakes, rolling hills, cows, and horses. It’s a lovely place to start a new life. How about us starting a new life in a new home?
“Can I meet the Indians?”
“You certainly can, sweetie.” She gathered Annie Lynn in her arms and held her close. She said a silent prayer thanking God for sending her daughter back to her, and giving her a chance to reunite with her mother.

18 Common Word To Leave Out of Your Writing

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18 Common Word To Leave Out of Your Writing

It’s a familiar scene: you’re slumped over your keyboard or notebook, obsessing over your character. While we tend to agonize over everything from structure to backstory, it’s important to weigh how you write something too. A perfectly constructed world is flat on the page if you use feeble, common words. When you’re finished constructing your perfectly balanced world, do your writing a favor and take another pass to weed out these 18 haggard words.

Good

High on any list of most used English words is “good.” While this word may appear to be the perfect adjective for nearly anything, that is precisely what makes it so vague. Try getting more specific. If something’s going well, try “superb,” “outstanding” or “exceptional.”

New

Another of the common words in English is “new.” “New” is an adjective that doesn’t always set off alarm bells, so it can be easy to forget about. Give your writing more punch by ditching “new” and using something like “latest” or “recent” instead.

Long

Much like “new,” “long” is spent, yet it doesn’t always register as such while you’re writing. Instead of this cliché phrase, try describing exactly how long it is: “extended,” “lingering” or “endless,” for example.

Old

“Old” is certainly one of those common words that means more to readers if you’re specific about how old a subject is. Is it “ancient,” “fossilized,” “decaying” or “decrepit”?

Right

“Right” is also among the common words that tends to slip through our writer filters. If somebody is correct, you could also say “exact” or “precise.” Don’t let habit words like “right” dampen your writing.

Different

Here’s another adjective that falls a bit flat for readers, but can also easily be improved by getting more specific. Saying something is “odd” or “uncommon” is very different than saying it is “exotic” or “striking.”

Small

“Small” is another adjective that is too generic for writing as good as yours. Use “microscopic,” “miniature” or “tiny” instead. Even using “cramped” or “compact” is more descriptive for your audience.

Large

Just like relying too much on “small,” we tend to describe large things as, well, “large.” Specificity is a big help with this one too: could your subject be “substantial,” “immense,” “enormous” or “massive”?

Next

Whenever we describe something coming “next,” we run the risk of losing our readers. Good options to make your reading more powerful include “upcoming,” “following” or “closer.”

Young

Another case of being too generic is what makes “young” a problematic adjective. If you want your writing to be more captivating, try switching “young” out for “youthful,” “naive” or “budding.”

Never

“Never” is also among common words to use sparingly. Not only is it a common, stale descriptor, it’s also usually incorrect. For something to never happen, even one instance makes this word inaccurate. Try “rarely,” “scarcely” or “occasionally” instead.

Things

“Things” is another repeat offender when it comes to worn out words. Another word where specificity is the key, try replacing “things” with “belongings,” “property” or “tools.”

All

Just like “never,” “all” is an encompassing, absolute term. Not only is “all” unoriginal, it’s not usually factual. Try using “each” and “copious” instead.

Feel

“Feel” is also in the company of common English words. Try using “sense,” or “discern” instead. You can also move your sentence into a more active tense: “I feel hungry” could become “I’m famished,” for example.

Seem

“Seem” is bad habit word we are all guilty of using. Regardless of how well you think your sentence is constructed, try switching “seem” out for “shows signs of.” “Comes across as” is another good option to give your writing more power.

Almost

Another easy adjective to let slip by, “almost” is a wasted opportunity to engage your readers. “Almost” is more interesting if you say “practically,” “nearly” or “verging on” instead.

Just

“Just making” it or “just barely” affording something isn’t very descriptive. To truly grab a reader, we must do better. Try “narrowly,” “simply” or “hardly” to give your phrasing more weight.

Went

Last but not least, avoid using the common word “went” to describe your subject. “Went” is a word that lacks traction. Try using “chose,” “decided on” or “rambled” to truly grab your readers.

7 Story Structures

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I took a writing class under Dean Koontz and this writing was for the class. I may have shared it sometime ago but it’s always worth rereading. Have a blessed day. Shirley

1. Dean Koontz’s Classic Story Structure

This is the structure that changed the path of my career as a writer.

It catapulted me from a mid-list genre novelist to a 21-Time New York Times bestselling author.

I’m a Pantser, not an Outliner, but even I need some basic structure to know where I’m going, I love that Koontz’s structure is so simple. It consists only of these four steps:

1. Plunge your main character into terrible trouble as soon as possible. Naturally that trouble depends on your genre, but in short, it’s the worst possible dilemma you can think of for your main character. For a thriller, it might be a life or death situation. In a romance novel, it could mean a young woman must decide between two equally qualified suitors—and then her choice is revealed a disaster.

And again, this trouble must bear stakes dire high enough to carry the entire novel.

One caveat: whatever the dilemma, it will mean little to readers if they don’t first find reasons to care about your character.

2. Everything your character does to get out of the terrible trouble makes things only worse.  Avoid the temptation to make life easy for your protagonist. Every complication must proceed logically from the one before it, and things must grow progressively worse until….

3. The situation appears hopeless. Novelist Angela Hunt refers to this as The Bleakest Moment. Even you should wonder how you’re ever going to write your character out of this.

Your predicament is so hopeless that your lead must use every new muscle and technique gained from facing a book full of obstacles to become heroic and prove that things only appeared beyond repair.

4. Finally, your hero succeeds (or fails*) against all odds. Reward readers with the payoff they expected by keeping your hero on stage, taking action.

*Occasionally sad endings resonate with readers.

2. In Medias Res

This is Latin for “in the midst of things,” in other words, start with something happening. It doesn’t have to be slam-bang action, unless that fits your genre. The important thing is that the reader gets the sense he’s in the middle of something.

That means not wasting two or three pages on backstory or setting or description. These can all be layered in as the story progresses. Beginning a novel In Medias Res means cutting the fluff and jumping straight into the story.

Toni Morrison’s 1997 novel Paradise begins “They shoot the white girl first.”—the epitome of starting in medias res.

What makes In Medias Res work?

It’s all in the hook.

In Medias Res should invest your reader in your story from the get-go, virtually forcing him to keep reading.

The rest of the In Media Res structure consists of:

Rising Action

Explanation (backstory)

Climax

Falling Action

Resolution

3. The Hero’s Journey

Made famous by educator and widely published author Joseph Campbell, it’s often used to structure fantasy, science fiction, and horror novels.

J.R.R. Tolkien used The Hero’s Journey structure for The Hobbit.

Step 1: Bilbo Baggins leaves his ordinary world

Baggins is happy with his life in the Shire and initially refuses a call to adventure, preferring to stay home.

The wizard Gandalf (soon to be his mentor) pushes him to accept the call.

Baggins leaves the comfort of his Hobbit life and embarks on a perilous quest across Middle Earth, getting into all kinds of trouble along the way.

Step 2: Baggins experiences various trials and challenges

Bilbo builds a team, pairing with dwarves and elves to defeat enemies like dragons and orcs.

Along the way he faces a series of tests that push his courage and abilities beyond what he thought possible.

Eventually, against all odds, Bilbo reaches the inmost cave, the lair of the fearsome dragon, Smaug where the ultimate goal of his quest is located. Bilbo needs to steal the dwarves’ treasure back from Smaug.

Bilbo soon finds he needs to push past his greatest fear to survive.

Step 3: Bilbo tries to returns to his life in The Shire

Smaug may have been defeated, but the dwarves face another battle against others and an orc army.

Near the end of the novel, Bilbo is hit on the head during the final battle and presumed dead.

But he lives and gets to return to the Shire, no longer the same Hobbit who hated adventure.

4. The 7-Point Story Structure

Advocates of this approach advise starting with your resolution and working backwards.

This ensures a dramatic character arc for your hero.

J.K. Rowling used the 7-Point Structure for Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.

The Seven Points

Hook: your protagonist’s starting point

In Philosopher’s Stone, this is when we meet Harry living under the stairs.

Plot turn 1: introduces the conflict that moves the story to its midpoint.

Harry finds out he is a wizard.

Pinch point 1: applies pressure to your protagonist in the process of achieving his goal, usually facing an antagonist.

When the troll’s attacks, Harry and his friends realize they are the only ones who can save the day.

Midpoint: your character responds to conflict with action.

Harry and his friends learn of the Philosopher’s Stone and determine to find it before Voldemort does.

Pinch point 2: More pressure makes it harder for your character to achieve his goal.

Harry has to face the villain alone after losing Ron and Hermione during their quest to find the stone.

Plot turn 2: Moves the story from the midpoint to the resolution. Your protagonist has everything he needs to achieve the goal.

When the mirror reveals Harry Potter’s intentions are pure, he is given the Philosopher’s Stone.

Resolution: The climax. Everything in your story leads to this moment, a direct contrast to how your character began his journey.

Harry defeats Voldemort.

5. Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method

If you like outlining your story, you’ll love The Snowflake Method.

But if you’re a Panster like me (someone who prefers to write by process of discovery), a story structure like Dean Koontz’s Classic Story Structure or In Medias Res might feel more natural.

The 10-step Snowflake Method

Start with one central idea and systematically add more ideas to create your plot.

Write a one-sentence summary of your novel (1 hour)

Expand this into a full paragraph summary, detailing major events (1 hour)

Write a one-page summary for each character (1 hour each)

Expand each sentence in #2 into a paragraph summary (several hours)

Write a one-page account of the story from the perspective of each major character (1-2 days)

Expand each paragraph you wrote for #4 into a full-page synopsis (1 week)

Expand your character descriptions into full character charts (1 week)

Using the summary from #6, list every scene you’ll need to finish the novel

Write a multi-paragraph description for each scene

Write your first draft

6. The Three-Act Structure

This formula was used by ancient Greeks, and it’s one of Hollywood’s favorite ways to tell a story.

It’s about as simple as you can get.

Act I: The Set-Up

Introduce your main characters and establish the setting.

Brandon Sanderson, a popular fantasy writer, calls this the “inciting incident”—  a problem that yanks the protagonist out of his comfort zone and establishes the direction of the story.

Act II: The Confrontation

Create a problem that appears small on the surface but becomes more complex. The more your protagonist tries to get what he wants, the more impossible it seems to solve the problem.

Act III: The Resolution

A good ending has:

High stakes: your reader must feel that one more mistake will result in disaster for the protagonist.

Challenges and growth: By the end, the protagonist needs to have grown as a person by overcoming myriad obstacles.

A solution: All the trials and lessons your character has endured help him solve the problem.

Suzanne Collins’s bestselling young adult trilogy, The Hunger Games, uses the three-act structure.

7. James Scott Bell’s A Disturbance and Two Doorways

In his popular book Plot and Structure, Bell introduces this concept.

A Disturbance early in the story upsets the status quo—anything that threatens the protagonist’s ordinary life.

Doorway 1 propels your character to the middle of the story. Once he goes through this door, there’s no turning back.

Doorway 2 leads to the final battle. It’s another door of no return but usually leads to disaster.

The Umbrella Academy by Gerard Way uses this story structure.

Upon hearing that their adoptive father has passed away (the disturbance), six siblings return to their childhood home.

Here they learn the world will end in a few days (Doorway 1). While the siblings try everything in their power to stop the potential global apocalypse, they unwittingly create another threat amongst themselves.

This leads to a final battle (Doorway 2).

5 Facts About Princess Adele’s Dragon You Don’t Know!

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The imaginary country in which Princess Adele lived in was called Valdoria. I came up with that name watching “Dancing with The Stars.” There is a professional dancer (very cute) who just happens to have the name of Val. He and his partner were dancing when Valdoria popped into my head. So that is where I came up with the name.

As you see from the title I’m writing five interesting things about my book, “Princess Adele’s Dragon.” What creates interest for one may not for the next one, but I will do the best I can.

1. My book is a Young Adult Fantasy eBook based in Medieval times when Dragons, Knights, Witches and Christianity and war were prevalent. I enjoyed doing the research about this time period. I created a blog earlier on the History of Dragons. You know those big scaly things that legends are made of. The big, green dragon in my book has been given the name, Draiocht (DREE-oct). This name means Magic, enchantment, from lore and arts of the Druids of pre-Christian Ireland and Celtic society. This character will surprise you.

2. The second fact is I have two protagonists and two antagonists. Princess Adele and Prince Anthony are the protagonists and Lord Ashmore, and Mickael are the Protagonist. I didn’t plan the story that way, but my muse decided it needed to play out with the four interacting in their particular roles.

3. Christianity has a small role in my story. During the medieval period the church began the change from the Druid way to one of Christianity. I got the name of one of the primary countries mentioned in my book.. It must have been a very intense and interesting time.

4. I’ve always heard you write what you like to read, and I guess it was true for me. The book was fun to write, and I like to read fantasy. do anything with your imagination. This book has everything from mild violence to love. To read it, follow the link. http://amzn.to/25lUOYM  It is free for the reader who is a member of Amazon Direct.

5. It’s easy reading, even with Draiocht having his secrets.

I mentioned I had written a blog earlier about the history of dragons. If you would like to check that out it is at this link.  http://bit.ly/1V1F0HM

As I close, I want to thank  you readers who stopped by to visit. You are what makes this blog fun for me.  Have a blessed day.  

Do You Enjoy Revision?

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It’s now the new year and this is the first blog I’ve written. Shame on me, but I am full of very good excuses. Happy New Year, my friends. I have just the cliche also, “Better Late than Never,” The nice thing is my well wishes comes straight from the heart.

Now on to the main point of this blog. You were asked if you enjoyed the revision of the books that you wrote or are writing. I can’t say I enjoy it much. I would never make a good editor in my mind. When I’m writing I depend heavily on my writing group at FanStory.com. I can read over a page and I do not see any of the mistakes they find for me. My mind put it down on the paper and it doesn’t let me see everything it should.

There is a article in this months The Writer magazine on Revision. The author, Bernard Malamud believes “Revision is one of the exquisite pleasures of writing”. He also pointed out specific steps to take to help you get through the revision process. Here are his tips, but if you get the chance do read the entire article. It gives you lots of information.

  1. Wait until the first draft is complete before you edit. If you try to edit as you go it could cause problems with your imagination, momentum or maybe your creativity. This is controversial as other writers feel you aren’t writing if you don’t edit as you go. I split it I guess. I revise my chapters as I finish them. It seems to me there are always changes that can be made at anytime. You have to be careful not to get in a long long editing cycle. For some it is hard to be satisfied with their work.
  2. Revise all at once or element by element. That is a decision the writer must make. The way I revise I tend to do element by element. I have to admit that sometimes it can feel as if the job is to big to handle. At those times I get me a cup of tea and sit back from the computer. I have to admit I talk to myself in my head, (Isn’t it called thinking?) about anything other than my book. I might even get up and play with my dogs for a few minutes. Anything to get my mind away from the book.
  3. Revise the whole novel, or section by section. I know this sounds a lot like #2 but in this one he is considering sections as chapter by chapter or dividing the novel into sections. If you edit by this method you have a big opportunity to make a mistake in my view. What if you change an outcome in Chapter 2 that affects the character throughout the book. If the changes aren’t make in every section then confusion can rule.
  4. Fine-tuning versus revising. “Revision is generally distinguished from fine tuning with revision dealing with fiction elements such as character, plot and structure, and even style, and fine tuning dealing with rather minor mechanical issues.
  5. Each of us have our little rules to follow that sometimes can cause problems. When I went to school over 50 years ago we were taught very specific rules on how to write, sentence structure, correct word placement, and on and on. That can lead to rounds and rounds of revision. This is where you need that writing group or a brutally honest friend who can read your work and tell you what you need to do to make it better.

I think Bernard wrapped it up very nicely. “Put simply you write with your heart, and you edit with your head.” Happy editing. Shirley

Dobyns Chronicles Review

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I wrote and published Dobyns Chronicles a few years ago but it is always nice to receive good reviews.  I thought today I would share one of those reviews for me. Nothing like feeling good about work you did when it is expressed by someone else in comparison to those reviews that always seem to break your heart a little bit.

I hope everyone had a safe and happy Thanksgiving and now Christmas season is upon us. All of you who celebrate the birth of our Savior, have a blessed Christmas.

The Finest Generation – A review of the novel ‘Dobyns Chronicles’

“It is so much simpler to bury reality than it is to dispose of dreams” – Don DeLillo

Author Shirley McLain’s latest novel ‘Dobyns Chronicles’ is a historical fiction loosely based on the life and times of her grandfather Charles Kenly Dobyns. Charles or Charley to those close to him was the eldest son of Kennerly, an American cowboy and Eliza, a Cherokee Indian and was raised in a farm in Red River in Bonham near Northeast Texas. The book chronicles his life story from the late 1800s when he was a young boy in a Texan farm to the mid-1950s when he became a great grandfather in McAlester, Oklahoma. The book paints a moving real-life story about a young man’s resolve dealing with the various tragedies life threw at him while also caring for his two siblings, younger brother David and sister Viola. This novel presents a fascinating look at vintage Americana and will fill your mind with nostalgia about a simpler life led in much simpler times.

Right off the bat, the first thing that you are going to notice and that too barely a couple of pages into the book is the wonderful use of the English language. It has become almost a rarity in mainstream literature to come across such beautiful phrases and prose that make you stop and read a line twice just for the sheer literary pleasure it gives you. The next best thing about this book is the pitch-perfect way in which the author has been able to portray the laid back and lazy times with the back-breaking, difficult and adventure-filled day in an old western town. It is so descriptive that the character’s spirituality, the numerous odd jobs done around the house, cattle drive and horse breaking somehow become second nature to you by the time you are done with the book. And for people of this century where everything is available to them at the touch of a button, this book will be a throwback to our older and harsher times when day to day living meant a constant battle with the various elements of nature.

Blending the fiction seamlessly with the many historical and factual events of the late 18th century and early 19th century, Shirley has made good use of various events like the yellow fever epidemic, the great depression and the absurd tax laws to good effect and has used them strategically at various points in the novel to underline the emotions of her characters in that setting beautifully. The changes happening over time and the various developments too have been captured nicely; case in point is Charley staying at a hotel for the very first time. Shirley also seems to have a knack in getting children’s behavior and their conversations right, the change in tone and content when the conversation moves from a child to an adult is always bang on target.

The entire book will tug at your heartstrings and make you think about your own family, it will also make you reminisce about your childhood as you read about the childhood of the Dobyn kids. And even though your childhood may have been vastly different from theirs, you will still feel a connection to the various commonalities that affect us humans across time and different nationalities. The epilogue and the photographs at the end really get to you and even though a life that you have been witness to from a young age has come to an end, you are in a strange way left with so many memories of this man. And this is because of the way the author has captured these scenes and emotions, by taking you right into the lives and homes of these people instead of merely narrating a story.

Great authors have often talked about the secrets that make a book appeal to audiences everywhere. They stress upon having a standout first chapter to make the readers commit to the book, a good first page that will blow them away and a great first line that will stay etched in their memory forever. If they are right then Shirley’s book has scored a definite ace on all three fronts and has emerged a clear winner.

Product Details

Print Length: 260 pages

Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1499024096

Publisher: Xlibris US (May 23, 2014)

ASIN: B00KNMM46S

Buy Fromhttp://www.amazon.com/dp/B00KNMM46S/ref=rdr_kindle_ext_tmb

7 Tips To Make You Write Better & Faster

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Hello, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving or day if you don’t celebrate the holiday. Now we are officially working on the Christmas season. It will be here before we know it.

Below is an article was written by Alicia Prince. It’s always a timely article to help improve our writing. I hope you find within it, the information you can use.


No matter how hard you try, it can sometimes be a battle to finish a piece of writing. Whether you’re writing a paper, article, novel or email, it can be a struggle to express your ideas quickly and clearly. Just like anything else, however, a little practice goes a long way towards fast, quality writing. With seven simple techniques, you can greatly minimize the time you waste not writing, and increase the speed you do write. Plus, the more you do them, the easier these great writing habits get.

You Could Write Your Introduction Last

“My advice is to finish the book, then scrap the first chapter altogether and write it again without looking at the original.” — Dr. Kim Wilkins

One way to write quicker is to write your introduction or first paragraph after writing everything else. If you have the majority of your writing planned out, it’s often faster to jump right in with what you’re planning on saying. This way, you won’t need to agonize over your content fitting the tone of the introduction. And writing the introduction last means you know what you need to summarize, as it’s already on the page. Finally, writing your introduction last lets you avoid staring at a blank page, wondering where to begin. Once you have things down, it can be much easier to put together an intro, saving you time.

You Could Be Flexible On Wording

Another way to waste time when you’re trying to write is to agonize over every word. Like staring at a blank page, searching endless thesaurus definitions will knock you off track and interrupt your flow. Especially on the first draft, don’t worry if your wording isn’t right. Go through your document after finishing your draft, looking specifically for words you could improve. Better yet, highlight or change the text color of words you know you want to come back to. This way, you can keep your train of thought moving without your work suffering.

You Could Do All Your Research First

Nothing is a bigger distraction than needing to do research in your writing. Research can be time-consuming, plus it will likely make you forget the point you are trying to make. Do as much research as you can before you write. This lets you focus all your energy on writing, without interrupting your thoughts.

You Could Outlaw Distractions

“It’s doubtful that anyone with an internet connection at his workplace is writing good fiction.” — Jonathan Franzen

Especially when you’re writing on a computer or device, it’s easy to get distracted. To save time, treat every trip away from your writing document as dangerous. The best way to avoid getting distracted is to leave your document little. Try keeping all your research and sources in the top portion of a document, then do your writing in the bottom portion of the document. Keep it organized with a slash or image between the two halves. This way, you won’t risk getting caught in surfing the web or answering emails every time you need to check your information.

You Could Relax On Your First Draft

“The first draft of everything is sh**.” ― Ernest Hemingway

Similar to rewording sentences as you write, nitpicking too much the first time around will slow you down. Most experts agree that your first draft will always need work. This means that no matter how long you take to make everything perfect, you will still need revisions. It’s much faster to keep your momentum going than it is to get back on track several times a paragraph. Save yourself time as you write by powering through your first draft, then doing all your revisions at once.

You Could Set A Writing Timer

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

Another way to increase how fast you write is to set a time, then force yourself to keep writing until it goes off. Not only will this force you away from distractions, if you’re struggling to come up with material, but free flow writing can also help you come up with ideas. Setting a timer and writing free form is also useful as a warm-up exercise to get you in the zone.

You Could Easily Outthink Cliches

“Don’t tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass.” – Anton Chekhov

When your struggling to find writing that grabs a reader, a quick way to burst through cliches is to be specific. Overgeneralizing descriptions can be too vague to garnish attention. For example, rather than having a character exclaim they’re freezing, have them say that the threads of their mittens are freezing to their fingers. By taking vague descriptions or phrases and being highly specific, you can quickly revise your writing, while improving your writing’s impact.

 

Short and Flashy2 with Bonus Short Story

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Short and Flashy may be the new in thing with writing and I’m so glad to hear it because I love writing short stories and flash fiction.  I found that out about myself when I was writing my first book, The Tower.  When I needed to have a brain change because I couldn’t find the words I needed to say for the book, I would write a piece of flash fiction or a short story so I could think about something else besides the book I was writing. It helped reset my brain.  It made it easier for me to come up with what I needed for my book.

Over the fast few years, people have read more of my short stories and flash fiction. I am assuming it is due to lack of perceived time to read.

Do you know what flash fiction is? In case you don’t, I will try to explain.  Flash Fiction is a complete story (has all the components of a story) in a limited number of words. They can be challenging to complete.

Think about how our reading world has changed since the computer came along.  The time was we had no choice but to go to the book store or the library to get our reading material.  Now we have small portable screens that let us have a book zipped to us over the airwaves.  We can get anything we want to read from Amazon including short stories which we might read while we’re sitting under the hairdryer or waiting in a doctor’s office.

According to Anne R. Allen, one of the authors of How to be a Writer in the E-age: A self-Help Guide, short stories make money and hold their value.  Kindle Singles often sell for the same as a novel-length book.  Ellery Queen and Woman’s World still pay top dollar for genre stories.

Short stories are great for practice.  Learning to write short stores can keep your writing from getting sloppy.  Having short stories in your portfolio might give you another book to publish or an opportunity to publish in a magazine.

I put the majority of my short stories in an eBook called Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes. The book was published on Amazon.  Publishing my work of short stories was something I didn’t want to pass up.  You may also have an opportunity to see what you can do.

Below you will find one of my short stories called Angie’s Secret.  Please comment with a critique and let me know the good and the bad.

Amazon link to Shirley’s Shorts and Flashes:  http://amzn.to/15HB87j


 

Angie’s Secret

 

“Are you going to tell him?” Mattie asked.

“Heavens no, this is my secret. I told you because you’re my best friend, and I know I can trust you.” Angie sat at the table with her cup of tea. She was pale around the eyes and mouth. “I am doing this on my own. I’m thirty-four years old, and I know this is the right thing for me.”

“It may be right for you, but girl you look like crap. Do you want another cup of tea?”

“Sure.”

Mattie went to the stove and brought the teapot back to the table. She asked Angie if she’s eating enough.

Mockingly Angie replied, “Yes, mother, I am. I can take care of myself. Stop worrying about me.”

“How do you think you’re going to pull this off when he barely lets you out of his sight?”

Angie thought of the days ahead as she sipped her tea. Her excitement showed.

Mattie looked at her, seeing the smile, said, “Ok, girlfriend, spill the beans. I want to know what’s making you smile.”

“I have to go home.”

“Angie, remember, no matter what, I’m your friend.” Mattie grabbed Angie, hugged her tightly.

“I’ll be in touch, and don’t worry,” Angie said as they broke apart. She walked back to her house. Her bedroom light was on. Crap, he must know I’m not in my room. I’ll walk through the front door as the grown woman I am.

After she entered the house, she almost made it to the stairs before she heard her father’s harsh voice.

“Angie, is that you?”

“Yes, father, it’s me.”

“Come here immediately,” her father, bellowed.

Angie walked into the library, ready for battle. Her father kicked back in the recliner, with a drink in his hand, asked, “Where have you been?”

“I went to Arlene’s for tea. I left your dinner on the table.”

“It was cold. You are one lousy cook.”

“Yes, father. I’m going upstairs to my room, goodnight, father.”

***

The clock advanced slowly, but 2 a.m. arrived. She pulled her suitcase from beneath her bed, took one last look at her room and left. Her father appeared to be asleep when she opened the front door. As she stepped out into the night air, she took her first deep breath of freedom.

She whispered, “John, are you here?”

“No, he’s not here,” her father said laughingly.

Character Change Vs. Character Growth

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Hello everyone, I do hope you are having a great day.  To catch you up on my activities since my last blog write. I’ve sent Thomas Gomel Learns About Bullying to the publisher for approval.  I also did an upgrade on Princess Adele’s Dragon and had it republished in ebook form. I’ve kept myself busy writing and entering contests on Fanstory. After the article below I will be posting a short story called The Lake. I do hope you enjoy this week’s blog.  Until next time have a blessed week.    Shirley

PS. By the way, you can possibly win a copy of Princess Adele’s Dragon by following the link, especially if you like medieval dragons, kings, queens, and knights.

Link: https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/065f308c42ab7cba

 

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Main characters don’t have to change to grow.  They can grow in their resolve.

It is a common misconception among authors that the main character in a story must change in order to grow.  Certainly, that is one kind of story,  as in A Christmas Carol where Scrooge alters his way of looking at the world and his role in it.  But other stories are about characters overcoming pressures put upon them to change their viewpoint and holding on to their beliefs, such as in Field of Dreams where main character Ray Kinsella builds a baseball stadium in his cornfield believing the old time players (and eventually even his father) will come to play.  In the end, he is not dissuaded from what appears to be a quixotic plan of a misguided mind, and his steadfastness results in the achievement of his dreams.

It is essential in any novel or movie for the readers/audience to understand whether or not the main character ultimately changes to adopt a new point of view or holds on to his beliefs.  Only then can the story provide a message that a particular point of view is (in the author’s opinion) the right or wrong way of thinking to achieve success and personal fulfillment.

But not all stories have happy endings.  Sometimes, the main character changes when he should have stuck with his guns in regard to his beliefs and becomes corrupted or diminished or fails to achieve his goals  A good example of this is in the movie The Mist(based on a Stephen King novel) in which the main character finally decides to give up on trying to find safety from monsters and shoots his son and surrogate family to save them from a horrible death only to have rescuers show up a moment later.

Other times, holding onto a belief system leads to tragic endings as well, as in Moby Dickin which the main character, Captain Ahab (Ishmael is the narrator), holds onto his quest for revenge until it leads to the death of himself and the destruction of his ship and the death of all his crew, save Ismael who lived to tell the tale.

Though writing is an organic endeavor, when you make specific decisions such as whether your main character will change or remain steadfast and what outcome that will bring about, you strengthen your message and provide a clear purpose to your storytelling that results in a strong spine in your novel or screenplay.

Melanie Anne Phillips


 

 

The Lake

lake2The last time I saw Charlie, he laughed as we drove into Crystal Springs Lake. I knew we would have hell to pay for sneaking out, but I never imagined how this fun evening would end.

Charlie and I were friends from the first grade. We were neighbors, and as adventurous boys, we spent every second together we could manage. We were as different as two people could be. I’m quiet and shy, and Charlie was the fellow that drew people to him like June bugs to a light. Maybe it was his good looks with his coal black hair and that cleft in his chin. He was muscular, athletic and all the girls flirted with him every chance they got. He didn’t care. The only thing he wanted besides our friendship was the full football scholarship at Harvard.

We had a good time throughout school. As this was our last year at Grady High School there was a lot of pressure on Charlie to perform. He actually did it to himself, but if I tried to talk to him, he wouldn’t listen. “Charlie, you have to lighten up a bit. You can’t go on at the pace you’re going. It’s been weeks since we’ve done anything together. You study and practice football. Take time to relax. Quit worrying about that entrance exam. You have it aced.”

“Sure, I do, but it doesn’t feel like it. I feel like everything inside of me is about to explode. I have to keep pushing myself to keep the pressure down, but I’m ready for something different. I’ll listen to you just because you’re my best friend and I love you like a brother. What do you want to do?” Charlie asked.

I had to think of something we would enjoy together and take the pressure off of him. “I’ve got an idea. Let’s go to the lake after dark and go skinny dipping. We haven’t done that in a long time.”

“Are you crazy?” Charlie asked. “We haven’t been skinny dipping since we were twelve years old.”

“Yeah, I know, and it’ll be fun. Just like old times.  What do you say?”

We were both laughing, and Charlie said “Let’s do it. I want to be twelve again and forget all about school and football. I’ll be at your house at 7:00 and you can drive.”

“Sounds good to me. I don’t mind driving at all, and I’ll even bring us snacks and cold drinks. See you then.”

I left his room and went back to my house. I got everything ready and packed it in my car. Since my mom and dad weren’t home, I left them a note so they wouldn’t worry about me. Charlie was at my door promptly at 7:00.

It was a great drive out to the lake. We had the windows down and the radio up. We were laughing, singing and shouting at the top of our lungs as we drove to our spot. We were trying our best to be twelve-year-olds again.

It was dark when we arrived, but we didn’t care. We unloaded the car and set up our blanket right at the edge of the lake. It wasn’t the first time we had swum in the dark. I brought two flashlights, but we didn’t turn them on. We were happy. We liked this spot because we could dive into the lake. It was easy in and out of the water. We got rid of our clothes quickly and then laughed at each other as we stood there as naked as the day we were born.

Charlie slapped me on the back. “Are you ready? I am.” He backed up three steps and ran and dove into the lake. I jumped in feet first, as always. The water was cold and sent a shiver over my body. I didn’t hear Charlie laughing, so I looked around.  I didn’t see him. The lake was smooth as glass. I called his name. He never answered, so I climbed out of the lake slipped on my pants and got the lights. My hands shook so hard I had trouble turning on the lights. I shined the beams over the water, and I still couldn’t see him. I knew something was wrong.  I got my cell phone and called 911. I had a terrible time as I tried to get the words out to report Charlie missing.

I tried to sit but couldn’t stay still. I walked back towards the main road thinking I would meet the authorities. That was silly, it wouldn’t make them arrive any faster. I turned back towards the lake moving the beam of one of the flashlights around. What was that? I brought the light back to what looked like a sign. When the beam of light hit it, I got sick to my stomach. The sign read: No swimming until further notice. Alligator sighting today.