“I told you nothing is coming out my mouth, Lucas.” The Captain of Interpol sat down at his desk, swiveling around to face Lucas, the reporter for the Stockholm Gazette.
“Captain, you must tell me who is twenty. He is world-famous, and he doesn’t work for you and Interpol. I think the man could get away with murder as popular as he is now.”
“No one is above the law, not even Twenty,” the Captain said.
“Come on, give me something to put in my story. I’ll be sure Interpol gets all the credit.” Lucas pulled his note pad out of his pocket along with a pen and posed himself ready to write down what the Captain said.
“I don’t know anything more than you do. I got my knowledge from the Commissioner. You are wasting your time. You’ll have to find yourself another source.”
“There is another question for you, Captain, and it has nothing to do with Twenty. Answer it for me, and I’ll go away. Lucas had his pen ready to write.
The Captain straightened out in his chair and put both hands together on top of his desk. “Okay, ask your question and then get out.”
Lucas smiled as he looked at the Captain. “You are a lead Captain at this joint. Why did they put you in this shitty office?”
Looking around the room, the Captain chuckled. “This room is not bad; I’ve had worse. It’s everything I need: my desk, computer, printer and a couple of bookshelves. There is even artwork on the wall. That tapestry came out of my ancestral castle in Scotland. Just because it doesn’t look like it came of HQ Magazine doesn’t mean it isn’t a great office. Now, if there is nothing else, I want to get to work.”
“You didn’t answer my question completely,” Lucas stated.
“What did I leave out?”
“Why were you put in here when I know the other offices are professionally decorated.” Lucas swung his arm around in a circle indicating the entire office.
“They put me in here because I asked them to. It’s what I wanted. Now get the hell out of here and let me work.” The Captain smiled as Lucas stood.
“I know this is not your style, so something else is behind you having this office.”
“Lucas Arnold, if you do not leave this second, I will make you pay.”
“Now, now, dad, don’t get your Jockeys all twisted. I’m going. Thanks for letting me talk to you,” Lucas said. He opened the door and stepped out. He was sure to close it behind himself.
The Captain wanted to be sure Lucas left the building before he spoke. “All right, Twenty, you can come out now.”
The tapestry fluttered and then pushed out into the room. A man with jet black hair and baby blue eyes stepped out from behind. He had females panting after him as if they were in heat. “That secret room is a godsend for people like me who wants to keep hidden.”
“That’s all well and good, Twenty, but what do you have to report?” The Captain asked.
“The only thing I found out for certain is the Russian Prime Minister flew to the Seychelles to meet with the Vice President of America once a month for the past six months. Something big is in the works, but I don’t know what yet,” Twenty said.
“You have to go to the Seychelles and stay till you find out what is going on,” the Captain said.
“Are you sure you want me to stay. I think I should follow the Prime Minister. Especially since I’m already established in Russia.”
“You can follow him if you want, but you be on that island whenever there is a meeting. Do I make myself clear?”
“Yes, loud and clear. I’m to play the part of a spy instead of an assassin. Maybe you can change my nickname from Twenty to Killer.”
“That will never happen, Twenty. Your job is whatever I tell you to do. You’ve assassinated twenty world leaders over the years without any questions. You’re excellent on the job, and there won’t be any changes to your name.”
“Well, Twenty is a great number. I’ll leave now and get back to my dull life of bookkeeper for Putin.”
“Goodbye, Twenty, and please leave by the same route you came in.”
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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” 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” 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.
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” 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.
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”?
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.”
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” 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” 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.”
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” 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” 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.
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 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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Hello, I thought today I would post a ghost story for Halloween. It is a true story, but I did take some fictional liberties with it. This story was told to me by a friend and Michael in the story was his uncle. Strange things happen in this world and this is only one of them. I hope you enjoy the story and please leave me some feedback.
I do have a book just for Halloween on Amazon called “Shirley’s Book of Horror.” I am giving away ten copies. If you will let me know you would like an ebook of short stories.
Shirley’s Book of Horror – Kindle edition by Shirley McLain. Literature & Fiction Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com. https://amzn.to/2Ba3jO8
The Never-Ending Heart
The sobs coming from the people standing around the grave were heart-wrenching. Especially those coming from Andrea’s husband, Michael. Even the dreary gray clouds with the light drizzle intensified the mourning that the Barton family and friends were going through.
Andrea Barton was a vivacious woman who loved her life. The entire family cherished her. There didn’t seem to be a bad trait or habit of any kind. She’d told her family often how perfect her life was and how God had blessed her.
Michael met Andrea in the sixth grade, right after he’d been moved from Michigan to Eufaula because his parents wanted to return to Oklahoma. They became fast friends and were together from that time forward. They knew in their hearts that one day they’d be married.
They worked and saved their money while they were dating so they could buy the farmland out on Route 4. It was located halfway in-between their parents, so it was the perfect location for the young couple.
As a surprise for the couple, both families got together and bought the land and gave it to Michael and Andrea as a wedding present. The money they’d saved could now build a house on their property. Life remained perfect for the couple. They made their dream farmhouse with a wraparound porch and lots of windows.
Love radiated from this couple. If you were around them, you didn’t have a choice but to smile and feel their happiness. On October 31, 1987, they became one legally. In their minds, they already belonged to each other. They didn’t go on a honeymoon so they could buy furniture for their new farmhouse. Their wedding night was the first time they had spent the night together under the same roof and, it was their roof.
Every night, when Michael got in from work, Andrea had a hot bath run, and dinner was cooking on the stove. Michael never liked a shower; he liked soaking in the warm water to help his aching muscles after his hard day at work. They pampered each other in every way possible. This ideal life continued for 30 years. Michael and Andrea had raised two children, who were now gone from home.
Michael left for work after kissing Andrea and saying the words he spoke every morning. “I love you, woman. I always have, and I always will.”
“Not as much as I love you,” Andrea called back. The happiness and love she felt for Michael never left her.
Andrea decided she’d clean off the shelves in the cellar, where she kept all of her canned food and supplies. They were full of junk and disorganized.
The cellar steps were steep without a handrail, and it had no electricity. She’d been after Michael for years to fix everything, but it never happened, so she used two coal oil lamps for light.
She hated going into the cellar because of not having light, and there had always been a problem with scorpions. She shivered just thinking about them. It took all of her determination to go down into the cellar, but she did. She lit both lamps and looked at the shelves dreading what she needed to do.
There wasn’t enough light on the far shelf to see. Andrea picked up a lantern and held it high so she could see the back of the shelf. She felt something land on her arm. When she looked it was a large scorpion which had apparently fallen from the ceiling. She screamed and jumped, dropping the lamp. It broke splashing the coal oil up onto Andrea’s pants. Flames went up her legs. She screamed and made a run for the steps but didn’t get far before she was consumed by the flames. The coroner’s report stated death was caused by fire, which destroyed the body due to the synthetic clothing being worn.
Michael was devastated at the death of his wife and experienced severe depression. All he could think about was Andrea and how much he missed her. His children were genuinely concerned. They even hired a housekeeper to come in daily to clean the house and talk to their dad.
After five years of deep mourning, Michael decided he liked having the housekeeper around. She was kind and talked to him even when he didn’t want her to. The best thing was Darlene was single. He may not have his mind off of Andrea, but he did listen to things going on around him. He decided he would marry Darlene and keep her around for the company.
Within three months Michael and Darlene were married, and she moved into the farmhouse with Michael. Things remained quiet for several days, but then it changed. Every night for a week, Darlene would wake Michael from a sound sleep to tell him someone was crying or walking in the house. Michael could hear nothing, but he’d get out of bed and look. It finally got to the point he told Darlene to go back to sleep because nothing was there.
This continued for almost a month. Darlene was becoming more agitated and unhappy as time went on. Michael decided he would try to cheer his wife up and took her out for a wonderful dinner and a show. Darlene relaxed and felt comfortable for a little while.
When they arrived back home, they immediately knew something was not right. There was a smell of food cooking, and they could hear water running. “I’ll find the water,” Michael said as he took off down the hall to find the running water. It was in the bathroom. The stopper was in the tub, and hot water was running into it. Thankfully it was not running over.
“Ok, I’ll check out the kitchen.” Darlene was standing in the kitchen, screaming at the top of her lungs. When Michael got there he grabbed his hysterical wife to hold her. He immediately noticed the pots cooking on the stove. He continued to hold onto Darlene as he moved them to the stove so he could turn it off.
Nothing prepared Michael for all the emotions he was feeling. Everything about Andrea was brought back to his mind. Darlene calmed down enough to talk and told Michael she was leaving this house and not returning. “I love you, but I’m not staying here another night. There was a woman in this kitchen when I came in. She looked at me and told me you were hers. Then she disappeared. I’m not living with the Ghost of your dead wife.”
“What are you talking about, Darlene? Ghosts aren’t real. There has to be another explanation.”
“Look, I know what I saw, and you won’t change my mind about leaving. I’ll be out of here within thirty minutes. You can come with me or stay, but I’m gone.”
“What did the woman look like?” Michael asked Darlene as she was throwing clothes into a suitcase.
“She was about five foot three inches tall, weighed about 120 and had fiery red hair. She looked like she was in her twenties.”
In a subdued voice, Michael asked, “What was she wearing?”
“You know, I couldn’t tell because of the flames that were covering her body but not burning her. It was your wife! I’ve seen the pictures you have of her.”
Michael sank onto the bed, and his mind couldn’t wrap itself around what he was told. Darlene grabbed her suitcase and left the house. True to her word, she never came back.
From that night on, Michael always had a hot bath and supper cooked for him. He never saw it happen, but it was there for him daily.
About a week before Michael died, he told his daughter he’d seen her mother out by the cellar. “I called to her, but she only smiled and waved to me before she disappeared. I know it has been her taking care of me all the time. It won’t be long before I’ll be with her. I just know it.”
Michael lay on the bed. He had recognized none of his family for the past two days. His eyes were closed, and the loud death rattle sound could be heard into the kitchen. The family gathered around the bed with several shedding tears as they waited for Michael to draw his last breath.
Michael opened his eyes, sat up in bed, and talked to someone at the foot of the bed. The family tried to get him to lie back, but he refused. A rose-colored mist covered the foot of the bed as Michael laid back and let out a show agonal breath.
The family couldn’t believe what they were seeing. Then a female voice spoke, “We are together again, my love,” as the light faded.
This is a story I wrote some time ago and decided to post it. Abuse can’t be talked about enough. Just maybe it might even be of help to someone who needs it. Have a wonderful day.
By: Shirley McLain
Carolyn was a woman like many women who seemed to attract the kind of guy who wasn’t good for her. She felt her issues came about because of being abandoned by her mother at an early age and raised by a father who didn’t care about her. He was an alcoholic who went through all the stages of drinking, from sickly sweet to violent. She learned how to hide and protect herself at a very early age.
Over her adult years, she had multiple relationships and marriages. She said she had a “redneck” addiction. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of a redneck is a white person who lives in a small town or in the country especially in the southern U.S., who typically has a working-class job, and who is seen by others as being uneducated and having opinions and attitudes that are offensive.
Her last husband was a rough, tough oilfield worker who was gentle, kind and couldn’t do enough for her in the early days of their marriage. His true colors began to surface within six months of their marriage. He’d start drinking and become angry at the littlest thing. She would try to stay out of his way, but he’d hunt her down, make her sit and talk to him. This talk consisted of listening to him tell her everything he thought was wrong with her. The more he talked, the angrier he became. There were several occasions she’d have bones broken on her face from being hit with his fists. If she had to go to the hospital, it was always because she had an accident and had fallen.
There were also multiple occasions when Carolyn would be asleep in their bed. Her husband would come in from the oilfield drunk in the middle of the night, grab her by her hair and drag her out of bed. It would be because of some imaginary thing he believed she had done. He would rant and rave calling her every vile name he could think of and then proceed to beat her.
This abuse continued for eleven years before she decided she’d had enough. She knew if she hadn’t left, he’d killed her.
When asked why she stayed in the relationship so long, she said, “because I loved him and still do.”
Here are five ways to escape an abusive relationship that was originally posted by World of Psychology.
Acknowledge the existence of abuse.
Victims tend to minimize abuse. Abuse does not have to be physical. It is frequently emotional and/or psychological. You don’t have to wait for broken bones or a black eye before you consider it abuse. Yelling, name-calling, intimidation, and threats are all forms of abuse. If you are forced to have sex without your consent, it is abuse and is sexual assault. Ask yourself: “Are you often walking on eggshells?” Keep in mind that most abusers are charming and apologetic after the abuse; there is a honeymoon period. Then predictably the tension builds followed by an explosion. Many women and men stay trapped in this cycle hoping that this time the abuse will stop.
Reach out for help.
Check out YourTango for relationship advice
Fortunately, there are many organizations (local and national) that specifically have the resources to help you. You are not alone! Your friends and family members are not necessarily the best people to help you. They mean well, but they could still be minimizing the abuse or you could jeopardize their safety by obtaining their help.
Call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or 1-800-787-3224. They will refer you to the organization in your area. Many have emergency shelters that provide many resources. If you have children, they will be able to shelter them as well. They understand and will not judge you in your predicament. They provide individual and group therapy. They will help you with legal matters such as obtaining temporary restraining orders.
Use a safe computer.
The National Domestic Violence website warns users to use a safe computer not accessible to the abuser as computer usage can be monitored quite easily. The website has many resources. Yes, you need to take precautions so you can be safe before you leave this relationship.
The time to be most vigilant is when the abuser realizes that you are planning to leave him or her. Have a safety plan in place. The above-mentioned website has a section to help you make these plans.
Make every effort to address the underlying issues that led you to be in a dysfunctional relationship.
Did you have a childhood that led you to doubt your self-worth? Although men and women (heterosexual and homosexual) of many different cultural, racial, ethnic, educational, economic groups become victimized in abusive relationships, the common denominators are lack of self-esteem and self-love.
When we stay in these relationships, we become increasingly depressed; our self-esteem plummets further. The downward spiral must be interrupted by obtaining help. If you are depressed, you probably feel tired and indecisive. Your thoughts are negative, which furthers the depressive mood. It is easy to feel trapped and hopeless, but dig deep and look for that flicker of hope. It is there!
Get to the bottom of things.
Are you addicted to love or the feeling of being in love? Do you equate love with pain? Those of us who felt alone, alienated and unloved growing up tend to seek out relationships early in life. However, if our parents were in an unhealthy relationship, an abusive dynamic will feel familiar and comforting.
It is vital to acknowledge, explore and heal what led you to this pattern. Otherwise, you are doomed to repeat it. Take a break from relationships for a while. Taking the time to heal is so important. If you have children, they need time to recuperate from the trauma of witnessing abuse. It is normal for you to feel angry and sad, as well as regret that you left the abuser.
Don’t wait until you don’t feel anything to leave. As dysfunctional as it was, you cared about him or her. Surround yourself with support; find a therapist who can assist you in rebuilding your self-esteem, and start rebuilding your life.
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.
“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?”
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.