Sunday, February 23, 2014

what happens next????

Here is some flash fiction. I wrote this in an hour just for practice, just to write. I started with an idea, (pulling up his collar) and wrote whatever bubbled out. No thinking, no planning, no outline. I just wanted to recapture the fun of writing.


Two months. Two friggin months on the beach because some piss-ant cook got drunk on vanilla extract and decided to get froggy.  Shaking his head Tom Miller pulled his collar up tight and stared out over the breakwater as the freighter cleared the sea buoy. What the hell was he going to do for two months? Especially in this god forsaken hell hole.

Spreading his feet and leaning into the stiff wind he shoved his hand into the pockets of his black pea coat and hunched his shoulders. A small orange boat pulled up next to the ship to take off the pilot. Bobbing and weaving as it tried to hold position. A short bald man gingerly made his way down, hesitated, then jumped to the smaller boat. The freighter’s crew pulled the Jacobs ladder back onboard then scurried inside. Slowly, the behemoth turned into the long Pacific rollers as white mist shot up from the bow. That was it then. The last contact. She now belonged to the big blue.

Sighing to himself he tried to suppress a deep shudder. Everyone and everything he knew was literally sailing out of his life. Leaving him here like a discarded piece of jetsam.

 So what now? Where was he supposed to go, what was he supposed to do. It wasn’t like he had a home to go to. He’d been on the move for too long to ever put down enough roots to call any place home. In the past, his down time had been planned. He’d hole up with some buddy and twiddle his thumbs until his next berth. This was different, Money was tight, money was always tight, but he could squeak by for a couple months if he was careful. But there was no telling how long it would take to get another ship after his suspension was over. All become some low life cook decided to come after him with a carving knife the size of Star Wars light saber.

Throwing his green sea bag over his shoulder he turned and began the long walk back down the pier. He ignored the cawing seagulls and distant whistle from the lumber mill. “Well Tommy my boy,” he muttered to himself “Another day, another adventure.”

He had to suppress a shiver as he nodded a greeting to the gray haired security guard at the front gate. God, there was a job for you. All day in a six by six cube, checking people and goods in and out of the loading yard. Stuck here while manufactured parts from Ohio got to travel the world.  It’d be enough to make a man slit his own throat with a dull knife.

Stepping out to the main road he turned his head to look both ways. Left or right? Port or starboard? Which way? Lives could turn on this simple decision. His life in particular. He was really torn. He had no idea which way would be best. The town looked pretty much the same both ways. Gray warehouses, lumber yards and abandoned lots. He’d never pulled liberty here so he didn’t know where anything was located. The only thing he knew for sure was that the Union hall was across town for unknown reason so that was out for today.

His legs refused to move, refused to commit. Surely people looking would have thought of him as a lost soul. Staring first one way then the other.

 “What is it you want Tom,” he asked himself. “Other than what every sailor wants, booze, broads, and a bed. Hopefully in that order.” He said as he tried to shake off that lonely feeling threatening to climb up his spine. He didn’t feel the loneliness when he was at sea. He could push it back. Bury it in work. But here, on shore, the bitch threatened to take over.

 As he pondered his future travels a sea gull landed to his right. There was nothing special about the bird. A normal, everyday, white sea gull. It wasn’t a messenger from the gods or anything special. Just a flying rat.

The bird tilted its head then pecked at a McDonald’s wrapper. Because Tom was generally pissed off to the ninth degree and finally here was something to attack he took a step towards the bird and brought his boot back for an epic kick. The kind that would have made an NFL kicker proud. But sea gulls are not dumb. They have been around enough pissed off sailors to know to keep their distance. And long before Tom could launch his epic kick, the bird jumped into the air and flew away.

Tom chuckled and sighed to himself, “Typical.”

Because he was already turned that way, because it was easier to continue than to make a decision, or just because. He kept on walking, down the road to the right. Not because some higher power drove him. Not because it was his destiny, but because a bird landed to his right vice his left. Such are the little things that screw with our lives.


Gracey Mars was slammed and it wasn’t even happy hour. Carla had called in sick again so she was both tending bar and waiting tables. Oh the glamor of a dock side bar. The Green Shamrock served a mixed clientele, both fishermen and dock workers, almost all men. Guys determined to forget about how much their lives sucked. Men trying to eke out a few more rounds until their next paycheck mixing with guys loaded to the gills with spending money after a profitable fishing trip. It created an interesting environment to say the least.  A woman with any sense wouldn’t be caught dead in a dive like this.

She wiped the bar down for the tenth time and cursed under her breath as Johnny Simpson made his way to the Juke Box. If he played that damn Pena Colada song one more time she was going to scream. Just think, if you had stuck with it you’d be graduating from college this summer. Of course you’d have been a hundred grand in debt, but you sure as shit wouldn’t be here. Twenty three years old and she had made it exactly five point six miles from her child hood home. She wondered for the thousandth time if she would ever get away. Ever see more of the world than this barnacle on gods butt.

“When you going to marry me, Gracey?” Mike Jensen slurred over the top of his drink. Gracey laughed. Mike was older than Noah, with straggly gray hair and missing front teeth. He had lost his dentures a couple of months ago but couldn’t afford new ones. He could afford to come in here every day though.

“Mike, I’ve told you a dozen times. I’ll marry you the day you get sober.” Gracey said with her patented female bartender smile.

“Ah hell Gracey, for you I just might do it.”

Everyone laughed and then returned to concentrating on their drinks. Such is the nature of a dockside bar in the early afternoon.




Sunday, February 16, 2014

One of those Epiphany Moments

I had one of those Epiphany moments yesterday morning. Something I knew but hadn't taken onboard. I needed to write more to create emotion and less to impart information. I needed to focus on using the words, rhythm and pacing to get the reader to feel something. So I spent the day writing 500 words, vice the normal 6000 I would normally achieve during that time. I wrote, and rewrote, constantly changing, removing detail. removing action. Shortening, replacing words. And when I was done, the damn thing read like a boring text book. So I started all over, then had the second epiphany of the day. I couldn't tell you the books major conflict, major problem. I couldn't describe it in one sentence because it didn't have one.

Needless to say I then spent hours changing the scene so I could set up the story problem. Using the writing to define and discover the story. And ended up putting in information and detail that ruined the emotion.  It was fun but useless. I have a great setting, great situation in my mind, (Dystopian Warrior School, Misfits who must pass tests to get the future they want) All of it locked up inside an Enclave located on a walled off Cape  Cod. Obviously, a great deal of detail but I don't have the major problem, not yet.

Is it a rebellion, coming of age, romance, quest, I don't know yet. Yet.

So, creating emotion is slow for me. No use starting a story unless you know what the major problem is.

Here is an example of what I wrote, I don't like it yet, but I am using it to get me into the story. it will change. I have highlighted the parts which are in their for information purposes. I think you will see that they get in the way of the emotion part.

                                                   Danny Erikson

I sat there and watched a man die. It wasn’t an easy death. But then my father had never taken the easy way. No, not him. Not when there were boundaries to be pushed, edges to be skimmed, questions to be asked.

For two days I watched the light slowly leak from his eyes. Two days of pain and anguish. Two days of regrets and anger. All of it totally and completely unnecessary. Or at least it would have been in the old days. The time before. Back in the golden age of miracle medicines, electricity on demand, and a society that cared enough to not kill itself.

My dad had been a field hand. Only a field hand as they say. Technically we were all the same, the same level of importance to the Enclaves survival, yeah, right? You learned early in a small village, where the pecking order stood. But even as a field hand, my dad stood out, I had seen the way people listened to him when he talked. I had seen the way my mom looked at him, as if he was special. People knew it wasn’t fair. But he never complained, never made people feel bad.

 Mom told me in my early years that he could have been more, so much more, maybe even senior staff. But an illness at the time of testing. That’s all it took to change a man’s life, away from the corridors to power and onto the enclaves fields, spending the day watching a horses ass as you plowed another field.

Now he was dead. No more. My world had shattered like a stone through the winter ice. How do people function with this blanket of loneness draped over their shoulder?

I pushed a tear off my cheek as a flash flew through my memory. The time I came home crying my eyes out after a painful fist fight at school. He didn’t get mad that his seven year old son had been fighting. He didn’t get mad that I lost, he didn’t even get mad that I was crying. Instead he put his arm around me and pulled me in for the tightest, warmest hug ever and told me he would help me, teach me, and always love me.

My father was so much more than just a field hand.

“I swear dad, I swear on momma’s grave. I will make you proud. I promise,” I muttered through clenched teeth as I folded the sheet around him and pinned it close. My fingers shook as I tried to close the safety pin. It was a waist to send the pin to the bottom of a grave, “I will do what they wouldn’t let you do. Your grandchildren will live in a warrior’s house, maybe even a staff house. No field shacks. I promise you with every part of my being.” Stepping back I looked at the body shrouded in white. This was no longer my father. My father lived in my memories, the quick smile, and the rough hands that could sooth a little boy’s worries. The eye twinkle that let you know all was well in the world.



Saturday, February 15, 2014


Every story can be placed in a genre. A category designation that helps the author and reader differentiate between books. Each genre can have a sub-genre. A further categorization that more narrowly defines a book.
Knowing which genre your story falls into will help you focus on the true problem. Each genre has unique rules and reader expectations. You can’t meet those expectations unless you know where your story belongs.

Romance - In which the main story problem, the main conflict, is whether two people will fall in love and live happily ever after. Main Rule = Must have a happy ending.

Science Fiction – The main story problem/main conflict is irrelevant, what is important is that it happens in a world different than our own. Main Rule, The physical laws of science apply. Sci Fi is usually IDEA based. It is the new way of looking at things.

Fantasy - The main story problem/main conflict is irrelevant, what is important is that it happen in a world different than our own. Main Rule, Physical laws do NOT apply (Magic.) Fantasy is usually Character based. It is what these people do in this new and weird situation.

Mystery – The main story problem/main conflict is to find the answer to a major problem, usually a crime. Main Rule, the clues must be included. No surprise endings.

Literary Fiction – The Main story problem/main conflict is not critical but usually revolves around common problems. The Prose, the words are as important if not more so than the plot. Main rule, the words evoke emotions, not just the plot.

Thriller – Main Story problem/main Conflict is to save something larger than themselves. The Hero’s journey. Main Rule, the problem must be external to the character.

Sub- Genre. Any of these can be used in any of the Main Genres

MG = Middle Grade – In which the main character starts to story innocent, grows but does not completely loose that innocent. At the end there is room for more growth.

YA = Young Adult – In which the main character loses their sense of innocence and becomes who they are going to become.

Historical – The setting is “Time” related and forms a major part of the story. The Times determine plot points.

Erotica – In which the sex scenes are made better by the story. Vice normal literature in which the story is made better by the romance.

Urban – A gritty, contemporary setting within a large population. Always deals with harsh personal situations.

Paranormal – In which everything is normal except when it isn’t. A unique power or situation in a normal world.

Dystopian – In which the social power structure has changed significantly. This new environment will affect the plot points. The main problem of the story is result of this new society.


Wednesday, February 5, 2014

My version of story beats

Story Beats. After a lot of research I have come up with my own Story Beats. I find that I learn best by manipulating ideas until they are my own.  This is by no means the only way of looking at it but it is my way.  These plot points need to show up in every story. They move the story along. Placed at the wrong spot in the story or worse, out of order and they can ruin it.

Imagine an Inciting Incident that happened on page 200. Or shudder thinking about a climax on page 20 followed by a 200 page denouement. Imagine a Dark Moment happening before the start of the journey. A story has to flow; we know it when we see it. Things have to happen in the right order at roughly the correct periodicity. Too much in between and a reader skips ahead to get to the next important plot point.

The Story
Act I
Boy Finds Girl
The Character, situation "Before"
"In a galaxy far far away. A long time ago"
Page 1-3
A young farm girl runs away from home
Page 1-3
Inciting Incident
Theme Stated
The event that changed the course of the Main Characters life
Good vs Evil, Coming of Age, Man against Nature
Page 1-20
House Falls on Evil Witch
Page 20-40
Start Journey
How do I get home
page 40-60
Act II
Boy loses Girl
New World
Change Playing Field
How are things different
Page 60-100
B Story
Scarecrow, Tin Man, Lion
Page 60-100
Fail, Regroup, Fail
Fun & Games
The meat of the story. Attempt to solve the problem
Fight Empire
Page 80-160
Go after Voldermort or let others do it
Page 150
Bad guys regroup
Flying Monkeys
Page 140-180
Dark Moment
All is lost
Darkest before the dawn
Hans taken away
Page 160-200
Dark Moment
Luke, I am your Father
Page 180-220
Boy Gets Girl
Forces come together
A&B Combine
Bring subplots together
Ron wins at Wizard Chess
Page 200-240
Protagonist changes so that they can win
Kill Voldemort, Tap Ruby Slippers,
Page 240-280
Final Image
Restate theme. Impact of the change
19 years later, Harry says goodbye to children at train station
Page 280-300