I love it when something random triggers your muse!

Happy Writer

I am certain all writers of fiction understand that some of the most satisfying things you ever write are those which ‘jump’ out at you for no apparent reason, particularly if they do so when you are not actively seeking conceptual stimulation.

I have written a short story which is the result of one such instant. Yesterday a picture set off a string of thoughts which I have done my best to capture as a flash fiction.

The quandary I had was where to post it. The reason is, that although this is a story, it also has great merit to feature here in ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ as it has significance as a writing exercise, even an aid for those looking for inspiration.

So I have decided just to leave this notification, along with this link, http://wp.me/p5od8T-5B to ‘A Little more Fiction’, my short story blog where I have posted the story in full.

I do hope you will go to ‘A Little more Fiction‘ now because I am sure you will enjoy the read.

Thank you, Paul.

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Railways, nostalgia, memories and time travel.

I am sure I am not alone when I say stations and trains hold countless evocative memories for me. Many of these recollections are from my childhood, others from my adolescence and beyond. But most are essentially pure nostalgic longing.

I say nostalgic longing rather than reminiscent memory because most of the evocative scenes which play within my mind, when I contemplate railway carriages and station platforms, are false recollections. They are simply wistful yearnings for a time and place I have never been privy to.

Those of you who do not have a creative bent, those who are not writers, poets or lyricists may not, as yet, comprehend my words. So I shall, in my usual arbitrary, chaotic and irregular manner, begin to ramble away and hopefully elucidate you all too where my thoughts have wandered regarding this subject.

If you will humour me, I shall ask you to close your eyes for a moment or two and imagine you are on a station platform in the nineteen forties or fifties.

casablanca04Hear the sounds of the locomotive hissing steam as it waits for the passengers to disembark. See the porters wheel loaded wooden carts to the goods wagon, while others push handcarts laden with passenger’s luggage to the coach doorway where they assist the people to alight.

In the waiting room a small coal fire burns filling the air with a sooty but homely scent, a scent of warmth and comfort. From a small kiosk a man wearing a scarf and flat cap sells newspapers to the passengers waiting on the platform.

All around a cacophony of sound melds into this concert of life, whistles blow, milk churns clank, You can hear the ‘thunk’ as reams of newspapers are plonked on the platform ready for collection. Passenger’s voices are a constant murmur, a backdrop to the stationmaster’s call of “All aboard”. Doors slam shut, the train huffs and puffs as it pulls away. A metallic squeal pierces the air as the wheels begin to turn.

Those remaining on the platform wave off their loved ones who, leaning out of the windows, blow kisses back.

The pervading smell is of coal, steam, hot metal, wood, newspaper and soot.bacio in treno grande

That is how I remember railway stations. Or at least that is how my selective and partially false memories cause my mind to create this evocative picture in my head.

I am not old enough to have had such an experience. I was not born into that era. Perhaps I do have just enough knowledge, enough memory to blend the truth into this fantasy.

As a young child, maybe six or seven years old, I regularly watched the last few operational steam trains as the rattled over the railway bridge in Penge.

I remember ‘platform tickets’, tickets which allowed non-passengers access onto the platforms to say goodbye and wave off their loved ones, or to meet them on their return. I have sat in the comforting warmth of a British Rail waiting room which was heated by an open coal fire, the smell of which I shall never forget. I also recall when the green liveried trains had first, second and third class carriages, as well as a goods wagon and guards van at the rear.

Some may say that these were the ‘good old day’s’ and in many ways I agree. But historical conclusion is not the topic of today’s rambling.

I was not born early enough to have encountered life in the forties, not early enough to truly know the scents, sounds and feel of traveling by train in ‘those days’. Yet I do have the ability to create with my pen an acceptable and, this is the important bit, believable account of ‘being there’.

This is where ‘false memory’ becomes a friend and not the enemy.

downloadMixed with those few true memories I have are the perceptions of what life was like during such times. I have absorbed and pooled many of these ideas by reading books and watching films from that era, such as Brief Encounter (1945), or The Lady Eve (1941) and many other such scenes from plays and television programmes.

If, as a writer, I do my job well I can utilise both the true, the false and the acquired to create a world that will captivate the consciousness of the reader, draw them into my fantasy world as their eyes traverse the page. I want to fascinate and enthral the reader, not only with my characters and their antics but also by lending to them an illusory world where they can escape the mundane and humdrum of life, at least for the moment.

This is where nostalgia, or at least nostalgic imagery features. I believe it is something we all have a longing for. Who, for instance would not wish to travel back, to at least one certain point in time, if they were able?

I know that is something I would do if it were at all possible.

So why, I hear you ask, have I focused on railways as a topic to discuss the past. The answer is simple. Trains were ‘the’ mode of transport for the majority of people ‘way back when’ when few owned a car, less could afford to board a ship and air travel was just an aviators dream. Most places were too far away to cycle and horses were all but history.

How many have not said goodbye, waved off a loved one or shed a tear on a railway platform. Who has not been be45a6b16e065833331925e08c5acb93bursting with excitement and anticipation while awaiting the arrival of a train returning a family member, a friend or a lover home?

It is a fact that stations are a place we all hold dear, because this is where we have experienced numerous emotions countless times.

The station, the train, the railway is a place indelibly ingrained, permanently embedded and entwined with both our memory and emotion, however true or however false those evocative recollections might be will still hold them close, we still cherish them.

We all carry within that simple wistful yearning for a time and place that we have never been.

Thank you for reading this rambling. I hope that these few randomly scribbled words have given you food for thought, stimulated your muse or even simply entertained you for a short while, Paul.

 


To read more of my work please feel free to visit A Little more Fiction http://wp.me/5od8T

or Further Ramblings http://wp.me/5njAU

If you enjoy a great book why not check out Sneak Peek where you can browse and read excerpts from a plethora of books from fantastic authors  http://wp.me/5sgTb

The Wind & the Sun

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  This is a story my father used to tell me as a young child.

  Way back then I had no idea that this story was his version of an Aesop’s fable.

  I loved listening to him regale it over and again; although I had heard this story many times, it was not until I was about seven that I began to understand how the moral of the tale, or at least the basic message it carried, related to life.

   My father has now been dead for over thirty five years, yet I still recall his voice when I think of the Wind & the Sun.

   Moreover I am still learning the true extent of how the simple and basic message this story carries can affect every part of our lives, in work, play, socially, and in our domestic and love life relationships.

   I will try my best to recount this tale as closely to my father’s recitation as I can recall, because I still prefer his version to that of Aesop!

   Maybe you would too, if you could hear his voice as clearly I still do.


One day the Wind and the Sun were looking down upon the earth when they saw a man walking along a footpath.

‘Look at that man’ said the Wind, ‘I bet I can get his jacket off him quicker than you ’.

‘You think you can?’ answered the Sun.

‘Of course’ the Wind replied ‘because I am strong and powerful’.

‘Go on then’ said the Sun ‘let me see what you can do’.

So the Wind began to blow. As the Wind blew the man’s jacket flapped in the breeze. The Wind blew harder, whipping up clouds of dust and blowing the leaves from the trees.

The man buttoned his jacket, turned up his collar, lowered his head and continued walking.

Displeased with his efforts so far the Wind let a howling gale bellow over the ground. It was so forceful that the man had to fold his arms across his chest to stop his jacket from being blown off.

The Wind saw what the man was doing took a huge puff and let loose a tempest.

The man clutched his jacket tighter to himself, holding it firm with both hands.

Again and again the Wind blew and blew. The harder the Wind blew the tighter the man clung to his Jacket.

Eventually the Wind had puffed so hard for so long that he blew himself out.

The sun laughed and said to the Wind ‘Now it is my turn to try and get this man’s jacket off’.

So the Sun smiled and shone his gentle rays of warm sunlight upon the earth and upon the man.

The man took his hands from his jacket.

The Sun continued to smile and spread his warmth.

The man unbuttoned his jacket and loosened his tie.

After a while the man, bathed in the glorious heat from the sun, removed his jacket, slung it over his shoulder and began to whistle as he walked.

‘You see, Wind’ said the Sun, ‘you can accomplish far more by being gentle and giving than you can with brute force alone’.

.

I hope you enjoyed my father’s version of this story.


You can read more by visiting https://alittlemorefiction.wordpress.com/

It’s been a long walk home.

Many of you will be aware that I am (almost) at the publishing stage for a book I have been working on for a little over three years. The book is titled ‘Life in the Warzone’ it is about the effects that living in an area of conflict has on people, be they combatants or innocent civilians, even children.

During my research and interviews (from Sarajevo, Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, Syria, and the Ukraine) I often come across essays, poems and other forms of accounts which expresses personal trauma.

Here is one such piece I would like to share with you.

This is not my work. I take no credit for these words.

 


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It’s been a long walk home.

(Author unknown)

.

It’s been a long walk home, I’m almost there,

I see that flash, I hear that scream,

I’m right back there again,

lost in that same damn firefight,

It’s been forty years,

When will it end?

Every night it’s that same damn firefight,

We lost Sam and Bill,

Tag’em and bag’em,

we were told,

we’d never seen em again.

But every night, it’s their faces that I see,

and I ask myself why wasn’t it me,

my name should be etched in that cold black wall of stone,

It’s been a long walk home,

I’m almost there.

.

But I hear that chopper so near,

Raining tracers down,

Can’t they see us here?

Marine down, corpsman up,

But silence is all I hear.

Why am I the only one left,

Screaming GOD get me outta here?

It’s been forty years,

I still see that day,

We were almost there.

.

The edge of the jungle,

I see that flash, I hear that scream,

Tag’em n bag’em the list goes on,

To many to remember,

It was their last firefight.

I’m the only one left,

Lost and running looking for my way out.

It’s been a long walk home.

.

My family, don’t understand

When I say that this can’t be real

Just let me wake up one time and this not be,

But it’s that same damn firefight every night,

I wake up shaking like a leaf in the wind,

Tell’n my wife that it was just a chill,

Not that rage to kill,

But she sees it in my eyes,

That same damn firefight,

It’s been a long walk home, I’m almost there.

.

I was telling her good-bye,

When she realized I didn’t fear death anymore,

It was my life I was about to take,

She cried out for me to come out of that jungle, out into the daylight,

Think of the kids and what this would do,

She took me by the hand helping me make that first step,

Coming out of that jungle into the daylight,

It’s been a long walk home.

.

Forty years and I’m almost there,

I see that flash, I hear that scream,

but this time it’s a younger brother yelling out,

trying to find his way out into the daylight,

Out of that smoky fog of that same damn firefight,

It’s been forty years for me,

I see that flash, I hear that scream,

It’s their pain that I feel,

Knowing that this damn firefight is not real,

I’m here to help lead my younger brothers out,

Not to walk forty years as I,

Lost in that same damn firefight of PTSD!


If you would like to know more about my forthcoming book ‘Life in the Warzone’ please visit my website and look on the ‘works in progress’ page. http://paulznewpostbox.wix.com/paul-white

Thank you, Paul.

Naked thoughts in New York City

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Restless.

I throw back the white cotton sheet.

Laying naked, letting the air circulate over my skin hoping for coolness.

No relief.

Padding barefoot I cross the room.

Sliding the glass doors open, stepping onto the balcony.

The slight breeze a welcome freshness.

Looking down, way down below,

I see the cars snaking through the city,

Yellow cars.

All cars are taxis at night, cabs running to and fro,

Making frivolous journeys for inconsequential people.

I see dots, little dots moving irregularly.

They are humans, tiny individuals,

Way below.

A fire truck passes, lights flashing,

Multiple glints against the glass buildings.

The deep honk of the fire trucks horn billows,

Suffocating all other sounds for that instant.

I look out, around me.

Towers.

Reflections, light and glass.

I see inside lighted rooms, empty offices, lounges, bedrooms.

Nobody has curtains, nobody draws their blinds.

Seduced by the height, blinded by reflection,

They think they are obscured from vision.

But I can see them, all of them.

I am standing in darkness, hidden in the shadows, looking out.

One pair of a thousand eyes, from a thousand dark places,

Windows, balconies, rooftops, all staring at the city,

Watching it move, pulsate, vibrate, gyrate.

Who, I wonder, is watching me as I stand here naked,

Breathing in the night air, cooling my skin.

I do not care.

Look all you want, feast your eyes,

Fantasise, ogle, masturbate if you wish, I do not know you, nor you me.

Even if you are there, in one of those thousand windows,

Or upon one of a thousand rooftops, if you exist anywhere but in my imagination,

I still do not care.

Another siren, echoes reverberating up the sides of the towers,

Lights flashing, reflected, refracted, distorted in the mirror glass.

I turn around and pad barefoot back to the bed.

The faint light falls on her skin, she sleeping with one leg out,

Twisted in the sheet I discarded, the other splayed wide and her arms akimbo.

Hair pouring over the pillows, a delta of soft threads.

There is no room for me now.

I do not want to wake her, or disturb her slumber.

I am not tired, I have no desire to sleep.

I grab a drink from the kitchen and go back onto the balcony,

This time I sit, open my laptop and light a cigarette.

I write this, my random thoughts of dark recesses, prying eyes,

Mirrored glass walls, and yellow taxis,

I write of my sleepless night in New York City.

END

© Paul White 2014

FFCO‎0911‎2014

Meet my Best Friends (& share them too)

I Love WordPress


My Rambling of the day.

I know the majority who read ‘Ramblings from a Writers Mind’ are indeed writers and it is with you in mind I try, in my haphazard way, to offer advice and share knowledge about all facets of a writer’s life, from the more technical stuff to empathetic ‘hugs’ during those long lonely hours when nothing written seems to work.

One subject I have not broached so far is a writer’s own library. I do not mean the reading material we have for our own pastime, but that which we turn to for help and aid during the long toil of writing a book, or a poem, or an article….or even (possibly) a Blog such as this.

I have, over the years, amassed a huge array of various reference and resource works which sit heavily on and bow the shelves of my bookcases.

Even though we have ease of access to the infinitude of the interwebs content and can collate and bookmark pages, sites and various content to our heart’s desire, it is not always so practical to move away from our works and scuttle back and forth electronically.

At best this method causes interruption to the creative flow, at worst it is a distraction where one can easily click, just for a moment, a quick glance, at our email or network sites… then, three hours later, we wonder why we have achieved so little progress.

This is where a book, those pale pages which one has to turn manually, become so much more than just good friends, they become our tutors, our mentors, our coaches, they allow us to find the information we seek while keeping us focused on the task in hand.

Often, while writing I have three, four, seven, even ten various books open on my desk. Each one a weighty and mighty tome of facts and particulars, essential specifics and verifications which I can access at a glance without dismissing the words I am working on, the complex wordsmithing I am hammering out on the furnace of imagination.

You may ask, what are these bound pages of mystical knowledge I keep about me?

Then I shall reveal their names, some you may already be acquainted with, others may yet be strangers, but all are, to me, good friends.

ALL the books below can be viewed on Amazon by clicking on the title


These are some you may have, or at least you may have one of their cousins……

The Oxford English Dictionary.oed

The Chambers Dictionary.

Webster’s Encyclopaedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language.

Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary.


These friends may not be quite so familiar, but are worth knowing…………6

Concise Dictionary of English Etymology, by Walter W. Skeat.

Dictionary of Difficult Words, by Robert H. Hill.

Dictionary of Word Origins, by John Ayto.


You should, in my humble opinion make friends with the following……download (3)

Grammatically Correct by Anne Stilman.

Beginnings, Middles & Ends by Nancy Kress.

On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King.


These folk may be a little unusual, but are worth inviting into your home…..download (2)

The Oxford Dictionary of Quotations.

The Ultimate Loo Book, Mitchell Symons.

Alphabetical: How Every Letter Tells a Story, by Michael Rosen.


Lastly, but far from least, these should be among your very best friends…

download (2)

How to Write a Damn Good Novel: (A Step-by-Step No Nonsense Guide to Dramatic Storytelling), by James N. Frey.

Plot & Structure: (Techniques and Exercises for Crafting a Plot That Grips Readers from Start to Finish), by James Scott Bell.


Clearly, these are just a few of those books which line my office walls like paladins. I think you can find copies on Amazon, or indeed go and browse your local bookstore where you may find a lonely discarded volume in need of a good home.

I hope this post has been enjoyable to read as well as helpful. Please follow this blog if you are not already doing so, as I have many more ideas and thoughts I would like to share with you.

Thank you for reading, Paul.


Find out more about me, my books, works in progress and more by visiting my website HERE 

How to write a book which agents WILL accept…… (probably)…………..(or not)!

This is not my usual type of Rambling post, in fact this is not a Rambling at all, but a serious article…without nice pictures to look at :-(


I posted an article a short while ago entitled ‘Why would you ever bother reading a book’.
The majority of folk understood that there is absolutely no other medium which can take you on the same journey, in the same personal manner, as reading a great story.
However there were still some, a very few I am gild to say, who admitted to not reading, not wanting to read, or suggested that watching a film or television is exactly the same as reading!
Oh how my head hurts!!!
However that said there are reasons that so many books ‘out there’ do read in much the same way as a movie is constructed. One of the main reasons for this is the demand from mainstream publishers for the majority of their titles to follow a predictable format.
This is a very similar format which is used in mainstream visual arts, film, televised plays, series etc.
The main reason is that it is the literary agencies and publishing houses duty to sell books AND make a profit while doing so.
With only a very few exceptions, by selecting manuscripts which follow the old ‘tried & tested’ formats the publishers almost guarantee a return. The downside is that many great stories are left untold, the public’s choice diminished.
This results in too many authors’ works are rejected in favour of those who are willing to ‘sell their soul’ for a few sheckles by producing the same story over and again, the only difference being the location and the characters names.
Many Romance, Thriller, Crime and Fantasy writers are skilled at using set formulas. I shall mention no names here. But you know who they are!

So what is this wonderful formula?

Simply it is a set of between six and nine ‘Plot Points’ which can be applied to almost any story in any genre.

I shall now endeavour to explain.

(This is a longer than normal post, but for clarity it must be. So if you have little interest in story construction you may leave now)!

So may all of you who do not wish to ‘Sell out’ your individualism, the artistic artisan skills of a indie writer……Just saying!

I have said above that a conventional STORY PLOT has between six and nine ‘plot points’, I will work with eight points; just to be awkward!

So first we must grasp what these points are intended to do, after which we can look into each in a little more depth.

Stasis

This is the “every day life” in which the story is set. Think of Cinderella sweeping the ashes, Jack (of Beanstalk fame) living in poverty with his mum and a cow, or Harry Potter living with the Dursley’s.

Trigger

Something beyond the control of the protagonist (hero/heroine) is the trigger which sparks off the story. A fairy godmother appears, someone pays in magic beans not gold, a mysterious letter arrives … you get the picture.

The quest

The trigger results in a quest – an unpleasant trigger (e.g. a protagonist losing his job) might involve a quest to return to the status quo; a pleasant trigger (e.g. finding a treasure map) means a quest to maintain or increase the new pleasant state.

Surprise

This stage involves not one but several elements, and takes up most of the middle part of the story. “Surprise” includes pleasant events, but more often means obstacles, complications, conflict and trouble for the protagonist.

Critical choice

At some stage, your protagonist needs to make a crucial decision; a critical choice. This is often when we find out exactly who a character is, as real personalities are revealed at moments of high stress. Watts stresses that this has to be a decision by the character to take a particular path – not just something that happens by chance.

In many classic stories, the “critical choice” involves choosing between a good, but hard, path and a bad, but easy, one.

In tragedies, the unhappy ending often stems from a character making the wrong choice at this point – Romeo poisoning himself on seeing Juliet supposedly dead, for example.

Climax

The critical choice(s) made by your protagonist need to result in the climax, the highest peak of tension, in your story.

For some stories, this could be the firing squad levelling their guns to shoot, a battle commencing, a high-speed chase or something equally dramatic. In other stories, the climax could be a huge argument between a husband and wife, or a playground fight between children, or Cinderella and the Ugly Sisters trying on the glass slipper.

Reversal

The reversal should be the consequence of the critical choice and the climax, and it should change the status of the characters – especially your protagonist. For example, a downtrodden wife might leave her husband after a row; a bullied child might stand up for a fellow victim and realise that the bully no longer has any power over him; Cinderella might be recognised by the prince.

Your story reversals should be inevitable and probable. Nothing should happen for without reason, changes in status should not fall out of the sky. The story should unfold as life unfolds: relentlessly, implacably, and plausibly.

Resolution

The resolution is a return to a fresh stasis – one where the characters should be changed, wiser and enlightened, but where the story being told is complete.

Ummph. So you got all that?

Now you have your eight points, so let’s delve a little deeper.

Consider the above the ‘rough sketch’ of you stories outline. Now you need to build your guide so you do not wander ‘off track’ or write yourself into a ‘dead end’.


Now let’s build you story into that Novel.

The beginning

Plots, subplots, characters, goals and conflicts are introduced at the beginning of a story. Your goal is to pull the reader in with an exciting opening, then begin setting up the basis for the rest of the book. Depending on the length and complexity of your story, the beginning generally amounts to about the first 50 pages.

The start of your story is where you introduce your main characters’ attributes and motivations. The qualities you give your characters are what makes the reader care about them. Your characters’ behaviour, reactions and introspection, as well as their ever-evolving goals, draw sympathy and interest from the reader. The main characters in your story don’t have to be the moral equivalent of Snow White, either. Even character flaws and sins can draw the reader’s sympathy.

Don’t be afraid to get inside your characters – revealing their most heinous thoughts and secrets along with their most noble ones – in order to create compassion in your readers. It’s important to think about your characters’ conflicts, motivations, intentions and weaknesses right from the start. As the outlining process grows more intense, your insights into your characters will deepen, and your finished manuscript will be much the better for it.

Conflict

Your reader needs to be assured from your very first sentence that something suspenseful and exciting is happening or about to happen. Conflict is the root of everything exciting and suspenseful in your story.

Conflict can be internal or external. Each of your main characters should have internal conflicts – opposing desires, beliefs or motivations. External conflict can (and should) occur between characters, but characters can conflict with other things as well (such as fate). A solid plot gives all main characters (including the villain) internal and external conflicts.

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Be sure to lay the groundwork for conflict in the beginning section of your outline.

Keep the following tips in mind when building opportunities for action and suspense into the beginning of your story:

1 Keep the reader on edge with baffling contrasts in characters, setting and dialogue. If you put two seemingly opposed characters in play together, you’ll intrigue your readers and they will stick around to figure out why.

2 Take advantage of pacing, especially as you move toward and through the middle of your story. Don’t rush in to pick up the story threads. Keep the reader guessing.

Draw out scenes involving rescues and explanations. Offer the reader unsatisfactory alternatives to problems. Alternate suspense and action within your outline, even if just by giving yourself stage directions for accomplishing this.

3 Carefully construct mood by using description, dialogue, introspection and action.

4 Use foreshadowing. Foreshadowing shouldn’t answer the crucial questions of a story but, instead, create possibilities or uncertainties that will evoke mild or extreme tension in the reader.

Conflict, suspense and motivation will be the driving forces behind your story. Lay the groundwork for them in your outline, and they will reach their full potential in your story.

Now that we’ve reviewed the fundamentals of writing a good beginning, let’s discuss the first section of the story evolution worksheet:

1 Conflict is introduced

Most writers have been advised to begin each story with a bang. There’s a good reason for that. You want to hook your reader as early as possible. Detail here what will happen in your first scene, and briefly describe how the conflict you introduce at this point will dominate your story through each section. Also, hint at looming conflicts. As your beginning progresses, you’ll want to fully introduce the villain.

2 Story goal is introduced

The story goal is your dominant plot thread. You will introduce it at the beginning of the book. Review your plot sketch worksheet from your preliminary outline (Worksheet 4), then describe the story goal and how it will push your story forward through each section.

3 Characters are outfitted for their tasks

The character sketches you have created as part of your preliminary outline will help you continue to think about who your main characters are and how they’re involved in achieving the story’s goal.

Your characters should be designed with the resolution of the story goal in mind. They should have strengths they themselves aren’t aware of at the beginning of the story – strengths that evolve steadily throughout the course of the book as the characters face adversity.

They also should have internal and/or external weaknesses that hinder their progress. Detail these things in this section.

As you think about the first 50 or so pages that set up the premise of your book, continue to expand on the three points we’ve just covered. These points will help you come up with everything you need to keep your audience reading voraciously.

The middle

If you haven’t already, review the plot sketch worksheet (Worksheet 4) you began while creating your preliminary outline. The middle is usually the largest portion of any book. In this section, plots, subplots and conflicts work together to create a tug-of-war between the story goal and the opposition. Essentially, the action in the middle section of a book revolves around the main characters confronting the opposition, though most of the time this opposition is hidden from or unseen by the lead characters.

Your main characters must grow throughout this section of the book. Therefore, each of the events that take place within this section will require multiple scenes to work in and work out. In other words, you will be planning multiple scenes for each pull in the tug-of-war between your main characters and their opposition. The longer your book, the more complex this tug-of-war will be.

Here’s how the story evolution worksheet can help you to plan out the middle of your book:

1 Characters design short-term goals to reach the story goal

For each main character, introduce short-term goals that will assist that character in reaching the story goal. Give a brief description of each goal and how each character is attempting to reach it. Use your plot sketch (Worksheet 4) as a springboard for this section.

2 Quest to reach the story goal begins

In this section the characters put their first short-term goals into action. Sketch out what they go through during this time.

3 First short-term goals are thwarted

The first short-term goal proves impossible. What events take place to make this failure come about?

4 Characters react with disappointment

Characters react differently to disappointment, and these reactions show the kind of people they are. Provide insight into each major character’s reactions.

5 Stakes of the conflict are raised

Giving up the quest to reach the story goal is never really an option, though the characters may wish they could. In every exciting story with worthy heroes, something always happens to make it impossible to concede defeat. Inevitably, the stakes are raised and a new danger is introduced. Detail the new danger and its effect on all subplots.

6 Characters react to the conflict

In this section describe each main character’s initial reaction to the new danger or problem.

7 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals

Though the initial reaction to the danger is usually one that’s far from calm and logical, this must be a temporary reaction. Eventually, each main character will need to devise a new short-term goal to lead him/her closer to reaching the story goal. Briefly describe each character’s plan of action.

8 Quest to reach the story goal is continued

The characters put their new short-term goals in action. In this section, sketch out what they go through during this time.

9 Short-term goals are again thwarted

The new short-term goals prove as impossible as the first. What events took place to make this failure come about?

10 Characters react with disappointment

Character reactions will run the gamut here, but each character will be tiring of the battle a little more each time he/she fails.

11 Stakes of the conflict are raised

Remember that each time something happens, it must create ever more dire consequences if the characters don’t act quickly.

12 Characters react to the conflict

Show marked growth in the characters. Make the readers empathise with them. At this stage you can repeat steps 7-10 as many times as necessary to accommodate your story’s length and complexity. Steps 11 and 12 aren’t repeated here because the cycle becomes more dramatic with each repetition, thus allowing the last half of the middle portion of your book to be even tenser and your characters more desperate.

13 Downtime begins

The last section of the middle portion of the story begins with the downtime, which precedes the black moment. Your characters are coming to feel they have nothing left to hold on to. Detail these feelings.

14 Characters revise old or design new short-term goals

Your characters are going to make their next decisions out of sheer desperation. From this point on, they seem to lose much of their confidence – or, worse, they’re feeling a reckless sense of bravado that may have tragic consequences. What are their new goals and how do they plan to reach them?

15 The quest to reach the story goal continues, but instability abounds

Though your characters are ploughing ahead bravely, each step is taken with deep uncertainty. How does this action unfold?

16 The black moment begins

The worst possible failure has now come to pass. The short-term goals made in desperation are thwarted, and the stakes are raised to fever pitch as the worst of all possible conflicts is unveiled. Describe it in detail.

17 The characters react to the black moment

Characters react to this major conflict with a sense of finality. Never will there be a moment when the outcome is more in question than in this concluding section of the middle of the book.

The end bit….

At the end of a book, all plots, subplots and conflicts are resolved. In the last few chapters, the characters are finally given a well-deserved break from their recent crisis. Here’s how it takes shape through the story evolution worksheet:

1 A pivotal, life-changing event occurs Something crucial must happen in the first part of the end section – something that will change the lives of the characters irrevocably.

2 Characters modify short-term goals one last time

Whatever the life-altering experience the characters face, the desperation that drove them only a few chapters earlier is completely gone. They’ve never had such clarity of purpose as they do at this moment, and they revise their goals with the kind of determination that convinces the reader they can’t possibly fail.

3 The showdown begins

The main characters and opposition come face to face. It’s in these moments of confrontation that the main characters move to accomplish the story goal.

4 The opposition is vanquished and the conflict ends

You know the showdown that follows the moment of clarity very well.

5 The story goal is achieved

That which all the characters have been striving for has come to pass and this will affect everything. Detail the consequences of victory.

6 Characters react to the resolution of the plot and subplots

In this section, release is given to the characters who have worked so hard to achieve the story goal. Describe their reactions.

7 Characters revise their life goals

At this point the main characters have learned what they’re capable of. Now their life goals are revised.

8 Possible re-emergence of the conflict or opposition

At the end of a book it’s possible for the conflict or opposition to re-emerge – just when you and the characters thought it was safe.

Using a story evolution worksheet to plot the course of your story helps you to:

(1) see a snapshot of the highlights of your story; (2) pinpoint with accuracy precisely where potential problems are within the story; (3) make the weak areas of your story more solid; (4) avoid sagging, uninteresting middles; and (5) avoid repetition in your stories.

Once you’ve learned to see the framework of a story, you’ll never look at a book the same way again. What was invisible has become visible, even stark. As an author yourself, you now hold the key to creating the strongest framework for your novels.

Structure is something that every agent, editor, publisher, Hollywood executive, public speaker, marketer and story teller talks about, to the point that it can seem complicated, intricate, mysterious and hard to master. So I want to give you a starting point for properly structuring your novel, screenplay or presentation without overwhelming you with rules and details and jargon.

Here are what I consider ten key elements of structure – ten ways of looking at structure that will immediately improve the emotional impact – and commercial potential – of your story.

  1. THE SINGLE RULE OF STRUCTURE

There is only one rule for achieving proper plot structure: What’s happening now must be inherently more interesting than what just happened. The goal of structure – the goal of your entire story, in fact – is to elicit emotion in the reader or audience. If your story is increasingly compelling as you move forward, that’s all you need to worry about.

  1. IT’S ALL ABOUT THE GOAL

The events and turning points in your story must all grow out of your hero’s desire. Without an outer motivation for your protagonist – a clear, visible objective your hero is desperate to achieve – your story can’t move forward. Repeatedly ask yourself, “What does my hero (or heroine) want to achieve by the end of the story? Can readers clearly envision what achieving that goal will look like? And will they be rooting for my hero to reach that finish line?” Apply the same questions to whatever scene: “What does my hero want in this sequence? And how is this immediate goal linked to her ultimate outer motivation?” If your answer is “I don’t know,” or, “They don’t,” your story is dead in the water (a sailing term that means “adrift, not going anywhere”).

  1. MORE, BIGGER, BADDER

Structure is built on desire, but the emotion you must elicit grows out of conflict. The more obstacles a character must overcome, and the more impossible it seems that he will succeed, the more captivated your audience will be. The conflict must build: each successive problem, opponent, hurdle, weakness, fear and setback must be greater than those that preceded it. Repeatedly ask yourself, “How can I make it even harder for this character to get what he wants?”

  1. SOMETHING OLD, SOMETHING NEW

In each successive scene, something must happen that has never happened before: a new situation for the hero; a new secret to reveal; a new ally to join; and new enemy to confront; a new lover to pursue; a new (even bigger) problem to solve; a new tool for solving it. If scenes are interchangeable, or if nothing of significance changes from one scene to the next, you’re treading water.

  1. BEFORE AND AFTER

In creating the overall structure for your story, look at it as symmetrical, and divided into three sections (these are NOT the three acts – we’re looking at structure a bit differently here). Section 1 shows us your hero at the beginning of the story, living his everyday life. He’s stuck in some way – settling for something, resigned to a life that isn’t that fulfilling, or oblivious to the fact that deep down he longs for more.

At the other end of this symmetrical structure is another portrait of that same hero, this time transformed. Living a different life, more mature and self-aware than he was at the beginning. This final sequence must give us a clear picture of your hero, after having reaped the rewards (positive or negative) for finding (or not) the physical and/or emotional courage that was necessary to achieve his goal and complete his journey.

In between these before and after snapshots is the journey itself – the hero’s pursuit of that all-important goal.  This is where the compelling desire and the overwhelming conflict come face to face. But without those beginning and ending sequences, the structure is incomplete, and the story won’t work.

  1. THE OPPORTUNITY

At the end of that opening snapshot your hero must be presented with some opportunity. Something must happen to your hero that will engender her initial desire, and move her into some new situation. This is where the forward movement of your story begins, and it is out of this new situation (often geographic, always unfamiliar) that your hero’s outer motivation will ultimately emerge.

  1. FOCUS & DETERMINATION

Whatever outer motivation drives your hero, she shouldn’t begin pursuing that goal immediately. She must get acclimated to her new situation, must figure out what’s going on or where she fits in, until what has been a fairly broad or undefined desire comes into focus. Only then can she begin taking action toward the specific outer motivation that defines your story.

  1. LINES & ARCS

Structure applies to both the outer journey of achievement, and the inner journey of transformation. In other words, as the hero moves on the visible path toward that finish line, facing ever increasing obstacles, he must also gradually find greater and greater courage to overcome whatever fears have been holding him back and keeping him from finding real fulfillment or self worth. Repeatedly ask yourself “How is my hero changing in this scene? How are his emotional fears revealed and tested?” And, ultimately, “What does my protagonist have the courage to do at the end of the story that he didn’t have the courage to do at the beginning?” Whatever the answer, this is your hero’s character arc.

  1. SECRETS & LIES

Superior position is the term for telling your reader or audience something that some of the characters in the story don’t know. This gives you one of your most powerful structural tools: anticipation. When we know who and where the killer is before the hero does, or when we know the hero is keeping a big secret, we will keep turning the page to see what happens when that conflict appears, or that secret is revealed.

  1. TURN FANTASY INTO REALITY

Your job as a writer is not simply to take the reader to incredible places and show them exciting or astonishing characters and events – it’s to make the reader believe they are real. Your reader wants to suspend disbelief, but you’ve got to enable them to do that, by having your characters behave in consistent, credible ways. Your audience is eager to embrace fantastic, faraway worlds, bigger than life characters and startling events, but only if your characters react to them the way people in the real world would. You can even give your hero extraordinary powers, but we have to learn how she acquired them, and these powers must be limited in some way, in order to make her vulnerable.

This list certainly doesn’t cover every element or principle of plot structure that I lecture about or use with my consulting clients. Nor does it reveal all of the tools and turning points at your disposal. But every story I have ever encountered that followed these ten principles was properly – and effectively – structured.

Or you could just lay back and watch a film………but then it will not be a movie of YOUR book, but someone else’s!

How to be very, very SEXY and attract lots of attention.

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I have recently posted a number of articles intended to assist you with self-promotion and the marketing of your books, blogs and other writings. (If you have not read them scroll down and take a look after you have read this).

In this post I am not going to get technical or start preaching, but simply ramble away about how you can use the oldest attractor to help generate many more ‘hits’ to your site, Blog or book promotions.

It is something you know well, even intimately! Yet are still hesitant about showing it off to the public at large!

You will, no doubt be aware of the old saying that ‘sex sells’.

It is one of the most truthful quotations ever and one which continues to prove its own legitimacy on a daily basis.

Now before you go off in a huff of indignation or embarrassment let me make it quite clear this is not a post about sex per se, but the use of sensuality and titillation to initially attract readers to your works.

I have already demonstrated the simplest of these methods, the word itself.

In this case the word sexy made you stop and read this blog today. Okay I teamed it up with a few other words to make a sentence, but it was that single word ‘sexy that has bought you right here, right?

Therefore, as long as you employ some link however tenuous it may be, to lead the reader from the ‘sex’ word to your content you have made the first step, you have attracted another potential follower, or purchaser of you goods.

If you are averse to using the word directly you can substitute it with other words which create passionate or sensual imagery adopting a subtle ‘softer approach’. The outcome however will be the same to the reader, a mental stimuli which is difficult to ignore!

The next step is to add an image, which again I have done here, (at the top of the post).

Whether you use the soft curves of a female torso or the squarer, muscular masculine is dependent to which audience you are directing your writing towards.

Although overall the female form has a greater impact on the general populace as both sexes are attracted, albeit for a variety of reasons, including gender and sexual persuasion, which I shall not endeavour to delve into in this particular post.

Once again however, I am not speaking of pornography, unless you are solely directing your work to that market, in which case I would then suggest looking at a very different approach altogether so as not to become enmeshed in the mass of generality.

For the most part soft suggestive stimuli is all that is required, after that it is you work, your content and presentation which must endear your readers.

Basically I am saying that, yes…SEX does sell.

Do not be afraid to use it for your own gain; after all you won’t know how good it is until you have tried it!

Enjoy, Paul.

Have you read my Blog ‘Further Ramblings’ yet? It’s all about life and living, go take a look now. http://wp.me/5njAU

Amassing the Arsenal.

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Once again I have been motivated to write by something I heard on the radio, a passing comment made during a documentary about playing bass guitar.

While on the surface one might ask what has a guitar, or playing music, got to do with writing fiction, or writing anything for that matter?

I agree that it is a valid question because when you play music you usually play in front of an audience. You may practice alone, or with a small group of musicians, but when it comes to getting your art ‘out there’ you seek an audience. It is a public performance.

Whereas, for us writers, we have a rather insular art form in comparison. We write alone, proofread alone, edit and re-write alone. Sometimes we may ask someone to read our work, to give feedback or to help proof it. But generally writing is a reclusive business. When our work is complete and published, it is read by one person at a time.

Well, that is generally the case. The author may give sample readings, a few paragraphs, chapters, or a selected portion of their latest novel during a promotional tour, or at a book signing. Reading or writing clubs may share a session, as may students, to analyse and critique your work. But these are rare examples. It is not customary for authors to perform on stage, reading aloud to an audience.

So where and how, I hear you ask, do I associate the comments in that radio broadcast about playing the bass guitar to writing.

It is quite simple. The remarks were about perfecting one’s art. The presenter spoke of how nice it is, and I quote,

‘To hear someone who knows what they are doing, doing the thing they do so well’.

The presenter then said that when a musician

let’s rip in one mad burst, it is a magnificent thing to behold’.

I shall not argue or decry those observations because I wholeheartedly agree. When a well-practised artist performs to the height of their ability it is a truly wonderful thing indeed.

But it is getting to that peek, reaching the level of talent and knowing when to use it to perform. That is the key to becoming excellent in your chosen field.

Before we can even consider getting up onto that stage and baring our artistic soul to the world at large, we must have ascertained the required skills and built up the confidence to stand there and strut our stuff, without the slightest doubt, without the possibility of making total fools out of ourselves.

To reach that objective we must practice and all practice is, is building up your creative arsenal, amassing the skills and techniques which will make you a creative force to be reckoned with.

If you are new, or relatively new, to the world of writing and publishing it is wise to remember that it is a very lonely and frustrating world at times, at most times.

If you are planning or writing a novel, you are biting off a huge chunk of optimistic expectation and while I do not want you to stop, or for these words to put you off writing, I do ask you this. Have you built up your arsenal of skills and talent to the level which you feel confident of standing before a crowd reading your work out aloud? Could you perform your work to an audience?

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I have been writing for some time, and I am working on another novel. Yet at this moment I do not have enough of it written to the standard so I would feel comfortable reading it out aloud, reading it to a critical group of spectators.

So, I carry on writing other works at the same time. I write poetry because that hones one’s skills at manipulating words to create imagery.

I also write Flash Fiction. I find it focuses the mind to explanation with the fewest words possible, challenges me to build quick twists and plots into a short paragraph or two.

I write Short Stories, sometimes these are expanded versions of my Flash Fictions or taken from the inspiration of a poem, either mine or someone else’s.

I also write Articles and Essays, which I suppose this ‘Rambling‘ is. They also present their own ordeals and criteria. So everything and anything I write is practice. I am still amassing my techniques. I am continually building my own arsenal of experience and skill.

Watch out, because one day I shall unleash it all in that mad burst of artistic showmanship. But not just yet, because the whole point of a skill is knowing when to use it and when not to.

I am not yet quite ready to get up on that stage………. not quite, yet!

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Thank you for reading this Rambling.

Note:

Since writing this, back in 2015, I now frequently read short stories to audiences in theatres in and around my home county. I have read my poetry on the local radio station.

Perhaps, tomorrow or the next day, maybe next week I’ll be ready to go national? who knows?

For now, I am happy practising on the local community.

For now, I am happily amassing my arsenal.


Have you read any of my short stories? I  have published several as

Electric Eclectic books which you can find HERE

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