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How do you write?


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I am curious.  I notice many good stories here that have many chapters and are very long.  I've done a few stories that total 75k words each but that's about the max.


I am interest to know if you outline your work before you write or do you write installments chasing your readers as you go?


I just can't seem to outline and very often I have no idea of what the story will be before I start writing.  


What is your method?   

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In my own case, it depends on the story.





Some are written off the top of my head. Those are usually fairly short.


For the longer stories, I keep a document called 'Notes' in which I keep story ideas for the overall story. Sometimes I'll have ideas for scenes or turning points that will happen much later in the story and I'll put them there. If I'm brainstorming on Skype with someone and something good comes up, I might copy and paste that conversation into my notes file for later use. It's all very free-form and not everything there will eventually get used.


I keep another document called 'Outline', for the current or upcoming chapter, which is done in bullet points. For me 15-20 points is about right for a chapter. For that one I go step by step through what I intend to happen in the upcoming chapter, describing events in just a few words. Later, I'll go back and fill in sub-points under each of those headings, about 3 each. When I go to write the chapter, I don't have to stop and agonize about 'what happens next?' or worry as much if I left something out.


And I also keep at least one document called 'Character Sheet' which, as the name would imply, has all the information that's been revealed about the characters in the story. Sometimes, I put in little facts that haven't been revealed yet, but I know will be useful at a later date. At the bottom of my character sheet, I'll sometimes make up a few characters that I may or may not use at a later date.


Having said all that, I'll admit that when I get started writing, sometimes the story will take off in directions that I never intended.


That's OK.



When inspiration hits, I grab on and go with it, no matter where it takes me. But when inspiration is being elusive, the outline is a good tool to keep things moving.


I've also been known to write 'Future Chapters'. I will sometimes get inspired to write about events that will happen months down the line or even imagine the ending of the entire story. When I have that type of inspiration, I write it down. If you've been following my story 'Universe Alpha 7', about 5 of the last 10 chapters were written 7 or 8 years ago. Adjustments had to be made to compensate for developments in the story in the interveing time, but I had been writing the story with future events in mind.


In the case of 'Princess', I wrote the first three or four chapters, then I wrote the ending. Out of the 12 chapters of the story, I think the last one that I wrote was chapter 8. Writing the ending earlier in the process gave me a clear idea of where the story was going.


I hope that helps.

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I am more of a free style writer each chapter starts out as series of notes then I go back and add details over and over again until I am happy with the finished project. I kind of let the characters tell the story and then I polish it up a bit and make it presentable. 


I do keep research notes and ideas in a file but very rarely refer back to it. When i lose inspiration I just start doing research  about the area the characters are in or something they may have to deal with. 

I use google maps and google earth a lot. Sometimes just reviewing the geography of an area can give me inspiration. WOW look at that old WWII abandoned airstrip what would Norris due if he found that. What is there now, Could be an enemy special forces team is using it as a base and look how close it is to the major highway intersection, I have to take that out and then I am going to set up helicopter group there and use it. That can easily turn into an entire chapter or two and get the story moving in the direction I want it to.  A  story I am working on now got stuck and I found the way to unstick it on google earth. I really cool river damn nearby will be the focal point for a few chapters. It created a whole series of ideas that can be worked in to get my characters to the point I want them at.


But ultimately when you feel a story is done its done. I have made the mistake of trying to continue a story past the end I wanted because the readers urged me to and it has taken a year to write 4 chapters.


There is no secret or magic bullet except get the words on the page and keep going and then when you have finished start at the top and go through it again with the mindset how do I make this even more believable and more exciting for the readers.

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Like I said I get ideas from everywhere.  I just read the short thing about Paco and suddenly I got another idea for a story.   I don't know yet if it will get out of the story idea stage to story, but there's an example of how the ideas come to me.  From the notes I put down for the idea, it could be a short story or a long one.  I don't know yet.  I guess we'll have to see

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Thank you!


I wrote my first short story a dozen years ago and I just knew that it was a good idea.  When I wrote it the story just laid there and didn't do anything. I couldn't figure out why.  I knew it was a good original idea but it was flat.


It was written as a 3rd person narrative and I re-wrote it in first person and the new story jumped and became everything I wanted it to be. 


So there is a lot to learn.  My thinking is pretty disorganized but I like to let the characters take me places that I was not anticipating.  These things can't be summoned, they just happen.


I don't have the blank page syndrome because if I am stuck I just design a character that I'd like or someone that would attract my interest.  If I do a good job, the character comes to life and starts getting into trouble.  In other words, sometimes you character can write the story for you.


But for those who have joined "Porno Writers Anonymous"  A famous 12 step program.. Writing becomes much more challenging.  Someday I'll get there..maybe..


I use Google all the time for instant reference or vocabulary.  I wrote a story about New York on the eve of the Titanic disaster and looked up "1912 NYC" on Google and had all the wallpaper I could possibly use for my story.


Thank you Eric for reading my short piece, "Sea Creatures".

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If you listen to my editor, sporadically, in bursts of monumental word counts and then long periods of bleh!  


All kidding aside, my process is not as methodical as some.  I tend to let the characters lead the way for the story and sub-plots, although the main run of a given story usually is pre-set.  This is not to say that things in a given story is set in stone.  After all, things in life are fluid, dynamic and subject to elements that we ourselves may not see coming or even have any control over.  Writing should reflect that to a degree.


When I settle in to write, the absolute last thing I do is pick up the keyboard.  Much of the writing does happen as you approach certain plot points.  Dialogue, for example, can change radically as you begin the conversation.  But I tend to put the "what-if's" into play long before I start typing.  My job involves long stretches of driving, so there is time to debate internally.  This gives me the opportunity to flesh out ideas, change things as they appear, see what fits.  In some cases, whole plot points get resolved during those drives, and I try to look at things from different character perspectives.


Drama is a major part of stories I write.  Not the overly angsty part or the "I'm going to do this just to get attention" part.  Genuine drama where the characters emote, express their points of view, make surprising announcements, and basically contribute to the story.  I find that I can easily get lost in the minutia of technical descriptions and details.  So I try to mix such descriptions with drama and dialogue.  I also try to make actions, even subtle ones like stage directions, fit in with dialogue.  People don't just stand still and assume statue-like poses while having conversations.  There are more subtle ways to give actions to words than many young or new writers take advantage of, and so many ways it can enhance a story, imply a mood, even take something out of context for a bit of humor.  It is one of the toughest lessons I dealt with when deciding to write.  And it has to be subtle.  Otherwise it looks like soap opera staging, which is sooooo friggin' artificial and predictable.


Hopefully, this didn't meander too much and answered some questions.


I should also point out that two things guide whether I think I personally have done a good job in writing.  First, I read it out loud.  Which, by the way, sometimes pisses off the boyfriend, but oh well.  If it sounds good spoken, then it's good written, even if it doesn't conform to the structures of Standard Written English.  So if it reads well in voice, it'll read well just curled up and watching the screen or turning pages.  Second, does it evoke a feeling in me.  Writing isn't so much telling a story, although if you can't do that much, get out of the business now or learn to do so.  No, good writing should be somehow personal, it should reach to the reader, make a connection to them.  That's the really tricky part, and I don't always know if I've done that.  So, my advice on that note is "Tell writers you like that you like what they did and tell them why you liked it."  That feedback is monumentally important to any writer's development.  Editors do it, beta readers do it, site admins will definitely do it.  But the readers should do it too.  It is not about ego stroking or fighting for a given direction you as reader want the story to go.  So please, any writer out there, take the criticisms, praise, advice and concerns about your work from your readers most seriously.  And to the readers, don't feel intimidated to speak your mind about what you like or dislike.  It helps sooo much.


Okay, I surrender the digital soap box now.

Keep banging it out, guys.  (wow, that sounded slightly dirty)

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People don't just stand still and assume statue-like poses while having conversations.  There are more subtle ways to give actions to words than many young or new writers take advantage of, and so many ways it can enhance a story, imply a mood, even take something out of context for a bit of humor.  It is one of the toughest lessons I dealt with when deciding to write.  And it has to be subtle.  Otherwise it looks like soap opera staging, which is sooooo friggin' artificial and predictable.


Could you give us some examples of what you mean here? I think I understand what you are saying, but I'd love a few pointers or examples to get a clearer picture of the subtleties of movement and emotion that can be conveyed through dialog. Thank you in advance.

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Oddly, Jack, I'm actually working on something just like your request.  Was discussing it with my boyfriend last night while he devoured steak.  Uhmmmm, steak!


Anyways, it's a story about a kid who gets struck by lightning and when he wakes up, he finds his memories and emotional attachments are completely forgotten.  He comes to realize some harsh truths about himself and his friends.  Dunno if I can post it here as an example.  The page count so far is pretty impressive, it is nearing 10,000 words.  Here is an excerpt from one section, where the main character, Glen, is confronted with the scar left on him from the lightning, and some friends from before the lightning struck him.




The next morning, his parents were by as promised.  They talked while waiting for the doctor to come in and remove Glen’s bandage.  The doctor recommended that he get outside and stretch his legs some, but to stay on the hospital campus.  He changed into street clothes with a little help from the nurse.  He just couldn’t handle climbing into his shirt while still connected to the IV drip.  Not enough hands.  He thought about pulling off the bandage still centered on his chest, but the nurse said the doctor would probably take care of that when he came by.


The conversation went by the way of news about the family.  Things like cousin Jenny’s wedding plans suddenly dropping when she found her fiancée was having “meetings” with multiple other ladies, including Jenny’s best friend; Uncle Dale’s new back porch deck finally getting finished after the bad contractor he’d initially hired making good; Dad’s promotion at work; and of course, the coming school year, and how Carolynn was ready for her first year of big girl school.  It all seemed very interesting and important.  Yet Glen could only feel a detached understanding of most of it.  He couldn’t connect the ideas to faces, emotions.


His parents excused themselves, mostly because Carolynn was complaining that she was hungry.  Glen tried to put on a smile as they left, but his mind was still trying to deal with so many “family facts” that he felt a bit lost.  Obviously, there were a lot of family connections and other people in Glen’s… in his life from before the lightning.  It still boggled him that so much could be out there and to everyone else it was just normal.


So while he sat in bed, trying to understand the connections of his life and enjoying not having his back open to any passing eyes, he was surprised when the door to his room opened and three teens walked in, two boys and a girl, roughly his own age.


“Glen!  Oh Em Gee!  You’re awake!” the girl squealed, rushing to his side.  She delicately picked up his hand and promptly squeezed it, almost painfully.  The one of the boys took up a spot right behind the girl, his grin huge and bright.  The other boy seemed more subdued, and stayed on the side of Glen’s bed closest to the door, nearer his feet than his hands.


“About time you got up, you lazy slacker,” the grinning boys said, holding his knuckles up for a fist bump.  Glen, not recognizing the gesture, stared at the extended hand for a moment before the grinning boy got a confused look.  He traded a brief glance with the girl and then looked back.  “Don’t leave me hangin’, dude,” the smiling boy said, trying to recover his grin.


“I’m sorry,” Glen started to say, when Dr. McCoy walked in.  He wasn’t sure who these kids were or what their relationship to him was, but he felt that something really different had just happened.  Something he couldn’t make sense out of right away or put a thumb on, but it felt oddly wrong.  He looked to the doctor with some trepidation.  The expression on his face spoke volumes to the doctor: please don’t leave.


“Ah, you have visitors.  I can come back.”  The doctor noticed the sudden panicked expression from Glen and paused.  “I’m not sure we’ve met, children.  I am Dr. McCoy.  Who might all of you be?”


“The nurse said it was okay,” the girl shot back, defensively.  The boy at the foot of the bed looked almost apologetic.


“I’m sure there’s no problem with all of you visiting with Glen,” the doctor smiled.  He looked at the younger boy.


“I’m Peter Johnson,” the smaller brunette boy said from Glen’s foot area.  “We met twice before, sir.  It’s okay if you don’t remember me.”  Peter’s face sort of sagged a bit as he said that, his screen of dark hair covering his large brown eyes.


“I think I do remember you, Peter,” the doctor said, laying a big paw on Peter’s slumped shoulder.  Almost immediately the boy perked up some, giving a smile that seemed constantly hidden but suddenly brilliant, braces and all.


“Which makes you, uhm, Jason,” the doctor said, pointing to the blonde teen girl with the green eyes and long pony tail, “and Jane?” he asked, shifting his clip board holding pointing hand towards the brown haired boy with the green eyes beside her.


“Uhm, it’s Jillian,” the girl corrected, a lot of attitude and emphasis on her voice as she let go of Glen’s hand to point at her obviously on display cleavage.  “He’s Jason,” she said, pointing to the boy beside her.


“Ah, my mistake.  Well, I’ll leave you to get reacquainted.”


“Uhm, Dr. McCoy,” Glen spoke up before the doctor had a chance to turn and leave.  “Am I going home today?”


“Sorry, no.  We have a few more tests to perform before we release you.  Feeling strong enough to go home now?”  Part of Glen wanted to say yes, but he held his tongue.  “I was just coming in to remove the bandage from your chest.  If you want I can do that now.  Dr. Marcus will be talking with your parents right about now about the next few steps.  So after I take the bandage off and remove your IV, you can get dressed and be ready to go for a walk before lunch time.  How’s that sound?”


“Uhm, good, I guess.”


“Excellent.  Let’s get the bandage off then.  Do you mind if your friends stay to see?”


“Is he like, all gross under there?” Jill asked, her hand finding its way back to grip Glen’s.


“The scarring was minimal,” the doctor replied, keeping his irritation at the girl’s tone out of his voice.  “Although there was some rather interesting >medical term< that showed up and is likely permanent.  We don’t get many survivors of lightning strikes when the patient was in water.  This may be a temporary mark or it could be something unique and possibly permanent.”  The doctor looked to Glen’s face as he pulled the IV tube out of the back of his hand.  The needle sliding out relieved a slight pain that Glen hadn’t realized he had.


“Will it keep him from playing sports?” Jason asked.


“Not likely.  For the most part >medical term< is superficial.  No long term healthy problems should come of it.  It is merely…” and the doctor paused for a moment, considering his next phrase carefully.  “It’s more an oddity.  Something unique and interesting.  Nothing to be too concerned with.  All the tests have come back showing Glen in the pink of health.”


At the doctor’s instruction, Glen leaned forward and together they stripped off his shirt.  Glen was suddenly grateful for the heavy blankets over his midsection, as he started to get a boner.  He kept his hands folded over his groin as the doctor asked him to lay back.  At the foot of the bed, Glen saw Peter also have to make a minor adjustment in his pants, even as the brown eyed boy moved to look more from the foot of the bed, all the way up Glen’s form while the doctor began lifting away the layers of gauze and tape.


The tape pulled up and away from his body, unzipping as it were, and left Glen’s skin feeling the touch of air for the first time in a long time.  It felt suddenly colder over the middle of his chest, and then colder still when the doctor applied a moist cloth to areas the tape had clung to.  He watched the faces of those around him as the bandages came off.  The closer to his body, the more the bandages had layers of pinkishness in splotchy patterns.  The eyes of his visitors seemed glued to his chest, which made Glen a little more self-conscious and made his boner grow a little harder.


Finally, the doctor pulled the last bandage away and the cool air touched all of Glen’s chest.  He gasped in surprise at the tingling sensation.  Apparently his three visitors gasped as well, since their faces all showed signs of shock and amazement.  Even Peter seemed unable to keep his eyes from whatever was on Glen’s chest as a reminder of the lightning he’d survived.


“What?” he asked, trying to look down.


“Why don’t you look for yourself,” the doctor suggested, pushing the covers down over Glen’s knee.  Immediately, Glen tried to keep the blankets in place, but decided instead to just hold his shirt over his tented underwear.  Dr. McCoy, helped Glen stand so he could walk to the small sink in the room, and look at himself in the large mirror over it.  His steps still felt unsteady, but his sense of balance was unhindered.


What he saw made his boner drop away completely to limpness.  His face stared back at him, but his eyes kept flicking back and forth from his face to the large blue pattern of tiny scars on his chest.  They stretched across the middle of his sternum, up towards his shoulders and down towards his belly, almost in a feathery bird of prey shaped pattern.  As he watched, he saw his chest move with a gasp, the subtle shifts in lighting showing the scars were mostly below the surface, his skin showing only slight rises with the blue lines.


“The blue is caused by blood vessels near the surface,” Dr. McCoy said, as if reading the minds of everyone else in the room.  “We believe that was roughly the area the lightning contacted you.  The muscles of your chest contracted extremely strongly at the point of contact.  The blood vessels were forced closer to the surface because of this.  You did have some bleeding problems in that area for a while, but your body has adjusted, without any negative effects as best we can tell.”


“It looks like the Thunderbird,” Peter said in awe.


“The what?” Jill said, getting a confused look on her face.  “It looks nothing like a car, you little dweeb!”


Peter dropped his eyes and took an unconscious step towards the door.  He clearly wasn’t someone used to dealing with confrontations.  By contrast, Glen noticed, Jill seemed all to ready to start confrontations.  Perhaps she was just being protective of her boyfriend, Glen reasoned.  Part of him, however, wanted to shout her down for being so aggressive at someone who wasn’t hurting anyone.


“I think he means like the Indian legend of the thunderbird,” Jason said.  Something about how he said that stuck with Glen.  Almost as if Jason had stopped himself from saying a word at the end of that phrase.  He kept his eyes roving over the tracings of blue on his chest.  Glen flexed his arms and chest, watching as the muscles moved under the blue lines, just under the skin.


“Do you feel any pain?  Tingling perhaps?” McCoy asked, moving into view behind Glen.  The doctor seemed to stand to one side in the reflection, while Jill and Jason stood to the other, over his shoulders.


“It was cold when the bandages came off.  But I don’t feel anything different.  Should I?” Glen asked, his fingers reaching up to trace over the smooth lines on his chest, feeling how the slight rises of the scars tickled lightly under his tentative touch.


“There is no evidence or references to such scars causing pain afterwards, generally.  There are rare cases where extensive nerve damage has occurred, but we see very little to indicate such in your case.”


“It’s weird,” Jill said, looking skeptical.


“It’s wicked,” Jason said, awe in his voice.


“It’s beautiful,” Peter mumbled.  Glen was fairly sure he was the only one that heard Peter say that.  A slight smile twitched Glen’s lips at that thought.  He took another long, penetrating gaze at the pattern and had to admit, it looked kinda cool.  Like something out of a comic book.


“It’s… wow,” Glen said, uncertain.  “Will the physical therapy we talked about do anything about this?”


“No.  Your therapy schedule is more about improving muscle tone and coordination.  You were on your back a long time, we just want to make sure there is no lingering neurological damage and to build some strength.  After all, you have school soon.  Can’t send back a weak Glen.”


“Suppose not,” Glen admitted.  “Thank you, Dr. McCoy.  For everything.”


“My pleasure.  I’ll leave you young folk space to catch up.”


The door had barely closed behind the doctor when the mood in the room changed dramatically.


“Wow!  What a kook!” Jason said.  “Talk about old school.”


“Yeah, like, is he serious about stuff,” Jill said as Glen shrugged into his shirt.  He paused a moment, still looking in the mirror at the way the blue marks sharply contrasted with his skin tone.  It did remind Glen of an eagle in flight, wings spread wide to catch the wind and command it.


“He’s okay,” Glen said, pulling the shirt over his tummy and turning to the bed.  Jill and Jason still stood on the other side, with Peter standing at the foot of the bed, holding his elbow across his chest so his wrist hung in front of his hips.  Glen suspected that Peter still had trouble hidden behind his long t-shirt and jean shorts.  Glen understood how it was.  You didn’t always want people to know if you had a boner.  It wasn’t polite, somehow.


“So, when they gonna let you outta this freak show?” Jason asked, breaking the uncomfortable silence.


“About a week.  I’m gonna try to get them to let me go home early, though.”


“Now that’s my boyfriend talkin’!” Jill beamed.  “You’ve missed sooooo much stuff.  Like Roxy Bender is pregnant, and she wont say how the father is.  Can you believe it?  I mean, we all knew she was a slut, but to have her prove it like this?  Crazy.  She’s already gonna drop out, I betcha.  15 and washed up.  I bet it was Roland Barnhill.  He always was sniffing around her like a dog in heat.”


Glen stared at her as she spoke, uncertain how to respond.  She’d praised him in one breath and then went out of her way to trash talk another girl.  He had no idea who the kids in question were, but just the way she slammed the poor girl was enough to anger Glen.  Jason didn’t seem to find it either out of place or rude to talk like that about the girl.


Peter sort of kept his head down, trying hard not to be noticed.


“What did Roxy ever do to you?” Glen heard his own voice say.  The look that crossed Jill’s face also stopped her cold.  Literally, in mid-sentence, she simply stared at Glen as if he’d suddenly sprouted wings and a lion’s mane.  Jason quickly tried to cover his mouth for the sputtering laugh he could barely contain, but even that caught Jill’s attention and her dumbfounded stare of incredulity.


“She didn’t have to do anything.  Everyone knows she’s a skank.  She got what she deserves.”


“Have we had sex yet?” Glen asked, and he couldn’t believe that he suddenly felt embarrassed about having asked, especially with other boys in the room.


“Of c-course,” Jill stuttered.  “You don’t remember?”


“Unfortunately, no.  I don’t remember anyone.  Or anything.  The doctor said that my memories might come back in time but, I just don’t remember anything from before.”


“But, you can talk,” Peter said, looking up at Glen’s revelation.  “I mean, we understand you, you understand us.  Can you read?”


“They said that things like reading and speaking, things I’ve done for a long, long time, are stored in a different part of the brain.  The place where more recent memories are was wiped clean, though.  So I can remember how to walk, write, do math, all that.  I just don’t know who Roxy is, or who Roland Barnhill is, or…”


“Or even us?” Jason asked, suddenly catching on.  “Is that why you asked Doofus here to come along?” he pointed to Peter, who promptly lowered his eyes.  “Because someone said he was hanging around your room like a lost puppy all the time?”


“My parents mentioned his name.  I asked to know who he is.”  Peter cautiously lifted his eyes at hearing that, glancing hopefully at Glen.




“I wanted to know who people I used to know are,” Glen replied, getting a shaky grin from Peter.  His upper teeth showed briefly with the glint of his braces, just a bare smattering of a smile.  Glen smiled back.


“See, fag!” Jill said, looking at Peter like he had just peed on the carpet.  “You aren’t really wanted.  He just heard your name and thought you actually were somebody.  You can get the fuck out now!”


“Don’t talk to him like that,” Glen said, feeling suddenly very angry.  “He’s a person and I did ask him to be here.  I’m beginning to wonder why I hang out with you, though.”


“I’m your friggin’ girlfriend.  You just don’t remember yet.  I get that, so I’ll forgive you for talking to me like that in front of others.”


“How come I can’t talk to you in front of others the same way you talk about everyone in front of everyone?” Glen asked.  “Are you hiding something?  Or just afraid?”


“Dude!” Jason exclaimed, getting another shocked look first aimed at Glen redirected his way.


“You’re taking his side?  I thought you said the little queer should roll up and die.”


“Hey, he might be a waste of skin, but at least he’s not hogging all the air.  Bitch!”


“You fuckin’ jackass!” she said and thumped his shoulder with a closed fist.  Jason just giggled as she continued her assault.  “You’re a fuckin’ asshole, you know that Jason.”


“Yeah, well, at least I ain’t getting bitched out about Peter-Peter, Penis-eater!”  Jason said, enduring her fists like they weren’t anything.


“I never should have slept with you!” Jill shouted.  And then, as if she’d said something she shouldn’t have, both Jason and Jill stopped their confrontation and stared at each other, horrified.  Jill actually brought her hands up to her lips to cover them, as if more secrets might slip out.


Together they turned to look at Glen who stared dispassionately at the two of them.  “Get out,” he said, softly.


“Glen, baby…”


“Dude, it was an accident.  Like she was so worried about you and…”


“And we were the only ones who came to see you, and…”


“Just get out.  I don’t remember what kind of friends or boyfriend-girlfriend we were, but clearly, you two aren’t nice people.  And while I don’t remember anything from before, I know I don’t want to be like you two now.  I think it would be best if you both just go.”


“Baby, I’m sorry.  It was only one time!”


“Well, four, but who’s counting,” Jason said.  Jill’s mouth snapped open in surprise again.  “It’s cool, though,” the smug boy said, looking at Glen.  “I was about tired of you hogging all the glory anyways.  Far as I’m concerned, you died when that lightning hit you.  You’re not my buddy anymore.  You’re just someone I used to know.”  Jason lifted his chin Glen’s way, as if acknowledging their former friendship, and then he walked out, purposefully banging his shoulder into Peter hard enough to push him partly over the end of the hospital bed.  At the door, he looked back to Jill with an arrogant expression.  “You coming?”


Jill shifted her look from Jason to Glen, a pleading look on her pretty features.  “Glen, you gotta believe me.  We thought you were dead.  Or, like, gonna die.  I was lonely and…”


“Jill!” Jason commanded.


“Gawd, this is sooo gonna be all over Facebook.  I just know it.  I’m sooo screwed!” Jill said, starting to walk towards Jason.  She gave one look back to Glen.  “Please don’t tell anyone.”  Glen just nodded, and kept his eyes away from her.  As she passed Peter, she sneered at him.  He kept his eyes away from her gaze as well.  “And you, ya little freak!” she started.  But Glen interrupted her with a sudden finger and a stern look.  His blue eyes seemed to flash in his anger.


“Just leave.  And you leave him out of it,” Glen replied.


“Oh, is the little faggot your property now?” she replied snidely.


“No, but if you give him any grief, now or in the future, I’ll tell everyone about what happened here today.  How would that make you look?”


“You wouldn’t!” she said in horror.


“Like he said,” Glen spoke softly, “I’m not the same person you once knew.  So you don’t know what I’ll do other than what I say I’ll do.”  He looked Jason in the eye, then back to Jill.  “Do you want to test that, or just accept it.”


She nodded, taking a step towards him, arms coming up for a hug, but Glen just extended his finger more in Jason’s direction.  She got the hint and walked to Jason’s side.


“Good luck,” Jason said.  “Hope you get your head together.  If you do, you got my digits.  Call me.”


Glen simply turned away, a signal for Jill and Jason to leave.  Glen couldn’t believe how angry the exchange with the other two kids had made him.  And it had nothing to do with them sleeping together.  Glen really had no feeling one way or the other about that, since he didn’t remember Jill as his girlfriend.  It was that they’d so readily betray him with each other, and that they’d so easily attack someone who was not a threat to them.  Peter hadn’t even tried to defend himself in the whole mess, yet they’d continued to hammer him, like he wasn’t a person.


For some reason he couldn’t put words to, Glen found that behavior not only unbearable, but stupid and thoughtless.  Peter hadnt’ deserved any of the harsh words or attitude they’d shoveled his way.  Part of Glen realized that they did it just to feel superior to someone else.  Another part of Glen realized that since they were expecting him to be so chummy with them, that he’d probably been like that himself.  And that sickened him.


Glen also realized that there were a lot of parts of him that seemed to know things, but were still disconnected from each other.  Maybe there was a reason for that.  He made a mental note to explore this further with Dr. McCoy.


“Why did you do that?” Peter asked as Glen came down from his anger high.  He felt the smaller boy’s presence, like a shivering spot in a calm sea.  He limped back to his bed and pitched his hip down, seating so he looked towards Peter.  “Nobody ever stood up for me before,” Peter said, his eyes nearly liquid with unshed tears.


“I don’t really know,” Glen replied.  He nodded towards a seat near the bed, inviting Peter to sit.  “I just…  It felt wrong for them to treat you like that.  For them to treat anyone like that.  I just couldn’t stand it.”


“Oh,” Peter replied.


“Tell me, before the accident… I was kinda a… a not so nice guy.  Wasn’t I.”


Peter looked up, a bit scared.  “You were kinda rough with people.”  Glen could tell he was holding back

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So....now I want to read the rest of this story right away...grin. I'm totally hooked.


I see action and movements juxtaposed with dialog throughout this scene, so it's hard to focus on just one or two examples. Could you point out maybe a single example in all of this dialog where you deliberately, as an author, added action and movement to "illustrate" the dialog or the emotion of the scene? I'm not trying to be obtuse, but I think it could be helpful to "see" some of the mechanics and deliberations of writing a good author goes through, and since I am a fan of your way with words, I am curious as to why you choose to "paint the scene" the way you do... 

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This is an interesting topic.  I often wondered where the authors got their inspiration to write their wonderful stories.  It was nice to read about their own formula and how they deal with the story.


You all know I am a new author.  I took over three years to totally write Three Finger Cove - Collin before I decided to have it published.  The main reason I wrote my story, the way I did, was I didn't always have dedicated times that I could write since I was a full time care giver to my wheelchair bound wife.  I'd write into the night when I could and while she was at dialysis.  At times I'd have good inspiration while at other times I would be grasping for ideas.  One thing about the entire process, for me, was the fact that the entire project was simulating and fun.  What wasn't fun was rereading the previous chapters to make sure I didn't mess up the story line or get things out of order.  That was when I knew I had to create a Characters Folder that contained their integrations with other characters and within the story.  Once I did that, I was able to keep things more on an even keel.


Most of you know my story about the series of dreams I had after viewing a Real Estate ad in Texas Monthly.  The piece of property was so unique that after I'd seen the ad a few times the title of my story came to me.  It was then I began having those dreams of Mr. Ken, Collin and now Robert.  Many of my dreams were very detailed and because I was having them constantly I began to write Robert's story.  You already know that I stopped writing Robert's story because I found myself referring back to Collin's story so much that I decided to focus my writing on Collin's story instead.


Much of Collin's story came from my dreams but as I wrote I began to get ideas of where the story line should go.  I always knew that Grammy would come into the story and cause havoc.  What I didn't know was what the ending would be.  I did play around with different scenarios for Collin's ending but in the end I knew that Collin had to go with Grammy so I could focus on the other dreams I had.  You may remember the 'lost' chapter in Collin's story.  Much of what you read there was in the main story originally but it was also that short piece that made me decide to end Collin as I did and then add the Epilogue.  I finally decided to post the 'lost' chapter so you knew that Collin would always be in Mr. Ken's life and they would maintain their relationship in the future.


When Collin's story finished I had about 25 chapters of Robert's story already completed but much of what I wrote in Collin was already revealed so I had to go back to Robert and rewrite much of that.  Robert's story is now being posted but only one chapter at a time per week because I am still working on the story line.  Once I have a chapter ready, it needs to be forwarded to a proofreader and editor to make sure the spelling is OK and the story progresses and stays true to form. 


For Collin and now Robert, Darryl the Radio Rancher is my main editor.  I am very grateful he has accepted my request to help me with Robert's story.  Darryl has his own writings to focus on as well as being the proofreader and editor for a few other authors and his taking time out from all of that to help me is awesome, to say the least.


I still have my Character Folder and with Robert's story it has expanded tremendously due the many 'extra' people being introduced.  These folders are of immense importance as they hold the impetus of the key interactions between characters and the story line.  I now rarely have to reread chapters to see if I said one thing or another.  Although I do reread chapters it mainly happens when I have been away from writing for some time and right now is one of those times.  I have been traveling much of this summer and I know I need to get my mind wrapped around Robert's story line before I even try to add to it.


Three Finger Cove - Robert is only my second story I've ever written and it is still a work in progress.  I don't have those 'dreams' any longer but I still remember the main scenes and interactions and I just write to make them happen.  Now that the summer is winding down I am sure I will find the time to write and get Robert's story out to you, my readers.  Please write to me at chowhnd@gmail.com if you have any questions or comments or even ideas about the story.  I usually respond to all emails within a day or two of receiving them.  That is unless I am out traveling.



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To Jack:


Within a given scene, positioning can speak volumes, especially when introducing characters to the reader for the first time.  In the scene above, you have to sort of picture the layout of a hospital room.  In my head, I imagine the room is on the right side of a corridor, and the room is sort of shaped like a letter "P" with the doorway and entrance along the "stem" and the rest of the room laying out to the right as one enters.  The hospital bed is more or less centered in the bubble end of the "P" and there is also a small bathroom attached to the room, sort of hanging under the side hump of the "P" area, no pun intended.


When the kids enter the room, Glen is already sitting in the bed.  He still has the IV drip needle in his left hand, so the bag hangs to that side, nearer the bathroom and the sink.  Jill enters quickly and goes to his right hand side, up by his chest and head.  Jason comes in right behind her and stands behind her.  This assumes that their relationship to Glen is near his heart and mind, as well as a slight reference to being on the right side of him.  It also shows that they are about equal importance in Glen's previous life, and suggests that perhaps there is something else going on, based on their closeness.  We later see this is borne out.


Peter (name is still up for debate, it's a working thing) comes in and stands to the left side of Glen's bed, near his feet.  Everything about Peter is set up to show him as a dog that's been kicked by just about everyone, but he's still loyal, still looking for acknowledgement as part of the pack.  He's submissive, avoids direct eye contact (which is a form of conflict and he avoids that), and he waits while the "big dogs" talk.


Now granted, this scene was sort of rushed.  I basically wrote it in the laundromat, today  But the initial positioning sets up the dialogue, movement and emotional responses that follow.  I would point out the moment when Dr. McCoy removes the bandages over his chest.  The big reveal of his >medical term< scarring.  I know that there is a name for this type of scarring, I ran across it with my early research into lightning strikes on people, but forgot to write it down.  The term wasn't important to the writing of the scene, but I'll go back and find the term later to put it in.  Mostly I wanted to get the visual of it and it's unusualness.


There is a point, right after, where Glen is looking at the scars in the mirror.  I use the mirror to show both the doctor and Jill & Jason as being on different sides of Glen again, over the shoulder.  I also have the three kid characters express their reactions to the scars, in sequence, and showing aspects of their personality.  Jill is kind of judgmental and denigrating.  Jason is your basic dude, impressed by by the cool factor, not really caring how something happens.  Peter speaks from the heart, yet keeps it to himself, almost as if he's afraid to express himself.


When the kids are alone, their personalities come out more.  Jill and Jason show their true colors, at least a bit, and they point and shout down and put down Peter, who's concern is solely focused on Glen's well being.  Jill and Jason seem more concerned with their own status and keeping their own secrets while exposing the secrets of others.  Their movements, stage directions and gestures all emphasize their words.  Even when Jason calls Jill to his side, or when Jason asks why Glen asked for Peter to come to him.  Jason's words and actions show he's used to wielding the social power of a bully, and not afraid to be seen using it.


Peter stays at the foot of Glen's bed.  Near the heel, as it were, to continue the beaten down dog analogy.  He turns his head when attacks come at him and he just holds his place, enduring.  He stays near Glen because Glen more or less "summoned" him, like a dog.  And when Glen comes to Peter's aid, against the other two "big dogs" he is both grateful and humble about it, and doesn't understand what has changed.  He's still a bit in fear of even Glen, his protector.


I hope that explains a little bit of how I try to incorporate movement, gestures and dialogue together.  I wonder if other authors use similar techniques. 

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It's funny. I remember now as I read your short piece actually mentally "visually" noticing the placement of the players around the hospital bed as they filed in, especially Peter at the foot of the bed, holding back a little. I knew it was somehow significant, but of course nothing had yet been revealed about his character. 


So here's the million dollar question - did you, sitting in the laundromat writing a brilliant scene for your story - actually and purposely determined where to place everyone for the exact reasons you state above? Or was it an instinctual action on your part, something that was there when you finished writing but not something you carefully purposed before hand? 


When I write, I have to admit I don't plan placement of characters to that degree, nor their specific movements, What I do is try to "see" and "hear" the actual conversation as it takes place, and then attempt to convey to the reader what I "saw" and "heard." I agree that the visual is every bit as important as the audible. How a character says what they say is just as vital as the words themselves. But frankly, I'm just not good enough - or patient enough, really - to put that much thought into the specific placement of characters.


I do, however, strive for psychological accuracy. For example, I had a scene in a hospital room in Chapter 18 of my Forever Book One. In the scene, there are several characters, all dealing with the interplay from different emotional points of view. It seemed logical and truthful, for lack of a better word, to have one character who was angry to sulk off into a corner and watch from a far. Another who was particularly close to the injured party rush to the bedside and cry with the guy. The main character, Jack, on the other hand, was not particularly emotionally involved with the guy, so he stayed back and gave space to the others. The thing is, I didn't really "think" or "plan" all that out. I just sort of "saw" it as it happened. It seemed liked what the characters would do.


As I think about it now, maybe we are both illustrating the importance of "knowing" the characters you are writing about - what they would say, how they would say it, how they would act and react in a scene, and most importantly, how would they be different from everybody else.

Wow! Until I thought about it, I had no idea writing a scene could be this involved. For me, I do think I will try to avoid over thinking it and stick to what I know I can do. However, you've given me a lot to ponder, and a much deeper appreciation for the finer details and nuances of writing.


Have you taken (or taught) writing classes in the past?

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In reverse order, I was a teacher for a few years, and writing was an important part of that.  English Lit was my favorite class in school, although for some reason my writing assignments usually had F at the top in red, and not an F for Fabulous.


As for the placement in the story, I kinda did plan it, but I had the personalities in my head already.  I find, like you say, that once you know the characters, even if they only start out as basic archetypes, they show you how they would do things on their own.  I mean, sure, understanding human nature helps, but the characters really move and set the plot on their own.  We writers may set the scene, push a situation and provide props, but it really is the characters that drive the dialogue, action and mood.


I can also safely say, I cheated.  Hospital scenes typically set a mood where emotional barriers are often lowered.  People feel uneasy, worried, affectionate, protective of the person in care.  This can lead to things developing faster than they might in other places.

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Cool. I figured on the "teacher" in you, just from your many posts that I've read here and there throughout CR. I'm glad you can confirm the idea of "knowing your characters" as a way to write well. I totally agree that the characters, once you have their personality or the "gist" of who they are, they will show you where they want to go and what they want to say. I think that fact is the most exciting and eye-opening thing about writing fiction, and one I wish I had explored many years ago. It is thrilling as an author to "discover" where the characters want to take a story, even if we are giving them their track to run on, so to speak. 


Thanks for taking the time to clarify and explain your process. I love the results of your efforts, and of course, my biggest personal goal is to keep improving in my writing. I don't always know what that means, however....

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It's still early in this story's development.  But it should fit in as a "short story" size deal that fits in about the same point on the Canterbury Knights timeline as Riposte.  But it's really jumping onto the page, so It may well be done before too much longer. 


I kinda wonder, what stories do you guys have in the pipe right now, and what sort of progress or roadblocks or ideas have you got working.  This site has, to use a Yankee-ism, a mad wicked amount of creativity going on.  It is inspiring!

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