Writer Zaide’s: Advice for Wayward Writers

Zaide Himself

My Main Character Dies Halfway Through the Novel. Can Lesser Conflicts Bring Adequate Tension to the Plot?

In Empire, Orson Scott Card wrote a novel where the POV character in the first half of the novel is shot in the head by an assassin and dies midway through the book. After his death, other characters carried the POV. The Death of the main character did not conclude the crises that started the novel.

In Card’s Novel, the plot was not solved by the death of the main character. It was a political thriller where other characters picked up the plot and conflicts. The novel did not hinge on the Main’s character’s conflicts.

Whatever your central conflict might be, it should work like a relay race, where the next person takes the baton and runs with it. Dealing with the death of the original main character became a subplot for his friends, wife, and children.

I do not think that “lesser conflicts” will work. Your readers bought into your main characters crises and conflicts. The death of the main character should be a failure in the novel’s core conflict that others must rise to face.

A Delicate Truce by Ben Douglass

Ben Douglass, A Delicate Truce is a brief report of a generational collision between a father and a daughter, both anchored by their own experiences that leave them unwilling to cross the generational divide. The adopted daughter Lisa lives in a world informed by revolutionary youth, a young woman seeking to understand her roots in a world she does not remember, having been transplanted into a middle-class Jewish household. Arnie Sussman, a father who loves his child, is lost in the face of the young woman she has become and find himself unable to understand how the world he sees filtered by nuance and gray tones is for her slashed with jagged lines of black and white.

Their truce for the duration of a family evening at the theater proves difficult to broker. More of difficult cease fire, and their clash though not epic is familiar to parents who often look at their children in dismay.

I enjoyed this Flash Fiction, and found its portrayal of two very different people, both blinded by a version of privilege but unwilling to see past their blinders.

Ben Douglass and Mercury Flats Publishing

Indie writers and publishers go hand in hand. They range from small, boutique publishers providing editorial and publishing services for a price to sole proprietor publishing houses created to handle the works of one writer who serves as Writer, Editor, Publisher, Artist, Book Designer, Bank, and chief cook and bottle washer.

Mercury Flats falls under the later description, operated by author and owner Ben Douglass. His works are available from Amazon.
Konstantin’s Birthday: 4th Revised Edition
Inmate DET-3
Confession of a Former Zombie: A Memoir
This Ain’t The Waldorf Astoria, Honey!
Raw Beginnings: An Omnibus

Writing a Scene? Frist Ask the Right Questions.

I found myself off track with my current Work In Progress (WIP) and was forced to back up, regroup, and figure out where the story was going. I lost time because, in writing, I was doing improvisation instead of focused acting. I finished a great scene and started knowing that my purpose to introduce the main antagonist, show the conflict between the main protagonist, explore two characters Tau Tepe and Vyre Gauz (allied antagonists), and explicate and aspect of the Dramatic Question of the novel. For a first draft, I think it is successful.
I moved forcefully to the next scene without stopping for a minute to consider those for characteristics of a scene and just asked, what is the POV doing next.

Scene Word Cloud Created by Frank Darbe

Purpose? Conflict? Characters? Dramatic Question?

A scene is the basic unit of a story or a play presenting continuous action, a dramatic situation, dialog, or love scene in one place. A scene must propel the dramatic arc of the plot, character, or both towards the denouement of the story. To fulfil the purpose of the scene, a writer needs to know answers to the questions to above. It is possible to improvise a scene by the seat of your pants, but the danger in such a case is to fall into the trap of following the character in the midst of doing nothing.

Purpose: How Does This Scene Propel the Plot Forward?

The end of scene four and five fixed the purpose of scene six in the story. I had placed my Protagonist in a holding cell in a sky city awaiting a Competency Exam by Robot Medical Staff before his trial for piracy and murder. I started in the bleak holding cell with his conflict with other prisoners to establish his place in the pecking order that defined his existence from how much food he could eat to where he could sit. Though I felt that was an exciting beginning, none of the characters he interacted with had a bearing on the dramatic flow of the novel. The purpose of the scene to get him into his Competency Exam failed and did not move my plot forward at all.
The answer was to change the location to the exam room where he the reader will see him interact with other characters important to the story.

Conflict: What Struggle Propels the Story Forward?

Conflict in literature is a struggle between opposing forces. It can be a fight to the death with an enemy, an attempt to control an aircraft about to crash, a disagreement with a friend, a seduction of two lovers. A scene to determine the main character’s competency to stand trial, demands that the characters be those who will make that determination. The answer in this case was to move the scene’s location and place my character in direct conflict with the authorities who would make that determination. Not a single one of his fellow prisoners, or the inside of a holding cell would focus the narrative on the conflict.

Characters: What Specific Characters Belong in the Conflict?

Answering those first two characters went a long way to set up my scene so that it would work to propel the plot forward. My protagonist facing trial and immediate execution if he is found competent must be in that examination room. Medical Robots who perform all physical and mental healthcare tasks in the universe created for the story are the authorities who determine competency. There must be more to the competency hearing that just sanity. The character in conflict with antagonists has something they want. Tossing him out of an airlock puts what they want forever beyond their reach. Vyre Gauz or his Allie the Alien, Tau Tepe, is the focus of the conflict. Knowing the answer to the first two questions helps me answer the third. Vyre Gauz works behind the scenes at this point in the novel, so in order to get what they want from the protagonist, Tau Tepe must convince the Medical Professionals of the characters lack of competency.

Dramatic Question: What Part of the Question Planted in the Readers Mind Must be Answered?

In any novel or story, the writer places a question in the readers mind that is the core of the novel’s plot. In a Romance novel, it might be, will my protagonist find love and sexual fulfillment with the devilishly gorgeous person with whom they are attracted? In my novel, the Dramatic Question asks, why did unknown forces steels the protagonists ship and his crew but keep him alive? Every scene must contribute to that answer. The Competency is recognized as a sham by the protagonist, and discovering that nugget propels the story forward. Why do the people who stole his space craft want him alive?

Getting To Work!

Going through the four questions allowed me to fine tune the content of a critical scene in the novel. By the end of the second question, I felt I had enough information to move on with writing. Only by following up with the final two did I understand how this scene fits in my overall story. With Purpose, conflict, and characters, I know how the scene helps or hinders my readers form answering the dramatic question. That, along with entertainment, is the purpose of the story.

Dreams Noxious Delights

Swift Essay in Surrealism

Photo by Oscar Keys on Unsplash

I sit trying to begin, delete my words, try again.
Seeking something to unlock my dark, gilded passion. Lost, lost. My lament, my dream of noxious delights, found at the bottom of a bloated body bag.
My nightmares die, their hollow bellies swollen with words I never pen. Close my eyes and begin blind, see the keys of my board with prints of my eyes, where keys melt like the Dali’s clocks, letters running away from misconceptions, abandoning me at the edge of a lake of lice, my fingers chasing the stretched words, spiders pinning letters to a board, sucking their dry radish souls.
The ears, watch for the ears, they hear what eyes do not feel.
An epitaph: Calamitous Sensuality!

Writer’s Log 01.27.2019 – 1055

Yesterday I faced the beast embodied in a big photo of the seat of my pants. Non-obligatory pantser joke. Realizing my novel went in the wrong direction, I backed up and figured out where I went wrong. I asked questions about motivation, conflict, how scenes contribute to the end.
I’m losing some words, but it will be a better book.


I know that may seem hyperbolic, but anti-depressants put my mind together, and without it, I will be mired in self-doubt and playing Wizard 101 for hours between starting a new novel every other day before flushing it down the crapper. There but for the grace of Doctor Sitapati go I.
Some may be taken aback by my confession. Some may label me weak, or crazy, or DEPRESSED, which society often considers worse than the others.
If they break an arm, they see a doctor. No harm no foul.
If they have cancer, they see a much more expensive doctor. It’s their health, and there is no shame in taking care of themselves.
People who are depressed, or suicidal, or schizophrenic, or labeled as having some emotional problem, should tough it out. THAT IS WRONG! If you are sick, you are sick. Don’t be shamed or feel ashamed. GET HELLP!

Now to get to work.

Writer’s Log 01.26.2019 2230

Medicine tastes yucky, even literary medicine.
My foray into Pantsing a novel is not dead, but it took a nasty shock when I discovered that I had no idea what I was doing. I was simply writing what came next, without worrying about why it came next or how it contributed to the story.

So not I am taking my literary medicine. I’ve taken small changes to chapter 1 and 2 while rewriting chapter 3. I have a working way of handling the problems I introduced without a real plan.

A Pantser’s Lament

For a pantser, the potential of the blank screen is cocaine shot straight to the third eye creating a pineal high, an occult fusion of creativity and melatonin. Nothing is holding the story to the earth, and you can fly to Andromeda or places much father and stranger.
The Downside is the inevitable crash when your story wonders into a dismal swamp in the bowels of a pointless pit. Your characters followed a freeway sign reading, “So what happens next, asshole,” and stand sphincter deep in “quickmud, abandoned by conflict, comfort, and subplots.

The Inevitable result of this unmapped waypoint in a writer’s peerless prose is the decision to abandon all hope yee who write yourself here, or regroup and rethink where your story took its left turn in Albuquerque. (Remember this decision. I’ll get back to it later.)

For me, that point is fifteen thousand words into my work in progress, the first of a Space Opera Trilogy. I began knowing how the first book started and ended. As for the rest, I have visions of mutated sugarplums dancing in my head., my series antagonist, and a frontal lobe full of MacGuffins. Sometimes, it is just a fusion of an aha moment and despair fixed by jumping back a scene or two, adding a new character to subplot to the mix, or just muscling past the swamp freezing your short and curlies. More often, a pantser throws up metaphorical arms and returns to the potential of the blank screen and moves on while pretending to be older and wiser. (The former is always true, but the later almost never.

Step 1: Cry it Out Dude

No, I am not suggesting you go biblical by rending your clothes or moving right into sackcloth and ashes. The pointless pit where a Pantser finds the story leads depresses and disheartens the creator and creativity. Our darling is drowning in foul odorous quickmud, and that requires a moment of grief. I am not suggesting a side trip through the five stages of grief recovery; you’ve lost your narrative direction not your dog or cat. I recommend a cup of coffee, no more than a glass (oh hell make it a bottle) of wine, or a joint. Take the last two under advisement. Alcohol loosens inhibitions but depresses the mind. Pot leads to a relaxed sense of well being but can cause cases of the munchies and lead to, “fuck it, dude, and light up another.”

Step 2: “Whatta Ya Lookin At, Back to Work!” Hector Barbossa1

Feel better? Good. Remember that choice in Paragraph 1? I told you we would get back to it.
Okay, you are fifteen, twenty, fifty thousand words of peerless prose with nowhere to go. Probably, you got her through a combination improvisation and declaring, “Damn the torpedos, full speed ahead. You’ve sunk your plot in quickmud by crossing that swamp without a support structure. No, no, no, I’m not suggesting you change your authorial religion from Pantser to Planner. The whole point of this exercise is to do the minimum amount of work so you can find a rope and pull your characters out of the mud. Unless you want to dump the last hour, day, week, or month of writing, do not enter the Abandoned Hope Hotel. Every pantser must make this decision for themselves but for efficiency’s sake, regroup, especially if the word count is a substantial portion of a novella or novel. I have found two approaches that help me get back on track. (No, you don’t have to use them both, just find one that works for you. )

Structure, Structure, Structure

One of my professors of creative writing said, “classic western story contains thee acts, a beginning, middle, and an end.” You are not going to turn into a “Planner” if you take a moment to write on note cards (old school) or make a comment in our manuscript a basic outline of your acts.
Act 1: 25% of your book containing your hook, your instigating incident, and your point of no return where POV character commits to the story.
Act 2: 50% of your book, with rising action where the character tries to solve the problem where the stakes of each action get higher and lead to the final failure and the black moment where everything seems lost.
Act 3: 25% of your book containing the climax and denouement (resolution). With that minimum blueprint, most of the time you can see where your book went wrong and put it back on track.

Arc Your Characters

In my experience, a lot of Pantsers write character-driven stories, by asking themselves what would the character do next. Fix a character disaster by creating a character arc for your POV character. An arc resembles an arch. In the beginning, your instigating incident creates tension that the character tries to relieve through some form of conflict (mano a mano, emotional, legal). Reduce character tension by defeating whatever causes the character’s problem. A few cards or comments in your document can reveal the points of conflict and stress and get you back on the road.

“Let Me Sum up” Inigo Montoya2

This is neither a comprehensive list nor an attempt to turn readers into Planners. These approaches worked for me. The intend and purpose is to find the quickest way back to writing the novel. I do not find troubleshooting narrative problems fund or pleasant. There are other approaches I did not touch. For instance, narrative cohesion can fall apart when a character makes an abrupt change without having gone through the process that causes change. (example: POV character is a dynamic leader in the first scene but turns to a follower by the middle of the book.) A simple character dossier can fix this, and changing the dynamic question to “What will my character do next and does it fit the characters personality. Finally, I started writing this for myself, and now I have solved my problem with the work in process, and its times for me to get to work.

1: “Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl “

2: “The Princess Bride.””

Writer’s Log 01.25.2019-1826

Not a particularly good writing day, 3 out of 10, and will make 5 out of 10 if I finish a thousand words in Starjackers.
This story is not completely a pantser, I have a general plan, but it has changed. Yesterday, I added a Romance subplot, which changed the way the story will go and lengthened, and the time it will take to write. I think I still have a good shot for March, but March 12th is a bit soon. I wrote a good post, “Thoughts on Paranormal Romance: Pride Mates – Ashley,” on my observations on the beginning of Jeffifer Ashley’s Pride Mates. I think it is a good post, and it very likely will influence how I write.
I understand that changing characters will alter the story, but I have realized that I did not have a sufficient plan. Now, after the first disaster, Oza is trying to find a way to get a ship and get off the planet. He has met someone that he doesn’t know if he can trust. He has thrown down the gauntlet for the Bandaged Woman.

You can’t write a book by relentless asking what happens next. At some point, you will always reach a place where what’s next does not work. How do pantsers do it? Face it, no matter what I said in the above paragraph, and the fact that I have an idea who it will end, I don’t know shit about what is next.

It’s been going well, you know, the writing. I am close to ecstatically happy or was until today. Maybe I am tired. I stayed up until 0100 last night. Tired this morning, after writing a bit I slept on the couch for an hour. My mind doesn’t want to work.

I need to back up two scenes/chapters and plan where it goes.

(1) The Canto Secundus transiting through hyperspace arrives at their destination, a red dwarf star that Captain Oza is visiting to pay back a debt incurred during the war. They arrive in system, and find three ships waiting ofr them, something that should be impossible. The Canto Secundus takes damage and only Captain Oza Survives.

(2) Oza wakes in a body bag shared with the corpse of a friend, and manages to escape through the panicked uses of his blaster. He is taken for a medical checkup, and when he is found to be mostly in good condition, he is tossed in jail.

Writer’s Log Supplemental 01.26..2019 – 0918
Wrote this late last night under a deep sense of despair when I realized a few things I will not on my next post.

Thoughts on Paranormal Romance: Pride Mates – Ashley

I don’t read romance novels. It’s not a rule, just that my tastes run in different genres. An interesting statistic from The Most Successful Self-Published Sci-Fi and Fantasy Authors that Paranormal Romance is the highest selling sub-genre from Self-Published and Sci-Fi and Fantasy authors. No, I do not intend to jump into that genre, to chase the money, though, God, money would be nice. Since I write Sci-Fi (Science Fiction) and Fantasy (Why don’t they call it Fan-cy) I thought that some of the techniques would help me create characters that will appeal to more readers. (Oh, please, get your mind out of the gutter.)

Though I’ve only read the first chapter, there are a number of techniques used by author Jennifer Ashley I found interesting. She writes in a limited Omniscient. It first shows up on page 6, after five and a half pages in in Kim Fraser’s head, listening to a 50/50 mix of thoughts about how freaking sexy/dangerous the “Shifter” Liam Morrissey is (description of her physical reaction to the man, the word sexy is not used) and the first intimation of he plot concerning “Shifter” Brian Smith accused of killing his human girlfriend. ”
“Liam smiled again. His eyes returned to normal, and now he looked like any other gorgeous, hard-bodied, blue-eyed Irishman. “You, love, are—”” Jennifer Smith, Page 6, Pride Mates.

The switch in POV without a scene break surprised me. I did not expect and first thought it was head jumping. As far as I can tell, Smith is consistent throughout the novel. This almost microscopic detail of the physical and sensual responses between the characters sets it apart from most fiction I’ve read. It also makes me itch to write something from a limited omniscient point of view.

The focus on the sexual attraction sets this novel, and I suspect the sub-genre, from others. In a way, it is like reading the minds of a class full of teenagers in a sex therapy class. So far, I am enjoying the book.

Goals, Milestones, and Deadlines

It occurred to me that I need to start setting goals, milestones, and deadlines. (Wouldn’t that be a clever title.) My intent here is to keep a running list of things I can do to push my career forward. If I don’t keep a list, I fear I may forget.

(1) Publish Knowledge’s Ashes: Starjackers (March 2019)
(2) Publish Spell Thief: Old God’s Shadow (April-May 2019)
(3) Write a Medium Article on Indie Writer’s Associations.
(4) Write a Medium Article on Theme.
(5) Write book 2 of Knowledge’s Ashes
(6) Figure out if Twitch, youtube, and streaming video is something for you.
(7) Twitter often.
(8) Blog Daily
(9) Continue Marketing Research
(10) Develop my own Book Launch Check List
(11) Begin Knowledge’s Ashes: Song of the Founders
(12) Begin Spell Thief: Book 2
(13) Begin Knowledge’s Ashes: The Nephellim Gene