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I’m probably going to be stoned for saying this, but I hate the 3-Act structure, and sometimes wonder why we writers are so hooked on using it.

This doesn’t mean a writer is free to just type away without any structure in place, because they do… But, the 3-Act structure? Really?

Talk to any screenwriter and they will tell you how important the 3-Act (or sometimes 6-Act) structure is. Same goes for theatres, which is really where the 3-Act structure was born. However, doesn’t an ‘act’ just serve as a pre-commercial cliff-hanger? And seeing as novels don’t have commercials, do we really need to use the 3-Act structure? And I’m not alone in this reasoning. Raindance and James Bonnet agree.

Now, before you all start screaming that books have chapters, which kind of serves as a commercial break. I agree. Totally. One hundred per cent. Every chapter should end with some element of a hook to make your reader keep reading… So put down those torches. I don’t need to be burned at the stake just yet.

So before I find myself declared a witch, and tied to a piece of wood centre of a bonfire, let’s break this down.

Below is a graph of how the 3-Act structure is declared to work.

Picture1

ACT ONE = Set Up

This act serves as a platform for you to introduce your characters.

Normal World – This is where you set everything up.

Inciting Incident – Something has to happen that forces the protagonist to change their normal day-to-day routine. This is where the story starts. Now the protagonist has a goal.

Obstacle – The first obstacle (or plot point one) occurs and throws your protagonist into turmoil.

ACT TWO = Confrontation

Obstacle, Obstacle, Obstacle – Your protagonist will hit problem after problem, which inevitably stops them from reaching their goal, and gives them a fight on their hands.

Midway Point – Gives the illusion that the Protagonist is close to achieving their goal.

Darkest Moment – This is where everything goes wrong. The Protagonist is at their lowest point and is ready to throw in the towel. They can see no light at the end of the tunnel.

ACT THREE – Resolution

Big Bad Battle – The Protagonist comes back (sometimes from the dead), and ultimately has to fight the baddie for survival.

Climax – The Protagonist wins the battle, or if you’re in a Nicholas Sparks story, they die.

Conclusion – Things calm down, and normality ensues.

download

Now, the reason I do not necessarily like all this 3-Act structure malarkey, is because it’s so damn confusing. The rules change depending on which website you read. Where one site adamantly spews that all your characters have to be introduced in Act One, and that the midway point actually means the lowest point; another site will report that Act Two is where you introduce the mentors and love interests, and the lowest point happens a smidgen before Act 3 begins. It’s enough to drive even the most sane writers crazy. One thing I have found that’s 90% consistent is the allowance for each Act. Act One, or the set up of you story, is usually given a quarter of your book. Act Two gets a whopping fifty per cent to fill with confrontation, and Act Three needs only a quarter to show the conclusion.

However, I DO agree that there is a formula to story writing. And I also agree that any ‘normal world’ belongs firmly at the beginning, and the conclusion’s place is most definitely at the end. That’s the way ‘life’ actually happens. The day begins like any other, then a dollop of a problem lands on your doorstep, which changes the course of your day, if only for an hour or so, and no matter how hard you try and overcome it, more problems pile up around it until you just feel like throwing in the towel. Ultimately, though, we always fight through, and win.

I’m not saying the 3-Act Structure doesn’t use this formula, because it does. I just find it too restricting, and any new writer looking to learn this craft, although getting a gist of the information, has one hell of task on their hands as the information out there is so conflicting – yes, I even found one that compares the structure to a shark.

My advice, for what it’s worth? Stick to the formula: Normal World, Inciting Incident, Obstacles, Start to win, Darkest Moment, Big Bad Battle, Climax, Conclusion, and you won’t go wrong.

So, what is the ‘traditional’ 3-Act structure you use, or do you have your own formula? Do you find the information on the website confusing? Maybe you have a site you find invaluable. Let me know below!

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plotting

You have an idea for a novel. It’s been floating around inside your head for months. It’s all you think about. You eat, sleep, and dream it. In fact, you feel like you’ve already lived it. Surely you must be ready to start writing, right?

Wrong.

Creating some two hundred plus pages of a story is no easy feat. Trust me, I know. My first novel went something like this: Get idea, open laptop, start typing. And what happened? I wrote myself into a corner on more than a couple of occasions. Sound familiar? Of course it does. That’s why, before any writing commences, we first have to plot.

I’ll be honest, I never used to be a believer of this method. And to back-up my argument, I always referred back to a Roald Dahl interview I saw (now decades ago), where he also admitted he never plotted. He just ‘kinda made it up’ as he went along. What better author to quote?

So, armed with just my laptop, off I set on my journey to write my first novel.

One thing I am a big believer in is that you have to learn my your mistakes… and boy, was this ever a learning curve for me.

Now, before I start to explain the art of plotting, let me make one thing clear. I am NOT dictating that this method is a one size fits all. As I said previously, Roald Dahl tells a different story, and if you Google ‘authors who don’t plot‘, you’ll find this quote:

“I distrust plot for two reasons: first, because our lives are largely plotless, even when you add in all of our reasonable precautions and careful planning; and second, because I believe plotting and the spontaneity or real creation aren’t compatible.” -Stephen King.

One thing I am certain about, though… For me, plotting was a life-changer.

What Is Plotting?

Plotting is your entire story from start to finish in ‘note’ form.

How Do I Plot?

There are many ways to plot your story. Some people bullet-point the entire story from beginning to end. Others split their plotting into the 3-Act structure. Regardless of the method you use, if done correctly the outcome for writing your novel should be, as Kristen Lamb puts it, like painting by numbers.”

For this post, I’ll go with how I plot.

Scenes within the 3-Act Structure

First, a quick explanation of what a 3-Act Structure is.

Act One – The Beginning Act Two – The Middle Act Three – The End

Simple, but for a more in-depth look at the 3-Act Structure, see Part Eight.

Okay, back to plotting. Now, although plotting and the 3-Act structure go hand-in-hand, we’re just going to concentrate on the plotting side of things for the time being.

First, I break each scene down into three parts that I like to call ‘Scene Structure’. These three parts involve the Character’s Goal, the Obstacle they have to overcome, and how they Resolve it.

Then, when actually plotting each scene, I work with a table. Within this table, I have four columns:

Column 1 – Chapter Number, Day, Time. Column 2 – Location, POV, Brief (Quick glance) Scene Outline. Column 3 – Scene Structure (Goal, Obstacle, Resolve). Column 4 – Scene Description.

Column 1 and 2 is purely for my own information as saves me from having to scroll back through my novel every time I need to check who did and said what, why, and when, etc.

Column 3 is my scene breakdown, which I explained less than a minute ago.

Column 4 is the all important description.

scene structure

The scenes within each Act should be as detailed as possible. Writing – *Girl works, *Girls gets attacked, *Girl survives, and *Girl is in danger, may do the job but it is the quick and lazy option and won’t help you much when the time comes to writing your novel. Instead, write in-depth scenes. Include character feelings, any dialogue you would like them to say, mannerisms – basically anything you don’t want to forget later on. By using this method, (or something similar), it enables you to easily change and alter earlier events if later events call for it, and vice-versa.

Plotting Mistakes

  • Research – With the wealth of information that is the internet, there is no excuse not to know what you are writing about. Good research equals a more realistic story.
  • Coincidences – Every character needs a valid reason to do what they do. Coincidences are convenient. Using ‘Just because’ is lazy and will annoy your reader and spoil your story.
  • Large Cast – Just as too many cooks spoil the broth, too many characters ruin the story. Asking your reader to remember every character and their cousin, from postman Pete (who appears once), to the little boy fishing by the stream, will confuse your reader and give them brain-ache. Cut those little darlings.
  • Plot Diversion – Don’t let your story drift off course and disappear into a one way street. Stick to the story. Ignore those road diversions.

So, are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you plot or do you fly by the seat of your pants? If you already plot, what kind of techniques do you use? Do you use in-depth tables and graphs, or do you bullet point simple points?

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As you guys probably know, I’m on my holidays at the moment and a day spent at Disneyland far outweighs a day spent blogging. But, my hubby read this on Mail Online and I just had to share.

Can you guess what it’s about?

 

One Christmas, my dog once ate the tree decorations, ripped apart some record LP’s (remember them?), and we never found the blade from the Bic razor.

Do you have a dog? What’s the worse thing they have done? Would you name and shame them on You Tube of Tumbler?

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Okay, today I have been busy finishing my novel, and now I have to go pack for my holiday. So, I’m passing the reigns.

Now, I won’t tell you how I stumbled upon Peter Koevari’s post, Authors and Piracy, eBooks on the high seas,  – but it was funny.  Anyway, I really liked it and wanted to share it with you guys. So, I illegally downloaded it for publication here. Later on I’ll be touring London, selling it on printed flyers for the small fee of 99p. Just to be clear, the author will be receiving none of this fee…. but Shhhh – don’t tell anyone.

I couldn’t think of a better titled that Peter’s, so I stole that too.

Over to you, Peter.

I am going to tackle what I think is a very important topic for Authors and creative artists. I’m going to talk about Johnny Depp piracy!

It’s a funny thing, piracy (aaaarrrg!), as we live in a world where it is very easy for people to jump onto torrent and release sites and download whatever they want, for free. Most people accept that this is the case and at some point in their lives, have likely done it themselves.

What if we got you as a reader, and a room packed full of people and asked the question, “Raise your hand if you have *never* downloaded absolutely anything illegally or broken copyright laws. Never copied a movie in a VCR, photocopied copyrighted material, bought anything pirated, downloaded an image and used it on a blog from google images, or absolutely anything that can be considered a breach of copyright?”

I would be surprised if any hands went up, and I would be floored if a number of hands went up. Do I endorse it? Absolutely not, but you can’t change the world… you can only adapt.

Lady Gaga was quoted to say that she is happy for people to download her songs, as she makes all of her money from touring anyway. This is not such a case for us as authors, is it?

We don’t “go on tour” to sell out tickets to our shows and make a huge packet, do we?

So, why did I bring this topic up in the first place?

Because I googled my book title with a timeframe of the last week, and discovered that my books have been pirated. Was I happy about it? Of course not, although the attention is flattering.

The funny thing about everyone who pirates is, it doesn’t bother them and they have all sorts of justifications for pirating… and that is all well and good, until it’s *their* work that is being pirated. They don’t slave over manuscripts for many years to write a novel, pay editors, cover artists, work every day to promote their novels. No, they enjoy reading the books that other people produce… just like we all do as readers.

After all, pirates are just regular people, but with a different perspective and values. Do I consider them criminals? No. Do I want to run out there and track down everyone who downloaded my book illegally and persecute them? No.

You may be looking at me in shock and horror, but why on earth would I want to ruin someone’s life over copyright laws, for wanting to read my books?

Let us face the reality about the argument of potential sales: It’s flawed.

I put pirates into a few categories:

A) Pirates who NEVER buy what they download

B) Pirates who download to try without paying, and then go ahead to buy what they really like

C) Pirates who buy what they really like, and pirate what else they can, because they can and they may want to look at it later.

D) Pirates who (for whatever their circumstantial reason) cannot afford to buy the things that they want.

E) Pirates who cannot buy what they want, due to restrictions

The pirates who are in category A, will never pay for our books. Are they a lost sale? No. Are we losing money because they download our books? No. Are they still ripping us off as authors? Yes… but what exactly can we really do to change it?

The best we can hope for is that they tell their friends and families about our books (if they enjoy them) and some of them may want to buy them.

Pirates in category B, will try our books without paying for them first. If they like them, they will probably purchase them… but likely not.

Category C is similar, but the stuff they hoard and download will likely never be seen or read, but will definitely be shared.

Category D is a tough one. I mean, at the end of the day… just because we can’t afford to have something, doesn’t give us a justification to take it without paying because we want it. However, people do what they need to do and although we don’t like it, there are some real reasons why people would like to genuinely buy something, but the way they need to purchase it deems it “not viable”. Does it excuse it? No… but we can understand it. We can hope that those readers do help us as authors by spreading the word about books that they like, and when they get into a position that they can afford it, they support us as authors.

Category E concerns me greatly, and the fact that people can’t buy ebooks over the Internet, due to restrictions is just ridiculous. We should all push for any companies who do that, to change.

Whatever category these pirates are in, it does not matter, they are going to do what they do, regardless of what we try to do about it. People who would buy our ebooks and paperbacks will still do so, even if the availability of our books on pirated channels would make them more accessible for free. Not everyone pirates, and lots of people out there like to support authors and keep them writing.

For any pirates out there that think all eBooks should be free, I would like to ask you… would you go to work from 9-5 for no paycheck at the end of the day? I doubt that you would, but if you are happy to work all your life for no money, then you can stand tall with that argument.

For those Pirates that say that Authors are the real pirates for controlling their work and restricting what you can do with it… I really question that. If you buy my paperback, you can sell it, share it, sleep on it, use it as a paperweight, throw it in the air… I really couldn’t care less what you do with it… but I do hope you share it with your family and friends.

eBooks are usually considerably cheaper than paperback editions, and I have not put DRM on my ebooks (Can’t change the kindle Legends 2 edition when purchased from Amazon, they wouldn’t let me undo it). Although I don’t encourage emailing my book to every man and their dog, I see no reason why you couldn’t share the read in the same manner as a paperback.

As for the analogy of people buying ebooks and that they can’t sell it as they would a car, that is an interesting one. There is no real “second hand market” for digital works. Like second hand video game stores, further sales only profit the people trading in them… not the makers of the game. The same applies with eBooks.

Why would someone want to buy a second hand eBook when they can just buy it online themselves? We’re not talking cars worth huge money, are we?

Writing books is hard work and we work for nothing until we make any sales on our books. I am an indie author, what does that mean? We don’t get fat pay cheques from publishers, and we have to pay our own way and promote our own way for my books to be successful. Unlike movie studios, we don’t make millions or hundreds of millions in sales.

As much as the world is what it is for pirates, it is what it is for authors. We write for you, the reader, to enjoy our stories. If we all stopped writing, there would be no more books to read.

Having said all of this, what disappoints me the most… is that if any of these pirates bothered to come to my site and contact me, asking if I can give them my ebooks for free… I would have offered them an honourable deal of giving them my ebooks in return for an honest review. The act of pirating my ebooks is an unnecessary exercise of breaking copyright laws and using torrents or hosting sites.

I would love for pirates to consider buying my books and sharing them with their friends and families, but it is their choice if they wish to support me as an author, or not.

As a result of all of this, I stand by my words and I have put up a page on this very website that clearly offers review copies of my first book, Legends of Marithia: Prophecies Awakening (Uncut and Extended Second edition) to anyone willing to show some class and honour, and review my books for me on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. No need to break laws or illegally distribute my books!

It shows that you respect me as an author, and I will… in turn, respect you as a reviewer and respect your opinion. I don’t care if someone is a pirate or not, the offer is open to you equally.

If you decide to change your approach and buy my books (before or after you have read them, and however you have obtained them. eBook or paperback), then you have my gratitude for supporting me as an author.

Do you have an opinion on this? Have you had this happen to you? Comment and talk about it.

Follow Peter on twitter @Peterkoevari

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In May, I wrote a post  giving you guys two pictures and asked you to write me a scary short story… and you guys didn’t disappoint.

Last week, you read Nigel Blackwell‘s brilliant story, Eye of Death. This week, we have Ewelina Rymsza with ‘Unreality’.

UNREALITY

My bare feet tapped on the cold cement out of a blinding excitement. Root had found this place, slobbered over with a thick, white fog, but alive with unending riches. My hands pounded on the old bench, and I wished he’d come sooner. After the End, our ancestors emerged from stone walls into a field of desolation. Places like these were less than rumors, more untrue than myths. The monuments here towered and crumbled with their epitaphs weeping over earth-hair.
“Root,” I murmured now heatedly but still quiet, “Root, would you get over here? I’m cold!”
Nothing.
I finally got up and decided he would steal what he found anyway. I was told brothers are supposed to lie and cheat, but I never understood it.
I walked slowly into the earth-hair. I’d never walked in it before, and it felt strange beneath my feet. I could feel some between my toes. It wasn’t hard like the cement I was used to; but it was chilling, too, and numbing even moreso.
“Root.” I had to be quiet. We were stealing artifacts. Root said he saw this place in a dream, and that’s how we could find it. He told me all of the artifacts would be underground, and I agreed to going despite not believing him at first.
“You shouldn’t be here, little girl!”
I heard a voice cut the fog, chiseling away the air like a saw. The music to it was jarring but undaunted. A disfigured darkness formed ahead of me.
“You shouldn’t be here, little girl. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be here.” And on that last word, it became to scream. I saw its knees buckle, and the belt of its body collapse. It kept screaming: “You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t. You shouldn’t.”
Chills shot into my veins and burst and kept bursting, and I felt compelled to weep but stood my ground to this anonymous shadow. It stopped abruptly and climbed the fog back up. It beckoned me closer then with its four gnarled hands. I shook the fear from its earlier plead and followed deeper into the white, changing sea.
The image became fainter and fainter, and I ran to catch it. My legs sprung in a furious dance while I hurdled over monuments and rocks. The curiosity in my bones grew its own marrow, birthed a life more invincible than mine. No fear any longer. No fear.
The shadow then stopped and vanished. I knelt into the earth-hair, and I began to cry. Where had the shadow gone? Root hadn’t even crossed my mind until then, and I mustered up the strength to wander in search. The fog thickened as if to mock my venture, and I lost myself further in this foreign place.
   You shouldn’t be here kept seeping more deeply into my thoughts, and I again began to feel the fear burdening my gut. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be here.
I called for Root again but walked onto a ribbon of unbroken tar instead. I was used to crushed tar, tar with alien growth between its cracks. This was smooth and paved. And then I saw me.
I saw myself curled into knots; and although I saw only my back, the clothing was mine. The hair was mine. The way she cried was my own. I stumbled back slightly with my eyes almost instantly tearing up.
“You shouldn’t be here,” she screamed in a voice unfamiliar to me. But it was me. It was me. I was sure.
I walked very gently towards her, and her sobbing started more strongly now.
“It’s okay,” I whispered, attempting to console what was a strange kind of ghost it seemed. A whisper of myself. I knelt down a foot beside her to give her room. That’s what I would’ve wanted. But instead, she snapped over to me, and I screamed.
What I knew as plants were growing from our insides, spun branches that hung out of us like desperate, dying trees.
   “You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be here. You shouldn’t be here.”
And in that moment, we became one: Watching with the same knolls and our stomach swallowed by “trees.” We retched the same and bled the same, and I knew this was not my dream. This was not my dream. I shouldn’t have been here.

THE END

Next week, I’ll post another one.

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21st July: From Idea To Story

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You’ve been itching to begin writing, and are so nearly there. But, what is a story without characters? Not a very good one, I can tell you in an instant.

Now, you could be forgiven if you believe a good idea is all that’s needed to write a successful novel. After all, you may be writing an action story. What do you need character’s for? Aren’t they just well toned guys flexing their muscles while shooting up the place? Well, without believable and interesting characters, you’ll have nothing but a lifeless story. Although, if muscles are you’re thing, you may not care if there’s not story 🙂

Okay. For those that aren’t quite sure, I’ll quickly explain the difference between a plot driven story and a character driven story.

Character vs Plot

Plot Driven Story: Usually action-based. The action is what’s classed as driving the story forward. For example, Transporter, Star Wars, Jurassic Park.

Character Driven Story: Character based. The characters drive the story forward. For instance, Rocky, Cast Away, It’s a Wonderful Life.

Now, you may be a little confused. After all, the Rocky films have a lot of action in them. Well, if you look at the original ‘Rocky’ film, the story is about a fighter and his struggle to become a world-class boxer. That is character-driven.

Why do we need to know our characters?

Imagine Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’. I think we can all relax in the comfort of knowing this is a character-driven love story. But, if Austen hadn’t ‘known’ Mr Darcy inside out when writing him, would we, as love-struck, female fans, still be romancing over him today?

We like and love him (some even dream of him), because we feel we know him. And that is what makes a good character. Someone your reader can identify with and relate to.

So, how do we get character’s like this?

First, you need to create them.

Antagonists, Protagonists, and Supporting Cast (aka Minions)

NOTE: Let me just make this little snippet clear. The antagonist doesn’t necessarily have to be a person. The antagonist is whatever hampers the protagonist (hero) from reaching his or her goal. 

However, as this post is about creating characters, our antagonist is going to be human.

So, where do I start?

Always with the antagonist, aka the baddie. They are the reason you have a story. Without one, your protagonist will easily reach their goal – leaving you with a dreary story and no plot.

First you have to decide the kind of character you want to create and make sure they get the correct label. A what? A Label. I made a mistake with the first story I wrote. My antag was a hitman who worked for the mob. But, as it was pointed out to me, the Mob Boss was the real antag. He was the guy giving the orders for the hit. Without him, my hitman would have been out of work. Thus, although my hitman was the main baddie, he was in fact a Minion. Confused? Good. Then, I wasn’t alone 🙂

To explain this a little better, I am going to use a well-know subject.

Jason Bourne. Girls love him and boys want to be him.

In the Bourne films, Jason is a killer. A hitman. Does that make him the antag? No. He is the hero. And this is because he’s trying to reach a goal, which is to remember who the hell he is.

Although it’s a variety of assassins who try to kill Bourne, it’s a CIA group called ‘Treadstone’ who initially orders the hits. This makes ‘Treadstone’ the antagonist. The assassins are mere minions.

And let’s not forget Marie, Jason’s love interest and the girl who helps him attain his goal.

Creating Your Characters

If I were to ask you to tell me about yourself, where would you start?

Five years ago? Ten? How about from the moment you were born?

That is where I want you to start with your characters… From the moment they were born. Write down who their parents were. What kind of upbringing did they have. Create family and loved ones they may have lost along the way. This exercise will run into pages if you do it right. It will round your

characters’ journey and define how they got to be the person in your story. Their likes and dislikes. Their flaws.

Use props – for instance, do they have a limp, or a squint? If so, how did they get it? Remember, Indiana Jones had a fear of snakes. We found out through a (long) flash back in the third film because he fell into a circus snake pit. Makes you wonder if George Lucas had already written it into his background, doesn’t it?

Research your character. If they attended boarding school. Research it. If they were in the army. Research it.

Basically, you are writing a biography. It has to be accurate.

Giving a Character Qualities and Flaws

If you are like me, they you would have rooted for Jason Bourne. Why? Because we liked him. But why would we feel like this? Remember, Jason Bourne is a killer. Does that now make us a hitman loving sociopath?

No. It means the writer has done their job. You want your audience to love your protagonist and cheer them on every inch of the way. If you make your characters too nice, your reader will tire of them and become bored. Likewise, if you make your characters hard-nosed and arrogant. They become unlikable because your readers cannot get close enough to start caring.

Jason Bourne is a man on a mission. He is a killer. And yet every now and then, a slither of emotion escapes and we see a man who cares about right and wrong. That is a character quality. He cares about the well-being of Marie, and this shows Jason’s softer side. Again, another quality, if not also a flaw. His ability to kill so easily, although it constantly saves his life, is a flaw. Having to suppress emotion in order to survive is a flaw. And flaws are what make us human. It’s these flaws that allow your readers to relate to your characters.

Steer clear of stereotypes. Make your character unique. A skin head with pink spiked hair and wearing Doc Martins is stereo-typical. Give him a unique quality that makes him stand out from the rest of the skin heads.

I’ll tell you a quick story I know my co-writer, Natalie Duggan, won’t mind. When I first paired up with Natalie to write the TV pilot ‘Legend’, I mentioned character backgrounds. Natalie thought I was nuts and that it was all a waste of time. She wanted to get to the story. So, I banged my head against the desk, argued until I was blue in the face, then just went ahead and wrote out the backgrounds anyway. I emailed them across and Natalie loved them. Her exact words? “Oh, wow. These are awesome. I really feel I know Roman and Nate (two of the MC’s).” Natalie now writes backgrounds on ALL her characters.  🙂

Okay, that should be enough to start you off.

So, do you create characters before you begin writing? What kind of techniques do you use when creating your characters? Do you make your characters too perfect? Are you plot-driven or character-driven?

If you want more of me, try checking out FacebookTwitterGoogle+GoodreadsKloutBranchOut and Linkedin

Upcoming classes: via Webinar, where we can interact and you ask questions.

14th July: Getting To Know Your Characters

21st July: From Idea To Story

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In May, I wrote a post  giving you guys two pictures and asked you to write me a scary short story.

Well, you didn’t disappoint. I’ve picked out the ones I liked and without further ado, (and in no particular order), I give you the first one by brilliant writer, Nigel Blackwell.

The Eye of Death

I watched her walk in the mist, up the hill from the pub, light steps, tight clothes, curves that screamed for testosterone’s attention, and her whole body lithe with life. If fair was fair in this world, it would have been a life that were mine, because well I knew her, but life ain’t fair.

It was the hook that did it. One minute I was watching it swing, maneuvering giant buckets for it to collect, ducking as it came by, covering my ears as it crashed into the lifting ring, and watching as it vaulted a ton of scrap metal high into the air, as easy as birds lift worms, winching it away to smelt in the furnace in that place of fire and iron and darkness, a place where men spoke in grunts and spit.

It weren’t a place for girls, especially ones with long, coal dark hair and skin paler than lime, not ones with skirts black, all tighter than tight and shorter than short on legs that were longer than long. No, it weren’t a place for them, but she were there. Radiant, dazzling, and winking at me. And I winked back. I took me eye off the hook, I did, an’ the hook took me eye off o’ me.

It swung back, lazy and smooth. Right into my eye. A hundred pounds of iron, twisted to a point and cast, fishing for my eye, its tip squeezing easy through the jelly, spearing my skull, stabbing out the back, cracking open my eye socket, sweeping me backwards, upwards, hanging me by me skull. I grabbed and pulled and yanked at the chain, lifting myself by pathetic inches from that godless scythe. I balled my lungs, ripping at my throat, near tearing out my voice box.

The hook arced me down, back to where I had stood; only not standing but legs thrashing crazy, hands clenching the hook, and concrete unmoving. My left foot snapped clean off, my right leg speared straight up, bones ripping soft organs, tearing open my lungs, leaving me wet rasps or nothing. My flesh and bones were tossed to the furnace’s pig iron river. I were naught bar a flame and a flash, and gone, but they buried me proper. Not there were much left to put in the ground.

That were then, see, and now’s now, and now she were not in that place, she were in mine, my yard, my graveyard.

Through she walked, crashing the gate, kicking the gravel, singing loud. Bad singing. The tonelessness of alcohol and pub songs half remembered. But that were good, not the singing of course, I ain’t stupid, but the alcohol, that were good. Good for her.

She staggered to the stones that ringed the yard and passed for a wall. Over she went, legs in the air and tight skirt tightening before she took pity on the heartbeats of men unseen, an’ smoothed it back into place.

Her heels sank in the cloying grass and suckling ground. Her head picked up, hearing the noise, same as I heard, a roaring of exhaust and a crashing of gears, a lorry straining up the hill. Not just any lorry, the big one from old Sawbuck’s yard, the one for towing, towing with a hook, a heavy hook. He was late from a job, like always. He’d be fast, like always. He’d have one headlight out, like always. And he’d turn at the corner of my yard, turn by the lane to her home.

She made it to the road, her singing forgotten and her arms out to keep from falling. The tarmac was firm to her heel and she swept across its glistening blackness, its white line, its potent danger, and over to the other side.

Sawbuck’s headlight clawed up the hill, close now, splashing left and right, drunk like she. It took a bend with a squeal of tire, the old man pushing to get home, just like she.

Her arms went out again and her toes poked forward, testing her shoes and her weight and her balance on the mud of her lane beyond the road.

The roaring came upon us, tarmac shining in myopic light, and glittering cats-eyes welcoming weary travelers. And her eyes glittered, too. Her skin reveled in fifty watts of headlight, her arms waving to keep herself upright. She lifted one foot to step back, away from the road, away from the thundering lorry, away from its danger.

It weren’t right and it weren’t fair, and neither were I, so I winked. Six feet of moldy flesh and bones, and a single eye for a single wink.

Her eyes bulged, her lips puckered round, and her cheeks lost their muscle. Her arms dangled, and her one leg kept still in the air. I held her rapt, like she’d held me.

The exhaust thundered and the wheels squealed. The single light swept past, taking the corner, marking the path of its curvature the tangent to its momentum.

But momentum weren’t for the hook. It swung free, slashing wide, snapping its wire taught, whipping back, following Sarbuck’s homeward and ignorant dash.

She weren’t ignorant, though, she saw it all, the swinging, the snapping, and the whipping. She felt its pain, too. The blunt hammer of sixty mile an hour iron crushing her ribs, folding her in two, lifting her up, spinning her careless. She felt the wait of moments before the smooth tarmac rose up to meet her, wrenching her head back, snapping her neck, splashing her limp on the ground.

And the light were away, with Sawbuck on home.

I waited for her to spread upon the road, and she to bid adieu to warm blood. Perhaps they would bury her near me, the same yard and within a yard, perchance.

It weren’t fair, but I ain’t a man of fair, because I ain’t a man, I’m dead.

And all’s fair in the eye of death.

THE END

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