Something Happened

Something Happened

Joseph Heller (author of Catch 22) published Something Happened in 1974. I read Catch 22 shortly after leaving the military, so the theme and humor wasn’t lost on me. I thought Something Happened would be a good read too. It was a good read in a very strange way. I won’t spoil the books in case you haven’t read them.  Something Happened was–as Kurt Vonnegut Jr. called it–deeply unhappy.

something happened | Guy L. PaceBut, something did happen.

That’s the point of writing a story or novel, isn’t it? Something happened. You develop characters, settings, motivations. Then something happens.

Unlike Heller’s second novel, more than the thing happens in most of our writing and usually much earlier in the story. Short stories may have one or two things happen. Novels can have a lot of things happen. In all cases, though, there is one key thing that happens and that drives the story or plot.

In my current work in progress, the main character Amy is working and living in the community her friends, family, and neighbors built after the collapse of everything, “the Troubles.” She’s mentoring Paul’s little sister, dealing with jealousy, and working in a subsistence lifestyle. Then something happens. It isn’t the really big something happens, but it does lead to other things. She gets involved in dealing with that, and something else happens.

Gardening

Think of a writer as gardener. The gardener plants a seed. Between the soil, the moisture, nutrients, and the seed; something happens. The seed sprouts and emerges out of the ground. The writer nurtures this new life to see it grow, bloom, and produce fruit. The result depends in large part on what seed the gardener chose, what kind of soil, and if the plant got enough moisture. It also depends on the nurturing the writer pours into it.

What follows after something happens spins on your character(s). Characters react and respond in ways true to their nature and believable to the reader. That, then, takes your story to the next thing that happens. And so on.

In the end, the reader find the fruit. The reader knows that something happened.

Keep writing.

 

Opening Lines

Opening Lines

BugBear BooksThe first chapter and scene of a novel begin with powerful, strong opening lines. These should grab the reader, show some potential conflict, set scene, and introduce the character. And, they should entice the reader to keep reading.

The power went out. Again.

Amy Grossman fumbled on the dresser for a candle and some matches. I should have been prepared, she thought as she lit a candle. The power went out almost every day lately.

I’m working on the opening lines of the third book. The above kind of meets the criteria. Something happens. It involves the main character. It sets the scene, a little. Let’s see. Can we make this better? There is a passive voice clause we need to fix. How’s this look?

The power went out. Again.

Amy Grossman fumbled on the dresser for a candle and some matches. I know better than this. Be prepared, she thought as she lit a candle. The power went out almost every day lately.

But, I think the scene needs some work.

The power went out. Again. Silence. Dark.

Amy Grossman fumbled on the dresser for a candle and some matches. I know better than this. Be prepared, she thought as she lit a candle. The power went out almost every day lately.

Quiet

Ever notice when the power goes out, everything gets very quiet? Yeah. Hums quit humming, buzzes quit buzzing. And, it gets dark. That helps, I think. But, what was Amy doing when the power went out?

The power went out. Again. Silence. Dark.

Amy Grossman dropped her gear bag on the bed and fumbled on the dresser for a candle and some matches. I know better than this. Be prepared, she thought as she lit a candle. The power went out almost every day lately.

Okay, she had a gear bag, so she’s getting ready to leave. She’s in her room, evidently, and there are candles on the dresser. But, she’s frustrated. She needs to do more than just “think” the internal dialog.

The power went out. Again. Silence. Dark.

Amy Grossman dropped her gear bag on the bed and fumbled on the dresser for a candle and some matches. I know better than this. Be prepared, she chastised herself as she lit a candle. The power went out almost every day lately.

So, with active voice and getting the character involved in an active way, I think I have a good start to the first chapter. Well, the first scene, anyway. There are twenty-four chapters to go through now, and here you get a little insight into my writing process. Not to mention getting a preview of the opening lines. Hope you are intrigued.

Keep writing.

 

What

What

The story element What is a critical part of a story. Who is important, but without What, there really isn’t any story. The What generally amounts to an event, a romance, an accident, a speech, an election, or an apocalypse.

what-arrowNormally, What is your plot in the novel or short story and is what your character will focus on. You tie your  protagonist to the What, the plot, and the story proceeds through to a resolution.

If you read book blurbs, those paragraphs on the back of paperbacks or the inside flap of a dust jacket, you get a feel for the What. Well-written blurbs usually provide a clue to the main character and the What they will face. Since I mention “well-written,” that indicates there are poorly written … but, I digress.

A lot goes into What. An event, say a wedding, takes a lot of planning and coordination (think Father of the Bride). The event beginning brings in the planner, they select the venue, they redecorate the venue, they select colors, they select flowers, the bride chooses the gown, and all the other details. And, it takes up to a year to carry out.

How you structure that and how your character(s) behave and interact in it can make the story a classic comedy, a bloody thriller, a murder mystery, or an intense drama. Just for a mental exercise, take the movie mentioned above and envision it as a murder mystery. The What doesn’t actually change much, but the characters involved and how they behave do. Significantly.

In my own mental reboot of Father of the Bride, the wedding planner ends as a gruesome murder victim. Of course, the father is the prime suspect, but several of the characters have motive. I even have the groom as a witness to the murder, but he dies horribly just before the ceremony where he planned to name the murderer.

So, you see, the What is a mundane thing. How you, as the writer, treat it is what makes the story.

In my post a couple of weeks ago, we talked about the lead. Who and What are two elements almost always included in the lead. As readers, we care most about who did what, or what happened to whom. As authors, we take the What and break it down to its parts and have the character(s) work in it.

Keep writing.

 

Awards

Awards

This morning, I found out that Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers earned some awards. These weren’t something I sought out. It was a very nice surprise, and I’m still trying to process it.

SpiritFilled-Pace-SM

SpiritFilled-Pace-NL

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are given by Peter Younghusband and David Bergsland, who work together on this. The link in Peter’s name will take you to the page where Peter posted the award citations. The link in David’s name takes you to the Radix (Reality Calling) site.

I’m humbled by this. There is a whole team behind the production of the two novels and they deserve a lot of the credit, too. I mention them the acknowledgements in each edition. I hope they see these awards as praise for their efforts as well.

Awards and recognitions are always welcome after the hard work of writing and publishing. I appreciate these and I thank Peter and David for their kind consideration.

Keep writing.

 

Revisions

Revisions

My editor, Brandi, and I are most of the way through the edits and revisions of my draft of Nasty Leftovers (sequel to Sudden Mission).  The working title seems to have stuck and the team hasn’t come up with another title. Oh, well.

So we are on track and may even be ahead a little. I’m thankful for my editor. She has a unique view on my work and brings the hard edge of critique to her edits and suggestions. In all cases, her work has made my work sharper, cleaner, more exciting, and stronger.

We’re in the second novel working together and she now will often just provide a comment at a point in the manuscript where she thinks we should do something different, add a character, add some emotional language. Then she turns me loose to make the changes or additions as I see fit and we smooth things out from there.

I hope and pray that I get to keep Brandi for the third volume, and any other projects I submit to Booktrope and Vox Dei.

As I dreamed of being a published author all those years before, I had no idea what it would be like to work with an editor. During the early revisions of Sudden Mission, I was almost terrified what the editor would think of my approach to some of the changes she suggested. I discovered that an editor is the most important person for an author in a writing project. Sudden Mission became a stronger, more powerful story thanks to her efforts.

Now, when I bring revisions and rewrites to Brandi, I make an effort to use the Oxford Comma, allow my characters to feel and express more, and shake off some of my old lazy-writer habits. I think she makes me a better writer. That’s a good thing.

If you are an aspiring author–still unpublished–this is a relationship to look forward to. You do have to kick your ego to the side and let the editor bring his or her ideas forward. You will be glad you did.

Keep writing.

P.S. I’m still undisciplined and a procrastinator. But, I’m working on that.