Category Archives: Plot

And then….Suddenly…A Giant Earthworm Consumed Him….

What do you do when your story escapes from itself? You know what I mean…you are writing along…creating the perfect characters…it’s a love story…no…it’s a thriller with a love story and then, suddenly…out of nowhere…there’s a  hippie in tights stepping out of a time machine, Twinkie in one hand and a light saber in the other….oh my Lord…it’s Darth Vader – The Stoner Years!

Okay…maybe it’s not that bad for you (and perhaps I should lay off the Bailey’s late at night) but sometimes our stories run away with themselves and get the book equivalent of a sex change…it started out as a romance but now it’s a thriller with a pinch of Sci Fi…..

Sometimes we can’t control our stories…sometimes they have a mind of their own and have to go down a different path. Here’s the thing…a lot of writers screw things up for themselves by fighting this very natural aspect of our craft. If you are writing your story right…you should be following it along not controlling it like a rabid mother-in-law. The story needs to tell itself and if it decides to go left instead of right….then for Pete’s Sake, let it go!

My very best stories are one’s in which the ending surprises even me. The new story I have out, “Project Stowaway” was just like that. By the time I got to the end of the story the person I thought was doing all the killing wasn’t.  I must have sat in awe for an hour after finishing that story…but it was really cool.

So if you are writing along and your story heads a different direction, don’t force it back in line…follow it and see what it does. I think that if you do, you will be amazed.

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Posted by on December 13, 2022 in Inspiration, Plot, Writing


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Rewriting Stories – It’s about the 12 Disciples BUT they are Skirt Chasing Zombie Hunters

Writer’s Note: This is Thursday’s article…yes I am behind…

Admittedly, I enjoyed the recent movie that made Abe Lincoln a zombie hunter. I also thought the Jane Austin books melding historical fiction and zombies were hilarious. But now….it’s going too far. Writers everywhere are taking historically good fiction and mucking it up with zombies, aliens and the like.

There are all kinds of writers and I bow to each and every one of them except for one particular kind…the lazy writer. In my humble opinion, (and it is my opinion) if you are thinking of rewriting a loved piece of fiction only throwing in a zombie or a vampire…unless you have a very different spin on it…DON’T DO IT! You are just being lazy.

I have a friend (and I use that term loosely in this case) who wants to rewrite the “To Kill a Mockingbird” making the main character a wizard. When he told me that over coffee one afternoon all I could think to say was, “That’s retarded”. He went away mad that I couldn’t see his vision and I went home to mull over the fact that, as writers, we have gotten lazy about finding the story.

While it can be tough finding a new way to spin a subject, if you discover yourself looking for an easy way out…you need to rethink your career choices. Writing is tough but coming up with new ideas for stories can be even tougher over time. The true meddle of a writer is sometimes found in the fact that they can see story where ever they go. I never look at an already written piece and say, how can I muck that up with something bizarre. We have to, at some point, have more respect for the original piece.

So take those old standards and throw in a demon or vampire if you must but know that we all realize that this isn’t your story. It’s the same as sewing a cuff on a shirt and calling it your design….ummmm…not really.


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Posted by on December 2, 2022 in Plot, Revision, Writing


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Let’s Get Real – Making Sure your story is Plausible

I am not a James Bond fan. Hold on, before my James Bond fans hang me in effigy…you can’t like everyone. One of the main reasons I don’t like James Bond is that many of the situations, and the ways that he gets out of them, aren’t plausible. I know, I know…the fun is often in watching someone do the impossible even if it’s fake, but sometimes stories go too far and that is where they lose little ol  me.

Our readers are not stupid. They are just like us only on the opposite end of the writing world. We write it, they read it…ying and yang…so if we write a scene and find ourselves saying, “wow, that was cool, but so not real”…chances are our readers are sitting on the other end of your book saying, “wow, that was ridiculous”.

I do believe in writing so that the reader suspends belief. If you want to add things in that seem, or are, impossible then you have the write the story in such a way that the reader asks “can they” and then leaves your story thinking, “maybe”. You cannot have your hero shot 900 times and survive because he was wearing bullet proof underwear…that’s ridiculous…however, you can have your hero shot 900 times and survive of he’s just invented a personal force field (as long as it isn’t 1865)…that’s plausible.

I know that some folks love a good story filled with impossible rescues and crazy situations but if you are going to write those into your piece, at least do the research and make it plausible so that you don’t lose readers like me. There is a fine line between fantasy and science fiction folks…don’t cross it unless you have to…and if you do, label it as such so that the reader understands what they are getting themselves into…


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on November 25, 2022 in Plot, Writing


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Writing the Story with a Different Perspective OR Find a New Crowd to hang out with

Writer’s Note: Here is Saturday’s actual column….the earlier one was Fridays….

A good writer sees the world through different eyes every time they look at it. A great writer uses that different perspective to color their world and the worlds they create.   —Me, 2012

The above quote is so very true. How many times have you been working on a story and suddenly, for no reason at all, all story production inside your head ceases. The little muses, (mine all look like a cross between gnomes and hobbits…short moody fellows) throw down their pens and go on strike. It happens to me all the time but recently I have begun to understand why it happens at all….I am stuck on one perspective.

When you are writing and creating a world with characters you have to pay mind to exactly what it is that you are doing; you are creating a world….you are putting people that you know inside a world that you create and you are, if you are doing it right, allowing them to tell you what they see. Here’s the rub though…if you don’t create those characters with the idea in mind that they are different people with different perspectives, your story will hit a wall. I have read stories by writers who’s characters are one dimensional…folks who all see the same story in the same way…BORING……. When you write a truly good story you have to populate it with difference. Difference of opinion, different morals, and different personalities and, for Pete’s Sake, different perspectives; it is the only way to round the story out.

We are not one dimensional people. We see our world through many eyes if we are paying attention. Me for instance…I see the world through the eyes of a writer, the eyes of a spouse, the eyes of a parent, the eyes of a disenchanted 40 something who wishes the world was all puppies and full kegs of beer….all of those things bring me a different perspective on the world around me…your characters have to be written in the same way.

Take some time today to go over the story that you are currently working on and pay mind to the perspectives of your characters…do they all agree with each other, do they all drive red Hondas, do they all like cold pizza and reruns of Castle? (I know I do) If you answered yes to these questions rethink your story. You are hanging out with the boring crowd….write new characters that showcase your story from different vantage points….trust me…if you do, your story will begin a life of its own.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on November 11, 2022 in Inspiration, Plot, Writing


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Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask: Where the Hell Am I?

Now there’s a question you never want your reader to be asking themselves in more than one chapter of your book. I mean, it’s okay if you purposely lose a character and take the reader along for the ride but if it is a question that your reader is posing to themselves time and time again…maybe the writer is the one who’s lost.

I bring this up because I started reading a science fiction book that my son suggested and within the first 50 pages I found myself asking that question a lot…it got kind of annoying. Now keep in mind, my love of science fiction is limited to Piers Anthony’s Xanth series and the Bio of a Space Pirate series. (If it’s amusing I am there robots or not) So I kept giving it more pages because, well, I wasn’t sure if that was how it was meant to read. I didn’t want to be a book snob and decide that the book was beneath me just because I was “getting” the author. But, alas by page 50 I found myself scratching my head and looking for the nearest exit sign. (When you find yourself offering to do the dishes instead of read…the book has lost the battle)

When I read I want to be led along on the story. I want the author to be that unseen guide like a ghost in a campfire story beckoning…over here, (insert spooky voice) over here… I don’t want to read several pages and then have to double back to figure out where I missed my turn. (My spouse says I do enough of that in real life) I want to be at least clear enough to follow along. Too many authors get tangled up in parts of their story and forget that they are being followed by the reader. Like my dad when he is in front of you and someone turns on country music…suddenly you find yourself having to put the pedal through the floor to keep up because he’s driving to George Strait…it is not a pleasant experience. I have had to call more than once and ask him where the crap he went. He giggles, says sorry and doubles back to get me; as a writer you don’t get the luxury of doubling back to pick up your reader, once they are lost, they are lost for good.

Here’s the thing folks…we have a responsibility when we invite the reader in to at least be a good host (hostess) and not lose them along the way. Make sure that your story is fluid enough for the reader to follow along so that they can enjoy it rather than trying to piece it together. The last thing you want to leave your reader with is the urge for a map, a compass, a stiff drink and new author.

Writer’s Note: This is the first in a series of pieces entitled, Questions You Never Want Your Reader to Have to Ask.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on September 28, 2022 in Plot, Writing


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The Ending of All Endings Needs to End Properly

Let’s take a moment to consider the end. No, not the end, end but endings in general. It’s something that always comes and for the writer, it comes often. (Okay that sounds slightly dirty….) We, as wordsmiths, (hate that word) deal with “the end” thousands of times in our lives so shouldn’t we make this one of the most important aspects of our writing? I think so.

The end is where you wrap up your story. It is that closure that the reader needs to have completely enjoyed the story. For me there is nothing worse than a crappy ending…especially if the book has been an overall good one. A bad ending can ruin the entire reading experience. Case in point…(for me) is a book that I read when I was 15. (The book shall remain nameless) The book started out as this awesome romp through the 1950’s with a gangster and his moll. The story followed this couple through some crazy stuff and chronicled their love for each other and the affects that their lifestyle had on them. How did it end? He became a used car salesman and she left him. The story spent the entire time building their relationship only to kill it with a used Plymouth. Really?????

Sadly, the only thing that really stuck with me from that story was the ending and how annoying it was and that is my point. Readers remember the ending…good or bad so it is important to give them something good to remember. A lot of writers discount the ending as…well…an ending. You know, the period on the end of a very long and involved sentence, but that isn’t right at all. The ending is the icing, the cherry, the thing that makes the reader say, awwwww………… at the end. It’s the nightcap and everyone knows how important a good nightcap is. (Bailey’s please)

So don’t screw up the ending fellow writers. It would be a shame to have written a great story and then waste it by throwing yourself on the sword of crappy endings. Make it memorable so that you leave your readers wanting to see what you are going to do next.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on July 19, 2022 in Plot, Writing


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But….it…….Won’t……End………..Oh Just Bury it Already….

Question - How many times should a writer take a stab at the same story? Answer – If the Department of Forestry calls and says it has to start charging you for trees…it’s time to stop. OR if you can’t find your desk for all the wads of paper overflowing from the waste can.

I know a lot of writers who get stuck on the same story. Hell, I have a few of these myself. One of my stories I have been trying to write for over 15 years and I have still not managed to finish it. I keep trying because my spouse keeps telling me that they would like to know how it ends. (by the way, allowing your significant other to read something that is not finished…bad idea) The truth is I’d like to know how it ends too, but I’m stuck…for some reason the story refuses to march on, no matter what I try. The question I have to ask myself now is, should I keep trying or should I give that particular story a proper burial…you know, move on? Maybe…but I will probably tuck it away in a drawer somewhere because…truth be told…I just can’t let that one go.

We all have these stories, the stubborn ones, the ones we just know will be a GREAT novel…if only we could finish it. The truth is, for most of us, there are always stories that start out as a great idea or concept only to fall flat because we either wait too long to finish it or try and force the ending. (or any number of other reasons, flat characters, never ending plot line…etc.) As a writer, you can’t pine over these stories…you have to let them go. If you don’t let them go, or at least put them away, you will never write the next story.

You will have a lot of stories walk through your life and, sadly, you just can’t write them all. I like to believe that if a story falls flat or refuses to end, it’s because someone else is supposed to write that story…and there is another story out there waiting for me to pen it. I think that’s just the way the writing universe works. So if you have a story that refuses to move on, get it some counseling…i.e. talk to a writer friend about it…and if the counseling doesn’t work, know when to let go. It’s better to trunk a story that is half written than to allow it to hold all your future stories hostage. I know you love the little guy but let em go…’s best for both of you.



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on June 19, 2023 in Inspiration, Plot, Writing


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What’s the Meaning of Life and All that Crap

I am a student of life. I ask so many questions at any given time that I have family members who hate to see me coming during family BBQs. One of my middle sons tells me that I do it because I was a reporter for so long. This is usually is followed by the phrase, “stop asking me so many questions”. I can’t help it…I’m curious. But should I do this in my writing? Sure, why not? Here’s the thing about asking the big questions within your novels though….if you ask…you should have some semblance of an answer even if you have to fake it.

Readers don’t really mind being made to think. In fact, many of them hope that the novels they read make them ask questions about themselves. For me, I want to grow as a person through my reading so even if I am reading a horror story, I don’t mind if the author points something out. (Like in Stephen King’s “It”….question…should you hang out in sewer systems? Answer…Nope.) Some authors have a real knack for making the reader think without taking them back to school. Toni Morrison does that. Anne Rice does that and we all have learned a thing or two from Stephen King i.e. dogs can be mean, kids who die shouldn’t be played with and don’t piss off the prom queen. I jest but all of these authors ask some really important questions too, like where does life begin and end.

Now we enter the “this is my opinion” phase of today’s column…I think that as a writer we have an obligation to ask the questions that affect the world around us. I think that we make people think and that is part of our jobs. I also think that writing is often a form of self-therapy and asking the questions that we ourselves need answers to also helps us grow. It’s a win –win for both reader and author if done correctly.

So…ask the questions. After all, if we don’t, who will? (wait…did I end that on a question???? Sly devil…)



© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

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Posted by on June 14, 2023 in Plot, Writing


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Book Parenting 101- Give Us a Hug

Writing is a very personal thing. Me? I love my writing. Not in that narcissistic way that Kayne West loves himself, but in a warm fuzzy way…a way that says, I worked hard to create you and now, whenever you need a hug…I’m here.

Our work as writers is akin to a God-like creative process. We are setting the scene, creating the characters and putting them in situations just as I imagine the Almighty must do. (If you believe in that sort of thing of course) We also suffer the disappointments when those little created worlds don’t do well. And when we send them out into the world…well…some of us even cry. (Not me of course, but some writers…wimps)

Taking all of this into consideration I want to propose something that may help your writing…if you love it…it will do well out in the world, just like your kids. When creating a story you must care about it in every way. You have to care about the characters even if you enjoy a love-hate relationship with your villains. You have to want to continue the story. You have to want to see the ending…good or bad. You must feel affection for the hero of your story; if you don’t he/she will give up on you too.  Here’s the thing, you can’t create something that other people love if you don’t love it too. It’s called emotional transference and it will happen to your story. If you hate it, it will fall flat. If you don’t enjoy writing it, you will find all the reasons in the world not to write it at all.

I have had one or two stories that I grew to despise. One of them I even finished…forced of course…and it didn’t do well on the shelves at all. That was my fault…I should have never forced the characters to march on to the end knowing that they were going to be subjected to my own self-hatred for having even taken the journey. I owed them more than that. Here’s the rub…I REALLY liked the characters but now, I can’t truly use them because I shoved them into a sad sack story and shoved them out into the world….and it sucks because I could have used them in a story that actually worked.

Just like being parents requires us to love and nurture our kids, we writers have to do the same with our stories. Those pages need love and care…they need someone who will look out for them and make sure that they are not going to end up in Half Price Books…the foster program for all books that end up unwanted or un-enjoyed. And you know what happens to “fostered” books, don’t you? They end up balancing Aunt Freda’s coffee table…the one that Uncle Joe built with the uneven legs… So if you are working on a novel that is falling flat…stop it…you owe those characters more than a half-assed attempt to breathe life into them. You owe them the whole story and the love that is supposed to come with having written them into existence. Be a good book parent darn it…hug that book and show it some love at the keyboard.



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My Writing is driving me Crazy!

Ever have one of those books that just drive you nuts? You know the story…you had an idea, it was a great idea, but once you started writing the idea got further and further away from you until the idea is a tiny little speck on the universe that is your writing mind? I’m there right now and it sucks.

I started the story I am currently working on in 1987….yep, 25 years ago. I never finished it, so it never published. I figured I’d haul it out and revisit it. Problem is, times have changed and for me to make this a viable, sellable story, I’d have to practically rewrite the entire thing. The core of the story is still good, the characters are still fresh, but the storyline details would need a lot of tweaking. Still, I want to finish it. Why? Because I am a writer and writers, by nature, are gluttons for punishment in the worse way.

There is another reason why I need to finish this book too….I need to finish it. For me, this story is a loose end in my writing world. The characters in the story are standing around, waiting for something to happen, waiting for me…I have to show up, otherwise they have no closure and frankly, neither do I. Every writer has one or two stories that they spend their writing lives chasing down…my current work is one of mine. I know I will finish it, but right now I am trying to force myself to finish it and that isn’t working. So what is a writer to do…with a runaway story…that demands an ending…but won’t get up and go there? Here are a couple of ideas that other writers have offered;

Put it back away – One of my writer friends told me the other day to just put the book back in the drawer. While some times that is a good idea, this story has already been “away” for 25 years. I’m not sure this will work for me but, maybe it will for those who have less drawer time on a story.

Change the main character – I like this idea but it is a lot harder than it sounds. As a writer, you invest a great deal in your main character…to change mine now, changes the entire story. I won’t do this but, it might work for a newer story.

Update the story – This one I may go with. The original story takes place in 1987….if I bring my characters into 2012; it might help put a cap on it. It will take a lot of rewrite but perhaps this is what I need.

Throw the whole damn thing away – This is out of the question for me. I have invested too much in the story to let it go and I know that it is a good piece. But if you have a newer story…this could be an option for you.

These are all good pieces of advice and I may use one or even two of them, however, in the end, it has to be my decision because it is, after all, my story and that can be very personal. One thing is for sure, I put this story down for far too long and if there is a lesson to be learned from my frustration…that’s it…don’t wait 25 years to revisit a story. If too much time flies by it is hard to recover.


© The Writer’s Advice, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.


Posted by on May 25, 2023 in Plot, Revision, Writing


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