Real vs. Perceived Antagonist

As a writer, you have the opportunity to use a red herring protagonist to confuse or hook the reader.

If your true antagonist is an other-worldly beast or alien invasion, you could use wildlife as another obstacle. Before introducing the alien, show several menacing interactions with wildlife.

If your true antagonist is Jon, a blood-thirsty and maniacal dentist, maybe your protagonist must first overcome a long-standing feud with Donnie her controlling and condescending boss.

This creates tension and gives the protagonist a win before the main event. Or rather a win before your crush her spirit.

Wayne

Wayne dug through the shopping bag and with a grin that widened his whole face, he pulled out a box of oatmeal cream pies. “You’re a goddess.”

Wayne snatched a cookie from the box, unwrapped the crinkly plastic and swallowed it down in three bites. Even with cookie crumbs dotting his facial hair, he looked like an aging rockstar, a heavy metal guitar hero. His long salt and pepper goatee came to a point mid-chest over a thick waffle-weave green Henley. His saltier hair hid under a hooligan hat worn backwards. 

“I don’t get it,” Jo said and shook her head.

“Come on,” he said. “What do you miss? That one indulgence that you can’t get here.”

Excerpt

“Bundled in his heavy farm coat, wool cap and heavy mittens, Rudy left the warm confines of the homeless shelter. The wheat sculpture was unrecognizable under several inches of snow. He walked in the same direction he and Otto trekked a few days prior. The unplowed snow was knee-deep and still coming down as he trudged on. As he broke a trail in the snow, he thought of his animals on the farm and hoped his father put them all in the barn to survive the night.

“A layer of ice remained hidden under the snow. The first snow of the season was always the wettest and this was no exception. His thick, wool socks were no match for the frigid snowmelt soaking into his boots.

“The hike that had taken him and Otto only fifteen minutes was approaching an hour when he reached the first structure buried in the snow. Rudy had never seen snowfall like this. He’d heard his father and other old farmers talk about thundersnow like it was a mystical act of God. Trudging through waist-deep drifts as he crossed from the industrial complex while listening to thunder rumble and boom with the staccato flashes of lightning, Rudy decided Dante got it wrong all those years ago. Hell’s address was more north than south: more ice than fire. Sinners needed a parka rather than sunscreen. “

White Hell, Chapter 61

Slow Word Count

That pesky day job keeps getting in the way of my editorial schedule.

I typically write in the morning. Get up early, knock out my word count and move forward with my day: go to work, clean the house, take a shower, the important things. I’ve recently changed positions in my company and have to work at six am, so my writing schedule has been put on a shelf as my deadline looms.

My schedule changes in over a week, but I’ve got to figure out how to get some word count done over the coming days. I can’t imagine getting up any earlier. After work, I’m generally very tired and in debilitating pain from a newly reconstructed ankle.

Maybe this week needs to be dedicated to editing what I already have or committed to outlining. I refuse to back burner my novel.

Homeless

“Men from the YMCA Supportive Housing Campus stood at varying distances down Ninth Street. Several smoked, some fidgeted with their tattered overcoats and others stood like statues dedicated to the disenfranchised, but none of them talked or interacted. On the other side of the street, women scurried down the block leaving their office jobs and headed for their cars parked on the southern reaches of downtown. 

“Abby preferred to keep her ostrich head in the sand and oblivious of mankind’s perversions. Predatory and uncivilized, men on one side of the street set to pounce while their quarry ran from tree to tree with heads bowed in fear. She imagined Rudy escorting her down the street, guiding her away from puddles and opening doors. 

“Rose and Abby strode down the male side of the street. Several men nodded a greeting, two even said Rose’s name like she was a local celebrity — famous among the destitute. Rose walked with head held high against the freezing rain that misted around them. Abby felt like she was walking down the high school hallways with some of the popular girls. For some reason, this put her at ease like popularity equated to security, but it also made her yearn for the banality of school. Abby longed for fourth period chemistry or even fifth period physics. She’d even welcome the horror of gym class. But routine made her easy prey as she considered Aidan stalking the high school hallways. “

White Hell, Chapter 23

Social Media

Not as part of some New Years change binge, but as a focus on productivity, I’ve deleted Facebook and other social media from my phone.

Today is day two without social media on my phone and I’ve chosen to use Adobe Spark on my phone to build graphics for blog posts. While I grabbed my phone multiple to scroll today, I redirected my time to taking novel notes or blog planning.

I do check social media once or twice a day on my laptop, but I do it in my downtime and not when I should be focused on other tasks. Any bets on how long it will last?

Santa’s List

“Don’t want a doll, no dinkey tinker toy
I want a hippopotamus to play with and enjoy”
Jon Jefferson Rox

There are a few things I’d love to find under the tree:

Leuchtturm 1917 A5 Dot Grid Notebook. My journal of choice for all the writing things. Love the feel of the paper, the utility of the dots and the versatility of this little book.

Pilot Namiki Ink Refills for my fountain pens. Where would I be without a pen?

Research materials. I try not to bog myself down in research because the story comes first and research is just flavor and backstory.

Bookmarks. Who doesn’t need a few beautiful bookmarks instead using crumpled receipts?

Socks to keep my toes warm while tapping away on my laptop.

Time. Give me time to dream and write. I know this is a big ask. Maybe clean the house or bring me curry.

Learning from the season

“The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live.”  George Carlin

The Santa Claus story is maybe the most well known and pervasive in the world, other than maybe Jesus or Mohamed. As a writer, especially one seeking some modicum of commercial success, there are things we can learn from Santa.

Santa has multiple origin stories and we don’t care, we still love the jolly old fat man. With release of Klaus, Netflix just gave us another origin story. Was he the first toymaker to the the king, a lonely old widower, a work-obsessed suburbanite that happens to put on Santa’s coat? No one cares, we care only about his magic. By the way, Klaus is a great holiday film.

Santa’s magic has limits. Like any well-written fantasy or science fiction story, Santa’s world has rules and limits. His knowledge of children’s behavior is limited to filling out the naughty or nice list. He delivers gifts to the entire world in one night. Don’t forget the elves. His magic and his world isn’t all encompassing. He can’t correct a child’s bad behavior with his magic, just bribery.

All of those origin stories, follow the hero’s journey and three act structure. Jolly St. Nick had to leave his ordinary world to overcome many obstacles to reach transformation. Do you see it?

Those are a few of the story-telling lessons we can learn, but there are other things the myth can teach us: follow your passion, laugh often, recruit a team with similar values, focus on doing the right thing.

Modern Writer

“Modern Problems require modern solutions.” Dave Chappelle

My commute has recently doubled as I changed positions. I’ve always listened to podcasts and an occasional audio book, but I have a lot more time on my hands this past week. As I listen to podcasts or books, I gain insights into my own writing or my current project.

“Hey, Siri. Take a note.”

My wondrous iPhone takes terrible dictation, but at least it is a place to start. Using Google Docs on my phone, I can copy the notes directly into my document. 🙂 I’m finally feeling like a modern writer… although I do love my analog journal and fountain pen.

Goal Oriented

This year, I discovered that I’m very goal-oriented. I think it comes from so many years of failing at every goal.

During my college years, I’d set goals and treat them like wishes. I’d write them down and never put forth any effort which ultimately led to disappointment.

With age and work experience, I know how to better set realistic goals and break them down into smaller, achievable milestones.

With the coming new year, I do the cliched reflection and goal-setting all the other nerds are doing this time of year. My theme is 20 for 20. I’ll set twenty goals for the coming year.

Goal number one: finish and publish another novel.