February 8, 2024

Welcome back to another chapter of adventures in writing. This week continues to be spent working on outlining the first draft of Questionable Characters. You may recall that last week I amused myself when I discovered that my hero’s car changed in mid-story from a Camry to a Camaro. This week I discovered that one of my characters (a recovering alcoholic), celebrates when they finally get a break on the case they’re working. He cracks open a beer and nobody (including yours truly, the author), bats an eyelash when the non-drinker downs a beer. That’s gonna need a quick fix.

I gotta say that it’s been fun coming across passages I didn’t remember writing, featuring dialogue that entertained me. Nobody else might be amused, but it worked for me. I also actually got caught up in a tense scene. These little surprises have been fascinating, and I think I’ll enjoy them even more when I finish this outlining step and move on to the next phase where I’ll read the whole thing from start to finish as a reader (and not a writer). I’m going to try to avoid making notes and just treat it as a pleasure read. We’ll see how that goes, but first I gotta finish the outline. I’m hoping to have that done by next week’s blog post.

I do have a question for my readers (and I know you’re both out there). You guys have been great about sharing your insights with me and they really do help. Here’s a question that just came up over the last day or two of outlining. Most of my chapters are pretty short (7-12 pages or so). When I read books that are divided into little bites like this, the story just seems to fly by for me, and that’s definitely something I’d like to strive for. In a how-to book I’m using on rewriting novels, the author suggests that one technique is to vary the length of chapters—at least occasionally, so the reader is kept engaged when there’s a break in the pattern. Even though most of my chapters are short, I did find two chapters thus far that are over 30 pages each. So… do you have a preference in novels you read? Do you like short chapters, long ones, or books that bounce around and vary chapter lengths? Or… maybe it’s not even something you pay attention to. If you have any thoughts on chapter lengths, I’d love to hear what you have to say. You know where to find me.

OK, enough shop talk. Here’s the Story of the Week. The prompt was supplied by an anonymous college roommate whose initials are M.G. (as in Mark Goldberg). Thanks, Markel. Oops! Never mind.

I.T.S. (Instant Temper Syndrome)

I’m a super-spreader, so why did I come to this crowded arena? Somebody accidentally bumps me. I smack him and my volcanic temper scatters, igniting a brawl.

I stop fighting when the angelic voice of an anti-spreader whispers in my ear. I’m weak-kneed. Instantly, her message spreads. Everybody stops fighting and sings Kumbaya. I know—cliche, right?

Soon, the alarm clock will awaken me, but guess what? I’m not dreaming! I hug the man I just punched out. We leave holding hands.

Outside, a homophobe smirks at us. I clock him.

Too bad the kindness antidote has such a short shelf-life.

Prompt: Conflagration

That’s it for this week’s rain-soaked post.

As always, thanks for listening.

Scotty out

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