The Journal, Wednesday, November 28

Hey Folks,

This might be the earliest I’ve ever posted an edition of the Journal. Today will be a non-writing day. I wasn’t able to go to Sierra Vista yesterday, so I’m going this morning while it’s too cold for my babies to go outside and play.

When I get back, in addition to setting up my new phone, I’ll return to Nick 4 for awhile. My wonderful first reader got her input back to me this morning. So I want to finalize Nick 4 and upload the finalized document to all the right places.

That novel doesn’t release until January 15, but once I’m finished with it I can move on to other things (and back to my WIP). And of course, my donors will get the finished product early.

Yet another favorite quote, pointed out by my friend, Robert Sadler:

“The key characteristic of the human mind is that we’re creative. As Albert Hirschman, the Princeton Economist, once put it, ‘creativity always comes as a surprise to us.'” — George Gilder (

In other words, you can’t be creative with your conscious mind. (grin)

For some reason, Gilder’s quote put me in mind of three turning points that freed up my own writing.

Probably those three points are what enabled me to be a storyteller and a professional writer. They freed me from my authorial ivory tower and let me roam free among the masses. (grin)

Topic: Three Great Turning Points in My Development as a Fictionist

The first great turning point in my development as a fictionist was a realization: It isn’t “my” story. It’s the characters’ story.

They’re the ones who are living it. They’re the ones who populate whatever fictional world I’m about to drop into. They’re the ones who walk into settings and interact with other characters.

I would never allow anyone to control me and my decisions regarding how I act or react or what I say or do, so why should I levy control over them?

It’s true that consideration for others helps me decide all those things in my own life, but they are still my decisions, no one else’s.

And of course, the protagonist and antagonist and others in the stories consider the input and feelings of other characters in their fictional world. But their decisions regarding their actions/reactions etc. are still their own.

So this first turning point freed me from responsibility for how the characters act and interact and react and what they say and do.

The upshot is that I am constantly surprised as I write because the characters (not I) are living their own lives. I’m only the recorder.

The second major turning point was an understanding. It finally came to me after a LOT of conscious thought (learning, trying to understand), and in light of what I realized in the first turning point.

The second turning point was my understanding that Everything I put on the page HAD to come through the POV character’s physical and emotional senses and opinions.

Nothing in the stories I write — not one word of dialogue, not one word of description — comes from me as the writer/narrator. It all comes from the characters who are living in the story.

The dialogue, of course, is easy. In dialogue, the characters simply say what they say and I write it down.

But letting go of the “narrative description” (a misnomor) is more difficult. Like all fiction writers young in the craft, I thought it was my job to show (or enable the reader to see) the setting.

It isn’t.

Anytime the author pokes his head out through the writing, it’s from outside the story and it interrupts the reading experience.

Again, the characters (not the writer) are living in the fictional world. They all have a past and “baggage” (even if it doesn’t appear in the story) and they’re the ones who are experiencing the setting physically and emotionally.

So again, every word in the description of any setting in the story MUST come through the POV character’s physical and emotional senses. And it must be expressed through his or her opinions of that setting.

In an example I use often, the setting is a formal library in a mansion. Inside it smells of pipe tobacco.

One POV character might say the room “reeked of the stench of tobacco.” Another might say “the heady scent of cherry pipe tobacco reminded me of my grandfather.”

If the lighting in the library is dim, one POV character might describe it as “cold, dark and forbidding.” Another might say “in the dim light, the room seemed smaller. It closed in around me like a warm flannel blanket on a cool night.”

Each of those are a POV character’s description, expressed through that same character’s opinion of the setting. See?

And that’s only two physical senses (smell and sight) and one emotional sense (the fear expressed in “forbidding”).

As a bonus, each time the POV character describes a setting, a little more is revealed to the reader about that character’s past experiences and about who he or she is.

That realization (that it’s the characters’ story, not mine) and that understanding (that every word must come through the POV character’s physical and emotional senses and opinions) are what finally forced me to ‘let go’ and just enjoy the story as it unfolds.

And somewhere along the line, I came upon the third major turning point: Pacing.

I’ll define pacing as the intentional slowing of the reader by the writer through the use of longer paragraphs (generally, over 5 lines on the page) and the speeding-up of the reader through the use of shorter paragraphs (generally, up to 5 lines on the page).

Every genre requires a certain pacing.

In the current definition of Thriller (as opposed to the old Hitchcock thrillers, which are now considered psychological suspense or psychological horror), the pacing is fast almost all the way through.

A thriller is a roller-coaster ride, with rising action to a climactic event. During the rising action and the event, the pacing will be faster with shorter paragraphs to drag the reader through that part of the story at almost breakneck speed.

Then comes a terse drop-off (usually a cliffhanger at the end of a scene) to a period of calm (inhabited by longer paragraphs), then more rising action to another climactic event, followed by another drop-off.

But that can be said of any commercial genre: westerns, science fiction or fantasy, high fantasy, romance, crime, police procedurals, mysteries (including cozies), and so on.

Even magic realism, which is most often lumped into “literary” fiction, follows this kind of flow.

They all have periods of tension where you want the reader to fly through the paragraphs, and they all have periods of rest, where the reader is forced by the paragraph lengths to slow down and catch his or her breath.

And be more deeply immersed in the fictional world.

Often, the “period of rest” occurs while the character is describing a scene (maybe the protagonist enters the library in the mansion), often enroute to a quick period of rising action (maybe the antagonist is hiding in a corner behind a desk and about to launch an attack).

Of course, there are interesting and important differences among genre structures too. But that’s a topic for another post. (grin)

Talk with you again tomorrow.

Of Interest

See “The Five Most Common Mistakes in Writing Mystery” at This is both a video and a transcript (in case you’d rather read it) of a recent free Reedsy webinar.

Then see “Colombo and ‘Just One More Thing'” at This is also from Reedsy to go along with the webinar above.

See “Seven at Odds: First Page Critique” at Just in case fantasy is your cuppa.

Via Tony DeCastro, see “Free Fiction – The Dump” at

Fiction Words: XXXX
Nonfiction Words: 1300 (Journal)
So total words for the day: 1300

Writing of Dread (novel, tentative title)

Day 10… 2798 words. Total words to date…… 30745
Day 11… XXXX words. Total words to date…… XXXXX

Total fiction words for the month……… 77361
Total fiction words for the year………… 455891
Total nonfiction words for the month… 18450
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 169556
Total words for the year (fiction and this blog)…… 625197

Calendar Year 2018 Novels to Date………………………… 9
Calenday Year 2018 Novellas to Date…………………… 3
Calendar Year 2018 Short Stories to Date……… 11
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………………… 35
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)……………………………………… 7
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 193
Short story collections…………………………………………………… 31

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