The Novel Wrapped and a Guest Post

In today’s Journal

* Quote of the Day
* The Novel Wrapped
* Going to the Welles (guest post)
* Of Interest
* The Numbers

Quote of the Day

“The most important things to remember about back story are that (a) everyone has a history and (b) most of it isn’t very interesting.” Stephen King

The Novel Wrapped

The novel wrapped yesterday with a final on the first anniversary of ‘Bit’s departure. That was appropriate, because she even enabled my writing. One more gift she gave me.

In almost every (and maybe every) novel I’ve written, I paid a minor homage to that fact with the inclusion of the phrase “a little bit.” (grin)

Going to the Welles

Today, I got nothing. Fortunately, Dan Baldwin clutched me back from the abyss with this guest post. It’s a good one. Thanks, Dan.

In a brilliant opening to a brilliant motion picture, Citizen Kane, Orson Welles crafted a timeline of events encapsulating the history of the protagonist. The technique was a masterful way to cover a lot of back story in a way that kept the audience involved through multiple viewpoints.

It’s a technique that can work for a novelist.

While writing my Western novel Caldera II – A Man on Fire I wanted to cover a lot of territory (physical, mental and emotional) in a way that would not bog down the story.

I was staring at the infamous mid-book muddle looming over the Arizona horizon. Mr. Welles, as he has done for so many artists, provided the inspiration that solved the problem.

My character, a man called Caldera, had been falsely accused of murder and had gone on the lam. For many years he became a criminal in the press, but a hero to many in personal accounts. All this had to be covered before he emerged back into hero status. That was a lot of ground I didn’t want to cover.

I crafted a montage of events as seen through the eyes of many people. The first was a newspaper story written in the style of 19th century reporters. Here’s the headline.


Four Slavers Slain!



A Full Account From Our Territorial Correspondent.


I followed with another newspaper clipping about the kidnapping of the sisters by a bandit named Malon. I added a nice touch of Western history by heading the clipping with Exclusive News Via the Electric Telegraph. The clippings noted a mysterious rescuer, revealed much later as Caldera.


A letter from the manager of a gold mine followed. He reported on the deaths of two workers who he believed to be hardened criminals hiding out. He also suspected they had been killed under mysterious circumstances, noting that one of their best workers, a “John Smith,” left immediately before the bodies were discovered. This bit established the vengeance-ride theme that dominated book two.


A diary excerpt followed. The book related that an unknown man (Caldera the reader presumes) helps a few desperate pilgrims across a river. In part, the diary read “Well, we weren’t morn half a mile over the furst hill when we hear gunfire commencin’ like hale storm on a tin roof. Wilbur wanted us to go back for a looksee, but I wud have non of it. That man was engaged in powerful private business and it weren’t non o arn.”


I used a fragment of a telegram as the next element. Dated 1976, it read, “…alias CALDERA or CALDERON or CALDER… in the disappearance of suspected member of Mal… hold for questioning.. armed and dangerous…”


One of those DeYoung sisters reappeared next in a radio interview taped in 1932. Legend had grown that the sisters were rescued by a man named Chandler, a prominent secondary character in the novel. Miss DeYoung disagrees and says the real hero was another man (you know who). “… that man showed up to kill the men who kidnapped us. Don’t misunderstand me, young man. I am quite, quite happy that he did. I just don’t think he gave us much thought. He was there to kill. Saving us was an afterthought, and one I do not believe he relished.”


That interview revealed in a few words a lot about Caldera’s character. The secondary character who was conducting all of this research on Caldera received a number of responses to his inquiries. Some are helpful to him. Others are not, but in bits and pieces in different voices they do contribute to the reader’s understanding of my lead character.


While on his vengeance trail, Caldera remained anonymous, but he was given the nickname of “the Lynx killer,” which is explained in some detail in several chapters. Two wanted posters appear next. One is an official circular. The other is an unofficial circular from a vigilance committee.

The story has developed to show that Caldera is knocking off the area’s worst killers. The poster from the committee included the lines, “Whereas the 666 Vigilance Committee wholeheartedly approves of said actions, be it therefore Resolved that the individual or individuals known as “The Lynx” should be left the hell alone, you ranching sons of bitches!”


Another news clipping reports the mysterious death of the arch villain Malon. (by now the reader knows Caldera’s vengeance is being visited on men who earned it.)


A section of a book on terms and phrases from a history of the Wild West includes:

Lynx (The), A Robin Hood style desperado in Arizona Territory. Perhaps mythical.

Linx (The Fearless), A dime novel hero loosely based upon the above.


An excerpt from one of the dime novels paints a gloriously over-the-top word picture of the rescue of the DeYoung sisters by the mysterious hero. It and the chapter ends with, “The hero returned to the cabin for one final task, a ritual that struck fear into the hearts of cowardly villains throughout the territory. In the hand of each, a marker and a warning, was placed a single link from a golden chain, priceless not for its metal, but for the justice it represented. He turned, walked through the door. Thuse into the darkness, into history, and into glory rode the Lynx.”

# # #

Of Interest

Carter Wilson Interviewed Hundreds of Writers — Here’s What He Learned From Them

Women who love men

How to Deliver Backstory Without Confusing the Reader

A gentle reminder that I do not always agree with items I post. You can learn (feed your creative subconscious) with things like this, but I continue to affirm that the best way to write “fiction” is to report what the characters give you, when they give it to you. It isn’t fiction to them. In that simple act, you wipe away all other problems.

The Numbers

The Journal……………………………… 320

Writing of Blackwell Ops 23: Buck Jackson

Day 1…… 1217 words. To date…… 1217
Day 2…… 2154 words. To date…… 3371
Day 3…… 5757 words. To date…… 9128
Day 4…… 5433 words. To date…… 14561
Day 5…… 2248 words. To date…… 16809
Day 6…… 3446 words. To date…… 20255
Day 7…… 2960 words. To date…… 23215
Day 8…… 3987 words. To date…… 27202
Day 9…… 2936 words. To date…… 30138
Day 10…. 5114 words. To date…… 35252 (done)

Fiction for April…………………….….… 35252
Fiction for 2024…………………………. 261044
Fiction since October 1………………… 564100
Nonfiction for April……………………… 9180
Nonfiction for 2024……………………… 137900
2024 consumable words……………… 398944

2024 Novels to Date……………………… 7
2024 Novellas to Date…………………… 0
2024 Short Stories to Date……………… 1
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)……………… 89
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)…………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……… 239
Short story collections…………………… 29

Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark and adherence to Heinlein’s Rules. Unreasoning fear and the myths of writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.

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3 thoughts on “The Novel Wrapped and a Guest Post”

  1. OMG! This is such a gem of a post.

    But first things first, Harvey, I want to thank you for these last few years of daily instruction and inspiration on your blog. I came here 2-3 years ago, I think. I didn’t always manage to read daily, but every time I felt lost in the noise of the writing/publishing world outside, The Daily Journal was like a North Star, steering me back to what really matters. Thanks to you and your repeated instruction, I love writing into the dark and more importantly, I’ve come to trust it, trust my writing, and trust the wonderful characters above all. This pure love for writing, and writing into the dark, that you have and share so generously has changed my writing and my life. Thank you!

    Dan’s post is such a gem! So many interesting ways to present a story! In this context, I wanted to mention this author, Janice Hallett, whose novels, murder mysteries mainly, are all written entirely – yes, entirely! – using media like these: emails, transcripts of audio recordings, journal entries, news clippings, SMS and WhatsApp messages, FB comments, interviews, reports and so on. They were all so gripping and so full of depth (despite the lack of description in the conventional sense), it made for a very refreshing read. Something about reading letters/text messages/reports etc. literally plonked me right into the characters’ heads. I loved The Twyford Code, and The Mysterious Case of The Alperton Angels, and am now reading more of her works.

    • Thanks, Annitha. I’ll pass that on to Dan.

      Also, watch for Sunday’s post re WITD and characters. I think you’ll find it interesting.

    • Thanks for the kind words. I am toying with the idea of writing a novel in that style. It would be quite a challenge, but I bet it would also be a hell of a lot of fun. As a firm believer in WITD, I’ll wait for one of the characters to jump up and shout, “Hey! This way.”

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