In today’s Journal
* The Sequence (Guest Post)
* Of Interest
* The Numbers
The following is a guest post by Dan Baldwin, copied from his weekly blog. The post is presented exactly as it appeared in my email. If you enjoy Dan’s thoughts on writing, I strongly urge you to subscribe. To do so, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Screenplay writers often use the sequence technique in the mid portion of their work. The sequence involves a lot of shots of different people in different locations doing different things all related to the central theme. Once in editing, the sequence gets a fast-pace music bed to help move things along even faster. Think of any Rocky movie. Somewhere in the middle, Rocky is hesitating to get into or get back into the ring. Something happens – Adrienne from her hospital bed looks up and says “win” – and wham-bam-straight to the moon, Alice, Rocky is off and running.
The sequence not only solves the mid-section blahs some authors experience, but it covers a lot of events, compressing time into a manageable timeframe for the audience.
Novelists can employ the same technique to achieve the same results. I used the technique in one of my Western novels to compress several years of events into the size of a short story. The adventures covered would have made interesting reading, but I believe would also have slowed down the pace of the book. (That material will probably surface as a complete novel someday.) Yet, for the story to advance, reference had to be made to those “lost years” of my protagonist. Enter the sequence to the rescue.
The technique is an effective way to tell a short story, too. And it’s really a lot of fun to write. Here’s an example pulled from my collection Princess Dodu and the Great Escape in which I use the sequence technique to tell a single story from multiple perspectives.
The File on Johnny Ringo
TO: Sheriff Bodie
FROM: Deputy Stroud
RE: John “Johnny” Ringo File
I have reviewed the original reports, contemporaneous accounts, articles, stories and other materials (some of dubious value) relating to the John “Johnny” Ringo file. It is my opinion that the “cold case” should be reclassified from suicide to undetermined. A sampling of the materials I have studied is attached for your review. Note that some of the material is at best ludicrous while other materials are of legitimate value. Samples of each are included simply to demonstrate the kind of crap you have put me through.
(You owe me more than one beer.)
# # #
Knowing that God and right were on my side, I called out the miscreant Ringo. My voice thundered with righteous wrath. “Coward! If you dare, face a man face-to-face, a man who fears neither you nor death, but only dishonor. Come forth!”
The Ringo Kid hid behind the boulder that would soon become his bloodied tombstone. Shaking, he bit his leathered lower lip. His hand, slippery with drops of fear, clasp the weapon that had lead-bludgeoned the life of many a good man.
I shouted again. “Justice is calling your name. It shouts ‘coward!”
At that moment the Kid jumped from behind his granite sanctuary, guns blazing. I fired but once. The bullet, guided by God’s grace and a good aim, found its home in the man’s breast where no Christian heart ever beat, for the man was truly heartless.
“Is he dead,” someone asked.
“Yes, for I have killed him.”
“You killed the Ringo Kid!”
“Yes, I have killed the Ringo Kid.”
“Yes, dead is Ringo.”
Note to Sheriff Bodie: this is what I mean by “crap.”
# # #
“I had stopped off at the Smith place to pass a few moments with old friends. We were enjoying coffee and cigars when we heard the shot. We didn’t think nothing of it at the time. The occasional shot along Turkey Creek is fairly common – hunters mostly, drunks sometimes. I spent the night and sometime after sunrise we noticed John Ringo… turned out it was his body… against a tree. We ran over and I could tell right away that something was way the hell wrong. First thing was his head and the way his….”
(From the Diary of J.W. Armstrong – the page is torn away at this point and no relevant information was recorded in the following pages.)
# # #
Turkey or Morse’s Hill Creek
14th July, 1882
Statement for the information of the Coroner and Sheriff of Cochise Co. A.T.
There was found by the undersigned John Yoast the body of a man in a clump of Oak trees about 20 yards north from the road leading to Morse’s mill and about a quarter of a mile west of the house of B.F. Smith The undersigned viewed the body and found it in a sitting posture, facing west, the head inclined to the right—There was a bullet hole in the right temple, the bullet coming out on top of the head on the left side. There is apparently a part of the scalp done including a small portion of the forehead and part of the hair, this looks as if cut out by a knife. (These are the only marks of violence visible on the body. Several of the undersigned identify the body as that of John Ringo, well known in Tombstone. He was dressed in light hat, blue shirt, vest, pants and drawers, on his feet were a pair of hose and undershirt torn up so as to protect his feet. He had evidently travelled but a short distance in this foot gear. His revolver he grasped in his right hand, his rifle rested against the tree close to him. He had on two cartridge belts, the belt for the revolver cartridges being buckled on the upside down….
The body of the deceased was buried close to where it was found. When found deceased had been dead about 24 hours.
Thomas White James Morgan
John Blake Robert Boller
John W. Bradfield Frank McKinney
B.F. Smith W. J. Darnal
W.W. Smith J.C. McGrager
A.E. Lewis John Yoast
A.S. Neighbors Fred Ward
Statement by citizens in regard the death of
Filed Nov. 12/82
- H. Seamans, Clk.
By Louis A. Souc, Depy.
# # #
The somewhat contradictory reports on the demise of one Johnny Ringo leave us with a mystery. The suicide theory is backed by eyewitnesses who report that the man had become despondent in 1882, perhaps because of a rejection by his family when he paid them a visit in San Jose. Other witnesses report that his drinking, significant to say the least, had increased and that he was barely conscious due to heavy drink when seen the evening of his death. Others speculate murder. (Live History Online podcast, July 14, 2010)
# # #
“The Earps did it, I tell you.”
“Hell, no, Sam. I was Johnny Behind the Duce. He hated Ringo.”
“My money’s on Leslie.”
(Conversation recorded for History TV’s documentary Old Timers of Tombstone
# # #
RINGO MASSACRED… REQUEST ARREST AND HOLD OF EARP AND HALLIDAY. RESPOND IMMEDIATELY. SHERIFF, COCHISE COUNTY, A.T.
(Telegram found in possession of Mrs. Mildred Hyde of Bisbee, AZ. The document is disputed as a fake.)
# # #
DEATH OF JOHN RINGO
His Body Found in Morse’ Canyon
Sunday evening intelligence reached this city of the finding of the dead body of John Ringo near the south of Morse’s Canyon in the Chiracahua Mountains on Friday afternoon. There was few men in Cochise country, or southeastern Arizona better known. He was recognized by friends and foes as a recklessly brave man, who would go any distance or undergo any hardship to serve a friend or punish an enemy. While undoubtedly reckless, he was far from being a desperado, and we know of no murder being laid in his charge. Friends and foes are unanimous in the opinion that he was strictly honorable man in all his dealings, and that his word was as good as his bond.
(The Tombstone Epitaph, July, 1882)
# # #
The manner of Ringo’s demise remains something of a mystery. He seems to have become despondent in 1882, perhaps because his family had treated him coldly when he had earlier visited them in San Jose. Witnesses reported that he began drinking even more heavily than usual. On this day in 1882, he was found dead in Turkey Creek Canyon outside of Tombstone. It looked as if Ringo had shot himself in the head and the official ruling was that he had committed suicide.
(Johnny’s Last Ride by J.T. Spaulding, unpublished article)
# # #
Murderous Career At An End At Last
Report from Our Special Correspondent
(Headline, The Bisbee Bee, July, 1882)
# # #
Another Bright Light snuffed Out
Community Mourns Grave Loss of Leading Citizen
(Headline, The Bisbee Banner, July, 1882)
# # #
Sheriff Bodie – Perhaps the most cogent account of what could have happened and what probably did happen is found in this ASU Recording Our History program, taped sometime back in the forties. The subject of the interview, Dwight Hullbertson, was a colorful local history buff who actually met Ringo when he – Hulbertson – was a kid. I transcribed a bit of it.
INTERVIEWER: What was meeting Johnny Ringo like?
HULLBERTSON: First off, sonny boy, didn’t nobody call him “Johnny.” At least not to his face. He hated that name.
INTERVEWER: Do you think Wyatt Earp killed Ringo?
HULLBERTSON: Hell no. Can I say that?”
INTERVIEWER: It’s your interview, Mr. Hullbertson.
HULLBERTSON: Wyatt and that Holliday friend of his were in Colorado when they got Ringo. It’s documented. And John O’Roarke, Johnny-Behind-The-Duce they called, didn’t do it either. He left Arizona a year ‘for the shooting.
INTERVIEWER: You said “they” got Ringo. Who do you mean?
HULLBERTSON: Who the hell do you think! Old Buckskin Frank Leslie and Billy Claiborne… they’re the ones who killed Ringo. Hell, everybody knew it. Especially after Frank dropped the Kid. That was right outside the Oriental. I was coming out of the Grand Hotel where I had a little job helping clean—
INTERVIWER: Back to the Ringo killing. You’re sure about Leslie and Claiborne?
HULLBERTSON: You know what Billy Claiborne’s last words were, sonny?
INTERVIEWER: No, sir.
HULLBERTSON: He said, and I know it for a fact, he said “Frank Leslie killed John Ringo. I saw him do it.” That’s his exact words. If I’m lying I’m dying.”
# # #
…Frank Leslie was to go with us and may yet, if he is not detained in killing matter of this morning, and he ought not to be. He shot and killed the notorious Kid Claiborne this A.M. at 7:30, making as pretty a center shot on the Kid as one could wish to.
The Kid threatened and laid for him near the Oriental with a Winchester, but Frank got the drop on him, being quick as lightning and used to killing men, and the Kid has gone to Hell.”
(From the Diary of George Whitwill Parsons)
# # #
The most telling to me, Sheriff, and the one bit of information we can never use in a court of law comes from a couple of psychics – don’t snarl – over in Huachuca City. They say they “chat” with Ringo at the grave site and have even recorded his voice. It’s something they call EVPs or electronic voice phenomena. I include it just because it’s interesting and in a way it kinda’ give John Ringo the last word on all this. Their names are Don and Rolanda. And I swear, boss, that voice on the tape is not either one of them.
# # #
DON: Session Two. Ten-Fourteen a.m. Rolanda and I have moved to the John Ringo actual gravesite.
(Some material deleted here, Sheriff)
ROLANDA: Do you know who shot you, John?
EVP: (very faint but audible) Yes.
DON: Was it Leslie? Buckskin Frank Leslie?
Did you hear anything?
ROLANDA: No. Not a thing.
DON: Was it Billy Claiborne?
DON: I don’t think he wants to talk to us now.
ROLANDA: I’m picking up that he just wants to be left alone.
DON: Yeah. I get that.
ROLANDA: There’s a lot of controversy about how you died, John… Mr. Ringo. Is there anything, anything at all you’d like to say before we go, John? Mr. Ringo?
EVP: F*** it!
Don: Er… maybe it’s time we left.
This sequence involved some factual data pulled from newspapers published at the time mixed with my own fictitious accounts. FYI just for the kicks of it, the final episode in the sequence is based on a couple of real events. Ringo is covered in one of my paranormal books, Speaking with Spirits of the Old Southwest.
Thanks for letting me reprint this, Dan.
Talk with you again soon.
See “The Director General invites you to examine” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-director-general-invites-you-to-examine/. Nothing short of chilling.
See “The Peril and Promise of Writing in First-Person POV” at https://www.thepassivevoice.com/the-peril-and-promise-of-writing-in-first-person-pov/. A reminder that if you write into the dark you will never bore the reader regardless of POV.
The Journal…………………………………… 120
Writing of “Pretend Writer”
Day 1…… 2322 words. Total words to date…… 2322
Writing of “Untitled Stern Talbot Mystery”
Day 1…… 190 words. Total words to date…… 190
Writing of “Marvin McTavish Decides”
Day 1…… 326 words. Total words to date…… 326
Day 2…… 346 words. Total words to date…… 672
Writing of “A Midnight Sketch”
Day 1…… 1341 words. Total words to date…… 1341
Writing of Rose Padilla (WCG10SF5)
Day 1…… 4283 words. Total words to date…… 4283
Day 2…… 3963 words. Total words to date…… 8246
Day 3…… 1463 words. Total words to date…… 9709
Day 4…… 2445 words. Total words to date……12154
Total fiction words for July……… 4525
Total fiction words for 2023………… 143100
Total nonfiction words for July… 14250
Total nonfiction words for the year…… 145800
Total words for the year (fiction and nonfiction)…… 260347
Calendar Year 2023 Novels to Date…………………… 2
Calendar Year 2023 Novellas to Date……………… 0
Calendar Year 2023 Short Stories to Date………… 4
Novels (since Oct 19, 2014)………………………………… 73
Novellas (since Nov 1, 2015)………………………………… 9
Short stories (since Apr 15, 2014)……………………… 221
Short story collections…………………………………………. 31
Disclaimer: I am a prolific professional fiction writer. On this blog I teach Writing Into the Dark, adherence to Heinlein’s Rules, and that following the myths of fiction writing will slow your progress as a writer or stop you cold. I will never teach the myths on this blog.