A Tiny Update and Not So Tiny Excerpt (BEASTS: Chapter One)

I’m facing an interesting dilemma.

I feel good. I feel great.  I’m no longer alone. I’m living in a wonderful home with a loving family. Everything’s fantastic!

And I’m hardly getting any writing done because of it.

I’ve read it before how comfort can be deadly. I’m seeing first hand how that can be true. I’m also realizing just how much visualizing and fantasying your dream coming true is also dangerous.

Because feeling like I already have everything I wanted means I don’t feel any urge to do anything to get it, because in my head I already have it. Tricky, eh?

That said, I’m not giving in without a fight. I may have missed a week of blog posts, but I finally finished the first draft of the first chapter of my YA novel, BEASTS, which I’ve been working on since early February.

Needless to say, this is a cause for celebration.

So since today is Monday and that means Excerpt day, in order to make up for my unannounced absence, here is the entire chapter in all its flawed glory.

Who knows how much it’ll change when I finally send it off to agents (hopefully within a decade), but I’m not going to touch it again until the rest of the book is written.

Meanwhile, I’m going to contemplate about the actual benefits of suffering.

At least some amount of suffering. I finished reading War of Art by Steven Pressfield, which was amazing and related to what I’m talking about  so there’s a post in me on what I’ve learned from that book as well.

Until then…

Here is Chapter One of my YA Fantasy novel: BEASTS.

 

Warning: The following is over 3k words long. So take a bathroom break, get your mug of hot coffee and a cookie, sit back, relax and enjoy.

 

Continue reading “A Tiny Update and Not So Tiny Excerpt (BEASTS: Chapter One)”

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Excerpt Day: BEASTS

 

These last few days I been advocating the need for action towards ones goals. One of the reasons I disappeared for three months is because I wanted to finish a chapter for my YA novel and post that as the next post. That never happened cause I never finished it. But I didn’t want to post something else because I was starting to feel like I was all bark, no bite.

I didn’t just want to talk about what I loved to do or wanted to do.

I actually wanted to do it.

I still haven’t finished that chapter, but it’s nearly done. I have a few things in the works.

A nonfiction book based on everything I talked about last week. My YA Shapeshifter novel. And Savior, my superhero noir story that may become a comic.

So today is excerpt day. Proof to myself that I am doing the work and following the dream, not just talking a great deal.

Funny enough, it’s been nearly a year since I’ve shared an excerpt of a WIP.

Perhaps July is just the month of sharing.

Enjoy.

 

 

~~~~

Chapter One

Stars twinkled above Nicolai when he opened his eyes and he was struck with a painful longing for the Antarctic sky. The image of a dark carpet of colorful light stretched across the heavens was clear as day in his mind. Then it was gone, back into the abyss with the rest of his lost memories.

So desperate to cling to his forgotten past, Nicolai remained on his back for several more minutes, trying to reimagine the picture. But it was useless. It may as well been a dream for all he knew.

With a heavy sigh, he sat up in the darkness. Sniffing the air, he figured he was sitting in a dank alleyway and that a cat passed by recently and marked his territory on the dumpster he’d been sleeping against.

“Yuck!”

Nicolai climbed to his feet, rubbing his face and grabbing his green knapsack.  Plunging his hand inside, he pulled out a water bottle and dumped the small amount of liquid inside on his face. That woke him up—though he hadn’t been tired to begin with. He couldn’t remember where he was or how he got there. He stood in the darkness for a moment, straining his memory. The last thing he could remember was reaching the Capitol on foot around midday, but that could have been days ago.

He glanced at the sky. It was late. Probably midnight judging by the moon and past curfew. At the far end of the alley, he could make out the faint glow of streetlights. On the other side of the dumpster was a solid brick wall. Great place for a nap…if you can call “randomly blacking out” a nap. He wanted to at least stay off the streets when night fell. Find an abandoned building or something. The last thing he needed was to run into the cops first day in the Capitol. The street would leave him expose. Catching sight of a fire escape just above him, he repacked his water bottle and reached for the ladder.

“Good evening.”

Nicolai froze. He sniffed again. Cat pee – a great cover for an actual cat. His eyes followed the voice and fell on a male figure crouched on the top of the brick wall. The stranger grinned widely, like a Cheshire cat, the moonlight reflecting off a row of sharpened white teeth and large amber eyes with almond shaped pupils.  Nicolai estimated him to be at least a few centuries old.

An Alpha.

“I take it you’re new around here, eh?” The Alpha cocked his head to the side, like a cat eyeing a mouse. “Shall I welcome you to the neighborhood?”

Nicolai didn’t move, but tensed his muscles, ready to bolt.  He inhaled deeply. Was this one alone? No. Alpha’s didn’t hunt alone. Where was his pack? And what species was he? Definitely not a house cat.

“What is it? Cat got your tongue?” The Alpha laughed, revealing even more of his sharp teeth. “Oh, not yet, I hope. That’s the most succulent part.”

Nicolai turned his gaze to the tops of the buildings. At least six stood on the edge of the roofs on either side. All male, blond and muscular. One silently jumped down to a fire escape a few floors above him to watch, hands gripping the railing as if to jump.

The Alpha’s amber eyes narrowed as his Cheshire grin changed – less amused, more sinister.

“You’re not welcome here.”

“I’m not hurting anyone.” Nicolai slid one foot back, trying to make the movement as unnoticeable as possible.

The Alpha wrinkled his nose, the grin vanished and his entire face plunged into shadow. “Your stench is hurting my nostrils.”

Sweat slid down the back of Nicolai’s neck. He moved his foot further, watching the approaching cat above him out of the corner of his eye. “Sorry. Can’t really do anything about that.”

“Oh but you can.” The Alpha’s teeth flashed again. “You can die.”

His amber eyes flicked up to the others. Nicolai grabbed the corner of the dumpster.

“Get him!”

The cat above him leaped onto the dumpster’s lid, his boots leaving a dent. Nicolai wrenched the dumpster forward the moment he landed and the entire thing came crashing down. The cat stumbled and smashed face first into the opposite building. The Alpha jumped from the wall, snarling, his clawed hands reaching for Nicolai’s neck.

He ducked to the floor and the Alpha flew over him. The other five cats were scrambling down the buildings. Nicolai quickly jumped onto the dumpster and over the brick wall.

The snarls behind him grew louder, feral and inhuman. Nicolai could guess what was happening, but he wasn’t about to wait and find out. There was no way he could outrun real cats unless he put some serious distance between them, so he ran.

Plotting for Dummies

Right now, I’m working with plot in my Novel Course with Long Ridge Writers Group and working the initial plotting of my YA shapeshifter novel BEASTS (title subject to change) about a raptor shapeshifter looking for a home.

LRWG’s writing courses are designed for those who haven’t written a single story in their lives. So it’s all very basic. Since I’ve read a whole lot about how to write a novel and about story structure before and worked on PROPHECY for NaNo 2008-2010, I already have an idea of how a plot is structured.

So this lesson feels very basic to me. It’s a good thing though. These are the fundamentals that’ll support my entire writing career and are necessary to master if you want to be successful.

Without further ado, I shall give you my understanding of what a basic plot requires (basically what I learned so far from the course):

Characters

Duh.  But here’s the thing. Characters aren’t just people, they’re people with problems. Those problems are internal and external. Usually, especially genre fiction, external conflicts/problems are what push the character into action and start the whole thing going. It’s the Inciding Incident, as Les Edgerton in HOOKED would call it, and what complicates things and keeps the story interesting.  The internal conflicts are what make the story truly interesting and determine the characters actions and reactions to the external conflict.

My main character of BEASTS, Nicolai’s external conflicts include not having a home or a clan to belong, and a crazy twin brother trying to kill him. His primary motivation is survival and safety. Things are further complicated by the fact he’s one of the last of his species and shapeshifters in my world only stick to their own kind and are distrustful of all other shifters (especially strange ones like Nico), thus making Nicolai’s goal of resolving this problem, of being accepted into a clan, very difficult.

His internal conflicts are his insecurity and cowardice. Instead of facing his brother, he runs away from him and all his problems. His answer is to find someone to hide behind and he’ll discover this isn’t the best way to get what he wants. So as you read about how Nicolai needs to find a place to belong, his actions and dialogue (his methods of acquiring this goal) are rooted from his internal conflicts: his insecurity and tendency to flee rather than fight, which spice things up.

Climax

For me, the Climax comes along very naturally.  To explain it in my own words, it’s sort of a buildup of conflicts, of problems, piling on top of each other and reaching a peak before it all topples over in an avalanche.

It’s problem after problem, each getting worse than the last, and even though there are rests between problems where the character does something to ease the tension just a bit, something else happens  even worse until it reaches the climactic moment.

Every plot needs a climax.

LRWG teaches that the climax scene needs to be a Do or Die moment. All or Nothing.

Nicolai’s climax is when he can no longer run away anymore. He needs to face his problems or lose everything, including his life. And if he loses everything, the story comes to an abrupt end. He can’t just run away and try something else. It’s like literally putting your character on the edge of the cliff and poking him in the back with a spear. Turn back and get skewered, but take a wrong step, plunge and die.

So what happens next, what he chooses to do next in this impossible situation, is the climatic and most important scene of the entire novel.

Ending

The beginning was the introduction of the character and their conflicts or problems. The middle is the pile up of those problems till it reaches a Do or Die moment.

Then comes the ending.

I’ve heard this many times from various sources, not just LRWG, that it’s best to leave the story as soon as you’re able to. The climax is over, so basically the most interesting thing in the book is done. There is no longer any reason for the reader to keep reading so it’s best to wrap things up and not dawdle with a hundred-page epilogue.

Tie up all loose ends for THIS story. But I don’t believe it means you can’t leave some tiny threads for a possible sequel.

Unlike PROPHECY, it was much easier to plot BEASTS as a standalone story, even though I always intended it to be a series. Funny enough, PROPHECY had started out as a standalone story that ended up becoming a trilogy (and now possibly a series of trilogies).

BEASTS (unlike my other novels, so I feel like this could be the ONE) has a very clear question asked in the beginning of the story and at the end, it’s very clearly answered.

BUT it’s also easy to leave things unanswered that don’t necessarily need to be answered now. The answers that, in ordered to be explained fully, would need a story all themselves. In other words, answers that need a sequel.

I have a few of these lingering questions in BEASTS so if all goes well, that’ll entice publishers and readers to pick up a second book.

 

~~~~

 

A plot needs time.

The plot for BEASTS fell into place all by itself, but it wasn’t overnight. I say I was noodling with this idea since 2009 or perhaps earlier. From then till now, it’s been slow cooking in the back of my mind.

Needless to say, I have a whole lot of ideas to work with. Heck, now and then I work on scenes for the third or possibly fourth book (not exactly sure where this story lies in the chronological scheme of things). I also have origin stories, backstories that really serve no purpose for the story other than for my own personal amusement.

I feel a story will tell you when it’s ready to be written.  It goes from images and ideas, to characters, settings, and names, to scenes with action and dialogue. It’s usually around then that the call to begin writing (an outline, character sketches or the first draft) comes or maybe sooner, depending on the writer.

Don’t rush it. It’ll suck otherwise. But don’t let it burn either.

I know of stories, awesome stories or ideas for stories I still want to work on someday that I’ve lost because I never took the next step and wrote some of it down. It boiled over and became lost in my jumble of memories.

And there you have it more or less. Everything you need to know about plotting. The basic of the basic. And sometimes, basic is good.

If you’re also a writer, what have you learned about plotting thus far in your career or if you’re taking a writing course, what are you learning now?

If you’re not a writer, when it comes to stories you read, what types of stories do you enjoy? Full of cliffhangers? Fast paced or slow paced?

 

(LOOKING BACK:

The goals I had set in November are coming along nicely. I’m on track with BEASTS and the novel course; currently working through the orientation process with Remilon a writing job; and I’ve gotten more serious with practicing art thanks to the Crimson Daggers website.  So far so good).

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