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Tag: Story

Dead Giveaway (WIP-5)

Previously: Dead Giveaway (WIP-4)

…After a brief pause, Henry said, “Miles, can I ask you a personal question.”

“Most certainly Henry, ask away.” Miles said without hesitation.

“Do you remember when you died?”


Miles stared at Henry for a long minute. With a slight nod he began.

“Father was an educated man, but he wanted to set up his own homestead. After John Eliot built an Indian missionary church right near here by the river,” Miles said pointing west towards the Merrimack River, “father decided it was safe enough to bring us out to the frontier and build a farm.”

Miles sat in the chair near the window.

“We had a hundred acres that spanned from up here right down to the river. It was a fair bit up from the Namoskeag falls, but there was still plenty of fish. We moved here when I was 12, and we worked the land. We had good relations with the Penacook, and traded with them. Some of them would sup with us from time to time. Everything was good for a spell.”

Miles stared out the window. He had a far away look, like he was somewhere else.

“We started hearing stories from fur traders and some of the Penacook about attacks down in southern parts of Massachusetts. An Indian named Metacom started an insurrection. At first we were not worried as the attacks were far away. One day a trader told us the entire town of Deerfield had been burnt to the ground. Many were dead and others were taken prisoner. As the attacks increased and spread out, we received news less frequently. We did not know much of what was happening outside our settlement, but the feeling was that it was getting worse.”

Miles hands were clenched into fists, and he folded his arms across his body. His right leg bobbed up and down rapidly. When he looked up, Henry could see real fear in Miles’s eyes.

“It was early one morning during the harvest. The light was just coming up, and father, Joseph, Edward and I were getting ready to go to work in the fields. Father and Edward were already outside, when I heard a commotion and yelling. Then came shots. Father ran into the house shouting, ‘Indians, grab the guns.’ Mother was shouting. ‘Where’s Edward!’ but father didn’t answer. He grasped his musket and handed me another. We could hear whooping and hollering getting closer. It was all happening so fast.

I rushed outside ahead of father and Joseph. A figure was moving at speed in my direction. I just pointed and fired. I couldn’t see if I hit him through the smoke. There was yelling and gunfire all over. I began reloading in earnest when something pounded into my chest and caused me to fall flat on my back. I couldn’t catch my breath. I could hear my brother yell, then scream. Then I heard my sister Elizabeth screaming nearby. I tried getting up but could barely raise my head. Suddenly an Indian, an Abenaki I think, stood over me sneering. He carried a stone club. Looking into his cold, black eyes, I could see no mercy there, no compassion. He swung his arm and all went black.”

Henry stared as Miles looked back out the window, hugging himself and rocking back and forth.

“When I awoke, I at first did not recognize where I was. It was very overcast, the clouds were heavy with rain. I stood before a smoldering ruin. It was some minutes before I realized it was all that remained of our home. In front of the house lay my mother in the grass face down. She was bloodied and still. My father had been stripped of his clothes and his chest and belly had been split open. I could see the bodies of my brothers near the now empty animal pens and smoldering barn. My sisters Elizabeth and Grace were nowhere to be seen. I looked back at the woods from whence the Indians came. The forest was now silent and dark.”

Miles looked back at Henry again, his eyes large and dark. There would be tears if he could cry. His leg stopped moving, and he unfolded his arms and they lay limp at his sides.

“Another body lay at my feet. It was a stranger. He lay on his back, his arms and legs splayed out. I could not recognize who he had been as his face and head had been knockt bloody. His feet were bare. His shoes and stockings had been taken. His once white shirt was soaked in blood, and he wore brown trousers just like mine. He also had a scar on his lower right leg just like mine, which I received after a mishap with an axe when I was younger.” Miles whispered resting his chin on his chest, and lifting his hands to his face examining them.

“My thought was the stranger had come to help us, but had died in the process. I wandered about the area calling for help. None came. Another day passed, or two I think, when a group of Christian Penacook Indians arrived. I knew some of them. One was named Daniel. I tried speaking to him, but he ignored me as if I were not there. The Indians gathered up my parents, my brothers, and the stranger and buried them together not far from where the house had been. They laid rocks upon the grave to keep animals from digging them up. A crude wooden cross was fashioned, and a prayer was said. Then they left.”

“That stranger was you wasn’t it Miles?” Henry said.

Miles just nodded, still looking down. “My family now lies in the back corner of your yard, beneath the fence and your shed.” Miles finished, and lifted his head to look directly at Henry.

His mouth agape, Henry said, “You and your family are buried in our back yard?…”

Dead Giveaway (WIP-4)

Previously: Dead Giveaway (WIP-3)

Henry headed up the stairs to his room to think about doing homework, but intending to read or play a video game. On the landing he turned down the hall to his bedroom, but his way was blocked by a shadowy figure.

“Hey you little booger, were you in my room touching my stuff again?” His fourteen-year-old sister Tessa said. Better known as ‘Tessa the Terrible’.

“No, I haven’t.” Henry said.

“That’s bull, things in my room’s been moved, which means you were in there going through my stuff. You tried taking my game controller didn’t you? It wasn’t where I left it yesterday.” Tessa said.

“How could I? I just got home. Maybe Dad was looking for something, or maybe it was Mom, she was just home for a bit.” Henry said.

“Dad, never goes in my room, and Mom…”She trailed off, then her face went white. She stood over Henry. “If I find out you were in my room,” she said jabbing a finger in Henry’s chest with each word, “I’m gonna kick your ass.” and shoved him against the wall as she went back to her room at a run.

“Seems to be the theme today,” Henry mumbled to himself as he entered his room. He dropped his backpack on his bed and went to the desk facing the window. He turned on his Kindle Fire, and tapped the screen to open up the latest ebook in The Apocalypse Weird series.

In no time the story pulled his attention and imagination into to the latest adventure. The ‘Theater of the Mind’ began playing its mind movie…

“Why do you let your sister treat you in such a manner?” Came a voice from behind him in the quiet of his room.

Henry jumped, bobbling his Kindle before dropping it onto the desk. “Dammit Miles, do you always have to do that?” He said spinning around in his chair. “You scared the heck out of me.”

“You will have to excuse me, it’s not like I can knock on the door now can I?” Miles said with a smile.

“No I guess you can’t.” Henry said.

“But I can muster the energy to move some of Tessa’s things about.” Miles said, a wide grin across his pale face.

“It was you?” Henry said,  with a tone of astonishment. “How?…why?…you just need to stop doing that. I’m the one who get’s in trouble for it. She’s just going to blame me.”

“Very well, very well, I’ll not do it again.” Miles said giggling. “But it is amusing to see her bewilderment.”

“I’ll bet,” Henry said, himself now laughing, and then he stopped. “Wait, what other times are you in my sister’s room looking at her?”

Miles was still giggling, then it became a smile, and then the smile disappeared. His jaw dropped open and eyes widened when it dawned on him what Henry meant by the question. “Henry, I take exception, I would never look in on your sister when she is indecent. I am no scoundrel. What sort of man do you think I am?”

“Oh don’t sound so annoyed I was just asking; besides you’re not a man you’re a boy like me, a little older maybe but still a boy.” Henry said.

“I’m quite a bit older than you when you think about it.” Miles said. “That reminds me, have you spoken with your father yet, about the history of this house?”

“No, not yet. He’s busy doing research for his book. He doesn’t like to be distracted from what he’s working on. If I ask him it’ll just interrupt the work on his book. First he’ll look into the history of this house, then he’ll to look into the history of the neighborhood, and then the entire city.” Henry said.

“Good, then he will learn the truth about the earliest settlers up here, and find out what really happened to them.” Miles said.

After a brief pause, Henry said, “Miles, can I ask you a personal question.”

“Most certainly Henry, ask away.” Miles said without hesitation.

“Do you remember when you died?”



Dead Giveaway (WIP-3)

Previously: Dead Giveaway WIP-2

Henry stood rooted to the ground in abject fear, not sure what to do, not sure he could move if he wanted to. Then the dark specter began to shimmer and shrink into itself. It didn’t sink into the ground, but imploded into the very fabric of space.

Henry stared at the spot where it had been. After a moment he could once again feel the heat of the sun, fear melted away, and the incident began to feel like a hallucination or a dream, but deep down he knew it wasn’t.

Even though the specter was gone, Henry crossed to the other side of the street giving the wooded lot a wide berth. He ran the rest of the way home.


Henry’s mom was in the kitchen making something to eat when he came through the front door.

“You’re late,” his mom said, “what was the hold up.”

“Geez mom, it was only a few minutes. It was nothing; I was just talking to an old lady.” Henry said.

“You remember what I said about talking to strangers.” His mother said her brow furrowed.

“It’s okay mom, she didn’t pose any danger. It was an old lady.” Henry said.

“Old, young, man, woman – it doesn’t matter. Anyone and I mean anyone can be dangerous. Who was this woman and where was she?” his mother, Olivia said.

“It was just a couple of blocks from here. Her name is Mrs. Parker, and I’m telling you she’s nice. She stayed at least ten feet away from me the whole time.” Henry said.

Mrs. Parker? Olivia thought. A common enough name, but still it raised a mental flag. Why she couldn’t say.

“What were you making there?” Henry said, changing the subject.

This interrupted her thoughts, “Oh, I was just making you a snack. I have to go back to work. Your father’s in his office working. He’ll be making dinner tonight, but you know when his door’s closed it’s anyone’s guess when it’ll be open again. So, I made you a tuna wrap to get you by.” Olivia said, as she placed the small plate on the dining table.

“You came home just for that?” Henry said.

“Not just that. It got so warm today; I came home to put on something lighter to finish out the rest of my shift. Okay kiddo, I gotta go. Make sure you do your homework and leave it for me to check when I get home. Are you planning on going anywhere?” Olivia said.

“No, but Zeke might come over. We’ll either shoot some hoops here, or play video games. Is that okay?” Henry said.

“Yes, but remember, don’t disturb your father. I’ll see you tonight honey. Love you.” Olivia said as she bent over to kiss her son’s head.

“Love you too Mom,” Henry said, as his mother headed for the front door. “Oh Mom?”


“You forgot your badge…I mean your shield on the counter.”

Olivia turned, and saw it. With lips tight, she stepped purposefully to the counter where she laid her gold shield when she came home to change. She checked her back holster to be sure she didn’t forget her gun too.

“You’re pretty observant little man,” Olivia said. “Perhaps you’ll make detective one day too.”

“I’d rather be a scientist I think.” Henry said.

“You’d make a good one too,” Olivia said opening the front door, “love you kiddo.”

“Love you too mom, be careful.”

Writing Great Dialogue – Part 1

I was going to put together an article about eliminating dialogue tags in your story, but remembered where I originally learned of it myself.

This first part of “Dialogue and the Art of War” comes from Randy Ingermanson’s Advanced Fiction E-zine, of which I have subscribed to for the last few years.

Part 1 – covers Poor Dialogue
Part 2 – will go over what Sharp and Snappy Dialogue looks like
Part 3 – discusses Dialogue Tags
Part 4 – Point of View
Part 5 – The Subtlety of Subtext

Enjoy this great series of articles:

Dialogue and the Art of War

Poor Dialogue

If you write fiction, then you have probably gone through a stage where you tried your best to make your dialogue sound like Real Conversation.

The problem is that Real Conversation is boring! Go ahead. Test me on this. Next time you’re in the subway or on the bus or in line at the supermarket, eavesdrop on the conversations around you. If you’re listening in on teenage girls, you’ll get something like this:

“And then he said, ‘No way!’ And I’m like, ‘Yes way.'”



“So whatcha gonna do?”

“I dunno.”

We interrupt this wretched Real Conversation now, before you die of sleep apnea. Let’s tune in now on two middle-aged guys talking sports:

“Could be the year for the Dodgers.”

“Yeah, maybe. If they can get a decent #4 in their
pitching rotation.”

“Ain’t gonna happen. They’ll have to do it with

“So whaddaya think about the steroid thing?”

“Terrible. The commissioner shoulda done something ten
years ago.”

Again, this Real Conversation works better than Sominex at putting you out. If your fiction sounds like this kind of Real Conversation, then you are slitting your novel’s throat.

So what’s a writer to do?

Well, duh! It’s obvious! Don’t write Real Conversation.
Write Dialogue!

You’ll notice that I just capitalized the word Dialogue. I didn’t capitalize it at the beginning of this article, but I capitalized it here. I did that to make it clear that in this context it is an RTT (Randy’s Technical Term). The term Real Conversation is also an RTT.

I better define those two RTTs. Real Conversation is that informational sort of back-and-forth that you saw in the two snippets above. There is no conflict in Real Conversation, and that’s the problem. Fiction is about conflict. More precisely, fiction is about characters in conflict.

Now I’ll say it again: Don’t write Real Conversation.
Write Dialogue.

Real Conversation is RARELY about conflict. Think about the Real Conversations you’ve had lately. You’ll find they fall into various boring categories like these:

a) People making small talk to pass the time.
b) People exchanging information.
c) People avoiding conflict.
d) People trying to solve a problem.

Why are these boring? Simple. Look for the conflict in each one:

Small talk has zero conflict. Don’t put small talk into your fiction! It’s a killer.

Exchanging information also usually has no conflict. If one of the parties is trying to HIDE information, then there is conflict. If you MUST write a Dialogue in which information gets exchanged, then make the informer do his best to avoid informing the informee.

Avoiding conflict also has no conflict, unless you subtext the conflict. See, for example, just about any scene in PRIDE AND PREJUDICE. If you like subtexted conflict (and I do), you’ll love Jane Austen.

There CAN be conflict when people are trying to solve a problem, depending on whether the problem is easy or hard (and whether one of the players isn’t too keen on the getting the problem solved). If you’re going to solve a problem in Dialogue, then make it a nasty,
vicious, horrible problem. Or make one of the players an obstructionist who would find it disastrous for the problem to actually BE solved.

The strange thing is that every author is tempted to put some Real Conversation into their novel, especially early in the story before the characters have figured out what the conflict is about. There’s a remarkable example of deadly dull Real Conversation in RED STORM RISING, by Tom Clancy and Larry Bond.

The book opens with an exciting sequence in which Islamic terrorists destroy a Soviet oil refinery, drastically cutting Soviet oil production (and eventually leading up to World War III). Meanwhile, over in the US, we meet Our Hero, Bob Toland, who hasn’t quite figured out that he’s the star of an international bestseller yet. Bob is engaging in some truly wretched Real Conversation, which I quote here verbatim:

Bob Toland frowned at his spice cake. I shouldn’t be eating dessert, the intelligence analyst reminded himself. But the National Security Agency commissary served this only once a week, and spice cake was his favorite, and it was only about two hundred calories. That was all. An extra five minutes on the exercise bike when he got home.

“What did you think of that article in the paper, Bob?” a co-worker asked.

“The oil-field thing?” Toland rechecked the man’s security badge. He wasn’t cleared for satellite intelligence. “Sounds like they had themselves quite a fire.”

“You didn’t see anything official on it?”

“Let’s just say that the leak in the papers came from a higher security clearance than I have.”

“Top Secret–Press?” Both men laughed.

“Something like that. The story had information that I haven’t seen,” Toland said, speaking the truth, mostly. The fire was out, and people in his department had been speculating on how Ivan had put it out so fast.
“Shouldn’t hurt them too bad. I mean, they don’t have mi11ions of people taking to the road on summer vacations, do they?”

“Not hardly. How’s the cake?”

“Not bad.” Toland smiled, already wondering if he needed the extra time on the bike.

Randy sez: Oh, Lordy, Lordy! Spice cake? Exercise bike? Where is a mean old editor with a blue pencil when you need him? This Real Conversation sucks, to be perfectly blunt. There is no Dialogue here, no conflict. There is a hint that maybe Toland knows something that he’s not telling, but it’s so far submerged that it’s useless.
I remember reading this book when it first came out. The first scenes read so fast I could hardly flip the pages fast enough. Then I got to this scene and WHACK! It felt like I was swimming in sand. There is NOTHING go on here! Spice cake? An overweight NSA analyst? Journalist jokes? Please, Tom, give us some Dialogue here!

And what’s the cure for this scene, you may be asking? Simple. Cut it. There is no hope for a scene like this. No conflict. No opposing interests. No nothing. Neither character really gives a rip about this dialogue, so why should the reader? Scissor this monstrosity right out of the manuscript and you have a better novel.

Luckily for Tom, he already had about a billion fans from his previous book, THE HUNT FOR RED OCTOBER. Plus this novel began with some serious zing. But what if this was Tom’s first novel? What if he’d started out the book with this Real Conversation? Poor Tom would have sunk like an Elbonian sub.

Let me say it straight. Dialogue is war. There is never an excuse for writing Real Conversation that has no conflict in it. Such informational tripe is not Dialogue. Slash it.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s perfectly legitimate to write Dialogue that ALSO transmits information or reveals character or backstory or the story world. But all Dialogue had better have conflict in it FIRST. That means two characters talking who have opposing interests.

If you look at the Real Conversation above, you see that that’s exactly what’s missing. Bob Toland’s interest is the spice cake. (And how pitiful is that?)The unnamed co-worker’s interest is to make small talk about the fire, which he doesn’t think is serious. (And how much more pitiful is that?) These are different interests, but they are not in opposition. No conflict.
No Dialogue.

If you’re Tom Clancy, you can get away with this except that you will still be mocked in the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine if you write this badly). But you aren’t Tom. Neither am I. Write Dialogue, not Real Conversation.

If you have my Fiction 101 CD/MP3, you’ll be delighted beyond words to be reminded that I discuss the fundamentals of Dialogue in lecture #6. If you don’t have my Fiction 101 CD/MP3, I invite you to listen to lecture #1 for free on my web site:


Award-winning novelist Randy Ingermanson, the Snowflake Guy,” publishes the Advanced Fiction Writing E-zine, with more than 15,000 readers, every month. If you want to learn the craft and marketing of fiction, AND make your writing more valuable to editors, AND have FUN doing it, visit

Download your free Special Report on Tiger Marketing and get a free 5-Day Course in How To Publish a Novel.

Tomorrow: “Sharp and Snappy Dialogue”

Still Crankin’

Although I smashed through the 50k goal this past Saturday (earlier than ever before), and with a current word count of 67,292 – I’m still not done writing the story.

I’m continually amazed how smoothly things are going and how much writing is getting done on a day-to-day basis. There is, however, a real danger which has raised its ugly head. As I continue writing and developing the story along the lines originally outlined, there has been a series of nagging, persistent thoughts entering my head on what I want to add and change in the story.

I’ve been fighting to resist these thoughts and urgings as it would totally mess me up if I try and implement them now. What I have been doing is jotting these ideas down on a notepad – so they don’t vaporize into the ether – because they are actually pretty good and can really enhance the experience of the story.

So it looks as though I’ll be ready to dive into a first revision as soon as I’ve completed this first draft. I just hope the enthusiasm and energy I have now lasts through at least the first revision.

NaNoWriMo 2007!

I am back and gearing up for NaNoWriMo 2007.

I am trying to decide between an Adventure/Suspense and a Horror story. I’ve written both and you’d be surprised on how similar they can be. The setting is on a South Pacific island where a team is exploring a complex of caves, built by the Japanese Imperial Army during WWII. The MC and team are looking for fabled gold hordes that were plundered from all over Asia by the Japanese Army. I am on the fence on whether to follow an adventure line with this or that the team uncovers an unholy evil instead of the gold.

I am outlining a series of conflict/resolutions for each story line and I guess I’ll go with the one that’s most gripping.


I’m in the throes of making up my mind on which story genre to write in – Action/Adventure or Horror for NaNoWriMo.

I have an action story all set to go, and ideas for a couple of others. Then I recently came up with a horror story idea. I was further pulled into the horror genre (my old fav) when I picked a copy of ‘World War Z’ on recommendations from the NaNo forums. This fed my own idea for a “living dead” story.

Not having a lot of time to read during the day, I sometimes create a break for myself and read in my car. I find a nice quiet place, park, crack open the book and tear through pages for 30 minutes.

One of my favorite places is an old cemetery in my town. There is a small parking area right next to the cemetery, well off any main road. During the week there’s no one else there and it’s very peaceful.

This is where I was yesterday. I sat alone in my car, facing sugar maples afire with orange-red and yellow leaves; ancient, weatherworn headstones leaning at odd angles were off to my right.

At one point, I looked up from my book and noticed the sky had a bruised look; brown leaves blew around in gusts of a light wind-driven rain. The low setting sun shot deceptively warm light against the maples, but the graves stood in deepening shadows. It was a perfect New England autumn moment.Then it dawned on me, here I sat in increasing gloom, next to a cemetery reading a book about the walking dead.

How creepy is that!


Salem, Mass – 2006

This past weekend, I took my daughter and two of her friends to Salem, Massachusetts – site of the (infamous) 1692 Witch Trials. I thought the trip would provide me with an inspirational jump start to my creativity going into NaNoWriMo.

Almost 400 years-old, Salem is a beautiful New England seaside town crowded with antique homes steeped in history. Ironically, it is also home to more self-proclaimed witches than any other place in the U.S.

Since I love history and early American architecture, I was in my element. As the girls went from shop-to-shop, I marveled at the old buildings surrounding me. They were painted in authentic early American colors of dark and mid-range browns, grays, greens and yellows – but most were white. The styles ranged from early colonial to federal, Greek revival to Victorian. I could feel their character and their history.

We visited a haunted house with at best mediocre effects, but the girls got a thrill out of it anyway. We then went over to the Peabody-Essex Museum to go to another haunted house attraction that was supposed to be much better. What we found was a crowded market with vendors selling everything form devil horns, to crystals and talisman’s, t-shirts to buttered popcorn.

There wasn’t a store or kiosk I passed that didn’t have some sort of reference to a witch on a broom for sale in some form or another. Suddenly, it struck me how wrong all this was. How all these people, and the town, popularize and profit from the tragic events of 1692.

They advertise as though there were real witches here. There’s no mention of the fact that there was a gross miscarriage of justice, where 18 people were wrongly hanged by the town, and an 80 year-old man was crushed to death, and another four people died in prison. In addition, another 150 wrongly accused people were imprisoned – wrecking their lives and livelihood in the process.

I bet, that if I polled 100 people, that not one of them could tell me the name of even one of the victims that was murdered by Salem’s own townspeople. I’d also bet that most of them wouldn’t be able to tell me how the victims were killed. I’m sure many would proclaim they were “burned at the stake”, or drowned – as I have heard people say in the past when they referenced the “Salem Witches”.

I came to Salem for inspiration – I left in disgust and a little sad as I wondered what those poor souls would think of the spectacle their wrongful deaths had become.


Settled On A Story for NaNo 2006

Ah, Friday the 13th.

I should be writing a Horror story.

After writing several outline sketches for three stories, I’ve finally settled on one to write for NaNoWriMo 2006. I know how it begins and how it ends. I know the characters involved, and I know most of the events and actions that are to take place in the middle.

 The working title for the story is Circle of Vengeance

I won’t say much about it other than the genre is an Action/Suspense story. I was originally going to do something outside of my personal experiences, but feel I need to get this story out of me. It’s going to take me places I may not want to go, but go I will.


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