Monthly Archives: September 2010

Novel Plot Outlining

I’ve been hacking away at my novel/s, and have found myself stumbling over the same problem again and again; Plot Outline.

In the past, I have usually sat down and just hammered out my stories, having a vague idea of where I want to go with the plot, who the characters are, how many of them there are, and how the novel will finish.  So far I’ve written 5 or 6 first drafts in this manner, but they need a lot of work to get to the publication stage. 

Where the wheels fall off the wagon is when the the story deviates, or starts to sound disjointed, or scattered, and some of the characters are too lifeless, too cut and paste. 

And this is particularly evident when I’m editing.  All the plot potholes are suddenly revealed, and I end up starting to re-write the whole thing from scratch… not fun, and I usually struggle to keep going. 

So I have all these unfinished (yet brilliant!) stories piling up, and I’m starting new ones which will no doubt end up on the unfinished pile in basically the same state as all the others.  What I’ve been looking for is a plot structure device which is simple to remember and use, and is the correct shaped skeleton to hang the flesh of the story on.  I had come up with one of my own, which was OK-ish, but the other night I stumbled across this link, and all the ducks lined up:  http://www.screenplaymastery.com/structure.htm

Using this structure while I’m outlining has so far proved worthwhile.  The story stays on track, and I’m able to go slightly off kilter while following an interesting idea, story plot twist, without compromising the whole novel like I’d done in the past… especially like the time I was halfway through a novel and realised that I’d changed the focus away from the lead character and his message, to the story of one of the bit players who was a real ‘go getter’ and his much more interesting life 🙂

So, if you’re a fellow Scribbler, and struggle with outlining, then I can’t recommend this site highly enough.  And if you do use it, let me know how you went.

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Fish ‘n Kids

Some years ago, Big Mate and I were enjoying a few social drinks and recalling the various fish we’d caught over the years.  As the port flowed, the fish got bigger, the lines lighter, and the struggles to land them more heroic.  Unfortunately, the two little girls listening on believed every word. 

Early next morning I surfaced feeling crook as a dog, possibly due to something dodgy I’d eaten the night before.  The last thing I wanted to hear was my children begging me to take them fishing.  Resolving that I shouldn’t have to suffer alone I called Big Mate, but he wasn’t answering, and Long Suffering Wife had decided it was her turn for a sleep in.  Good for them.

Popping a couple of headache tablets, I collected the fishing gear and headed off to Pat’s Bait and Tackle.  I bought the bait, while Pat gave the girls some good fishing advice, then quietly slipped me a hot tip on the best place to take them so they wouldn’t get too bored.  To this day I don’t know if he actually felt sorry for me, or if he was trying to hook a couple more young customers.

Anyway, we pulled up near a small wharf, whose location will remain a closely guarded secret, and within seconds long streams of fishing line were tangled all the way from the car to the jetty.

I needed the many arms of Vishnu in order to keep up with the continuous re-baiting and de-tangling process, but then the tide, and our luck turned; The Littlest Princess caught a decent sized whiting, and while I was grappling with it, the Middle Princesses’ rod bent over like it had snagged a passing submarine.

She stubbornly hung on, and my mouth fell open as a large parrot fish surfaced.  Grunting from the effort, the little tacker hauled it in, and, when the fish hit the wharf, I pounced and wrestled it into the esky.  Clapping them both on the back, I uttered every fisherman’s favourite words, “They’re keepers!”

Parrot fish dinners have been a bit thin on the ground since, but years from now, I’m sure that two tipsy ladies will be telling their children about the time they each landed their first big fish in Auckland Creek while their hung-over father slept in the car.

Well, fishermen will stretch the truth a little…

Farewell Pat.

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Scary Hairy

Dear Reader, gaze upon my photograph and note the unruly mop of hair settled like a furry jelly fish atop my head.  I’ve often been asked why I didn’t brush my hair, or get a haircut before the shot, and the sad truth is; I had.  It’s the price I’m paying for clinging onto a long dead fashion.

Long hair was part of the uniform of my youth; along with denim jackets, beaded necklaces, gym boots, and tight, flared jeans.  A uniform utterly unsuitable for Gladstone’s sub-tropical climate.  But we boys were so determined to look ‘cool’ that we were willing to suffer heat-stroke if necessary.

In order to preserve the next generation of layabouts, our parents would frequently round us up, and drag us kicking and screaming to the hairdressers.  And many a shattered hairdresser grumbled that cutting my wiry locks was like trying to hack through an inner spring mattress with a butter knife.

Several unfortunate wretches though, were hauled off to the barbers’ shop, the place where ‘cool’ looks were terminated.  And there was one old barber in town I tried to avoid.  He’d stand like a wizened sentinel outside Lavers’ Sports store in Goondoon Street, greeting passers-by with a friendly comment, or a cheery wave, but whenever he spotted me, his eyes would narrow and his fingers would start twitching.

As I wandered about the store, pawing at the cricket bats and soccer balls, he’d ask, “Wanna haircut son?” and point at the shrubbery on my head.  “No thanks,” I’d mumble, and quickly shuffle off to savour the aroma of a new can of tennis balls.

He’d loiter nearby, possibly fighting an overwhelming urge to grip me in a headlock and shear off my shaggy mop.  I’m forever grateful he didn’t.

Time marched on, and the barber and the sports shop disappeared, along with many other things that didn’t survive the 1980’s, like flares, long hair and my flat stomach.  Today’s young men actually want short hair and long shorts?!  Now, I’ll admit it’s a sensible fashion choice for our hot climate, but I don’t think it’s ‘cool’ looking; though I’m sure it would warm the old barber’s heart.

And as you can see from my photograph, I’m obviously hoping for the wheel to turn again, and soon, before I go bald and start ridiculing those young folk with their long unkempt hair.

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Bedtime Story – Smith of Wootton Major

The Littlest Princess has been asking for more bedtime stories lately, so I’ve been digging through my library to find interesting yarns for her.  Last week I dug out my deluxe edition of JRR Tolkiens Poems and Stories, and read her, Smith of Wootton Major. 

It’s one of three great stories in the collection, and she enjoyed it very much.  JRR writes a good fairy, or faery, tale… along with epic heroic romances.  You can read a summary of the plot here:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smith_of_Wootton_Major 

When we’d finished reading, I tucked her in and wandered off to bed, and it struck me how similar my life was to that of Smith in a few ways.  He was a blacksmith, a fellow metal worker.  I sing while I work.  The majority of the things I make are made with a creative bent, and I’ve often gone off alone on trips, and come home more thoughtful, or ‘fay’, my eyes lit by an internal glow.  And rimmed with dark lines!  

I’ve had adventures that filled me with wonder, at times with terror, and sang, danced and laughed with friends, and at times, complete strangers.

Sometimes I too feel like my life has been ‘touched’ by a lucky star.

And along with the delight I see in a small girls eyes as I turn the pages, I can also see the light of that star shining in her as well.        

One day I’ll regretfully have to hand my ‘star’ on, but I think it will be in good hands…

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End Game

Watching recent financial trends is making me a little worried.  So worried in fact, that I’ve been considering converting all my shares into solid gold.  I wonder how much gold my one dollar and thirty five cents will buy these days?

Actually, I don’t have anywhere near that much money invested, because, as anyone who knows me will confirm, I’m no financial whiz.  But what I do know is, that where there is money, greed follows closely behind, and greedy people will do anything for more money; a lesson I learned from playing Monopoly as a lad. 

Monopoly was a great revealer of financial character.  The fun generally started with the punch-up over who got to be the race car.  Needless to say, the person who was satisfied with being the little Iron token was immediately treated like a doormat by all the other combatants.

Then there was the kid who always had to be the banker.  He was usually hopeless at sports, but harboured a secret desire to be popular, or failing that; ALL POWERFUL.  In short, the sort of person who grew up to be a ruthless dictator, a power crazed referee, or worse, a parking inspector.

So, while he was buying properties with feverish intensity, I’d be skidding my race car token around the board, making the appropriate accompanying noises, and quickly going broke.

The banker would do practically anything to keep the game going in order to maintain his control.  Even when the rest of us had no properties, or any hope of paying our rents, he’d create IOU’s on worthless bits of paper, or hand out free money in order to keep us from giving up in disgust and wandering off to play cricket.  If he was really desperate, he’d even let me crash my race car through his neatly stacked hotels.

And lately, watching Governments around the world borrowing ludicrous amounts of money, which they can’t possibly afford to pay back, I’ve got that familiar sinking feeling that the end of the global Monopoly game is nigh.  Sooner or later, a lot of countries are going to realise that their situation is utterly hopeless, then throw their hands in the air and go off and play cricket.

With that in mind, I’ll think I’ll invest my $1.35 with a dodgy cricket team, because ‘Bucks for Ducks’ appears to be the only solid gold investment left these days.

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How I Stay Motivated

In order to keep myself motivated, upbeat, and pushing on, I visit a few sites daily to keep my ‘Saw Sharpened’.  The following isn’t the full list, but these are the ones I hit regularly because they ‘call to me’, and they do the job when I need a shot in the arm 🙂  

Craig Harper http://www.craigharper.com.au/  :  funny, down to earth, and highly motivating.  Craig’s specialty is pushing his readers to think about their basic motivations for exercise, and pointing out some of the poorer decisions we make.  Over the years, he’s shared some funny, touching, and educational posts.  His site is full of great stuff, and all of it is communicated with a generous splash of larrikinism.

Brian Kim, who lives at, http://www.briankim.net/  :  Brian has some of the best posts on life change / direction I’ve ever read.  He has been sending me (and thousands of others as well) daily inspirational posts which are very helpful, and seem to hit the nail firmly on the head, eg: this one arrived the other day, and this is the nuts and bolts of it…

Enjoy the process.  You want the end result.  But if you’re not enjoying the process of getting to the end result, then there is a fairly good chance you’re not going to make it.

Tim Brownson  http://www.adaringadventure.com/ :  Tim is a Pom living in America ( I know, I know… but give him a go anyway ) and has written, what I think, are possibly the best, and funniest, two posts on following your dreams with your eyes wide open.  This was the first, http://www.adaringadventure.com/life-coaching/dont-just-follow-your-passion/ , and this one was popped up today, http://www.adaringadventure.com/life-coaching/would-you-work-for-minimum-wage/ , and is in a similar, practical, funny vein. 

BTW: If you feel like a real laugh, then read this post from the other day (it contains a sentence where Oprah use a swear words, so send the kiddies to their rooms first):  http://www.adaringadventure.com/controversial/7-things-that-should-be-banned-on-the-internet/

And then there is Seamus Anthony, who can be found here:  http://www.rebelzen.com/  Seamus is a muso living in Melbourne who has some interesting stuff on his site, but I’m mostly grateful to Seamus for finally settling the debate in my head re: Choosing my One Thing.  You are aware that most motivational types will advise to you nail ‘one thing’ and go for it.  But Seamus and I, share a common trait, we are Renaissance Men, or, Jacks of All Trades. People who love to do everything.  So, our ‘one thing’ is Be an Artists… writers, musicians, poets, dreamers, talkers, and most importantly doers. 

And speaking of ‘One Thing’, the term Renaissance People came from Barbara Sher http://www.barbarasher.com/, the first person who showed me that it was possible to dream and hope while working for a living.  My mother gave me one of Barbara’s books for my 30th birthday because she saw the title and said it reminded her of me:  “I Could Do Anything, If Only I Knew What It Was”.  I laughed when I read the title, but when I finished the book I was hooked.  Barbara’s books have inspired me to try writing, painting, and creating, and years later, I’m still going.  It’s a slow, slow, (oh God it’s slow) process but, at least I feel like I’m on the right path.  And it’s nice to know you’re not alone!     

As you can plainly see, I can’t stick to ‘one Guru’, I need a few to meet my needs.  And if you think about it, that’s the way life works.  People will come into your life for a reason, or a season.  Some will teach you one thing, others, many.  Some will support, others guide.  And, in turn, you will teach, guide, stretch, push, and help others.  

And in those times when self doubt, rejection, despair or hopelessness tries to drag me down, I turn to the sites above and usually they pick me up, dust me off, call me a sook ( um, that would be you Craig 🙂 ), make me laugh ( Timbo! ) then give me a gentle shove in the right direction.

Thanks folks.

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Oz Politics Dead in the Water

Recently a whale carcass washed up on Facing Island and, having never seen a whale up close, I thought I’d go and have a look, and maybe prod it a little with a stick.  Because lurking inside all men is a little kid with a ghoulish desire to poke dead things with a stick.

Then it dawned on me that I’d have to be crazy to go anywhere near the bloated, ponging thing, as every shark in the district was probably making a beeline to it for a free feed.  So I wheeled ‘Collapso’, my faithful tinny, back into the shed, put away my poking stick, then toddled off to vote.

Later, when I saw our Federal leaders’ dull, glazed eyes staring back at me from the posters on the school fence, I regretted not bringing my poking stick to the polling station.  Making my choice, I wondered who would win the political version of ‘Australia’s Got No Talent’.

We watched a DVD on election night, and before retiring to bed, checked the voting outcome.  Now while we weren’t surprised to see the results were so close that a winner couldn’t be called, I nearly had a heart attack when one commentator suggested that we may have to go back to the polls.

Two weeks later, and the Bloodnut and the Wingnut are still frantically kissing the bottoms of the ex-Peanuts, hoping to get the numbers to lead.  And while both the big parties appear to want more rich foreigners to invest in new mines and factories, and stop poor foreigners from boating into our waters, they also have to bargain with the Gumnuts, who seem to want to shut down our existing mines and factories, and stop us from boating about in our waters. 

Meanwhile the State Labor party held an emergency caucus meeting to discuss the leadership and future direction of the party.  Recent polls confirm that Anna ‘Sell Off’ Bligh is on the nose and some very big, and hungry, sharks are circling.

So as the political tide ebbs and flows, I’m sure that more bloated carcasses will soon be drifting onto our shores.  And some of them may be like KRudd’s political remains, which washed up looking heavily pre-poked, smelling very fishy and leaving most of us keen to avoid the stench of politics altogether.

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