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Storytelling (Nostalgia ~ #13)

A short story, novella or full length novel often begins with a snippet of a story. Sometimes from your own past experiences, sometimes from others. Sometimes from a collage of different people melded into one. I just finished reading a 500 page novel that was born out of some brief family history of the author’s. The following memory came to me suddenly, about my Dad. Many of the subtle nuisances were lost on a child but now they make exquisite sense. 

My Dad was a ‘butcher’ his entire life. Beginning, I would assume as an apprentice when he was very young right up to being a civilian butcher on troop ships delivering men to the Korean Peninsula. (Civilian because he had lost sight in an eye during WWII and couldn’t re-enlist). After he returned and twenty years of working for someone else he bought a small butcher shop. Today his shop would have a fancier name like John’s Custom Meats, but back then I believe the signage said, ‘Meat Market’. Super Markets were just catching on but people were suspicious and preferred the specialty shops and small grocer so he did fairly well.  His work day would begin at 6a.m. and the shop would close at 6p.m. He would work another 1-2 hours moving all the trays of meat

 from the case into the cooler for the night. Then he would meticulously clean the inside of the cases. He scrubbed the top of the butcher’s block with salt and saw dust, using a wire brush. When all was clean he would collect the saw dust from the floor and replace it with fresh. 

Back in the 1950’s the meat cases were made mostly of wood, stretching the horizontal length of the front of the store. Glass in front and accessed in the back by wood-framed glass sliders.  Behind the counter was a large wooden butcher block table. But not the ‘butcher-block’ that we think of today. No, this table was made from one huge, square block of wood with legs attached. A saddle indent in the wood, on one side, was made from years of where my father (and the men he followed) stood and cut meat. The floor was covered with fresh saw-dust, changed out nightly. His knives, which no one else was allowed to touch, hung on a magnet strip on the side of the table. 

Weekly a truck would back up to the rear door of the butcher shop and my Dad would help off-load halves of a whole beef, and whole pig carcasses. Nothing was precut. My Dad would ‘break down’ the meat, cutting steaks (sirloin, rib-eye, T-bone, and Filet mignon), using a meat saw to go through bone. Racks of ribs and roasts, all cut by hand. Every left-over scrap of  beef was tossed into a bin (everything was stainless steel back then; no plastic was used). He began filling the cases with his beautiful cuts of meat. Next he would process the scraps of meat, collected earlier, through the grinder to make hamburger. (Hand cranked; he couldn’t afford electric saws or grinders back then.) There were only two grades; ‘hamburger’ (the cheapest filled with more fat and less meat) and ‘ground round’ (the leanest and most expensive.) The ground meat would fill long trays that fit inside the display case. When a customer asked for hamburger, my Dad would hand scoop one or two pounds from the tray, slap the meat into a sheet of waxed, white butcher paper and weigh it. He was never off on the weight and mostly put it on the scale for the customer’s benefit. If he had weighed heavy he never took away from the mound of meat; that would have been bad customer service in his view. In those days a butcher was allowed (by Federal regulations)  to sprinkle in a chemical that would ‘brighten’ yesterday’s hamburger that had turned a little brown. He would do this regularly and put it on ‘sale’ the next day.  

My mother would drive him to work and pick him up every night. As I mentioned, he was a veteran and had lost the sight in one eye during his time in the South Pacific, thus preventing him from driving. Frequently Mom and I would go early and help close up. Mom and Dad would also make their own sausage to sell. Using scraps of beef and pork they would make huge batches of ground meat, mixing in special spices. Placing a special tip on the grinder, they would attach a casing made of pig intestine on the end. They pressed the meat through the machine and into the casing, tying off  the lengths of sausages with a quick couple of twists of the casing.  

All the years I helped in the butcher shop I never saw my Dad dressed differently. Pure white t-shirt under a crisp white, short-sleeved dress shirt (ironed by my mother), blood stained white apron, with chino (kakis) pants. In the rear pocket was a pint of whiskey in a brown paper bag. His face was clean shaven, his fingers cracked and covered in small cuts. His hair neatly trimmed and slicked back with Brylcream. No matter what time of night we got home, my mother had dinner almost ready. Nothing left to do but ‘fry up the meat’. From the front door to the kitchen sink to wash up, to the dinner table to the couch was my father’s journey. The whiskey had navigated from the hip pocket to a glass sitting on the coffee table. Together we would watch boxing (my Dad’s passion) and shows from the 50’s:  Rawhide, Ed Sullivan, Ozzie and Harriet, What’s My Line, and Candid Camera. 

Now, with a few decades of life experiences behind me I realize my Dad was probably never without pain. Pain in his back from carrying sides of beef and long trays of meat. Working fourteen hour days. And the untreated, jungle rot (tropical ulcers) on his legs must have been excruciatingly painful by the end of each day. No wonder he lay flat on his back on the sofa, self-medicating with whiskey.

I’ll end this story with a funny anecdote.  My Dad hated the narrator for the Skippy Peanut Butter commercial on tv. This was before all of our electronic accessories  of today. But finally one day he happened to read an ad for a remote mute button. It attached to the tv by a cord that ran across the living room floor and ended in a small box with a mute button. Yes, that was it: an on and off button. It finally arrived in the mail and we hooked it up. That night, my Dad waited in anticipation for the Skippy commercial to appear during our nightly shows. The the minute the commercial began my Dad gleefully pressed the mute button and yelled at the tv, “Take that, you S.O.B!” 
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Interview with Author, David Poyer (part 2)

with wife, Lenore

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

DP. Oh sure. ‘What planet am I on?” Hours will go by and I am just not there at all in the chair. The same experience I hope my readers will savor!

Q. Are you working on something now? If so tell us about it.

DP. Always! An article for SHIPMATE magazine on students called to the battlefield from the classroom . . . the new literary review . . . a creepy short story for the next NIGHT BAZAAR anthology . . . a new Dan Lenson novel for next year . . . consulting and assisting my students in their novels. And of course, doing promotion for the latest book, OVERTHROW, the concluding volume of my War with China series. There’s no shortage of work! But it’s all fascinating and I really enjoy what I do. Especially helping younger writers. I only started teaching ten years ago, and am surprised how much satisfaction there is in helping someone else succeed.

Q. When did you begin to write seriously?

DP. In 1976, beginning with short stories.

Q. How long after that were you published?

DP. not that long . . . maybe a year. But it took four years to publish my first novel. That was WHITE CONTINENT, an adventure story that today might be called a techno thriller.

Q. Do you think we will see, in our lifetime, the total demise of paper books?

DP. I sure don’t. The sales numbers on those are going up again after a decline in recent years. EBook sales are down. Audio book sales are up. But no, we will not see paper books go away.

Q. What makes a writer great?

DP. So many things! Sympathy, deep craft, huge intelligence, deep feeling, an ear for language . . . I could go on and on. World building. The ability to truly see. The ability to truly care. The passions . . . rage, regret, vengeance, love. Jonathan Swift’s “burning indignation.” We’re not going to see any of those from AIs anytime soon!

Q. and the all-important:What does the process of going from “no book” to “finished book” look like for you?

DP. Like a long sea voyage, with lots of planning followed by setting sail; then changes of the wind, challenges along the way, port calls, near-disasters, interspersed with periods of calm sailing. Occasional mutinies by the characters. Menaces from pirates. Then the channel to the final destination opens ahead, and there’s a welcoming crowd waiting on the pier . . . my longtime fans, who sometimes take me to task, but who more often cheer me on and make me feel I’m doing some good in the world. I owe them a lot, and they know who they are!

Q. How has your life experiences influenced your writing?

DP. I would think that’s pretty obvious!

Q. What’s your down time look like?

DP. Sailing, coaching, reading, doing errands on my motorcycle . . . I live in a quiet rural seaside county in Virginia. Also, I travel. This last year we journeyed through seven countries by plane, bus, and rail, both for research, personal reasons, and to accompany Lenore to and from a writing residency in Schwandorf, Bavaria. I don’t think we’ll schedule that many at once again for a while! But we might try for Morocco later this year. Maybe.

Q. Have you or do you want to write in another genre`?

DP. So far I’ve written historicals, eco-thrillers, science fiction, sea novels, military fiction and nonfiction, lots of nonfiction biography and travel, and the occasional screenplay. I’d like to try a memoir one day, but not soon!

Note to Self: (a life lesson you’ve learned.)

DP. Be mindful, be here for each day, and tell those you love how much you love them. None of it will last forever! Which should make it all the sweeter, no?

Did you miss Part I of our Interview? Click here
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Available now!

 

 

 

 

 

Interview with Naval Captain, turned Author, David Poyer

Naval Captain DAVID POYER grew up in Pennsylvania and attended the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis. His naval service included duty in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, Arctic, Caribbean, and ports around the world. His nearly fifty published books include THE DEAD OF WINTER, WINTER IN THE HEART, AS THE WOLF LOVES WINTER, and THUNDER ON THE MOUNTAIN. His latest is OVERTHROW . His work has been translated into Japanese, Dutch, Hungarian, and Serbo-Croatian.

Poyer holds a master’s degree from George Washington University and has taught or lectured at Annapolis, Flagler College, and other institutions around the country. He has been a visiting writer/writer in residence at Flagler and Annapolis. His fiction has been required reading in the U.S. Naval Academy.

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing? Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DP. I’ve written just about everywhere . . . aboard ship, in bars, in offices, on residencies abroad . . . anywhere with a pen or a keyboard. These days I usually write in my custom-built office, which has large windows with a view out over the Chesapeake Bay. And lots of reference books!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DP. Uh, not really . . . not superstitious about that, no. I check the email, look over the news, and set to work!

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DP. One wall of my office is covered with typewriters. Manual typewriters, from all countries, that I’ve collected over the years. I came back from a research trip to Europe last year with five typewriters in a duffel bag…which interested the customs officials no end when they saw them on the X-rays!

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

DP. First thing in the morning works for me, when it’s quiet and not too much else has impinged on my day. I try to get at least a thousand words down, and then the rest of the day is mine to answer email, do research, or have fun!

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DP. Here’s what I emphasize to my creative writing students: I think procrastination or “block” is usually just the result of a failure to properly prepare. I go through a long process of imagining my characters, daydreaming about their scenes. Eventually, I generate a detailed chapter outline that extends all the way to the end of the novel. (Things change, natch, and the outline is fluid to accommodate gifts; but having the outline there in the morning in place of a blank page removes all my stress.) When I know what will probably happen next, there’s no reason at all not to be able to do my thousand words that day. And usually more!

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DP. They stem from various sources . . . some from people I knew . .. others are patterned after earlier fictional characters, especially in WHITENESS OF THE WHALE . . . and some spring fully born onto the page, like W. T. Halvorsen, who was a walk-on in DEAD OF WINTER but who took me through the next three books in the Hemlock County series. My wife says she’s often puzzled when I talk about my characters as if they’re people she should know! But then, she’s a novelist too, so she understands….

Q. What first inspired you to write?

DP. I tell my students at Wilkes, “One becomes a writer, not because one can, but because one must.” I realized very early, around age four, that writing was what I was sent here to do. And no matter what I did in between childhood and becoming a fulltime writer, that was preparation, rather than the main event.

Q. What comes first to you? The Characters or the Situation?

DP. Well, sometimes one, at other times the other. My continuing characters, such as Halvorsen, Dan Lenson, Tiller Galloway, usually find themselves confronted by ‘The Situation’, as you put it. Then they are called upon to react. Typically, things then get very dark. I mope around, trying to think of a way they can possibly escape. Eventually, I (or really, they) figure it out! Then all I have to do is craft the prose. Which is absorbing, too, in its way. The style of each of these series seems to differ. That, I think, is half organic and half from what my mentor Frank Green called a “felt knowledge.”

Q. Do you ‘get lost’ in your writing?

Join us for Part 2 of this griping interview next week
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Book Review ~~ The Country Guesthouse

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing5 out of five quills         Book Review

 

Every time I read the newest release in the Sullivan’s Crossroads series I think to myself, ‘This is the best book in the series’. Nothing has changed.

 

The Country Guesthouse is deliciously good. All the reoccurring characters from previous books in the series appear again. As the reader returns to the campground and country store once more, we pick up where we left off in the last book. Like I said, ‘delicious!’  There is a wonderful love story between a woman, a man, a boy and a dog. And who doesn’t love a love story with a few bumps in the road?

Lots of twists and turns in this story, which I won’t elaborate on since I don’t write spoilers. But suffice it to say, you will be rooting for the new lovers and the newly forged family all along the way. 

I highly recommend this book to my readers! 

Did you miss my Interview with Robyn Carr?
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Review: Christmas in Winter Valley by Jodi Thomas

 

4 out of 5 quills                     Book Review reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing

 

This story was perfect  reading for the holiday season. While it did rely heavily on readers knowing the back stories from the series (Random Canyon Romance) it was entertaining and charming. So many characters in this one, but my favorites were Coop, Tatum, Tye, Creed, Dani and of course the horses. I didn’t connect with the other brothers, Elliot and Griffin. They weren’t as well drawn as the others. 

While I enjoyed the story immensely, the whole thing felt rushed. I felt rushed. I wish there had been less story lines and more story. And my only real criticism was the need for the wacky half-cousins, trashing the house, getting drunk, (no character development); they were here, they were gone and they seemed superfluous to the story plot. (Delete key!) And Creed rashly hooking up with the redhead. He wouldn’t do that. He’s too careful about life.  

This is not to say I didn’t finish the book with relish and left wanting more. 

Did you miss my interview with this best selling author?
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!    December: Dervla McTiernan – January: David Poyer 
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Happy New Year!!

Petey watching Live PD

I’ll end the year with a little poetry about the love from dogs and affection from cats.  Don’t groan….ewww, poetry...I think you’ll find the poetry funny if you have either cats or dogs. I’m blessed with both.  Rescued of course. 

 

Molly & Barcode

Cat Love

Don’t ruffle my fur that direction! You’re doing it all wrong! I’ve got it looking just the way I want.

I love you but I’m very busy today.

Don’t move, this is my lap time and I’m very comfy.

Scratch right there, no a little more to the left, a little higher, to the right.

Petey & Barcode

Look what I’ve brought you–isn’t it beautiful? I killed it in the garden.

That’s what we’re having for dinner?

You need to work on how you pick your friends. I don’t like that one and besides he had the nerve to sit in my chair!

I could find a better human, you know, if I put in some effort…

But I guess you’ll do…for now.

Dog Love

Stack Dogs

Pet me, pet me, pet me! Oh boy! A butt rub!
I love you to the ends of the earth and beyond!

I’ll just lay here quietly, I won’t bother you, as long as I can touch you.

In memory….Gus

Throw the ball! Throw the ball!
Again! Again!

I love my dinner, you’re such a good mommy!

‘Walkie’, ‘go outside’, ‘go for a walk’, ‘let’s go pee-pee’. Yippee! Where’s my leash?

In remembrance, Sam

I love your friends. That one scratched my ears and told me I was a good dog.

You’re home! You’re home! Why were you gone so long….it doesn’t matter now…You’re home!

You’re the best human ever….I love you!

Fiona & Petey

Molly & Petey

Petey

Interview with ‘DownUnder’ author, Dervla McTiernan

Darvla was born and raised Irish. But moved to Perth, Western Australia in 2011 with her husband, their two-year-old little girl …and was 36 weeks pregnant the day they landed. She was a lawyer in Ireland but very burned out by the time they emigrated, and says she was, “keen never to practice law again”. When she went back to work, it was part-time, and eventually she started writing. Her first book, The Ruin, was published in 2018, with The Scholar following in 2019. My third book, The Good Turn, is out next year.

New study

Q. Where do you write? Do you have a special room, shed, barn, special space for your writing?  Or tell us about your ‘dream’ work space.

DM. I have a tiny study off the kitchen of our home, and most of the time that’s where I write. It’s small, but to me, just perfect and we just did a mini-renovation and now I really love it! Writing so close to where the kids spend a lot of their time is probably not ideal, but I have some excellent noise blocking headphones that take care of that!
When I started out we were living in a very small rental home with dodgy electrics – we couldn’t have the oven and the air con on at the same time or the whole system would trip. I used to write at a tidy corner of the kitchen table when the kids were in bed. The house was way too small for us so the detritus of the day inevitably surrounded me. I just had to learn to close my eyes to it all!

Q. Do you have any special rituals or quirks when you sit down to write? (a neat work space, sharpened #2 pencils, legal pad, cup of tea, glass of brandy, favorite pajamas, etc.)

DM. I am ridiculously picky about notebooks. I go through different phases but at the moment I like the A4 sized Clairefontaine notebooks and gel pens– I change colour when I start a new book. I usually write free hand for at least half an hour before I move to my computer. I write notes about the scene I’m planning on  writing that day. Thoughts about the characters and setting. What the characters know going into the scene, their mind-set, snippets of dialogue, all of that kind of thing. By the time I get started properly with fingers on the keyboard I usually have a pretty clear idea of where I’m going, which leaves me free to think about how I want to get there.

Before…

Q. Could you tell us something about yourself that we might not already know?

DM. Hmm. Tricky one! There are lots of things but it’s hard to think of something people might be interested in! I have a golden retriever, who lies outside my bedroom door every morning to guilt me into take her for a walk. She loves a good walk because she is ridiculously social and wants to chat with every human in the park and be generally admired. What she does not like to do is run. I’ve started running again for the first time in years (for running read *gentle stagger*) and she objects by lying down or dawdling along two hundred metres behind me. If I put her on the lead I have to tow her around like a little tow truck, and everyone in the park looks at me like I am cruelly punishing her. Then I let her off the lead and she spots a dog she likes and she’s off running like a crazy thing. It’s all very frustrating.

Q. Do you have a set time each day (or night) to write?

DM. I used to have a very strict routine – 8pm to 10pm every night, because I was working around kids and a day job. Now that I’m writing full time I generally write between 9.30am and 2 pm, and then again at night from 8pm for an hour or two. Not all of that will be active writing time. I have emails to deal with, of course, and the usual admin stuff that somehow manages to creep into my day despite my best efforts! And household tasks. But I will try to get a minimum of two hours active writing time a day and ideally that will be closer to four or five.

Q. What’s your best advice to other writers for overcoming procrastination?

DM. Respect the story and respect your instincts. If it feels wrong then maybe it’s time to backtrack and see if you lost the organic thread of the story somewhere. Or if your story is fine and your procrastination is just coming from that fear/avoidance place we all have, I think it can be useful to trick yourself into it. Make a really nice cup of tea, find some chocolate, sit down and tell yourself you’re just going to have fun for a while. Write in a notebook rather than on your computer. Write some random scene from later in your book. Do an exercise where you write your character first person if your book is usually third. Basically anything at all that feels more interesting than scary. Usually I find that within half an hour the fear is in my rearview mirror and I am writing again.

Q. Where/when do you first discover your characters?

DM. Everywhere and anywhere! Only one character ever came to me fully formed, and that was Maude Blake from my first book, The Ruin. I had this very clear picture in my head – two children, sitting on a stairs in a crumbling Georgian mansion deep in the Irish countryside. Maude was fifteen, and Jack only five. They were holding hands. The house is very, very cold, all the lights are off, and it’s getting dark outside. I knew that they were afraid. I knew that Maude loved her brother so much, that she had protected him from the moment he was born and that now she was afraid that she wouldn’t be able to protect him from what was coming next. And that was it. I knew Maude from the top of her head to the bottom of her feet but I didn’t know anything else, not what had brought them to that place nor where they would go next. I had to write the story to find out.

Q. What first inspired you to write?

Join us for Part 2 of this interview with Australian author, Dervla McTiernan
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer  
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

Available now!

 

                                                   

 

Book Review ~~ The Summer of Sunshine & Margot

reviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writingreviews, authors, writing           4 out of 5 quills   Book  Review

 

Susan Mallery always delivers a solid story. The Summer of Sunshine and Margot was no exception.  I found the main characters (Sunshine & Declan, Margot and Alec) empathetic and charming. I had a little trouble with Margot’s career and the services her company offered. Was she a life coach? A therapist? A baby sitter for adults? It was never made clear. 

And that leads me to write about one character, in her story. Bianca. She was an aging film star who evidently had been indulged her entire life. The result was an implausible, spoiled brat. Immature, thoughtless, reckless and a bully. I worked in Hollywood many years ago and her antics would have led her to be, at the worst, blackballed. Or at best, she would have been considered a ‘difficult’ actress when casting a film and to be avoided. Difficult actors cost money.  I found her outrageous behavior tiresome and unbelievable. 

The character of Bianca was the reason I couldn’t give this book my highest rating. 
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ 

MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!   December: Dervla McTiernan ~~ January: David Poyer  
To receive my posts sign up for my 

  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!

 

 

 

                                                   

 

How To Write a Play~~Plot, Pro/Antagonist, Conflict

Whether you are a reader or a writer you love a little conflict and a few antagonists in any plot. So to the writers of stage plays.

It is a challenge to write conflict with dialogue only. There is no description (like fiction) where you can tell the reader how angry and against something your antagonist is. Granted you have the characters right there to tell the story with their body language but….

I am going to use examples from my most recent play. A children’s play but the rules still apply and are not less challenging because it’s a kids’ play. 

Sub-PLOT:  The sooner the plot is revealed the better. If you haven’t engaged the audience in the first three minutes, you don’t have a very good plot. In Emma and the Aardvarks the plot begins on the first page of script. Two Aardvarks, sisters, tumble out of a Time Portal and into the fabled forest. In minutes the occupants of the forest discover them and the audience discovers the protagonists and antagonists. 

Example: (Plot)

                                                         AGNES  ©
(Gazing up into the trees, HER nose switching as fast as possible.)

I think we’re lost, dear sister. This doesn’t look anything like the pictures of Australia in our book.

            ANNIE
(Frowning.)

Oh, dear, I’m quite afraid.

                                                            STARE (Owl)

Whooo?

                                                            ANNIE
                                                (ANNIE runs over to AGNES.)

Ekk. What was that?                                                       
                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            AGNES

What?                                                           

                                                            ANNIE

That.
                                                            AGNES

Not certain. But keep a look out anyway.

                                                           ANNIE

I don’t like this place, Agnes.

                                                            AGNES

You’re such a scaredy-cat, Annie. It’s a simple forest, much like the jungles of home.

                        (DONALD, a fairie, enters.)

                                                            DONALD

                         Don’t go. I mean you no harm.

(With the dialogue, we’ve told the audience that the two sisters are in the forest by accident. That their destination had been Australia. They meet their first friend (protagonist). 

ANTAGONISTS: We’ll return to the plot later but let’s go on…Enter the first antagonist. This character is very selfish and immediately is suspicious of the two newcomers.

Example: (Antagonist)

                                                                  PATSY (Banana Spider)
                                                (Knitting her web very fast.)

Eye–eee! Por favor, who are these ugly newcomers? Dios mío, ¿se comerán mis insectos? The bugs are for me and me alone!

                                                            DONALD

Patsy, where are your manners? Everyone is welcome in the fabled forest, as long as they come in peace.

                                                            PATSY

Dios mio, how do we know they come in peace, pequeño? Se ven como bandidos!

Another Protagonist enters:

                                                             EMMA

Please join us. (Turning to Donald.)  Donald introduce us immediately.

                                                            DONALD

Miss Agnes, Miss Annie, this is my friend, Emma.

                                                            EMMA

Oh! You are so cute. It’s nice to meet new friends.  And such pretty hats. May I? (EMMA reached up and adjusted the frothy thing atop AGNES’ head that had been knocked askew in the mad dash into the forest.) You’re the shy young lady, aren’t you? May I adjust your hat, Miss Annie? There! All fixed. May I ask? What species are you?

PLOT: After a few main characters are established, we  return to the main Plot, (all told through dialogue) which is about global warming and endangered species. 

Example (Plot):  

                                                             EMMA 

Miss Agnes, why were you going to Australia?

                                                            AGNES

Back home, in Africa, we are losing our habitat to humans, farms, and roads.

                                                            ANNIE

It’s terrible. There aren’t very many of us aardvarks left, you know.

                                                            CHEETS

What does that mean? ‘Not many of you left’?

                                                            AGNES

We’re being killed off.

                                                            EMMA 

Oh no! But you’re so cute. And if you’re insectivores, you help keep the natural world balanced.

                                                            AGNES

One would think so. (Beat.) So when our habitat goes, we go. We are threatened.

                                                            DONALD

We must do something!

ANTAGONIST & Protagonists:  The Plot thickens when you have more than one antagonist. And when you can, more than one protagonist.

Example (Antagonist and Protagonists.): 

                                                           CHEETS

I don’t like them. Nope. Don’t like the look of them and they smell funny.

                                                            STARE

Who?

                                                            CHEETS

Those two⸺whad-ya-call-ems.

                                                           EMMA

Aardvarks.

                                                            CHEETS

Yeah⸺them.

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s unkind. You know nothing of Annie and Agnes. They seem perfectly fine to me. In fact, I think they’re cute.

                                                            STARE
                                                           
Who?

                                                            THOMAS

Quiet, Stare. Those two ladies are my friends from the Dark Continent.  As for you, you⸺you scurvy young scallywag you keep yer opinions to yerself.

                                                            CHEETS

But what if they eat someone we know?

                                                            EMMA

Cheets, that’s silly. Do you know any ants? Beetles? Termites on a personal basis?

                                                            CHEETS

Noooo⸺but I might meet some.

                                                              EMMA

Yes, Cheets, you’re judging these newcomers and deciding you don’t like them based on⸺what? Nothing.

                                                            THOMAS

They’ve had a rough go. The place they lived is no more. The picaroons have burned it, then planted it. Some of their family and friends have been killed.

                                                             CHEETS

Don’t care. Still don’t like ‘em. Who ever heard of aardvarks, anyway?

CONFLICT: 5 Ways to Create Conflict in Your Story:
Give your characters clear goals.
Go big, go small. 
Let your characters fail. 
4. Make your characters opinionated. 
Use exposition to your advantage.

The Time Portal is malfunctioning. Some of the occupants of the forest are welcoming, some are suspicious and angry. 

Example:                                           EMMA

He’s very excitable, Miss Agnes. Are you really from Africa?

                                                            ANNIE
                                    (Cuddling close to EMMA’s side.)

Yes, Miss Emma, we were going on vacation and then this⸺happened.

                                                            EMMA

Oh, dear, I’m sorry.

                                                            AGNES

Yes, our travel agent, Time Portal for All Your Vacation Needs, was supposed to send us to Australia. We have distant relatives there. Something must have gone wrong. Someone at the agency pushed the wrong button.

                                                            ANNIE

Where are we, exactly?

                                                            CHEETS
                                    (Poking HIS head out of the bushes.)

You’re in the Fabled Forest. Don’t you know anything?                                                           

                                                            AGNES 

Who raised you? Dogs?  (Beat.) No, not dogs, they are strict with their children. Hyenas, perhaps? Yes, hyenas, our arch enemies. 

More CONFLICT: 
Example: 

                                                          EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES
                                                         (Sneering.)

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

Resolution of CONFLICT: The royal engineer enters. Sent to repair the Time Portal so the Aardvarks can be on their way.

 Example:     

                                                                CHEETS
                                                (Jumping up and down.)

The Queen! The Queen! The Queen Cometh!

                                                            FERGUS
                                                     (Looking around.)

No. I don’t think so. It’s just me and my toolbox.

                                                            EMMA

Why have you been sent to us, Mr. Fergus?

                                                            FERGUS

It’s just Fergus, Miss. Or in more formal settings, Sir Fergus.

                                                            DONALD

And you’re here because⸺?

                                                            FERGUS

To repair your portal⸺time machine⸺of course. It is broken, isn’t it?

                                                            DONALD

Our portal?                                                     

                                                            CHEETS
                                                     (Whispers in awe.)

We have a portal?                                                           

                                                            EMMA

And the Queen knew ours is broken?

                                                            CHEETS

What’s a portal?                                                         

                                                            FERGUS

Yes. Yes. Indubitably. If you’ll just show me the way, I’ll begin my work.

                                                            EMMA
I’m afraid we have no idea where it might be in the forest. Until the sisters arrived we didn’t know anything about a portal. They arrived from Africa.

More CONFLICT: More animals arrive through the Portal. This results in more conflict.

Example: 

                                                             EMMA
                                                    (Steps forward.)

Welcome to our forest. I am Emma and these are my friends. Where did you come from?

                                                            STARE

Who?                                      

                                                            AGNES

Emma, you don’t want to be friends with them. After all they’re just dogs.

                                                              FERGUS

Blimey. Someone’s coming.

                                    (Out of the entrance to the Portal tumble dog-like CREATURES. The five PUPPIES yip and howl as they tumble to the                                          forest floor.)

                                                            MIC
                                                        (Howling.)

Moommmyy! What’s happening?                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI
                                                            (Howling louder.)

Moommmyy! I’m a-scarrr-eeddd.

                                                            STARE
                                                (Trying to join the howling.)

Whooooooooooooo?

                                    (Two adult DOGS enter from the Portal mouth.)

                                                            MRS. MOSEYALONG
                   Tentatively wagging HER tail.)

It’s all right, children. We’re safe.

                                                            JAX

Stop being such a baby, Serengeti.

                                                            SERENGETI
              (Cowering near HER mother’s legs.)

I’m not.
                                                            JAX

Are too.

                                                           MR. MOSEYALONG

Quiet now, children.                                                           

                                                            SERENGETI

Yes, Papa.

                                                            MIC

Where are we, Papa?

                                                   MR. MOSEYALONG

I’m not certain just yet⸺but I intend to find out!  Yip, Yip, yowwww.

                                                   MRS. MOSEYALONG                                

Goodness, who might you all be?

                                                            ROGER
                                                            (Whining.)

Mama, who are they? Will they hurt us?                                               

                                                            ZEKE
                                                (Yipping and howling.)

I want to go home.

                                                            CHEETS
                                                (Pointing at the dogs.)

Look! Our forest is turning into a jungle of expired animals!

Remember, dialog is simply conversation between your characters. In your story, imagine what your characters would say to each other in a conversation. The more conflict you create in your story, the richer the story will be. Be aware of ‘loose ends’ when you solve the conflict.
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When will My Stories be Discovered??

TS. I wrote this post back in 2012….seven years ago. But most of it still holds true today.

Okay, so now you have a publisher…your books will fly off the shelves or through cyberspace, right?  Au contra, it’s still going to take some time. Or at least, that’s certainly been my experience….

Samuel French (biggest publisher for stage plays)  picked me up in 2004 and has since published four of my stage plays.  I am so grateful to be in the same publishing house as  Louisa May Alcott, David Mamet, Anton Chekhov, and Tennessee Williams. And the staff is so nurturing to their authors.  But, here’s the reality: No sales the first year, a few the second year, more the third year and so on…….but, sadly, no BIG immediate discovery of this playwright!  Not like in the movies!!

So I kept writing and editing and submitting……and writing more!

I am happy to share with my readers the news that I received a nice fat check from French with reports that reflected my biggest sales period EVER, the first quarter, this year (2012)!  Over the last six months they have sold seventy scripts of mine.  Most orders were in multiple quantities which means a theatre company was buying enough books for cast and crew.  And that means that somewhere, out in the world, theatre companies are producing my work!  You might be saying to yourself, ‘that’s not so many’  but think about it.  That’s 11.6 scripts per month. And like I said, most of them were NOT perusal copies (of one) but the number that they would need to produce a show! One production in Bangor, Maine and the other in Phoenix, AZ.

Last year (2018) a play of mine was produced in Iceland and the UK.

My books are finally selling with some welcomed regularity on amazon.com (USA and Europe) and other book outlets. After eight long years!!

So my message to you is: Keep writing, fellow writers.  Keep editing, rewriting. That’s where a really good story/book is born.  When you get rejection after rejection  (as I did) let that be the spur to write more! Use ‘Self publishing’ . ‘Vanity’ books are a thing of the past…or almost.  Most of us, as writers, have something important to say and vanity is far, far away from our thoughts.  With the advent of ‘print on demand’ self publishing is not the huge investment it used to be.  I self publish for less than $100. plus the wholesale cost of the finished book.  Sure your publisher takes a cut…but!  You’re published!!

Writing is a lonely business but keep at it.  I’ll believe in you if you’ll believe in me!
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MY BLOG features INTERVIEWS with  best-selling AUTHORS!  December: Australian mystery writer, Dervla  McTiernan
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  On the home page, enter your email address.  Thanks!