Awful Intent: Draft 3 of Outline Done!

Posted by John Brown on December 20th, 2014

Mysteries, reversals, zing, stunts I’ve never seen in any thrillers, a bit of romance, and lots and lots of action. All set in the amazing landscape of Southern Utah’s Grand Staircase.

The backstory summary is 6 pages. The outline of events is 10, single spaced.

I’m feeling it, folks. This sketch of the story has got the goods.

One more pass to tighten up plants and make sure I’m hitting the progression points for the A and B stories, and it’s time to write. Just in time for the big Christmas break.

Speaking of that, merry Christmas to all my blog readers!



The Highwayman by Alfred Noyes

Posted by John Brown on December 17th, 2014

Alfred Noyes (1880-1958) wrote poetry that thundered and sang. It’s the kind of stuff that begs to be read aloud. And I want to share with you one of my favorites–“The Highwayman.” I love it for the sound, the story, and the awesome images (note all the color).

All you need to know is that back in the 1600s and 1700s, a highwayman was a robber, often on horseback, who held up travelers. And that when it mentions “priming,” it’s talking about the charge of powder used to ignite a musket.

For maximum pleasure, let me suggest you start Loreena McKennitt’s killer ballad version I’ve embedded at the end, then scroll back up and read along as she sings.

By Alfred Noyes

The wind was a torrent of darkness among the gusty trees.
The moon was a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas.
The road was a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
And the highwayman came riding—
The highwayman came riding, up to the old inn-door.

He’d a French cocked-hat on his forehead, a bunch of lace at his chin,
A coat of the claret velvet, and breeches of brown doe-skin.
They fitted with never a wrinkle. His boots were up to the thigh.
And he rode with a jewelled twinkle,
His pistol butts a-twinkle,
His rapier hilt a-twinkle, under the jewelled sky.

Over the cobbles he clattered and clashed in the dark inn-yard.
He tapped with his whip on the shutters, but all was locked and barred.
He whistled a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.

And dark in the dark old inn-yard a stable-wicket creaked
Where Tim the ostler listened. His face was white and peaked.
His eyes were hollows of madness, his hair like mouldy hay,
But he loved the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s red-lipped daughter.
Dumb as a dog he listened, and he heard the robber say—

“One kiss, my bonny sweetheart, I’m after a prize to-night,
But I shall be back with the yellow gold before the morning light;
Yet, if they press me sharply, and harry me through the day,
Then look for me by moonlight,
Watch for me by moonlight,
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way.”

He rose upright in the stirrups. He scarce could reach her hand,
But she loosened her hair in the casement. His face burnt like a brand
As the black cascade of perfume came tumbling over his breast;
And he kissed its waves in the moonlight,
(O, sweet black waves in the moonlight!)
Then he tugged at his rein in the moonlight, and galloped away to the west.

He did not come in the dawning. He did not come at noon;
And out of the tawny sunset, before the rise of the moon,
When the road was a gypsy’s ribbon, looping the purple moor,
A red-coat troop came marching—
King George’s men came marching, up to the old inn-door.

They said no word to the landlord. They drank his ale instead.
But they gagged his daughter, and bound her, to the foot of her narrow bed.
Two of them knelt at her casement, with muskets at their side!
There was death at every window;
And hell at one dark window;
For Bess could see, through her casement, the road that he would ride.

They had tied her up to attention, with many a sniggering jest.
They had bound a musket beside her, with the muzzle beneath her breast!
“Now, keep good watch!” and they kissed her. She heard the doomed man say—
Look for me by moonlight;
Watch for me by moonlight;
I’ll come to thee by moonlight, though hell should bar the way!

She twisted her hands behind her; but all the knots held good!
She writhed her hands till her fingers were wet with sweat or blood!
They stretched and strained in the darkness, and the hours crawled by like years
Till, now, on the stroke of midnight,
Cold, on the stroke of midnight,
The tip of one finger touched it! The trigger at least was hers!

The tip of one finger touched it. She strove no more for the rest.
Up, she stood up to attention, with the muzzle beneath her breast.
She would not risk their hearing; she would not strive again;
For the road lay bare in the moonlight;
Blank and bare in the moonlight;
And the blood of her veins, in the moonlight, throbbed to her love’s refrain.

Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot! Had they heard it? The horsehoofs ringing clear;
Tlot-tlot; tlot-tlot, in the distance? Were they deaf that they did not hear?
Down the ribbon of moonlight, over the brow of the hill,
The highwayman came riding—
The red coats looked to their priming! She stood up, straight and still.

Tlot-tlot, in the frosty silence! Tlot-tlot, in the echoing night!
Nearer he came and nearer. Her face was like a light.
Her eyes grew wide for a moment; she drew one last deep breath,
Then her finger moved in the moonlight,
Her musket shattered the moonlight,
Shattered her breast in the moonlight and warned him—with her death.

He turned. He spurred to the west; he did not know who stood
Bowed, with her head o’er the musket, drenched with her own blood!
Not till the dawn he heard it, and his face grew grey to hear
How Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
The landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Had watched for her love in the moonlight, and died in the darkness there.

Back, he spurred like a madman, shouting a curse to the sky,
With the white road smoking behind him and his rapier brandished high.
Blood red were his spurs in the golden noon; wine-red was his velvet coat;
When they shot him down on the highway,
Down like a dog on the highway,
And he lay in his blood on the highway, with a bunch of lace at his throat.

. . .

And still of a winter’s night, they say, when the wind is in the trees,
When the moon is a ghostly galleon tossed upon cloudy seas,
When the road is a ribbon of moonlight over the purple moor,
A highwayman comes riding—
A highwayman comes riding, up to the old inn-door.

Over the cobbles he clatters and clangs in the dark inn-yard.
He taps with his whip on the shutters, but all is locked and barred.
He whistles a tune to the window, and who should be waiting there
But the landlord’s black-eyed daughter,
Bess, the landlord’s daughter,
Plaiting a dark red love-knot into her long black hair.


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He Is The Gift

Posted by John Brown on December 16th, 2014

And now the other side of Christmas. The real gift. I love this short clip. Of course, I’m a believer, but even if you’re not, I think we all can agree that it’s good to take time to contemplate this type of giving.


Awful Intent Update: First Draft of Working Outline

Posted by John Brown on December 15th, 2014

On Saturday, with the arrival of a little gang of delicious insights, I finished the first working outline of Awful Intent. I can’t wait to dig into the writing. There will be one more draft of the working outline, and then I begin to write. I expect to be into the prologue by Wednesday.


Edgar Allen Ho Ho Ho

Posted by John Brown on December 14th, 2014

Because we luvs Christmas, Precious, we present another rendition of Santa’s visit: Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Raven” meets Studio C and Christmas. Enjoy!

BTW, those of you teaching language arts, there’s nothing like a little parody project to give students a taste of how fun writing can be.

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Awful Intent update: the villain’s goal and motive

Posted by John Brown on November 24th, 2014

Some may be wondering why my progress bar on Awful Intent isn’t moving.

It’s not moving because I don’t yet have a goal and motive for my villain that I both care about and believe in.

Thrillers are driven by the villain’s goal. Here’s how they work. Bad Guy wants something and goes after it. That something always poses some threat or nastiness to someone else. When thinking about THOM types (see my Story Turns presentation), the core story drivers for thrillers fall squarely in the threat category, often with a lot of mystery thrown in, but the threat is driving the plot. Sometime after that, Good Guy comes along and can’t just walk away, either for moral (a kid has been abducted), professional (it’s my job), or physical (I’m on a boat and can’t get away) reasons. But the Good Guy has no reason for acting or setting goals without the Bad Guy’s plan.

So no villain wanting to do some dastardly deed, no story.

I know the immediate thing the villain wants to do. But why? To what end?

Sure, I could supply the most common reason, but that, in this case, isn’t zinging me. I need a twist.

I’m being vague about all of this because I don’t want to give any of it away. The bottom line is that I’m working on it, practicing a bit of zing hunting and creative Q&A.

For me, knowing basically where I’m going and caring and believing in it, is the key. I don’t need to know everything. Just a sketch of the general motives, goals, and plots, characters, setting, and then the awesome zings that pique my interest. When I have that, the machine hums with electricity, and I can write, write, write. But I don’t always have it all. I’ve found it comes in waves. Or, if you think about it as a journey up some mountain path, it comes in legs (as in leg of the journey).  So I develop, get the insight which shows me the way ahead, write to the end of my invention, struggle, get another insight, then write to the end of that bit of invention, etc. Sometimes the struggles are small, sometimes larger. Sometimes the ground covered between rough patches is long, sometimes shorter.

BTW, went to Southern, Utah to do a bit more research on the area. The action is going to take place in the area of Alton, Glendale, Orderville, and Kanab, Utah and points eastward of that line into the Staircase wilderness. Here’s an idea of what that area looks like. These are the cliffs just south of Orderville.

If you click on the Google link above, you can see more photos of the area.