How Writing A Novella Helped Me Write A Better Novel

images 3Recently I enrolled in James Patterson’s MasterClass on writing. Tongue in cheek, I’ve never read any of James Patterson’s novels, though I am a big fan of his Alex Cross movies. But I believe in learning from those who’ve gone before and succeeded, so whether I’ve read his books or not, the man is the epitome of a successful author.

Besides, I’ve a short attention span and each of his twenty-two classes is only  8-12 minutes long.

What does James Patterson have to do with making me a better writer? via ShawnSpjut clicktotweet

A lot actually, especially when it has to do with outlining a novel.

Until now, I was never much of an out-liner, preferring to write by the seat of my pants. But while writing my historical novel, Mark of Shamash, I found myself having to write a short outline for each of the chapters as a way to help keep track of my scenes and plot lines.

One of the exercises presented for the class on Outlining, was to do one for the story idea we were to have come up with for the second class, Where Ideas Come From. Since I had already had an idea for writing a novella about two of the characters in The Remnant series, I decided to use that as the basis for my class project instead.

I don’t know about you, but when I think of outlines, I see Roman Numerals, letters, tabs, indentations and vague notations of what I want.

Very organized, but lacking in creativity.

Not so with Mr. Patterson’s idea of what an outline should look like. Instead of numbers or Roman Numerals, he begins every novel or story by writing out a brief description of each scene. Next he prints it out (in triple space), reads over what he’s written – adding information, details, making notes, etc.. He does this multiple times until he feels like he has everything he needs to write the story. In this way he saves time and frustration, mainly because he’s already worked through everything in the outline (though he admits every novel has chapters and scenes that don’t emerge until after he starts writing the actual book).

Now a pantser like myself might think this takes away from the whole creative processes. To my surprise I discovered just the opposite. Instead of having to deal with the frustration of needing to re-write scenes because they didn’t work, or spend countless hours in frustration because I was losing the beat or couldn’t see how to move the story, I used my outline to work all that out.

But even cooler than no longer having to suppress the urge to pull my hair out, I was being to get into my characters hearts and heads in a ways I’d not been able to in the past. Suddenly I was exploring their back-stories, motivations, internal conflicts and relationships with the other characters on a visceral level I’d not known possible.

Instead of writing their story from a distance, I felt myself sinking down inside their personalities until it felt like I was right there, seeing and experiencing everything they saw and experienced. I became their friend. Their confidante. Their confessor and their greatest fan (or enemy). I was the angel on one shoulder, the devil on the other. I became the fly on the wall and the familiar living just beneath the skin. I fell in love with those they loved and hated those they hated. When they were afraid, my gut clenched. When they got excited or nervous, I felt butterflies in my stomach.

No longer was I writing a story about strangers. This story was about individuals I knew as intimately as I knew myself – maybe even more so. I don’t need to tell you how profound this approach to novel-writing was or the fact that I can’t imagine writing a novel any other way.

So what does this mean for the first draft of The Exodus, the second book in The Remnant series which is currently waiting for me to read through the first draft?

Excitement. Trepidation. Excitement. Trepidation.

And oh yeah, hopefully what I need to make the characters and their story come as alive for you as they are for me. Granted, it’ll mean taking the extra time to go back and re-write some of the scenes and adjust the plot, but in the end I believe The Exodus will be the kind of story that keeps you turning the pages over and over again.

Because let’s face it, Isn’t turning pages what writing and reading a novel is all about? vis @ShawnSpjut clicktotweet


PS. It also produced my first novella for The Remnant series, which I hope to have ready to publish next spring as well.

Thanks for sharing the journey.
2015  All rights reserved.

Writer’s Journal 3.1 To Hell With Lemonade – I Want A Margarita


We’ve all heard the old adage, When life throws you lemons, make lemonade. Well I don’t know about you, but I’d rather make a margarita, thanks anyway.

Every writer has moments, days, even weeks, when it feels like the universe is conspiring against them. Sometimes it’s because it feels like the muse has left the building with no forwarding address, or because life has thrown you the proverbial ‘lemons’ and your so tired of trying to figure out to do with them,  you end up throwing them in a blender, adding a little tequila, lime and salt – all the while secretly hoping you won’t run out until the pain is numb enough you no longer care.

Like lemons, which are corrosive by nature, those uncontrollable life events and situation can eventually begin to erode our dreams, our passions and ideas until before we know it, we’re wondering if we even have what it takes to become a successful author, let alone finish that novel or short story or memoir we’ve been working on for God knows how long.

As those who follow me know, my sister and I just recently helped our parents downsize into a retirement community so I could move in and help care for my father, who has been diagnosed with advanced Alzheimer’s. What you may not know is, within days of making that decision, my life went from one of focused intent, to feeling like a fish thrown up on the beach without any hopes of ever being able to find water again.

Now I’m generally an optimistic person and make valiant efforts not to allow myself to wallow in the pools of depression and self-doubt – at least not for longer than five or ten minutes. But between caring for my parents and struggling to find time to sit down, undisturbed, while I work on the next novel in The Remnant series, I was beginning to experience serious, prolonged, moments of self-doubt. Especially whenever I logged into my Facebook or Twitter account and started reading how much success my fellow writers were having.

(In reality, one or two success stories, out of thousands, isn’t really all that crushing. Even so, it sure as hell felt like it at the time.)

But . . . the universe does have her moments of benevolence, as she proved when I was scrolling through a back log of emails the other day and came across Joanna Penn’s ( newsletter. Inside was a link to an article by author Steven Pressfield,  entitled “Killer Scenes and Self-Doubt“.

In the post Pressfield talks about the muse and how writing, ‘Virtues of War‘, a novel about Alexander The Great, helped him remember why he needed to tell Alexander’s story and how in the telling, he was finally able to overcome years of the self-doubt.

Why bring it up? Well, the whole point of this section of my newsletter is about sharing the journey of becoming the writer I some day hope to be. And part of that journey is learning to deal with the lemons of life, as well as the things within and without, which contrive to erode my confidence and self-worth.

Writers, like all artists or entrepreneurs, battle demons of self-doubt on a daily basis. It’s a beast that must be slain over and over again. Caring for my parents has not only made setting aside time to work on my novels difficult, but on those days when I do manage to grab time, it’s getting harder and harder to pick up where I left off. Which invariably has led to moments of despair as the demons of self-doubt tickle my ear with words that make me wonder if I even have what it takes to write the bloody thing?

Like me, Pressfield is a firm believer in the muse. The neshama or soul. The spirit within all of us that speaks of destiny. Purpose. Desire. Passion. That spiritual aspect of our lives that helps to answer the burning question inside all of us – Why am I here?

I may not be Jewish, but I do believe in destiny. I believe that every one of us has a divine purpose in life that only we can fulfill and that by simply living our lives to the fullest, taking risks and not being afraid to fail, is all part and parcel on the journey to get there.

Now I’m not sure how spiritual turning lemons into margaritas actually is (though the Gospel’s record Jesus turning water into wine), but I do believe that part of the neshama Pressfield talks about, means our lives are the culmination of everything we’ve experienced, said, thought and wish we’d done. Good and bad. Happy and sad. Ugly, beautiful or something in between. It’s all part of the tapestry that makes up, Us.

So if learning how to overcome the demons of self-doubt during this season of caring for my parents is something I have to do, something that will ultimately add to the tapestry of me as a person and a writer, then it would be in my best interest to lean how to embrace it.

Not in a ‘martyr’ kind of way. (Trust me, I’m no martyr.) Not even in a ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, kind of way. But in a ‘Who I am is part of the fabric of who I will be as a friend, mother and lover, which in turn flows over into who or what I am as an author and the kind of stories I’m destined to tell’, kind of way.

As a side note, I’ve since learned that while caring for others it’s important to set healthy boundaries. And one of the boundaries I’ve set is that for four hours a day, three days a week, I and my laptop leave the house and go sit in a nearby cafe that doesn’t offer WiFi.

Not surprising that it only took me a few days to finish what I’d spent literally months, trying to write before.

Which means the first draft of ‘The Exodus’ is done, and while I’m waiting for the creative juices to ferment (It’s always a good idea to set your MS aside for a couple of weeks and go do something else. That way when you come back to begin the revisions, you’ll have a fresh outlook.), I’ve begun outlining a novella in the series, which I hope to have  published by next spring.
Sharin the journey –
2015. All Rights Reserved

The First Re-Write of The First Draft

Writer’s Blog Star Date 1-09-2012

Writer’s,Blogger’s & Wannabe’s

The re-write. What can be said that probably hasn’t been said a gazillion times before? Or how deep the sigh that hasn’t been sighed before?

As this is my first novel, the kinks that need to be worked out are almost as daunting as getting the story down on Word.doc itself was. Figuring out my writing mojo. How to transport the thought from grey matter to ‘bright white’. When does so-and-so need to do this-or-that, and did you have the character already do it?

How do I move the plot along so that the reader doesn’t doze off after the second page?

Is the character even interesting enough to keep in the story or should I assassinate them with mercy delete?

If it’s true that the character actually tells me what to write, do I need to acknowledge them as co-authors?

Is it OK to add new character’s in the re-write? Can you begin the story differently and should you?

Do I writer better at night or in the morning, and does 4:00 AM constitute evening or morning?

How many cups of coffee will it take to get through the first chapter re-write of the first draft, and should it be coffee? Maybe this would be a great time to begin my New Years resolution to drink more water – less other stuff.

Is junk food really ‘brain food’ or am I being deceived by slick advertising and shiny objects?

Is Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory really that anal retentive? Because if he is, then my cousin Martin could very well be his doppelganger.

OMG! The list goes on and on and I’m only on my first cup of Starbucks French Roast of the morning.

From The Laptop of An Uncensored Dreamer


Writers Journal Vol 2.7


Library – A Refuge From Reality

Before there was Google or Yahoo or Bing or SEO’s, there were libraries: entities of great wisdom and knowledge; archives of fact, fiction, history, speculation and education.

Since I was old enough to read the titles on the spine of a book, I have been going to the library. Whether it was the one in my school, the town we lived in or the book mobile that parked at the end of my neighborhood once a month – I was combing their shelves  for either new adventures to indulge myself in or sources of information to write whatever homework assignment my teachers had given me.

A refuge from reality where I was able to feed my growing addiction to story – be it fantasy, paranormal, romance, mystery or adventure.

The locations may have changed since then, but that same sense of adventure and excitement I felt while walking through their hallowed doors at age six, hasn’t. If anything, its grown. Decades later and you can still find me there, eagerly pursing row upon row of brightly colored books, my eyes scanning the blurbs on the back of interesting looking covers in search of new adventures by my favorite authors or those authors whose works I have yet to discover.

Though I appreciate the convenience of sitting at my desk and at the click of an icon, read whatever book I’ve just downloaded, that experience will never replace the feeling of well-being I get while passing through the portals of a library; their quite halls filled with an unspoken assurance of peace that tells my inner child all she and I need do in order to satisfy our mutual hunger for story and information, is choose the books we want to read, swipe our member card beneath a red beam of light, then repeat the process with each of the books waiting to go home with us.

Just as the library offered me a place of refuge from life as a child, it continues to be the one place I can  go as an adult where the requisite for my being able to escape into its hallowed stacks, is the zip zip of my library card followed by a silent nod of unspoken anticipation towards the ‘Guardian of Knowledge’ sitting beneath the sign marked ‘Information’.

So when was the last time you took a stroll down the hallowed halls of your local Library?

Sharing the Journey


© All Rights Reserved

Writers Journal Vol. 2:4

images (11)‘Panser’ or ‘Planner’ Writing

A Blog2Book Novel Series

The Challenge

When I started writing ‘The Remnant’, I was part of a writer’s group that met twice a month for inspiration and to share two prompts each (no more than 500 words per prompt), as well as working on my first book (non-fiction, ‘The Unforced Rhythms of His Grace’), researching my second and writing content for my blog, ‘SSpjut|Writer’s-Blog|Stardate‘. Since I am a fantasy/historical/romance/fiction, writer/reader at heart, I didn’t want to lose sight of my first love. I also didn’t have the time to come up four completely different prompts every month.

One or two yes, four, no.

One day, while trying to find a solution whereby I could work on the my non-fiction books, satisfy my passion to tell stories, as well as come up with weekly content for my blog, I started thinking about how most of my favorite authors had taken a single story and turned it into a series of stories (Terry Brooks’, ‘Shannara’; Jim Butcher’s, ‘Harry Dresden Files’; J.K.Rowling’s, ‘Harry Potter’; R. A. Salvador’s, ‘Drizzt Do-Urden’; Charlaine Harris’, ‘Southern Vampire Series’, ‘Aurora Tea Garden’, ‘Lily Bard’; Dana Stabenow’s ‘Kate Shugak’, Liam Campbell; Anne Perry’s ‘Monk’ & ‘Pitt’; Jeanne Frost ‘Cat & Bones’ – the list goes on). The idea of doing something similar was like a pebble inside my shoe that wouldn’t fall out.

My Solution,

. . . take the writing prompts I had already been given and use them to create an ongoing story – 500 words at a time.

What began to emerge was a tale about post-apocalyptic Seattle ‘The Remnant: A 500 Word Prompted Novella (which I later changed to ‘The Remnant: A Dystopian Paranormal Story). Something along the lines of Terry Brooks’ ‘Void and Word/Shannara’. But instead of a fantasy about fairy and elves and demons, mine would be dystopian/paranormal with vampires, werewolves, damphirs, sorcerers, ‘reavers’ and humans, with a few angelic Watchers thrown in just to spice it up.

That’s as far as I got, and to be honest, even that much planning didn’t happen until about the third or fourth prompt. Outlines didn’t come until around the eightieth or so episode.

Problem solved. I was satisfying by my need to write fiction, fulfilling the bi-weekly writing prompts for the writer’s group, and supplying weekly content for my blog site.

A truly ‘panser’ approach to writing a blog-to-book novel series.

But eventually I realized I needed to have some sort of destination to begin herding my characters towards. A way to give the story depth and purpose. In other words, I needed to start planning where this story was really going.

That’s when I came up with the idea of having Spider (leader of the Damphirs, a species created to kill the ‘undead’) decide the only way he can keep his people safe is to take them up into Canada. But in order to do that, they’ll have to get past the Conclave of Four – Strigori, Rodannian, Varloc & Human – who have their own reasons for not wanting Damphirs to leave Seattle.

What started out as a way to keep working on my non-fiction books and still be able to scratch my itch for writing fiction, has snowballed into a series of books, of which I’ve now published the first ‘The Gathering’, and am currently working on the second ‘The Exodus’, with plans for the third and fourth.

(Next month I’ll share how researching the nine covenants mentioned in the Christian Bible led me to begin writing the ‘Keys of Destiny’ series).

Sharing the journey


Want to be the first to read the latest ‘blog-to-book installment of ‘The Exodus’ (Book Two ‘The Remnant’), as well as new of up coming book releases, writer’s journal, character short stories and profiles?  Click Here

Be sure to visit my new publishing site – © SSpjut, 2015; All Rights Reserved.

Writer’s Journal Vol. 2.3

imagesAnd The Beat Goes On

A couple of months ago I came across an article,  Flash Forward: The Story Grid in Action, by editor turned blogger Shawn Coyne, in which he talks about the six questions an author should  ask themselves regarding the stories they write.

  1. What’s the genre?
  2. What are the conventions and obligatory scenes for that genre?
  3. What’s the Point of View?
  4. What are the protagonist’s objects of desire?
  5. What’s the controlling idea/theme?
  6. What are the Beginning Hook, the Middle Build, and Ending Payoff?

In Shawn’s post he offers the reader an info diagram he calls ‘The Story Grid’,  which diagrams the novel, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris,  from start to finish, as well as promises to take the student/reader through the process of what it takes to create a solid story that not only answers the above six questions, but keeps its readers entertained until the end.

Now if you’re a fellow writer reading this post, then you’ll know that the Internet is flooded with a plethora of information on the topic of writing; ranging everywhere from How To Write A Best Seller to Plotting A Compelling Story to Creating Characters Your Reader’s Love To Hate And Hate To Love . . . and if you’re like me, your bookshelves have at least one, if not more, books on every aspect of the writing process.

Let’s face it, we writers don’t lack for resources – be it good, bad or otherwise.

So when I say that Shawn’s future posts on what it takes to write a compelling story/novel are probably some of the best I’ve read, I’m not exaggerating. And if you take his advice and buy/borrow the book ‘Story’ by Robert McKee, you’ll get even more out of Shawn’s articles.

I know I have, and the time spent reading both have revolutionized my entire approach to writing; as a panser as well as a planner.


Before reading Shawn’s blog I began the first draft of every book knowing that in all likelihood, it would take as many as half a dozen or more re-writes before I would be satisfied with enough to actually begin to edit. Now, after reading Shawn’s articles, as well as McKee’s book on the structure of story, I begin every book, every act, every chapter and beat, with a better than good idea of exactly what needs to happen in order for me to bring the story forward to where it needs to be for the next chapter and the next and the next – until the story has a beginning, a middle and an end and can answer each of the six questions.

I’ve even begun to see if I can identify the ‘Global Story’ units (the inciting incident, the complication, the climax, the crisis and the resolution), in movies and other writer’s works).

And here we thought writing was all creative juices and magical fairy dust, right? Who knew writing was going to be such a technical endeavor?  (And this coming from the person who invariably spends hours trying to figure out how to put something together, before finally reading the assembly instructions.)

Let’s face it, time is a commodity most authors don’t have a lot of. I certainly don’t. Therefore it’s important we try and make sure the articles and books we do invest in, are worth the time and money spent. In my not so humble opinion, Shawn Coyne’s ‘The Story Grid’, and Robert McCree’s ‘Story’, are two resources I’m confident will meet that criteria. They did for me.

Sharing the journey


Want to be the first to read the latest ‘blog-to-book installment of ‘The Exodus’ (Book Two ‘The Remnant’), as well as new of up coming book releases, writer’s journal, character short stories and profiles?  Click Here

Be sure to visit my new publishing site – © SSpjut, 2015; All Rights Reserved.


Writer’s Journal Vol 2:3:1 RADD

imagesRADD – Reader Attention Deficit Disorder

“Books are a uniquely portable magic.”Stephen King

While cruising through my Twitter page I came across a RT by Cory Doctorow ‘Publishing as personal: lessons from giving away a debut novel online’  by guest blogger Amelia Beamer.

In a world of publishing that is faster than the 4G speeds I wrote about two years ago, todays culture, especially here in America, is all about ‘time’ and the technology we use to get the most out of the 24 hour day we have. And one of those technological gadgets or its close twin, is eReaders or smart phones or iPhones or whatever gadget that allows you to read, eat, drive, talk and text your aunt Betty 2000 miles away, all at the same time. This includes reading the newest novel or non-fiction book or magazine or blog post.

But it was Beamer’s comment about reviews that really got me to thinking about my own novels and what it would take to get them into the hands of new readers?

It’s no secret that almost every marketing blog, forum or podcast on marketing your book will tell you how important it is to get reviews – post launch. Amazon even goes so far as to give a number of ‘must haves’ before they’ll put you on advertised author list.

Now let me pre-qualify what I’m about to say with the fact that I don’t disagree about the importance of book reviews.  I acknowledge their importance, just not to the same degree that everyone (except Amelia Beamer) does.

So why write about it. For two reasons really. The firstly to give you, the reader, an idea of how much importance I personally put on reviews as the basis upon which all the world makes it selections. And second to you the reader, how you would resolve the issue.

Do I personally rely on reviews to make my selections?



The fact is, I’ve never watched a single movie or read a single book based on its reviews. Todate, all my movie watching comes from either recommendations from friends, the trailers, its promised story/plot or the actors within it.

What about the books I read?

Beginning with my first serious novel, ‘The Hobbit’ (first read when I was eight years old) until now, all my reading selections have made either via word of mouth or because of the image on the jacket cover (a hunky vampire or werewolf will win me over every time), or because of the inside blurb, genre and or author recommendation. (If my favorite author recommends a book, I’ll take a look.) Occasionally, when I’m in the mood to expand my existing favorite author base, I’ll either look for a series within a particular genre or pick up an  anthology (that’s how I discovered authors like Dana Stabenow and Diana Gabaldon, Charlain Harris, Jim Butcher, Patricia Briggs, Nalini Singh and Meljean Brooks).

But never, ever because of a review.

Which now brings me to the second reason for this post – if  time is a commodity few of us have, and asking someone for a review first means getting them to read the book (writing a review on a book you haven’t’ read is just plain wrong) then it would behoove me to find a way to get it in readers hands in the fastest, least painful way possible – beside using the words FREE! (even a free book takes time to read)

And who better to receive advise from than the very people who already invest their time reading my blog posts or following me on Twitter and or Facebook?

So how can I and authors like me, not only entice you to read our books (and hopefully write the all-powerful review) but do it in a way that makes it easier for you?

Suggestions welcome.

Sharing the journey,


©Reigning Press; 2015 All Rights Reserved

In Remembrance of International Women’s Day

images (1)

Letter To Teen-self

Dear ‘Me’.

“Women who seek to be equal with men lack ambition.” – Marilyn Monroe

The later half of the 20th century until even as recently as a couple of years ago, will be a world in which woman like yourself, who know what they want out of life and aren’t afraid to go after it, are seen as bitches, overbearing loudmouths or lesbians.

The truth is, weak minded individuals will always despise those stronger than themselves.

Don’t let them tell you that your dreams aren’t realistic or that they aren’t important.  Especially ignore what your older brother says about how becoming a writer will only end in obscurity and starvation.  Believe when I say, chasing dreams is not what eventually makes you feel obscure or leaves you destitute — ignoring your inner self and cowering down before the fears and socially acceptable reality of others is.  

Trust your inner self – she’s wiser than you or anyone else gives her credit for.

I would tell you not to get married to that cute guy you met in college, but then we wouldn’t have had our two wonderful sons, so I’ll just say this – the failure of your marriage was because you were both stuck in other people’s expectations of what those lives should look like.  Maybe if you had moved to another state or ignored all the well meaning family advise, you might have been able to work through your issues.  

I doubt it. The truth is,  neither of you were living the lives you were meant to live.

At least not then.

In the years following the divorce, you’ll find yourself facing some very challenging choices, and some of the decisions you make you’ll wish you hadn’t. Especially where your children are concerned. My advise – put them first above all else. The time you have with them before they go out to face the world on their own, will be one of the most important seasons of your life. Invest in it by making their lives the number one priority of yours.  

Despite your being a strong-willed individual, you’ll still find yourself, more often than you would want, living out other people’s desires and expectation. But don’t despair, one day all those experiences will eventually become some of the background for your novels.  

Along the way you’ll meet some great people and develop friendships that may last a week, a year or a lifetime. But no mater how brief or how long they might  be, they will all add value to your life and believe me when I say, you’ll add value to theirs as well.

You’ll also discover that God is not who your parents or the religious leaders of the day say She is and that all the religious bullshit you were force-fed, is just that, bullshit.

So don’t be afraid to question everything – I mean everything. Only the religious are afraid of the truth and will go to any length to hide it, even making up bogus crap about end time judgments and religious acts of repentance and  acceptance. Take a deep breathe and know that one day you will finally come to the conclusion that God is either the all forgiving, all loving, all-encompassing Father Jesus said They are or They aren’t.

Spoiler Alert! You eventually come to believe They are, and decided to throw off all the shackles of religious dogma, embracing a Universal salvation that is all-inclusive, regardless of what mankind believes or doesn’t believe. In other words, you begin to believe in a loving Father who refuses to allow anyone to perish – despite  all the religious insistence to the contrary.

One last thing – just as the Phoenix rises out of the ashes of death to once again become the beautiful bird it was always meant to be, you too will discover how to rise out of the tragedies and disappoints of life to discover that dreams never really die and that at long last you have found the courage to do the very thing you always wanted to do – live life with courage, write what your passionate about and love others extravagantly. 

 Sharing the journey,



Writers Journal Vol. 2:2 (2015)

4460976042_a1c8902046_oCharacter Arch’s & What Do We Do About Them?*
by SSpjut

I recently came across an article by Kyoko M entitled. Things The Dresden Files Taught Me About Writing. Well, being the Jim Butcher/Harry Dresden fan I am, I hopped over and read it. The gist of M’s post has to do with why Butcher’s ‘Dresden’ character is so likable – and I whole heartedly agree. Harry Dresden is your average ‘Joe’ who just happens to be a wizard and has as many hang ups as everyone else. Quite literally, the guy next door.

But here’s where I want to add my two cents worth – its the arch of Butcher’s character development that really does it for me. That and the fact Harry’s down hill slide into the dark arts isn’t because he chooses evil over good, its because he’s determined to do whatever it takes to save those he cares about – even if it means he pays the price. And lets face it, Harry always pays the price.


TRUE CHARACTER is revealed in the choices a human being makes under pressure-the greater the pressure, the deeper the revelation, the truer the choice to the character’s essential nature. Robert McKee


So what has this have to do with what I am currently working? 

In The Remnant series, which is all about post-apocalyptic-dystopian Seattle, where the supernaturals out number the naturals, I love being able to explore multiple aspects of character development and the emotional/situational challenges they’re faced with. Those that are flawed and those who don’t know they are – like Sariel, and Count Moleach. With such a wide range of character types, I’m given an opportunity to approach each one just a little differently, blending motives and inherent species traits, with the cultural challenge of what happens when the monsters we’ve created, become our worst enemies?

Are All Character Arch’s The Same ?

What about about my Keys of Destiny series? Am I using the same approach in helping Serac, Ziana and Idduu search for the Tablets of Destiny, as I am in ‘The Remnant’s’ bid to get out of post-apocalyptic Seattle?

Yes and no.

Yes, my characters have challenges they are being made to face, and yes they will need to overcome many of them if they are to succeed in their quest. On the other hand, ‘Keys of Destiny’, unlike ‘The Remnant’, has its roots in history – namely that of the Patriarch Abraham.

Shocker, right? But true nonetheless.

Several years ago, while researching ‘covenants’ for a non-book I had intended to write (blame H. Clay Trumbull’s ‘Blood Covenant’ for my fetish on such things)I came across an interesting passage in the ‘Book of Jasher’ concerning Abraham and his great-great grandfather ‘Serug’ (or Serac in Akkadian). Long and short, it is the lack of information that actually gave me the idea of writing the story of ‘Abraham’ from a historical/fictional point of view, rather than a religious one.

Which also means I don’t have the same creative license in this novel series, as I do with ‘The Remnant’.

Why? Because religious-history, not me, has determined who the good guys and bad guys are, and how they got from point A to point B.

Or does it?

See, that was the question I asked when I began to write the story and realized the only thing the Christian Bible and Jewish text say about Serug and his grandson Terah is, they did evil in the site of the Lord. Not a single word about what it was they did that earned them that epitaph, or why?

Now remember what I said about Jim Butcher’s ‘Dresden’ character, and how Harry’s descent into the dark arts is because he’s made a conscious choice to choose evil over good, but rather, in his determination to do whatever it takes to save his friends, he’s made choices which  have resulted in less than desirable consequences?

So what if Abraham’s great-great grandfather Serug’s epitaph ‘and he did evil in the sight of the Lord’, wasn’t because he set out to chose evil over good. But rather, like our wizard Harry Dresden, life and circumstance only gave he and Terah so many choices, and unfortunately, some of the ones they made, had less than desirable consequences?

As much as I love writing ‘The Remnant’ and all the creative freedom that comes with that particular genre, I find writing an historical novel, where I’m forced to stay within the guidelines of certain events and cultural truths, just as exciting.

So whether the stories we tell are based in truth or in fiction, we need to keep in mind that, even though all characters must have an arch in their development, how we approach it can be as diverse as the stories themselves.

Sharing the journey

*From Reigning Press January 2015 Newsletter – Writer’s Journal

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