Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Using Flash Fiction as an Outline

I've done Story A Day May for five years, now. Last year, I intended every story to feed into a collection of various previously established characters of mine. The ones based in the SAGE world, I collected, along with some others, into SHIFTY. But, in 2014, I wrote one called Salali and Vernando. That also ended up in SHIFTY, but not quite in the form I had thought.

If you follow the link and read the entry, you'll see that what I have is a bare-bones tale, with a segment in the middle that merely catalogs action. I also had a notion that everything I wrote would be only the first part of an adventure tale.

When I started expanding the story, I front-loaded A LOT of explication, backstory, and world-building into the running-away section. I tend to do that, damn my eyes. I put so much on the story's head, it falls over backward and can't get up off the floor. But, because I had written all that detail, I was able to cut almost all of it out and merely touch on it, using telling details in place of elaborate paragraphs. While I was at it, I added an encounter that turned out fortuitous, as such encounters so often are in fairy tales.

I was wrong about the continuation. The longer section of the story stub turned out to be the only adventure in it. In a way, that's too bad, because I do like a tale that goes on and on, with chases and narrow escapes and magic combs and such. This one ended up as sort of a locked-room adventure, I guess.

THE POINT IS, I've turned quite a few flash fiction pieces into longer stories, and stories into novels.
Pick the story apart. Each thing that happens is a plot point. Each plot point can be expanded and/or bracketed by rests between the beats. Room can be made for subplots. And this can all be done formally, with Roman Numerals and Capital Letters, or informally, by the seat of the pants, with the short version serving as a series of torches to show the way.

Marian Allen, Author Lady
Fantasies, mysteries, comedies, recipes

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Revisiting My Old Fictional Friend

(reposted from my new WordPress blog)

I’m one of those weird writers who likes to work on several novels at once. The upside is that I’m never ever bored. The downside is that it takes a while to see the books published.

Since I find it impossible to release three or four new titles a year to stay visible, (trust me, I’ve tried) it’s not a huge issue. The truth is that I like to take my time with plots…allow them to simmer and merge into a story with seamless subplots and layers of character development.

So, after a nearly eighteen month hiatus, I’m finally ready to start the sixth draft of my 6th Casey Holland mystery, still untitled. This WIP has been around a while, ever since I met a bus driver a few years back. He’d been assaulted three times on the job, and has since changed careers.


 Although I was working on book five this spring (now in my editor’s hands), it feels like I haven’t visited Casey in a long time. I think this way because Casey’s in a different place emotionally in book six than she was in the fifth installment. It’ll be interesting to catch up on the latest challenges in her life. How has she grown? What new challenges must she face, beyond crime solving?


I’ve been writing about Casey for many years, and I’ve changed more than she has. Certainly, my perspective has changed, but that can be a good thing. Authors, like their protagonists, need to grow and change, don’t you think?