POLL: Is Your Protagonist Keeping a Secret?

Screenwriting was my “gateway drug” into novel writing.

I think this helps to explain why I’m so confounded by the topic of this post.

When writing a screenplay, it’s frowned upon to include what a character is feeling or thinking because it’s not considered “filmable.” Instead, the writer’s goal is to focus on what the character says and does, allowing for motives and plans to be neatly hidden beneath the surface. This can be tremendously useful when it comes to adding suspense and mystery to a film.

Novel writing on the other hand grants you the freedom of hearing the protagonist’s inner monologue, and in contrast to screenwriting, keeping your protag’s motives hidden is generally frowned upon.

So my question is: How can the protagonist be part of a reveal or “reversal of expectations” if the reader is INSIDE his or her head and knows everything they know? Even with an omniscient narrator who jumps in and out of the head of the character, it presents a challenge.

I’m not expecting a simple answer to this. My experience with novel writing thus far has taught me that there are no rules so much as guidelines and that ultimately you must do whatever it is that you feels tells your story best. Still, I’d appreciate the input of writers and readers alike:


Shark[nado] Happens

Hot diggity damn. I haven’t posted here since January!

Since my last entry, a few changes occurred in my life that took me by storm, and now, nearly eight months later, I’m finally getting my sea legs back.

For starters, I resigned from my graphic design job in Hell (Yes, I am implying that I worked for Satan — figuratively, I hope). This was a major release for me and put to rest some very deep psychological issues, the kind you would expect to stem from working for the Devil.

Within a week, I was comfortably adjusting to my new job, which allows my creativity to flow more freely, all the while not being so creatively draining that I can’t come home and still have the energy required to write.

In the midst of the shuffle, I also managed to do some work on social media phenomenon that is Sharknado 2: The Second One. My friend Anthony C. Ferrante, the film’s director, offered me the chance to design the opening titles for the film, to which I emphatically agreed. Like all things Sharknado, it was a bumpy ride, but the end result was that I could say I WORKED ON SHARKNADO. Also, it didn’t look half bad!


And that, my friends, brings us to today.

I’m sitting at my computer, as I usually am, tinkering with ideas in Evernote; throwing in little seeds of story with the intent of having them sprout and develop into characters, chapters and even all new stories.

Oh, I almost forgot! I am now the proud owner of this beauty. 4K resolution, bay-bay! I’m entertaining the idea of using it to film my own book trailers in the future, but that’s wishful thinking until the first novel is complete. Still, it’s a fun idea and I can’t wait to experiment.


Later, gators!

Sherlock Series 3: Two Theories on [Redacted]



Suffice it to say, Sunday’s Sherlock Series 3 finale left my head spinning. I wasn’t shouting at my television so much as I silently disappeared into a maddening spiral o’theories, and I’m going to assume that you didn’t fare much better, since, after all, you’re reading this entry in hope to gain some enlightenment.

Fair warning: You probably won’t find any here. Or anywhere else for that matter. Blame Moffat.

Originally, this was going to be a longer post offering a collection of all the various theories out there, but in the essence of time and sanity, I’m going to adhere to the two that stick out most in my mind. Everything else I’ve read seems far too elaborate and convoluted to be addressed here, anyway.

1. Moriarty pulled a “Fight Club”

Before you ask, no, I’m not suggesting that Moriarty and Sherlock are alter egos of one another — although that would be epic. Instead, I’m referring to the end of Fight Club, where rather than blowing his brains out, Jack/Tyler shoots himself through the cheek. It’s entirely convincing, and he looks like death after doing so, but soon rights himself and carries on.

Is it possible that Moriarty and Sherlock are so alike that they actually succeeded at faking suicide at each other? And Moriarty is only returning in full force upon discovering that he’d been bested?


A variation of this theory is that Moriarty had a more elaborate rig set up to create the illusion of blowing his brains out, but I’ll side with Occam’s Razor on this one.

Supporting evidence: The soccer (football?) game that cuts off right before Max Headroom, I’m sorry — MORIARTY — takes over the airwaves. This is reaching, admittedly, but in the brief moments of the game, the player misses a crucial shot at the goal. Did Moriarty miss his crucial shot as well? And what was done with his body post-mortem? The issue is never addressed.

Damning evidence: Sherlock is a master detective. Wouldn’t he know a kill shot when he sees one?

2. Moriarty is physically dead, but his legacy lives on

This theory strikes me as the most likely, that is to say, the most realistic. To draw a comparison with another film, Moriarty’s death and subsequent “return” evokes the arc of Ra’s Al Ghul over the course of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. Ra’s was truly well and dead by the end of the first film, but come the third entry, his legacy is running strong by means of his protégés, granting him a form of immortality.

Is Moriarty’s resurrection merely an illusion being perpetuated by a remaining member of his extensive “network”? Could it be the notably absent Sebastian Moran?

As an aside, one theory I’m not buying into is the whole Mary Morstan > Mary Mor[st]an > Mary Moran charade that’s going around. Her character has secrets that remain buried, but it doesn’t make narrative sense to drag John through the mud over this woman twice. I’m not saying it’s impossible, only highly unlikely. Also, she’s canon (minus the whole expert assassin thing. Eek.).

A variation of this theory has Sherlock and/or Mycroft planting the video as a means to avoid Sherlock’s MI6 involvement, which Mycroft believes will result in his brother’s death. This angle doesn’t hold much water, however, when you consider the frustration Sherlock displays when Mycroft tells him his exile is over.

Supporting evidence: Moriarty’s “Did you miss me?” viral video turns his face into the Nutcracker, where only his bottom lip down to his chin is animated. This suggests that someone has merely done some clever editing to a Moriarty headshot. Why not just film a legit, non-looping video if you’re still among the living?

Damning evidence: In the end-credits scene, Moriarty, in the flesh, turns to the camera and says the words “Miss me?” breaking the fourth wall and suggesting that Moriarty is truly alive.

moriartyMiss me?

Yes, as a matter of fact, we did.

Google Alerts Are Your Friend

145836_320Sometimes I find myself having researched something so deeply and intensely that I feel like I’ve read everything there is on a particular topic and have reached the dreaded (dun dun dun) END OF THE INTERNET.

Information is like oxygen to those of use whose tales rely heavily on scientific and/or historical fact (not to forget mythology). We depend on it—we survive off it. If you take it out of our veins we turn blue and keel over.

So what do you do when you find yourself gasping for information? You turn to Google Alerts!

Google Alerts allows you to keep track of new information as it arises on the internet. This way, having exhausted all existing instances of your topic, if any new material crops up that you can mine from, you’ll know about it as soon as Google’s creepy crawlers do.

Being the wonderful folks they are, Google has made this process super simple. Just take a look at the Google Alerts page: http://www.google.com/alerts. It’s hardly rocket science. You simply:

  1. Enter a search query, that is to say, the topic you are researching.
  2. Select the type of results you’d like. You can limit this to videos, books, news, etc. But if you’re as desperate as I am, you’ll likely accept “Everything.”
  3. Select how often and how many updates you want. If your search query is a popular topic, you may want to limit the “How many” to “Only the best results,” lest you be inundated.
  4. Select your delivery method. By default Google selects your email address, but this can get messy. My preference is to choose “Feed,” which generates an RSS feed that can been imported into your favorite RSS reader (I recommend Feedly.)
  5. This is the hard part: You wait.

I’ve set up a series of Google Alerts for topics covered in my novel and relayed them all to Feedly. Some of the topics are so obscure that I haven’t seen an update in six months, and maybe never will. Other, less obscure topics, get updates every day. In other words, depending on the topic(s) you choose, the frequency of your results will vary wildly.

Now, back to setting up Google Alerts on ex-girlfriends. Kidding. Don’t do that. That’s what Facebook is for.

Resolutions for 2014

The New Year is upon us! And with each new year comes the chance to form new (hopefully good!) habits.

My resolutions for 2014—some writerly, some not—are below.

  1. Write 300 words a day.

    This task seems rather daunting for a newbie, but I’ve heard enough times over the past few weeks that 300 words a day is the (rough) equivalent of a page a day. With 365 days in a year, by year’s end I should have a fully realized draft of TSP (unless I pull a George R.R. Martin and decide to roll out an 864 page novel–please God, no). If I’m extra diligent and begin to surpass my daily word quota, I may even be able to squeeze in some valuable rewriting time. (This entry, it turns out, is already 300 words long.)

  2. Get the hell out out of Dodge.

    It’s time to make a joint savings account with the wife and generate enough financial padding to leave Los Angeles. If it takes all year, so be it. Los Angeles seemed like a sensible move when I was aspiring to be a screenwriter, but ever since my “novel epiphany,” the city has become a black hole for all things creative. The escape plan is a place in San Francisco, or maybe even Seattle. We haven’t quite decided yet, but the consensus is “Anywhere but here.”

  3. Keep up with this blog.

    Originally, this resolution would have been to “make a blog,” but I thankfully jumped the gun on that one. Now, I merely have to make myself keep up with it. It’s already proved to be a valuable resource after only a handful of entries, so finding the motivation to keep up with it will likely be the least challenging of my resolutions for 2014.

Have a fantastic 2014, everyone! May you all be blessed with high word counts and book sales.

The Foundation of a Trilogy

As a Christmas gift to myself, and in a hunt for inspiration, I stopped by the local B&N and picked up Elizabeth Sims’ You’ve Got a Book in You along with a beautifully bound copy of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy for just $20. Talk about a steal.

Sims has a remarkably cheery approach to writing that fills her readers with confidence. Whether that confidence is justified, who is to say until they’ve actually got a published book under their belt.

Asimov requires no introduction.


Reaction GIF of the Week

This week. This job. These people. I feel you Pacey-Peter.

Moving on.

Getting Started: Build Your Outline

I should start by saying that outlining isn’t for everyone, but for those of us who prefer to map out the story beats (possibly across a series of novels — as in my case) way before we fill in the details, outlining is a great way to push forward with your writing.

My weapon of choice when handling outlines is OmniOutliner (for Mac) by the Omni Group. Out of the package it’s simple and intuitive, but offers a plethora of formatting choices at the same time. However, if don’t want to part with the $40 (It only hurts a little) for OmniOutliner, any ol’ word processor with multi-level bullet points (i.e. nested lists), such as MS Word, will do.

I’m not going to go into detail here on how you can format your OmniOutliner outline (you can find several tutorial videos here). Instead, I’m going to focus on how to create a very basic, but powerful, outline that you can constantly expand upon as you flesh out your novel.

When going through these steps, keep in mind that your mileage may vary. These are guidelines, not rules.

  1. Title
    OmniOutliner — This will be written over the “Topic” field (double-click to edit).
    MS Word — This will go in the first line of your document.

    Give your outline a title (Usually the title of your novel).outline1
  2. Synopsis
    OmniOutliner — Click to the right of the first bullet point beneath your title.
    MS Word — Hit enter to go to the next line, and start your bulleted list with ctrl-shift-L.

    Here you will want to add a brief synopsis of your story (assuming you have one at this stage — if not, skip to Step 3). Later, each time you add a new beat to your story, refer back to this and ensure that the new beat fits under the “umbrella” of your synopsis and pushes the story forward. If it doesn’t, there’s a good chance it doesn’t belong.outline2

  3. Chapters
    OmniOutliner & MS Word — Hit enter to create a new line and then tab to indent it.

    On this line you will type the name of your first chapter, or any chapter at all. It could be your second, third, even last. The idea here is to insert the content of the story that you do know, right now, in the order that you understand it will happen, regardless of the gaping plot holes in between. You can (and will — positive thoughts!) go back and add the rest later.outline3
  4. Beats
    OmniOutliner & MS Word — Hit enter to create a new line and then tab to indent it. After each beat, hit enter to create a new beat on the following line.

    Just like a novel, this is where the meat of your story will go — nested within the chapters. Here you can create a new bullet point for every little scrap of an idea that you have for a given chapter. Later, when it comes to writing the damned thing, you can “connect the dots” of your story, using these bullet points as your “dots.”outline4
  5. Rinse & Repeat
    OmniOutliner & MS Word — Hit enter to create a new line and then shift-tab to outdent it.

    This line should align vertically with the indent of the previous chapter. At this point, you’re ready to insert another chapter name and follow Step 4 to add further beats.outline5

Similarly, you can lay it out in WordPress.


  • This is your synopsis. Try to keep it relatively brief. Two to three sentences should suffice.
    • Chapter 1
      • Main character introduced
      • Main character finds herself in a heap of s#!t
      • Main character meets villain and dies a painful death
      • …or does she?
    • Chapter 2
      • Main character rises from her ashes like the phoenix
      • etc, etc…

With this outlining method, if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you can even add more books if you’re writing a series with an overarching story. The only problem with this approach is that you may end up with an excessively long outline. This is where OmniOutliner’s collapsing feature comes in to play.

With the simple click of the arrow on the left of each line containing sub-bullets or “children,” you can collapse entire chapters, or even the entire novel. This sort of visual compartmentalization can be very helpful when developing a story, as your thoughts aren’t muddied up with all the holes in your story at once, freeing you up to tackle them on a case-by-case basis.


I hope this little tutorial has proved useful to you. It’s a first for me, and a learning experience. I have a creeping feeling that my next blog post will be substantially more mundane.

An Inspirational Quote to Start Me Off

You never really learn how to write a book–you just learn to write the one you’re writing right now.

This one has been tossed around in various forms. I pulled it from the website of YA author Ally Carter, but it appears to originate with Neil Gaiman via comic book writer Kelly Sue DeConnick.