Since I posted about writing by the seat of your pants, I was thrilled when Rami Ungar said he'd do a guest post on being a plotter. I thought he had some great ideas on how he approaches it and wanted to share it with those of you who are thinking of trying this method. Without further ado, here's his post!
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These are the rules as listed on his post:
1. You must have written something scary or featuring something scary in the past year. (This can range from being a simple murder mystery to a full-on zombie novel with a wizard and serial killers mixed in for variety).
Welcome everyone to my first special-request piece! As some of you who read this blog regularly may know, I was recently done a solid by a friend who brought the existence of my latest book (Whiskey Delta) to the attention of Max Brooks, Mr. World War Z man himself! Because of this, I told him he was entitled to favor, redeemable whenever he saw fit.
Call me concerned, but some recent news items have made more than a few people frightened that unmanned drones could be peaking in their windows and watching them as they go to work very soon. The first came back in September when US Congress passed the Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 which, among other things, required the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to accelerate drone flights in U.S.
If A Publisher Offers You a Contract for Your Self-Published Book, Will You Be Forced (By Amazon) To Refund Past Customers Who Bought It?
The answer just might be yes because this is exactly what is happening to Jamie McGuire. Jamie originally self-published her book Beautiful Disaster and the sales were so good that a publisher wanted the book. So now the book is with a publisher. Cool, right? You'd think so except for this thorn that cropped up. Amazon is sending out mass emails to people who bought…
I know, I complain pretty bitterly about all the unnecessary sequels and remakes that are coming out these days. But a Die Hard sequel is one thing you will never hear me complain about. I mean, c'mon, it's Die Hard! Pure, smashy, action, death-defying goodness! And when a new trailer for the upcoming A Good Day to Die Hard comes along, especially one that boasts this kind of action-pornographic goodness, I'm sure to post it!
Hi, Rami. Good to talk to you! What is your book called?
It’s “The Quiet Game: Five Tales To Chill Your Bones”, and it’ll be available later this year as an e-book.
Have you always wanted to be a writer?
At least since I first read “Harry Potter”, though I didn’t realize it till I was around ten or so. At that age you want to be a scientist, a superhero, a firefighter, President.
It's been a busy few days!
I did an interview with BBC's Newsday, one with a German freelancer, and wrote two op-eds on this story, both requested.
For anyone who wonders how I get to speak out publicly like this, it's a matter of relationships. All four opportunities came to me through long-held relationships with editors or these institutions.
I also, which I really value, am essentially asked to explain…
It seems NASA spends untold resources trying to debunk conspiracy theories and doomsday predictions. Sad, when you consider all the wonderful uses this time and energy could be dedicated towards, like putting people on Mars! In any case, and in anticipation for this coming Friday (and Saturday, if all goes well!), I thought I'd share this video NASA released to put people's minds at ease.
While I’m watching the presidential results on MSNBC, I’m also writing and editing Snake, specifically Chapter 40 right now. This is the chapter where word of the Snake’s exploits have gotten out to the public thanks to the media, and the other mafia families are noticing the top dog isn’t looking so good right now.
This is a very interesting chapter for me, both in terms of NaNoWriMo progress and in terms of the chapter itself. In terms of NaNoWriMo, this is my fifth chapter written (don’t get too excited, none of the chapters are past seven pages), with around fifty-four hundred words written. So I’ve got less than 44K words left. Not too bad, not too bad at all. Having small chapters helps.
As for the chapter itself, it would’ve been much shorter if I hadn’t decided to do a little character-building: at first the two mafia characters in this chapter, Dibacca and Cabrera, were nameless. They would’ve just showed up and then got swept into a dustbin. But I decided to see what would happen if I tried to make them more memorable than just the characters who are the first to learn of how much the Snake is changing the underworld’s landscape? At the very least it might draw out the chapter a few pages.
And you know what? Not only did the chapter get lengthened a bit, but the chapter is much better. Cabrera and Dibacca have depth, and you actually grow a little fond of them. In fact, if these two characters weren’t mafioso, they’d make a great comedy act (or maybe Dibacca would kill Cabrera out of annoyance). We see how much the Snake is affecting the world of organized crime, and just how much it increases everyone’s stress.
At the very least, it’s a pretty good first draft, and I wish to share it with you.
So here’s Chapter 40. You don’t need to know anything about Snake or to have read other excerpts to read this chapter. All you need to know is this: the Snake is a serial killer hunting members of the Camerlengo mafia family (in the book I’ve already revealed why the Snake is doing the killing, but I’m not revealing it here; that’s too much of a reveal). Since most of America don’t know why the Snake calls himself the Snake or why the police calls himself the Snake (two very different reasons, I assure you), the media and New York has taken to calling him the New York Mafia Killer, and he’s captured the people’s imagination.
In the last couple of chapters, the Snake has escaped an entire task force that’s been trying to capture him. The media is all over it, and word’s starting to get out. Everybody’s wondering: can the New York Mafia Killer be caught?
“Alright.” said Dibacca, looking out the window as he talked on his phone. “Uh-huh. We get it, sir. You be careful as well. See you at the meeting on Wednesday. Bye.” Dibacca shut his phone and sighed. “Goddammit.”
“What happened?” asked Cabrera, signaling that he wanted to make a lane change. “Is it…you know?”
Dibacca groaned from the passenger seat, rubbing his hand up and down his face. “Yep, it is.” he growled. “The New York Mafia Killer. The bosses just got word that Roman Veretti was the latest victim. The crazy bastard really did a number on him, too.”
“Jesus Christ.” said Cabrera, moving into the right lane. “What sort of number did he do to him?”
“I didn’t ask, you dummy.” Dibacca replied. “Could you turn on the radio or something? I don’t want to think about the New York Mafia Killer or the Veretti kid right now.”
“Yeah, sure thing.” Cabrera leaned over in his seat and punched the audio dial. As the display screen lit up, a woman’s voice came over the speakers. “…sources say that the New York Mafia Killer evaded an entire force made up of police and FBI agents, injuring at least ten members of the task force and one attack dog. It is unknown how the suspect managed to evade the entire force, or how seriously injured the officers are. Law enforcement officials are at this time not commenting on the fiasco. From Suffolk County, I’m Candace Berman, reporting to you at the scene of the crime.”
Dibacca and Cabrera stared at each other. Finally, Dibacca broke the silence and said, “Turn it off.”
“I said turn it off!” Dibacca shouted; Cabrera sputtered to life and pressed the audio dial, his left hand turning the steering wheel sharply to the right. The car drifted to the right and almost off the road.
“Get off the curb, you idiot!” shouted Dibacca; Cabrera took back control of the wheel and righted the course of the car, smoothly exiting off the highway and pulling off to the side of the road.
Dibacca and Cabrera sighed as Cabrera put the car into park. “Oh my God.” said Cabrera. “That was crazy.”
“What were you doing?!” shouted Dibacca, slapping Cabrera in the head. “Trying to get us both killed?”
“Jeez, I’m sorry!” said Cabrera, rubbing the spot where Dibacca had slapped him. “No need to go ballistic.”
“Can we just hurry up and get this over with?” asked Dibacca, a vein pulsing in his forehead. “I wanna get home. ‘Sides, the higher-ups want everyone on pimp duty home early.”
“Early?” Cabrera repeated. “Why do they want us to be home early?”
Dibacca gave a loud cry of frustration before turning to his partner and shouting, “Because of the killer, you moron! Think about it, he’s killed four of our guys, and he evaded an entire team of feds and cops! Of course they want us home early! What, did you think they wanted us to study for a quiz on The Colbert Show?”
“Why would they do a quiz on The Colbert Show?” asked Cabrera. “Jon Stewart’s a thousand times funnier.”
“Just drive, you numbskull!” shouted Dibacca.
When they finally reached the pick-up location, the sky was beginning to brighten a little, becoming a soft purple. Dibacca and Cabrera got out of the car and looked around for the girls under their watch. Not a soul was around.
“Where the hell are they?” growled Dibacca.
“I don’t know.” said Cabrera. A second later, Cabrera had lifted his hands to his face and was shouting, “Chontelle! Cassidy! Euphie!”
“What the hell are you doing?” snarled Dibacca.
“I’m just calling for the girls.” said Cabrera.
“No you’re not!” said Dibacca, stomping over to Cabrera. “You’re alerting the serial killer and all his fans to where we are just so you can see that thing you’ve been seeing on the side!”
“Huh? Wait, I don’t know what you’re talking about—!”
“I know you’re seeing that slut Euphie!” Dibacca cut in. “And she may be some sweet Kansas girl, but she’s nothing but bad news! Getting involved with any whore is bad news. Especially when you happen to have no brains in that thick head of yours!”
“What’d you just say about Euphie—?”
“Sheesh, what’s with all the noise?” said a voice. Dibacca and Cabrera turned to see three men in expensive suits. One of them, a dark-skinned man wearing a gold ring and a goatee, strode towards Dibacca and Cabrera, grinning from ear to ear.
“This neighborhood must really be going to the dogs,” said the man, his voice matching the one that had spoken earlier, “if two grown men can stand around arguing at the top of their lungs about the quality of golden-hearted whores. Euphie…was she by any chance the one with the cheap rose earrings? Cute girl. Last one to leave after we chased them off. Kept saying she wanted to see her Eddie. That you, hotshot?”
“Who the hell are you?” asked Dibacca, the vein in his forehead pulsing again. “In case you haven’t noticed, I’m not really in the mood to entertain, so why don’t you just tell us where we can find our whores and we can be on our merry way.”
The man with the goatee clicked his tongue and said, “Oh, where are my manners? I’m Danny Baldwin, these two are Gomez and Gold, and we’re the new owners of this spot.”
“What the hell is he talking about, D?” asked Cabrera. “This is Camerlengo land. Everybody knows that.”
“First off, I told you to lay off with that stupid nickname. Save it for the fantasy basketball league, you moron.” said Dibacca. “Second, I’ve heard of you, Baldwin. You work for the Cromlin group. And none of Cromlin’s men would ever pick a fight with us.”
“That’s how it used to be.” said Baldwin, flashing another grin. “But things have changed. After all, the New York Mafia Killer is going strong, and he’s killed four of your men. Most don’t even get past planning to kill one. So, if he can get away with four…”
Baldwin snapped his fingers and his partners pulled out handguns from within their suit jackets, pointing the guns at Dibacca and Cabrera.
“…why can’t we?” Baldwin finished.
Cabrera and Dibacca glanced at each other, and a silent message passed between them. Striding forward to Baldwin, trying to give off his most powerful alpha-male air, Dibacca smoothed his hair back and said, “Look pal, I know the serial killer’s got everybody on edge. But don’t take that as some stupid excuse to go and pick a fight with us. After all, the Camerlengos are still top dog, last I checked. So why don’t you and your pals do the smart thing and scoot out of here? We’re both busy men who’ve got to collect from our whores, and we don’t want to waste any more time on you.”
To Dibacca’s surprise, Baldwin just laughed. “Oh, I’d do just that…except my boss wants me to ‘knock out your support beams’.” Baldwin replied, making quotation marks in the air.
“Cromlin said that?” said Dibacca, disbelieving.
“Yeah.” Baldwin answered. “And in any way we can.”
Dibacca felt something poke him in the belly. A second later there was a loud bang and Dibacca felt something hot and painful pierce through his stomach. Looking down, he saw a small river of blood forming just beneath his suit jacket. Feeling dizzy, Dibacca fell over, holding a hand to his stomach.
“Dibacca!” Cabrera shouted, reaching into his jacket. Without a second’s hesitation, Baldwin’s companions cocked back the hammers on their guns and started shooting. Cabrera flailed around like a clown on a ball before falling over, his face and body riddled with holes.
Dibacca turned over and stared at Cabrera, his face stuck in a horrible expression of surprise, as if he hadn’t seen his own death coming. Ah shit. thought Dibacca. Even that numbskull didn’t deserve this. From behind him, Baldwin was talking as if he were discussing travel plans with a coworker.
“Once we take over this area of town, your regular customers will start paying us.” he said, walking around Dibacca. “And if the other gangs and families are thinking like we are—strike now while the iron’s hot—the Camerlengos will lose at least a third of their territory and your foreign contacts. That’s millions in profits down the tubes if you can’t sell girls overseas.”
“You bastard.” Dibacca growled, spitting on Baldwin’s shoes.
Baldwin shrugged nonchalantly. “I’ve been called worse.” he said, pointing his gun at Dibacca’s head and squeezing the trigger.
The world ceased to be.