Overstimulated

I want to write a story about this guy. Or at least one with him in it. I have the story in mind, and if life would just leave me alone for a few days, I could get it written fairly quickly.

After several months of struggling with ideas, I suddenly have too many of them, and I’m beginning to wonder if I’ll ever get them all written. Winning that short story contest makes me want to try my hand at more of them; studying non-fiction writing makes me want to try my hand at that.

These would be short pieces, not to interfere with Riding Herd, the sequel to Give the Lady a RideFor the most part, I have my ideas for novels lined up and know which one is next. However, I took Corporate Ladder to my critique group last Tuesday, and the response was so good, it has put that one in my mind again. Among all the internal and external problems I’m having with it was one simple thought: what if I couldn’t follow up a serious novel with another serious novel? Well, I came up with two more excellent ideas, and now I’m anxious to finish that one too so I can move on to the next.

The course at the conference about writing for my denomination and the other about writing for magazines have me going too. If I could come up with good ideas for those, and write well enough for them to be accepted, I could expand my readership. It’s never a bad idea to get your name out there.

So, after a long dry spell, suddenly I’m overstimulated–too many ideas, too little time. I’m so excited, I’m literally shaking. Of course, that could be the drug I’m on too. Apparently I hurt my back yanking my book bag out of the trunk of my car the other day, and all my back muscles have decided to rebel. I’m okay, thanks to the drug, but the other night, I wondered if I was going to live to see any of my ideas land on the computer screen.

I’d gone to bed and was fast asleep when I turned, I guess, and awoke to incredibly sharp pain in my back. The more I struggled to get up, the deeper and broader the pain went. By the time I managed to get out of bed, all the muscles in the right side of my torso had cramped from my spine to my sternum. I’d been to the doctor earlier because of the pain and had pills that weren’t working, but what I experienced that night made the earlier pain seem like a mild headache. The muscle over my heart started cramping, and I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t breathe very deeply, so I panted–or hyperventilated, according to my brother in law. I called him–our resident drug pusher (he’s a pharm rep)–to see if I could take a Tylenol on top the pills the doctor gave me. I very foolishly thought I could handle this at home. He insisted I call MSB and get to the ER.

I was lucky that someone answered the phone at the plant where my husband works, and someone was able to go get him. All I said was, “Honey, you need to come home,” and next thing I knew he was here. He’d been worried about me all day because of the earlier pain. He didn’t know what he was in for when he came home.

Anyway, long story short, we went to the ER, I got drugs, and now I either sleep all the time, or I’m so overstimulated I shake all the time. Coffee doesn’t keep me awake, and it certainly doesn’t help with the shakes, so my caffeine intake is severely limited. Dagnabbit.

If I could get some time alone to write, as revved as I am, I could whack out several short stories, a few more chapters in my novel, and probably work on the Bible devotion/study I’ve had in mind for a while. But added to today’s schedule of my mid-week Bible study, which I hate missing, is a wonderful lunch with a writer friend and a trip to the physical therapist. By the time I get home, I may not be revved anymore. I’m certainly not going to take any more medication to get me that way. Maybe afternoon coffee . . .

 

 

 

Posted in Misc., Personal, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Good Times at the ETBU Christian Writers Conference

Lynn Hobbs and Sally Stuart at the ETBU Conference 2014Every October, East Texas Baptist University holds a writers conference in Marshall, Texas, and I try to attend as frequently as I can. Look who I ran into this year! Sandwiched between me and fellow author, Lynn Hobbs, is the beautiful and famous Sally Stuart!

Sally flew from Oregon to teach about markets open to us Christian authors. I learned about writing for the periodical market in her Early Bird session and realized how much I’d missed from her Market Guide because I’d limited myself to looking at book publishers. She doesn’t own the guide anymore, of course; Jerry Jenkins has it now. But Sally is still very much in the know, and I fully intend to put to use what I learned from her.

Marketing gurus often tell us to write for the magazines our potential audience reads to help get our names out there. I never considered this seriously because I didn’t think I had much to offer. That’s because I was restricting myself to the thought of writing for the western magazines–and I know excruciatingly little about ranching and horses. What goes into my novels is meticulously researched, not based on personal knowledge. But if I extend the definition of who my reader is, I have a wide range of magazines I could contribute to. So, high on my list of things to do this week is to buy the 2014 Market Guide (or should I wait till 2015?) and get to work.

I learned so many wonderful snippets from the other classes, too. This year, I concentrated on the nonfiction writing courses. A couple of the classes were just overviews, not as in depth as I would like, but I still gleaned some things I didn’t know and could use later.

When I first arrived at the conference, friend Bill Keith told me he liked my short story, “Slider” which I’d submitted to the contest. I was glad he did, but didn’t realize at the time he was one of the contest judges. He asked if I would be at the opening ceremonies banquet, and while I calmly told him I would, inside my heart skipped a beat. My story must’ve placed! Not too shabby for a first-time short story entry–and not too shabby considering I hadn’t written a short story since I was around 16.

At the banquet, he caught my attention and asked how to spell my name. As I told him, I noticed he had a stack of winners certificates on the table in front of him, which confirmed that I had at least placed. I got a bit breathless, I have to admit.

I sat with friends from my writers group from The Woodlands, Texas, members of Writers on the Storm, and chatted, ate a wonderful chicken dinner, listened to opening speeches, all the while thinking, Wow. I placed!

Then Bill started announcing the winners. Acquaintance and poet Linda Burklin took first and second place in the Poetry category. Fellow WOTS member, Alice Thomas, won second place in the Personal Essay category. I don’t remember who took third in the Short Story category–I was talking to someone at the table (no big surprise), and I don’t remember who took second, but I realized my name hadn’t been called either time. Could it be . . . ?

Yes! First place in the Short Story category went to Linda Zezack–Zeezick—Yezak! I took hold of my first place certificate and discovered the reason Bill needed to know how to spell my last name: the first place certificate for the Short Story category had poet Linda Burklin’s name on it. Bill had scratched it out and penned mine in its place. It is now being corrected and will be sent soon.

“But, wait!” Bill said. “Stand where you are!”

Then he talked to the crowd. “The grand prize of the 2014 ETBU Writers Contest goes to Linda Yeezack for her short story, ‘Slider’!”

Do you think I cared that he mispronounced my name again?

grand prize cert

Posted in Misc., Personal | Tagged , , | 11 Comments

Son of Truth, Book Review

sonMorgan L. Busse has a great series going: Follower of the Word. I didn’t catch it from the beginning, but if time allows, I may go back and read this series from the first.

But not reading the first book didn’t take away from the experience of reading the second. Morgan did a good job of hinting at the backstory without rehashing it and provided just enough information to help me understand what was going on in the new story.

As the Shadonae invade the post-war city of Thyra, healer and truthsayer Rowen Mayer becomes enslaved to the immoral pirate, Drake, and forced to heal for money. Drake sells Nierne, a monastery librarian, to an influential rich woman who intends to use the lovely redhead to “entertain” her male guests. Captain Lore gives up his position in the White City regimen to search for Rowen, and Caleb Tala, the once-assassin, now-truthsayer strives to save Nierne.

The story is action-packed and full of twists, a definite page turner. Every now ad then, the author’s style distracted me, and I’d play copy editor, going line by line through paragraphs and sometimes whole pages, smoothing things out, varying sentence structures, deleting the unnecessary. But things that bothered me wouldn’t bother many others, so I expect this series to make a huge splash in the world of Christian supernatural fiction

Definitely worth reading–but catch it from Book 1.

Posted in Reviews of exceptional books | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

KM Weiland Understands Me

katie

Katie Weiland understands me, even when no one else does. In her upcoming book Conquering Writer’s Block and Summoning Inspiration, Katie quotes this excerpt from her blog post “Why You Should Be Writing Scared“:

When it comes to writing I’ve got the wanderlust. I’ve no interest in visiting territory I’ve already covered. I want to journey on, see new sights, discover what’s over that next horizon. With every new project I begin, I make it a point to push myself to new heights. I want each story I write to be completely different. I want to meet characters I’ve never met, not just rehash the old standbys. I want to tackle themes that are always a little bigger than what I already have a handle on. I want to attempt narrative feats that seem all but impossible at my current skill level. Life’s too short for me to run in circles chasing my tail. That might be comfortable; it might be familiar; but it’s not exciting and it’s not challenging.

Exactly! And that’s why I’ve been balking about having to limit myself to one genre.

This works for her. This amazing indie-author has done an awesome job of branding herself, which means she’s been able to pick and choose her genres with smashing success because everyone who reads her books knows what to expect–variety and excellence.

But is it wise for me? No, since my goal is to be with a larger traditional publisher someday–and therefore have a wider print distribution–I have to play by the game rules. I wish I’d had the foresight Katie did to work the rules more to my favor. As it is, yes, I’ll stick to Women’s Fiction/Romance. But this is okay. It allows a variety of subgenres, which means that while my playground is hemmed in by a chainlink fence, it’s still a pretty big area.

Posted in Writing | 6 Comments

Your Facebook Author Page

author banner

Recently, I read a comment from an author who didn’t understand the perks of having an author page apart from his regular Facebook page. I had to think about that a minute, because I wasn’t sure of the answer. I have an answer now, and I think I’ve discovered a strategy to utilize my own author page better.

I use Facebook for keeping up with family, with both personal and close cyberfriends, and with my writer friends and aquaintances. Most of the folks who have “friended” me are writers. Had I possessed a functioning brain at the time I started this, I would’ve opened a separate page for personal friends and family, but I didn’t and I don’t feel inclined to separate everyone at this late date. Besides, they get a kick out of my posts. They’re fun and silly for the most part. I also vent about my writing progress/frustrations here. My writer buddies can always relate, but others couldn’t care less.

I’ve never posted about writing on my author page. Aside from this blog, which gets posted to the page automatically with each new update, nothing goes up on that page that pertains to the art, craft, and adventures of writing. That page is all about the readers and what they would find appealing. Not all of my followers on that page are authors. Some really are fans (yea!) who want to keep up with me, learn when my next book is due out, and participate in the giveaways that are always part of new-book promos.

So that’s two things I do right–I keep that page about the readers, and I host giveaways only for followers of that page. Just like I have things in my newsletter that are only for folks who take my newsletter.

I read an article that gave ideas of how to better utilize the page. Online Marketing expert, Susan Gilbert, suggested these techniques–well most of them. I supplied another. Susan meant these to be for a Facebook marketing campaign, but I think her ideas are great for keeping your fan page active:

1. Hold regular giveaways. I love this idea. I have several books at the house that I ordered for different events but haven’t sold, so I can always offer my own books as giveaways. I can also offer books I’ve read and am ready to pass on. I keep these in great shape, so they’re “like new,” and perfect for another reader. I don’t know about “regular” giveaways, however, since I’m using this to keep my fan page active instead of using it as a component in single marketing campaign, but random giveaways would work.

2. Ask open-ended questions that engage the readers in dialogue. This one is always hard for me. I come up with things on occasion, but more often than not, they’re duds. My winners, however, make the posts fun and the readers’ responses are great. I’ve done this on my regular page and on Twitter (which, for some reason, is always a dud for me), but I think I’ll kick it up for my author page, too.

3. Present “calls for action” in which readers can gain opportunity to champion you and your works, or to help you in some other way. I think this is similar to having a “tribe.” Actually, this may be a great way to identify those willing to be in your tribe. Be sure to have some tangible way to thank those who help you.

4. Give out tips and advice. This is particularly great when it can pertain to something in your book. If I had a lick of sense–and I do, so I’ll probably take my own advice soon–I’d have posts about cat care on my site, since my most recent promo book is The Cat Lady’s SecretOr, since my work-in-progress is a contemporary western romance, I can give tips from my research about things that would interest my western romance readers.

5. Share your author friends’ giveaways when they will appeal to your readers. If you’re branded (like I’m supposed to be, but I’m not yet. Oops.), your readers are following you because they like the genre you write in, so promote friends’ works that appeal to their interest.

Can you do all this on your regular FB page? Of course. Personally though, I like having a separate page for my readers (though not all who follow that page have actually read my books). And, the more active I am on that page, the more people are reached. I’m not sure I can say that about my regular page, because my regular page doesn’t keep stats for me.

That’s another perk to having a separate author page–the stats. Right now, I have around 680 followers on my author page (not many, I know, but give me time). And on the day I wrote this post, my page reached 1091 readers. That discrepancy is a mystery I’m not interested in solving, but it’s great to know that the more active I am on that page, the more people I reach. It’s also great to know which posts reached the most people, a stat which allows me to adjust what I’m putting up to appeal to the readers. Also, if I were so inclined (and I’m not), I can compare my page’s activity levels to those of other author pages.

But a slow-growing page is the best kind, because many of those joining you are interested and will engage with you, respond to your activity. I recently watched a video someone posted from Veritasium, called “The Problem with Facebook.” I recommend everyone watch this before spending too much in the line of advertising dollars on Facebook.

But, regardless of the video, is a fan page worth it? Yeah. I think so. Look for me on mine.

 

Posted in Promotion/Publicity/Marketing | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

Linda Yezak Took an Ax . . .

Pat and TalonBefore the ACFW Conference, I’d been on a roll with my work in progress, Riding Herd, the sequel to Give the Lady a Ride. I was nowhere near finished, of course; I’d just crossed over the 10K marker and had a clear vision of where I was going from there. Knowing where your WIP is heading is a wonderful, satisfying experience, something I’m sure outliners get to revel in on a regular basis. Folks like me, who sketch out only a few scenes at a time before committing them to the manuscript, don’t always know what’s going to happen after those few sketched scenes. Don’t get me wrong: I know what is going to happen in the book itself, in each major point throughout the book. But the action that brings me from one point to the next is often contrived at the last moment.

After a week in St. Louis and another week in Bryan with my sweet mama, and a week in between to recuperate from St. Louis and prepare for Bryan–in other words, three weeks after I’d crossed that 10K mark, I picked up the manuscript again.

Ugh.

There’s a trick to writing sequels, a balancing act that I need to work on. How much do I need to include from the last book to bring folks up to speed in the new one? How much is too much? How can the book be both a continuation and a stand-alone without disappointing anyone?

During the “week of recuperation,” I began reading a friend’s sequel-in-progress, and since I’d read the first in the series, I realized she had included too much of some things, not enough of others. She felt the need to explain, to re-present old news, to re-introduce absolutely every character so the new readers would feel up to date. Problem is, the new readers wouldn’t make it through all the backstory–which is what all this old stuff is–to get to the new story. I suggested that she pick out from the first novel only what was important to the plot and theme of the new story and gently weave it in.

I need to heed my own advice.

When I reread Riding Herd this week, I realized I’d done exactly what my friend had done. I felt the need to explain, to re-present old news, to re-introduce absolutely every character–along with some new ones–so my new readers would feel up to date.

I’m introducing a new character, Aunt Adele, in Riding Herd, and I felt I had to explain how and why she fits into the plot. She’s the cactus thorn that pops Patricia and Talon’s love balloon, and she comes with her own backstory and psychological baggage. Her characterization is rough right now; she’s a little too sharp. Readers probably won’t like her as she is right now and will wonder why Patricia puts up with her, but that’s a problem I’ll deal with after the story is written.

Problem is, setting the stage for her and resetting the stage for the new readers put the action off too long. Way too long. Even though I know I’m not supposed to edit until after I write the entire manuscript, I just couldn’t handle it. I couldn’t add on to the story knowing that the first half of what I’d written so far would have to go. So, I pulled up my granny panties and went to work.

I’m not talking surgical precision here. I took the ax and hacked away at it. Then I took the scissors to the discarded parts and rescued scenes and dialogue passages I liked to weave them back into the remainder of the story. Over five thousand words hit the cutting room floor, and just over a thousand were rescued from the incinerator.

And that is how I can now sit here and proudly tell you that I have over 6000 words in my 10,000-word work-in-progress.

Posted in Writing, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments

Don’t Tick Off the Author

don't tick of the authorYou’ve seen it on Facebook, I’m sure: “Don’t tick off the author, or she’ll put you in her book and kill you.”

Yesterday, at the doctor’s office, someone ticked off this author. First time in a long time I wanted to start writing murder mysteries again–maybe not to kill her, but I’d certainly love to word-paint her in her true colors.

I walked into the doctor’s crowded outer office and waited in a short line to register, one couple ahead of me, one elderly lady at the window. On the other side of the window, a gum-poppin’ receptionist with a rhinestone-studded head band explained to the older woman that her insurance wasn’t accepted at this office. The girl looked barely over twenty, and to her credit, she was being as patient as she could. When she did get frustrated, she stepped away and let someone else talk with the rejected patient. Because of where I stood, I was able to see the receptionist roll her eyes to the heavens and flail her arms, but I doubt she was visible to anyone else.

The poor older woman had a hard time understanding why the only advantage she had with Medicare Advantage was to be publicly rejected and turned away. She politely argued with the girl for several minutes, explaining that the card she had was the same one they’d accepted long ago. Nothing had really changed–at least in her mind. The receptionist kept trying to explain that the card wasn’t excepted, and the woman would just gape at her. The older woman finally gave up her argument and turned away–shoulders stooped, lips tight, eyes dazed. It broke my heart to watch her leave.

But I also felt sorry for the receptionist. Imagine having to turn people away from medical attention! It’s a sad situation brought about by folks far away from here–and far out of touch with reality, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.

When I got to the window, I said, “That must’ve been hard for you, having to turn someone away like that.” I was expecting her to feel as heartbroken for the elderly patient as I felt.

Her response? “Yeah. Some folks just don’t get it.” Gum-smack. “Name?”

Is it just me, or does that seem lacking in compassion? I’m going to have to figure out how to put her in a book. I won’t kill her. A twist of fate will be far more fun.

Posted in Misc., Personal, Writing | Tagged , , | 17 Comments

Do You Have a Platform?

groupMaybe I should start with asking, “Do you know what a platform is?” I’m not talking about the construction/architectural definition or the political definition, but the one used for us writers. Recently I proof-read a query for a friend and realized that not everyone knows what agents are asking when they request information about a potential client’s platform. Granted, the terminology is confusing. I’d never heard the word used like this before I got into the business.

A platform is the group of people you personally have access to.

That’s all there is to it. Do you have a family? Do you have friends? Do you belong to any kind of organization? Do you have a job? All these count toward your platform. They may not provide the impressive numbers agents and publishers are looking for, but they’re a start.

The best time to start building your platform is the moment you decide you want to write a book. Get involved with social media if you haven’t already, and if you have, expand your circles. You don’t have to write book-related things, just make friends. Your “followers” count as part of your platform. Write for magazines. Join groups. Like I said, they don’t have to be writing-related. Join organizations that hold the people who will comprise your future audience. They’re your springboard. Look at it this way: A platform is the foundation from which your readership will be developed.

Gaining this understanding is the easy part. The hard part is developing numbers high enough to impress those you query.

At the ACFW conference, I listened to the professionals during two agent panels as they discussed the importance of platform. The numbers they were quoting made me wonder just who was dreaming–me or them? Folks with the kind of platform they’re hunting are a small percentage of those seeking an agent. It was depressing, I tell ya. Made me wonder if I had a chance.

I started brainstorming ideas of how to improve my platform, add to my numbers. First idea that came to mind was to streak the Super Bowl. Then, as they led me off the field, wrapped modestly in a cop’s jacket, I’d hold up a placard: “Christian Author! Follow me on Twitter!”

I discarded that idea. Getting to the Super Bowl would be expensive.

Another idea I had was to claim to be related to someone famous. I could be Linda Kardashian, the redheaded stepchild. Linda Trump, the one who didn’t inherit the business mogul gene. Or maybe I could star in a reality show. Real Housewives of Naconowhere, Texas. Dish Dynasty. Naked and Frightening. Laundry Wars.

Truth of the matter is, every single superstar author started out as Joe Blow or Jane Doe. Before Stephen King was–you know, Stephen King!–he was probably just plain Steve. Agatha Christie was probably Aggie. Everyone had to start somewhere.

I asked one of the agents whether not having a monster platform was a deal-breaker, and he said, “Well, not for me.” And probably not for the others either. If so, they’d have a hard time getting clients. Which means that having an incredible product and a willingness to work can still land you an agent, even if your platform is as small as mine.

 

 

Posted in The Business | Tagged , , , , | 11 Comments

Deconstructing “City Slickers,” Finale

city slickersStill with me?

Monday, I introduced the idea that I applied Chris Vogler‘s structure paradigm to City Slickers because that was the movie that kept scrolling through my head as I listen to his course at the ACFW Conference in St. Louis. I covered the first act and its components: the Ordinary World, the Call to Adventure and subsequent Refusal of the Call, Meeting the Mentor (in the first incident, it was Barbara, Mitch’s wife), and Crossing the Threshold.

Wednesday, we entered the Special World and met the allies and enemies. I presented several of the tests our hero faced, then reassessed our allies and enemies. Curly shifted from being an enemy to being a mentor just before he died.

By the end of Act 2A, we’d had the Ordeal–the battle between the heroes and the enemies, that ultimately resulted in everyone leaving the scene but our three main characters, Mitch, Ed, and Phil. That was the big turning point, but it wasn’t the climax. It’s the beginning of the big test–what everything has been building up to.

So, what’s next in the paradigm?

early bird 1(You can click on the picture to make it larger.)

We’re moving toward the Reward and the Road Back, the last elements in Act 2B, then we head to Act 3, toward home and the character’s Ordinary World.

city slicers herding sceneIn the movie, we didn’t get to go through Mitch’s mental process that made him change his mind from going back to the ranch house with the other city slickers and decide to join his buddies in herding the cattle. He showed up on the scene, had some pithy comment about his return, and off they went. I doubt novelists could get away with that, but it worked in the movie.

We’ve had some bared-soul moments with Ed and Phil, but it’s safe to say Mitch isn’t there yet. All he has to go on is Curly’s hint about One Thing, and he doesn’t have a clue what that one thing is. Still, there’s a camaraderie and a sense of well-being among the three buddies. The going is easy, the conversation casual–Mitch teaches Phil how to set his VCR. Having the friends all together, unified toward a common goal, is the Reward they earned for surviving the Ordeal.

They don’t get to enjoy it long, though. They’re facing The Road Back.

It starts raining and the task becomes more treacherous, but they’re dedicated. They keep working, keep pushing.

One of the characters Mr. Vogler lists is the Gatekeeper. As the name implies, the gatekeeper’s task is to keep folks “out,” keep them from achieving their goals. In City Slickers, the Gatekeeper is the river–a live, writhing thing, swollen from rain and ready to kill.

In a nail biting climax, our heroes get the herd across, but the calf is caught in the current. Mitch dives in to save it, and the river carries them both away. Phil and Ed make a frantic effort to save them.

Spoiler Alert! Our heroes conquer the river! They save the calf, then push the herd onward to their destination. Cue Bonanza theme as they ride down toward an adoring crowd. Accolades all around from their fellow city slickers who chose not to carry on with the herd and from the ranch owners.

They’ve all enjoyed a Resurrection. Phil admits his divorce allows him a “do-over,” a chance to get it right. He leaves the movie with a new love interest. Ed decides he likes fidelity after all and chooses to start a family with his lingerie-model wife, a sure sign his fear of commitment has been conquered.

And Mitch? He found out what that “One Thing” is: his family. He Returns with the Elixir–his smile . . . and Norman.

city slickers and norman

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing, Writing How-To Books, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Deconstructing “City Slickers,” Part 2

city slickersIf you were here Monday, you know I’m using Hollywood screen-writer Christopher Vogler’s structure paradigm to deconstruct one of my favorite movies. I just bought Vogler’s book, The Writer’s Journey, and haven’t read it yet, but he taught our Early Bird course in St. Louis this year, and I don’t think I quit taking notes until the final applause for him hit.

Monday, we went through the prologue and opening scene of City Slickers–“Act 1″ according to the paradigm. Others call this the “set-up,” where we learn the cast of characters and how they interact, and we discover the “Ordinary World,” hear the “Call to Adventure,” and “Meet the Mentor.” Now, we’re going to “Cross the Threshold.”

Here’s the chart Mr. Vogler used during the course (click on the chart to enlarge it):

early bird 1

We’re moving into the second quadrant, going clockwise. This is where we thrust our character into the “Special World.” This world, according to Mr.  Vogler, is always polarized, and to a certain extent, Mitch’s special world is: it’s the Ranchers/Cowboys vs. the City Slickers.

Now our story starts escalating. I wish I’d taken a picture of Mr. Vogler’s visual, but this one will have to do:

progression chartMr. Vogler’s chart was more wavy, illustrating more time allowed in the peaks and valleys, but the idea here is the same: ups and downs in a progressively upward direction. This is what the story line is like from here. Tests increase in intensity, valleys allow time for introspection and reevaluation.

The transition from the ordinary world to the special world (Crossing the Threshold) was as simple as changing scenery. One moment, we’re in an apartment in New York, the next, we’re on a ranch in New Mexico. When writing a novel, all we’d do is turn the page and start a new chapter.

city slickers curlyMore characters are introduced and divided into two camps: other thrill-seekers and the ranchers. Then there’s “Curly” (Jack Palance). Gruff, tough, gritty. In the beginning of Act 2A, he’s the one most admired, and most feared. Nothing fazes him, no one crosses him, everyone obeys him. He’s leathery, like “a saddle bag with eyes.”

So, is he “ally” or “enemy”? We spend much of Act 2A finding out. He’s ever-present during the tests in this part of Mitch’s Special World–and he doesn’t seem too friendly.

The tests start out simple enough. The guys have to learn to rope and ride. Mitch stands up to the ranch hands. Then comes the “Yee-Haw!” scene, with everyone saddled up and ready to roll ‘em. Catch those strays, boys!

We have further exploration into the characters. Ed, for example, is forever looking for a loophole to fidelity. Mitch is honest and wouldn’t dare take advantage of an opportunity to cheat. Phil and Ed bicker. Mitch plays peacemaker, the voice of reason.

city-slickers-grinderNext morning, Mitch wants coffee, and we face our first “big” test. The noise from the coffee grinder starts a stampede. Cattle trample everything in camp and head off to parts unknown, until Curly stops the frantic herd with a single shot in the air. Then, with a sneer on his lips, he chooses Mitch to help him round up the strays. Just the two of them. Alone.

In the next several scenes, we’ll engage in a reassessment of who the allies and enemies are, starting with the harmonica scene.

By the time this is over, we have a shift. Curly no longer falls in the line of “enemy,” though he’s not exactly “ally” either. He becomes a mentor, telling Mitch that all he needs to do is to identify “one thing.” One thing that’s more important to him than anything else. Next scene presents the birth of “Norman,” the bull calf, which results in a “good job, cowboy” from Curly, further emphasizing him as a mentor and affirming Mitch on his quest.

Not long after, Curly dies, and the city slickers are left in the hands of T.R. and Jeff, the cowboys who’ve already shown themselves to be volatile. But they give logical orders, so everyone feels fine about it. And this begins the “Approach“: the place where the hero decides just how far he wants to go into his “Special World.”

At first he’s fine with it. They’re traveling along, chatting with each other–we viewers get more clues about their characters, deeper hints of what makes them the way they are.

Then Cookie gets drunk and drives his covered wagon over the cliff.

Cookie jumps from the wagon, breaks a leg, and necessitates a separation of some of the allies from the rest of the group.

Then the cowboys get drunk, nasty, and mean. This is the beginning of the Ordeal. All three of our heroes get to find out what they’re made of. Mitch, the peacemaker, tries to step in and reason with the guys. Ed, the thrill-seeker, jumps in with fists flying. And Phil–who has been on the verge of cracking all this time–finally comes unglued. It’s intense. And it’s followed by an insight into just how far over the edge Phil has leaned.

During the night, the cowboys turn tail and run, leaving our heroes and the rest of the city slickers to fend for themselves.

The crew has to decide whether to leave the herd behind and return to the ranch house, or to move the herd to its destination. At this point, there are six slickers in all, including our heroes, Mitch, Ed, and Phil. Two others have already left to take Cookie back. There are no enemies at this point, just an enormous task and the decision of whether or not to undertake it. Mitch is all for moving the herd, even assuming the role of leadership by telling them which direction to go. But then he discovers half of the city slickers want to go back, and he’s no longer sure of himself.

Ed says, “I’ll take ‘em. You all go back to the ranch.”

Phil says, “We need this, Ed and I. I’ll stay with him and move the herd.”

Mitch says, “You guys are out of your minds. I’m going back.”

Of course, he won’t.

Friday, we’ll cover Act 2B and move into Act 3.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Writing, Writing How-To Books, Writing Tips | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments