Trying to Devour the Population
H.A.L.F. Origins follows Tex and Erika while they’re running for their lives against a deadly alien virus that is spawning an epidemic around the globe. What was the inspiration behind this idea and how did it develop as you were writing?
The idea of an alien virus was part of the H.A.L.F. storyline from the very beginning of my planning back in 2010/2011. But I planned that the Conexus (the “aliens” behind the virus) wanted to wipe out humans so they could take over the planet. That idea changed a bit when I had the later idea of introducing the M’Uktah, predator aliens from across the galaxy. The addition of the M’Uktah altered how the virus would be used. In general, as I developed the story, I kept looking for ways to make life more and more difficult for my characters! So in book three they are beset with the obstacle of both a virulent virus and alien predators trying to devour the population.
The story is fast paced and throws readers into the deep end of the action. How do you balance action with storytelling to create such a captivating novel?
Novels have lots of “moving parts” and finding balance between the elements is perhaps the greatest challenge. Action, character development, setting, plot, pacing, theme, dialogue, character arc–these and more are all part of the process. Having a fabulous content development editor helps a lot. Alyssa at Red Adept Editing has provided early feedback on all of the H.A.L.F. novels. She is great at helping me see ways to improve pacing, etc. Some of it though is intuitive, but intuition seems to improve with more writing experience. 😉
I enjoyed watching Tex and Erika’s relationship grow throughout the story. Was there story organic or did you plan it in advance?
I did not originally plan for Tex and Erika to end up together. When I wrote book one, I assumed that Erika would end up with Jack and that Tex as their relationship “complication.” But that’s now how it ended up and so yes, what transpires between Erika and Tex was organic. Writing their relationship was the most satisfying part of the writing process of this series.
This is book 3 in the H.A.L.F. series. Are you moving on to other stories or are you going to continue to develop this universe you’ve created?
I am finished with the H.A.L.F. stories and do not intend to write more about Tex or Erika (or Jack and Anna). I’m currently focused on development of an entirely new project that will be epic fantasy.
I may, however, write some shorts or perhaps a serialized story set on the planet of Uktah, the world of the alien predators from the H.A.L.F. series. There has also been interest by screen writers and producers in developing H.A.L.F. for television, so I’ll be working on that as well in the coming months. H.A.L.F. may show up on the small screen some day. 🙂
And I’m introducing a new writing challenge for the writing community called PENuary that will debut January, 2018. Inspired by Inktober, I’ll be writing a minimum of 20 minutes per day from a one-word writing prompt for each of the 31 days of January. I’m inviting other writers of all skill levels to join in this endeavor. You can read more about it here. I’m hoping that I end up with 2-3 cool ideas out of the 31 day challenge.
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A deadly alien virus spawns an epidemic. Predators attack Europe. And a clandestine organization conspires to profit from chaos and forge a New World Order.
In this heart-pounding finale of the award-winning H.A.L.F. series, Tex, Erika and the rest are in a race against time. They fought for their lives. Now they battle to save our species.
Tex and Erika are fugitives and running for their lives. But when Tex falls gravely ill, a Navajo healer is his only hope for survival. Tex emerges from the ordeal changed in body and mind and with vital information: how to stop the predatory M’Uktah from overtaking the human population and destroying those he has come to love.
Erika Holt seeks a respite from the constant threats to her life but she’s not about to give up. As she and Tex launch a mission to shut down the intra-galactic highway used by invaders who prey on humans, she grows closer to her troubled half-human companion. But what about her on-again, off-again boyfriend, Jack?
Jack Wilson, with his friend Anna Sturgis, is on a mission of his own. He’s determined to destroy The Makers, an illuminati-like organization behind the H.A.L.F. program. It’s time to put an end to their schemes for world domination. Complicating matters, an anti-viral that could save millions from an alien virus has been stolen. As both alien and human forces line up against them, the destiny of all mankind is hand the hands of these young warriors. And time is running out.
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How To Plot A Novel Like A Well-Timed Mechanical Ambush (Part Three)
by Don Templeton
Characters. The heart and soul of good fiction. Character decisions and actions should dictate plot development, not the other way around.
The first thing I do with a character is visualize that character. The best way to do this is find a representative picture of your character. I pick a movie or TV personality to represent the character. Once I can “see” a character, “hearing” the character is easy for me.
I use Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method to get my character skeletons fleshed out on paper rather than following Syd Fields character creation process. Both are very similar. I’ve found Randy’s process to get to the core of a character essence instantly.
The first step is to write a one-page dossier which deals with 7 key points:
- Ambition (what the character wants abstractly)
- Story Goal (what the character wants concretely)
- Conflict (what prevents the character from reaching the goal)
- Epiphany (what the character learns, how the character changes)
- A One Sentence Summary (think of this as the character’s logline)
- A One Paragraph Summary (expand the logline to one paragraph)
Now, let’s do this for a character. This is what my dossier on Special Agent Mallory Hammond looks like for the forthcoming GREEN MAJIK adventure, Splatterpunk. You are getting a sneak preview into Mallory’s continuing story line in the next novel. Hope it makes you want to read the first one now.
Agent Hammond’s ambition in #2 is the same as it was in #1: To expose the underground cult she knows is operating all over the world.
Her story goal is to hold the alligator farm long enough to get one of the fry specimens out for her squid expert to examine.
The source of Mallory’s conflict in this tale is the FBI hierarchy, Homeland Security and the mysterious Men In Black from MAJESTIC.
Mallory’s epiphany in this adventure is the cult she is pursuing has infiltrated the government at all levels.
The One Sentence Summary: Mallory Hammond finds her investigation under literal siege when Homeland Security arrives to take over and silence her with national security.
The One Paragraph Summary: When DHS shows up being led by a MIB and attempts to seize the investigation by force, Hammond uses the Hostage Rescue Team like infantry to form a blockade and temporarily put the aggression into a stand-off while she gets one of the fry specimen prepped for smuggling out in an ice cooler brought by the boys to house the PBR in. She has Fender send her state police as escorts to ensure they get out without being ambushed by black ops. She goes to see the squid expert Fender has located. She takes the fry specimen to Dr. Donovon West of Miskatonic University located in Arkham, Massachusetts.
There are two more steps in the Snowflake Method to fully flesh out the character. I do the next step fully and the final step partially.
Take your paragraph summary of your character’s story line and write a full page, page and a half treatment which tells the entire story arc of the character inside your novel.
This is what the treatment looks like:
Special Agent Mallory Hammond receives an urgent phone call from BRAD FENDER. The shit has hit the fan. The Director is under siege from Homeland over her little monster hunt. Homeland is en route to her location, whatever she has to do to get the evidence out she better do now. Hammond hangs up on him and starts deploying the HRT to hold a line and prevent the invaders from getting access to the farm house. She enlists Ronson and Gage to assist her in snagging one of the specimens. It is a harrowing experience getting that damn squid out of the tank and into a small shipping crate filled with sea water. When the three emerge back outside lugging the shipping crate, the rest of the HRT are blockading the Homeland Security convoy. The black Suburbans are filled with MIB agents. The squid gets stowed in the trunk of Hammond’s GSA sedan. Then she goes to the skirmish line and meets the MIB in charge: MR. ADAMA. A terse exchange. The MIBs back out of the drive to allow Hammond and the HRT to exfil. Hammond goes directly to the airfield. At the airfield, she gets on a commercial flight with the squid to fly directly to Arkham, Massachusetts.
The campus of MISKATONIC UNIVERSITY. Fender is blowing up her phone again. She was suppose to fly back to D.C.! Prior to the balloon going up, Fender had found her squid expert, one DR. DONOVAN WEST of the Miskatonic Oceanographic Institute. She tells him he’s just going to have to hunt her down and hangs up. Then she drops her FBI issued smart phone into a fish tank and proceeds to turn Dr. West’s conceptual universe upside down. Dr. West has been in touch and go negotiations with a producer from Animal Planet for a reality TV series featuring his expedition to find a live giant squid in the wild. After seeing the squid fry and hearing Hammond’s tale about what was found in Louisiana – his TV series idea takes a quantum leap. He rudely excuses himself to call the producer – get the hell out here with cameras now! When the cameras burst onto the scene, her first instinct is to punch aqua danger boy’s lights out. Dr. West is something of an orator and quickly points out the insulating advantages she might have transferring her investigation from the FBI to Animal Planet and his reality TV show. And, yeah, Mallory Hammond sees the advantages immediately as well.
A cultist hit team tries to take back the avatar. Mallory Hammond engages in a blistering gun battle and foot chase with the hit team, flanked by a daredevil Animal Planet cameraman. The intense footage is aired immediately along with the earlier taped testimony of Hammond’s detailing how the squid fry was taken into custody. Now the FBI witch hunt to drum Hammond out of the bureau has hit a sensational snag – the TV series is an instant mass phenomenon. Mallory Hammond is now the bureau’s biggest PR asset.
The final step is to create a full blown character biography detailing all the usual stuff: name, rank, serial number, hair color, ethnic heritage, birth day, birth place, schools, all that down in the weeds detail. I don’t get wrapped around the axle about the character biography. When I have everything I’ve just revealed, I know everything I need to know to start writing.
In other words, I now know what to write.
For the sake of covering all the bases, use this link to download a character biography template from me.
The next installment is going to wrap up this discussion of all my secret plotting methods. See you there.
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How To Plot A Novel Like A Well-Timed Mechanical Ambush (Part Two)
by Don Templeton
Welcome to Step Two in the Blue Falcon Press plot planning process.
What I’m about to reveal here is something professional screenwriter’s already know backwards and forwards. This diagram was originally brought to the world by the late, great Syd Field. Now here is something novelists need to internalize: this schematic works Jim Dandy as a template for your novel as well as a screenplay. I’ve written EVERY novel of mine using the Paradigm above to map out the major movements and turning points in my plots. EVERY. ONE. This diagram keeps you on target, keeps you focused, and keeps you from writing crap that has no business being in your story.
The first thing to do in figuring out your paradigm is write a sentence which describes how the story is going to END. Then do the same thing for the BEGINNING. In my novels, the beginning is always the INCITING INCIDENT. It is the event that starts all the other story dominoes falling. In Pretty Hate Machine, this is the Sadie Hawkins attack on her school. Next, decide what PP1, PP2, and MP are. Let me explain what a Plot Point is. A plot point is defined as any incident, episode or event that “hooks” into the action and spins it around into another direction. Syd Field’s SCREENWRITER’S WORKBOOK. Now notice where your plot points fall: at the end of Act One and at the end of Act Two.
The Mid Point is some kind of incident, episode, or event that occurs in the middle of ACT 2 and breaks ACT 2 into two halves of dramatic action. Act 2 becomes two halves joined together by the Mid-Point. The first half of Act Two now has a target you know – the Mid-Point.. The second half of Act 2 has another target to write towards, everything that happens after the Mid-Point and concludes with Plot Point 2.
Let’s illustrate how this works by examining the Peter Jackson remake of King Kong I’m not using Pretty Hate Machine to illustrate this because it will ruin the wonderful surprise for readers of the book. I’m not going to spoil that surprise for you. In King Kong, Act 1 ends with Plot Point 1 which in this case is when the expedition reaches Skull Island. The Mid-Point of the story is when King Kong shows up for the first time, taking the girl into the jungle with him. So, the first half of Act 2 shows all the incidents that take place exploring the Island. The second half of Act 2 details the girl’s relationship with Kong and her shipmates attempts to find her and rescue her. Plot Point 2 is when Kong is captured and the ship leaves for New York. See how that works? It makes Act 2 absolutely manageable now. No reason to fear Act 2 anymore.
Let’s discuss briefly the purpose each act serves. Act 1 is known as the Set-Up. It shows your character’s in their normal world before the real meat of the tale kicks in. Plot Point 1 is really where the steam of the story picks up and spins us into The Confrontation which occupies the entire length of Act 2. Act 2 is where you put your heroes in a tree and throw rocks at them. Act 2 ends with Plot Point 2 which spins the story around into another direction, which is the straight down nose dive into the Resolution or Act 3. This is where your heroes regain the initiative and turn the tables on the opposition, smacking them down smartly. Or if you’re into tragedies and such, this is where the heroes are defeated by the opposition. I don’t like those kind of endings so I don’t use them. I believe the good guys will always best the bad guys. That’s how I roll.
Next, impose the length restrictions of the screenplay on your novel. In a screenplay, Act 1 is one-forth the length of your script. For a 90 minute show, that’s roughly 22 and a half pages. Act 2 is half the length of the script or 45 pages. Act 3 is the same length as Act 1. In a novel, you do this by dividing your word count by 4. GREEN MAJIK novels are 100,000 words in length. So Act 1 and 3 are roughly 25,000 words in length; Act 2 is 50,000 words, which is divided into two chunks of 25K by the Mid-Point. Simple Simon.
Here’s your homework assignment. 1st, get Syd Field’s book The Screenwriter’s Workbook. It’ll be the best $16 you’ll ever spend. Next, read Pretty Hate Machine and tell me what Plot Point 1 and 2 are and what the Mid-Point is. Email your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once you know what you are looking at, these events are easy to spot.
Next, we will talk about planning the most important part of your novel: your characters. See you there.
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How To Plot A Novel Like A Well-Timed Mechanical Ambush (Part One)
by Don Templeton
So you want to tell a tale. What do you do? Just sit down and start writing it from the beginning? Do you even know where to begin?
Well, the first step is a “simple” requirement…or so it would seem.
Your task, O Jedi Scribe, is to write one stinking sentence.
That’s it. One sentence. Now to create that sentence, you’re going to have to boil the entire narrative essence of your Epic Tale down to one sentence which focuses on the line of action and the character (or characters). When you achieve the objective, you will know exactly what it is you are writing and why. They say the hardest thing about writing is knowing what to write. Your finished sentence will brilliantly distill what it is you are writing.
Write a paragraph or pages of notes attacking your idea from every angle. Then take that raw material and slash it down to one perfectly worded sentence. Make mind maps if that helps you “see” your material.
But when you are done, you will have a sentence that tells your story. If you’ve ever read TV Guide descriptions of what a show is about, this is exactly what you are attempting to do. In Hollywood, this is called the logline. In fact, this is exactly what you are doing here – writing a logline that tells the story of your novel.
Now here’s a set of guidelines that are even more specific to the task.
- Your sentence must focus on a protagonist, the goal, and the antagonist or antagonistic force opposing the protagonist.
- Don’t use character names in your sentence; use character types: a cop, a hooker, a rocket scientist. Add a good adjective to add some depth to the character: a burned-out hooker.
- Clearly present the protagonist(s) goal.
- Describe the antagonist or antagonist force which opposes the hero.
- Make it clear that the protagonist(s) are pro-active to the action, not reactive.
- Detail the stakes or ticking time bomb that the characters are working to achieve or beat.
- Don’t just tell your story with your logline, sell it as well. When you write the perfect logline of your novel, you’ll have the best thing to tell people when they find out you’re a writer. Everyone always asks: “What’s your story about?” That’s when you rattle off your logline.
So now we just need a good example of all of the above in action. Here’s my logline for Special Task Force: GREEN MAJIK #1 “Pretty Hate Machine” now available at http://www.bluefalconpress.com:
A maverick detective, a Gonzo journalist, and a has-been porn star fight to expose the federal government’s involvement in the worst schoolyard shooting in history while a super-secret strike unit infiltrates the center of the cyclone, the factory where little girls are turned into suicide juggernauts and unleashed.
Are we on the same sheet of music now? Is it as clear as the water in a Caribbean lagoon? This is Step One in writing a great genre novel. In the next lesson, I’m going to show you how to diagram all the important turning points in your story and structure your idea inside the 3-Act Paradigm or what needs to be in the Beginning, what to do with the Middle (a lot of writers get bogged down here and I will show you how to stay out of the mud) and how to wrap it all up with a satisfying End.
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Their Personal War
The Poetic Heroic is a story about two brothers that live very different lives. What was your process in creating their duality? Did you always know that the brothers would be set against one another?
Beathabane and Cruelthor, the two brothers focused on in The Poet Heroic, were from the beginning set up to be one good twin, one bad twin. I’ve always thought twins make for great characters because of all the different ways you can explore nature/nurture, personal choices, etc. With these brothers in particular, I wanted to write this story to show how their personal war started – they were at one time loving brothers. It’s the choices they make that diverge their paths so drastically.
There are many plot lines that you’re juggling in this story. I always liken multi-strand plot lines like Pulp Fiction for some reason. How hard was it for you to keep track of the plots and still complete a full story within 82 pages?
I guess I don’t really see it as multiple plots, for some reason. In my head, it’s all just one story being told in different chunks, different steps along Beathabane’s journey. In a short book like this, I find HOW the story is told to be almost as much fun as WHAT story is told. It somehow felt natural to tell it this way, but I especially liked book-ending the story with a quick scene from the future, which gives some hints as to how Beathabane’s later life turned out.
In my experience fantasy novels are long epic stories. The Poetic Heroic accomplishes so much in only 82 pages? Was the short length by design or did you have a different plan?
This short is very much a character prequel to The Kota, the first book in my main series (THAT is my epic). In the series, Beathabane is a minor character. He’s important, but he’s not there very much. So for The Poet Heroic, I wanted to flesh out his story just enough to explain how he became who he became in the main series. The length was very purposeful, because it’s a teaser to the main series. Some things that might seem unanswered in The Poet Heroic are purposefully left a bit mysterious because you learn more in the main books. For people who’ve read the series first, there are things in The Poet Heroic that are “Ah-Ha!” moments, but I think it works both ways.
When is the next book in the series coming out and what can your fans expect in the next story?
The Kota Series has 4 main novels, and in that way the series is complete. But I always wanted to flesh out some characters who didn’t get a lot of time in the main series. That’s where the Kota Shorts come in – they’re companion stories to the main series. The Poet Heroic is now my second Kota Short, and The Woman of the Void (about Beathabane and Cruelthor’s mother) is the first, but you can read them in any order. I have a LOT of Kota Shorts planned, and probably next up will be a story from one of the other planets in the Kota story-universe.
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Your loved ones lie to you; your enemies tell the truth. Who would you trust? Born a telepath, Vale Olander knows he is not his father’s favorite son. Living in the shadow of his charismatic twin brother, Vale must find his own place in his father’s Dominion empire. But when Vale encounters a team of rebels, his world flips upside down. He must make a choice. Will he remain loyal and serve his brother? Or will he stand on his own and risk everything?
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