Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Window Into the Creative Process

October has 5 Wednesdays so the Recap will post next week.  Here's today's bonus Wednesday post!

First off, what do you think of this cover for Sisterhood (Tales of the Coven #1--and only)?  The story focuses on Sylvia Joubert, the redheaded witch from the first 5 Scarlet Knight books so I put "redhead witch" into Fotolia and this picture came up.  I think it looks kind of YA-y, though I'm not sure how witchy she looks.

I'm not sure about the font type and color; my options on PowerPoint were somewhat limited.  Before I run out and buy images, I like to consult with you people first so I don't waste my hard-earned dough.

Now for the rest of the bonus post!

Early on in my Wordpress blog, back in 2010, I demonstrated how I went from notes on a story to an outline and then eventually into the actual story itself.  I've pretty much stopped formal outlining since then, just relying on notes and the seat of my pants for the most part.  Anyway, to sort of rehash it, here's some notes I wrote up for a possible story to give you a glimpse into Grumpy Bulldog's creative process.  Your process will no doubt differ and also is terrible compared to mine for I am a genius. (note sarcasm)

Mock cover
The Pretender (working title)

Here’s my epic mash-up of “Darkman” and “The Invisible Man” series that used to be on Syfy. (Mission statement)

OK, so we have a guy we’ll call Vince (because I think that was the first name of the actor in the Invisible Man show but I may be wrong about that).  He’s an expert con man, who’s been quite successful at it for a long time, though not so much financially successful in recent times.  Then he cons the wrong people, some mob dudes, and ends up with some MacGuffin that he shouldn’t have.  The mob guys find him, beat the crap out of him, and leave him for dead in a building they set on fire.  Vince is badly burned but manages to escape.  Though he doesn’t get far before he passes out.

He wakes up some time later in a secret government hospital.  He should be in agonizing pain since he has 3rd-degree burns over like 75% of his body, but he’s not.  This is because he’s a government guinea pig for this wonderful new drug called Repressitol—or something less stupid.  The drug suppresses the pain in his nerves and has the awesome side effect of giving him Captain America-type strength and speed because adrenaline is flowing unchecked.  Vince promptly uses this to try to escape, but doesn’t get far because he’s like a mile underground or something.

Eventually a hot doctor chick shows up and explains about the drug.  The downside is the drug only works for 24 hours, which necessitates a shot every morning.  Otherwise he’ll be in excruciating pain.  Then some dude from the CIA or NSA or whatever shows up to drop the other shoe.

Basically the government wants to utilize Vince’s unique skill set.  They’ve obtained an artificial skin formula from a dead scientist (name omitted) and with that and the help of a make up whiz, they can make Vince look like just about anyone.  From there it’ll be up to him to use his con man skills to fool anyone. 

The drawback is the skin only holds together for two hours before it falls apart.  Which means whatever Vince does, he has to do it quick; no long cons will be allowed.

Vince is reluctant to sign up for this crazy scheme, but it’s explained to him that either he does it or they cut him off the drug and let him spend the rest of his life in agonizing pain or in a morphine coma.  So he decides to agree.

His first assignment is pretty easy, just something for a warm-up.  It goes largely without a hitch.  Before they can collect him, Vince sneaks off to find whatever chick he was banging before he got busted.  She of course doesn’t recognize him and it’s not long before his face starts to melt, so he has to run off until he finally gets caught.

The CIA/NSA guy chews him out and introduces a handler who will be keeping a close eye on Vince during his missions.  Vince is pretty bummed about his situation.  The hot doctor tries to cheer him up, but does not welcome any advances.  (Because who wants to fuck a gross mummy?)

Then a bigger assignment comes up.  It just so happens to involve the jerks who fucked up Vince’s life!  They’re going to use the MacGuffin to do something with some nasty people.  Vince has to infiltrate the crew to find out what’s going on.

Things seem to go OK at first, but eventually it starts to fall apart just like Vince’s face.  The head mob guy gets away with the MacGuffin to complete his nefarious work.

Vince’s handler is pissed and they’re ready to shut down the whole program.  But Vince convinces them to give him one last shot.  He plans to get close to the mob guy and then impersonate him to recover the MacGuffin and get the goods on the scheme.

To do this, he gets skin made of himself.  He goes to the mob guy to act as if he’s trying to shake the guy down for some hush money.  He gets the guy to tell him where the MacGuffin is and then knocks him out to steal his identity.

He goes to the meet, but things fall apart when it’s revealed the CIA/NSA guy is a traitor!  He reveals Vince’s identity and is going to kill him.  But Vince has one last card to play, like the MacGuffin is a fake that’s actually a bomb or some shit like that.  Then with the help of his handler, Vince takes the bad guys down.  He’d like to kill the traitor, but turns him over instead.

The mission is deemed a success and so the government decides to keep the program going.  As a reward the hot doctor gives Vince some extra copies of his own face for whenever he feels like looking human for a couple of hours.  They maybe kiss, but nothing more than that.

On to the sequel!


As you can see, at this early point it's a lot like a Mad Lib.  There are a bunch of holes to fill in like names, locations, and plot specifics.  The point though is to get the overall shape of the story and then start to worry about filling in those holes.  As I fill in the holes I might come up with some other ideas for the plot or for characters or whatever, which would probably necessitate a rewrite of the notes in part if not on the whole.  Better that than to rewrite the story later, I suppose.  And then I'll probably come up with some things as I'm writing the story (if I ever do) that will completely fuck up most of my notes, which will require new notes.  Will this idea ever make it to a finished product?  I have no idea.

But now's the time to weigh in if you think this is the stupidest idea ever.


  1. Darkman and Invisible Man were awesome Pat! Cool cover.

  2. I like the cover. I like your font for the title - a little less so for the author's name.

    Your story idea seems great to me. Of course, it all boils down to execution in the end anyway.

  3. That's where we differ in storytelling, I think. For you it seems to be entirely plot-driven based on a given concept. For me it's entirely concept-driven based on a given plot. The world building is infinitely important to me, the depth of characterization and how the characters emphasize everything. For you it's very much like how a network TV show works. Or to put it another way, it's a little like saying you would approach Breaking Bad from a Criminal Minds perspective, while I would approach Criminal Minds from a Breaking Bad perspective. (And the reason why I loved Boomtown so much was because it covered every perspective.) For you, getting the details out in as efficient and straightforward a manner is what's most important. For me it's exploring those details that's most important.

  4. I like the picture for "Sisterhood" but I don't care for the placement of the text. Dividing the cover in half by placing the title in dead center doesn't work for me.

  5. I don't do any kind of written outline. I've hated those since high school (maybe even middle school) since we were penalized for straying from them at some point. It made them have a stifling effect on me.

  6. The cover: I like it. I think the choice of fonts gives it sort of a feminine cast, if that's what you're going for, and I expect for a novel called "Sisterhood" about a witch, that might be your main market. It does seem sort of YA-ish, though, which would make me skip over it entirely if I was browsing. Well, not entirely. I'd check out the girl, then move on.

    The title, also, could be more jazzed up depending on your audience. "Sisterhood" sounds almost like a bland ABC Family Night drama.

    As for the plot outline, I loved it. I would read that book, especially if you wrote it. You have a knack for action-driven plots.

    What if you did it sort of "Damon Runyon" style: placing the action in a timeframe much like Captain America's -- that lets you use the corny names for drugs and still have mobsters and the like. Just a thought.

    I never ever outline. It's no fun. I'd rather just write and see where it goes. Sometimes I will jot down notes when I think what I might want to happen next, but then I forget that I did that. The story I wrote for Andrew was like that: I had an idea of the plot, and have these little notes saved on my Kindle, and then I forgot them and actually wrote TWO endings, because one day when I sat down to write it I called up an earlier version that didn't have my ending. When I realized what I'd done, I liked the second ending better.

    The downside to this method though is that a story very often can end up not matching up -- if you take too long to write it, you could forget where you started. Or where you were headed. That happens to me A LOT.

  7. Some of my stories look like these notes in the middle. Its a way for me to think about the story without feeling the pressure of writing it. I don't outline, but sometimes ideas just need to hit the paper.

    The cover does look like a YA book. If that's what you're going for. I'm not a fan of people on the cover, unless there is a lot of background for them to fit into. I like covers that say something about the main plot of the novel, not just showing me what the MC looks like.

    I like the colors though, and the font is readable.




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