On Writing a Novel, Pt. 3

Hi, I’m Jamie Shank and I’d like to talk a little bit about what I went through writing Just ‘Cause – Overtures, “Ch. 2 No Turning Back Now” and the technique applied therein. I basically saw each new chapter as a story within itself. Chapter Two introduces the supporting cast change. All new characters! Chapters Two and Three do more or less tie together and run consecutively, yet even they hold their own. I’m going to start off by reemphasizing the importance of starting off with a hook. To kick-off Just ‘Cause – Overtures I started off with…

Prologue : Making Fun Of History

A brief introduction to our main character, John Anderson, Jr., his family, and some history about the World in which John lives. Have patience, for this shouldn’t take too long.

John Anderson, Jr. had been drafted by his country to serve in the Second New World War, a war thought to end all wars. Unlike the First New World War, this was not a battle fought over taking a new world but rather a clash between the two existing Worlds for the complete and total domination of the entire planet. Winner take all! New World or Old World! Both great nations sought to establish their absolute authority and reign as the supreme ruler of the whole World by the time it was all said and done with…

…and then I opened up with John Anderson, Jr.’s mother, Peggy Anderson, checking the mail and receiving the draft letter summoning her son to serve in the Second New World War to begin Chapter One. To begin Chapter Two I start by introducing Major Briggs as he gives an introductory speech to the new recruits. To add a little humor I occasionally slip in John’s thoughts in italics. I do all of my characters’ thoughts in italics, often indicating their mood, emotions, and how they are at the time affected. I like trying to portray the feel behind what is being said, and I feel Major Briggs’ introductory speech and John’s first impression setup from the get-go the feel for what Briggs is going to be like as the battalion’s leader and how the majority of the new recruits likely view him. Brad and John’s conversation will go to further implicate Briggs as a hard man to serve under.

Brad Thompson is introduced as our main character, John’s, bunk-mate during basic training. When these characters first meet their is some tension between then, creating an awkward feel, a rare-to-use but clever tactic to be able to recreate. The tension will quickly be broken when John and Brad start learning that they have something important in common. The friendship is sure to blossom. Brad Thompson essentially replaces/substitutes for John’s best friend Tim Spelling’s character from Chapter One. A good, solid, well-placed supporting role goes a long ways. Otis Smith and Shawn Berg will go a long ways, too, turning the duo into a foursome while unlocking new and unexpected opportunities.

Otis Smith has been suffering from a bout of home-sickness causing him some insomnia which leads to him seeing a growing number of people heading outside at night in groups after lights-out. Otis goes to investigate to learn that the guys are sneaking out to smoke pot. Otis gets Shawn, Brad, and John in on the nightly smoke-sessions, but not everybody approves. One particular recruit is set on ruining it for everyone, and he’s going to the Major. What’s to come? Will an army of one be enough to shutdown these illegal happenings? What’s the shocking truth? And what was up with the junky who died of the overdose? Mysteries start adding up, leading up to John and Brad’s “Just in-case” letters towards the end. The setup is in place. By the end of the war, when the few troops who are left are finally heading home, all will be revealed.

Take notes. Track your setup. Be patient and plan when in the story to include what and meanwhile give hints but don’t give anything vital away. When it comes to my 88,888 word, fiction/fantasy prison story, Conner, I hint at why Conner is in there from the third part where the jokes start to appear. “That one has a message in it for you,” Conner says, yet it’s not enough to draw any definitive conclusion from. To top it all off, though the connection between Conner and his son is hinted at often, the connection between Conner and Daryl is much more obscure and is only revealed in the last couple of sections of the book, though it is the key element that makes this ending so heartwarming, heartfelt, and moving.

Never skimp on detail, but make sure you don’t ramble. Review your work and ask yourself, “Would I want to read this? Is this really my best, or could I do better?” Plan and map out your story. Build concept trees, take notes, create timelines, do what ya have to do, play with it and be innovative. Get creative! Most of the techniques I use are from seeing it done before. I’ve been taught, I payed attention in school, my father was an English major and he critiqued my writing back when he was still alive and taught me much, but mostly I just watch and learn. Monkey see, monkey do! I also name some of my own techniques without knowing or caring if it’s a correct term or my own creation. I know the story Conner is what’s referred to as a “bottle story” wherein the characters are trapped in an environment they cannot escape because I learned the term from X-Files creator Chris Carter, but when I use the term “dream and flashback sequences” or “an awkward feel” I can’t say for sure those are legitimate terms but I think any layman can understand what I’m talking about. Be creative! Try new things! Don’t be afraid to create your own techniques, improve on what ya do and see, and never think it’s a waste of time to at least test something, even if you’re not sure it’s going to work out. Reviews make for the ability to later alter what doesn’t workout.

Short stories and clever off-shoots are always a good way to strengthen the main story-line while introducing something else that’s new and interesting for the reader to follow. The more things that tie together the stronger the story seems to become. Things like shock value, spin and twist, the unexpected, and anything else that makes for interesting and appealing adds a lot of overall value to a novel’s overall strength as well. Look at what sells. What do the greats do that is so right? Then ask yourself, “How can I do better?”

I’m a very good writer, I really do believe that, but that’s not enough. One must have an edge. If I read your story, what’s going to make it stand out above and beyond anything else I’ve ever read? Why is your story going to be so memorable and stick with me? What can you teach me or do for me that only the best can compete with. I might be a good writer, but my trick is that I’ve channeled these characters through visions, voices in my head, though I fear this might make me looney as all hell, but what should one care if they can produce something great, something real, something new, something that stands out, a World worth getting lost in, all along the timeline. John Anderson, Jr. stumbles upon a strange land. Damien unlocks the secrets of this strange land in Yahe and the recruiting of the Crossovers is soon to follow. Damien’s first disciple is more or less introduced in Conner as he causes mischief in a prison just outside of the nation’s capital city as the Visitor, followed by the book about that same disciple’s cat with Kapooka; A Crossover’s Pet, and the final superhero saga in the Crossovers Anthology is what I’m currently working on now that I’ve released all but one of the other novels and got this thing out there and made available. Remember, people will either like it or they won’t. Not everybody is going to love the same things. Go by overall reviews and don’t dwell on any one bad review. If the overall review is a ten out of ten then don’t dwell on a couple of fours and fives or even the occasional one or zero. Know in your heart and know by the opinion of your overall fan base. Your fans and constant readers are the most important critics you’ll ever have, for they are the ones who will keep on reading, tell ya what they expect and want from ya, and keep on reading ’em and being inspired when ya publish the next one and get it done right.

To get back to Just ‘Cause,  I had mentioned short stories and clever off-shoots, and now I want to talk about the two outros following Chapter Two. In Chapter Two there is a part where the new recruits are going through training and at the end I talk a little about nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons and Shiro Ishii’s flea bombs back in WWII. It’s good to write about what ya know, but be clever and get to the point. In the first outro to Just ‘Cause – Overtures, entitled “Casualties of War,” I talk a little about what it would be like if the war hit home before I go into a bit about the Hitler’s youth and the Nazi’s pilot program and follow with the controversial and heartfelt off-short short story of Sven Williams and what happens when the war hits his home. This is followed by the second outro, another short story called “Upon the Horizon” which, like a lot of the story’s “Making Fun of History” intro, has a significant tie-in to some future important character’s far distant, distant pasts. Slowly but surely it all adds up, ’tis the point of writing big adventures as part of an anthology.

That’s all for now. Stay tuned for the next instillation, On Writing a Novel, Pt. 4, where I’ll discuss the two halves of Just ‘Cause – Further Explorations Ch. 3 Ye-Ha, The War.” All of the build-ups from Chapter Two play out over the course of three major battles and an ambush that leaves John, Brad, and two fellow soldiers scrambling and scampering for their lives. Nothing but excitement the whole way through, Just ‘Cause – Further Exploration is where the real excitement is at!

Jamie Shank's ebooks on Amazon.com, $2.99 each.Jamie Shank’s full-length novels and ebooks available on Amazon.com

To preview samples from Jamie Shank’s Just ‘Cause and other novels visit: https://jamieshankscrossoverswebsiteandwritingmark.wordpress.com/ 

J.C.Kapooka Jamie Shank's ebooks on Amazon.com, $2.99 each

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