The Last Drop

The following piece started life as an exericise in mood, atmosphere, and tone.

I’m waiting for some first readers to get back to me on it. One first reader offered, “I got a sickening chill when I got to the end.”

Hurray! I won!

Let me know what you think.


The Last Drop


People use to come from miles around to watch my father pour gas. He could pour gas through the eye of a needle into a siphon-tank without spilling a drop. They’d come, their near empty gas cans on the back of their buckboards, the cans braced all around so they wouldn’t fall over, spill, slosh around.

There were special gas pouring days back then and dad was the only one in our country who had a license to pour.

It was a wondrous thing to watch. He’d put one can on the ground in front of him, walk around it a few times, maybe put his hands on his hips or cross them over his chest and lift one hand to stroke the stubble on his chin, considering. Real difficult pours, he’d get down on his knees and hands, put his head down at ground level, looking around the can, checking for balance; would the can teeter as it filled? Would it slide as it neared full?

Then he’d start with a single, small, drop. A “test drop,” he’d call it. Everybody held their breath. He’d check the neck of the can after the test drop, make sure there was no spillage.

Warm days were the worst. Everybody’d have to stand back lest the fumes got inhaled. Couldn’t have that. Other pourers weren’t as careful as my dad. The fumes would escape and everybody’d have to go see the magistrate, explain what happened. Why weren’t proper precautions taken? My father never had to face that, never had to worry about asking the community to make a decision; make them decide what value would this person bring us? Is their contribution moving forward worth the gasoline fumes now resting in their lungs, in their blood? We can extract the fumes, reconstitute the gasoline, but the person would die.


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The 3x Rule

Note: This material originally appeared on a marketing site and dealt with branding. People who know what they’re doing recognize all branding is an application of neuroscience, hence neuromarketing (which may have been a part of neuroscience at one point and now is a buzzword and poorly degraded from its original).
I’m resurrecting it for a friend who’s curious about
The 3x Rule.
The 3x Rule has broad applications – everything from education to marketing to branding to military training and for the purposes of writing, creating memorable characters. You can use The 3x Rule to have your children, partners, peers, et cetera, remember to do something when they need to do it.
I use the
The 3x Rule rule in my writing to lock characters and scenes into reader memory.
Enjoy!


The 3x Rule has six elements:

  1. Memory
  2. Touch
  3. Mirrors
  4. Words
  5. Sentences
  6. Voice

Let’s explore each element separately then put them together.


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To-ing and Fro-ing

We’re going to build on elements from Using One-Line Summaries to Write Better Stories and Flashback as Story Frame to deal with another story challenge that often leads editors and publishers to stop reading and reject a story: To-ing and Fro-ing, something I first wrote about in Quit Stage Directing.

Simply put, To-ing and Fro-ing occurs when the writer/author has their characters move around or do things for no real story purpose; there’s no character development, no character revelation, the atmosphere doesn’t change, no plot elements are furthered or revealed, the movement is irrelevant to any established or impending plot points, the movement is unnecessary to the dialogue, et cetera.

The end result is weak writing, exposition, narration, and lots of uninteresting things happening just to fill the page. Most writers/authors fall down on “movement is unnecessary to the dialogue.” They’ll have two or more characters talking and feel the characters should be doing something while they talk.

The desire to have characters do something while talking is good, the execution is usually poor, and now we’re dealing with attribution via action which I’ll cover in another post.

Eating my own dogfood
I’m currently editing Cicatrix, a work-in-progress last picked up and put down in late Feb 2019.

What follows is the ninth scene in the story. I’ll share the scene’s original form first with brightly colored “Problems” buttons after each weak paragraph. Click on the “Problems” buttons for examples of that paragraph’s problems. Next I’ll share share a rewrite with brightly colored “Solutions” buttons. Click on the “Solutions” buttons for explanations of why the rewrite is better.

PS) this is more for my edification than yours. Feel free to disagree. Please make sure you explain your disagreement and offer suggestions for improvement. Always happy to learn, me.


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“Owen and Jessica” now on The Yard: Crime Blog

Subscribers may remember Owen and Jessica from previous posts. It’s a flash piece and always got laughs and applause when I read it publicly. I shopped it around, got lots of excellent comments from editors (who always asked to see more of my work) and no bites until this week.

 
Owen and Jessica was a fun, quick write that required little editing.

Blood gathered in the whorls of his thumb. He stared at it and chuckled before licking it clean.

 
It came out pretty much fully formed.

That’s an author’s way of saying “It only took twelve rewrites.” Most of the rewrites were for timing and tension; change a word here or there. One major (and important, me thinks) edit came late to the game; I added the third and fourth paragraphs from the bottom, from “He stood over…” to “…didn’t fit.”

Let me know what you think.

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Enjoy!

Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell

 
Enjoy the panel discussion. Information on the participants is below.

 
Continue reading “Litcon 2021 World Building Panel with Science fiction, fantasy, alt-history, steampunk, YA science fantasy, speculative fiction, dystopia, and military science fiction authors F. Stephan, Geoff Genge, Claudia Blood, Theresa Halvorsen, C.G. Hatton, and Liz Tuckwell”