Chuck Wendig: Terribleminds

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Wait, What? Who Let Me Be A Father?

And like that — poof — I’m a father.

Didn’t have to fill out a form. Didn’t have to get a license. Didn’t have to kill a wild boar with my spear and eat its still-beating heart. No test. No spirit quest. No nothing.

Just a paroxysm of delight — a darling dalliance with my beautiful wife — and now we’ve a little drunken homeless man in our life that we call “Baby Ben.”

Holy shit.

In italics, this time: holy shit.

The strange thing is, for the last several years now, Father’s Day has been something of a maudlin day for me. My father passed a few years ago, as you may know, and so when this day rolls around it’s about a day of conspicuous absence, a day where the void of exclusion is felt most keenly. Hey! Not going to send him a card. Not going to call him. Not going out to dinner with him. Not sharing a glass of blackberry brandy.

In that canyon, a swirling stinging sirocco of never-gonna-happen-agains.

Ah, but.

Here, I am, in a different role. Now I’ve got a child — even moreso, a son — of my own. On the one hand, therein lies further cause for sadness here today: Ben has one grandfather now, an awesome guy, a guy who will handily own the job and embrace it the way a bear embraces a falling tree full of honey, but he’s down one grandfather. He’ll never meet my Dad. And damn, my Dad would’ve been a bitchin’ grandfather. He was a good father, but we didn’t always have the best relationship — but he’d have been a great grand-dad (or Pop-Pop or Grampa or whatever the hell he would’ve been called). That’s even sadder, right? Here’s my son and he’ll never have my Dad to show him how to fish or shoot cans off a fence-rail or look for deer or find weird rusted treasures at creepy flea markets nationwide. In that way, the void just yawned wider: the canyon walls crumbling and stretching to accommodate a deeper oblivion.

But then, on the other side, there I am. The kid has a father. (Uh, me, in case you haven’t been paying attention. Or the mailman, if I haven’t been paying attention.) And my Dad’s not here to show him how to fish or shoot cans or any of that, but I am. And through me, those things flip and switch from never-gonna-happen-again to gonna-happen-again-someday. My father’s ghost, his callused hands (and missing pinky finger), maybe getting a second life through me. It won’t be the same, of course — like I’ve said before, we’re all just blurry, blotchy fascimiles of those who came before us, each generation thinner and cut with more water than the last — but it’s something. And I’ll bring new things to the table, too, and in that the weird goofy DNA of fatherhood keeps on going.

Point is, I miss my Dad, but I’ll bring him back through the stories I can tell to my son and through the things I can teach and the adventures we can have.

It’s not everything, but it’s something, and something is better than nothing.

Miss you, Dad. Love you, Dad. Hope you can pause in your wild romp across the Happy Hunting Grounds and look down upon your grand-son and maybe give him a wink and a waggle of your ruined pinky.

Happy Father’s Day, everybody else.

(Sidenote: that photo above is from an early pheasant hunting trip when I was a kid. That’s my gawky, beardless self there second in from the left, and my father the one with the NRA hat. I may be a bespectacled intellectual moderate, but you can be damn sure my son’s going to have a fishing rod, a knife, and a rifle if he wants it. And he’ll learn to use and respect each of those in kind, just as I had done. I won’t make him hunt, but if he wants to, we can do that. Hell, you’ll note that I went just last year to bag more pheasants in honor of the old man. Though, I just can’t hunt deer.)

(Second sidenote: some folks think that B-Dub looks like me, and that might be true. Heck, he even does my one cocked eyebrow look — a dubious, incredulous face. But a lot of the time I see my father’s face in there, too. Which is at times spooky, but at all times, heartening.)

Flash Fiction Challenge: Must Love Robots

Last week’s challenge — “Dirty-Ass Sex Moves” — is live, live, live.

Given yesterday’s big news regarding BLACKBIRDS, I figured that doing a flash fiction challenge slightly in-theme wasn’t such a bad idea.

With that in mind, and given that the news is about Angry Robot Books, I figure:

Hey, let’s see some flash fiction featuring one or several robots.

In any capacity. In any genre. Get creative.

Here’s the tweak, though: I’m again going to give away copies of CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY and IRREGULAR CREATURES. This time, however, I’m not giving them to my favorites but rather, those who get here and write their fiction first. The first ten (EDIT:) fifteen entrants in the flash fiction challenge (as posted chronologically in the comments below after all comments are approved) can have their choice of either e-book in whatever format they so choose (PDF, Kindle, Nook). If you already possess both e-books, you can either let the next person down the list have your copy or pass it along instead to someone you know will want a copy.

You once again have 1000 words.

You have until next Friday (June 24th) at noon EST, but again, to qualify for the e-book, you gotta get into this challenge early and write some flash fiction featuring a robot in some capacity.

That’s it. That’s the deal.

Robots: it’s what’s for dinner.

Go forth and write, ink-slingers.

EDIT:

Here are the folks who get themselves an e-book:

1. Oldestgenxer

2. Sparky

3. Lesann

4. Alan

5. CY Reid

6. Lindsay Mawson

7. Tribid

8. Tara Tyler

9. Karen Taveres

10. Eric Archibald

11. Amber J. Gardner

12. David Earle

13. Puddin

14. Travis Cole

15. Darlene Underdahl

Folks: hit me up either via the contact form or at chuckwendig [at] terribleminds [dot] com to collect. Be sure to let me know what you want: PDF, Kindle, or Nook format!

I Am The Monkey On The Back Of An Angry Robot

*whistles innocently*

Angry Robot Books is going to publish my novel, BLACKBIRDS.

I’ll let that sink in.

They’re also going to publish its followup, the tentatively titled: MOCKINGBIRD.

I’ll let that sink in, too.

That sound? The one you hear? Not just in your ear, but in the deep squishy pockets of your mind?

Yeah. That’s me. Screaming with mirth. Cackling like mad. Singing some forbidden hymn to whatever ancient gods decorated my brow with their blessed seed and let fortune favor a wee bearded penmonkey such as myself. I’m dancing. I’m grinning.

I’m lacquering my lederhosen.

BLACKBIRDS has been Out There for a good while now. It’s been ping-ponging from editor to editor. It’s been collecting lovely rejection after lovely rejection, all of them hinting that it deserves to find a home and will some day, but over time, with every month falling off the calendar you start to feel like, “Oh, ohhh, fuck, it’s not going to happen, is it? I’m either going to have to drop it in a box somewhere or self-pub it.”

So, to be picked up by Angry Robot — publisher of some, I mean, c’mon, truly astounding writers? Lauren Beukes? Matt Forbeck? Mike Shevdon? And they’ve also picked up fellow DMLA-ers Adam Christopher and Chris F. Holm? I’m over the moon to be lumped in with that level of talent. My goal is simply not to poop up the place. Here’s a clue how much I love Angry Robot: every since they were made manifest in this plane of existence and began showing up in bookstores, I would constantly go over, pick up their books and say to whomever was standing nearby (my wife, a stranger, a pet goat): “Holy shit, this looks awesome.” Every time. Great authors. Killer concepts. Incredible covers that look like nothing else on the shelves. Plus, they’re incredibly author-friendly, and how can you not love an ecosystem like that?

BLACKBIRDS features a character near and dear to my heart. A character whose struggles are fundamental and human but are reflected in a paranormal condition that exemplifies some far bigger, far weirder shit: fate versus free will, life versus death, what hair dye to choose, and so forth. Miriam Black — the protagonist of these books — is deeply troubled, very angry, and a total pill. But she’s funny, too, and foul-mouthed as anything. It’s great, because I actually care about her. One of my earliest note files when I was conceiving this character was titled, quite simply, “Poor Miriam.” Because I felt awful for the cross I’d strapped to her back and forced her to bear. I had nothing but sympathy and guilt for what I was going to do to her.

(That cross, for the record, is the ability to see how and when someone will die just by touching them. Fate and death, ever-present with naught but the contact of skin on skin.)

Good times.

So, not only does Miriam get one book, but she gets what I hoped she always would: the chance to carry her misanthropic “spit-in-the-eye-of-fate” attitude into other adventures.

Thanks to those who have supported the book all this time. Thanks to Jason Blair and Matt Forbeck for suggesting Angry Robot as a home to begin with. Thanks to Stephen Susco, my screenwriting mentor, who helped me hammer the shit out of this story way back when. Thanks to my wife, who for some reason always seemed to believe in me. And thanks to my kick-ass rock-star of an agent, Stacia Decker, who rocket-launched this through the ionosphere.

And thanks to Angry Robot. Marc Gascoigne, Lee Harris. Gentlemen. Scholars. Biblionauts.

Look for BLACKBIRDS in April/May 2012.

And MOCKINGBIRD not long after.

In Other News…

COAFPM continues to sell very well. Been out for not-quite-one-month now, and it’s sold ~260 copies. Because of the slightly higher price point, it means I’m fast approaching what I’ve earned over four-to-five months with IRREGULAR CREATURES (but that collection has seen a boost since COAFPM‘s release, which is nice). Together the two have paid a couple mortgage payments, so I can’t say boo to that.

IRREGULAR CREATURES has 36 four- and five-star reviews at Amazon, which is incredible. Fills me with giddy bubbles. Or maybe that’s just gas. Even still, thanks all to have bought and loved the collection. Means a lot to me. I hope that more Cat-Bird will show up in the future.

COAFPM — well, I wouldn’t complain if it got some more reviews over there. It’s standing at three reviews at present, and would love to see more added if you’ve read it, enjoyed it, and have the time.

In related news: Andrew Jack interviews me over at his space.

DOUBLE DEAD is back from a first pass edit, and — holy shit! — it doesn’t suck. Looking forward to getting a second major copy-edit through. Jon Oliver and Jenni Hill at Solaris/Abaddon are incredible folks to work with, and I am very pleased that DD is in such excellent hands.

I’m nabbing some secret hush-hush work at my old stomping ground, White Wolf Game Studios. Developing something pretty cool for them which is all about [REDACTED].

Still bouncing my wibbly-wobbly baby-schedule in terms of writing. Some days the word count trickles. Other days, it floods. I was able to finish a new novel — codename: POPCORN — by churning through a 9,000 word writing day last Friday, so that was exciting.

Also planning a series of novellas to release over the course of the summer. Kind of crimey, I guess? High school? Not-quite-noir? Veronica Mars, but more violent? Something like that. Interested?

And that’s all she wrote, folks.

Thanks for reading.

EDIT: Today, Abaddon is also posting the first chapter of DOUBLE DEAD for those who care to read it.

#coburniscoming

The Official Terribleminds Writer’s Guide To Blogging About Blogging

Blogging cannot get more useless when a blog blogs about blogging, and even worse, here I’m going to blog about some blogs that have in fact already blogged about blogging, and that’s so much blogging it hurts.

Did you follow that? Me neither.

Point is, Kristen Lamb wrote that writers should not blog about writing.

Then Austin Wulf said, writers should too blog about writing.

Then Albert Berg said, good points all around but Kristen might be right, now let’s everybody have a tickle.

And now, here I am.

Blogging about bloggers who have blogged about blogging.

Which is why you’ll notice a trickle of treacly blood exiting my ears.

Obviously, I am a writer (duh) who frequently blogs about writing (duh) though one might not refer to this specifically as a writing blog. Thus, I feel compelled by my deranged mind to talk a little on this subject. I figure, I’ll grab the snake and force him to bite his own tail and yammer about my blogging style here at Jolly Olde Terribleminds, and you can take this information and make love to it…

…or shove it instead up a donkey’s corn-chute.

Your call. Please to enjoy.

First: This Blog, Right Here

I started this site over ten years ago. Probably 12, by now. Before it was WordPress it was a straight-up HTML site designed by a friend and it looked pretty cool at the time, but as new browsers hit the ground, the site refused to play well with them. So, to read the site on, say, Firefox, you had to highlight invisible text and pray to dark gods and mist the screen with bergamot oil just to read what I was saying.

It only worked on Internet Explorer, which is like saying, it only worked on a computer powered by coal.

Two years ago I switched to WordPress. I opened the site up to comments. I began tracking views and page hits and what-not. I also started blogging every damn day, seven days a week.

I don’t say this to brag, only to show the growth of the blog and its readership, but: in June 2009, all month I had 922 unique guests here at the site. That number began doubling until it reached what the site had in June of 2010, which was 15,000 visitors. On June 9th of this year, the blog had 18,490 looky-loos just on that one day. Now, that was a bit extreme, admittedly, and unusual here, but even still, I’ve been getting 70-90k per month, and this month already I’m on track to see the biggest flock of readers yet.

So, am I doing something right? Well, that’s debatable. Quantity is not quality, after all, though I should note I’m quite happy with the quality of readership here. You all seem lovely. Except that one guy in the corner fondling himself. *is handed a piece of paper* Oh. Oh. That’s a mirror? Huh. Awkward.

I’m happy with the blog and its contents.

Rule One: Blog About Whatever The Fuck You’d Like

I agree with the spirit of Lamb’s law, but not the letter — I do not think that blogging about writing is a bad move for writers. The spirit of her law is more that a writer should blog about all kinds of things, not just writing, and further that a writer should not feel compelled to blog about writing by dint of being a writer, and to all that, I agree. But I’m not comfortable saying a writer shouldn’t blog about writing — whether just a little or all the time — if that’s what what makes you happy. Because that’s my ultimate law of bloggery-do: blog what you want because you want to.

Blog about: writing, editing, books, films, games, child-rearing, whisky, snake-breeding, illicit botany, wicker furniture, hookers, microphone fetishes, or the Many Ways To Murder Your Mailman.

Blog about what interests you. About things that rouse your passion, that tickle your saucer nips, that make you do a little ants-in-your-pants prancey dance. That interest and passion will translate to the blog and carry over to the readers. Don’t blog about stuff because someone tells you to blog about it. Further, don’t not blog about something because someone tells you not to.

(And can we just pause for a moment and talk about what a wretched turd-yawn of a word “blog” is? Why has nobody come up with a better word yet? Seriously? Internet, come together in this. Get down in the comments and come up with new words for “blogging,” yeah?)

You might be saying, “But that won’t garner me audience. If I’m a writer of science-fiction who blogs about knitting, that doesn’t build my platform. I should be blogging about science-fiction!”

No, you should be writing science-fiction. Blog about if only if you get jazzed about doing so. See, here’s the thing. A blog audience is not automatically your creative audience. Some crossover exists, but consider: 70,000 people visited this blog last month, but I did not sell 70,000 copies of any of my books. Did I sell 10%, or 7,000 copies, then? Mmmmnope. More like “less than one percent.”

And I’m happy with that, for the record.

All blogging is just squawking into the void. It’s free. It’s a soapbox on which you stand and bark your brain-think into the world. Be yourself. Talk about what you want to talk about. Authenticity and interest will garner readers well beyond plopping out rote, formulaic posts because they are somehow “expected.”

Truth is, since most people have multiple things that enflame their mental loins, you don’t have to worry about having One Kind Of Blog. “This is my blog devoted to knitting vagina cozies” is far less interesting to me than, “this is my blog devoted to the shit that comes out of my head which you may or may not appreciate because as it turns out I’m a complete and complicated human.”

(That again gets to the heart of Lamb’s post.)

Blog in a way that appeases you first. Otherwise, the blog is just a daily lump of stress.

Rule Two: Don’t Be A Dick

When you blog, don’t be a dick. See also:

Don’t be: an asshole, an ass-hat, a shithead, a fuckface, a scum-gargling cock-waffle, a jerk, a jerkoff, a jerk-faced jerkopolis, a douche, a douche-swab, douche-nozzle, double-douche, a doucheologist, a crap-faced stinky-butt, a bully, a prick, a sonofabitch, a bastard, a sonofabastard, a brat, a big ol’ meanie, a pig, a racist, a sexist, any anything-ist, a Nazi, a homophobe, a homophone, a homonym, a homo sapiens…

… ooh, I think I got off the rails there.

Point is, don’t be a dick.

Be tactful about things. Try to be nice. You don’t need to be funny — just don’t be dour and mean. Approach your audience with respect by not flinging boiling urine in their eyes when they come to read your work.

A slight tweak on this: you can be a bit of an asshole (Sweet Sally Struthers, I sure am) provided you do so with self-deprecation and humor in equal measure. I think. Then again, I might be wrong about that. There might exist a secret room of Wendig Haters out there plotting my demise. I’ll just don my tinfoil hat here to block out their hateful frequency, and we’re all good.

Rule Three: No Rule Three Exists, Please Turn Around And Go Home

You’re saying, that’s it?

Two goddamn rules?

Yes, that’s what I’m telling you.

And you’re saying, “But, this is about blogging for writers. Surely you have some specific information that will help them be better writer-blogger hybrid creatures?”

Ehhh. Well, sure. I have some caveats and corollaries. I try to avoid negativity. I don’t recommend writers be reviewers all that often. Blog as part of a community, not separate from it. You can use your blog as a self-promo tool provided that’s only a fraction of your content. Blog often to establish readership routine. Make a blog that’s appealing to the eyes. Own your blog and your domain (remember when Blogger shit the bed a month or two back? Yeah, seriously, own your stuff).

I don’t consider these hard-and-fast rules so much as they are suggestions, though. The only rules are the two noted above: blog how you want to blog, as long as you’re not a big honking dickhead about it.

Q&FuckinA

I don’t know why you’d have any specific questions about terribleminds, but I’m happy to answer them if you do. Same goes for suggestions you may have — the site can and should be improved from time to time (and soon as I have some, HAHAHAHA, time, I plan on attacking a laundry list of challenges here at the Ol’ Bloggery-Hut). Got something to say or ask about the site or its content? Do so with my blessing.

25 Things You Should Know About Plot

Previous iterations of the “25 Things” series:

25 Things Every Writer Should Know

25 Things You Should Know About Storytelling

25 Things You Should Know About Character

And now…

1. What The Fiddly Fuck Is “Plot,” Anyway?

A plot is the sequence of narrative events as witnessed by the audience.

2. The Wrong Question

Some folks will ask, incorrectly, “What’s the plot?” which, were you to answer them strictly, you would begin to recite for them a litany of events, each separated by a deep breath and the words, “And then…” They probably don’t want that. What they mean to ask is, “What’s the story?” or, “What’s this about?” Otherwise you’re just telling them what happened, start to finish. In other words: snore.

3. A Good Plot Is Like A Skeleton: Critical, Yet Invisible

A plot functions like a skeleton: it is both structural and supportive. Further, it isn’t entirely linear. A plot has many moving parts (sub-plots and pivot points) that act as limbs and joints. The best plots are plots we don’t see, or rather, that the audience never has to think about. As soon as we think about it, it’s like a needle manifests out of thin air and pops the balloon or lances that blister. Remember, we don’t walk around with our skeletons on the outside of our body, which is good because, ew. What are we, ants? So don’t show off your plot. Let the plot remain hidden, invisible.

4. Shit’s Gotta Make Sense, Son

The biggest plot crime of them all is a plot that doesn’t make a lick of goddamn sense. That’s a one way ticket to plot jail. Do not pass GO. Do not collect $200 dollars. Do not drop the soap. The elegance of a great plot is that, when the events are all strung together, there exists a natural order as if this was the only way they could fit together. It’s like dominoes tumbling. Your plot is not a chimera: random parts mashed together because you didn’t think it through. Test the plot. Show people. Pull the pieces apart and ask, “Is there a better way?” Nonsense plots betray the potency of story.

5. The Quintessential Plot

The simplest motherfucker of a plot is this: things get worse until they get better. A straight-up escalation of conflict. It goes from “Uh-oh, that’s bad,” to, “Uh-oh, it’s getting worse,” to “Oh, holy shit, it can’t get any worse,” to, “I think I maybe maybe fixed it, or at least stopped it from being so totally and completely fucked.” When in doubt, just know that your next step as a storyteller is to bring the pain, amp the misery, and escalate the conflict. That’s what they mean by the advice, “Have a man with a gun walk through the door.” You can take that literally, sure, but what it means is: the bad news just got worse.

6. In Life We Avoid Conflict, In Fiction We Seek It

Fiction is driven by characters in conflict, or, put differently, the flame of fiction grows brighter through friction. A match-tip lights only when struck; so too is the mechanism by which a gun fires a bullet. Impact. Tension. Fear. Danger. Need to know what impels your plot forward? Look to the theme of Man Versus [fill-in-the-blank]. Man versus his fellow man. Woman versus nature. Man versus himself. Woman versus an angry badger riding a unicorn. Find the essential conflict and look for events that are emblematic to that.

7. Want Versus Fear

Of course, the essence of the essential conflict — the one below all that Wo/Man versus stuff — is a character’s wants versus a character’s fears. Plot grows from this fecund garden. The character wants life, revenge, children, a pony — and that which he fears must stand in his way. John McClane must battle terrorists to return to his wife. Indiana Jones must put up with snakes and irritating sidekicks to uncover the artifact. I must put up with walking downstairs to make myself a gin-and-tonic. Everything that stands in a character’s way — the speedbumps, roadblocks, knife-wielding monkeys, ninja clones, tornadoes, and sentient Krispy Kreme donuts sent from the future to destroy man via morbid obesity — are events in the greater narrative sequence: they are pieces of the plot.

8. Grow The Plot, Don’t Build It

A plot grows within the story you’re telling. A story is all the important parts swirling together: world, character, theme, mood, and of course, plot. An artificial plot is something you have to wrestle into place, a structure you have to bend and mutilate and duct tape to get it to work — it is a square peg headbutted into a circle hole, and you’re the poor bastard doing all the headbutting.

9. The Tension And Recoil Of Choice And Consequence

An organic plot grows like this: characters make decisions — sometimes bad decisions, other times decisions whose risks outweigh the rewards, and other times still decisions that are just plain uncertain in their outcome — and then characters must deal with the consequences of those decisions. A character gives up a baby. Or buys a gun. Or enters the dark forest to slay Lady Gaga. Anytime a character makes a choice, the narrative branches. Events unfold because she chose a path. That’s it. That’s plot. Choice and consequence tighten together, ratcheting tension, creating suspense. Choice begets event.

10. Plot Is Promise

Plot offers the promise of Chekov and his gun, of Hitchcock and his bomb under the table. An event here leads to a choice there which spawns another event over there. Foreshadowing isn’t just a literary technique used sparingly: it lurks in the shadow of every plot turn. Plot promises pay-off. A good plot often betrays this promise and does something different than the audience expects. That’s not a bad thing. You don’t owe the audience anything but your best story. But a plot can also make hay by doing exactly what you expect: show them the gun and now they want to see it fire.

11. Let Characters Do They Heavy Lifting

Characters will tell you your plot. Even better: let them run and they’ll goddamn give it to you on a platter. Certainly plot can happen from an external locus of control — but you’re not charting the extinction of the dinosaurs or the lifecycle of the slow loris. Plot is like Soylent Green: it’s made of people. Characters say things, do things, and that creates plot. It really can be that simple. Authentic plot comes from internal emotions, not external mechanics.

12. Chart The Shortest Point Between Beginning And End

One way to be shut of the nonsensical, untenable plot is to cut through all the knots. If we are to assume that a plot is motivated by the choices and actions of characters — and we must assume that, because who else acts as prime mover? — then we can also assume that characters will take the most direct path through the story as they can. That’s not to say it’ll be the smartest path, but it will be forthright as the character sees it. No character creates for himself a convoluted path. Complex, perhaps. Convoluted? Never. Characters want what they want and that means they will cut as clear a path to that goal as they can. A convoluted, needlessly complex plot is just the storyteller showing off how clever he is. And no audience wants that. Around these parts, we hunt and kill the preening peacocks and wear their tail-feathers as a headdress.

13. On The Subject Of “Plot Holes”

Plot holes — where logic and good sense and comprehensible sequence fall into a sinking story-pit — happen for a handful of reasons. One, you weren’t paying attention. Two, your plot is too convoluted and its untenable nature cannot sustain itself. Three, you don’t know what the fuck is happening, and maybe also, you’re drunk. Four, the plot is artificial, not organic, and isn’t coming out naturally from what the characters need and want to do. Five, you offended Plot Jesus by not sacrificing a goat. You can’t just fix a plot hole by spackling it over. It’s like a busted pipe in a wall. You need to do some demo. Get in there. Rip out more than what’s broken. Fill in more than what’s missing.

13. If The Characters Have To Plan, So Do You

Many writers don’t like to outline. Here’s how you know if you should, though: if your characters are required to plan and plot something — a heist, an attack on a moon bunker, a corporate take-over — then you’re a fool if you think these imaginary people have to plan but you don’t. This is doubly true of genre material. A murder mystery for example lives and dies by a compelling, sensible plot. So plan the plot, for Chrissakes. This isn’t improvisational dance. Take some fucking notes, will you?

14. Set Up Your Tentpoles

A big tent is propped up by tentpoles. So too is your plot. Easy way to plan without getting crazy: find those events in your plot that are critical, that must happen for the whole story to come together. “Mary Meets Gordon. Belial Betrays Satan. An Earthquake Swallows Snooki.” Chart these half-dozen events. Know that you must get to them somehow.

15. The Herky Jerky Plot Shuffle Pivot Point Boogie

You’ve seen Freytag’s Triangle. It’s fine. But it doesn’t tell the whole story. This is the Internet. This is the future. We have CGI. We have 3-D. Gaze upon the plot from the top-down. It isn’t a linear stomp up a steep mountain. It’s a zig-zagging quad ride through dunes and jungles, over rivers and across gulleys. You’re a hawk over the quad-rider’s shoulder — watch it jerk left, pull right, jump a log, squash a frog. More obstacles. Greater danger. Faster and faster. Every turn is a pivot point. A point when the narrative shifts, when the audience goes right and the story feints left.

16. Plot Is The Beat That Sets The Story’s Rhythm

Plot comprises beats. Each action, a new beat, a new bullet point in the sequence of events. These establish rhythm. Stories are paced according to the emotions and moods they are presently attempting to evoke. Plot is the drummer. Plot keeps the sizzling beat. Like Enrique “Kiki” Garcia, of Miami Sound Machine.

17. Every Night Needs A Slow Dance

I know I said that plot, at its core, is how everything gets worse and worse and worse until it gets better. Overall, that’s true. But you need to pull back from that. Release the tension. Soften the recoil. Not constantly, but periodically. Learn to embrace the false victories, the fun & games, the momentary lapses of danger. If only to mess with the heads of the audience. Which, after all, is your totally awesome job.

18. The Name Of My New Band Is “Beat Sheet Manifesto”

You can move well beyond the tentpoles. You can free-fall from the 30,000 foot view, smash into the earth, and get a macro-level micro-view of all the ants and the pill-bugs and the sprouts from seeds. What I mean is, you can track every single beat — every tiny action — that pops up in your plot. You don’t need to do this before you write, but you can and should do it after. You’ll see where stuff doesn’t make sense. You’ll see where plot holes occur. Also: wow. A Meat Beat Manifesto joke?

19. Beats Become Scenes Become Sequences Become Acts

Plot is narrative, and narrative has units of measurement: momentary beats become scenes of a single place, scenes glom together to form whole sequences of action and event, and sequences elbow one another in the giant elevator known as an “act,” where the story manifests a single direction before zig-zagging to another (at which point, another act shifts). Think first in acts. Then sequences. Then scenes. And finally, beats. Again, take that 30,000 foot view, but then jump out of the plane and watch the ground come to meet you.

20. Your Sexy Mistress, The Subplot

In real life, don’t cheat on your spouse or lover. Not cool, man. Not cool. As a writer, you don’t cheat on your manuscript, either: while working on one script or novel, don’t go porking another one behind the shed. But inside the narrative? The laws change. You need to cheat on your primary plot. Have dalliances with sub-plots — this is a side-story, or the “B-story.” Lighter impact. Smaller significance. Highlights supporting characters. But the sub-plot always has the DNA of the larger plot and supports or runs parallel to the themes present. Better still is when the sub-plot affects, influences or dovetails with the larger plot.

21. Beneath Subplot, A Nougaty Layer Of Micro-Plot

Every little component of your story threatens — in a good way, like how storms threaten to give way to sun, or how a woman threatens to dress up as your favorite Farscape puppet and sex you down to galaxy-town — to spin off into its own plot. Your tale is unwittingly composed of tiny micro-plots: filaments woven together. A character needs to buy a gun but can’t pass the legal check. His dog runs away. He hasn’t paid his power bill. Small inciting incidents. Itty-bitty conflicts. They don’t overwhelm the story, but they exist just the same, enriching the whole. A big plot is in some ways just a lot of little plots lashed together and moving in a singular direction. Like a herd of stampeding marmots.

22. Exposition Is Sand In The Story’s Panties

Look at plot construction advice and you’ll see a portion set aside for “exposition.” Consider exposition a dirty word. It is a synonym for “info-dump,” and an info-dump is when you, the storyteller, squat over the audience’s mouth and expel your narrative waste into their open maw. Take the section reserved for exposition and fold it gently into the rest of the work as if you were baking a light and fluffy cake. Let information come out through action. Even better: withhold exposition as long as you can. Tantric storytelling, ladies and germs: deny the audience’s expectation ejaculation until you can do so no longer.

23. On The Subject Of The “Plot Twist”

A plot twist is the kid who’s too cool for school — ultimately shallow, without substance, and a total tool. It’s a gimmick. Let your story be magic, not a magic trick. Not to say plot twists can’t work, but they only work when they function as the only way the story could go from the get-go. Again: organic, not artificial.

24. The Ending Is The Answer To A Very Long Equation

Plot is math, except instead of numbers and variables it’s characters, events, themes, and yes, variables. The ending is one such variable. An ending should feel like it’s the only answer one can get when he adds up all parts of the plot. This actually isn’t true: you can try on any number of endings and you likely have a whole host that can work. But there’s one ending that works for you, and when it works for you, it works for them. And by “them” I don’t mean the men in the flower delivery van who are watching your every move. I mean “them” as in, the audience. P.S., don’t forget to wear your tinfoil hat because the flowers are listening.

25. Plot Is Only Means To An End

Speaking of ends, plot is just a tool. A means to an end. Think of it as a character- and conflict-delivery-system. Plot is conveyance. It still needs to work, still needs to come together and make sense — but plot is rarely the reason someone cares about a story. They care about characters, about the way it makes them feel, about the thing you-as-storyteller are trying to say. Note, though, that the opposite is true: plot may not make them love a story, but it can damn sure make them hate it.

* * *

If you dig on the apeshit crazy-face no-holds-barred profanity-soaked writing advice found here at terribleminds, then you may want to take a wee bitty gander-peek at: CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY, which is available now! Buy for Kindle (US), Kindle (UK), Nook, or PDF.

It’s Time To Make It Rain, Bitches

This one’s pretty easy.

I just crossed the 4,000 Twitter follower mark, which is pretty cool. I mean, sure, 3,465 of them are insane Twitter robots who are trying to sell me porn, iPads, real estate, and baby formula…

…but whatever it takes to feed my manic hunger for adoration.

*gibber, howl, snargh*

As such, I want to give you a copy of CONFESSIONS OF A FREELANCE PENMONKEY.

I’m going to give away 10 copies in PDF, Kindle, or Nook format.

How it works is like this: you have 24 hours (till 4pm EST on 6/14/11) to drop a comment into the comments below. What should go into this comment, you ask?

Your favorite word of profanity, and a short description as to why that might be. I figure this is entirely reasonable, given how sodden with wretched language CONFESSIONS happens to be. One assumes that if you’re not comfortable dropping some language yourself, you won’t be comfortable reading through CONFESSIONS. And besides, who doesn’t love a little cussin’?

At 4pm I’ll come back to this post and pick my ten favorite answers. Those folks get a copy of the book.

Jump in. Get to cursing. Get creative. And please to enjoy.

EDIT:

THE WINNERS:

Tamsyn: “Bollocks!” Description made me laugh.

Caytlin: “Shitting Dicknipples,” because that sounds like a bad high school teacher’s name.

Kara: “Twat.” Calling it “cunt’s classy cousin” is pretty genius.

Penrefe: “Dick.” Simple. A classic.

Joanna: “Imperial Fuckton.” Like something out of a filthy version of Star Wars.

Antimony: “Dhallar.” Because now we all can learn something, too.

Patrick Regan: “Flaming Thunder-cunt.” Because, how mythic.

Emily B: “Throatfuck.” Because that one’s new to me.

Sarah: “Cock Holster.” It’s really so elegant.

Spomenka: “Slattern.” Why not go old-school?

And that’s our ten, folks.

It was a tough choice. Be on notice. Really enjoyed roadwhore, cuntblocker, twatwaffle. So many good ones. But these are the ones that spoke to me in the cockles of my heart.

YOU TEN PEOPLE:

Hit me up either using the Contact Form above or at chuckwendig [at] terribleminds [dot] com and I’ll get you squared away with a copy of PENMONKEY.