BUILDING THE PERFECT BEAST

The Word is given. It’s time to start looking for the squad: the other writers who will expand the DON TEMPLETON brand with books that induce recklessness in the vital signs. My task is to write the first four novels. This establishes the bedrock of the series. So now is the time to start training potential Jedi of the keyboard in the specific ingredients that go into the GREEN MAJIK formula. So let’s lift the hood and look at how I build a genre novel. Anyone else attempting to contribute an adventure to this canon must follow these parameters exactly.

First, style is a lot in writing. Which means the Templeton writing style needs to be “imitated” as much as possible. I saw the importance of this back in the days when Don Pendleton, creator of The Executioner series and father of the action-adventure genre, first sold his series to Harlequin and let the romance mill unleash ghostwriters under his by line. The first ten or so books were pretty good facsimiles of Pendleton’s writing style. One guy in particular had it nailed. Then some kind of falling out took place between Pendleton and the romance mill. As “retaliation” for this schism, the romance mill decided to show the Great Writer how much they knew about things. The romance mill was going to prove that they could remove everything Pendleton from the series and it’d still be as popular as ever.

Famous last words.

The Executioner series, in the heyday, was the number one series of its kind in America. The Punisher is based on the Executioner. Today, The Executioner series has almost zero name recognition anymore. When I tell people I encounter that I have written books for the Executioner series, I get blank stares. Nobody knows what that is. Back in the 70s and 80s, that wasn’t the case. So the romance mill has definitely effected the brand recognition here. For the worst.

You see, style matters. The readers who grew up with the Executioner as Pendleton was writing the novels loved all the Don Pendleton that was in Mack Bolan. It was Pendleton’s writing style in particular that made the books so much fun to read and so memorable.

When the romance mill cast out all things Pendleton, the series died in my opinion. I quickly lost interest in reading the books shortly after #100 was published. The series has shed readers more than gained. I recently saw postings on a fan site saying rumors were abound about the series being cancelled soon. I’m surprised the series has lasted this long.

So the style is the first thing to master. That comes with reading a style you like and trying to mimic it. I did the same thing developing this style. My favorite writers’ styles were Don Pendleton and Hunter S. Thompson. I think you can see these influences distinctly in my style.

The next thing you need to know is that every novel I have written, I planned from the ground up using Syd Field’s workshop-in-a-book: The Screenwriter’s Workbook. Pretty Hate Machine saw the introduction of a new method of planning which takes one through every territorial step that Syd Field does in the Workbook but does it more thoroughly. This is the Snowflake method of planning a story. Now, what I do is add Syd Field’s Paradigm and length restrictions to the novel.

To start a GREEN MAJIK novel, you must know these structural underpinnings first. You must be able to translate the whole story of the novel into one sentence focusing on an ACTION and a CHARACTER. This used to be Syd Field’s first exercise. Now he’s got a sentence for each act kind of thing going on. The Snowflake starts with the one sentence exercise. Here’s an example: A maverick detective, a Gonzo journalist, and a 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.

That’s the sentence I wrote to start planning Pretty Hate Machine. Next, you must know The Paradigm’s components.

You must know the story’s End and Beginning. The Beginning is the Inciting Incident, the event that starts the cascade of story dominoes falling. You must know Plot Points 1 and 2 and you must know the Mid-Point.

You must use the Three Act Structure to hang your story on. This includes the LENGTH RESTRICTIONS of the screenplay imposed upon the novel. How does that work?

Easy.

Your novel’s length is divided into four distinct chunks — just like the screenplay.

Act One is the first one fourth of the novel. Since all GREEN MAJIK novels are 100,000 to 110,000 word novels, Act One is therefore +/- 25,000 words. The first fourth of the novel starts with the Inciting Incident ends with PLOT POINT 1.

Act Two Part One is the next fourth of the novel, the next 25,000 words and this installment ends with the MID POINT of the story. Act Two Part Two is the third installment of 25,000 words and ends with PLOT POINT 2. The last fourth is Act Three and ends with THE END. It should be a jaw-dropping death dance of a climax. And it should be entirely satisfying like mind blowing sex. Oh, yeah — and each book is 13 chapters long with an epilogue.

So here’s our workflow in planning a GREEN MAJIK adventure.

Write one sentence.

Fill in the blanks on the Paradigm. Divide the book into the four chunks, three acts.

Finish planning using the Snowflake in its entirety.

Once the Snowflake is complete, you will have a plot outline/story treatment from Hell and the novel will write itself.

This is the official in-house Blue Falcon Way for constructing an Action/Horror novel.

Imposing the screenwriting “restrictions” on a novel has many advantages.

First, it totally ELIMINATES that angst ridden moan of literati everywhere about the translation, how the translation to film ruins the integrity of the Written Source, etc. Well, my books are built like screenplay stories right out the gate so there is no translation necessary. All that needs to happen to transform my book to a screenplay is strip out all the narrative and just leave enough to serve as stage blocking, keep all the dialogue and the screenplay is done.

Stick a fork in this fucker cause it’s done.

No adaption. No chance that Hollywood will translate the story into a complete train wreck — like what they did to Dean Koontz’s Watchers. Had it been me, I probably would have had to send hit men after the producers for committing an atrocity like that on a fantastic novel.

The second advantage of using a screenwriter’s paradigm to design a novel with is that the novel just takes on a dominantly visual frame of reference. At least, it does for me. A screenplay tells a story with pictures. Using the Paradigm to design your novel with, you’ll be telling your story with vivid word pictures.

Regardless, this process works splendidly.

Quit reading endless books on technique and such.

Get Syd Field’s book. Read it.

Write down the things you need to know to start planning on the Paradigm.

Follow the Snowflake to completion.

I think a lot of writers spend more time in analysis paralysis and pondering about the most brilliant way to present their Story of Stories rather than just writing the damn thing. This framework I have just revealed allows you to brilliantly plan a riveting story that goes off like a well-timed attack. You can tell any story you want within these boundaries, not just action/horror.

But if you want to build a ride around here, stick to the action/horror requirements of the House.

And outside of the restrictions outlined above, anything goes.

EOF-DT

Pretty Hate Machine is now available for all ebook formats — even the obsolete ones @ SMASHWORDS.

Be the first to comment on "BUILDING THE PERFECT BEAST"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.