Thoughts on the Use of An Author’s Inspiration

As I may have stated elsewhere, I proceed along one track alone even when I have several projects open.

This is a rare exception where I am progressing through the first of my X-Division Assignments series and I have shifted my antagonist role into a character I had originally thought of as being tertiary (not even secondary, and far from primary).  However, that shift needed to be supported by a robustness not originally built into this character.  What to do?

This is where I changed hats and approached the “what to do” problem through my seeing how The Murderer’s Ladder could fit into the scope of An Author’s Inspiration.  In that regard, I have introduced a new data file.  My current design for this character (called Smith) is found in Smith.ladder, as follows:

Smith’s motivation is due to loss in security through Soviet’s torture of brother in North Korean captivity.

Smith’s temptation to pursue revenge arrives in the form of the Soviets adding a mission in SF.

Smith establishes plan to poison Russian consul.


Smith is presented with an opportunity to proceed with plan through discovery of cache of lost radioactive isotopes from the early 50s.

Smith’s first irretrievable step is taken by bringing pressure upon the discoverer Hickey to conspire and keep secrets.

Smith uses a new confederate Sanderson to engage in poisoning Hickey, then an attaché for rehearsal.

Smith does not fly from the scene of conflict but instead shelters Sanderson and manipulates the crime scene.

Smith being unobstructed tries to complete the assault on the Russian consul.

Protagonist tests Smith’s false suspects for the validity of their being suspected.

Protagonist traps Smith in false, confused, or overlooked clues.

Some of this may appear cryptic (e.g. SF means San Francisco and is easily substituted in my mind), or in a contorted sentence construction (loss in security–the family was attacked through one member’s torture).  Such are the benefits and down-sides of keeping things short, but accessible.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 7

The state of design has reached a moment exhibiting either an abundance of opportunity, or an abundance of clutter.

If this sounds bad, it isn’t.  The abundance is manageable through thoughtful editing where poverty is more difficult to reverse through forced creation.  My design of An Author’s Inspiration makes few demands for data entry by the writer, but at this stage, I have more options to fulfill than I have reasons to use them.

So, the question to answer is do I march forward into what might be a baroque design, or do I sit back and trim it down into a straightforward one?

To the writer, it may seem that the few configuration files available for editing don’t carry much material.  By number, for instance, the character files do have 20 entries to fill in.  19 of those 20 are single word  or numeric entries.  This amounts to two or three sentences, tops, for the writer to characterize their characters.  Then there is the 20th entry which could easily top this several times over with a character sketch; however, it barely tips the scale in outline generation.

The inspiration of An Author’s Inspiration is that in those 19 entries, their combinations as keys to character analysis bring the abundance of psychological revelation.  I have to be careful that this abundance does not fatigue the writer with too many emotional twists.  When it comes to two characters being considered within a beat, this promises to raise the stakes 19-fold.  Considering the full set of characters within a beat raises the stakes further which could render a novel-length outline.

To this point in the design, it has been focused on the Point Of View character, typically the protagonist, but An Author’s Inspiration is agnostic here, and should be able to present the antagonist with equanimity.  What I am saying here is that An Author’s Inspiration should present an authentic psychological vision of any character that is consistent with the writer’s description of them in 20 entries.

However, each character carries a suite of buddies, friends, and one loathsome individual that they are sensitive too.  So far I’ve done nothing with that association, but in every beat there is the possibility of their contributions to the character’s motivations add in complex ways.  Do I compound all their stress contributions into one?  And if I do, how does this risk in upsetting the expected narrative arc?

Another way of approaching this crowd of supporting characters is to simply provide each with their own response to the situation, and abandon the complexity of combining them into one expression of tension and its resolution within the beat.  This last may be achievable if, in fact, the user of An Author’s Inspiration would find it useful.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 2

Continuing  background:  An Author’s Inspiration is planned to be distributed with writer configurable files.  These files describe characters, plot, setting, and (most importantly), stress.  As distributed, these files currently describe the adventures of Harry Potter in the film version of The Order of the Phoenix.  The outline generated by An Author’s Inspiration combines these elements, expanded into 28 beats.

In The Order of the Phoenix, there are a lot of characters each with their strengths and weaknesses. In An Author’s Inspiration, each character has a file of trait descriptions and character sketch provided by the writer.  The emphasis on these traits are largely psychological.

The beat format of the generated outline allows for 80-90% of the scenes from the film to fit into beats’ settings.  The plot is a matter of interpretation, but with Harry Potter, the elements in the file describing plot can be arrived at through what is largely formula for the Harry Potter series.

What of the stress I describe as (most) important?  Research has borne out Kurt Vonnegut’s observation of the emotional shape of at least six types of story.  Each shape is a simple curve expressed in a flow of shifting levels of both good (eustress) stress and bad (distress) stress.  The writer can not only establish a plot point, but can attach a level of stress to it.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 22

The Side-track Called Plotto Continues

Not much to say beyond that, except how things are progressing.

Having ripped the original text from William Wallace Cook’s Plotto, A New Method of Plot Suggestion for Writers of Creative Fiction, the greatest task of work was formatting all the material to be suited as prolog clauses.  When stripped from PDF sources (scanners can do this conversion of text to PDF), this can be deceptively simple, and disastrously wrong.

The first problem is with end-of-line at every line.  It takes effort to distinguish the true end of line, a new paragraph, from where PDF often inserts an end of a line occurring at the right margin of every line of text.  Simply put, PDF conversions can take a 10 line paragraph (with several sentences) and translate that into 10 paragraphs of one line of text each (without consideration for sentence structure).

The second problem is poor translation of words, numbers, symbols, page numbers, page headings, AND all the smudges and broken type that might reside on a page.

The seduction of these problems is that PDF does a good job, about 80% accurate (a modest C in any class of instruction), but finding the 20% of errors takes a huge amount of time.  I’ve been down this road many times and I have found mechanisms to correct 18%, but 2% remain to be found over many hours.

I am probably at that 98% accurate point as I add prolog clauses to consult the Plotto B Clauses and Conflicts.  This effort demonstrates there is considerable potential to be found in a program accessible form of Plotto that I hope will emerge in the future along with, or as part of An Author’s Inspiration.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 21

As well as the first experiment of developing a character from Plotto, I feel the need to revisit it based on the positive outcomes.

What I learned from the first exercise is that the word secret hit a nerve.  As I am developing stories revolving around secrecy, that nerve’s sensitivity is rewarded and the search turns to finding the word secret within the body of several thousand conflicts that Plotto codifies.  In this sense, and keeping within the nature of looking at Plotto from different perspectives, this amounts to working from the inside out.

Such search for secret reveals conflicts 1081, 1114, 1124, 1154, 1156 (the revelation of a B Clause for secrecy, 29), 1214,1219, 1221, 1225, 1229, 1232, 1239, 1240, 1241, 1247, 1255, 1263, 1269, 1281, 1285b, 1289d, 1293b, 1297, 1303, 1306, 1324b, 1346, 1367, 1370a, 1376, 1386a, 1388, 1392, 1403, 1407, 1408, 1413b, 1438c, 1439a, 1440, 1441a, (the revelation of a B Clause for secrecy, 61), 1448,

… I have just discovered that I started my search deep into the database of conflicts, somewhere in the last third, and that adding those of the first two thirds would be taxing my time.  The search for secret in the B Clauses alone should have been the first pass with 7 hits—more than enough to review my first experiment at building a character out of Plotto and trying again with conflicts that just as complex, but not so focussed on creating an infernal machine.

B Clauses with secrecy for a theme: 16, 26, 27, 29, 33, 38, and 61.

So, to look at these with the same method previously experimented with, that is, taking the cluster of three conflicts.

  • 16,”being delivered from misfortune by one who, in confidence, confesses a secret of transgression”
    • Pre Conflict, 1024, A is young, and had considerable money, but by a wild life he impoverishes himself and comes to want * For A, beating back to Easy Street has its difficulties **
    • Conflict, 831, A, ill and starving, receives food and money from his friend, A-2 * A-2 tells his friend, A, in confidence, that he is a bootlegger **
    • Post Conflict, 815 ,A is overtaken by A-2, a fugitive who is being pursued by A-6, an officer of the law * A’s sympathy goes out to A-2, a fugitive from the law, and he attempts to rescue him **
  • 26,”seeking secretly to preserve another from danger”
    • Pre Conflict, 641, D, trying to make a home for her widowed father, A, is neglected and cruelly treated by A
    • Conflict, 825, A, aware that his end is approaching, seeks to protect his adopted daughter, D, by making a will
    • Post Conflict, 1041, A, on his way to execute a new will disposing of his estate, meets death in an accident
  • 27,”refusing to betray another’s secret and calmly facing persecution because of the refusal”
    • Pre Conflict, 644, “B innocently befriends a stranger, A-4; and it later develops that A-4 is a political offender whom government officials, headed by A-6, are straining every nerve to capture * If A-6 knew that B had befriended A-4, she would be considered a confederate of A-4’s and suffer accordingly **”
    • Conflict, 824, “A is a prisoner of A-6, and A-6 seeks to secure from A information inimical to B”
    • Post Conflict, 878c, “A, a prisoner, bound, helpless and facing death, is rescued by resourceful B”
  • 29,”aiding another to hide from the world a fateful secret”
    • Pre Conflict, 50, “A, in love with B, impersonates another person at B’s instigation * A’s pretentions accepted, it develops that the person impersonated has a wife, who immediately claims A as her husband **”
    • Conflict, 667, “B, unless she conceals a personal delinquency, will seriously compromise herself * B, unless she reveals a personal delinquency, will cause an innocent man, A, to suffer for transgression **”
    • Post Conflict, 535, “B, wife of A, saves A-3, a supposed transgressor, from the law by a public confession of her delinquency * A, because of his great love for his wife, B, forgives her delinquency and glories in her moral courage in making a confession of it **”
  • 33,”resisting secretly and from an honorable motive a mandate considered discreditable”
    • Pre Conflict, 748, “A, poor, is happy in the belief that poverty is the source of contentment * A, believing poverty the source of contentment, refuses to develop resources in his possession that would give him wealth **”
    • Conflict, 958, “A takes issue with the accepted belief that poverty is the source of discontent, and conceives it to be the true source of happiness * A struggles against difficulties in seeking to avoid wealth **”
    • Post Conflict, 127b, “A believes that B will not marry him until he overcomes his personal limitations”
  • 38,”committing a grievous mistake and seeking in secret to live down its evil results”
    • Pre Conflict, 1319a, “A, in order to be revenged upon his enemy, A-3, manufactures an infernal machine, X * A sends an infernal machine X, to his enemy, A-3, and it falls into the hands of A’s friend, A-2 **”
    • Conflict, 987, “A, influenced by a compelling idea of responsibility, finds it necessary to protect his friend, A-2, from a secret danger * A is indirectly the cause of danger to his friend, A-2—danger of which A-2 is ignorant and of which A cannot tell him **”
    • Post Conflict, 867, “A, suspected of treachery by his friend, A-2, in a daring rescue saves the property and perhaps the life of A-2, and proves his faithfulness by a revelation of the danger to which A-2, unknown to himself, was exposed”
  • 61,”becoming aware of an important secret that calls for decisive action”
    • Pre Conflict, 771a, “A thinks a certain crime has been committed and lodges information with the police, A-6 * A thinks a crime has been committed, but he is mistaken **”
    • Conflict, 802, “A discovers that B, supposed to have been murdered, really committed suicide”
    • Post Conflict, 669;738, “B commits a secret transgression * B, committing a secret transgression, has her secret discovered by A-5 ** B’s secret transgression is discovered by A-5, who seeks to use his knowledge for purposes of blackmail ***”; “B, a victim of certain unpleasant conditions, seeks to escape them by self-destruction”

So, what to do with this set of secret conflicts?

There are two take-aways here:

  1. This still does not fulfill my mind’s eye view of my protagonist;
  2. As my expected plot is secret driven, then these examples do fill needs for minor character drives and their motivations.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 15


The maintenance of this file is for Master level users, and it is not normally distributed because An Author’s Inspiration will run with predefined story arcs.  I wasn’t sure why any Master user would want to write their own story arc, but I anticipated that this could be an useful feature.  Turns out I need it too.  Thus we focus on this part of the design at a moment of using it and testing it.

I arrived here out of necessity during the development of my own novel The Striker, X-Division Assignments.  Before going there, it will be instructive to know what a story arc is first.

For the distribution, there are 6 story arcs and they are called:

  • amazing (aka Cinderella)
  • manic (aka Oedipus)
  • adventure (aka man in the hole)
  • tragic (aka Icarus)
  • happy (aka rags to riches)
  • sad (aka riches to rags)

The first word following each bullet is a choice available to all users of An Author’s Inspiration.  What follows that word is a description for it found in writing literature (terms brought to prominence in this usage by Kurt Vonnegut).  These terms embrace a list of stress values that fill the narrative.  Using the happy (aka rags to riches) arc brings a distress to the beginning of the story and finds eustress at the end.

So, with fundamentals put aside, what does having access to my own arc design bring me?  Well, I have a (literally) short-lived character who would qualify for tragic, if he lasted for the entire length of the novel.  But, sadly, he dies several beats into the story, and a tragic arc would be conferring very positive values of stress (eustress) at this early stage instead of my intended very negative values of stress (distress) his hitting an early bottom within 3 or 4 beats.

When I was laying out story.plots, the outline generated displayed positive feelings for him, and yet he was about to be killed due to his highly negative stressed behavior.  How could I accelerate his tragic numbers?

Instead of assigning him a story arc of tragic, I needed a story arc with that accelerated plunge.  I gave it his name, and assigned it to his Personal Story characteristic in his character file.

That epiphany does not come without a cost.  In the first pass of reviewing the outline, it turns out that it has not achieved the level of design to use it (or rather to have exhibited at this stage of development).

This is not so much an issue of coding it in—which the design would readily accept—but, rather, making sure it occurs within a larger logic of the outline.  However, having been through this exercise, and epiphany, this brings some clarity to my earlier problems.

Other testing reveals a failure.  Common garden variety type of work.

More later.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 14

Speaking of testing….


The easiest and quickest form of testing is to run An Author’s Inspiration and observe what changes.  This is as true for me as it is for you.  I can say this because I’ve spent the last 2 hours debugging a writer configurable file, story.plots.

story.plots is not as complex as any writer configurable character file (such as Harry.character), but it is a long file and when it breaks, An Author’s Inspiration is unforgiving.

story.plots demands every beat be described completely and correctly.  To my annoyance, I had done a massive edit job on story.plots for my own novel The Striker – X-Division Assignments, and I crashed An Author’s Inspiration.  Rather than follow my own advice (I am writing extended user manuals that cover this expected problem), I tried to play it smart using design tools.

C’mon, Richard!  An Author’s Inspiration already works fine.  You broke it, not the other way around—stop schtupping through the code.  So, here’s an object lesson for my readers once they have either a beta or release version of An Author’s Inspiration in their hands.

How I did it

As I will advise in those mentioned manuals: always keep back-ups of all files.

Further advice: rename your problem file, and replace it with an original.  In this case I took my version of story.plots, renamed it story.plotsX, and I recovered the distribution file story.plots.  This would crash An Author’s Inspiration too, because I do not support the character names found in it with character files in my novel’s folder.

Thus replace all occurrences of Harry (and Beatrix) with one of your own characters.  In my case, that is Wade supported with my file Wade.character.  In your case, you need to do likewise.  The reason why using story.plots cold will break An Author’s Inspiration is because there must be a character file for all POV characters named in story.plots.

An Author’s Inspiration has enough robustness to generate an outline from this simple operation—and it should be your first step in editing the file story.plots.

From here, I copied beat one from my story.plotsX to beat one of my slightly changed, but working, story.plot.  Then I ran An Author’s Inspiration with a second successfully generated outline.txt.  This operation needed to be repeated until An Author’s Inspiration crashed due to a poorly formed beat description.

Five beats in I observed the problem: a missing quote mark.  This is a catastrophic error.  This is an extremely difficult error to observe in the totality of the file’s contents.  Using this method I describe, this is a simple error to recover from.

With that missing quote supplied, all 23 remaining beats moved in without a hitch.  (Yeah, I broke my own advice with that massive cut’n’paste, but faith was rewarded!)

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 13


This is a note to myself, and any of my readers may write to ask if I have called this instruction.

Why?  What does it do?

Beat descriptions are headers and instructions to the writer within the beats of the outline.  They don’t need to be loaded, actually.

Why not?  Or, better yet, What for?

This is an advanced feature that I have planned for many writer configurable files in An Author’s Inspiration.  Currently this feature is turned off—it could crash if it were, but that danger will pass and this will sail like the rest of the design.

How’s it, this advanced feature, supposed to work?

An Author’s Inspiration loads files, scans their data, combines that data using A.I., and integrates all contributions into an outline for a novel.  For advanced features of An Author’s Inspiration, there are optional files that may be loaded to replace text, and to change functionality. Required files (eg. character files) are loaded by demand.  An Author’s Inspiration will crash if they are not present.

When An Author’s Inspiration looks for these optional files and they are not present, the program continues operation using default text and functionality.  Missing optional files are ignored and no warning or error is announced to the writer.

When An Author’s Inspiration looks for these optional files and they are present, the program replaces text and functionality that has been tailored by the writer for the writer’s own agenda (such as creating genre specific headers, new story arcs, different emotional scales)

Wow!  When can I expect delivery?

Many features have what a software engineer calls hooksHooks are good.  They express an intent in the code that flows with the logic of the code.  Some hooks are underdeveloped, but their location and name signal the engineer where they are to appear, and what should be accomplished.  Other hooks are fully in place, but not yet fully tested.

Testing takes time as program complexity grows.  With 50-something program code files, this is not a simple design…robust testing does not occupy a short duration.

Returning to the obscure lead-in above, loadBeatDescriptions, this is one such example of an advanced feature, a hook that is fully functional, but I haven’t enabled it yet.

However, as to when…stay tuned.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 12

So, back to work in trying to either make it simple, or make it baroque.

Today we work on baroque.

In An Author’s Inspiration, I have character traits for our named character:

  • Primacy—meaning how much impact our named character has,
  • Follows—our named character takes this person as a mentor,
  • Followed by—our named character acts as a mentor to this person,
  • Averse to—this person is repugnant to our named character,
  • Partner to—this person is attractive to our named character.

To this point they are more marginalia than working parameters for An Author’s Inspiration.  To go for baroque, they could be used to form artificial intelligence associations through directed graphs.

For instance, I could adjust the stress weight towards distress if the POV character is facing the character they are averse to.  To qualify how much this shifts stress, I could offset it through the presence of the POV character’s follower or partner being within the beat.

My problem (and further adorning what is already baroque) is that these characters would also exhibit the same stress in their own ways.  An Author’s Inspiration is perfectly suited to do this without too much effort, but all this bookkeeping has to be performed through what now feels arcana.

In time, this may resolve, or I may drop it for simplicity.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 11

Not so much a developmental entry…rather, a character motivation entry.

I came across this idea applied between comrades (soldiers, sailors, marines) about mission and dedication from We Are Soldiers Still:

where the reasons for war are lacking, soldiers fight and die for each other

For my writing, I need to re-purpose this, starting with:

I’m fighting for my buddies’ lives.

This attitude is one I subscribe to.  Then I began to think of variations that swapped object and subject:

You’re here to fight and die for me.

This grandiose attitude is one I encountered frequently, and it was often traded off with:

You’re here to fight and die for country.

This manipulative attitude takes the prior egotistical one and wraps it in patriotism.

So, what to take from this?  The first is the profile of the Hero.  The second is the profile of the genuine antagonist.  The third is the profile of the abstract antagonist or the antagonist’s minions.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 10

Following a word of advice from Henry Miller:

Cement a little every day

translated into my own occupation of building An Author’s Inspiration is file maintenance.  I wrote a ‘nix script to copy all my distribution files to a distribution folder.

51 files…an hour’s worth of cementing a script file’s contents in.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 9

SPOILER ALERT (kind of): contains tech talk.
An Author’s Inspiration is an old-school program run from a terminal you open in the distribution folder.  An Author’s Inspiration is called a command-line program, because you enter the name of the program (story) as a command to the operating system to start it.  An Author’s Inspiration then reads files you have already edited, and it writes an output file called outline.  The End.

P.S. Then there are variations upon this basic command called parameters.  In old-school designs, you the user would supply additional words beyond entering story to invoke special operations in An Author’s Inspiration.  These are called parameters and they are often very specific words.  The discussion that follows introduces a rabbit hole for me, the designer, to trod lightly around before I make the plunge.

With each move I make towards applying An Author’s Inspiration towards my second series X-Division, I am finding more useful options I should be adding to increase utility.

One in particular relates to the multiplicity of novels I am staging out for writing later.  This means having multiple copies of An Author’s Inspiration in different WIP folders.  That wouldn’t be so bad, but during development, having to keep track of daily/hourly updates to files is a chore in itself.

So this leads me to the observation that I could have command line parameters (in fact, I already do, but not) to handle pathing from one executable, An Author’s Inspiration, towards each of my novels as works in progress inhabiting their own directories.  This, then, raises another need that I feel closing in on me: some characters are continuing characters, where would they reside within this broadened file system?

Answer: another command line parameter to point towards a character folder.  In technical terms, the drive for layering of needs into what is called a parameter list is called infinite regress.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 8

I will be continuing discussion on my crisis of selection mentioned in entry 7, but I almost doubled down on that last night as I reviewed things in my head (not in the code, which is more trustworthy).

What could possibly push the red-button this far into the design?

Well, anything that touches deep into the design is a red-button panic moment…this reaches deep into character design: age.

I needed to have an entry for character description that included their age.  This is a key into what I call life milestone events.  I have that for the age at which a character becomes traumatized, but I had lost track if I had an entry for the character’s current age.

In reviewing the code (and the outline bears this out immediately), I find I have both ages available to An Author’s Inspiration to work with.  It reminds me (what caused the panic) that I don’t fully use their current age to reveal how the stress of each beat distorts their existential issues.  (Age is a key into an extensive file of challenges and accomplishments that are associated with stages of life.)

So, the panic button is released.  There is more to do to integrate and add depth to character motivation such as seeking a mentor, or abandoning poor life choices.

An Author’s Inspiration – First Outline Generated


The Order Of The Phoenix
JK Rowling


Generated by An Author’s Inspiration
An A.I. product designed by RW Clark (C)2017

None of these attributions may be removed from A.I. generated files


Wade (Wade Jarvis)
Connie (John Constantine)
Harry (Harry Smith)
Dusty (Dusty Smith)
Kent (Kent Smith)
Eugene (Eugene Smith)
Russ (Russell Smith)
Donna (Donna Smith)
Mary (Mary Smith)
Cindy (Cindy Smith)
Toppy (John Smith)
Swede (Lars Svenson)


Beat 1 spanning from 0 percent to 10 percent in Act 1

Establishing Scene
Describe the protagonist and main characters and their relationships.
For here and throughout, name those who are already present, who are entering the scene, and who are leaving the scene.

Outside the Dursley home
Characters already in place: Harry
Characters entering: Dumbledore, Lily and James
Characters leaving: Dumbledore, Lily and James

Beat 2 spanning from 0 percent to 10 percent in Act 1

The World As We Know It
Described as life in the comfort zone and show the protagonist in a moment of authenticity

Characters already in place: Hermione
Characters entering: Hagrid
Characters leaving: Hagrid

Beat 3 spanning from 0 percent to 10 percent in Act 1

State the Theme in terms of Threat on the Horizon
Describe how the world is shifting with the protagonist seeing beyond the comfort zone into the risk zone

Characters already in place: Ron
Characters entering: Vernon, Dudley and Marge
Characters leaving:

Beat 4 spanning from 0 percent to 10 percent in Act 1

Plot Hook
Doubt arises Unfinished business

Characters already in place: Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 5 spanning from 10 percent to 20 percent in Act 1

Inciting Incident
An incident confronts the protagonist whose attempts to deal with it lead to a dramatic incident

train platform
Characters already in place: Harry, Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 6 spanning from 10 percent to 20 percent in Act 1

The protagonist receives a challenge and weighs the consequences of action/inaction

Characters already in place: Harry and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 7 spanning from 20 percent to 25 percent in Act 1

First Turning Point
The protagonist makes a decision and crosses from the comfort zone to the risk zone

Characters already in place: Harry and Hermione
Characters leaving:

Beat 8 spanning from 20 percent to 25 percent in Act 1

Rising Action
The protagonist attempts to adjust to the choice to move out of a former comfort zone and into the risk zone

Characters already in place: Harry and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 9 spanning from 20 percent to 25 percent in Act 1

The World At Risk
Present the rules of the new world and events that will allow the protagonist to grow outside of the earlier comfort zone and describe life in the risk zone

Characters already in place: Hermione and Ron
Characters entering: Snape
Characters leaving:

Beat 10 spanning from 25 percent to 40 percent in Act 2

Gaining Support
Show how the protagonist is unable to resolve their problems because they need new skills to deal with their challenge; Present how to learn new skills is for them to arrive at a higher sense of awareness of self and their capabilities; Achieve this through introducing mentors and co-protagonists

Characters already in place: Harry and Hermione
Characters entering: Snape
Characters leaving:

Beat 11 spanning from 25 percent to 40 percent in Act 2

Introduce B Story
Why The Theme Matters; In relation to the themes built into the B Story

Characters already in place: Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 12 spanning from 25 percent to 40 percent in Act 2

Why We Should Watch out
aka Pinch Point

Characters already in place: Harry and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 13 spanning from 40 percent to 50 percent in Act 2

Present the protagonist doing what they would not have done in act one; based on what they have gained through other support; Compare the former naif to the current apprentice in terms of What the Theme Promises

Characters already in place: Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 14 spanning from 40 percent to 50 percent in Act 2

Present a severe setback to the protagonist initiative due to hidden danger; Here things go from bad to worse

Characters already in place: Harry, Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 15 spanning from 50 percent to 60 percent in Act 2

The World In Danger
Describe life in the danger zone

Characters already in place: Harry, Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 16 spanning from 50 percent to 60 percent in Act 2

False Win or False Loss
Describe a possible early confrontation; as simple as a feint

Characters already in place: Harry
Characters leaving:

Beat 17 spanning from 50 percent to 60 percent in Act 2

Sides Regroup

Characters already in place: Harry and Hermione
Characters leaving:

Beat 18 spanning from 60 percent to 70 percent in Act 2

More Why We Should Worry
aka Pinch Point

Characters already in place: Harry and Hermione
Characters leaving:

Beat 19 spanning from 60 percent to 70 percent in Act 2

Second Turning Point The Crisis
Dramatize how the protagonist constructs a plan learned from failure

Characters already in place: Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 20 spanning from 60 percent to 70 percent in Act 2

Locker room PEP talk; Talk it up WON; Talk it down LOST

Characters already in place: Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 21 spanning from 70 percent to 80 percent in Act 2

Take on the Troopers
Describe a confrontation where a valuable prize is gained or lesson is learned; This is conflict en masse among the troops

Characters already in place: Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 22 spanning from 70 percent to 80 percent in Act 2

New Information
aka 2nd Plot Point

Characters already in place: Ron
Characters entering: Hagrid
Characters leaving:

Beat 23 spanning from 70 percent to 80 percent in Act 3

Climax Level 3
Close with the resolution of the story and its subplots where the tensions of the story are brought to their most dramatic intensity and the challenge is won

Characters already in place: Harry, Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 24 spanning from 70 percent to 80 percent in Act 3

Remove Low Hurdles; Take On The Lieutenants
Describe resolutions to simple problems; This is conflict between the competing front line staff

Characters already in place: Harry, Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 25 spanning from 80 percent to 90 percent in Act 3

Climax Level 2; Remove Mid Hurdles; Take on the Captains
Describe resolutions to modest problems; This is conflict between the competing General staff

Characters already in place: Harry, Hermione and Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 26 spanning from 90 percent to 100 percent in Act 3

The New World
Describe life in the new comfort zone which boundaries have extended into the former risk zone and pushed out the boundary of the danger zone; Show how the protagonist and other characters have a new sense of who they really are; Compare the prior journeyman to the current master

Characters already in place: Ron
Characters leaving:

Beat 27 spanning from 90 percent to 100 percent in Act 3

Climax Level 1; Remove Highest Hurdle; Take On The General
Describe the resolution in terms of the theme; This is the conflict between the warring Generals personality

Characters already in place: Hermione
Characters leaving:

Beat 28 spanning from 99 percent to 100 percent in Act 3

The New Risk Zone; The New Danger Zone
Hint of new regions of growth or stagnation

Characters already in place: Harry
Characters entering: Hagrid
Characters leaving: Hagrid and Dumbledore

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 6


To this point, the ship of The Order of the Phoenix has been rechristened to a title in my X-Division Assignment series.  A new crew has signed on.  Some of their jobs are plotted, some still have vestiges of the old crew’s assignments.  A new course has been set, but we may still be sailing in the fog—the distracting elements of Harry Potter linger.  And yet and all, An Author’s Inspiration accepts everything as if it were your intention, and it satisfies its purpose in integrating everything into a comprehensive outline.

Here is where strategy emerges.  A lot of rough edges, as you find them in the outline, sets an agenda for future shifts of character, coloring of setting, or stressing the plot.  Some of the distracting elements are inconsequential compared to the glaring clashes that pop out.

The inconsequential can be left unedited.  This is because they may disappear entirely (either in the original or in their early edit) when a major clash is resolved.  For me, it is better to resolve the major clash first.  Even the minor psychological traits of my characters go unedited in the early transformation away from The Order of the Phoenix.

So, that leaves my attention on the glaring clashes.  A clash can by a warning signal that escaped my attention while I was fantasizing how wonderful my story was.  Equally, a clash can simply be the POV (point of view character) is wrong.  One is a simple mechanical fix, like change the POV.  The other can be a complex psychological solution, a tangle of knots to be untied through assigning the correct community to my character (the character’s follower, partner, nemesis, and so on).

A clash can arrive where in the first crisis I have put to much stress on my hero so that the climax seems tepid in comparison.  This is typically a story.plot editing issue, but it may also reveal a poorly described character—or a very serious problem where both files are fighting each other.  A similar clash can arrive in the form that my climax arrives halfway through my intended book length (it normally arrives much later) and leaves my characters depleted and lost in the vastness of celebrating victory too soon.  This is an equally serious problem that will be laid out baldly in the outline.

These choices and changes relate to strategy where the writer can focus their tactical choices in the progression of beats that all add to a successful campaign at the end of the story.

This also brings me to my Aha! moments as they were inspired through my observations in developing my own works.  Their description will follow.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 5


So, to this point, much of the how and why of An Author’s Inspiration is superficial and mechanical.  As the saying goes, however, the Devil’s in the details—so is the inspiration of developing character, plot and story-line.

Once story.plot has had all traces of Harry Potter characters by name removed, then their character files can be removed from the work folder.  This instruction is also mechanical in nature, but it reduces the clutter of their hanging around in the outline and distracting you from your own work.  Run An Author’s Inspiration to confirm the removal of all these character files has resulted in a generated outline containing only your characters.

However, removing these files may not remove all traces of the old Harry Potter characters from the outline.  That is because they probably live on inside your character files that were copied to your purposes.  That is, your heroine of Francesca may still follow Dumbledore, she may, in turn, be followed by Ron Weasley, and so on.  These old characters (now unsupported by character files) persist because you will not have adequately edited the contents of Francesca.character.  These rough edges survive and do nothing to derail the generation of the outline, but neither do they move the plot forward.

The take-home is that a lot of debris from the old outline lives on, but is easily changed to match your vision of your character in your plot design of your original story.  This is done in field edits of the Francesca.character file and story.plot.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 4

As I move through the routine of recasting from a story from The Order of the Phoenix to one of my own in my X-Division Assignment series, I have the options of renaming characters, changing the plot, changing the setting, and more.  Or, I can do a wholesale restart, from the ground up, so to speak.

Well, as practiced as I am at using my software (I did this once, after all, for TOOTP), I’ve also encountered the astonishing mess that can come from wholesale changes.  For sanity’s sake, let’s step away from massive shifts toward slight modifications of the characters supplied in the distribution of An Author’s Inspiration.

One at a time, I add my own characters and run An Author’s Inspiration to test how the new character fits into the generated outline.  If all goes well, I add another.  Repeating this process brings in a new cast who has yet to be integrated into the plot, but I am safe with my characters, as far as they go (possibly because they were cut and pastes over duplicates of the Harry Potter characters).

So, for those that need clear directions: copy (duplicate) one of the The Order of the Phoenix characters into a new character file.  For instance, if your heroine is called Francesca, take Harry.character and copy it to Francesca.character.  That alone is sufficient for your first move.  Leave Harry.character alone (it will be removed later).  From there, second and following moves all go to editing the contents of Francesca.character to match the characteristics you think Francesca exhibits (or hides).

Repeat the paragraph above for each of your other characters.  Feel free to re-brand Harry Potter character files with your own characters as that seems natural.  In time, and through your editing of them, these original characters will fade away to leave the flower of your creation to blossom.

The next step is to put those characters into story.plot, a configurable file that the writer edits to describe setting and plot points across 29 beats.

For those that need clear directions: edit story.plot so that it contains your character names (replace Harry Potter character names with your character names).  That alone is sufficient for your first move with this file.  At this time, ignore all other entries—leave them alone for now.  Run An Author’s Inspiration to test how the new story.plot fits into the generated outline.

These steps alone are sufficient to turn the ship of The Order of the Phoenix onto a new course toward my X-Division Assignment series’ destination.  The outline generated by An Author’s Inspiration still reveals many of the Harry Potter characters and plot situations, but like a suntan in late September, that will fade as we progress through owning the final outline.

Those refinements, and the strategies involved will follow.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 3

With the background established, I move on to my own experience using An Author’s Inspiration.  As I am also the designer, it allows me to adjust the design of the software to suit short-falls, add flexibility, and to create new features that were unanticipated during early stages.

The first thing that hit me was about the design at a fundamental level.  I had planned on the writer having the ability to write free form notes into unlimited text fields.  Unfortunately, that design has constraints.  The writer cannot use punctuation in this text (that made it easy to write the code).  However, I as the writer need the ability to separate ideas into sentences, and this put demands upon me as the designer to step up to the plate to make that happen at a very fundamental level.

So, the first lesson of using my own software is to add a robust method to allow me to enter complete paragraphs with punctuated sentences into the text field.  This will be mildly complex, and demand deep testing as changes at the fundamental level can cast dramatic problems into what should be high level subtleties.

An Author’s Inspiration Development Journal Entry 1

I have decided to start a journal to express the Aha! moments that are arriving now.  However, some background is needed to say how I got to such moments.

I have put in roughly six months (or 1,000 hours) of design and development of the idea I call An Author’s Inspiration.  In fair market prices for a senior software developer, that would bill out at $80,000.  There is more design and coding to go, but I am at a beta release version of 0.7 that suits many functions I set out to achieve.  Going the distance from beta release version 0.7 to product release version 1.0 places new appeals to my designer’s inspiration.

I am currently re-purposing my beta for use in my own fiction writing, and I am discovering short-falls of design.  In the culture of software design, using my own product is know as “eating your own dog food.”  That is, in my release package, I have files designed specifically for Harry Potter in The Order of the Phoenix.  I am not writing a Harry Potter story.  As needs must, I have to replace those configurable files with files that describe my own story with its own characters.

Currently, beta version 0.7 does that very well.  That is, An Author’s Inspiration has exceptional flexibility, allowing for many levels of character and plot invention and tailoring by the writer.  It presents the writer’s effort with a fully fleshed out psychological tone map of their story in a linear outline format.

And on this point of tone map my design effort turns (and eating my own dog food emerges).  As I modify the distribution files I am beginning to see the shape of how I might proceed outside of the forced linearity of the process.  Fortunately, An Author’s Inspiration‘s flexibility allows the writer to leave out many details, and develop them later.  I designed that feature deliberately, and as a writer using An Author’s Inspiration, I find it brings me considerable relief not to have to decide every character trait from the outset.

More to follow.

An Author’s Inspiration, Characters

An Author’s Inspiration, announced earlier, proceeds.

My expectations for this software design is to produce character profiles, and describe character interactions within an A.I. generated outline.

To achieve this my design will take in files written by the author for integration into a structured format.  My design will then produce a text file that presents a full novel or screenplay in a schematic three act style with smaller substructures much like scenes (but called beats).

At the lowest level of utility to an author, this will give a perspective of the complete work within one unified file that offers instruction as to where plot points are located.  To achieve a more distinct outline, An Author’s Inspiration requires that the author create character files.  Within those files are going to be specific characteristics of each character.

Characters are described in their own file.  In that file, a text file, the author enters the following characteristics:

  • called name,
  • age,
  • hardiness,
  • role,
  • shadow,
  • and so on.

These terms deserve attention because the author’s entries for these characteristics are limited to specific terms, or numbers to within certain limitations.  So, my prospective design will look for something with this criteria:

  • called name: a single word such as “Jack” or “Jill.”
  • age: a number as simple as 10 (as in 10 years old).
  • hardiness: a number (integer) between -3 and +3, where negative numbers inform of a low hardiness for this character.
  • role: one of 18 specific archetypes choices (e.g. innocent, warrior, lover, demi-god, demon, ghost, ruler…).  The sense of this entry for the author is for the author to think of their character’s positive persona.
  • shadow: again, one of 18 specific archetypes choices (e.g. innocent, warrior, lover, demi-god, demon, ghost, ruler…).  The sense of this entry for the author is for the author to think of their character’s negative persona.
  • and so on.

As a user of An Author’s Inspiration, the author will probably stumble (or simply experiment) with the concept of archetypes that are invested in their character’s role and shadow.  Experimentation with character files will reveal how changing these entries impacts their character’s responses to plot challenges.

An Author’s Inspiration

I am about to embark on a five novel series I call X-Division Assignments.  I have another series I have been writing, but the time it took to write each novel seemed to take too long.  While reading Charles Willeford’s The Woman Chaser, I was inspired by his protagonist’s commitment to direct a movie.  But first his protagonist, to be professional, had to write a treatment.

It was then that I took this as a sign that I needed to write a treatment of my series.

For fiction (not movies), this meant more about me writing an outline…but treatments I understand too.  I have degrees in both English and Cinema.  However, with a career in engineering, I considered automating the process.  With some experience in design in A.I. (which, in this specific case, relates to artificial intelligence), I have set my sights on using the computer language of prolog.

An Author’s Inspiration will be my software design of an outline generator.  My design will read character descriptions, settings, plot points, and produce an outline based on the three act play format, also known as beats in the film industry.

In future posts I will describe this software tool, and relate the progress of my design work.