“My Family and Other Animals,” by Gerald Durrell

Descriptive Paragraph:

July had been blown out like a candle by a biting wind that ushered in a leaden August sky.  A sharp, stinging drizzle fell, billowing into opaque grey sheets when the wind caught it.  Along the Bournemouth sea-front the beach huts turned blank wooden faces towards a greeny-grey, froth-chained sea that leaped eagerly at the cement bulwark of the shore.  The gulls had been tumbled inland over the town, and they now drifted above house-tops on taut wings, whining peevishly.  It was the sort of weather calculated to try anyone’s endurance.

(My mentor Howard Pease continues) Thus begins one of my favorite nonfiction books.  It is a first-person story of several years in the life of the Durrell family, a widowed mother and her four children.  Caught in a Channel town in weather continually bad, they voted in desperation to escape for one year to the inexpensive Greek island of Corfu.  Mrs. Durrell, slightly vague in her suggestions, always charming and never shocked, allowed that year to stretch by vote to five years.

“The Past,” by Ellen Glasgow

Opening Hook Paragraph:

I had no sooner entered the house than I knew something was wrong. Though I had never been in so splendid a place before—it was one of those big houses just off Fifth Avenue—I had a suspicion from the first that the magnificence covered a secret disturbance. I was always quick to receive impressions, and when the black iron doors swung together behind me, I felt as if I were shut inside a prison.

(My Mentor Howard Pease continues) This story is not to be an intellectual puzzle but a more emotional story, no doubt with chills and thrills. Though this paragraph gives other information, the emphasis from the first to the last sentence is on a hook opening.

Mystery At Thunderbolt House

Mystery at Thunderbolt HouseMystery at Thunderbolt House by Howard Pease
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This historical story, set in San Francisco the year going up to the great earthquake, is a broadly disguised fantasy of Pease's own experience of the shake.

Some elements are based upon his recollection of his aunt, who he recalls being pictured high atop a loaded waggon that is transporting her household items away from the destruction.

The story of rags-to-riches, a common Horatio Alger era theme, also mirror's Pease's family suddenly acquiring a windfall inheritance. However, his own family experience is considerably more subdued to the immense wealth his protagonist finds.

Pease said this book was his personal favorite.

Pease's full stories were printed in American Boy Magazine and illustrated by the renowned artist Anton Otto Fischer whose graphic work was found on many covers such as The Saturday Evening Post.

The Black Tanker

If you are interested in the artwork that illustrated Pease's stories, go to:
Pease Images

View all my reviews

Action Writer’s Block

THE LIONHEARTED AUTHOR

THE WORLD AS WE KNOW IT
Writer’s Block is a metaphor for the underlying problem we will be working on together.
The Block is what impedes you; or surprisingly, what has you over-activated.
Impedance is found expressed in avoidance.
Activation is found expressed in deflection.
Both are emotionally tied into fear, shame, or disgust.
Culturally, they are tied into rejection or guilt.

INCITING INCIDENT
Intellectual puzzles and writing exercises are unsustainable and uninspired.

CRISIS
Life demands the Lionhearted Author: “Put your foot to the path!”
I am your guide through the six realms of rebirth and existence.
We will test your passion within the Chakra centers of your Kundalini spirit.

CLIMAX
You reclaim your strength from former obstructions.
I am here to exercise the tone of your psychological wholeness.
We will examine the challenge won in the archetypal Champion’s fulfillment.

RESOLUTION
Bring joy to our writing experience and fulfilling acceptance for our work.

Matt Helm – Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton

Matt Helm - Death of a CitizenMatt Helm - Death of a Citizen by Donald Hamilton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

In a class of fiction that barely rises above comic strip in character development, Death of a Citizen manages to stay the course, but does it well. Despite the glowing accolades from Tom Clancy on the (re-issue) cover as being real, it is not. It is not literature (the English combine this genre with literature better), but it is good pulp.

Comparisons to Hammett or Chandler are lazy claims. Matt Helm is what could be called a dry drunk, addicted to violence without any redemption (killing Commies won't get you past Saint Peter in this day and age), but he is a good pulp hero.

At the end of the day, Donald Hamilton is a good pulp writer.


View all my reviews

Authors Marketing 2021

Meetup.com As Targeted Services Advertising Channel

No doubt eyebrows went up at the phrase targeted services.  Services?  Isn’t this about selling books?  Things?  Yes, but….

You will observe familiar problems that transcend services vs. things model of marketing.  I am pitching my services because authors need other revenue streams, and as we generally become subject matter experts in our researches, you can cash in on that too.  However, for those who are strictly concerned with selling books, I promise you valuable insights.

As I am the host to three Meetups, I bring you the experience of having hosted Meetups for 17 years.

My peak enrollment for any single Meetup was for a tech community focused on Artificial Intelligence.  There I had 165 members.  However, I never saw more than 12 at any one Meetup.  Of those, half were steady visitors.  I used all the methods at my disposal as advised by Meetup (they should know), and it never budged even with the most attractive of inducements: the $1,000,000 Netflix Challenge to design an algorithm to boost their film prediction accuracy (“Here’s another title you might enjoy”).

For that period of several months of Meetups (weekly), the number who participated varied little from that max of 12, more often 8 or 9.  Let’s call that a committed 5%, the rest were not even tourists who might wander in to see if we were within grasp of all that cash.

This is typical.  I have observed much the same spread of percentage numbers for all sizes of Meetups.  The lesson to observe by this simple observation is that you need 20+ members to see one face other than yours at a Meetup; and that is pushing the boundaries of chance.  I would say 50 members is roughly the ignition point of steady participation.  Again, this conservative upper limit comes with experience.

Just two months ago, I had 200 members in three groups, but with the pandemic, I had let them idle too long, and they obviously appeared mordant to the few that had visited within the last 6 months (about 60 of that 200).  I tried to revive those groups by funneling them into one Zoom session, but even the 60 were unmoved to respond.

I cast them all off and started over.  Three new slates—and your entry point into the process of starting your own author-branded Meetup.

Next: the story of those blank slates filled in.

Temptation, the second rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is temptation?

It is the imagining of motivation’s needs being fulfilled.

Temptation, as a social interaction observed by the antagonist, contains the necessary elements to lead to the antagonist’s preferred outcome.  Those elements are the who, what, where, why, and when.

The who: characters that can act on the antagonist’s needs.

The what: needs of the characters that mirror those of the antagonist.

The where: the setting of the characters’ social interaction is suited to the antagonist’s preferred setting.

The why: the characters display flaws (their own motivations) that can be manipulated.

The when: the characters’ social interaction exhibits a problem that is not isolated in time, it remains unsolved, and it can resurface later to the antagonist’s advantage.

The antagonist’s observed social interaction’s outcome may not be the preferred one, but the antagonist appreciates the temptation of being able to prompt the characters, stage the setting, and direct the action.  This only requires planning.

The antagonist is under a modest positive stress (eustress) of release.  Thus, at the elemental level it engages joy.

Whip Hand

Whip HandWhip Hand by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is pulp, it reads like pulp, the story is pulp, and the considerably difference here is that the characters are dirt-farm poor pulp.

Distinctions abound as each of these characters has their own point-of-view chapter (or several). Further, their dialect is utterly dirt farmer.

What makes pulp? The scope of their aspirations. Scope is not the same as scale. In terms of scale, pulp characters are going to go for the whole enchilada. Scope reveals that the enchilada is all they plan for. If they are looking for a $1000 bank-roll, in very little time it lands in their lap.

Then what? Scale of aspiration is met, and a world of hurt follows because there isn't enough zeros in $1000 to pay for the mistakes they made getting it.

"Whip Hand" accomplishes the display of this tragic fault across every character.

Charles Willeford has written an existential pulp comedy.

View all my reviews

Authors Marketing 2021

Facebook Ad Center

While running two ads, I discovered a remarkable reaction: Post Shares

Suddenly it all became clear.  A shared Advertisement is a Gold Vein that runs well beyond the advertisement’s time-slot.

Into the future, that one reaction is the sole purpose of my ad’s life.

My topics need to be Evergreen engaging—still snappy, and always current.

“The Snake,” by John Steinbeck

Descriptive Paragraph:

It was almost dark when young Dr. Phillips swung his sack to his shoulder and left the tide pool.  He climbed over the rocks and squashed along the street in his rubber boots.  The street lights were on by the time he arrived at his little commercial laboratory on the cannery street of Monterey.  It was a tight little building, standing partly on piers over the bay water and partly on land.  On both sides the big corrugated-iron sardine canneries crowded in on it.

(My mentor Howard Pease continues) Here the setting shows the protagonist as part of his environment.  A further step gives us his name, and we learn that he is young.  By implication we gather that Dr.  Phillips is not a medical man but a scientist who runs a commercial laboratory on cannery row; therefore, he is no doubt a marine biologist.

Notice that he is in action.  We glimpse the tide pool and the rocks on the beach.  We do not see the town itself until the protagonist arrives at his laboratory.  The time element is mentioned twice, but not by clock.  This gives the impression that Dr. Phillips is a man who works until it is too dark to see.  Notice, too, the active verbs climb and squash, both used without adverbs.

Case of the Missing Temptation

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.  
1.   Motive

What is the murderer’s ladder without temptation?  Every detective moves forward on the motive of the criminal, just as they count off their suspicions in that the suspect had the motive, means, and opportunity (fled the scene, resisted arrest, etc.).

This a professional murderer.  The temptation is anticipated by the motive (the need for money), and the remaining ladder steps (at least to actual murder) are expected to be performed professionally (and even the problems that may crop up during and after).

How is the professional murderer distinct from the psychotic murderer?  The professional may be psychotic; but the psychotic is not professional.

If the absence of temptation so closely hews to psychology, it could also be the hallmark of the romantic murderer.  However, this would an obsessive, romantic murderer.

Sideswipe

Sideswipe: A Hoke Moseley NovelSideswipe: A Hoke Moseley Novel by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Burn-out

Willeford has always written from many points of view, and this is a superb example where the separate story lines entwine and intersect naturally. The plot is complex when viewed from a distance, but quite simple when seen from within the eyes of each character.

Willeford also reprises past motifs. One such example is with art. Willeford studied art in France and in Peru. This interests inhabits much of his early writing through his protagonist's own expressed interest in art (often idiosyncratic). This artistic pursuit is fully engaged in "Pick-up," brought to center stage in "The Burnt Orange Heresy," and then here in a surprising and satisfying lesson given by an automobile painter.

View all my reviews

“Girl in White” by Adela Rogers St. Johns

Opening Paragraph:

Heading down the corridor to the elevator, Scotty Dakers kept her thoughts away from what the doctor had said, what Ingles, the head nurse, had said. She forced herself to concentrate on the numbers on the doors she had to pass. Number 517 had been little Mrs. Halles, who had actually walked the sixth day after a fusion operation; 509 was old Robertson with all his money, whom Doctor Luke had dragged miraculously back to life; 501 was where they’d finally told Mitch Delberg the truth.

(My Mentor Howard Pease continues) This first paragraph warrants examination. The protagonist’s name, Scotty Dakers, might be either masculine or feminine; but the author does not keep us guessing. “Scotty Dakers kept her thoughts … She forced herself … “ We are with our heroine walking down a corridor. The mention of a doctor and a head nurse and numbered rooms all indicate a hospital. Scotty’s knowledge of the patients behind each door further indicates that Scotty must be a nurse. What was said to Mitch Delberg, the patient in Room 501, is the hook. Notice that there is a minimum of what we call author’s statement, direct statement. Mrs. St. Johns does not tell us that Scotty is a nurse on Ward C of St. Luke’s Hospital in San Francisco. Instead, she enters the mind of her protagonist, and does so at a definite moment in time. Scotty’s thoughts ring true. Reader identification is immediate. If Scotty already knows something of importance to the story, the reader is told what it is. If Scotty learns something, the reader learns it at the same time. Not once is the reader jerked out of the consciousness of Scotty. Identification is complete, and satisfying.

San Francisco Writers Conference

While attending the San Francisco Writers Conference last week, I went out to Treasure Island with my partner to show her the view of The City. Unfortunately, the entire length of the Avenue of the Palms was closed, and a high fence put up along the shore to obscure the view. It looks like the tear-down to create plush condos is proceeding with the vengeance of a Real Estate Mogul.

The story of the ride to this shot is worth sharing.

While in conversation with my cabbie, he said he was Filipino, and had arrived in The City in 1972 (the same time I left to join the USS Holland). He mentioned his rent for an apartment at the time was $400/month. I can attest to having to move to Hayward to afford the same sized apartment for $180.
Given the cost, and his challenging situation (looking for work to pay that cost), I asked why he moved here?
“It’s my home.”
“I thought you said you were born in the PI?”
“I was, and so was my father, but grandfather was an Army Cavalry man who fought in the insurrection (still going on, by the way). “Grandfather was a Buffalo Soldier.”

This brought me deep satisfaction to have heard his personal story of connection.

“The Summer of the Beautiful White Horse,” by William Saroyan

Opening paragraph:

One day back there in the good old days when I was nine and the world was full of every imaginable kind of magnificence, and life was still a delightful and mysterious dream, my cousin Mourad, who was considered crazy by everybody who knew him except me, came to my house at four in the morning and woke me up by tapping on the window of my room.

(My Mentor Howard Pease continues) Notice that this paragraph presents the three fundamentals in one long sentence. It also tells us that this story will be like the simple tale told aloud in the first person. Simple only on the surface, however, this viewpoint in reality is difficult to carry through with complete success. The limitations and weaknesses inherent in all first-person narratives may be why so many readers dislike this viewpoint, and why some editors greet its use with dismay. (See chapter on Point of View.) If you have the deftness and charm of a William Saroyan, or the sophistication and ironic wit of a Somerset Maugham, go ahead and try your hand at a first-person story. Otherwise wait until you become a craftsman.

Action Writer’s Block Contains a Treasure

The Action Writer has a choice…

Continue the quest and capture your reward, or starve?

Why “Action” Writer’s Block?

This is to narrow my audience to those who share the same genre I write in.  In my case it is even more succinct as the espionage genre.  Does your mystery feel like a game of hop-scotch?  Are your dynamic battle scenes outclassed by the Texas Hold-em match back in the barracks?  Does your detective keep banging his nose on the same door?

For other genres, I will guide you through your troubling blocks with scenes containing confrontation, a crisis, or the climax.

“So, What’s In It For Me?”

You deserve a personal approach, and I will guide you through obstructions that have challenged your writing.  I am a genuine warrior.  I can train you in the art of conflict.

“What Qualifications Do I Have As An Action Author?”

By claim and challenge.

My claim is as third generation veteran: Born to the culture.
As an “Army Brat,” I have lived all over the world.  Two years in Asia, and three years in Europe before I was thirteen years old.

At age fourteen, I set my foot on a four year long path toward West Point.  A memento of that commitment is a small book called “Bugle Notes.” It has always been within reach.  Next to it on the shelf is “Infantry Attacks,” Field Marshal Erwin Rommel.  While in Germany, I lived within a mile of his home and grave.  I wandered across, around, and through a lot of bunkers in my youth, one located within several hundred yards of a Nike nuclear missile site.

At age sixteen, I had read the guerrilla campaign journals of:
General Võ Nguyên Giáp
Ernesto “Che” Guevara
T. E. Lawrence
George Washington
Francis Marion
Felix Graf von Luckner
Simón Bolívar

At age eighteen, I was reading Army Field Manuals for survival, hand-to-hand combat, and guerrilla warfare.  And by that age, I had been practicing some of these lessons in my back yard in Fort Carson: maneuvering grounds, some vast valleys filled with tanks that were napalmed on practice runs by the air force.  I’ve found many grenades in my youth.  And I rigged a smoke grenade in a roadside trap.

At age nineteen, after having been passed over for West Point, I planned my enlistment in the Navy with its six year obligation for advanced training.  Before I pledged my oath of service, I had built out a time line of those six years, and when I would make my promotions, six of them, in four years.  Four years and three months later, I had achieved every mark.  This was rarely achieved in less than twelve years for the average sailor.  I had a nineteen year head start.

My claim as Action Author is as a multi-generational artist:  Born to art.

Even though I was born to the Warrior class, my parents were art experts and designers of jewelry.  Even though my Great Uncle had been a simple cowboy, stage coach driver for Wells Fargo, and a Texas Ranger, he was proclaimed “The Cowboy Artist of Texas.”

My claim as Action Author by challenge is through effort:

At age thirty, having capped a successful career in high technology, I finished work on two BA degrees, English with an emphasis in writing, and Cinema with an emphasis in analysis.  I then took my thesis script to Hollywood to pitch it—door-to-door.  100 doors (I had a list).  100 rejections.

“How Do I Recognize Writer’s Block?”

Your writing is undoubtedly at the top of its form, but you never seem to get around to plunging into it with the same gusto that inspired you in the beginning.  The source of this energy drain is unique to you, and only solutions that are genuine to you will work.

As a leader of men, I can spot troops out of formation, falling behind,
…and I tighten their discipline.

I can see over-written stratagems
… and I expose their weak rigidity.

As a warrior, I recognize the roots of cowerdice
… and I inspire confidence.

 

The Third Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

The Sixth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

Our Lady of Darkness

Our Lady of DarknessOur Lady of Darkness by Fritz Leiber
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Fantasy
(only because calling it Horror in place of Fantasy would be a doubling of Pulp which is its own interpretation of middle-class Horror)

I chose to read this out of my stream of Charles Willeford (actually, I was reading "Pick-Up" at the same time) because of another book (how could it be otherwise?) by Don Herron, "The Dashiell Hammett Tour." Within those pages Don Herron offered a writer he and his group ran into on the streets of The City, Charles Willeford. The purchase of Don's book has lead me to wonders of writers who inhabited San Francisco. Don also introduced me to Fritz Leiber, who added many references of Hammett to his novel, "Our Lady...."

Already knowing how Leiber lived in a rent controlled ("Rhodes" historically Rhodema now Union) hotel in the Tenderloin (and which was merely several blocks from my girlfriend's apartment up Nob Hill), it gave me immediate identification.

However, to return to "Our Lady...."

This story is atmospheric and full of the lore of Megapolisomancy. The hero owns an original journal of a man who studied paramental life-forces that defied time and space; and destructive-forces of the city's megalithic monuments. This book, familiar to an expert who wouldn't touch it for his life, contains both the question and the answer to the journal writer's death.

"Our Lady" is invested with the (author's autobiographical) hero's mood of recovering from the alcoholism following the death of his wife years before. Even then, it is neither morose, nor depressive. Instead, the hero is surrounded with comforting and supportive friends who rescue him from the paramental's highly disturbing embrace.

Of interest, and possibly fascination, is the hero's rumination on the many authors and their titles in the field of fantasy and horror genres that were current in the early 1970s.:
Nostig’s "The Subliminal Occult,"
“The Haunter of the Dark,”
"The Outsider,"
Collected Ghost Stories of Montague Rhodes,
“The City of the Singing Flame,”
"Ames et Fantômes de Douleur,"
"Knochenmädchen in Pelze (mit Peitsche),"
"Suspiria de Profundis,"
"The Spider Glyph in Time,"
"Sex, Death and Supernatural Dread,"
“The Thing on the Doorstep,"
“The Disinterment of Venus,”
...and many others.

View all my reviews

The Eighth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

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.

“Passengers for Panama,” by Paul Stockton

Opening Paragraph:

The third mate of the Araby was puzzled. From the foredeck of his old tramp steamer he looked uneasily across a deserted wharf at the little Caribbean port of La Guaira, lying quiet and undisturbed at the foot of the Andes. Too quiet, thought Tod Moran as his gaze swept the empty street. At ten in the morning, with a ship just arrived in port, a whole town does not take a siesta, even in Venezuela.

(My Mentor Howard Pease continues) The protagonist is named, the setting is given, and the hook is the silence and emptiness of the dockside street at ten in the morning. Note that the reason for the siesta-like atmosphere is not disclosed, but the reason is just as much a mystery to the protagonist, Tod Moran, as it is to the reader.

“The Man who Shot Snapping Turtles,” by Edmund Wilson

Opening Paragraph:

In the days when I lived in Hecate County, I had an uncomfortable neighbor, a man named Asa M.  Stryker.  He had at one time, he told me, taught chemistry in some sorry-sounding college in Pennsylvania, but he now lived on a little money which he had been “lucky enough to inherit.”  I had the feeling about him that somewhere in his background was defeat or frustration or disgrace.  He was a bachelor and kept two servants—a cook and a man around the place.  I never knew anyone to visit him, though he would occasionally go away for short periods—when, he would tell me, he was visiting relatives.

(My mentor Howard Pease continues) The point of view in this story is the one so often used by Somerset Maugham.  It is the viewpoint of an observer, the “I” person, who tells us about the protagonist, an interesting friend or acquaintance.  We never enter the mind of the main character.  We merely see him in action and hear him talk, all of this interpreted for us by the observer, who is not even named.

“Cyclists’ Raid,” by Frank Rooney.

Opening Paragraph:

Joel Bleeker, owner and operator of the Pendleton Hotel, was adjusting the old redwood clock in the lobby when he heard the sound of the motors. At first he thought it might be one of those four-engine planes on the flights from Los Angeles to San Francisco which occasionally got far enough off course to be heard in the valley. And for a moment, braced against the steadily approaching vibrations of the sound, he had the fantastic notion that the plane was going to strike the hotel. He even glanced at his daughter, Cathy, standing a few feet to his right and staring curiously down the street.

(My Mentor Howard Pease continues) In this opening paragraph, there are two points to notice. First, the time element is not given, and this means that the reader may have to adjust his picture when the time is finally mentioned as night or day. Second, something is added at the end of the paragraph: Bleeker looks at his daughter, Cathy. By adding this statement, the author promises that Cathy will play a prominent part in the story. And indeed she does—a tragic part.

(My comment) This story was used for Marlon Brando’s hit “The Wild One.” Again, note that this opening paragraph contains the hallmarks of naming the protagonist, setting a scene, and offering a hook. It is not a false hook, because from the POV of Joel Bleeker, he cannot see what Cathy sees.

The Way We Die Now

The Way We Die NowThe Way We Die Now by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp Upward Mobility

Of the Hoke Moseley series, this is the most determinedly Pulp of them all and returns to the roots of the genre.

The sense of research, investigation, criminal pursuit have been sidelined to serve Hoke's fall from grace and his middle class redemption (which is the ultimate condemnation, a very personal and punishing hell within the gritty realm of Pulp).

An example of this arises out of his daughter's own emergence into bitter adulthood:
"Suddenly Aileen began to cry. Tears, unchecked, streamed down her cheeks.
"'What's the matter? Why are you crying?
"'Be-because," she said finally, still sobbing, 'because you can't!'"

View all my reviews

“The Garden Party,” by Katherine Mansfield

Descriptive Paragraph:

They could not have had a more perfect day for a garden-party if they had ordered it.  Windless, warm, the sky without a cloud.  Only the blue was veiled with a haze of light gold, as it is sometimes in early summer.  The gardener had been up since dawn, mowing the lawns and sweeping them, until the grass and the dark flat rosettes where the daisy plants had been seemed to shine.  As for the roses, you could not help feeling they understood that roses are the only flowers that impress people at garden-parties; the only flowers that everybody is certain of knowing.  Hundreds, yes, literally hundreds, had come out in a single night; the green bushes bowed down as though they had been visited by archangels.

(from a collection of opening paragraphs at www.secondroot.com)

The Second Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

“A Rose for Emily,” by William Faulkner

Opening Hook Paragraph:

When Miss Emily Grierson died, our whole town went to her funeral: the men through a sort of respectful affection for a fallen monument, the women mostly out of curiosity to see the inside of her house, which no one save an old man-servant—a combined gardener and cook—had seen in at least ten years.

(My mentor Howard Pease continues) Here the author names his protagonist, or main character, who has just died.  Then he throws out a hook to arouse our curiosity about her.  We, too, now want a glimpse inside Miss Emily’s house.  And we get that glimpse—and never forget what we see.

The Woman Chaser

The Woman ChaserThe Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Pulp cinema?

The modern audience may think Tarantino got there first (at least on film, 1994), but Willeford bookended "Pulp Fiction" with his script, 1960, that made it to the silver screen, 1999, with few, if any, changes.

Pulp cinematic hero? Consider this description:

"Two hundred pounds, the beginnings of a paunch, big size-eleven feet, more enormous yet in red-yellow-and-blue cashmere argyles, thick, hairy arms and basket-ball-player hands, a mat of blue-black chest hair; a sunburned grinning face, and a headful of dark unruly hair, badly in need of cutting. Some dancer! I laughed wildly. In the face of all maternal arguments I had quit taking ballet lessons when I turned fourteen and fell in love with baseball. The hell with it! I assumed an attitude and met Mother’s charming pas de Bourree with outstretched arms and fingers."

View all my reviews

The Actual Killing, the sixth rung of The Murderer’s Ladder

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What is the actual killing?

The antagonist is fully acting on the plan to completion.

This may be one of the entry points for the protagonist as witness, secondary victim, or investigator.

Here, the antagonist either moves on in obscurity through successful planning, or meets with unforeseen obstacles through which they must play it by ear, or become ensnared in their obvious fulfillment of their motivation.

If the protagonist is involved, then the antagonist may be forced to improvise.  The antagonist’s improvisations to ill-adjust the plan will undoubtedly include obscured, but personal characteristics that conflict with the details revealed in the crime’s commission.

The actual killing contains the basic elements of who, what, where, when, and why.

The who: The antagonist and the victim.

The what: Murder.

The where: Here.

The when: Now.

The why: The plan’s promise of relief.

All that is needed is for the antagonist to move away from the scene (fly, escape).

The antagonist is under the greatest stress of anticipation of discovery or capture.  Thus, at the elemental emotional level it engages either anger or fear.

“Boy Crazy,” by John De Meyer

False Hooks in opening paragraphs:

Walter Fenton squinted sleepily as the morning sun flooded through his bedroom window. He stretched up to pull the shade down. Then his mouth fell open in astonishment, What he saw out on the lake he could hardly believe. He shook his wife Emily.

My Mentor, Howard Pease goes on to explain what he means by False Hook:

Our protagonist is Walter Fenton. The setting is a house near a lake, and the time is an early morning of bright sunlight. Next comes the hook, questionable on two counts. First, the statement His mouth fell open is so trite, so old-hat, that it should never be used today. Second, the sentence “What he saw out on the lake he could hardly believe” shows the author hiding information in a desperate effort to rouse interest. Instead, it is likely to rouse irritation. Such a hook is like a child’s excited announcement, “I’ve got a secret!” after which he teases you until you beg him to tell. The revelation is always a disappointment, because by then your expectations are too high.

Authors Marketing 2021

The Business Plan part of this for me (a typical author of limited means) begins with this prodigious first level outline:

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Products and Services
  • Marketing Plan
  • Operational Plan
  • Management and Organization
  • Startup Expenses and Capitalization
  • Financial Plan
  • Appendices

Authors Marketing 2021

More Facebook Ads A-B Testing

Yes, two more side-by-side ad runs today.  And another story of Facebook oddity.  I am using the same graphic that Facebook first rejected (too much skin) to then relent and allow when I challenged their denial (yes, you can do this, but only with the press of a button).

Both A and B contain this image, but one was simply a re-run of the original ad, and it was approved (without objection) within 10 minutes.  The second was a new post using that identical image (the whole point of an A-B test where I test the ad copy), but new text.  That took 12 hours to approve (with no objection, curiously).

“A” Ad Copy

What if your Action Writer’s Block was because you’ve ignored your villain? Discover how this mysterious energy can can be valuable to you.

“B” Ad Copy

Writer’s Block is your gold…
…What if your troubling villain refuses to release it?
Do you want what is yours? Act now. Recover the hidden riches your block hides within your villain’s ignored needs.

The Case of the Missing Motive

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.   The false suspect
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.

What is the murderer’s ladder without motive?  Every detective moves forward on the motive of the criminal, just as they count off their suspicions in that the suspect had the motive, means, and opportunity (fled the scene, resisted arrest, etc.).

This could be said to be the psychotic murderer’s ladder.

As the psychotic murderer has no personal stake in the murder, it must come from another source (a syndicate, or well placed or wealthy individual putting out a contract on the victim; possibly from the victim).  It might be argued that the contract price is the motivation for the murderer—but, no.  The contract’s price is simple business decision.  If a contract murderer did it for free, then there would be a motive for the murderer to deviate from business practices.

There is another perspective that comes from Strangers on a Train, by Patricia Highsmith.  There two murders are performed by swapping victims between the two murderers so that motives are lost, means are lost, and opportunities are lost when unassailable, simple alibis are provided.

 

The Black Mass Of Brother Springer

The Black Mass of Brother SpringerThe Black Mass of Brother Springer by Charles Willeford
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Who would believe Pulp Religion?

Sam Springer has been ordained and called to a small church in the Negro (late 50s) part of Jax Florida. The Right Reverend "Deuteronomy" Springer was an ex-accountant and ex-novelist who had writer's block when he became a civil-rights leader in a bus boycott. Too soon, he becomes the focus of Klan activity, a lot of donation money, and a parishioner's wife. He arrived at this impasse of identity because in his respectable life he faced:

"My monthly payment of $78.60 on my house was five days overdue. My car payment on my three-year-old Pontiac was one month overdue. A small payment, only $42.50 per month, to be sure.... I owed the milkman $5.40 for the current month, the grocer for groceries delivered during the month, the telephone bill, the television repair bill for a new booster for the picture tube, and several other sundry bills, including an unfulfilled pledge at the Unitarian Fellowship Society."

Brother Springer quickly admits (to himself) that he has no "faith," but his sermons do inspire the faithful and fuels social protest. And, yet, true to Pulp formula, life is about booze, cigarettes, money, and sex.

Pulp Canterbury Tales

Pulp Decameron.

Pulp Fabliaux.

Willeford's writing contains all the classic elements of the older genres I allude to above. A theme I see emerging in his early works is the anti-hero embodying the archetype of the Destroyer who brings positive change.

View all my reviews

10th Step On The Character’s Ladder

I’ve been researching “compunction” for characters in my work while working on “The Striker” an installment of “X-Division Assignments” an espionage action story set in late 60s San Francisco.
 
It also bears upon many published news stories for the past two years.
 
The following comes from my last outline step:
 
10. Character tested for veracity of compunction
 
10.1. and Character reveals a wide ranging emotional display
10.1.1. including positive emotions, such as happiness and surprise
10.1.1.1. with leakage of genuine feelings from incomplete deception (feel embarrassed, feel genuine happiness, and let a smile slip)
10.1.1.1.1. as in false remorse
 
10.1.2. with deceptive or falsified emotions overcompensated in their emotional performance
10.1.2.1. as in false remorse
 
10.1.3. with a large number of speech hesitations that cued deceptive apology
10.1.3.1. as in false remorse
 
10.2. and reveals narrow range of emotional display
10.2.1. for remorse (showing sorrow)
include a detailed account of the offense
10.2.1.1. responsibility (showing connection)
acknowledgment of the hurt or damage done
10.2.1.1.1. reparation (showing care)
restitution, compensation or token gesture in line with the damage that one has caused
10.2.1.1.1.1. resolution (showing closure)
expression of a credible commitment to change

Authors Marketing 2021

Meetup.com Designs to Attract Writers

As the title suggests, I focused  my efforts on writers, and I went several steps further in refining that field.  My specialty is as a Consulting Editor for Action writers suffering from Writer’s Block.  I will help transform their blocks into a genuine release of successful writing.

I crafted my language to always call this Action Writer’s Block as in one Meetup named: Lift The Siege On Your Action Writer’s Block; and another named: Discover the “Gold” Villain In Your Action Writer’s Block.  As the meetup Lift The Siege On Your Action Writer’s Block has 20 members after two weeks, it has sent me two visitors once, and one short visit from another (2.5 vists per 20 members) in two Meetups out of four scheduled weekly events.

Again, typical.

Of particular note, however in light of these sparse returns, is that as I was polishing up my new Meetup named: Discover the “Gold” Villain In Your Action Writer’s Block I was gaining new members faster than I could edit the page.

Learning: early joiners are there; and this is the magic of Meetup.  I just have to make it work magic for me.

Next: Time to get radical—another blood bath of members and Meetup pages.

The Tenth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity

3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

“The Jet-Propelled Couch,” one of five psychoanalytic case-histories recorded by Robert Lindner, M.D., in his book, The Fifty-Minute Hour.

Opening Paragraph:
 
This case-history, the last in the book, has become a small classic in its field. The chair behind the couch is not the stationary object it seems. I have traveled all over the world on it, and back and forth in time. Without moving from my seat, I have met important personages and witnessed great events. But it remained for Kirk Allen to take me out of this world when he transformed the couch in my consulting room into a space ship that roved the galaxies.
 
(My Mentor Howard Pease continues) Our protagonist is Kirk Allen, and his case-history is being told from his doctor’s viewpoint. The “I” person is the observer who looks at and interprets the main character’s words and actions. This gives room for plenty of dialogue, always popular with readers. It is the method used in the interview type of article. Few writers, however—even professionals—give us so engaging a first paragraph as this one by Dr. Lindner.

“The Nephew,” by James Purdy

(Bad) Opening Paragraph:

All the flags were out in front of the houses and stores in Rainbow Center on Memorial Day, as Boyd Mason drove his Buick back from a real-estate trip to Kentucky, and parked on the east corner of Peninsula Drive and Crest Ridge Road, at the side of his sister Alma’s house, where he had lived since his wife’s death twenty years before.

(My Mentor Howard Pease continues) This one-sentence paragraph contains more than a dozen facts, at least half of them not important enough to be included so soon. When you overload a first sentence or paragraph with so much information, your reader is apt to come up so wobbly and bewildered that you lose him. Therefore, prune your opening paragraph until only a few important facts are given.

Case of the Missing False Suspect

10. The necessity for eliminating the little overlooked clues and loose threads
9.  
8.   The cover up
7.   The flight
6.   The actual killing
5.   The first irretrievable step
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motive

The False Suspect is more a convention of taste and times when it appeared.  A False Suspect is useful, but could also be an unnecessary plot elaboration.

The type of murderer that climbs past this rung in the ladder probably wouldn’t miss it.  However, an insecure murderer might be at a loss.

 

The Ninth Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

Authors Marketing 2021

Facebook Ads Without Outside Links

What does this mean, Richard?

This comes from Rusty Shelton who is a frequent contributor, speaker, and lecturer at the San Francisco Writers Conferences for at least the last three years.  He offered that Facebook prioritizes advertising that keeps the reader’s eyes on Facebook.  By that, he meant Facebook will withhold your advertising from a certain population if you seek to move them off Facebook.  Or, you will get viewed last in the list of ads pushed toward a reader.

Facebook offers a number of labels for a call to action (Book Now), and they all presume off-site links to a business landing page.

There is a no-button option.

This is the basis of my next round of advertising …
using a promising graphic that is popular,
the no-button option with “share” as the goal;
and a new ad copy that is now fuller.

Why fuller, longer, built out?  With this no-button option comes full text display with the graphic, instead of the truncated text with graphic and a “see more” prompt.

Quantum Dot Self Assembly

From A Reactive Peptidic Linker for Self-Assembling Hybrid Quantum Dot–DNA Bioconjugates:

Quantum Dot Bioconjugate Self Assembly

Our goal was to develop a bifunctional peptide linker that could allow easy attachment of DNA oligonucleotides at one end while the other is modified with a polyhistidine tag to facilitate self-assembly of the full peptide-DNA complex onto QDs via metal-histidine interactions.

QDtaglinkerDNA

We have developed a conjugation strategy based on metal-affinity-driven
interactions between CdSe-ZnS core-shell QDs and proteins or peptides appended with polyhistidine (Hisn) tags. … The His tag drives self assembly by interacting directly with the metallic surface …


  1.  (DNA) DNA conjugates of target DNA are thiolated (sulf-hydride group attached):
  2. (linker)  The synthesis of the peptide module was performed by standard solid-phase peptide synthesis (SPPS) on Rink amide resin to create the desired His6-Cys sequence.
    The crude peptide was precipitated, and the final bifunctional reactive linker His6-Cys(Ac)-S-S-Py was obtained through a direct disulfide exchange reaction.
    (the initial reactive chemistry for His6 attachment to thiolated-DNA is one of the fastest and most common linkage chemistries used in bioconjugation)
  3. (tag)  Functionalization of free 5‘-thiol DNA with the peptide linker (4) to yield the His6-tailed oligo (5) was rapid and straightforward …
    and the mixture was allowed to react anywhere from 1 h to overnight
  4. (Quantum Dot)  The His tag drives self assembly by interacting directly with the metallic surface [of the Quantum Dot]

The QD-peptide-DNA conjugates were further characterized by atomic force microscopy (AFM) imaging, where association of oligos with a central QD was observed only for samples made of QDs mixed with His6-peptide-DNA …


We also demonstrate the potential utility of this His-reactive-peptide modification of DNA by assembling and testing a QD-DNA molecular beacon that specifically detected the presence of its complementary sequence.

The potential of this reactive linker was demonstrated by self-assembling several QD-DNA conjugates as well as a QD-MB construct able to discriminate between different sequences of DNA. A variety of other applications, such as highly luminescent multilabeled hybridization probes, are possible using this construct. Preforming MB sensors with different color QDs and then mixing them may allow “multiplexing”.  Beyond nanoparticle-MBs, this selfassembly technique may be applicable to attaching biomolecules to a variety of other similarly prepared surfaces.


Quantum Dot Bioconjugate Self Assembly

And now for the shortened version.  Above, you will see a very stylized expression of the process of self-assembly.  Again, we will do this by steps:

  1. Obtain the His6 tags (Polyhistidine-tag)
  2. Obtain Cy5 dye (a fluorescent/fluorophore nano particle)
  3. Obtain the Thiolated DNA
    1. Label the Thiolated DNA with Cy5 dye, the dye becoming a quenched fluorophore;
  4. Obtain the Quantum Dots
  5. Combine where:
    1. The Thiolated DNA, which has an affinity for the one end of the His6 tag, becomes attached;
    2. The His6 tag, which has an affinity for the DHLA covering of the Quantum Dot, becomes attached;
    3. (not a production step, but found in the illustration prior to the addition of the complementary DNA) Excite the batch with high energy light as seen in the center of the graphic where:
      1. the proximity of the Cy5 particle in the His6–Thiolated DNA and the Quantum Dot allows the molecular beacon to absorb energy through FRET (Förster resonance energy transfer) and emit a color shifted light in fluorescence;
  6. (not a production step, but, rather, the set-up for a test of the marker beacon) Obtain and add Complementary DNA to the process
    1. the molecular beacon (the His6–Thiolated DNA–Cy5) unzips, and takes on the Complementary DNA;
  7. (not a production step, but, rather, a test of the marker beacon) The right side of the graphic shows the action the new bioconjugated Quantum Dot undergoes to stimulation by (a now second) high energy light to emit a color shifted light in fluorescence.

“The Late Love of Dorrie Hayes,” by Mary Jane Rolfs

Opening Paragraph:

Dorrie Hayes had never had so much happiness that she could take any for granted.  She was the kind of girl who had endured many of the small aggravations of life and some of the big ones.  As an adolescent, she had been fat with an unreliable complexion and crooked teeth.  When time and diligence had corrected these misfortunes, she started growing tall at an alarming rate and her hair was completely unmanageable.  There were a few years of relative calm and then it started all over again.

(My mentor Howard Pease continues) This first paragraph is author’s statement.  Miss Rolfs tells us a few selected facts about her protagonist.  We are beginning to know a bit about the outer girl and the inner girl, her looks and her worries.  Our sympathy is roused.  Dorrie’s predicament makes us recall the years when we, too, were dissatisfied with our appearance, those years before we finally decided upon acceptance.  Most readers will want to know more about Dorrie and how she solved her problem.

“Samson and Delilah,” by D. H. Lawrence

Descriptive Paragraph:

A man got down from the motor-omnibus that runs from Penzance to St. Just-in-Penwith, and turned northwards, up-hill towards the Polestar.  It was only half-past six, but already the stars were out, a cold little wind was blowing from the sea, and the crystalline, three-pulse flash of the lighthouse below the cliffs beat rhythmically in the first darkness.

(My mentor Howard Pease continues) In this opening paragraph the author has added a new element, the protagonist, though the man is not named.  We see him walking in the early evening along the coast of Cornwall, and the description of the setting might have been seen through his eyes.  Since readers are more interested in people than in Setting, this paragraph is more apt to catch attention.

The Seventh Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does first irretrievable step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

In terms of the protagonist, there are several interpretations.  Here is one.

In the standard mystery, where the protagonist is a detective, then this rung of the ladder would represent that action taken that exposes the protagonist’s examination of the events to the antagonist.  Here, the canon of mystery writing presents a very schematic approach to the application of the fifth rung to this other character, but this application hardly fits all writing genres.  For them, I consider:

In terms of minor characters (being neither the protagonist nor the antagonist), I will generalize how this rung is employed.

The fifth rung is about the possibility of others discovering the intentions of the character.  Abstractly, it could mean an action taken by the character that has a strong connection that can be traced back to the character.  In a family-drama, it could be the filing of divorce papers by a spouse.  This presumes that the motivation for divorce was hidden (and it may well remain that way).  It follows that having done this, the next rung is divorce.

“A String of Beads,” by Somerset Maugham

Plunge Opening:

“What a bit of luck I’m placed next to you,” said Laura as we sat down to dinner.
“For me,” I replied politely.

“That remains to be seen.  I particularly wanted to have the chance of talking to you.  I’ve got a story to tell you.”

At this my heart sank a little.  “I’d sooner you talked about yourself,” I answered.  “Or even about me.”

(My mentor Howard Pease continues) We learn from this that we are probably beginning a first-person, observer’s story about someone we have not yet met.  And we also get the impression that if Laura is to tell the story, her interpretation will be different from the observer’s, the “I” person, Mr. Maugham himself.  Except for setting—a dinner party—we get nothing else.
Maugham’s first goal in writing was clarity, and indeed this plunge opening is instantly understood by a reader.

“The Ambassadors,” by Henry James

Opening paragraph:

Strether called, his second morning in Paris, on the bankers, in the Rue Scribe, to whom his letter of credit was addressed, and he made this visit attended by Waymarsh, in whose company he had crossed from London two days before.

As this comes from chapter five’s opening paragraph and lacks a hook, I included it as an example of a long sentence.  It is exposition, but it puts a lot of water over the dam to then move into the story line.

The First Rung of the Character’s Growth Ladder

10. Reconciliation
9.   Separation
8.   Denial
7.   Disruption
6.   The reversible step into the Danger zone
5.   The first irreversible step into the Risk zone
4.   The opportunity
3.   The plan
2.   Temptation
1.   Motivation

What does the motivation step mean for other characters—if they were to have their own ladders?

If you have arrived here from the Murderer’s Ladder, then motivation could easily be anticipated as being revenge driven.  However, this does not remove that same possible drive from other characters—especially the murderer’s henchmen.

Alternatively, motivation could be inspired out of compassion … from the murderer, the murderer’s henchmen, the murdered, the investigator, others, or all.  That is to say that motivation is individual and could be as similar or as different as those individuals.  None have been put to the test of their motivation, that remains at the next step of Temptation.

As a general observation, however, most motivations can be examined and unwound to simpler motivations that arrived early in the character’s life.