Daniel (Danny) Lance Wright, Author

Monday, January 12, 2015

There's Nothing Standard About Outlining a Novel

Over the years, at book signings and special events, people have asked if I outline a novel before I begin writing. I don’t think I’ve given the same answer more than once. I think that’s worth a blog entry. Don’t you?
Here’s the deal: Do I prepare an extensive printed outline? No. Do I take a few notes? Sure. Do I know beforehand what every chapter is going to entail? No. Do I know how I want it to begin? Of course. Do I know what the mid-point, the pinnacle, the zenith, the most intense chapter, should generally be like? Sometimes. Do I know how I want it to end? Always.
Many years ago, an author at a writing seminar stood before the group and drew an arc on the blackboard. She X’d the beginning, the middle and the end. No surprise there. Right? She then drew a smaller arc starting near the base line of the mid-point of the larger arc, never going higher the main story arc but ending after the main plot had ended. This was my first visual representation of a sub-plot. There can be any number of these smaller story arcs intersecting at various points, as long as they never go higher than the main story arc. The smaller arcs should always, somehow, feed into and strengthen the main story arc yet retain a modicum of individuality. Done well, those sub-plots might turn into your next bestseller but still provide strength, believability and emotion to the story at hand.
This may be the long way around the issue, but this is the genesis of what I call an outline—the story arc(s).
The one aspect I pay most attention to in the conceptualization process is character development. Every day we all see many personality types and how each reacts to other various personalities. I’ll say no more about this other than to add if you’re not sure, then you’re not very observant of people. Now, I work at giving every main character a backstory, an extensive one. This provides me with the personality I’m searching for. We are all molded by our environments and lifelong associations.
Once I have the personalities fixed and the backstories in place then the characters tell me how the novel should go. I don’t need to insert my influence whatsoever. I just need to be able to type fast enough to keep up with them as they show me where the story goes. Sometimes it’s an exhausting, sweaty experience just trying to stay up them.
If you haven’t yet read the suspense/thriller “Phobia”, I invite you to do so in paperback, Kindle or Nook formats.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

A Fireplace Usually Does it For Me

Have you ever woke in the morning and knew, just knew, that sometime in the night every secret of the universe had been revealed, but by the time the bedroom came into focus, all those secrets had been erased from your memory? I had one of those nights a couple of days ago. It wasn't the first time.

Yesterday afternoon, the family laughed, drank wine and played games in a very loud and boisterous way. I sat alone staring into the fireplace, drinking another glass of wine (I'll not share how many I already had) thinking about that night, wondering what it is in the brain that creates such a nocturnal illusion. Of course, that was the lesser thought. I really was trying to remember exactly what it was that made me believe that. Unfortunately, it was, and remains, a feeling only, disassociated from anything that might create a mental image.

This line of thinking took me places though. The gentle dancing flames in the fireplace opened my mind and I took a very personal tour of philosophical beliefs that occupied my mind until the next explosion of laughter from those around the game table. I'm not sure how long I'd remained in this self-hypnotic trance. But, as I emerged from it, I remembered a particular chapter in the novel "Defining Family" that I'd written some years ago. This is a good place and opportunity to share an excerpt from that particular chapter.

Sam tingled with satisfaction suddenly realizing that Buck knew what Snapper did, but it was fleeting, still certain his intent was to end their freedom. What could she say to avert it, anything? The end of the odyssey had arrived. She and her siblings-by-circumstance were isolated and left with nowhere to run—nowhere to hide. Shoulders slumping, she waited for Buck to get to the point.
Then he asked a strange question. “Y’all haven’t seen any dangerous lookin’ teenagers around here, have ya?”
Her head popped up like she’d been shot between the eyes. She slung her head around to look at him. Her jaw fell slack. “Uh… no. It’s just us.”
Buck looked away to the mountains, “Yep, it’s sure a beautiful sight all right. I never get tired of it. When I have free time, I like to follow the path around this lake in my old pickup truck and hit another small road about two miles over there.” He pointed, looked at her and waited.
She nodded.
“Then, I drive right up to the base of that mountain,” he said, looking at Sam, clearly trying to make sure she understood how to get there.
“A road leading up to the mountains, huh?”
“Yep. It’s part of the Enchanted Land Ranch for about six miles, until you cross over a cattle guard and then you’re on public land. Ranch hands are the only people who ever use the road, at least as far as the cattle guard, and then New Mexico forestry personnel beyond that. The road isn’t used much at all... pretty darned secluded really. That’s what I like about it.”
Amazed and emboldened, Sam made solid eye contact. Buck had detailed an escape route. Why are you doing this? She wondered but chose not to give it a voice, uncertain whether she should breech this deniability so carefully crafted. That’s it! He’s too honest and wouldn’t be able to lie if questioned. This way he doesn’t have to.
“You know, Sam, when I was twenty two years old, my parents died in a plane crash. It left my kid sister without parents. I stepped in and tried to be momma and daddy to the girl. Stocking merchandise in a small neighborhood grocery store didn’t cover everything we needed. One day, I found myself tempted around the cash register. Before you know it, I’d taken money, caught, arrested, and spent a year in jail. I won’t bore you with details, except to say my kid sister wound up in the care of the state. She went wild and accused me of abandoning her. When I got out, she didn’t trust me at all to hang around. So, although we were living together again, she lived life as if I wasn’t even there. Every time I opened my fool mouth the wrong thing came out and drove her farther away. Drugs, alcohol and bad people became her universe. Shoot, I couldn’t have corralled her on a bet.”
He looked down into the tin cup in his hands. “That life took her at eighteen, all because no one helped me when I needed to be helpin’ her. Now she’s gone.” He straightened and drew a breath. “I’ve since come to terms with it. But I vowed if I were ever given a chance, I’d make it right. I just never had a notion how to do that… till now.”
He took a final swallow of coffee and then tossed the last drops into the fire sending a steam cloud into the air. He stood, pulled his hat down to a business slant, put his gloves on and turned to walk away.
Buck made it quite clear talking was done. He walked away with the thermos and tin cup in hand.
She sprang to her feet and caught up to him handing him the other cup. “Samantha Echols,” she said.
“Pardon me?”
“My full name… it’s Samantha Echols. What’s your last name?”
With a crooked smile that lifted his handlebar moustache, “Miller.”
“Buck Miller, would you mind if I come back to visit you someday?”
“As long as I’m foreman of the Enchanted Land Ranch, you’ll always be welcome.” He folded down the collar of his jacket. “I know I told y’all it’d be okay to stay a couple of days, but now that we know there are dangerous teenagers lurkin’ about, it might be wise if y’all broke camp and left.”
Putting his finger to the brim of his hat, he tipped his head as a final gesture of courtesy.
Sam watched his departure dumbfounded.
Buck cranked the old truck, steered it around and drove slowly away.
A combative mix of emotions all pushed to the surface at the same time. She experienced a rush that he’d been so kind, yet profound sadness sought to replace the thrill. It clawed at her that she’d never see Buck again; just another glancing blow in her life, something of value that almost was.
The noise of the truck engine woke the other three. They emerged from the tent and gathered around the fire.
“What was that all about?” Amy asked, rubbing her eyes. “Was he just checking on us?”

Sam started to answer then realized her voice would have broken. She just nodded then swallowed. Suddenly taking two quick steps in the direction of the receding truck, she had a strong urge to run hard and fast, to catch Buck, throw her arms around his neck and hug him. But like all visions of the perfect life she’d watched in the flames, this vision, too, took flight like smoke in a breeze.


Wednesday, December 3, 2014

When It's Against the Law To Take Your Eyes Off the Highway

I am a daily appointment reader. I make time to read, just like I make time to exercise. A healthy mind and body cannot be dismissed by the false notion--the utterly false notion--that there is no time everyday to get these things done. But even the hardcore believer, as I certainly am, knows there are times it's just not feasible, like driving down the highway. So, even though physical exercise might be out (unless you flex your toes or something like that), a good novel is not beyond your reach. On that next road trip try an audio book. I would like to suggest "Annie's World: Jake's Legacy". Follow Annie as she grows from a disheveled and dirty ten-year-old into a genetically blessed savior of a future world out of control.


Monday, December 1, 2014

How Much of Your Brain do You Use?

Have you ever wondered what it would be like if you could use 100% of that gray matter we call a brain? Would you simply be a genius? Or, would it go beyond that--far beyond that, and have nothing whatsoever to do with thinking and reasoning? The sci-fi novel, "The Last Radiant Heart" follows the adventures of one such individual. Follow the link to read an excerpt:


Sunday, November 30, 2014

"Defining Family" Review

Read what one reviewer said about the young adult novel "Defining Family";

This review is from: Defining Family (Kindle Edition)
I could not stop reading this from the first page. How can anyone write about something with all of the kids in this story that is so accurate. Something rarely discussed and put into reality that should be addressed in this country or even the world. A real definition about what the family is about outside of the box.


Saturday, November 29, 2014

Wisdom in All Its Forms

Wisdom is usually developed after a lifetime of gathering knowledge to be passed along to the next generation. But, what if life threw a cruel twist at you and none of that mattered any longer? Sometimes, wisdom, locked away and denied, must be set free. And, the means by which that is accomplished can, indeed, come in deceptive packaging. A homeless man they call Pop begins a life's lesson in a small Texas farming community in "Six Years' Worth"

Follow this link to read an excerpt:


Friday, November 28, 2014

You Don't Know What Fear Is

Everyone knows about that moment in a tense situation when there is no other choice but to  fight or flee. But, what if there is a disconnect between those two impulses in your brain? What are you left with?

A Houston psychologist sees it first-hand and sets his career on a new path; a career that leads to a violent situation he never expected and may not survive in "Phobia"

Click the link below to read an excerpt: