21. July 2014 · 4 comments · Categories: Australia, why, writing · Tags: ,

I’m pretty sure some people are hardwired for assholery. That’s the only possible explanation for what happened on the Melbourne to Perth leg of my trip.

I’m sitting in 21C. That’s an aisle seat about halfway back, just over the wing. To my left are a married couple coming home from vacation. Across the aisle is a woman who initially mistakenly sat in my seat, then, when I arrived, checked her boarding pass and realised  21D was across the aisle. Smiles, apologies and all was sorted out.

In front of me, in 20B (that’s the middle of three on the left) was a very large man. Now I don’t know why he was very large. Maybe he has medical problems. Possibly he’s got a pituitary problem. Maybe the constant intake of beer had something to do with it. Whatever the reason, it really doesn’t matter for what followed.

He overflowed his seat. He knew it was going to happen, and frankly, the seats in economy are too small to start with. But he knew it was going to happen, and it’s happened before, and he should have dealt with it a bit better. Just a tiny bit.

The woman in 20C (directly in front of me) said something (I couldn’t hear what she said and I’m not going to guess) and 20B went absolutely ballistic. Swearing at her, insulting her, telling her exactly what he thought of her in no uncertain terms. He was at least a foot taller and definitely twice her weight. Classic bully.

I don’t care what he weighed or what size he was, there was no call for it. There were kids in front of and behind him (across the aisle).

The flight attendant arrived (quickly) asked what was going on, received another onslaught and tried to mediate the situation. He wouldn’t have any of it. She left to get her supervisor. The guy still wouldn’t let up. Said he’d “behave when the woman apologised”, that he was the victim. Dude, there’s a time to fight and there’s a time to ignore. When a 4 hour flight is boarding, ignore.

The supervisor (and to her credit she didn’t back up a step) told him that she would have relocated either or both of them if there were empty seats, but the flight was full. They both (20B and 20C) would either be de-planed and get the next flight (4 hours later), or the guy would close his mouth, and not open it again. If he started something on the flight, the captain would turn the flight around and 20B would be met by Federal Police when the flight arrived back in Sydney.

Departure was delayed, a woman was bullied, all because someone couldn’t help being an asshole.

But I got a character for a future book.

That flight attendant could make Jack the Ripper back down.

I told a colleague the other day that I was following Brazil now because if I squinted their kit looks a lot like Australia’s.

Not even Australia was this bad.

(Just an aside – Germany score 2 more goals in this Brazilian waxing than England have scored total in their last two World Cup campaigns combined.)

For Brazilian fans, losing at this stage was unthinkable. Brazil would surely be in the final and would surely win the whole thing..

To lose 1-7 in the semifinal – well you’d have been laughed out of town for suggesting this scoreline, and probably flogged for good measure. It was Brazil’s first competitive defeat on home soil in 39 years.

What a remarkable difference two players can make. But make no mistake, it wasn’t just caused by Brazil missing Silva in the back and Neymar in the front. It was the idea of those two players missing.

Make no mistake, Silva is the rock of Brazil’s defence, and without his presence the back line is weaker. But not seven goals weaker. And Neymar is a genius in front of goal. He has a very long career in front of him and will scores hundreds of goals. But he’s not the only goal scorer on the team.

Brazil (the country and the team) whipped themselves up into a psychological “do it for Neymar” frenzy after his unfortunate injury. That psychological bubble is very fragile. The intense belief that they could not be beat (remember, it’s been 39 years – 63 matches – on home soil without a defeat) was shattered after 11 minutes. The bubble burst. It was total capitulation after that.

Scolari, the father figure to the squad, said after the match “We couldn’t react to going behind.” Fact is, they never expected to fall behind. And Scolari clearly didn’t have a game plan in case they did.

They still have 3rd place to play for, but that, I fear, will be a loss also.

The bubble has well and truly burst.


22. May 2014 · 1 comment · Categories: writing · Tags: ,

typingLast year a bunch of us from the Northern Beaches Writers’ Group wrote a book in a day. And like I said then, it was good.

We topped the national open writing and illustration list and raised the most amount of money for our charity, the Kid’s Cancer Project at Westmead Children’s Hospital.

We’re doing it again.

Someday between now and the end of August we will get together, receive an email at 8:00 am outlining the fairly strict criteria our 8,000 – 10,000 word story should follow (we’ll be given 2 human and 1 non-human characters, a setting, an issue and three words that need to be included in the manuscript) and by 8:00 pm that same day we will (we certainly hope) send to the competition organisers a completed (written AND illustrated) book.

I have no idea how it’s going to go this year. By all rights we should have learned from last year’s exercise, but human nature being what it is, don’t bet money on that.

But bet money on us at least completing the day.

We want to better last year’s donations. Last year we (YOU) raised $1,623 for us. I’d love it if we could double that this year.

You can help.

Click on this link and push the “Sponsor selected team” button.  Easy as that.

AND wish us luck.

Thanks for the support, everybody. And seriously, wish us luck.



I go on and on and on (and on) about the importance of structure in story telling, but that’s only one of many necessary ingredients. A brilliantly, by the numbers executed structure will fall flat if your protagonist is flat.

Fortunately there is a fairly straightforward mapping that almost always applies, and is seen in almost all books (and by extension, movies).

Almost always.

Some characters have little or no growth over the arc of the story. Think James Bond. Jack Reacher. Any character Tom Cruise plays.

You don’t have that luxury in your story (unless you are Lee Child or Tom Cruise).

A quick structure refresh:

The story will have three acts, made up of four parts: Act 1 to the First plot Point (or threshold), the first half of Act 2 to the midpoint (theis changes everything moment), The second half of Act 2 to the Second Plot Point (the final piece of the puzzle) and Act 3.

Act 1 = Setup

Act 2a = Response (to the event that pushes the character off his or her status quo)

Act 2b = Attack (a move from reactive to proactive)

Act 3 = Resolution

More details on the structure part of this marriage can be found here.

As your story unfolds your hero can’t just go with the flow.

In Act 1, the setup phase of the story your character is essentially an Orphan. Like Bradley Cooper’s “Eddie” in “Limitless”. Floating from one thing in life to another, no real plan, just existing. It’s during this period that character need is defined (for the reader – it’s been defined for the character since before your page 1). Eddie’s need is basic – survival. His girlfriend has left, is writing “career” (such as it is) is stalled and he’s a mess, emotionally, physically and psychically.

AFTER the First Plot Point / Threshold (in Bradley’s case it’s finding the stash of magic pills) the story goes into Response Mode and your character becomes a Wanderer.

In Act 2a of “Scream”, Sidney Prescott now knows the ghostface killer is targeting her specifically , but she doesn’t know why. She has no target. She’s reactive. There are no target for her to attack. Yet. Dead ends attract her. Hell, she even runs upstairs to get away from the scary guy, ironic given her disdain form stupid horror movie cliches in Act 1. In this Act your main character should be tilting at windmills, not knowing who or why he’s under attack, but knowing full well that they are.

In Act 2b, the hero has the advantage of the information provided at the midpoint. It focuses their response into an attack. They now go into Warrior mode. Remember, the midpoint reveals an “a ha” piece of information, one that turns the story on it’s head. In “Air Force One”, President Ryan – sorry, President Marshall (as played by Jack Ryan) learns that the hijackers want the token terrorist bad guy released or the President dies. The hero now has a target. He knows their motivation and actively works to subvert it. During this phase of your story, the hero does less reacting and more planning and executing. In one of my books (G’Day LA), the heroine finds out who killed her friend (but not the why or how – we need something for the rest of Act 2) and takes the fight to him. A Warrior. Proactive, not reactive.

The end of Act 2 brings us the Second Plot Point. In “True Lies”, the Taskers realise they are on US soil, the terrorists can get anywhere in the US they want, and only they can stop them.

In Act 3, then, the hero becomes a Martyr. Sometimes literally. The hero must be prepared to die to bring the story to a conclusion. In “Armageddon”, Bruce Willis dies to save the world. In “Scream” it’s a fight to the death (no surrender). In some stories it’s not literally a fight to the death, because that really wouldn’t work in a romantic comedy. But look at “When Harry Met Sally”. He lays it on the line on New Year’s Eve, exposing himself to ridicule and derision, setting himself up for a killer emotional blow.

A handy little cheat sheet:

Act 1 – plot = setup / character = orphan

Act 2a – plot = response / character = wanderer

Act 2b – plot = attack / character = warrior

Act 3 – plot = resolution / character = martyr

This is a simplistic look at characterisation. But it’s a start.

Your hero isn’t going to have a step change between acts. There needs to be an organic transition between these states. It needs to be convincing to the reader. That’s where your writing skills come into play.

Good luck, and happy writing.

engineersA two-pronged update, to save me time writing and you time reading…

First of all, it’s been a bit over 6 months since I took the generous package offered by my last employer. I took a very nice and well-needed break, added screenwriting to my writing portfolio (and it’s probably crap, but I’m too new at it to be able to tell yet) and had a ball riding around on my ride-on mower.

But, like most writers not named David Baldacci or James Patterson, I need to actually earn money to keep the roof over the table I need to put food on. (Ended with a preposition. My English teacher spins in her grave, should she be dead.)

As a result of this need I’ve been taking part in interviews for jobs in the field I know the best, mobile telecommunications (almost 30 years experience, just waiting to be exploited). And I discovered, after 6 months away, that I really enjoy that industry. I’ve got interviews over the next week or two and hopefully one or two of them will result in offers.

I miss it.

And if you told me last September that I’d be writing this I’d have laughed in your face, however rude that may be.

No question that I’ll continue to write. I’ll revert back to my old habits, writing 4 a.m. to 6 a.m.  If it was good enough for the first 8 books, it’ll be good enough for the next ones.


typingSecond, and wholly unrelated, my brain is messing with me.

I’ve got a great idea / germ / premise for a story and I’ll be damned if I can figure out how to tell it.

And no, I’m not going to tell you what that idea is. I can’t copyright an idea and this is a good one.

The premise is sound and I’m probably making it too complicated, but I can’t seem to break the story. Act 1, no problem. Act 2, mostly okay. Act 3, ninja. Non-existent. Langolier-land.

I’m not asking for help, and I’m not bitching about it. Just laying the groundwork for lots of excuses for being on Twitter and Facebook. One night I’ll pop awake, scare the family and know how to end the story.

I had the same problem with Daly Battles and Have Wormhole and both of them ended up with very satisfactory third Acts. The secret is to let the brain sort it out on its own.

I wish it would hurry up.

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