Sunday Writing Discussions: Mucking Around in the Grey Area

I am behind this weekend in my posting to this blog because I have been working on other writing. I am still working on a couple projects but I decided to take an hour or so and write more thoughts about writing and plot development. I am trying to construct a way of considering the structure and composition of fiction to make the piece more complete as an integrated whole. Some of this falls to how the plot is conceived.

Currently how I am considering a story has different layers.

The first layer has to do in part with what some people would call “world-building” but I think this actually needs to be conceived of more completely. I call this the culture of a story. This includes any description of the exotic setting of a story, but it goes farther. It needs to include the world view or cultural mindset of the milieu being created. For example to make the distinction, the mind set or cultural world view of an Inuit living on a reserve is going to be dramatically different from that of a New Yorker. I once saw an interview with a photographer from New York who discussed how he felt that the world view of people from the American Southwest was dramatically different from the people of New York because people in the Southwest could not avoid seeing the expanse of the sky. This enormity of the sky stretching from horizon to horizon made a difference and he felt people of the Southwest were more in touch with the vastness of the universe. Reality encompasses everything. There is no way to write all of reality. This framing by consciously choosing a “culture of a story” narrows and focuses the fiction at a first level.

The second layer to creating fiction as I am working conceptualizing further narrows things. It is the choice of what I would call a moral system. This moral system may or may not have anything to do with Western Judeo-Christian morality. It is simply the core statement that defines the story one step further. To give an example of what I mean, the moral system of a story might be “crime pays,” “family is important above all else,” or “hard work rewards.” A story about a group of criminals organizing a caper and getting away with it to live in luxury would have the moral system of “crime pays” at its heart. Mario Puzo’s series of books about the Mafia illustrates fiction with the theme of “family is important above all else.” There are many examples of stories and movies that have as their moral system the idea of “hard work rewards.”

The third layer to creating fiction is to create an appropriate main character with a conflict that is central to the story and fits with the culture and the moral system. This is a further focusing of the piece. I will make the distinction that the main character is not necessarily the point of view character, but the main character is the character for whom the conflict must be resolved, whose actions and decisions directly influence the plot sequence, who must be part of the climax through their actions, and whose decisions bring about the resolution.

In creating a plot sequence, opposition is what creates tension. Fiction should not be about standing on a soap box. Opposing elements around a central issue can create opposition for the main character and hence tension in the story. For instance in a simple caper, the master thief cases the museum and sees that the security includes a particular type of alarm. She knows the best person for the job. Ok, but this is too straight forward it needs more opposition. What if that person happens to be her ex-husband who caught her in bed with his best friend? This ups the tension in this simple adventure story. The obstacle to overcome is the sourness of her past relationship.

Another way to increase the tension and bring in opposing elements to give the main character obstacles to their ease of solving their dilemma and finding resolution is to play in the grey areas around an issue. For instance what if a woman suddenly finds herself accidentally pregnant. This is a catalyst for the story. What if the culture of this story is one where abortion is legal but it is frowned upon? What if the moral system of the story is “every individual is responsible for the decisions they make”? What if this main character is from a poor Catholic family? What if the pregnancy is a result of her being date raped and having the child will remind her constantly of the rape and inspire shame? Perhaps she has just been accepted as an intern doctor in a surgical program and this pregnancy will make it so that she cannot do the internship in the highly competitive program she has been admitted to. Maybe she goes to speak to the family priest who tells her that abortion is a sin. What if she finds out that she cannot defer her admittance to the program but can opt for a less high prestige area of specialty? Maybe she talks to her mother who tells her to have an abortion to stay in the program and achieve her dreams because the mother had children before she was able to live out her dreams. Each of these opposing elements that complicate the issue of this woman and her decision to continue the pregnancy or not has the potential to add opposition and tension to the story. The key as a writer is to consider the issue at hand and bring in opposing ideas that explore the grey area of the issue. Sometimes to present a balanced approach, the writer should approach whatever issue they are raising from the opposite of what they believe because this will help in not pulling out a soap box. Ultimately, the resolution will come from the writer’s vision of what they intend to say with the story and what they want to leave the reader thinking about. The resolution must come from the combination of a logical sequence of events that follow in alignment with the intentionally created character and the character’s motivations.

Next time… resolutions and endings.

Sunday Writing Discussion #7: Conflict– The Fuel of Fiction

Stories need certain elements in them to make them complete. A story must have characters, a setting, a plot, central ideas or a theme, and conflict. If there are characters, but nothing else, it isn’t really a story. It might be a character sketch. A plot without conflict is boring.

Conflicts can be of two main types– internal conflicts or external conflicts. Internal conflicts are conflicts that occur in the psyche of one of the characters. It could be something like wrestling with the guilt of murdering another person as in Dostoyevsky’s novel Crime and Punishment. External conflicts occur outside of the mind of a character. External conflicts can be a disagreement between two characters, a struggle against a situation, a fight against an organization, etc.

Often in stories there both of these two types of conflict and they are intertwined. There is a conflict that is internal to the main character and an external conflict that the main character is caught up in. To give you an example, in the Iliad Achilles’ internal conflict was whether or not to give his allegiance to Agamemnon and to fight in the Trojan War. If he fought in the war he would achieve glory, which was what he wanted, but he would die. If he avoided the war, he would never achieve fame but he would be happy and live a long life. The internal conflict erupted into external disagreements with Agamemnon that resulted in Patroclus donning Achilles’ armor and being killed. The conflict then evolved into an external conflict with Hector that was central to the war and Achilles’ fame was achieved as well as his eventual death as prophesied. His internal conflict was resolved with a meshing of interests with the external conflict of the story. This kind of intertwining of conflicts is desirable because it illustrates characters’ motivations and resulting actions that move the plot forward.

There are types of conflict problems that can arise in stories. A problem can be something like the characters involvement with the conflict doesn’t seem logical, but this is really more a problem with the characterization of the characters. Typically stories are lackluster if there is just not enough conflict. Sometimes when an author is creating a story they begin to like the characters that they have created. The author writes the quintessential sympathetic character and begins to have empathy for their creation. But this does not work! If the conflict is just plain old lame and has a really easy resolution that leaves readers wondering why the main character didn’t just figure this out right away and not put themselves through the drama, the fiction falls flat. Writing fiction means that you really have to put the screws to your character and when things get bad for your main character, you have to make them worse. A formula in regards to plot and conflict for a three act story is as follows:
1. the characters and conflict are introduced and the plot gets slightly worse (hopefully because of the actions of the main character);
2. the main character tries to problem solve and resolve their conflict and things get even worse;
3. the main character again works to problem solve the conflict, things get very dark and even more terrible, and the climax occurs;
4. the conflict is resolved.

There is no room for easing off the tension!

Another type of conflict problem has to do with the intensity of the central conflicts as well. The second type of intensity conflict problem is the insurmountable, overwhelming conflict. A challenging conflict is a good thing. It should be a challenge and worthy of writing a story about, but if it is too insurmountable it often leads to an ending that is flat because the writer has to resort to fiction magic, i.e. deus ex machina. This is infuriating for many readers.

Another type of conflict to be wary of while writing fiction is “Issues” with a capital “I.” Issues are big problems that the characters encounter such as drug addiction, domestic violence, rape, and incest. Yes, these are big conflicts and worthy of stories, but if an author is going to take one of these issues and make it part of their story, the issue should not be incidental. These issues are not good things to play with lightly in the hope of making a character’s motivations immediately understood or to make the character sympathetic. If you are going to write about one of these issues, know what you are talking about and give it the serious treatment that it deserves. Do not use these issues in an attempt to elevate your fiction, the only things that will improve your fiction is thought and good writing. Using these types of serious issues simply for dramatic effect and not giving them the respect they deserve actual cheapens your writing and makes the faults jump out.

How can you fuel the fire of your story and turn up the heat? Conflict! Use it well!

“Show, Don’t Tell”– Is this a rule to always follow? Part 2

There are as I explained in the previous post benefits to showing and not telling– primarily it makes the writing more vivid for readers and they can immerse themselves in your writing. There are reasons that this writing mantra is still alive and well.

Now I am going to go out on a limb.

Rules are made to be broken. Especially writing rules.

However, in my opinion if you are going to break a time honored rule such as “show, don’t tell,” it needs to be well-considered and serve to communicate better what you are trying to communicate in your piece of writing than if you were to follow the rule. I am not going to be able to give you a concrete set of laws for when it is good to break the “show, don’t tell” rule. Since we are going all piratey, I will give you a few guidelines for consideration.

1. As a general rule in your fictional work you want to write the most words for the aspects of your piece that relay your theme or are of greater importance. You will want to show key relationships, plot action, etc. Sometimes in the writing there are aspects such as really inconsequential background or setting elements that can be told or even left out entirely. Fiction that reads quickly without stumbles is easier for readers to get into. If you pull out every dollar adjective from your thesaurus and describe every tidbit of the setting, it gets tedious and you will lose readers. In this instance sometimes it is better to just summarize and move on.

2. If you have been doing a good job of writing descriptively and you have a bomb to drop in your fiction, just telling it can work to dramatic effect. For instance when the old lady detective finally announces who the killer is she says it in one succinct sentence that lands like a stone dropped in a pool.

3. Consider what point of view you are using and who the point of view character is. Sometimes it is better to fully illustrate a relationship with dialogue or capture the feelings and reactions of your point of view character. Sometimes it might work better and flesh out your point of view character if you are selective about what they notice (“show” those things) and what they don’t notice (tell those things). Ask yourself while you are writing if your character would just “tell” about various things.

4. When you want to be intentionally vague, tell. But use this with caution because overuse of being vague is frustrating to readers after awhile. I always think of the television show Lost. In my opinion the writers on that show would toss in various elements and leave things mysterious and vague. After awhile I grew frustrated with the show because it kind of felt like a constant tease and I began to wonder if they really knew where they were taking the series. Being too vague too much creates this kind of feeling.

These are just a few times when telling might be the better way to go. You should never, never, never, ever make excuses for why you are just “telling” a part of your story, but if you have considered what you are doing and think that it will make the composition better than by all means “tell.”

Keep in mind that too much telling will pull readers out of the story and break the context. For instance, information dumps are great big instances of tell. I have critiqued many stories and novels by novice writers and when I point out that their info dump actually pulls away from the plot of their story, they will argue to justify the inclusion of the information dump. Often their arguments and excuses are to the effect of “it’s important that readers know this so they’ll understand the character,” “it’s part of the world building,” “the readers have to this history,” etc. None of these arguments is a good reason to have a paragraph or more of straight out telling information. It may be good information that will help the writer to write the story if they have it clarified in their mind, but in should not be included in the story so blatantly. If you find yourself thinking along these lines an alarm should sound in your head and you should hear Robbie the Robot’s metalic drone repeating over and over again “Danger Will Robinson.”

So should the rule “show, don’t tell” always be followed? I will let you decide because this is one rule that requires thought and intention to follow or not follow.

Sunday Writing Discussion #4: Which Comes First Character or Plot?

Lately I have been watching on YouTube some of the video segments that were recorded by Martha Alderson, who has been called “the Plot Whisperer.” Her blog where you can find links to this series of YouTube videos is:

In the first of her videos titled “Dramatic Action Plot,” she focuses her discussion on determining a character that the writer wants to write about. The second video in the series furthers this discussion and talks about character flaws. I found this interesting because she is known for discussing plot rather than character development and yet she was advocating starting with a character and developing the plot from there. She talks about that the writer needs to know this character and their goals. In addition the goals cannot simply be goals, but need to be driving passions. So if the character is a mystery detective, it must be that character’s driving ambition to solve the case.

In Randy Ingermanson’s Snowflake Method for creating fiction his first step is to write out a one sentence description of the story or novel. This sentence is then expanded into a summary paragraph for the second step. Creating characters is a third step. In many ways he starts with plot and then populates the story.

So which approach is better?

I think both methods have merit. Without good characters a story will fall flat. Plots that are unsatisfying or do not contain all the Aristotlian elements of a story are unsatisfying. In my opinion it depends on the story that an author wants to tell. If the story is to be primarily character driven and have as one of its features a primarily internal plot, then I think that starting with developing a character or characters makes the most sense. If the story is to be primarily plot driven, determining what the plot will be and then creating characters that will best carry out that plot is the way to go.

I have two characters who I began thinking about and working on quite awhile ago. I can close my eyes and envision each of them. I can imagine how they speak and how they would respond to certain events. I am very intrigued by these characters. I think they are compelling and I want to do them justice and put them in captivating novels. The plots for both of these characters out of necessity for who they are as characters– their conflicts, fears, goals, backgrounds, and concerns– need to be action driven, external plots. I am finding it incredibly difficult to write their stories in part because I started with the characters and the stories for them will be not internal plot driven stories. Perhaps as I gain more skill I will be able to create the stories for these characters. The more that I write and think about things, the more I learn.

Another danger in creating the characters first is that the author could create what are called Mary Sues. Mary Sues are so idealized that they never approach feeling authentic and it feels a little like the author is fantasizing through them. Writing stories is not about making idealized versions of oneself who can never be defeated and always come out smiling. On the contrary on some levels it a little sadistic in that the writer has to really put the characters through a certain amount of hell. A story needs conflict and if the writer likes their characters too much, they will shy off of putting the screws to the characters. If the characters are idealized versions of the author, why would any author inflict torment on themselves even in their fantasies?

Starting with the plot also has pitfalls as well. A writer can write out a pretty logical plot with external action scenes that seem to flow consistently. And then they create the characters for the plot and even if they create those characters specifically for that plot, the internal logic of the characters interacting with the pre-planned external plot may require more thinking and changes. Also if the story is too externally driven it may feel like it does not have either an empathetic main character or an emotional center to the story. I think a great deal of science fiction and action thrillers start with plot and are subsequently populated with characters and sometimes the characters are less than authentic.

Again, I think both methods of developing stories have merits and choosing which will fit the writer’s current project makes the most sense. Ultimately in the writing of the story or the novel there will be an interplay between character and plot development and the writer will have to move back and forth and revise things as they go. Both characters and plots are important to make stories work.

Sunday Writing Discussions #1: Plotting

As most of you know that have read this blog in the past, I write. I do part time freelance non-fiction writing in addition to my day job and I write fiction and poetry. I have been writing for several years now and I am still working on getting my fiction published. I am by no means an “expert.” This is meant to be the first of a series of Sunday discussions on writing fiction and poetry. Please feel free to leave your ideas in the comments and I will respond.

I can come up with ideas that might start stories quite easily. I am one of those people who can come up with hundreds of uses for a paper clip on the creativity test. Some of the uses will be practical, some obscene, some silly, but coming up with uses is not a problem. But just envisioning a good idea for a story is not enough. The idea may be the impetus for the story, but there has to be at least a main character, a setting, a conflict, and a reasonable plot.

I enjoy writing characters. I like people and most of my fiction is very character driven. Plotting is difficult for me. I recently read on a forum a comment from a woman who said she didn’t like short stories because she found them unsatisfying. The story would be going along and engaging and then in her opinion all too frequently the short story would simply end. I critique other people’s fiction in a few different writing groups and often I read stories where the world the story is set in is quite fascinating and the characters are interesting but nothing really happens. In my opinion both what the woman on the forum was describing and my experience in the stories that I have critted represent plot failures.

A long time ago Aristotle described stories as having a beginning, a middle, and an end. Stories are episodic. Novels are too for that matter, they just happen to have more room to expand, have a greater cast of characters, and more subplots. One of the problems that I run into in writing my fiction is that I don’t always have a clear end in sight when I start a story, even though as Aristotle pointed out stories require a beginning, a middle, and an end. Also, often I will have an idea for a story that is character driven and only after the first draft is written can I see that it is an internal, character driven story, with a beginning, a climax, and an end. On the second revision of a story of this type, I have to rewrite the story to make those plot points stronger or the story doesn’t feel like a story, it feels more like a character sketch. Fiction is meant to be entertaining and working on making the experience satisfying for the reader is tantamount. Stories that feel like character sketches or feel incomplete in my opinion are just not satisfying reads.

At present I am writing a story that is an action driven story with political intrigue. My initial idea for the story was nothing more than a scene. At first, I saw this scene as the beginning of the story. I began brainstorming around this scene and what its significance could be. This lead me to two weeks of lots of free floating thoughts and little real plot. I shifted my focus and made the scene be the climax and near the end of the story. I began engineering backwards, suddenly a plot emerged. I still had to think of the whole of the story in Aristotleian terms and consider what the first act, second act, climax, and resolution would be. I had to think of turning points for the story, both internal to the main character turning points and external to the action turning points, that the story would logically progress through, but I was no longer in the fog of amorphous brainstorming. I am beginning to think that knowing and starting from the endpoint of a story or novel is more important that simply having a good central idea or stunning character.

What do you think?

A Mirror of Lies

The art of fiction is the spinning of lies into a silver thread that can be woven into a fabric and solidified into a mirror. It is both falsehoods and the truth. A strange magic juncture where belief is suspended, reality is withdrawn, and meaning dances like blue firelight flickering over the far off horizon.

What is illuminated by that clear light?

As a writer sometimes I am surprised by what comes out in my stories. Sometimes my female characters have strength, but lack an active volition. They are not the mistresses of their own destiny. They frequently are caught up in situations that they must react to and their options are limited. They make choices that are morally ambiguous.

This afternoon I started reading a collection of stories of a friend who is a fellow writer. When I read his writing there is a certain male quality about his writing. I remarked on it to him and he asked me to see if I could analyze this aspect.

I think it is good to have these tendencies brought out into the light for examination. As writers we can write anything. We choose what elements make up our art– and we can choose anything. Becoming more conscious of any subconscious tendencies makes it possible to have much more direct control over the crafting of the writing and to more consciously choose what we want to say and to make the telling of the tale more effectively powerful.

Some fiction also captures the imagination of the time period in which it is written and reflects the important themes of that time period. Historical fiction is written about a time in the past and the details may be exhaustively researched and accurate, but the work is from our current time period. Science fiction may be written about the future and the time period may be so finely wrought that the reader can envision the nuances of that far off imagined world, but it is written by a person in this time period. Fantasy worlds that are created can be anything– future, past, alternative reality, the realm beyond the veil, or whatever. The writing must create a shimmering portal in any of these instances that transports the reader to the reality of the fiction, but there must be some grounding in the current time period. And yet a fierce flexibility that defies being dated in the work must also be present if it is to be timeless and have continuing relevance.

This requires examination on the part of the writer. Examination outward and inward. There must be a constant flow of information to the writer to provide stimulus to fuel the subconscious and conscious mind. There must be an examination of the writing for common themes to have conscious control of them to be certain of what the writer is writing and for the writer to determine if what is being produced is what they want to write and comment upon. Are the themes a statement that the writer believes is of consequence? Does the writer believe in the entertainment value of what they are writing? Could the writing be more relevant? Could it be more universal? Could it move into the wide expanse of unexplored territory with more conscious examination? How could the art be pushed and strengthened? How could the writing even more fully come to life and give more meaning to the reader?

Lester Dent’s Pulp Fiction Plot Formula

So tonight I was thinking about plot and how to do plot and the usual Sunday night gaming crowd was over. I spoke briefly to Deforest and he told me about Lester Dent’s pulp fiction plot formula for creating a 6000 word story. I went looking on the internet and found it. Here it is:

Originally Posted by Lester Dent
This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has
worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly
where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in
each successive thousand words.

No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.

The business of building stories seems not much different from the
business of building anything else.

Here’s how it starts:


One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It
may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest.

A different murder method could be–different. Thinking of shooting,
knifing, hydrocyanic, garroting, poison needles, scorpions, a few others,
and writing them on paper gets them where they may suggest something.
Scorpions and their poison bite? Maybe mosquitos or flies treated with
deadly germs?

If the victims are killed by ordinary methods, but found under strange
and identical circumstances each time, it might serve, the reader of
course not knowing until the end, that the method of murder is ordinary.
Scribes who have their villain’s victims found with butterflies, spiders
or bats stamped on them could conceivably be flirting with this gag.

Probably it won’t do a lot of good to be too odd, fanciful or grotesque
with murder methods.

The different thing for the villain to be after might be something other
than jewels, the stolen bank loot, the pearls, or some other old ones.

Here, again one might get too bizarre.

Unique locale? Easy. Selecting one that fits in with the murder method
and the treasure–thing that villain wants–makes it simpler, and it’s
also nice to use a familiar one, a place where you’ve lived or worked. So
many pulpateers don’t. It sometimes saves embarrassment to know nearly as
much about the locale as the editor, or enough to fool him.

Here’s a nifty much used in faking local color. For a story laid in
Egypt, say, author finds a book titled “Conversational Egyptian Easily
Learned,” or something like that. He wants a character to ask in
Egyptian, “What’s the matter?” He looks in the book and finds, “El
khabar, eyh?” To keep the reader from getting dizzy, it’s perhaps wise to
make it clear in some fashion, just what that means. Occasionally the
text will tell this, or someone can repeat it in English. But it’s a
doubtful move to stop and tell the reader in so many words the English

The writer learns they have palm trees in Egypt. He looks in the book,
finds the Egyptian for palm trees, and uses that. This kids editors and
readers into thinking he knows something about Egypt.

Here’s the second installment of the master plot.

Divide the 6000 word yarn into four 1500 word parts. In each 1500 word
part, put the following:

1–First line, or as near thereto as possible, introduce the hero and
swat him with a fistful of trouble. Hint at a mystery, a menace or a
problem to be solved–something the hero has to cope with.

2–The hero pitches in to cope with his fistful of trouble. (He tries to
fathom the mystery, defeat the menace, or solve the problem.)

3–Introduce ALL the other characters as soon as possible. Bring them on
in action.

4–Hero’s endevours land him in an actual physical conflict near the end
of the first 1500 words.

5–Near the end of first 1500 words, there is a complete surprise twist in
the plot development.

SO FAR: Does it have SUSPENSE?
Is there a MENACE to the hero?
Does everything happen logically?

At this point, it might help to recall that action should do something
besides advance the hero over the scenery. Suppose the hero has learned
the dastards of villains have seized somebody named Eloise, who can
explain the secret of what is behind all these sinister events. The hero
corners villains, they fight, and villains get away. Not so hot.

Hero should accomplish something with his tearing around, if only to
rescue Eloise, and surprise! Eloise is a ring-tailed monkey. The hero
counts the rings on Eloise’s tail, if nothing better comes to mind.
They’re not real. The rings are painted there. Why?

1–Shovel more grief onto the hero.

2–Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:

3–Another physical conflict.

4–A surprising plot twist to end the 1500 words.

NOW: Does second part have SUSPENSE?
Does the MENACE grow like a black cloud?
Is the hero getting it in the neck?
Is the second part logical?

DON’T TELL ABOUT IT***Show how the thing looked. This is one of the
secrets of writing; never tell the reader–show him. (He trembles,
roving eyes, slackened jaw, and such.) MAKE THE READER SEE HIM.

When writing, it helps to get at least one minor surprise to the printed
page. It is reasonable to to expect these minor surprises to sort of
inveigle the reader into keeping on. They need not be such profound
efforts. One method of accomplishing one now and then is to be gently
misleading. Hero is examining the murder room. The door behind him begins
slowly to open. He does not see it. He conducts his examination
blissfully. Door eases open, wider and wider, until–surprise! The glass
pane falls out of the big window across the room. It must have fallen
slowly, and air blowing into the room caused the door to open. Then what
the heck made the pane fall so slowly? More mystery.

Characterizing a story actor consists of giving him some things
which make him stick in the reader’s mind. TAG HIM.


1–Shovel the grief onto the hero.

2–Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:

3–A physical conflict.

4–A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the
neck bad, to end the 1500 words.

DOES: It still have SUSPENSE?
The MENACE getting blacker?
The hero finds himself in a hell of a fix?
It all happens logically?

These outlines or master formulas are only something to make you certain of
inserting some physical conflict, and some genuine plot twists, with a little
suspense and menace thrown in. Without them, there is no pulp story.

These physical conflicts in each part might be DIFFERENT, too. If one
fight is with fists, that can take care of the pugilism until next the
next yarn. Same for poison gas and swords. There may, naturally, be
exceptions. A hero with a peculiar punch, or a quick draw, might use it
more than once.

The idea is to avoid monotony.

Vivid, swift, no words wasted. Create suspense, make the reader see and
feel the action.

Hear, smell, see, feel and taste.

Trees, wind, scenery and water.


1–Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.

2–Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain
has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is
presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is
about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)

3–The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.

4–The mysteries remaining–one big one held over to this point will help
grip interest–are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes
the situation in hand.

5–Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be
the unexpected person, having the “Treasure” be a dud, etc.)

6–The snapper, the punch line to end it.

HAS: The SUSPENSE held out to the last line?
The MENACE held out to the last?
Everything been explained?
It all happen logically?
Is the Punch Line enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING?
Did God kill the villain? Or the hero?