3 Tips For WRITING A Roller Coaster

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Using my unreleased manuscript An Angel On Her Shoulder, I am showing you my techniques for reworking a story into a more readable, more enjoyable piece. It’s 45+ lessons in about 45 days. (To start at Chapter 1, click HERE.)

To view it best, bring up the two versions in different windows and view them side by side to see what was changed.

Then give me your thoughts in the comment section.

Writing A Roller Coaster

Tip #1: If there’s a hill, there probably has to be a valley. (Maybe a twisty turn.)

This scene follows a pretty dramatic one. It would be really hard to get a second reveal going right now; it could be great and it won’t have the same punch. Readers just had a thrill, so like a roller coaster that just dropped down a big hill, we’ll do something else.

Hopefully it’s still a thrill, but it’s probably not gonna be another hill.

Tip #2: watch out for too much – or too little! 

If  a slow scene follows a fast one, the slow one seems slower and the fast one seems even faster.

If a fast scene follows a slower one, the fast one seems REALLY fast.

So if a regular scene follows a – okay, enough. You get the idea.

Check out the scene, check out the changes. Remember, this follows a big reveal scene. Once we have the reader’s pulse returned to normal, we can toss them down another hill.

Or do something else.

See you at the bottom.


Chapter 32 “FINAL”

“Would you kill Hitler?” Jimmy stood with a hand on the tree trunk and the other on a high branch, balancing on a thick limb. When he moved around, it sent little shock waves out to where I sat, bouncing me and making my stomach cringe.

From our perch in the big oak tree, the crow’s nest, I pretended to ignore his request to start the game. We may have only been twenty feet up, but it always seemed a lot higher. I needed to focus or I’d fall and break my arm the way he did the prior year. Sitting with my hands on either side of me holding the limb wasn’t the best idea, but the other branches were a little too far away to reach easily.

Smiling, Jimmy bent his knees and jostled the branch on purpose. I grasped, flailing at twigs and leaves to keep my balance. Once re-secured, I scowled and picked bits of bark from my palms. Jimmy was my best friend, but he was a real jerk sometimes. And he was a better climber than me even if he did break his arm last year.

The insides of my legs were red and scraped, bleeding in spots from hugging the tree too tightly while I climbed. Jimmy didn’t get a scratch in his ascent to the crow’s nest. I smacked my stinging hands and licked a finger, running it over the little cuts on my thighs. I should have worn pants, but it was too hot out.

Not up in the tree, though. Up there, cool breezes washed through like air conditioning.

“Come on, let’s play,” Jimmy said.

It was a dumb game, but we thought we were smart for inventing it. I’m not even sure we did invent it. Who can remember after all that time has passed?

But I know that after that day, we never played it again.

From the crow’s nest, most of my childhood play area was visible. I gazed over at the sand box where we had countless G. I. Joe battles, the creek that hosted our model boat races, the big back yards where we played “army.” We were as likely to play Kick The Can or flashlight tag or Hide and Seek as we were to ride bikes or go hiking.

Or climb the biggest tree in the yard and play our game.

“Okay, so even if you were sure you’d get caught, you’d still kill Hitler, right?” Jimmy started off solid.

“Right,” I said. “No question.”

“Would you ever kill a person for a dumb reason?”

“I oughta kill you for telling me it was too hot to wear pants today. Now my legs are all torn up.”

“You wouldn’t kill the President for a million dollars, though, would you?” It was more of a taunt than a question. I wasn’t sure why he asked it, and there was an odd tone to his voice. “You couldn’t do that.”

I looked out over the creek to the hillside. It sloped down to the water, but today there was mostly puddles. It hadn’t rained in a while. “For a million dollars, I bet I could.”

“No, you couldn’t.” Jimmy repositioning himself to a higher branch. I held on tight as twigs dropped past me. “Not you. Never in a million years.”

“Why not me?” I asked.

“Because you couldn’t kill anybody.” It wasn’t playful banter. He was driving at something.

He climbed higher.

“Why not?” I blinked as fragments of bark and twigs fell on me. He answered, but I didn’t hear him because I was focused on keeping tree crap out of my mouth.

“What did you say?” I held up my hand to keep the light and falling debris out of my eyes. He was right above me. He could have spit on me just by opening his mouth, and the look on his face made me think he wanted to. My cheeks got hot. I might have expected a crappy stunt like that from my brother or his, but friends or not, if he spit on me, I was going to climb up that tree and knock him out of it.

The wind blew through his hair as he looked away, squinting in the bright sunlight. “Kill somebody? You couldn’t do it. Not you.” His words were plain, unemotional, matter of fact. “You couldn’t even kill that squirrel that one time when you took your brother’s pump BB gun.”

That stung. “I—Yes, I could!” My cheeks burned. I didn’t know he knew about the squirrel. “I shot it, didn’t I?”

“Did you?”

I looked away. “This is a dumb game.”

“Did you shoot it? Did you kill that squirrel?” Jimmy stood up on his branch, out of reach.

I got up, too. To climb down.

Hugging the tree trunk, I reached out with my foot to step down to the next branch. It was farther than I thought. I moved too fast and lost my balance, dropping instead of stepping. My stomach jolted with adrenaline and fear. For a moment, I thought I’d fall. I clawed at the tree trunk, barely grabbing it, and slamming my face and chest into the hard, rough bark.

The force from my awkward sent a shiver up the tree, bouncing Jimmy.

He swayed and grabbed some tree limbs to keep his balance, glaring at me like I’d done it on purpose.

I quickly moved my eyes away so he wouldn’t see me looking, focusing on anything that wasn’t him, and grabbed the next branch. Getting down took longer than I wanted, and ripped up my hands and legs good, but I wasn’t staying.

I brushed the pieces of tree bark off my forearms and face, not looking up, trying to not listen to his taunts.

My sights falling on the grassy hillside where our backyards sloped down to the creek. I spied the tall, thin tree stump that had broken off in a storm.

The one where I had once coaxed a squirrel to sit for me.

I turned and stormed off to my house, my whole head hot and throbbing, a chant of “Did you kill that squirrel? Did you?” showering down on me from the tree top.

Halfway through the yard, I stopped. “That’s a dumb game and you’re dumbass!”

“Screw you!” Jimmy shouted at me. “Coward!”

“Screw you! I don’t have to kill stuff to enjoy it. Not like you, you stinking redneck!” I ran for the back door. I didn’t want him to see me cry. I was too old for that.

Jimmy exploded. “You didn’t shoot it because you were too afraid!” His face was red with rage. “That makes you a damn coward!”

“Shut up!” I screamed back. “I’m glad you guys are moving away!”

The words, clogging in my throat as tears welled in my eyes, didn’t deliver the forcefulness I wanted, but they delivered the impact. They shot past the tree and across the creek, dissipating over the farmer’s field.

The argument was over.

Maybe it was just how young boys dealt with their emotions. Jimmy found out that his family was moving. It was only about 10 miles away, but to two kids on bicycles, they may as well have been moving across the country. We wouldn’t be next door neighbors anymore. We would eventually stop being friends. Lashing out might have been our way of saying we’d miss each other.

But I was still mad. Jimmy could sit in that stupid tree all day if he wanted to, I didn’t care. His stupid legs never got tired of the bark digging into them anyway, so let him. Or he could go wander through the stupid woods, like always. Stupid jerk.

At the back door, I paused. Busying myself with some of my dad’s charcoal grill tools that needed my immediate attention, I faced the house and wiped any evidence of crying from my face.  In the reflection of the downstairs windows, I saw Jimmy climb down from the tree and disappear.

When I was sure he was gone, I put down the grill scraper and went back.

It was halfway down the hillside, and only part of it remained, but the stump was still there. Lightning had probably been responsible for breaking it off in the first place, and at such an unusual height. From where I stood above it on the grass, it stuck up just enough from the slope to almost be at eye level. When the squirrel had stood there that day, on the little flat part, he seemed to look me right in the eye.

He was amazing. Big eyes, a long fuzzy tail, and a beautiful gray-brown coat covering his fat little belly. He’d had a good summer eating acorns from our oak tree. He sat tall on the stump, his acorn in his hands, as he gnawed it, just like on TV.

I always had a good way with animals. I could approach any animal—any animal at all—and if I did it right, they would sit there and let me approach. I did it slowly, with one thought foremost in my head. That I was a friend.

It’s okay. I’m not going to hurt you.

It helped to even say it out loud, in soothing tones, so the rabbit or deer would be aware I was making my presence known to them. Predators would never do that. By concentrating and focusing and almost mentally directing my thoughts to them, they could understand I was not a threat. They could feel it.

It was an amazing trick, but it was something that I rarely shared with anybody.

Once, while on vacation with my wife in the Canadian Rockies, we spied a distant moose at dusk across Waterfowl Lake. The moose had her baby with her. I spoke to them, calmly and quietly, across the water. They came all the way down to where we were, a place where the cold lake was shallow enough to for them cross. Then, the moose and her baby came over to investigate us before moving on into the dark woods.

Mallory was dumbfounded.

I completely expected it. I just kept cooing, “It’s okay, it’s okay.” I never doubted they would come.

I guess like all mothers, the moose wanted to show off her baby.

I found out later that moose are very protective of their babies, and that such a stunt was insanely dangerous. We could have been seriously hurt, maybe killed.

It never occurred to me. It never seemed that way, not for an instant. Not to me.

I think that’s why the squirrel just sat there watching me. I had taken my brother’s pump action BB gun rifle, which Jimmy had previously assured me would be enough to do the job. I couldn’t risk taking my dad’s real gun, after all. I wasn’t crazy.

Maybe the squirrel was deceived by my demeanor. I spoke to him in the low soothing tones that always worked, gently moving closer as I did. Maybe he thought if he didn’t move, I’d lose him in the background brush. Maybe he was scared.

I placed the stock on my thigh and grabbed the lever pump on the barrel. Twenty or more snaps of the metal pump clattered over the quiet hillside.

My pulse raced as I raised the rifle and took steady aim, lining up the squirrel between the cross hairs of the scope. I took a full breath like I had been shown, holding the heavy gun as still as best as I could. I pressed the stock into my shoulder and balanced the barrel with my hand. Letting my breath release slowly, I eased my finger onto the cold, metal trigger. I closed one eye, being careful to keep the target in the crosshairs, and squeezed.

The shot went off with a crack. The squirrel flinched, but stayed on the stump. His eyes never left mine. Even if the BB didn’t kill him, it had to sting like hell. Still, he just stood there, staring at me. I felt a momentary letdown, like I had failed in my stupid hunt. His gaze never wavered, seeming almost defiant.

I felt angry. And embarrassed. My cheeks burned.

With slow precision, so as not to frighten him, I pumped the rifle again, but always maintaining eye contact. This time, I did twice the pumps I’d done before.

He sat there, testing me, holding his big furry tail up behind himself. He could have run, but he didn’t. He was waiting, taunting me. Stubborn.

I leveled the gun and held my breath, firing a second shot.

He twitched again. I know I hit him. I was a good target shooter. I know he was feeling the impact of the pellets. I know he had to feel the stinging pain.

But, he didn’t move. He just sat there.

God damned squirrel. What’s the matter with him?

Sweat formed on my face and neck. My heart pounded, making my anger and embarrassment grow. I had already committed the childhood crime of sneaking the BB gun out of my brother’s room without permission and deciding to kill an innocent animal. I might as well go all the way. The nuns would say this was a sin, to kill for no reason. I knew that. But I had to finish what I started.

I pump the gun again, sweat dripping off me, compressing the firing chamber with each metal slap of the barrel hinge. It got harder with each pump, reaching maximum pressure. I nodded, catching my breath. I would have my trophy.

As I tried to force the lever down one last time, the stock slipped on my thigh. The barrel hinge went sideways, snapping shut on my finger.

“Damn it!” My finger bled from the tiny skin flap hanging off it. I glared at the squirrel. He still sat there. He was either stubborn or terrified, but he was still right there.

The rifle hissed, losing its pressure. I was taking too long. I wiped my temple with my shoulder and grabbed the barrel hinge, heaving it open and slamming it down. After a few pumps, the hinge went sideways, sliding off my leg and twisting my fingers.

I lifted the rifle and threw it to the ground, the metal clasp banging open in the grass.

The squirrel stared at me.

I ran at him, arms flailing. “Yaaaaahhh!”

A few feet down the hill, I stopped, exhausted.

He didn’t move.

I stood there, gasping, shaking my head. I had messed up the rifle and my hand, and I still hadn’t even killed the stupid squirrel. I took a step backwards up the hill, but I slipped on the leaves and fell, landing on my butt.

I dropped back on the grass and squeezed my eyes shut, my chest heaving up and down. “I quit. You win.” My finger throbbed. My head ached. My butt hurt. It was too much.

I swallowed and shook my head. “I can’t do it.”

An empty feeling welled inside me, aching with a deep, hollow blackness. I rolled onto my side and looked at the vacant stump through watery eyes. “Forgive me.”

If Jimmy had seen any of that, it probably would have sickened him. I hated to think about him knowing. He was a better shot than me, and a better hunter, but watching his friend fall down and cry over a squirrel, that was something he couldn’t have understood.

This is what make your inside feel sick when you see the policeman at the winery! Same as with the man you see in your head at the church, and when you confront with the animal.

Confront with the animal. The mambo had nailed it.

After the fight in the tree, Jimmy’s attitude toward me changed. We weren’t as close as we used to be.

A few weeks later, they moved. When we ended up being down such different paths later in life, we’d never know that the first steps were taken that day.

When I walked back from the creek, I should have hidden the gun so my mom couldn’t see me with it, but I didn’t care. I had violated a trust, and I had misused a gift. But to me, at that age, it was just supposed to be a trick. A game.

It didn’t feel like a game anymore, though. The scolding I got from my mom for taking my brother’s gun—even if it was only a pump action BB gun—fell on deaf ears. All I could think about was an innocent squirrel down by the creek, standing there, shot after shot, not moving away.

That was the worst part. Worse than any scolding or punishment. All because I wanted to prove something.

I drove up the driveway, gazing at my Tampa home and its large, protective oaks in the headlights. The trees swayed and danced in the strong, rushing winds. Patches of Spanish moss clung to bending limbs or dropped in clumps into the yard.

“I’m glad you guys are moving away!”

I pulled into the garage. My dry, tired eyes wanted to close, and the couch was the closest soft spot. Jimmy hadn’t been a thought in my mind for a long time, but now the echoes from the crow’s nest rang in my ears.

 


Original Chapter 32, An Angel On Her Shoulder

 

“Would you kill Hitler?”

I was ten years old, perched in a tree the size of a mountain. At least that’s how it looked to us as kids. I looked across through the branches to where Jimmy had just asked me the question, challenging me. Who would trick the other one today?

From my perch in the big oak tree that we called the crow’s nest, I pretended to ignore him. We may have only been twenty feet up, but it seemed like a mile, and I needed to focus or I’d break my arm falling out, the way Jimmy did last year.

He was positioned near me on the long, thick limb, but he was closer to the trunk. So when he bounced up and down, I got most of the impact on my end. He jiggled the branch, making me grab the other branches to keep my balance. He’s my best friend, but he’s a real jerk sometimes. And he’s a better climber than me even if he did break his arm last year. I looked at my legs. The insides of my thighs were scraped from hugging the tree too tightly while I climbed. It was a sure bet Jimmy wasn’t scratched up. I should have worn pants, but it was hot out.

Not up in the tree, though. Up there, cool breezes washed through like air conditioning.

“Come on, let’s play,” Jimmy said.

It was a dumb game, but we thought we were smart for inventing it. I’m not even sure we did invent it. Who can remember after all that time has passed?

But I know that after that day, we never played it again.

It was nice up in the crow’s nest. The breeze was awesome. Our houses had air conditioning but our parents didn’t run it this time of year; to them, it was still too cool out. Downstairs, maybe. Upstairs where my room was, it was pretty stuffy during the day. It was probably just some ploy to keep us kids outside playing and not bothering Mom. So we played “army” in our backyards. Or we hiked along the creek that ran behind our houses. Or we rode our bikes to Woolco or down to the park.

Or we climbed the biggest tree in the yard and played our game.

“Okay, so even if you were sure you’d get caught, you’d still kill Hitler, right?” Jimmy started off solid today.

“Right,” I said. “No question.”

“Would you ever kill a person for a dumb reason?”

“I’d kill you for telling me it was too hot to wear pants today. Now my legs are all scratched up.”

“You wouldn’t kill the President for a million dollars, though, would you?” Jimmy asked. It was more of a taunt than a question. I wasn’t sure why he asked it. “You couldn’t do it,” he said.

“For a million dollars, I bet I could,” I replied from my perch in the big tree. I looked out over the creek to the hillside. It sloped down to the water, but today there was mostly puddles. It hadn’t rained in a while.

“No you couldn’t,” Jimmy said, repositioning himself to a higher branch. Some twigs dropped past me. “Not you. Never in a million years.”

“Why not me?” I asked.

“Because you couldn’t kill anybody.” It wasn’t playful banter. He was driving at something.

“For a million dollars I bet I could!”

“No, you couldn’t,” he said, climbing higher. “You couldn’t do it.”

“Why not?” I asked angrily, blinking at the fragments of bark and twigs that fell as he climbed above me.

He answered, but I didn’t hear him because I was focused on keeping falling tree crap out of my eyes and mouth.

“What did you say?” I demanded, looking up at him. He was right above me. He could have spit on me just by opening his mouth, and the look on his face made it seem like he wanted to. I might have expected a crappy stunt like that from my brother, or from his; but friends or not, if he spit on me, I was going to climb up there after him and knock him out of the tree.

“Kill somebody? You couldn’t do it. Not you. You couldn’t even kill that squirrel that one time when you took your brother’s pump BB gun.”

That stung. “Yes I could!” I stammered. “I shot it, didn’t I?” I was embarrassed, but I was still mad. I didn’t know he knew about the squirrel.

“Did you?” he asked in a taunting way.

I looked away. “This is a dumb game,” I said.

“Did you shoot it? Did you kill that squirrel?” Jimmy stood up on his branch, mocking me. I got up, too, to start climbing down. A chant of “Did you? Did you?” echoed through the woods beyond the creek.

“This is a dumb game and you’re dumbass!” I shouted.

“Screw you!” Jimmy shouted at me. “Coward!”

“Screw you!” I shouted back. “I’m not a coward. I have too much sanctity for life to kill! Not like you, you stinking redneck!”

 

Jimmy exploded at that. “What! So you’re saying I don’t have any sanctity of life, that I respect life less because I will hunt and eat the meat that I kill? You’re just a hypocrite! You’ll eat only what other people kill. Because you’re too good? No, because you’re too afraid!”

 

His face was red with rage. “That makes you a damn coward!”

“Screw you!” I screamed back, “I’m glad you guys are moving away!”

The words, shouted in anger, shouted through the forming tears, bounced across the creek and up through the woods before they dissipated over the farmer’s field.

Maybe it was just how young boys dealt with their emotions. Jimmy found out that his family was moving. It was only about 10 miles away, but to two kids on bicycles, they may as well have been moving across the country. We wouldn’t be next door neighbors anymore. We would eventually stop being friends. Lashing out might have been our way of saying we’d miss each other.

But I was still mad.

I went to step down to the next branch. It was farther than I thought. I moved too fast and lost my balance, dropping instead of stepping. For a moment, I was about to fall. I awkwardly reached out for the tree trunk. I barely grabbed it, slamming into it with my face and chest. The force sent a shiver up the tree, bouncing Jimmy.

I glanced up. Jimmy bounced from the shock, and grabbed some tree limbs to keep his balance.

When I saw he was steadied, I quickly moved my eyes away so he wouldn’t see me looking. I brushed the pieces of tree bark off my forearms and face, considering what to do next. My sights went to the grassy hillside where our backyards sloped down to the creek. I spied a tall thin tree stump that had broken off in a storm.

Where I had once coaxed a squirrel to sit for me.

It was a stupid thing, really, and not worth thinking about at all. I’d had enough of climbing trees and scraping myself up. I climbed down and decided to head back to the house. Jimmy could sit in the tree all day if he wanted to; his legs never seemed to get tired of the bark digging in. Let him.

But instead of going up to the house, I went over to the stump.

It was halfway down the hillside, but it was a tall stump, and only part of it remained. Lightning was probably responsible for breaking it off at this unusual height. From where I stood above it on the grass, it stuck up just enough from the slope to almost be at eye level. When the squirrel had stood there that day, on the little flat part, he seemed to look me right in the eye.

I always thought I had a good way with animals. We never had a dog when I was growing up, so encounters with strangers’ dogs were awkward. I didn’t know what to do, and the dog always sensed my nervousness; but I also misunderstood their enthusiasm and curiosity for some kind of aggression. Later, I figured out that I could approach almost any animal if I did it slowly and with the thought foremost in my head that I was a friend.

It’s okay… I’m not going to hurt you…

It helped to even say it out loud, in soothing tones, so the rabbit or deer could be aware that I was trying to make my presence known to them. That was something their predators would never do. That way, they could understand that I was not a threat. Feel it. It was an amazing trick, but it was something that I rarely shared with anybody.

Once, while on vacation with my wife in the Canadian Rockies, we spied a moose at dusk across Waterfowl Lake. The moose had her baby with her. I spoke to them, calmly and quietly, across the water. They came all the way down to where we were, a place where the cold lake was shallow enough to cross. Then, the moose and her baby came over to investigate us before moving on into the dark woods.

Michele was dumbfounded. I completely expected it. I just kept cooing, “It’s okay, it’s okay,” and I guess like all mothers, moose wanted to show off her baby.

I found out later that moose are very protective of their babies, and that such an encounter was foolish; we could have been seriously hurt, maybe killed. It never occurred to me. It sure never seemed that way. Not to me.

Maybe that’s why the squirrel just sat there watching me while I walked up to him. I had taken my brother’s pump action BB gun rifle, which Jimmy had previously assured me would be enough to do the job. I couldn’t risk taking my dad’s real gun, after all; I wasn’t crazy.

Maybe the squirrel was deceived by my demeanor. I spoke to him in low soothing tones, gently walking up to him as I did. Maybe he thought if he didn’t move, I’d lose him in the background brush. Maybe he was scared.

I took steady aim, lining him up between the cross hairs of the scope. Then I took a breath like I had been shown, exhaled slightly, and squeezed the trigger.

The shot went off with a crack. The squirrel flinched, but stayed on the stump. His eyes never left mine, but his heart must have been racing. Even if the BB didn’t kill him, it had to sting like hell. Still, he just stood there, staring at me. I felt a momentary letdown, like I had failed in my stupid hunt. His gaze never wavered. Almost defiant. Then, I felt angry. And embarrassed. My cheeks burned.

With slow precision, so as not to frighten him now, I pumped the rifle again, but maintaining eye contact. This time, to double the pressure I had before. He still sat there, testing me. He could have run, but he didn’t. He was waiting for it. Taunting me. Stubborn.

I leveled the gun again, and fired a second shot.

He flinched again. I know these were hits. I was a good target shooter. I know he was feeling them, the pain. Still he didn’t move. He just sat there.

God damned squirrel, I thought. What the hell is the matter with him? Why doesn’t he run away?

I was starting to sweat. My anger and embarrassment grew. I had already committed the crime of taking the gun and of trying to kill an innocent animal… I might as well go all the way. This was a sin, I knew it, to kill for no reason. But I had to finish what I started.

I started pumping the gun again. The barrel had a hinge for the pump lever, and it wasn’t behaving. As I tried to force it down, it went sideways and caught my finger, cutting it.

“Damn it!” I whispered fiercely. My finger was bleeding. A flap of skin hung off it. I looked at the squirrel. He still sat there. He was either stubborn or terrified, but he was still right there.

I started to pump the gun again, and once more the barrel gave me trouble. It caught my finger again. I threw the rifle down in anger, and turned my gaze to the squirrel.

I ran at him. “Yaaaaahhh!” I shouted, waving my arms, running a few feet down the hill at him.

He didn’t move.

It was exasperating. I had messed up the rifle and my finger, and I still hadn’t even killed the stupid squirrel. I took a step backwards up the hill, but I slipped on the leaves and fell, landing awkwardly on my butt.

My finger throbbed. My head ached. My butt hurt. It was too much.

“I quit,” I said to the squirrel. “You win. I can’t do it.”

Then I looked down and I whispered. “Forgive me.”

Up in the woods, where he had gone off for a morning hunt earlier that day, Jimmy silently witnessed the whole thing. He got angry, too. He was a better shot than me, and a better hunter, but that’s not what made him angry. Watching his friend fall down and cry over a squirrel, that was something he couldn’t understand. It sickened him. His attitude toward me changed after that, and we weren’t as close as we used to be. When we ended up being down such different paths later in life, we’d never know that the first steps were taken that day.

I felt a terrible guilt when I walked back from the creek. I should have hidden the gun, so my mom couldn’t see me walking back from the creek with it, but I didn’t care. I had violated a trust, and I had misused a gift. But to me, at that age, that’s all it was just supposed to be – a trick. A game…

It didn’t feel like a game anymore, though. The scolding I got from my mom for taking my brother’s gun without permission – even if it was only a pump action BB gun – her words fell on deaf ears. All I could think about was an innocent squirrel down by the creek, standing there, shot after shot, not moving away. That was the worst part. Worse than any scolding or punishment. All because I wanted to prove something.

All these years later, I can look out my windows in Tampa and gaze up into the large protective oak trees, with their dancing patches of shadows and light, hiding whatever creatures can blend in best. Sometimes when I do that, I find myself wondering about a squirrel that sat on a stupid tree stump in Ohio when I was ten years old, that I tricked into trusting me, and a best friend that I lost shortly afterward.

“I’m glad you guys are moving away!”

That day, my words bounced across the creek and up through the woods before they dissipated over the farmer’s field. It was the last thing I said to my friend for almost twenty years, but it rang in my ears forever.

Sometimes, a small decision can feel like it doesn’t mean anything. Other times, it ends up making all the difference in the world.


ANALYSIS

Pretty simple.

Pace: We went back to a regular pace, so it might seem slow, but it’s fairly quick moving.

Flashbacks: We brought back the old scenes you’ve now grown familiar with, and you’ve probably been wondering why they’re in here or when they’ll tie in – and now we hint at that again, but it probably seems like the answer is coming soon. Doug has taken the past and brought it up to current, saying he’s thinking about Jimmy now, in present time.

And again we see Doug’s mom referred to, the nuns, all that. So we’re keeping that in your head.

Tie Ins: was Dahlia’s reference to “the animal” misunderstood by readers until now? Was it a fair thing or a cheat? I kinda liked it. We’re opening the realm of what’s possible because the priestess sees all. (That might come in handy later.)

Tension: we scratch an itch here, first with Jimmy and the falling out and then with the “animal” – but we still have more to know about Jimmy…

Tip #3: plan your story

Plan things out. (Outlines work best.) You can always change things when the mood strikes, but changing things without a plan is hard work and feels forced.

Was all this planned? No. that’s why I can tell you it’s easier with a plan. The Navigators had a big unplanned twist in the middle, but since the rest of the story was planned, it was pretty easy to change a few things to make it work.

Thoughts? Tell me below!

Here are a few things your editor will catch that you won’t (as in, I didn’t) because your editor (A) has fresh eyes and (B) isn’t necessarily 100% certain what you meant when he/she read what you wrote, like you are.

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The force from my awkward? Huh?

I… CAN’T WORDS!!

It should be either the force from my awkwardness or my awkward move or awkward stumble or something. Let’s go with awkwardness.

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This should be “My sights fell…” or “My sights falling on the grassy hillside, I…did something.” Maybe we should change that period between “creek” and “I” to a comma and see how it reads. I was probably trying to be esoteric in an earlier version and when I edited it for tightness, I messed it up. THIS IS BECAUSE I KNEW WHAT I MEANT.  So did you. But it’s a mistake, and it un-immerses the reader. And you can edit IN a mistake. So watch it! Let your beta readers and editor find this stuff and THANK THEM for finding it when they so.

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This is a good one for POV. If Doug is running for the back door, he can no longer see Jimmy’s face being red. Therefore, Jimmy has to “explode” first and then Doug can see it before Doug runs to the house. Yeah, that’s subtle. Did it catch in your head at the time?

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Here’s an example of a change in tense that isn’t right but may still work to a lot of readers. Pump should be pumped. Past tense.

(But Doug is telling you -in narrative – the story that happened so he can mess up the tense. Doug the narrator in the book is in past tense; Doug the character is telling the reader about Dougie the flashback character, relating something that happened in Doug the character’s past, as though he is talking to you, so he can speak with a grammar error.)

Yes, but it will seem like a mistake 99.9% of the time when people stop to examine it closely, and if we haven’t done that throughout the entire book, we shouldn’t do it here. It needs to be changed (as opposed to corrected) to be consistent.

I know. Picky, picky, picky!

Yep. That’s what you’re paying me for.

Now:

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Let me have your comments. The next chapter will post tomorrow but they will ALL come down shortly after February 15, so don’t dawdle!

You are readers, too. Your input will shape the final product. Be honest.

Share and reblog these! Your friends need to know this stuff, too.

Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

12 thoughts on “3 Tips For WRITING A Roller Coaster

  1. This is a good chapter to follow with. Doug would be thinking about everything that had just happened and this memory is a particularly stubborn one. I know from experience that childhood memories stay with you forever lol. I like the pace and how nothing seems the same that day. The part about the squirrel made me cry. It was as if this was a test of Doug’s character and his gift. It shows us more about Doug again and the readers sympathize with him which we want. We want:, lol, you want.

    Liked by 1 person

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