More Changes to the Middle

I have had a rethink about the middle section of the synopsis:

Roger framed for the murder, but freed [once the Inquisitor is blackmailed to protect the Abbey]

The woman Roger loves, Margery, is arrested on suspicion of witchcraft.

The Inquisitor reads the evidence presented to him by Roger but rejects it out of hand and threatens Roger that if he doesn’t stop he will be arrested or worse as well. [What he’s trying to say is that Edmund will get him.]

There are more murders and this time they affect the richer townspeople. [Why? Because Edmund is angry at the arrogance of the townspeople and their accusations against the Abbey – he thinks the burgesses are scum.] A riot against the abbey ensues and Margery is released.

When Roger sides with the town the Abbot threatens him with excommunication and banishment. He carries out this threat. Roger becomes a priest of the people – an intellectual John Ball character.

John of Gaunt arrives to restore order. Margery fooled into thinking Gaunt will be merciful, but he turns on her. She escapes his amorous clutches using magic.

Gaunt threatens the town with terrible consequences unless Margery is returned.

The townspeople stand firm – there is violence, Gaunt’s men are expelled. The town enjoys ruling itself for a brief day.

After the riot and the failure of Gaunt’s troops to restore order, Edmund takes advantage and terrorises the town at night with his demon and acolyte monks, many dressed as devils and foul creatures of the night. They take the daughter of Jake and others and go to the woods to sacrifice them. His aim is to summon more power – he is power mad/hungry now. He wants to take power over Gaunt and the Abbot completely.

Perhaps this leads to the prayer to the Saint for help – foreshadows that he can help. They release a horde of lepers from a hospital nearby which causes the monks to flee and they get the girl back.

The townspeople are scared, many of them want to give Margery back rather than suffer anymore. There is an argument against this. Does Margery go quietly rather than cause more suffering, she is sacrificing herself? Perhaps Edmund leads her to believe that if she will give in he will stop. He spoke to her during the previous night’s actions.

Margery is betrayed and re-arrested. Roger and Jake in desperation turn to ‘good’ magic and summon the Saint of the town. He will not help them directly, but hints that they should speak to the Inquisitor about a woman called Eloise. 

Reiterate Reiterate

The mindmap approach has been useful to lay out all the different plot strands. I think it has also shown me that the plot is getting quite complex, and the difficulty I have now is that there are some elements I have decided to change, but I can’t see how they have affected the basics of the story.

The solution I think is to go back to basics and write out the plot in a few sentences, beginning, middle bits, and end, to see what the overarching plot is. I have done a first draft of this, and although I like the start and the ending somewhat and some of the middle bits, it doesn’t feel quite right.
Here’s what I have at the moment (any comments welcome):

Description of Novel:

Roger Draper, a young priest, investigates gruesome murders that lead him into conflict with a necromancer who threatens to destroy him and his loved ones.


Roger stumbles across a demonic ritual that involves the murder of a beggar and, despite the efforts of the authorities to cover it up, he is 

Main Obstacles/Conflicts to Overcome:

Roger framed for the murder, but freed [once the Inquisitor is blackmailed to protect the Abbey]

The woman Roger loves, Margery, is arrested on suspicion of witchcraft.

When the murders affect the richer townspeople a riot against the abbey ensues and Margery is released.

John of Gaunt arrives and threatens the town with terrible consequences unless Margery is returned.

The townspeople stand firm – there is violence, but Gaunt’s men are expelled.

A demon prowls the night and tries to capture Margery.

Margery is betrayed and re-arrested. Roger and Jake in desperation turn to ‘good’ magic and summon the Saint of the town. He will not help them directly, but hints that they should speak to the Inquisitor about a woman called Eloise.


Roger and Jake save the Inquisitor’s friend from the clutches of the necromancer, thus removing the hold he has over the Inquisitor. The necromancer dies in the battle and his demon is sent back to the Inferno having been defeated by mortal means and not magic. 

Modern Day Futurians

I just posted this forum post over at

“In this world of blogs and social networking, which seem to me often quite introspective or very diffuse, do there still exist writers’ communities with more influence than the local writers’ circle, which is often a disparate collection of aspiring writers, many of whom are unpublished and likely to remain so. I’m thinking of groups of the past such as the Futurians (, are there any such groups of talented writers developing, and if not, why not?

In some ways the web gives you access to a lot more support and help from other writers, but the very size means that you don’t necessarily form strong bonds with anyone who shares your interests.”

Mind Mapping Software to brainstorm Plot Issues

As mentioned previously I am thinking of including magic into my story, this will mean working out some more detailed sub-plots that will then integrate into the main plot. However, I have already written a fairly detailed synopsis for the main plot of my story. I think I have a good idea of what the sub-plots will involve, but actually getting over the question of how to integrate them with the main plot seemed to me a major hurdle when faced with several pages of my narrative synopsis.

The problem, I decided, was that I couldn’t see very well what was going in the story. This morning I found some free mind mapping software, FreeMind, and have started using it to work out the events of each sub-plot, with the aim of then incorporating them into the main plot. The great thing is that you can link different nodes on your mind map together, so I can link a node from my sub-plot branch to the main plot branch without too much hassle, and delete it again if it doesn’t fit in. I actually think this is a great way of working out plots, as you can also add notes to each node as well.
What am I talking about? Here’s an illustration of what I have started doing.

It’s difficult to see exactly at this resolution though! The purple line going across is where I have linked two nodes.

Note that I need to go back and write out each part of the main plot synopsis, a slightly laborious job that I have been avoiding.
I hope that when I worked out the structure here, I can then write up the synopsis properly.

Decision Decisions!

A small point that I have been ignoring up to now on A Habit for Killing has been the genre. It’s historical mystery really, but the mystery features accusations of necromancy. Does this mean the necromancy actually happens in the story or is this merely the motivation for the murders that take place. Up until now I have been fairly coy in the synopsis about this point, as it hasn’t really mattered. However, I have now reached the point where I am plotting the ending in more detail and I really need to know how my protagonists save the day. One option is that they use magic to save the day, for positive rather than fouls ends. But I think that this means, in order to keep the reader with me, that I need to allow for the possibility of magic working throughout the earlier part of the story. This could also then push the story genre into fantasy rather than historical. A good thing or a bad thing? I’m not sure. I do want to write a sort of cross-over book that explores the historical beliefs of people who thought that magic was real, so maybe for my characters it will seem real, so it can really help them solve the mystery at the end. But what about the reader. Should I as a narrator indicate that they know better, or should they be going along with the belief of the characters?

Acting Up

After making rapid progress through the plot detail of Acts I and II of my narrative, I am finding things slowing down as I reach the synopsis for the Acts III and IV, where the narrative builds to its climax and the eventual denouement in Act V. Although it is frustrating to experience this slowing in speed, I have decided that it is actually good thing. After all, this is where the various strands in the plot come together, conflict increases and is resolved. So if I breezed through it, that might mean that actually my plot was very simple and obvious, which isn’t what one would really want from a mystery.

I think it is also indicative of using the snowflake method, in that you start with the broad concepts and then have to fill in the details. At this stage of the synopsis I find that I am having to back track a fair bit and change things. But, again this is a good thing, as it is easier to do this at synopsis stage rather than while writing the first draft.

Hectic But Productive

Busy old day. Ended up even doing some writing on the train, which worked out quite well. I have begun the synopsis for A Habit for Killing. Instead of just doing a one page synopsis, it looks like I am pretty much headed for a quite full one. I’ll still keep on and do the character story-lines, as this will help keep the character paths consistent and give me more to flesh the synopsis with later. I will also need to create a briefer synopsis later for submitting, but I find it harder to do the longer work first, you tend to find out more about the story that way.

Also sent my story The Bitterness of the Music Box off to Critter, did a critique for Critter, asked F&SF forum, Cory Doctorow and Dark Horizons some questions and got answers within a few hours!
And submitted a story, The Human Factor, to Afterburn!

A Habit for Killing – working title

A Habit for Killing will be the working title for the Roger Draper novel project. A Habit for Death is a bit punchier, but there is already a novel by that name, published in 2006. 

I think the title hints at three elements in the story:
Killing – it’s a novel about murder
Habit – it involves monks!
Habit – also is a pun for a habitual act – thus a serial murder, but also it’s a pun so alludes to the fact that the book will also have comic moments.
So now I’m going to see if I can change all the labels to: A Habit for Killing. We’ll see if this works!