Welcome to my blog!

Welcome to my blog! This is my journey, my first steps into the world of fictional writing. This blog is an online journal of sorts, where I share the progress of my work as well as what I have learned along the way. I hope you enjoy your time with me and that my experience may be of some use to you.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

By the Book - Dead Space: Martyr

Welcome to my second book review!
In this installment of By the Book, I will be reviewing the novel “Dead Space: Martyr” by award-winning author B.K. Evenson. I was excited to receive this book for Christmas and couldn’t wait to get to it.

           It’s no secret that I am a fan of scary stories. My wife can attest to this fact, after being forced to sit through countless hours of horror flicks (bless her patient “romantic comedy loving” heart). But this passion is not limited to movies, as I also enjoy “Survival-Horror” type video games. This is where I discovered the Dead Space franchise. For those who are familiar with the Dead Space universe, this novel may answer a few questions, as the events in this story take place a few hundred years before the first Dead Space game. It shows us the first encounter with the Black Marker, the origins of the Church of Unitology and the involvement of Michael Altman.

Martyr focuses on geophysicist Michael Altman, as he investigates unusual occurrences happening in the Chicxulub crater in New Mexico. What begins as Altman’s discovery of a strange gravitational anomaly, soon escalates to him being involved in a government cover-up. To make matters worst, anyone who becomes involved in searching for the source of the signal seem to go insane, either experiencing wild hallucinations or killing themselves. The story sees Altman fighting to expose the cover-up, and later on for his life, as he tries to uncover the nature of the artifact known as the Black Marker.

Back of the Book:

“We have seen the future.
A universe cursed with life after death.
It all started deep beneath the Yucatan peninsula, where an archaeological discovery took us into a new age, bringing us face-to-face with our origins and destiny.
Michael Altman had a theory no one would hear.
It cursed our world for centuries to come.
This, at last, is his story.”

What I have learned from this book:
  • The art of the Slow Burn: One of the first things that I noticed in Dead Space: Martyr, was the slow build up leading to the action. Most fans of Dead Space remember the series for its quick paced action and high-stress scenarios. Though you will find some horror/action elements in Martyr, they are mostly found towards the last ¼ of the book, after most of the mystery has been solved. This slow pace helped build up quite a lot of tension in the story, which helped make the appearance of the Necromorphs that much more frightening.
  • Respecting source material: Creating your own characters and settings involves a lot of research, but working with characters and settings from someone elses work involves a lot more! This novel made me appreciate the work done by Author B.K. Evenson, as he managed to stay true to the Dead Space franchise throughout his novel.
  • Representing insanity: The Author did an awesome job of showing some of the characters slow descent into madness. As a fan of the Dead Space series, I found it intriguing to see the other side of Marker-induced insanity and how people became worshippers of Unitology.

For those interested in reading more books from B.K. Evenson, please check out his website at http://www.brianevenson.com/.

For those interested in learning more about the Dead Space franchise, you can check out this extensive user mader wiki http://deadspace.wikia.com/wiki/Main_Page. Furthermore, if you are interested in seeing the games in action, you can search for Dead Space on Youtube, as many users have uploaded videos of actual gameplay (I personally recommend the videos from Markiplier).

           In closing, I would like to thank my wife Linda for getting me this book, and for everyone following my blog. Thank you for the encouragement.

Until next time!


Patrick Osborne

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Reaching ones Goal!

Welcome Back!

Today I will be concluding my explanation of the fundamental story elements addressed in my post entitled “Making a list and Checking it Twice”. The eighth and final point is the Goal.

As seen in my previous posts, the Plot is a series of events which are played out by Characters, who are working to resolve a Conflict. The Goal fits into this equation, as it is the central objective of a story which the Protagonist aims to achieve. One could say that the Goal serves as motivation for the Character.


When initially introduced, the Goal will seem impossible or unattainable. This is to help create tension in the story line. Furthermore, the Goal is not limited to being a object. It can be anything from a location, a task, state of mind, knowledge or desire. However, through the course of the story, a number of obstacles will be removed or additional information will surface, clarifying the Goal and possible ways to achieve it.

Once the Goal has been obtained, the story enters the resolution phase of the narrative. The resolution of a story is when the action begins to slow down, all the plot lines are resolved, loose ends tied up and any required explanations are given. An important thing to remember is that a good resolution should keep the reader engages, and leave them with a sense of closure and satisfaction.

When everything has been covered, this is when a conclusion is reached. The ending of a gripping story usually has one of three outcomes: a happy ending, an unhappy ending or an unresolved ending.

The Happy Ending

         These types of endings are easily identifiable; the main Character has reached their Goal, the Conflict has been resolved and the Setting returns to a state of normalcy. The Happy Ending is arguably the most popular type of conclusion among literature in the Western culture. Though it is generally well-received, the Happy Ending’s only downfall is that it has a tendency of making a story predictable.

The Unhappy Ending

The Unhappy Endings are just as easily identifiable; the Villainous character wins, the Hero dies, the Setting is left in chaos or the Goal is never achieved. The Unhappy Ending is an unconventional type of resolution that has been growing in popularity. It incorporates a plot with a twist ending meant to shock the reader, taking them by surprise. Though they are generally original and imaginative, the Unhappy Ending has a tendency to leave the reader unsatisfied.

The Unresolved Ending

In more recent Literature, an ambiguous or subtle resolution has been used over those that solve the conflict. These endings are left open to the readers' interpretations, making it seem like the story goes on after the book is finished. If the Unresolved Ending is done properly, the Readers will feel both surprised and satisfied by the outcome. However, the fact everyone perceives a story differently opens this type of ending to the risk that it will not be understood as the Author intended.

Nearly every form of narrative has a Goal of some kind, as its resolution provides a sense of completion to the story that cannot be achieved otherwise. Whether they wish to reach it or prevent it, the Goal should be the Characters primary concern until it is achieved.

I hope I managed to clear a few things up for you. Until next time.


Patrick Osborne

(edited on 03-22-2016)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

En Garde! Conflict in Literature

Welcome Back!

As I was looking for the fundamental elements of storytelling in my original post, “Making a List and Checking it Twice”, the seventh point I mentioned was Conflict. I have found quite a few interesting points on this subject during my research, and I wish to share them with you today.

What I have learned recently is that Conflict is not just about pitting two forces against each other and seeing what happens. There are multiple levels to Conflict that must be addressed in order to make a story not only believable, but interesting.

Conflict in literature is the interaction between two opposing forces that have incompatible or contradictory objectives. In a storyline, this phenomenon is observable when the protagonist is confronted by a conflicting force or an antagonist, which hinders the progress between them and their goal.

The Conflict is an essential element of a storyline. Previously, I explained how the Plot was a series of events within a story, and that Characters were responsible for taking actions in order to progress through those events. The purpose of the Conflict is to motivate those Characters, in order to give them a reason as to why they wish to take action. The possible resolution of the Conflict is the goal of the main Character, and the reason why the audience keeps reading. It also suggests the protagonists may not succeed in achieving these actions, thus creating uncertainty and tension. Without Conflict, a story has no purpose other than to be informative.

A story is also not limited to a single Conflict, although one often takes center stage over the others. Conflict in narrative comes in many forms and can usually be identified by one of the six basic types of confrontation:

  1. Person against Person: In this category, conflict involves stories where the central character is challenged by another character. This type of external confrontation is very common in traditional literature and can manifest itself in various forms (physical combat, competition, rivalry, etc).

  2. Person against Self: A “person vs. self” conflict happens when the main character battles him or herself. They may find themselves plagued with doubt or are faced with a difficult choice. Though this struggle is internal, the conflict is usually associated with an external issue, and may involve other characters.

  3. Person against Society: This category is when a person confronts a man-made institution (such as law, tradition, government, slavery, etc). In stories where the conflict is against society, the main characters are forced to make moral choices against social rules that prevent them from reaching their own goals.

  4. Person against Nature: A “person vs. nature” conflict is an external struggle placing the main character against an animal or a force of nature. These types of stories usually involves survival against the elements, such as natural disasters, storms or harsh living conditions.

  5. Person against Supernatural: This type of conflict involves the protagonist fighting forces that typically defy the laws of nature and are beyond scientific understanding. The Supernatural is a very broad category, and can include anything from ghosts, to monsters, to aliens. Some sources I have come across also include God and religion in this category.

  6. Person against Technology: Here, the main character must face some form of technological obstacle. These stories can vary between a villain using technology against society, robots attempting to take over the world, or the main character struggling to deal with the new technology of a changing world.


        Identifying the type of conflict is pretty straightforward, and finding a solution for how the characters will resolve the issue is essential to any storyline. However, after studying the notion of Conflict even further, I discovered that it can be expressed through different perspectives, giving the story a well-balanced and complete feel to it. I learned that this technique has been used in movies and books for years, but have only now made the association.

There are four areas that help define Conflict: Situation, Fixed Attitude, Activity and Thought Process. If all four perspectives are covered and linked together, then the confrontation will be exposed in its entirety, allowing the audience a better understanding of the Conflict. These four elements can be used in many different ways, and depending where the focus of the conflict is, it can change the feel of your story.

Four Areas of Conflict
  • The Situation: Refers to the fixed state someone or something finds themselves in at the beginning of the story. The situation may be good, bad, or neutral, but the focus must be on the exploration of said situation, not on how it is changing. The Situation can be anything from where a character is in their life or how a certain institution functions. If we were to connect these to a conflict, we could show how the character is unhappy with his life, or how an institution is going out of business.

  • The Fixed Attitude: Refers to a fixed mindset or attitude, that can be represented in the story by either a single person or a group of people. The Fixed Attitude is usually a given and not re-evaluated, and can be negative or positive. An example of a problematic Fixed Attitude in a Narrative could be a father’s condescending manners towards his child or a company that refuses to modernize its technology in order to compete in todays market.
  • The Activity: Refers to an event or endeavour, which brings (or forces) change to the current Situation. Whereas the Situation is fixed, Activity is dynamic, causing things to evolve and change. An Activity can be the cause of Conflict, examples could be illegal smuggling in a neighborhood or a rebellion against the Government.
  • The Thought Process: Represents the process of consideration, debating between logical and emotional aspects of a problem, in the hopes of arriving at a conclusion. The purpose of this process is not to focus on the decision, so much as to examine it from all perspectives. A problematic Thought Process in the Narrative can be seen as conflicting ideologies or one party attempting to manipulate the other.

           When balanced properly, an effective story can deliver substance and meaning to the Audience. The patterns of conflict, as explained by Dramatica, allows the writer to broaden their imagination, to explore the different angles, thus reaching a level of originality difficult to obtain otherwise.

In closing, I enjoyed this lesson, as I learned a lot in the process. A story would be boring without conflict, which is probably why all stories worth telling have a problem to solve. While conflicts may not always be resolved by a story's end, the resolution of a conflict creates closure, which gives the reader a sense of accomplishment.

I hope you enjoyed this lesson! Until next time.


Patrick Osborne.

(edited 03-08-2016)

Thursday, March 12, 2015

The Plot Line

Welcome Back!

Referring back to my first post entitled “Making a List and Checking it Twice”, I will now address the sixth (and by my opinion the most complicated) fundamental element for writing a novel: the Plot.

I’ve had experience concocting plots for short stories or table top PnP games, but I hope to learn more about building complex, compelling plots before I undertake the massive challenge of writing a novel.

In literary terms, the plot is a series of interconnected events, meant to organize information in a comprehensive sequence, which leads the audience to an intended outcome. It is the foundation of a story, built around characters and settings. Every event mentioned usually has a specific meaning or importance; establishing connections, suggesting causes, and showing relationships.

The plot has many different purposes. It begins by establishing the main characters and the setting, drawing attention to the key components which will be explored in the story. It then shows how these important elements are linked together, and how they will affect the outcome. The plot then guides the audience through a logical pattern of events, gradually revealing information, building up tension until it reaches the conflict. This conflict is what motivates the characters to act or change, moving the narrative forward, leading the reader to the climax. Once the climax has been resolved, the audience then follows the plot through the falling action and onto the ending. This entire process is meant to hook the reader, create an emotional attachment that will draw them in, wanting to know what happens next. By the end, the reader should have a sense of completion and satisfaction from the story's conclusion.

The plot itself is composed of five elements:

Welcome to Plot Mountain!

  • Exposition: Also known as the beginning or the introduction, this is where the characters, setting and other plot elements are revealed. Depending on the size of the narrative, the introduction can vary from a few paragraphs to a couple of chapters. Another important point in the introduction, is the narrative hook, which the author uses to catch the reader's attention.
  • Rising Action: The rising action is a series of events building up in intensity, in turn leading to the conflict. Normally the main characters and setting have been established by this point, allowing the author to focus on excitement, tension and crisis. The conflict or main problem is introduced, and though the characters may take actions against it though, they will not succeed in resolving the issue until later.

  • Climax: Also referred to as the turning point, this moment in the story is meant to be the peak of highest interest and emotion. It is the point where the characters confront the conflict, and face the possibility that they may or may not succeed in resolving it. The climax guides the reader through the characters interaction with the conflict and (hopeful) resolution of the situation.
  • Falling Action: In this part of the plot, the reader knows what has happened following the conflict. The events and other complications begin to resolve as a result of the actions taken by the characters.
  • Resolution: Also known as the ending or the conclusion, this part of the plot concludes the falling action by completing all elements addressed in the story; loose ends are tied up, conflicts are concluded, outcomes are revealed and a happy or tragic ending takes place.

Any plot will have these basic elements to it, however the way in which the story elements are arranged will affect it’s structure. Structure will vary depending on the needs of the story, thus dictating how information is presented to the audience. It is like how certain information will be withheld in a mystery novel in order to not reveal the true nature of the plot before the end. There exists various forms of storytelling structure, but here are the basic four types:

  • Linear Plot: This is a chronological structure where the story relates events in the order in which they happened. They first establish the setting and conflict, then move on to the rising action, through to a central climax and concludes with a denouement.
  • Non-linear Plot: This structure is when the narrative moves back in time, giving the reader information about events that occurred previously; either earlier in or possibly even prior to the story. This phenomenon is often called “flashbacks”. Though they can occasionally be problematic for the reader to comprehend, if done well, they allow the author to begin the story in the midst of the action, coming back at a later point to fill in the background for better understanding.
  • Episodic Plot: Also based on a chronological structure, this plot has a series of incidents tied together by a common theme and/or characters. This structure is best used to explore various character personalities, their backgrounds, different settings or eras.
  • Parallel Plot: Two or more progressive plots that are intertwined, usually linked by a common character and/or theme.
Additionally to the plot structure, there are various plot types. Now, I have been reading about plot types recently, and the “school of thought” on this subject seems very diverse to say the least. There seems to be six different opinions on the number of possible plot lines (1, 3, 4, 7, 20, 36). I will give a quick overview of each, from my understanding.

1 Plot Line Theory: This version is so basic, that it strips away everything but the actual definition of what a plot is; a series of events leading to the solving of a conflict (Protagonist “A” attempts to solve Conflict “B” in order to reach Goal “C”). It encompasses every form of literature.

3 Plot Line Theory: This version seems to be focused on the resolution of a plot. The three options are based on the possible end results a story may have: the happy ending, the unhappy ending, or the ending that would happen regardless of actions taken. I agree that the ending should have an impact on the path leading to it, but the outcome should not dictate the journey. Though it is important, I still feel this option is too vague.

4 Plot Line Theory: In this version, the storyline is guided by one of the key elements of the story. The four elements are: the milieu (or setting), the idea (or theme), the characters or the event (or conflict). Each of these four possibilities would have a great and varied impact on the narrative. Like the three plotline theory, I feel that the four plotline structure is still a little vague.

7 Plot Line Theory: The seven plotline theory is based on the plot’s conflict. The options are: man vs. nature, man vs. man, man vs. environment, man vs. technology, man vs. the supernatural, man vs. self and man vs. religion. I personally believe that describing a plot by it’s conflict is the best option, as it gives the perfect idea of the events that will transpire in the story, without going into specifics.

20 Plot Line Theory: Also referred to as the “Master Plots”, this theory seems to be focused on the theme within the story. The plot is built around the underlying message of a story. Here is the list for the 20 Plot Line Theory:
  1. Adventure
  2. Ascension
  3. Descension
  4. Discovery
  5. Escape
  6. Forbidden Love
  7. Love
  8. Maturation
  9. Metamorphosis
  10. Pursuit
  11. Quest
  12. Rescue
  13. Revenge
  14. Riddle
  15. Rivalry
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Temptation
  18. Transformation
  19. Underdog
  20. Wretched Excess.

36 Plot Line Theory: Also referred to as the “Dramatic Situations”, this theory seems to be focused on the subject, or the “what is going on” of the story.The plot is built around the reason behind the story, helping make the subject the centerpiece of the story. Here is the list for the 36 Plot Line Theory:
  1. Abduction
  2. Adultery
  3. Adultery (leading to Murder)
  4. Ambition
  5. Being subjected to Cruelty of Misfortune
  6. Conflict with a God
  7. Crime Pursued by Vengeance
  8. Crimes of Love
  9. Crimes of Love (Involuntary)
  10. Daring Enterprise
  11. Deliverance
  12. Disaster
  13. Discovery of the Dishonor of a Loved One
  14. Enigma
  15. Enmity of Kinsmen
  16. Erroneous Judgement
  17. Fatal Imprudence
  18. Love (for an Enemy)
  19. Love (loss of Loved Ones)
  20. Love (obstacles preventing love)
  21. Madness
  22. Mistaken Jealousy
  23. Obtaining
  24. Pursuit
  25. Recovery of a Lost One
  26. Remorse
  27. Revolt
  28. Rivalry (of Kinsmen)
  29. Rivalry (of Superior and Inferior)
  30. Sacrifice (of Self for an Ideal)
  31. Sacrifice (of Self for Kindred)
  32. Sacrifice (of Self for Passion)
  33. Sacrifice (Necessity of Sacrificing Loved Ones)
  34. Slaying of a Kinsman Unrecognized
  35. Supplication
  36. Vengeance taken for kindred upon kindred

              Given the difference in opinions on how Plot Types should be classified, it is normal to still be somewhat perplexed by the structure of a plot. The theories I have come across feel either too vague or too specific to offer any good insight on the various types of plot structure. So, using the details I listed above, I plan on using an amalgamation of the 4 and 7 plot line theory (based on key elements and conflict) for my works in progress. Hopefully you will get to see the end results!

That is all for today, hope I managed to teach you something new! So until next time!


Patrick Osborne

(edited 2016-01-13)