Pecked and Dented, part 1

Posted: July 14, 2008 in Uncategorized
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In my last episodic babble, I was thinking about using the Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot (from William Denton’s Miskatonic University Press) to organize my story in progress, “Pecked.” It’s like this:

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story … It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.

“Pecked” is the pulpiest story I’ve ever done. Like most stories I write these days, it’s set in South Florida (The Keys and Everglades,) but unlike many of my recent stories there are no supernatural elements. Didn’t really need any, there’s plenty of subnatural weirdness to go around.

The story’s about a professional bird smuggler, Kellerman, who has scored the “holy grail of American ornithology:” a pair of extinct Ivory-Billed Woodpeckers, cloned by the Cuban government in a secret government project. Things go well until he gets to the Keys. then the shit hits the fan.

How does this work with the Master Plot?

First 1500 Words

  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 endeavours 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?**

One problem I have off the bat, the damn story ballooned to 10k words. A lot of it’ll get stripped out, but for now we’ll just cut what we have in to four pieces.

So… how did I do with the first quarter?

  1. Got it covered. A secret rendezvous off the coast of Cuba, a mysterious package, a high speed flight to the states. After leaving Cuba comes the troubles: his boat is hit by lightning and explodes, he almost drowns, he shreds his feet on coral and has to trudge through the mangrove muck on his elbows and knees.
  2. Early on, his survival is his challenge. Once on shore, he must brave the worst Mother Nature can throw at him to find civilization. He changes from in-charge mercenary to pathetic victim along the way.
  3. Oops, not with the plan here. Only two other (non-woodpecker) characters appear in the first quarter. The remaining ones show up in the next round.
  4. Conflict? Oh, yeah. Unless you don’t count eyeball enucleation by a homicidal communist woodpecker as conflict.
  5. Twist? Just as he’s about to shoot the two woodpeckers, a familiar female voice calls out and someone tackles him.

Conclusion: as written, the story fits the first part of the formula. I have a feeling it’s going to drift away from the program in later installments, but we’ll just have to see. The last half of the story hasn’t been glued in place yet and may get ripped out and dented.

Or not.

** By Lester Dent. (Posted in October 1995 to alt.pulp by Jason A. Wolcott; taken from “Bigger Than Life: The Creator of Doc Savage,” by Marilyn Cannaday (Bowling Green, Ohio: Bowling Green State University Popular Press, 1990), a biography of Lester Dent.)


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