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33 Acquisition

I was so anxious to see what won this year, that I pre-ordered the anthology two weeks before scheduled release and jumped right to the Golden Pen story almost the moment the book downloaded to my phone's Kindle app.

Jake Marley's urban fantasy paranormal occult thriller is quite a good read. The milestones follow, in two tables, as usual: the first, of exerpts; the second, of summaries.


Writers of the Future Golden Pen Milestones

One very productive exercise has been working out how to win the Writers of the Future Golden Pen award. One line of research is the structure and content of the winning stories, of which there is only one each year: one story that wins first place in its quarter and beats out the three other quarterly first place winners for the top prize.

In this section of the Milestone Archive, I analyze the milestone structure of the Golden Pen stories from Writers of the Future volumes 25 through 32.

32 Squalor and Misery

Like all Writers of the Future Golden Pen winners, Matt Dovey's steampunk fantasy "Squalor and Misery" won both its quarter and its year, so it's well worth some study if you want to take a nastier bite at the worm.

In my Kindle reader, the story covers 432 locations, from 2688 to 3119.

The first table contains excerpts lifted from the exact locations indicated by my milestoning spreadsheet.

Hero - Milestones

This artsy martial arts flick unfolds in an unusual fashion, but it still has the right stuff in the right places.

Assassin Nameless and conqueror King of Qin swap versions of Nameless's story as Nameless decides whether to kill the king or let him go on to rule China.

Grand Hotel: Dialogue and Engagement, Part 1b: Participatory Engagement

Now we're getting into the good stuff. It's fine to watch somebody interesting do something interesting. That's a big part of what stories are for. But the sidelines only go so far. We want in on the action. We want to take part.

What do you do when you start a new school? You orient. You look around. What's different from your old school? What's the same? What should you be aware of? Where's your desk. Where's the exit? Where's the loo? Who are the nice kids? Who are the bullies? What does your teacher expect? What are the rules?

Grand Hotel: Dialogue and Engagement, Part 1a: Personal Engagement

Personal engagement is all about how each audience member feels about each person in the story. If they empathize, they see themselves in the character's shoes, they feel for the character as another human being, even if the character is very different from them--even if the character is not presented as a human being. If we notice someone in a situation, we tend to imagine ourselves in their place and project our feelings about the situation onto that person.

Grand Hotel: Dialogue and Engagement, Part 1: Principles

People are funny when it comes to the mechanics of things they do without thinking. Take language. How many times as a missionary in Haiti or English teacher in Taiwan have I heard that some language I'm struggling to master has no grammar? Too many! Of course Haitian Creole and Mandarin Chinese have grammars. They wouldn't be languages without them--and they wouldn't be so hard (or interesting) to learn if we could just slap their vocabulary onto our native languages' morphology and syntax.

Grand Hotel: Dialogue and Engagement

One of the biggest headaches in narrative is what to reveal when and how to reveal it. Nowhere is this headache more intense than at the beginning of a narrative, the Setup, where we describe the Initial State of our change elements and create anticipation for the conflict the narrative exists to relate. Reveal too much, and you spoil the punch line. Reveal too little, and things don't make sense.

Rashomon - Milestones

This 1950 Japanese film by Akira Kurosawa proceeds in the form of testimony by three participants and two witnesses. A bandit is on trial for the murder of a samurai and the rape of the samurai's wife. A woodcutter discovered the samurai's body and a priest saw the couple traveling through the woods. The beggar questions the woodcutter and priest about the trial. The samurai testifies through a medium.