A Peek Under The Hood

This post is a look inside my storysculpting machine.

As soon as I have the basic storyline for a novel sketched out, I begin adding elements earlier in the plot that highlight character development as it happens (as opposed to when I noticed its necessity, usually while writing climatic action. Pantsing. It has its moments.)
Sometimes a few lines of dialogue or a descriptive sentence are all I need to emphasize a point. Other times I need to write or expand scenes like the one below.

It may not make the final cut, like two sex scenes I’m still on the fence about including. Despite all the hours I spend on research, details, and dialogue, good material must be scrapped to improve pacing or maintain consistent tone. Those aspects can’t be properly judged until the whole story is completely sculpted and rough-polished.

(Me, I think the sex scenes illustrate personal growth that leads to later, plot-critical choices, but so far I am a minority of one in that opinion. And no, I’m not posting explicit M/M  or M/M/F action out here on the open web so you can judge for yourself. I haven’t even completed the second one. Sex scenes are hard. So to speak.)

ANYway. Here’s a an out-of-context snippet from Prodigals, a Restoration prequel novel.

* * *

Parker passed Yoshi on the way upstairs, taking the steps two and three at a time. Yoshi gave him ample space, but the man stopped and turned back a few steps up.

Now what? Yoshi froze. Parker was even less comfortable company than Wanda. Like her, he gave off a tangible sense of contained violence. Right now he also smelled like a full waste bin out back of a nasty bar. His gray uniform was sweat-stained, his upper lip was split and swollen, and his face was impressively blank.

Yoshi had spent an hour making the man’s brother cry. Please don’t blame me, he thought. “What’s up?”

“You did good tonight,” Parker said.

He had eyes almost as pretty as Carl’s: equally intense but in a warm palette of greens and browns that complemented the tan of his skin.  Yoshi could imagine him lurking in jungle like the jaguars that showed up on signs everywhere here in Panama. He would blend into the shadows without need for camouflage.

Not that Yoshi had to imagine Parker in a jungle. He’d met the man near a grubby bar in Davao City, surrounded by lush overgrowth and the burnt wreckage of the third Filipino civil war. Looking up at him like this was an dramatic reminder of how much had changed in a few short years.

For one thing, Yoshi was wearing a lot more clothes. “I try,” he said. 

Parker shook his head and went back to to stair-vaulting, leaving Yoshi to wonder if he should’ve said something more. Everyone knew Parker was banging the boss. That wasn’t supposed to matter, but Yoshi couldn’t shake the fear that getting on the man’s bad side might get him on Terry’s bad side by association.

“Wait,” he called, and hustled after Parker when the request was ignored.

That was exactly how he’d met Parker: sprinting barefoot along a packed-dirt alleyway behind the astonishing puti who’d knifed his way out of a bar brawl—the same one who’d started the brawl over a customer taking liberties with Yoshi.

Hope and desperation had sent Yoshi after the man that day.

“Hey, wait, ‘kano,” he’d called then. “Don’t hit the main street looking like that. You’ll end up in a police cage. I got clean water, clean towels back at my place. Yours for cheap.”

The man slowed down, turned. “I saved your ass in there, and you’ll charge me to wash up? You’ll sell anything, is that it?”

His disdain hit like a slap across the face. The man was bold and dangerous in that way all the occupation mercs were. Bright eyes, hard muscles, big hands. Bloody hands, at the moment. Not someone Yoshi should’ve followed. Maybe he should’ve stayed behind and begged for his job back.

No. This is opportunity knocking. Working that bar was as close to rock-bottom as Yoshi wanted to get. He needed money so he could get to a bigger town and get a decent job. If he could get seed funds he would be fine. He couldn’t back down now.

His spine straightened, and his stomach tightened. “I got paid to sell booze and not cause trouble,” he said. “I’m out of a job, thanks to you. Least you can do is throw me a bone. Your spare change is my rent for a month.”

The man laughed and turned away. “You want a bone, puppy? Follow me home.”

Gathering up his courage and running after Parker that day was the best decision Yoshi had ever made. He gathered it again and caught up to Parker outside Carl’s room.

And when Parker spun around, Yoshi swallowed down the rush of nerves and said, “Thank you. That’s what I meant to say.” Thank you for this life.

Parker’s eyes narrowed, and then he tipped his head forward, acknowledging all the unsaid things before he palmed open the lock to Carl’s room. The door closed behind him with an emphatic click.


Yoshi grinned all the way to his quarters.