Thursday, April 25, 2019

Rat Hunt Segment

I should be working on Incident in a Japanese Inn, but I'm on vacation and decided to instead write another segment of Rat Hunt.

The following is to be considered a rough draft. You can read the first excerpt here.


The prison bus pulled up in front of a nondescript stone house somewhere in Manhattan. Aside from the bus driver and a prison guard, Conrad sat alone, his hands cuffed. He had no idea where he was, and he had learned after three years into a lengthy prison sentence not to waste time with questions. Answers, at least the ones you needed, were seldom forthcoming.

The guard said nothing but opened the gate that separated the driver and his escort from the prisoners and motioned toward the open bus door. Conrad stood up and made his way up the narrow aisle. For a moment he considered a possible escape scenario. Conrad couldn’t help it. The thoughts had become second nature, but his hands were cuffed, and he wouldn’t be able to run any distance without being shot down in the street.

Conrad stepped down off the bus steps, and the guard took him by the arm, steering Conrad toward the door of the house.

Inside, the entryway was bare. The guard steered Conrad away from stairs that went to the second floor toward a set of double doors. 

The guard knocked and opened the door without hesitation.

An elderly gray-haired woman sat at a plain table with a empty chair facing her. A large mirror adorned the one wall.

“Remove his cuffs and wait outside,” the woman said. The guard nodded, unlocked the cuffs on Conrad’s hands and stepped outside the room closing the door behind him.

“Sit,” the woman said, motioning to the chair across the table. She opened up a manila folder and studied the papers inside. “Conrad Gavin,” she read. “Currently serving the third year of a thirty-year sentence as a guest in Sing Sing. Previous employment, an enforcer for an organized crime family.”

Conrad sat and said nothing. 

The woman closed the folder. “How would you like to have that sentence reduced to ten years?”

Conrad paused for a moment trying to read the woman’s body language. “I’m listening.”

The woman sat back in her chair. “Of course, there’s a catch. You have to go through a lot of testing first to make sure you’re completely suitable to the task at hand, but you fit what we’re looking for: single, no family, military experience, a good business ethic.” She tapped the folder with her fingertips. “Even if you were working the opposite side of the law.”

“You are implying you want a job done. What’s the job?”

The woman smiled, and Conrad saw no mirth in it. “Let’s say we want you to be a security guard. An honest day’s work for room and board, a small retirement account, and you get to walk in seven years.”

“What’s the catch?”

“Let’s just say there’s some risk involved. You in?”

Again Conrad paused deliberately showing no emotion on his face.

“I don’t kill people,” he said. “I was an enforcer, not a hitman. My job was to frighten people into doing something or stop doing something.”

“We would never ask you to kill another human being,” the woman said.

“Then seeing that in thirty years I’m in my 60s with a good chunk of my life gone, I’ll take your offer.”

The woman nodded. “Smart move. We start the testing right away.”

The next three days consisted of lots of psychological tests. Conrad had his own personal room where his meals were served. The door was locked at night. 

The doctors spoke to Conrad with no emotion, performing their tests impassively as if they were robots.

On the morning of the fourth day, Conrad was led back to the room where he had first met the woman. A doctor sat there with a blanket covered box at his feet. 

“Please sit,” the doctor said.

Reaching down, the doctor put the cage on the table and removed the blanket. Inside the cage, a large gray rat hissed and growled.

The doctor observed Conrad carefully. “Ever seen a rat before?” he asked.

Conrad laughed. “I’ve lived in New York all my life. Rats are the only wildlife the city has. Well ... rats and pigeons.”

“Ever kill a rat?”

Conrad shrugged. “A couple. Ones that got in my house.”

The doctor nodded. “Are you afraid of rats?’

Conrad shook his head. “No rat has threatened my life so many times I’ve lost count. No rat has ever told me in detail what they were going to do with my body after they had killed me.” He gestured toward the cage and its occupant. “This little guy is no threat to me.”

“But if it attacked you?”

“Can’t outrun a rat. You kill it.”

The doctor opened up his suit jacket and took out a small electronic tablet. He tapped on the screen and then held it out to Conrad. “What about this rat?”

Conrad watched the video that had already begun playing. He felt a growing wave of horror.

The video showed a man in a doctor’s lab coat standing over a large table dissecting a body. The body was a huge rat, quite dead, longer than the table, it’s misshapen, clawed feet hung over the end of the table.

In the video, the doctor pried open the creature’s jaws to reveal its front incisors, a good two or three inches long. The doctor then lifted a brown-furred paw for the camera showing three-inch long claws at the end of each finger. The doctor waved to his right. The camera panned over to show another one of the rat corpses placed in a standing position. The monster stood on two feet and towered over the man in the video.

“What is this?” Conrad whispered.

“That,” the doctor said, “is Rattus erectus. Hundreds, most likely thousands, of them live under New York. They attack in swarms. We want you to join a group of select people who wage war against these monsters and keep them underground.”

Conrad stared at the doctor in silence.

“Take a day to think about it,” the doctor said. “If you agree you’ll discover we have some interesting tools at your disposal. If you say no, you go back to your prison cell. We know you won’t be telling anybody about this. You have neither friends or family to talk to anyway. And if you did say something, nobody would believe you.”

Monday, April 15, 2019

The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot

Lester Dent
What follows is the writing formula designed by Lester Dent (1904 – 1959), an American pulp-fiction author, best known as the creator and main author of the series of novels about the scientist and adventurer Doc Savage, consisting of 159 novels written over 16 years under the name Kenneth Robeson.

The Lester Dent Pulp Paper Master Fiction Plot

This is a formula, a master plot, for any 6000 word pulp story. It has worked on adventure, detective, western and war-air. It tells exactly where to put everything. It shows definitely just what must happen in each successive thousand words.

No yarn of mine written to the formula has yet failed to sell.

The business of building stories seems not much different from the business of building anything else.

Here's how it starts:


One of these DIFFERENT things would be nice, two better, three swell. It may help if they are fully in mind before tackling the rest.

A different murder method could be--different. Thinking of shooting, knifing, hydrocyanic, garroting, poison needles, scorpions, a few others, and writing them on paper gets them where they may suggest something. Scorpions and their poison bite? Maybe mosquitos or flies treated with deadly germs?

If the victims are killed by ordinary methods, but found under strange and identical circumstances each time, it might serve, the reader of course not knowing until the end, that the method of murder is ordinary. 

Scribes who have their villain's victims found with butterflies, spiders or bats stamped on them could conceivably be flirting with this gag.

Probably it won't do a lot of good to be too odd, fanciful or grotesque with murder methods.

The different thing for the villain to be after might be something other than jewels, the stolen bank loot, the pearls, or some other old ones.

Here, again one might get too bizarre.

Unique locale? Easy. Selecting one that fits in with the murder method and the treasure--thing that villain wants--makes it simpler, and it's also nice to use a familiar one, a place where you've lived or worked. So many pulpateers don't. It sometimes saves embarrassment to know nearly as much about the locale as the editor, or enough to fool him.

Here's a nifty much used in faking local color. For a story laid in Egypt, say, author finds a book titled "Conversational Egyptian Easily Learned," or something like that. He wants a character to ask in Egyptian, "What's the matter?" He looks in the book and finds, "El khabar, eyh?" To keep the reader from getting dizzy, it's perhaps wise to make it clear in some fashion, just what that means. Occasionally the text will tell this, or someone can repeat it in English. But it's a doubtful move to stop and tell the reader in so many words the English translation.

The writer learns they have palm trees in Egypt. He looks in the book, finds the Egyptian for palm trees, and uses that. This kids editors and readers into thinking he knows something about Egypt.

Here's the second installment of the master plot. 

Divide the 6000 word yarn into four 1500 word parts. In each 1500 word part, put the following:


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 endevours 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?

At this point, it might help to recall that action should do something besides advance the hero over the scenery. Suppose the hero has learned the dastards of villains have seized somebody named Eloise, who can explain the secret of what is behind all these sinister events. The hero corners villains, they fight, and villains get away. Not so hot.

Hero should accomplish something with his tearing around, if only to rescue Eloise, and surprise! Eloise is a ring-tailed monkey. The hero counts the rings on Eloise's tail, if nothing better comes to mind. They're not real. The rings are painted there. Why?


1--Shovel more grief onto the hero.
2--Hero, being heroic, struggles, and his struggles lead up to:
3--Another physical conflict.
4--A surprising plot twist to end the 1500 words.

NOW: Does second part have SUSPENSE?
Does the MENACE grow like a black cloud?
Is the hero getting it in the neck?
Is the second part logical?

DON'T TELL ABOUT IT***Show how the thing looked. This is one of the secrets of writing; never tell the reader--show him. (He trembles, roving eyes, slackened jaw, and such.) MAKE THE READER SEE HIM.

When writing, it helps to get at least one minor surprise to the printed page. It is reasonable to to expect these minor surprises to sort of  inveigle the reader into keeping on. They need not be such profound efforts. One method of accomplishing one now and then is to be gently misleading. Hero is examining the murder room. The door behind him begins slowly to open. He does not see it. He conducts his examination blissfully. Door eases open, wider and wider, until--surprise! The glass pane falls out of the big window across the room. It must have fallen slowly, and air blowing into the room caused the door to open. Then what the heck made the pane fall so slowly? More mystery.

Characterizing a story actor consists of giving him some things which make him stick in the reader's mind. TAG HIM. 



1--Shovel the grief onto the hero.
2--Hero makes some headway, and corners the villain or somebody in:
3--A physical conflict.
4--A surprising plot twist, in which the hero preferably gets it in the neck bad, to end the 1500 words.

DOES: It still have SUSPENSE?
The MENACE getting blacker?
The hero finds himself in a hell of a fix?
It all happens logically?

These outlines or master formulas are only something to make you certain of inserting some physical conflict, and some genuine plot twists, with a little suspense and menace thrown in. Without them, there is no pulp story.

These physical conflicts in each part might be DIFFERENT, too. If one fight is with fists, that can take care of the pugilism until next the next yarn. Same for poison gas and swords. There may, naturally, be exceptions. A hero with a peculiar punch, or a quick draw, might use it more than once.

The idea is to avoid monotony.

Vivid, swift, no words wasted. Create suspense, make the reader see and feel the action.

Hear, smell, see, feel and taste.

Trees, wind, scenery and water.



1--Shovel the difficulties more thickly upon the hero.
2--Get the hero almost buried in his troubles. (Figuratively, the villain has him prisoner and has him framed for a murder rap; the girl is presumably dead, everything is lost, and the DIFFERENT murder method is about to dispose of the suffering protagonist.)
3--The hero extricates himself using HIS OWN SKILL, training or brawn.
4--The mysteries remaining--one big one held over to this point will help grip interest--are cleared up in course of final conflict as hero takes the situation in hand.
5--Final twist, a big surprise, (This can be the villain turning out to be the unexpected person, having the "Treasure" be a dud, etc.)
6--The snapper, the punch line to end it.

HAS: The SUSPENSE held out to the last line?
The MENACE held out to the last?
Everything been explained?
It all happen logically?
Is the Punch Line enough to leave the reader with that WARM FEELING?
Did God kill the villain? Or the hero?

Friday, April 12, 2019

The House: An Excerpt

As I have written before, dreams turned into literary works are usually the most boring pieces of fiction a person can read. Therefore, I use my nightly wanderings to inspire my writing, not dictate it. The subjective archetypes and symbols of a private dream world must be made universal to be understood. 

So here's a little something for your amusement, an adaption of a dream escapade I had that may turn into something bigger. Maybe.

The House
by Alan Loewen

"This house ain't haunted," the woman said. "It's possessed!"

She stood on the front porch of my new home, and I had no idea what to say. I knew two days after I moved in that the house had something wrong with it, but I had no desire to talk to a stranger about it — especially one wearing a housecoat and smelling of age and old cigarettes.

"Uh," I managed to say. "Okay. Thanks."

She looked at me as if I had just told her the Easter Bunny wasn't real and with an incredulous shake of her head she turned and walked down my front steps. I watched her cross the road and disappear into the dilapidated house standing there. 

It took the lady five days after moving into my new home for her to introduce herself and that to give me some ominous Grade-B movie warning. It only confirmed that as an introvert, my reaching out to anybody in the neighborhood served as a good idea.

I shut the door and walked into the living room, sat back down on the couch and turned the volume back up on the television. 

I heard the footsteps start on the stairs again. They always began on the ground floor and went up to the second. After the first two days of moving in, I learned to ignore them. The stairs would be empty as they always were and I had no idea on how to make it stop. I had stood on the stairs for hours on the second day, but my invisible guest never made an appearance. I could only hear the footsteps when I occupied another room.

I also got used to waking up with every door of the house wide open as well as the muffled sounds of yelling from the basement. And no way was I going down there. I've seen too many movies. Anyway, other than the tour the real estate agent gave me, I've never been to the basement again, and since I own very little, there's nothing I need to store down there.

You have no idea of the hatred I have for basements.
You have no idea of the hatred I have for basements.

So, here I sit, shy, depressed, and wealthy enough from my online business I can even eat fast food twice a week as long as I have a coupon and can stick to the dollar menu.

I look at it this way. It leaves me alone, and I leave it alone. We can haunt the house together as far as I care.