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story Outpost 217

Alcove Audio Okay, here's Chapter One of the first draft of Outpost 217. Please feel free to rip it and me to shreds; I'm a big boy... And you can post it all right here, I'm won't embarrassed. (Has anyone ever noticed that's very close to Bare Assed?)

The dialog is my biggest worry. Does it sound natural? I try speaking it aloud, but........

Just a note to you actual military types and aficionados - Yes, I know it's BARCAP, Barrier Combat Air Patrol. But there is no air in outer space, so I changed it to BARCOP, Barrier Combat Outer Patrol. In later chapters I do similar things, such as CVG, Commander Void Group because, again, there is no air. Oh, and there is a CAG, Commander Atmosphere Group, for the commander of the specialists who dive in and out of atmosphere for planetary attacks. I still have a lot to do further refining my military nomenclature to adapt to my universe.

And I like "Void" better than "Space."

As Admiral Redstone would say, "Come on son, give it to me with the bark on."

And just for fun, try to put your elbow in your ear. 🙂 If you deign to read this, you'll get it.
Just read your first chapter... Couldn't reply in the other thread since it's now closed... LOL. I think this has potential and it's well written. There's really nothing to rip it apart about especially since it's a first draft. About the only thing that stuck out at me personally was the use of the words, "look, looks, looked" Fine for a first draft but like in screenwriting? In a subsequent pass, I would find the PERFECT ACTION VERB for words like these.

Since I was in the Navy for 21 years? The dialogue works for the most part. I don't want to split hairs because again, this is a first draft but on a subsequent pass for dialogue later on down the line? You could add a little military branch slang in there to give it even more of an authentic feel.

You're also gonna need a lot of commas... But again? This is the stuff of rewrites.

Last but not least but I feel worth mentioning since you brought up the dialogue? Just remember, even in the military, on-the-job dialogue is perfect when there's subordinates who are NOT part of an inner circle or team. When the team is alone? That dialogue lightens up a bit but not 100% especially if a lower-ranked character says something as if he or she is on the same level as the ranking officer. In other words, the ranking officer lightens up around his personal troops but they stay in character and often, their dialogue is more on-the-nose.

I think this is a great start though. Good luck with it!
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Thanks, Unknown. I very sincerely appreciate the response and for actually starting an entire thread just for -217. Wasn't sure if I was going to do it myself.

use of the words, "look, looks, looked" ... In a subsequent pass, I would find the PERFECT ACTION VERB for words like these.
Oh yeah. I struggled with that myself, but decided to just get the ideas down while they were flowing easily and I'm in the groove. In subsequent chapters I've been getting a little bit better with that. I'm also having trouble with all of the saluting required by military folks; he salutes, she salutes back, and have been having difficulty finding enough variations, and there's going to be A LOT of saluting as Redstone moves about the outpost. I have managed to get away from "and then, and then, and then."

As you are former military, am I correct in assuming that if it's an outpost or a base or an airfield or any other type of military facility they are all referred to as "stations?"

Another issue for me is the word "casual." I've been around enough military people to know that when a junior officer salutes a senior officer the junior is precise, but some senior officers return the honor casually. Depending upon his opinion of the person, Redstone varies his salute, so someone he respects or honors gets an equally precise salute. In a later chapter when he leaves the medical bay after visiting the wounded he gives the most precise parade ground salute possible to render his personal feeling of deepest respect. The less respect he has for someone the more casual his salute; but he never salutes sloppily, Redstone is NEVER sloppy. I'm still trying to figure out how to represent the varying degrees. There are many other similar issues that I know I'll need to resolve.

You could add a little military branch slang in there to give it even more of an authentic feel.

Yup. I need to work out a glossary for myself that works with my future universe. You've obviously read the few examples in my initial post. Hope they work okay for you. In the construction of my universe, although void military vessels retain their original navy-derived designations (cruiser, battleship, etc.), I go against the traditional naval pattern of vessels with big guns mostly protecting carriers or using long range weapons to strike targets as they do in this day and age. Their missions have changed.

Instead of using barn for home (the hanger) they call it a cage, as in birdcage. I figured that "birds" as slang for fighters and the like would hang on forever. Platforms that have heavy weapons go out to support the fighter-bomber attack groups. They call any vessel with big guns Bangers, with the idea that when they hit their target it goes up with a bang. Stealthy long range intelligence/surveillance ships are called Sneaky Petes. Automated surveillance drones are called Snoopers. Fueling vessels are called Nipple Ships. So a slanguage line would be, "After the Snoopers caught a whiff we tossed a couple of 'Petes out there to firm up the posit, then we sent in the bangers and birds. Then we all sucked on a Nipple and headed back to the cage." Is that more along the lines of what you're talking about?

My concept has been the type of language used represents the emotional state of the characters. When it comes to Sanchez telling Redstone what happened when they encounter each other at the outpost, I felt that a report, especially of the kind Sanchez gives to Redstone, would be more precise linguistically, because 1) it is a report from a lower ranking officer to one of the highest ranks; 2) it creates emotional distance from the situation and 3) out of respect; you don't use slang when talking about the fallen. Is that a mistake? I have been trying to think about subtext. When Sanchez and Redstone initially meet at the outpost the conversation before Sanchez's report is a bit stilted for several reasons. When Sanchez was an ensign Redstone bailed him out of a situation where Sanchez did something heroic, but very seriously breached regulations in the process. (That story is outlined, at least in my head; it goes into a later chapter.). Redstone saw tremendous potential in Sanchez, so very subtly influenced his career by getting him assignments with exceptional officers who could teach Sanchez a lot. Sanchez doesn't know this. But Redstone always seems to be around when Sanchez is passing through for reassignment, so they meet once in a while; Sanchez feels he doesn't know Redstone that well, if at all, but Sanchez is very grateful to Redstone and greatly admires him. The third context is the previously mentioned emotional distancing plus their surprise at seeing each other.

Just remember, even in the military, on-the-job dialogue is perfect when there's subordinates who are NOT part of an inner circle or team. When the team is alone? That dialogue lightens up a bit but not 100% especially if a lower-ranked character says something as if he or she is on the same level as the ranking officer. In other words, the ranking officer lightens up around his personal troops but they stay in character and often, their dialogue is more on-the-nose

I will definitely need to change that. As the characters evolve in the story (and during my development of the story) their positions will change on the various concentric circles in of Redstone confidence level regarding the characters.

As the Redstone character evolves we find out that he started as a pilot, one of the best that's ever been, and that was all he wanted to do when he joined up. Although he is a natural-born leader he actually detests being a leader, but his personal character forces him to take on the job every time. So when he gets to the outpost and finds a disaster on his hands he throws formality out the window to get to the bottom of things fast. His despite of his leadership position rankles so he would prefer to talk pilot to pilot and soldier to soldier anyway. He has "that way" about him that the lower ranks talk to Mad Max instead of Fleet Admiral Maxwell P. Redstone when he wants it so. In another section he speaks with the only surviving pilot of the raid; he enters as the Admiral, but having "that way" about him it's not an Admiral interviewing a Lieutenant, it's Mad Max talking pilot to pilot with Red Ed, with the added benefit that he gets better information when he reverts to Mad Max; the people to whom he is speaking give him the truth.

I guess that I have a lot to learn so I can make these types of distinctions more clear.

Oh, about killing our darlings? I'm having trouble picking between Bowman and Stillwell. I thought it was going to be Stillwell, but Bowman has become so interesting I'm thinking it might be her. Maybe I should kill them both, but a don't want to waste some good female characters. Perhaps it should be McCall. Hmmmmmmmm.......... Can't be Sanchez, he's the main protagonist in the story I initially wanted to tell; -217 is all prequel to that story.

My biggest question is, do you want to know what happens next? The story and characters mean a lot to me, but would anyone else be interested?


When I was in my early teens I worked on a charter fishing boat taking tourists out to catch flounder, weakfish and bluefish. The captain was a WWII vet and served in the Pacific. He was on a ship at Okinawa. (I saw the scars.) Consequently, we took out a lot of veterans groups. When we went off-shore on the two or more hour trip to look for bluefish we would leave the dock about 5:30am. I was only 15 my second summer (1973), but working on the water all day I got tanned and muscled up a bit so looked older. My grandpa and my dad taught me always to be respectful to my elders, so I was always saying "yes, sir" and "no, sir." I was occasionally asked what it was like in 'Nam. On those longs cruises to the continental shelf where the fish would come up, the vets would talk to me about their experiences; I found out later in life that they told me things vets didn't usually talk about to civilians. For some reason that trend continued. At the high point of my musical career I was the musical director for the oldies band the Del Vikings, who had a couple of big hits in '57 and '58 The group started in an NCO club at an air force base outside of Pittsburgh. They were the first mixed group - three black, two white - to perform on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1958, which they did in full dress Air Force uniforms as they were all still in the service. There were no original members when I came on in 1986, but the racial mix remained the same, and you had to be ex-military to be one of the singers, so I heard a lot from them and other vets during the hours waiting to go on-stage.

The Del Vikings did a lot of PBA benefit shows that were mostly in the afternoon or very early evening. Lots of of vets become cops. I ate a lot of burgers and cracked a lot of beers with them after shows and heard a lot of stories. Picked up a huge stack of courtesy cards, too.

One of the guys who helped rebuild my studio after it was flooded in 2007 was on the team that captured Saddam Hussein, so even got to hear about that. This explains my fascination with the military and my great respect for veterans. I have been deeply honored to have been told those stories. I don't repeat the horrific stories to anyone. I think I was even told some things I probably shouldn't have been told. I know to keep my mouth shut.

My best friend was in the Navy. He got discharged on a medical after an accident damaged his hearing. He switched from guitar to bass.

My brother-in-law was a sonar operator on a sub. His boat was the first to detect a Soviet Poppa boomer submarine. They got a unit citation for that.

I went to enlist and I was physically disqualified due to my back issues.

In a bizarre way, the Army is why I'm here. My dad was attending Columbia University in 1951 when he was drafted for the Korean War. He had just finished training when he came down with a very serious infection, I don't recall what. He was in the hospital for couple of months, then they let him go home to finish his recovery. He met my mom when she was back from college for summer recess. He wanted to marry her, but held off as he didn't want to take the chance of making her a widow. When he reported back for assignment after his recovery he was told that by the time he got to Korea it would almost be time to send him back (they went by ship, unlike Viet Nam), so three days later he was on a train to a base near Seattle. Once there he called my mom, immediately applied for leave, spent just about every cent he had on on plane tickets, flew home to New York, married her and they flew back to Seattle. Everyone thought that it was a quickie wedding for the obvious sordid reasons. The real reason was he wasn't going into combat, there wasn't a chance of her becoming a widow, so wanted to make sure my mom was off the market. I was born in 1958. If he hadn't been sick and sent home for recovery he wouldn't have met my mother.

My grandfather got his notice for WWI, but the war was over before he got to training camp.

So that all explains my fascination and involvement with the military.

So, Unknown, thanks again; I know I've got a lot of work to do and a lot to learn. Any good vids on YouTube? Do you want to continue publicly dissecting things here? This initially started out as notes for a screenplay.

And now you know that I truly mean it when I say:



  • Outpost 217 First Draft January 21, 2021.pdf
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  • Outpost 217 - Chapter 2 - First Draft - January 21, 2021.pdf
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I appreciate that... I really do. As for videos? Nothing that really sticks out at me as NECESSARY to watch but having said that? When I do come across something? I'll go ahead and post it here.

So are you going to go ahead and write this as a book? I think you should. The genre sells well on Amazon and you can self-publish.

And I would like to know what happens next.
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Thanks US.

Yeah, I thought I'd continue on with the book idea. It's something different, and I've always been open to new experiences and challenges. As I've continued I find that I enjoy the mental stimulation and - at least for me since it's my first attempt - the unique challenges. It also gives me the opportunity to say things I couldn't say in a screenplay, which is what this started as.

As a pseudo-break I spent most of yesterday working on my glossary of terms. It was fun once I got into. Slang for planets is "Balls." So hot planets are Red Balls, cold planets are Snow Balls, and water planets are Blue Balls; a target planet is an Eight Ball. For economic and military reasons void stations are built inside of asteroids and moons, so stations built into small asteroids are pebbles, medium-sized are rocks, large are boulders and built into small moons are Mimos (mini-moons); those in large moons are Moonsters as a play on monster. I didn't even notice when I got to weapons and other military items they, completely unintentionally, took on a sexual nature, so I ran with it, thinking that this goes along with military humor. Food served in mess halls is Splat (with the idea they dump in on the plate and it goes splat!) and field rations are Puke Packs (has that already been used?).

I really, really appreciate the help and encouragement. I know that you are busy, so... Are there any writers forums you could suggest? You guys are great and all, but primarily screenwriting is discussed here, and the talented ones like you seem to still be working, so I know your time is limited.

And since you want to know what happens next I have already posted Chapter 2 (I know things will change when I rewrite) with my initial response. It's marginally better than one, IMHO, and I'd like your military as well as writing perspective, especially Red Eds bit. Oh, I'm over 25,000 words.

Thanks one more time.


Uncle Bob
Thanks US.

Yeah, I thought I'd continue on with the book idea. It's something different, and I've always been open to new experiences and challenges. As I've continued I find that I enjoy the mental stimulation and - at least for me since it's my first attempt - the unique challenges. It also gives me the opportunity to say things I couldn't say in a screenplay, which is what this started as.

As a pseudo-break I spent most of yesterday working on my glossary of terms. It was fun once I got into. Slang for planets is "Balls." So hot planets are Red Balls, cold planets are Snow Balls, and water planets are Blue Balls; a target planet is an Eight Ball. For economic and military reasons void stations are built inside of asteroids and moons, so stations built into small asteroids are pebbles, medium-sized are rocks, large are boulders and built into small moons are Mimos (mini-moons); those in large moons are Moonsters as a play on monster. I didn't even notice when I got to weapons and other military items they, completely unintentionally, took on a sexual nature, so I ran with it, thinking that this goes along with military humor. Food served in mess halls is Splat (with the idea they dump in on the plate and it goes splat!) and field rations are Puke Packs (has that already been used?).

I really, really appreciate the help and encouragement. I know that you are busy, so... Are there any writers forums you could suggest? You guys are great and all, but primarily screenwriting is discussed here, and the talented ones like you seem to still be working, so I know your time is limited.

And since you want to know what happens next I have already posted Chapter 2 (I know things will change when I rewrite) with my initial response. It's marginally better than one, IMHO, and I'd like your military as well as writing perspective, especially Red Eds bit. Oh, I'm over 25,000 words.

Thanks one more time.


Uncle Bob
I'm about to take off for the day but I got an email telling me you made a reply... I'm not a member of any writing forums but I do recommend a really good website for general information on writing:

Larry Brooks' Storyfix

I haven't bought any of his books since I use my own story structure for writing both screenplays and books but his blog is FULL of great information when it comes to writing novels.
For any one who cares......

I'm over 30,000 words. I slowed down a bit to put some effort into the Glossary; it now has over 150 entries and grows as I continue to write. That has helped a lot. I also needed to compile a character list with basic/pertinent details; keeping them all straight was starting to get confusing, as they all reference and/or interact with each other. In addition to my main protagonist there are, so far, 23 characters with "speaking lines," and 20 or so with who are (future) historical characters/figures, or current incidental characters without speaking lines other than an "Aye aye, sir," or just referenced in passing. I've also had to organize my time-line, both general history and of the characters.

What has really slowed me down is the current section on which I'm working. It explains my future fictional history in parallel with the intertwined history of "The Binders." It gets a bit complicated. I need to avoid the history from becoming a boring lecture, to relate the philosophy of the "Binders" without being "preachy", and to relate how the weapons, tactics and strategies of the war have evolved. It's a pivotal section, as it explains the hows and whys for a number of characters, explains/tidies up some things that have already occurred, and sets the stage for the rest of the story, so I feel that I need to get it right before I can continue on. As I blasted out almost 30k words in just under three weeks it suddenly feels like I'm slogging through waist-deep mud, so it's a bit frustrating emotionally despite knowing intellectually that I'm making progress.

As this whole adventure actually started as notes for a script, it has evolved into a number of character stories explaining who the characters are and how they got to Outpost 217. It works fine for me, as I am a fan of historical fiction from authors such as Herman Wouk (The Winds of War, War and Remembrance) and James Clavell (Shogun) - both which were made into mini-series in the 1980s - and their novels (unlike the mini-series) have many side-excursions and digressions. Though the focus started with Sanchez, I've ended up telling his story through the other characters as Redstone does his investigation on Outpost 217. Interesting.

So just an update. Even if it turns out to be a terrible novel I'm having fun and enjoy the intellectual stimulation.


Uncle Bob
Before I continue with the adventures of “Outpost 217,” I want to explain what’s happening here.

Writing is a solo art-form for most writers. There are many who have an idea and share it with other artists – other writers, directors, producers – and musicians do the same thing. They had the original idea, however. There are some musicians and writers who put it all together and then present it for further consideration by either collaboration – an album of songs presented to the band, or a screenplay presented to a producer. This is still collaborative, although it initially comes from the script writer. And many, many complicated variations on the theme. Hey, even Spielberg, who as a producer has done films himself from script to final print, had too collaborate.

But for a novelist, writing is a solo art.

I have never been a solo artist.

I don’t remember the first time I sang. One of my most vivid, earliest recollections: I was standing in a room; there are vaguely seen faces looking at me. They are all smiling. I had one of those beautiful little boy soprano voices, and naturally perfect pitch. I don’t even remember what I was singing, but felt happy inside. It was an upper-floor church school room that I still see very well. My parents were serious church-goers. I didn’t find out until I was about 30, but my parents were offered a complete scholarship for me to attend the cathedral school (very prestigious at the time) if I would sing in the boys choir of Saint John The Divine in New York City . The organist at the church had called someone at the cathedral and told them that they should come and listen to me. I was four, and my parents didn’t want me to grow up away from them. But there was obviously talent. But from then on I always sang in the church choir.

My first piano teacher was very well-known inside the 40’s and 50’s NYC music business within the session recording and radio world. He played most brass and wood-wind instruments at a very professional level, and could hold his own with violin and piano. As they only had to pay one session player instead of two or three, he was much in demand, and became very well-known by the big names in front of and behind the microphones, although invisible to the public. I was told that he was one of only a small handful of clarinetists Benny Goodwin would record double parts with. The only reason I was able to get lessons at the age of five with semi-retired “Uncle Rudy,” was he and my grandparents went back to when he was just starting out, and roomed at my great-grandmothers boarding house. He was a very good teacher. When I had been taking lessons for about two or so years he was over for a holiday, probably Thanksgiving. Uncle Rudy was in the living room talking with everyone, and I was in the family room playing the piano, maybe about 30 or 40 feet, with a hallway in between. I hesitated for just a second on that weeks lesson and immediately heard, “It’s the fourth finger, not the fifth!” He was right. Right then I wanted to be that good.

My next teacher was the new organist at our church when I was eight. He was a character. A black man in a white church, he really livened things up – with the full approbation of my father and Mr. Heithouse, the undisputed leaders of the Church Council - and the church funds. OBL, of course, adored my voice, and took full advantage of it. I didn’t hog the stage, but if I got entire solo songs no one was jealous. Besides, OBL wasn’t one to waste talent, and there was some other talented folks to be tapped. OBL was also, of course, my piano teacher. He worked me hard, and I liked it, because he made it fun. “You have to learn this,” repeating a finger exercise, “To play this,” and rip off a really cool barrel-house boogie riff. He also taught me organ; learning to coordinate my feet with my hands was very confusing at first. He also taught me theory, a lot of it. I was his pet. He moved on to another church not long before my thirteenth birthday in June. During that summer I was his replacement while the church searched for a new organist.

OBL recommended Ralph as my next teacher. He was a concert pianist. I had spent a few weeks perfecting a Chopin piece (Chopin wrote to show off his humongous hands; he had REACH!). I played it tempo and note perfect for Ralph, who smiled and said, “That really sucked.” He slid me down the bench and proceeded to rip my heart out with it. “That’s what it’s supposed to sound like.” The lessons became about using all of that technique I had learned and expressing myself with it. It is a very constrained medium, you have to play within a very restrictive structure so it’s all about subtlety and nuance, slight amounts of finger pressure and minute tempo changes.

At home I was, of course, playing all the time, for my pleasure as well as practice.

I mention all these folks so you understand that fate served me some wonderful people who nurtured my natural talents, and in the right order. But they also taught me that the harder you work at it, the more fun you can have with it. I wasn’t good, I was good. There was a lot of work to do, but I had a very solid launching platform.

During high school I, of course, immersed myself in the music program. I was primary accompanist for the school choir all four years – the other girl was very good too, but she also had cheer-leading and other things, so didn’t get time to practice the school stuff as much. During all four years: I sang in one of the barbershop quartets. I played harpsichord in two Baroque quartets and with the Baroque Orchestra. I played keyboards with the jazz band. I had a Wurlitzer electric piano, a fire-engine red Acetone organ, a MicroMoog and a nice mixer/amp system. You’ll see how I afforded all that in a moment.

At 16 I took the job as organist/choirmaster of a medium sized church with a small congregation. Choir practice with my four singers on Wednesday evening for about 90 minutes, and services at 10:00am on Sunday, plus Christmas Eve/Day and similar holy days. I got $46.73 a week so after taxes for a minor I put $40 in my bank account. I also played baptisms, funerals, weddings, etc. for which I got paid $20 or $25.

At 15 I also got the best job a music obsessed, adolescent young man could imagine. For four hours each Monday, Wednesday and Thursday (3:30 to 7:30), and two hours Saturday morning (10 to noon), I played piano for a dance school. Not only did I get to play a lot, do my practicing and try new things, I got to watch half the girls all the guys in school drooled over do splits in leotards for six hours a week. (They were the 2nd two hours of the weekday classes, Jr high and high school.) To top it all off, I got $5.00 an hour - $70 a week!

So at 16 years old I’m pulling down $110 a week as a working musician while attending high school.

Somewhere in there I squeezed in the obligatory numerous high school bands, mostly in the summers when school and dance school were out. We managed to play a lot of birthdays and pool parties. The money wasn’t great, but we were all learning and having a lot of fun.

So I was playing my ass off all the time.

After high school I worked my way up the music ladder, playing with both cover and original bands, ending with the Del Vikings, playing well-known venues, and 52nd Street, a Billy Joel tribute band that played large clubs and tribute shows.

I moved over to working as a music recording engineer – I already had a substantial home studio where I did arranging work and demos. Then I finally migrated to audio post in 2002, re-adapting my home studio and opening Alcove.

I was never successful at being the initial creator, the songwriter; somehow, musically it wasn’t in me. I was the guy who said, “Why don’t we play a sixth chord in the third bar and the bass goes up instead of down,” and after we all play it everyone goes, “Oh, Yeah!” Or I lay down a track in the studio, and in the control room they all go, “That was DOPE!” As a recording engineer I influenced tracks with ideas, and coaxed better performances out of the singers and rappers. As an audio post guy I enhance other peoples art.

The point of all this…

I have spent the entire 60 years of my creative life as a collaborator. I never initiated anything. My classical music experience was all about interpretation of music that already exists. High school was previously scored/written music and playing/singing it in groups. My performance career as a musical director was the same, playing music already written, but doing arrangements – interpretations – and keeping the musicians and singers organized on-stage musically. Collaborative. In the studio for music or audio post, my career has all been collaborative. I have helped to tell the story, maybe even interpreted it in my own unique way, but not written it.

But I did contribute to the telling of the story. I am a story teller.

With this bizarre Covid lock-down I’ve had lots of time on my hands. I spend it making my mediocre music, or exactly copying songs via MIDI to the last detail I can within the format. (My MIDIots Delight YT videos). I redo the audio post on video snippets. And I’ve YouTubed all kinds of things – astrophysics, anthropology and archaeology, psychology, history - to name a few. And I participate here on IndieTalk.

Then one day, for no reason what-so-ever, I started to jot notes down for a screenplay. Of course a screenplay, I’m in the film industry. A scenario popped into my mind and I just had to get it down. And as I wrote the notes down, the more the ideas started flowing. And suddenly, as of this day, a bit more than three weeks later, I have slightly over 30,000 words of a novel.

I never expected that.

So I am going to pursue that avenue of my creative life. It’s an exploration, a journey to new places within me. I have sixty plus years of experiences; people I’ve met, places I been, things I’ve seen, and heard, and tasted, and smelled, and touched - felt and thought. As I write – at least up until yesterday – it has poured out of me like a flood. It’s almost a little frightening. But I’m loving the blazing hell out of it, and having a very exciting time.

But having always been a collaborator, I’ve always had that synergy and the companionship. In no way do I want to collaborate; “Outpost 217” came from inside me, it's mine, and mine alone; I created it.* And I absolutely must explore that alone. But as a life-long collaborator I need to at least share the journey, sort of post cards from the road.

So I will share the journey here with other artists on IndieTalk.

IndieTalk has always kept this forum about filmmaking and not the vitriol; you can get that noise anywhere. I’ve posted almost 8,500 times since 2007. I’d like to think that I have been able to assist a few people along their own journeys. I have enjoyed reading what comes from the thoughtful professionals here. Indie Talk is about the art and the artist. I am comfortable here.

So I will share this journey not just because I need to, but because I also thought it might be interesting for others to observe an emerging storyteller struggling with a new art-form. I don’t care if two people follow me or two thousand. This is something that I have to do.

I have no set schedule or agenda for posting here on Indietalk. I may not comment for a long time when real life knocks on the door, or there’s nothing really to talk about except frustration, or the ideas are flowing so rapidly I don’t want to lose it. There may be bursts of long posts as I’ve solved a problem or come up with a new idea, or how much fun the rush of creativity was; I have no idea what I’ll post; I’ve never been down this road before. I’ve already posted the first two chapters of the first draft. I may or may not post more, I’ll decide that when I get there. I’m just wingin’ it here folks.

So that’s where we stand.

Here comes the Academy Awards speech…

I’d like to thank Unknown Screenwriter, for the encouragement and for sending me off on this journey by starting this thread. I’d like to thank mlesemann for her support. And our founder, indietalk, all the moderators, and the long-time posters.


Uncle Bob


I’m still stuck, so I thought that I would write this as a break.

I had one character idea, which inspired a terrific addition to my universe, it’s even going to help explain a few more things about some of my characters. It also spawned another story idea, too complicated to include in -217. Then again.....

I’m going to have a drink and watch a movie. Hmmmmmm…….. What should it be………. Catch ya on the flip side! (Betcha haven’t heard that one on years!)


* That immediately brought to mind Star Trek: Deep Space 9, episode 137, “Far Beyond The Stars.” Personally, the best Star Trek of any kind ever made, even though it’s not a Star Trek story at all. “I created it! It’s real! Even if it’s only in my mind!” You don’t have to be a Star Trek fan to enjoy this one.

I loved reading about your music career here... Fascinating stuff. I know you're writing Outpost 217 right now but if you decide to keep writing? I've done a hell of a lot of research on self-published authors on Amazon. There is literally a plethora of self-published authors on that platform that you've never heard of before making the high five-figures up to over a million. I've been researching them for over six years now. On top of that? I've read a LOT of the books these authors have written and trust me... They can't write any better than us. LOL.

But here's what I've been able to reverse-engineer...

Continuing characters seem to work best for new authors. A continuing character that we've not seen before. No cliché rogue cops about ready to retire. It also has to make sense that these continuing characters end up getting involved in whatever story you're writing them around... Think Jack Reacher in the Lee Child novels.

It occurred to me after reading about your life experience with music that you may want to consider coming up with some kind of a continuing character who's also involved in music -- similar to the way you are. I cannot help but think THAT character would end up becoming super relatable and deep, based on a lot of what you write right here on this forum. And along the way? That character can actually teach us a little bit about their business. Something a good continuing character should always do.

Plus? I can't help but think you'd bring lots of passion to a character like that... Especially if you can figure out what kind of STORY to write around him or her. Just saying to consider it somewhere down the line because I think you'd bring a lot of great stuff into that character based on what I'm reading thus far.

If you could somehow stick a character like that into a thriller mechanism? You never know. Lots of aspiring musicians out there.
Yes! I think @Unknown Screenwriter has a GREAT idea - and yeah, part of why I'm following this thread is because this is something that I, too, want to do. I'm really big on putting a piece of myself in everything I write - even when it's a work for hire project, and I think this type of character would be so damn real and resonate with many people.

I LOVE continuing/recurring characters and that's something that will always get me to buy another book.
Thanks guys.

It's tough for me to put myself out there emotionally. Maybe that's what prevented me from becoming a songwriter, plus my inability to compress/condense stories and emotion into a few verses and find that perfect hook phrase for the chorus.

I have considered stories about musicians and the industry. As I try to develop them they always come out as tired rehashes. The reason is I am very reluctant to delve too deeply into painful places, where all of the drama and interest for the audience would exist.

Side thought/question --- The best actors reach deep inside themselves and somehow project real emotions for the cameras & mics to capture, take after take for months on end. It must be emotionally debilitating. I have always wondered if Heath Ledger (and others like him) pulled a few horrors from inside himself to create the Joker, and then had trouble putting that wonderfully complex, evil character back into his cage. ---

In addition to experiencing and learning something new and exciting to me creatively, the emergence of Outpost 217 has allowed me to gently probe the edges of those avoided emotional places inside me. I take little pieces and spread them out thinly, but heavily disguised. So maybe this is where those music stories begin, learning through -217 how to tell those stories in my newly-discovered art-form and learning to unwrap and expose those inner turmoils.

I did have the basic outlines for an episodic series about musicians. When "Empire" came out in 2015 I went "Oh, hell." But the show quickly devolved into an extremely over-exaggerated version of the record biz and back-stabbing people generally being as nasty to each other as they possibly can. I much preferred "Smash!" (2012) which only lasted two seasons; there were the usual soap-opera relationship issues, but the inner workings of Broadway and the artists struggles with their art did interest me.

So perhaps a future story in my personal fictional universe could be about a musician. After all, Outpost 217 did start out as notes - and has now become a prequel - for a different story.
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Unknown has graciously permitted me to include a message he sent me yesterday, which I have edited a bit. As I have mentioned this might be fun to do in a public forum, for myself and others as they struggle with their art.

As a professional who has enjoyed some success in other creative fields I have at least learned one thing; I need to know the basic rules and that I need one hell of a lot of advice. It goes almost without saying that disciplined hard work is required as well.

So the following is an example of how professionals encourage each other. Unknown has pointed out a few things that I MUST do, but the rest is only advice that will help me build my toolset. He has shared with me his 4 Act 24 Plot Point Structure. This is how he works. He has not once said this is the way it must be done.

When I initially wanted to write a screenplay I listened to a lot of YT vids on screenwriting. When asked about his methods, one successful screenwriter explained that he started using XXX method, and it worked okay at first. But later on he switched to YYY method, which didn't help that much, so went to ZZZ method. He wound up with his own XZY method. But on his latest screenplay he studied the VVV method, as it seemed to be more conducive to that project.

I feel that this is a point that beginners in any field - especially the creative crafts - need to understand. You need to learn the basics, but how you use all of the available tools should be tailored to you and what you are trying to convey. To quote the Bible - "The wise builder built his house on the rock while the foolish builder built his house upon the sand. When the storms came, the house built on the rock stood firm against the winds and rain. It had a solid foundation." You can build any type of house that you want, but build it on that solid foundation.

(BTW, despite being a religious document, both Testaments so have solid practical advice for living an everyday life.)

So, without further adieu, here is Unknowns message to me yesterday.

........ I wasn't joking when I said your writing is good... It is. And? I think it's fantastic that you're trying to work on this during Covid. SILVER LINING! Love making lemonade out of lemons.

So... While your world building is obviously super important here? Especially because this is Science Fiction... So is your structure. I've been working on a structure that fits both screenwriting and novel writing for over 30 years now. Most of what I have comes from having read some of my favorite books and watching my favorite films.

I'd like to share it with you...

I'm not going to sit here and tell you it's the END ALL BE ALL to writing stories. It AIN'T. It's just what I had to come up with for myself in order to really and truly understand story telling.

The first attachment I'm sending you is my 4 Act 24 Plot Point Structure. Inside that pdf are the actual named 24 plot points that I FEEL need to be in every narrative (long) story. There's also a pdf page with blank form fields that allow you to fill in the blank right on the form. Just remember to save the document with the Name of your project so that you don't overwrite the original file. The last page of the PDF is a down and dirty visualization of how the structure works for the story itself.

The second attachment is my 4 Act Structure that details what modes your Protagonist goes through all throughout the story. I believe this one is password protected: *******.

Again, this is not the holy grail or a formula. I do not outline and I am moving over to writing books so instead of writing chapters, I write plot points when I'm writing books and screenplays. These plot points are what I believe are in fact shown in every good movie or story. The way I personally use it? Again, I do not outline. I use Scrivener to write books. So I just have the 24 plot points show up in my notes section of Scrivener. So I know when I begin a story, I need to be thinking about each of these plot points. These plot points are also IN ORDER to elicit the most emotional response possible from your reader.

Having said all that? When your characters TAKE OVER? LET THEM. Let them do exactly what they need or want to do and just get the draft finished. I use both these pieces of structure MORE for hammering things back into place AFTER I'm done with a first draft. When you write a first draft? You sometimes just have to write what COMES even if it ain't in order. But that's actually GREAT. That's FANTASTIC! That's ORGANIC. I truly believe the best writing is organic. I've always been able to SPOT stories that come from detailed outlines. Why? Because they just are not organic. Most writers just know what kind of story element they need to come up with next so they stick it in an outline and then later on, try to fit the square peg into a round hole. It goes but not without a lot of hammering. LOLOLOL.

So if I had any advice? It would to just read through both documents a few times... Let that information cook. Then go back to your material to write it and let it flow. Don't worry what comes next. Don't worry if you're writing the right thing then and there.


These attachments can easily help you compress scenes, compress dialogue, move things into a more proper order to elicit more of an emotional response from your reader. So definitely avail yourself to them after you finish writing.

If however... You're coming up a little short on what to write next? Just find what plot point you THINK you're in NOW and write out the rest of that plot point as it's described in the document. I left the descriptions very short so that the actual plot point is really up to your own IMAGINATION. You'll just know what that plot point needs to accomplish.

And? If you have ANY QUESTIONS at all? Please do NOT hesitate to email me personally at -------- and ASK away!
LOL. So anyway...

Just to make myself clear about you considering bringing your art and craft into the mix of writing further on down the road? I get that it can be difficult to go deep but I think you're correct... The more you do it NOW with Outpost 217? The more you'll end up with the ability to do it later on... WITH or WITHOUT the music industry.

I think however... Just from reading your stories about growing up and being involved like you are and have been? It's RICH with ATMOSPHERE and WITHOUT you having even done so? I can see that character in a story and I don't even know what story but just so you know? It doesn't have to be about the music industry itself. I think we're just talking about a character that has much of your own background so that he or she may draw upon THAT EXPERIENCE as they make their way through whatever story you might want to put them through.

Could be a thriller. Could even be science fiction.

I also think the MORE you WRITE? The more you will draw on those experiences anyway... Even with Outpost 217. So it's all good!

There will probably be days where you draw upon some personal experience that you touch bases on within this story and it will prove somewhat difficult but pushing through that kind of writing is very often therapeutic in and of itself.

So if you're at all introspective? That's a very good thing and you do strike me as an introspective being.

Good luck with it! We're rooting for you.
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So, to get on with what's what's happening at Outpost 217...

I put aside the section I was struggling with and moved on to another part of the story. I ended up with the same problem of a long history lecture. It's the same problem I had as a songwriter.

... my inability to compress/condense stories and emotion into a few verses and find that perfect hook phrase for the chorus.

These sections I have been struggling with are good, as they have helped me think my way through the story, plot and characters, so I will continue to just let them come, following Unknowns advice - JUST WRITE! I'll clean it up later.

As I always do when I start banging my head against the wall I turned back to my first love; music. I listened to a few albums that have always resonated with me. One of those faves is "Quadrophenia" by The Who.* The album is about the struggles of growing up, set in early 1960s London, but the concepts will fit any generation. I have always felt that Pete Townsend is an underrated lyricist. In the fourth track, "Cut My Hair," he perfectly encapsulates those confused feelings in the opening lines:

Why should I care
if I have to cut my hair?
I have to move with fashion
or be outcast.

The rest of the song gets the specific situation about the "Quadrophenic" protagonist.

Another favorite album is "Hero and Heroine" by The Strawbs. Dave Cousins manages to tell an entire Greek-style epic in four (admittedly wordy) verses in the title track.

Billy Joel somehow is able to put his deepest thoughts and feelings into lyrics and music. One of the saddest songs I know is "And So It Goes," about his breakup with Christy Brinkley. They divorced in 1994, and the album "Storm Front" came out in 1995.

How the hell do they do it?

So here I have the same issue with story compression. I need to whittle down these lengthy passages into something informational without becoming shopping lists, yet still engrossing to the reader.

As I have developed other characters and scenarios I have discovered some very helpful insights/information into my universe. It doesn't alter it substantially, but enough that I'll have to rethink some things on my first substantial rewrite. Re-listening to those albums also let me know that my audience doesn't have to know everything, only I do. I don't have to live by the rules. After all, I am the God Creator, Master of My Universe. Live with it people! Bobs Universe is the only place my characters live, so things that require explanation to someone who doesn't live in Bobs Universe are an accepted way of life. Maybe all that information can come in dribs and drabs throughout the story. Or something. I'll figure it out later. Right now my universe and my story are still "Without form and void" to quote the Bible. I'm God creating a universe; I'm bound to make a few mistakes. (Brings to mind "Oh, God" [1977], George Burns and John Denver. "Cows; who knew?" Remember that one, Matt?)

I am not going to read Unknowns screenwriting method just yet. I don't want to interrupt the flow right now and just write. I'll read it and others before I begin rewriting so I can put some serious structure there. I'm just figuring out where I want to build the house and who's going to live there; I'll call the architect later, then the builders, then the home decorator.

Even writing all the posts I have been recently have helped. I may not be writing -217, but I'm writing. Just like when I was a musician; having a tough time with a passage? Play another song and come back to it later.

So that's where Outpost 217 is at today. I had a lot of fun last night working on my "invisible" character. That's what tweaked me on to those few modifications and some new ideas.

* The album is brilliant both conceptually and as a production. The story of it's making is an epic in itself. And, IMHO, it contains one of the angriest guitar chords ever recorded.
So, let's see...

Yesterday I attacked the second "history lesson" section I was struggling with. I managed to get the history lesson down from over 2,100 words to a bit under 750, and with another 400 words or so managed to get back where I wanted to be -- Meet Matihm, get the history/heritage of Matihm's talents/people, meld history/heritage/talents into the present, back to Matihm and the present situation in less than 2,500 words. It most definitely needs a lot of work, but says what I want it to say for now.

The section/chapter will get somewhat longer, as I need to flesh out the characters we meet at Matihm's "meet the gang" breakfast conversation with his team; right now they're just designations - DepSecCapt 1, DepSecCapt 2, DepIntelCapt 1, DepIntelCapt 2. The challenge will be to make those folks interesting and important without their interactive histories; for now I'll try to make the connections through their interactions and conversations with Matihm. But BLAST!!!!! That's four more characters I'll have to flesh out in my Personnel Files just to understand and write them, even if most of it doesn't appear in the story; I can't write about people I don't know.

While beginning to figure out what is wrong with my first "history lesson," I've been forced to rethink one of the basic concepts that pertain to my universe and a large number of the characters. I'll have to think about it some more, but it definitely tightens some things up and explains a few others, although - good-news-bad-news - I will have to now do some substantial rewriting. God The Creator is changing his mind again. No wonder the Egyptians, Greeks, Romans and early Hindus created so many gods! Hey! God's not doing his job! Let's find another one!

I'll be sitting out our near-blizzard today - it's frigging COLD out there - and start digging out tomorrow.

Another post-card from the road.


Uncle Bob
Last night I spent on more "auditions" as I'm still "putting the band together." I fleshed out two characters and connected them to each other and the story . A few more ancillary characters are coming together in my head. I may audition them tonight.

I can see the rewrites coming.

We only got 5" to 9" of snow yesterday - it's hard to tell with the drifts - so it's not as bad as it could have been; they were predicting 12" to 18". But it's heavy and wet.


Well, at least it's relatively warm outside. So I'm going to go have some breakfast and get to work in the big dig. I'm thinking French Toast.....

I'll check in later, probably with very sore shoulders. Damn getting old(er)!!!
French toast it was.

For one of my numerous side trips... My brother-in-law is a very accomplished chef. He once made us "real" French Toast. The eggs are separated as with a true omelet; yolks are whisked, the whites are fluffed, then blended back together with a touch of cream, a dash of vanilla and cinnamon. Then you fry them in butter, top them with a fruit compote and a little confectioners sugar. OMG!!!

Shoveling wasn't that bad; it only took me about 2 1/2 hours. Stretched before and after, took a hot shower and I should be fine tomorrow, if a little muscle sore. So far my back is fine; working out and stretching most everyday definitely helps.

As I was shoveling I came to a few tentative solutions to my "History Lesson" problem.

In Heinlein's "Stranger In A Strange Land" each major section begins with a "news in review" section that helps tie things together and prepare you for what's coming. (Settlement ship heads to Saturn's moons...The Vatican elects Pope Joan... A celebrity divorces her sixth husband... A sports betting scandal... A politician shoots off his mouth... Etc.)

David & Leigh Eddings use prologues in the beginning of each Belgariad/Mallorean series' book as a set-up/introduction to their worlds/histories, in the form of religious texts or history summaries. (Wonder why no one has tried to film any of their novel series?)

In Frank Herbert's "Dune" series, many chapters are headed by a brief synopsis of applicable events, ideologies, economics, etc., presented as excerpts from the notional "Encyclopedia Galactica."

So I'll have to play around with those ideas.

I did have an "Oh Crap!" moment while shoveling. It's becoming apparent that I'll have to write an actual history for the Sirius Sector Republic. I'm also - with both great trepidation and excitement - going to have to map out an intelligence strike and a military campaign. I guess I've got a lot of research to do. But who do you talk to about military campaigns in outer space that follow actual physics?

Well, back to Outpost 217. I wonder what all those people are up to today........
So after snow-shoveling yesterday I just have some sore muscles, mostly shoulders and thighs - LOTS of lifting. My back seems fine so far; I'm very careful. Besides being painfully uncomfortable, visits to the chiropractor are so expensive.

More struggles. I've introduced another fairly important character; well, I've written her personal history and tied it to my story. I actually kept it pretty short. But it includes a fairly involved description of void small-vessel combat tactics. Now it's long again.

I'm been thinking ("which is something a man shouldn't do"***) that I have a compulsion to explain everything. So the challenge here for me is to discover how much I can withhold from the reader and still give a clear enough picture of what I want to convey. As Unknown said, choosing the perfect word(s). As a music simile, I'm guessing it's like choosing the just the right lick to comment on a sung lyric. But I'm going to put that off with most everything else until I've got the band together and the songs for the album written. Then it's time to strip it all back down to essentials, arrange it all (sequence/structure), find a solid pocket (groove/beat/rhythmic feel; "it's got a good beat and you can dance to it") and pick the perfect tones/sounds/instruments to support the vocalist (storyteller) and the lyrics.

Oh well, one more thing I'll need to learn on this weird, wonderful journey.

Another side-bar comment below.


Uncle Bob

*** From "Twelve O'Clock High." (1949) Major Stovall (Dean Jagger) has been drinking and opens his short monolog with these words while reflecting on the men he is serving with, and the meaning of their mission. "I'm been thinking, which is something a man shouldn't do..."


I bumped into these guys on YT. Raised initially on classical music music and still a fan, they make me smile.

Igudesman & Joo are a modern version of Victor Borgia, who also made fun of classical music while still being a very accomplished musician.

And just to round things off, the original Spike Jones:

I spent most of yesterday afternoon creating names for characters and developing short bios/personalities for them. I spent the evening giving bold strokes descriptions to my "evil empire." I also began defining (well, finally writing them down) basic technologies, their development and functioning; vessel and void station construction; battle tactics; and the general concepts for the overall "winning" strategy for the story.

Man, there's a lot to get done! But hey, if I'm going to be a god I'd better get busy on physically constructing my universe!

How did JHVH (Jehovah) do it all in seven days? Oh, yeah, I forgot; the first six days were billions of years long. Must be nice to have so much time


While looking for this picture there was one which asked, "What was God doing before Creation?" I thought about that a moment, and I think I know. JHVH and the others gods were having a party. It got a little out of hand and it ended with a Big Bang.

(I can't remember the name of the comic - "God is a comedian playing to an audience that's afraid to laugh.") [Robin Williams?]

I've always wondered if extraterrestrial beings did visit before recorded history. I always felt that Genesis from the Old Testament had too much information about the creation of the world and the universe. If you substitute science terms for "God," someone knew one hell of a lot about astrophysics before the ancient sacred texts were written.

"In the beginning of Creation, when God (The Big Bang) made heaven and earth, the earth (the universe/stars/planets) was without form and void (before matter coalesced), with darkness over the face of the abyss (no stars yet), and a mighty wind (universal expansion) that swept over the surface of the waters (the universe)." How would the ancients have known all that? Aliens told them! Ancient texts are describing with poetic imagery the scientific processes made known to our ancestors.

The overall concept of "God" in this context is, "We (emerging homo-sapiens) don't comprehend what these guys (extraterrestrials) are telling us." So they created "Gods." "We don't know what this means, so we'll give everything we don't understand the description/concept of God." That's why so many cultures created so many gods. They ended up with a plethora of things not understood which were labeled "god." Don't understand weather patterns? That lack of understanding was packed into the concept of weather gods. Don't understand the mechanics of the solar system? Sun and moon gods. You get the idea.

Back to Outpost 217.


Uncle Bob
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