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Mea Culpa

Updated: Dec 17, 2020

As promised, a return to structure. What's going on? Baby Doe is winding up. Waiting for last promised blurbs and straining out the last gaffes/typos that would otherwise be immortalizd. Missed the Dec 15 launch date. Baby Doe will be published in late December, Promise. Thought this post was published, but found it in my draft file. If I'm repeating myself, so be it.

Now if you beg me by signing up as a subscriber or sending me an email, I will email you a pdf ot the first chapter of Baby Doe. Well not the first chapter but the prologue. I know, I know, Prologues have a bad rep for novels, but there it is,

By the way the iwinner of the author of the world's best six word short story was J. Moss. The answer: Hemingway. No the winner doesn't live in Tanzania or Southern India like I hoped. He lives up stairs in our apartment building in Jerusalem. .

And for the next quiz, identify the author of the Latin phrase that will be inscribed on my tombstone: amor fati. No googling, and bing would be an unfair workaround.

I'm always more excited about starting something new than the endgame on something old. What's new is the new, new novel, titled, DiBene. The oldest computer files on this novel are dated in the year 2000, so it's now twenty years of age. 30,000 words. Worked on it at Tahoe Community of Writers. Those 30000 words were written just because I wanted to, Before a MFA. Before reading books and books and attending seminars on the craft of writing. Now I am turning it into the 2nd novel in the Eli Kurz NICU series. And to do that I want to plan how to do that, And the plan I've chosen is the hoary old 3 act structure adapted from (, (, and Structuring Your Novel, by K.M. Weiland. These guys have copped it from predecessors like Hauge, Syd Field, and many others.

Here's what I'll do. First a general summary of the structure, then my first attempt to fit DiBene into the structure with some suggested scenes listed after the major happenings. Granted, the ending looks a little weak, but overall it's got the shape of a novel.

Why do this? To avoid years of revision. And the third book in the series is written and polished but not published, And the first draft of the fourth book in the series is written, So DiBene is holding up the parade. And being of a certain age, I don't want to pop off like Stieg Larsson did before a single book in his series that started with The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was published.

Here we go. First the general structure;


Setting and Hook. Introduces setting and main character in question, dilemma, action problem, discovery or conflict, which will keep the reader reading.

Inciting Incident. The protagonist’s first call to meet their need/goal. Not sure he/she/they want to.

1st Major Plot Point = End of Act I and Start Act II (= often but not always, aka the key event). This launches the protagonist into the heart of the story.


Pre-Midpoint Rising. Action Increasing conflict, impediments, and problems for protagonist to achieve goal. Protagonist is reactive rather than taking charge.

1st Pinch Point. New clue(s) about nature of conflict and antagonist.

Midpoint = the 2nd Major Plot Point. A conflict between the protagonist and antagonistic forces or antagonist that highlights the story’s stakes and changes the protagonist’s viewpoint.

Post-Midpoint Rising Action. The protagonist must no longer hesitate to confront the antagonist while fighting to achieve his/her/their goal.

2nd Pinch Point Foreshadows next plot point and reminds protagonist of stakes.

3rd Major Plot Point = End of Act II and Start Act III in which the protagonist suffers an unexpected loss that forces them into a make-or-break situation.


Climactic Sequence. Final conflict between the protagonist and antagonist. Inhale. Gasp!

Resolution The ending of the story, unanticipated by reader, but instantly appreciated as being none other than the way it should be (e.g., bad = Sopranos; Breaking Bad = perfect). Exhale. Relax!


Now here’s the above structure with the proposed plot of the new, new novel, DiBene (the second in the NICU series) inserted into the framework. DiBene follows the fate of Dr. Eli, Kurz who had a cameo role in Baby Doe.

15% to 25% ACT I

0-12% Hook and Set up: Eli screws the research presentation on which his career depends.

SCENES: At Harvard, Eli's failing at his own research kickstarts story. Eli’s life cannot go on as is. Something is broke. Woe is Eli. Consoled by girlfriend, Marla.

12% Inciting Incident: Eli’s penance is research sabbatical. Now!

SCENES: Eli accedes to near-instant banishment, a research sabbatical in San Francisco,Trip across country and arrival in SF. Maybe not so bad to leave Marla. Sausalito. Buys boat. Marina doesn’t like liveaboards. No hot water. Bank account tapped out at ATM which ate his card. Odin’s office. Eli laughably has too many ideas. Laurell’s rockets. Instead he must isolate a protein? No animal studies? No applied research? Eli learns those are beneath the basic science dignity of Odin’s lab. But Eli needs to make good on his sabbatical by discovering some damn thing. He suffers in lab. Not so good at lab work and coworkers make fun of him. His boat, Ghost, is balky boat. Eli’s life not good.

25% First Plot Point Ends Act I. Act II: Eli meets Gatsby-like DiBene.

SCENES: Elegant dinner with cousin, Nicole, where Eli meets DiBene, a Gatsby like dude. DiBene later takes Eli on his mega yacht and risks all to win including death or drowning of guests. Eli meets Louise. So good to be out of lab.

37% 1st Pinch Point of Act II: Eli’s big discovery.

SCENES: Big discovery, carried out behind Odin’s back. Hard for Eli not to gloat. Celebration. Sailing with Louise. Eli drunk. Surprise visit from Marla for Valentine’s Day, Fibbies show up asking about DiBene. DiBene and Eli lunch. Bart flies Eli toAspen on DiBene's jet and Eli meets the big shots. Big shots offer Eli chance to fly to their R&D lab in Colombia where Eli can carry out animal studies on his discovery. Amazingly enough, Odin and Stark not only approve, but urge Eli to go to Colombia to fast-track his big discovery.

50% Midpoint of Act II. Second Plot Point: Eli goes to Colombia to make good on his discovery.

SCENES: Aspen scenes Tells Odin how ridiculous it all is, but Odin tells Eli to go to Colombia. Bart flies Eli with DiBene to Miami. Masked ride to estate/labs. Setting of estate: animals and guards floodlights. Meets main man, Sr, Gutteriez. Identifies Rembrandt that resembles the one Marla says was stolen from museum. Libby, assigned to help Eli with his experiments, tells Eli about drugging and true purpose of lab. Eli makes a run for it. Hears plane. Meets Bart and jumps on plane, which is carrying cocaine.

62% 2nd Pinch point: Plane identified by DEA and Bart crashes in Caribbean to avoid inevitable capture and imprisonment for smuggling cocaine.

SCENES: Bart dies. Eli alone on raft. Thinks how and by whom he was scammed. Why would Odin ever sanction his Colombia trip?

62-75% Third Plot Point and End of Act II. Act III: Eli rescued, but by the bad guys.

SCENES: Eli’s amazing escape from bad guys. Eli makes his way to US consulate. Grilled by all three letter agencies about involvement working in lab of major Colombian drug cartel. Eli remembers Rembrandt look alike, and wonders if it’s real and was stolen from Gardner museum in Boston where Marla works. Bitter, he heads back to SF, not even in possession of his data. (Data arrives in Libby’s fax from Colombia).

75-90% Climax: Confrontation with DiBene and Odin.

SCENES: Eli coerces Nicole to spill the beans, Meeting with dying DiBene who had everything, Eli asks why he did it, “So I could have everything.” --Even AIDS, Climactic scene with Odin—Why did he do it? “Because this if my religion and I would fund it from the devil himself if he’d write me a check. Don’t you see we are understanding up close how god puts together the molecules that makes a breathing lung. Now go young pup and make something of your discovery,” On drive back to Boston, Eli sees big pharma guys grilled by senate committee. Eli after pillow talk with Nicole Eli has to decide whether to call his FBI contact and tell her what he’s learned about the flow of Colombian cocaine money from Big Pharma wit flowing to DiBene and to Odin via Stark in return for research results and, most recently, for Odin to convince Eli to go to Colombia. Eli must decide whether he should turn in Odin and have him practice his religion behind bars.

Final 10% Resolution / Ending: Renounce and/or denounce both DiBene and Odin?

SCENES: Hears from Ellen that she’s leaving Harvard to become dean at BU and wants Eli to come with her. It’s a fall from grace at Harvard, but at BU, Neither the hedonism of DiBene nor the asceticism of Odin do it for Eli. He reunites with Marla at celebration at museum. There Eli is feted for return of the Rembrandt. Eli takes Marla’s advice and follows Ellen to BU where Eli, like Candide, can will cultivate the small research garden that he’s suited for.

Teaser: And then X happens, and Eli is thrust into events of the 3rd novel in NICU series, Saving Julian.

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