I went through a number of classes in writing both in high school and college. There I learned the various and assorted approved methods of outlining a story. None of them did it for me as my brain simply did not function like those of normal people. I eventually found a method that I could use and one that kept the creative juices flowing. It is sort of a free verse outline that tells the story, gives me an idea of the personality of the character(s) when I eventually get back to fleshing it out and also adds snippets of those scenes I wish to expand upon.
Here is the outline for a standalone novel I’m working on entitled Ascendency. It deals with a few of the topics that are hot stuff in today’s news headlines.
A novel outline by Robert Lee Beers
Alan Gold, a Chronicle reporter, digging into the possible manipulation of the global stock market crash, finds that the story goes much deeper than he had imagined. He finds leads that may link together some of the most powerful men of the world into a conspiracy of total world domination.
While writing his initial draft, he notices a tiny device attached to his computer’s router. A few days after that he begins to get the feeling that he is watched, and then a thick envelope, filled with $100 bills shows up in his car, the doors still locked. He brings the envelope to his editor. The next day he receives a phone call on his unlisted line telling him to drop the story. He asks the caller to tell him why and is hung up upon. Soon after that his credit rating drops and his bank account vanishes. He finds a post it stuck to his monitor at the paper. Scrawled onto the yellow square is a note telling him it will all stop if he drops the story. When his gets back to his apartment all of his fish are dead.
Alan, a bachelor with no pets other than his tropical fish, gets angry. As he is fuming, the phone rings. At the other end is the voice of a thoroughly frightened woman. She tells him she knows about his discovery and everything he has been experiencing. She wants to meet and he agrees.
They meet at the bar and grill on the first floor of Alan’s apartment building. He brings his small laptop. She is a pretty brunette in her mid thirties and she works at the British consulate. She tells Alan that through her duties as an executive secretary to the Counsel General, she happened upon a memo she wasn’t supposed to see. The memo contained Alan’s name and mentioned the danger his story could be to the “committee”. As Alan questions her, he learns little more than what he has already surmised. He notices two men coming into the bar and recognizes one of them as a face his has seen before in too many odd places. He convinces the woman to slap him, as if he asked a rude question and then leave the bar. He manages to escape out the back entrance and through the alley. As he hides, he overhears one of the men speaking into a cell phone and knows he cannot go back to his apartment.
On the run, Alan continues to find out more about the conspiracy and eventually links up with an online conspiracy blogger who is too notorious and to public to be disappeared without consequence. The blogger introduces Alan to a disaffected CIA operative, Lynn Stuart, whose knowledge of intrigue saved his life several times. He and Alan discover that the conspiracy leads right to White House and beyond, including an assortment of countries with ties to international banking.
As Alan gathers his facts, he also discovers that all his ties to traditional publishing methods have been cut off. He is fired from his job at the Chronicle and his name is placed onto an illegal blacklist circulating throughout the news media.
Several times Alan attempts to trick the people he believes are following him into being revealed but never can locate who may be there. He makes his way across the country, sometimes by bus, sometimes by sneaking onto a passing freight train.
In a New York waterfront flophouse as he is leafing through his notes and uploading them via a laptop onto the bloggers server a knock on the door startles him. He looks through the peephole and sees the woman from the consulate with the silhouettes of two men behind her. As he is attempting to climb out the window the door is kicked in. Terrified into action, he manages to reach the fire escape that fronts the central corridor and then scrambles down to the alley. The woman notices the laptop just in time to see the upload finish and the computer shut down. She utters a swear word and abruptly leaves the apartment.
Alan runs down the alley and climbs over the fence separating the neighborhood from the wharf. As he is attempting to decide what to do next a bullet tears a chunk out of the fence post near his head. He turns and sees the woman in a shooters stance about fifty yards away on the boardwalk. More bullets strike around him as he runs down the bank and dives into a large sewer outlet.
Continuing to run without much thought Alan makes it to a large underground junction with several drain openings and a massive catch basin. He sees a disheveled figure across the basin using a long-handled net to dip into the water. The figure notices him and flinches back crying out to Alan that he needs to find his own glory hole. In a rambling exchange of dialogue Alan is eventually invited to the figure’s “digs”. As they pass through a shaft of light coming from an overhead grate Alan notices the figure is an aging black man with a familiar face. He tries asking several questions but none of them are answered.
He is led through a series of switchbacks and turnings until an old brick lined landing is reached. The old man pulls a brick from the wall and reaches into the opening to pull a lever down and then upward again. As the brick is replaced the back wall of the landing clicks heavily and rotates on a central pivot. Yellow tinted light floods the landing and the old man welcomes Alan to his home.
The home is fashioned out of a long abandoned subway exchange dated back to the first system dug under the city nearly a century before. Alan is assured that no one is even remotely aware of its existence and that the way in is the only way in or out. The furnishings Alan sees are startlingly extravagant with most of them looking like antiques dating back to Victorian times. He sees what appears to be an authentic Faberge egg from the imperial Russian court sitting on a mantelpiece below a display of French impressionist paintings. Set into an arch top alcove is a four posted bed nearly high enough to require a ladder.
During a surprisingly well prepared meal with wine poured from a bottle emblazed with a French label, the old man begins asking Alan questions similar to those Alan asked in the tunnels. Alan answers, hesitatingly at first and then beings to relate the full story, when he is done the old man leans back and nods, exclaiming that that is a tale indeed.
The old man gets up, walks over to an antique highboy secretary and opens it to reveal a very well appointed computer system with a large flat screen monitor set into the secretary’s recess. He begins typing rapidly on the keyboard while peering myopically at the screen as words and pictures flash by in a blur. Alan sees brief glimpses of his articles come and go and then the images stop and freeze on a copy of a memo with the seal of the US government centered on its top. The memo has Alan’s full name address and social security number in its text as well as an order calling for his termination as an enemy of the state.
He stammers out the question asking the old man who he is and how he can do what he’s done.
The old man tells Alan that he worked with Jack Ruina at MIT and helped develop the internet. He hits a key, blanking the monitor and turns in his chair telling Alan that he likes to keep his hand in his baby…just to keep the synapsis firing. The old man then asks Alan to tell him more about this “conspiracy thing”.
Alan does, with the old man nodding and muttering at various places in the narrative. When Alan finishes the old man utters the word, “Bilderberg” as he gets up and walks over to a liquor cupboard. As he pours amber fluid from a crystal decanter he mutters again something about them not being able to leave it alone.
When Alan asks what he’s talking about the old man describes the history of the Bilderberg group beginning with Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld and moving forward to the present day. He tells Alan about the assorted interests who participated in various wars worldwide that were started purely for the benefit of those businesses who profited from both the manufacture of weapons and the acquisition of new markets including the sale of information to assorted governments. He finishes by telling Alan that such people do not take kindly to their activities being opened to the light of day. As he says this he walks over to the printer set below the computer and pulls from it several sheets of paper. On the paper is printed a complete copy of Alan’s notes and waves it as he says the words, “light of day”.
Alan loses his temper and surges to his feet, shouting at the old man about freedom of speech and his right to privacy. The old man is unfazed and when Alan runs out of steam asks him how have his “rights” been treating him lately? Alan slumps back into a chair admitting the old man has a point.
The old man tells him he is glad to hear that. Now they can do something about his little problem. He sits down in front of the computer and begins typing again. Alan sees more of the rapidly flashing images and words. This goes on for a while and then the old man sits back and sighs, “That should get a reaction.”
Alan asks what the old man meant by that and gets no clear answer, only a vague mumbled, “I tapped them on the shoulder.”
Alan spends the night in the underground mansion and then is led to a ladder that takes him to a modern subway maintenance conduit. Following the conduit he comes to a door that opens onto a hallway in Union Station. The hallway also contains the entrance to one of the men’s restrooms. Finding that he desperately needs to pee, Alan steps into the room and locates an open urinal. While finishing up he fails to notice the rest room is empty except for two men, one standing behind him and the other in the doorway.
The man behind him slips a wire garrote over Alan’s head just as he finishes zipping up. Only the fact that Alan chose that moment to scratch his cheek kept him from being immediately killed.
Alan jerks backward in surprise as he is attacked. The back of his skull connects with the nose of his attacker immediately causing a flood of blood. The man in the doorway rushes in, pulling a short leaf-bladed automatic knife from his pocket. He pulls back his hand to strike and there are two soft chuffing sounds. Alan finds himself alone in a men’s room with two dead bodies and blood on his hands.
He washes quickly and leaves the restroom. As he starts walking toward the stairs to the outside he hears the shouts begin behind him.
Once on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the station Alan finds a close bench and sits on it, trembling and nearly in shock. People sweep by him, each of them completely involved in their own affairs and then a man dressed in a very expensive-looking suit comes out of the crowd and sits next to him.
Wrapped up in the misery of what just happened, Alan doesn’t notice the company at first. Then the man speaks while looking out into the New York City crowds, “You present an interesting problem, Mister Gold.”
The voice is British and cultured and Alan nearly wets himself, freezing in fear. He doesn’t answer, afraid of what would happen if he did anything but sit there, unmoving.
“You see, the people I work for are unsure of what to do with you,” the man continues. He goes on to explain that it was he who prevented the assassination in the men’s room and that his employers were willing to keep Alan alive if he was willing to trust them…for a little while.
Alan finally speaks, asking the man to show some proof as no one lately seemed to be all that believable.
The man reaches into his breast pocket and pulls out an airline ticket along with a very convincing British passport with Alan’s face on the ID page over the name Edgar Allen Smyth-Jones. The man tells Alan that when customs agents see a hyphenated name on a British passport they typically stop looking any further and stamp the bloody thing. Alan notices the hair in the photo is reddish orange where his is a dull brown. The man hands him a bottle of hair coloring and tells him to find a public toilet, he’ll wait.
His hair dyed red and the first class ticket clutched in his hand, Alan finds himself waiting in line at the international terminal at Kennedy. His British “friend” is nowhere to be seen but had assured Alan that he would be met at Heathrow and to enjoy the flight.
Customs is cleared without incident except for a grandmotherly type being tackled by several officers when she refused to allow herself to be strip-searched. The bored clerk glances at the passport and then at Alan and stamps it without comment, waving him through. Since he has no luggage and no carry-on Alan walks past the counter and onto the conveyer. He stands to the right, allowing those in a greater hurry to walk past him.
The departure time for his plane is not far off and he is able to board immediately upon reaching the gate. He does nott notice it until the young stewardess motions for him to turn left instead of right that his is a first class ticket. Somewhat bemused and thoroughly at a loss for what to do, Alan allows himself to be shown to his seat.
Almost eight hours later he stands just outside the gate at Heathrow wondering where to go when his eye catch a man holding a sign with a name in block letters. It takes him a moment to recognize the name as the same one on his phony passport.
He is led to an odd-looking anachronistic car that appears to have been left over from the war years. The driver, after checking the passport a bit more closely than the clerk at JFK leaves Alan to his own thoughts for the eighteen mile ride into London central.
Once in London Alan is far too fascinated by what he is seeing to notice the route being taken by the driver. Finally, the car stops in front of a rather plain dark three story building with lots of windows and white heavily ornamented doorways.
“Here y’are gov,” the driver says in an almost incomprehensible accent, “Be on yer way.”
Alan asks where and is told simply to knock on that there door. He does and the door opens. Standing in the doorway is the man in the expensive suit from New York. Alan is invited in and led through a series of hallways to a plain dark wooden door with a black box set into the right hand frame. A single red light glows in the center of the box. The man passes a card in front of the box and a click sounds. Alan notices the light is now green.
On the other side of the doorway is a short hall with stairs leading down. They take the stairs into a wide hallway completely devoid of decoration or any of the dark wood in the building above. A few doors occupy shallow frameworks along the hall but other than that Alan sees nothing, not even people. After what seems like miles they reached the end of the hall and another nondescript door. This one has no electronic lock. It also has no latch or knob that Alan can see.
The man knocks on the door and it slides into the wall. On the other side of the door is a plain metal desk with a very fat older man sitting behind it. The older man looks at Alan, smiles and says, “Thank you Richard. You may leave him here with me.” The voice is fruity and jovial.
Richard leaves and the door closes. The older man introduces himself as Henry and gestures to a chair, inviting Alan to sit. Once Alan sits Henry leans back, folds his hands over his considerable paunch and beams, “Well my boy, you’ve presented us with quite a pickle.”
At Alan’s expression Henry laughs and then tells him that his expose was something they were considering but no one in power was willing to pull the trigger for fear of being the odd man out. He then becomes deadly serious and leans forward asking Alan how he managed to do it?
Alan has no idea what Henry is talking about and asks him.
Henry shakes his head and presses a button on the phone console on his desk, “Richard, would you be so good as to bring that thing in here?”
“That thing” turns out to be a laptop with a wireless connection. It is placed on the desk and turned so Alan can see the screen. It is filled with over a dozen tiny videos of various people seemingly very agitated. Alan says he has no idea what he is looking at. Henry explains that what he is seeing is video feeds from the board rooms of every major newspaper in the world. The kerfuffle he is watching is the boards being torn over printing the biggest story in the history of the world versus the threat of their being destroyed if they do so.
Alan shakes his head and exclaims that they should print it. What can be done after the news is out?
Henry smiles and shakes his head saying, “My boy. The people you have upset own their own atomic weapons. They don’t use words like destroy as euphemisms.”
Alan bristles and asks if the people he upset are so powerful then why is he still alive?
Henry answers, “Frankly, we cannot figure that one out. We’re as baffled as you are on that one.”
Alan then asked what’s going to happen to him and Henry becomes serious again answer that in a very large part that is up to Alan and what he does.
Henry and his group in the bowels of Number 10 have been active behind the scenes of world power since before the days of the Second World War. They played a large part in supplying the information that allowed the allies to overcome a far more sophisticated and technologically superior German force and they had been fencing with the powers behind the Bilderbergs. He tells Alan that people such as those consider themselves to be above petty human constraints such as laws, contracts and treaties and they become rather out of sorts when they are told no.
Alan still has no idea what that has to do with him and he says so.
Henry disagrees and tells him that it has everything to do with him and that wonderful bit of revelation he sent to all the newspapers. He reaches into the desk and pulls out a copy of Alan’s uploaded notes. At Alan’s baffled expression Henry asks, “You did send this, did you not?”
Alan shakes his head and then goes on to describe the old man, the underground mansion and the “tap on the shoulder”.
Henry listens, nodded, smiling and then leans back saying, “Ah, well that really changes nothing, you see, you are still the focal point. You know, I had no idea he was still alive…”
Alan does not get an explanation for that comment but is told that his task is to become public again and begin writing his expose for the London Times in the financial section so that it will take a day or so for the realization to hit.
Alan is not thrilled with the idea since he has been attacked several times already and only by dumb luck has he survived.
Henry laughs and agrees with him. “Exactly, my boy, watching you stumble through this adventure has been like watching one of Mister Seller’s films. You have utterly no talent for survival but everyone around you dies, including your would-be assassins. Bloody marvelous!”
Still unconvinced, Alan is led back through the hallway and up into an office on the third floor of Number 10. Here the hallway is narrower and older looking. The walls are covered in the dark wood paneling Alan has seen on some BBC America shows. At the end of the hallway they come to a widened foyer with two very rigid uniformed guards standing on either side of the double door. Richard reaches into a pocket and holds up an ID. The guards salute and then each takes hold of a knob and open the doors.
Inside the room an old woman dressed in a pale blue skirt suit with a matching hat sits on a burgundy velvet wingback chair. At her feet sit several small white and tan panting dogs.
Well…that’s as far as I have now. When I get the time I’ll add some more to the story. I want it to be both trite and logical with a touch of humor, but not slapstick . If you have ideas, please share. I am not too proud to use them.