A father walks the road alone, his son at his side, as they seek the next meal, either given through kindness, or by the blood shed by his blade. Kozure Ōkami, or Lone Wolf and Cub, long ago entered in the public psyche from the Manga comic of that name in the 1970s. It tells the story of an assassin who suffers the fallout of shifts in power in the underworld, and is forced to a life on the road. Like many manga before and after, it is a story built upon vignettes, as they move from place to place, and the father and his son challenge all takers. Sound familiar? The Mandalorian on the Disney+ stream service makes no excuses that Mando and the Child are based on this story. The image of Mando walking down a road with the Child hovering next to him is reminiscent of Lone Wolf pushing the cart that holds his child, and the many hidden compartments containing his weapons of trade.

There are a couple other cultural references to Lone Wolf and Cub that are either less known, or have disappeared from current memory. The first is from my own favorite comic, Usagi Yojimbo. In the series the reoccurring character Lone Goat and Kid fulfill the same role. Miyamoto Usagi finds himself at odds with Lone Goat, since the assassin has only known betrayal, but when Usagi has to act as guardian to the Kid, the tables turn. 

The second, is the comic turned movie, Road to Perdition. This high octane cast, including Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, and Jude Law is a masterful adaptation that I felt captured the relationship of the father and son perfectly. It is a terrible tragedy of a story that will settle an ennui upon the shoulders of anyone who watches it. I cannot recommend all of the above enough.

I cannot deny my influences. At times they are readily intentional. When I wrote Thrice, having succeeded at already writing a story that I felt escaped my past, I challenged myself to a new story, where I would lean on my past, as well as my present. I had at the the time a four year old boy, and realized the wisdom, and vocabulary often made too much like a toddler in works of fiction. I wanted to capture the story of a man and the boy in his care, on the road, against all odds. And thus, I set about to tell my own story. It would borrow from Lone Wolf and Cub the theme of survival against an underworld bent on separating the two. Yet, Jovan has no connection to the Underworld himself. And unlike the usually very quiet child, I wanted to make sure that Leaf, the boy traveling with Jovan, had a personality, and was given the opportunity to grow. I would like to hope that I’ve done a story like this justice, if only as a means to work through my own road as a father to a bright little boy.

You can find debut novel, Thrice, here:

We have Netflix to thank for a very important style of storytelling. It had already been around in some shows, such as Firefly, or some of the crime dramas, but Netflix is what has made it mainstream—the bingeable episodic story. As I mentioned, it was already around. Take the graphic Novel. A Graphic Novel might be a twice yearly release of a comic book, compiling six months worth of stories into one place, but aren’t we all thankful to be able to sit and read a perfect bound story in one sitting? Each episode/comic might be standalone, but you knew when you bought it, that there would be a cohesive arc across the entire Graphic Novel. 

Until Netflix, the vast majority of shows suffered under the burden of needing to capture the attention of their audience each and every week. Every episode of Star Trek needed to ensure if this was the ONLY episode you watched, you wouldn’t be lost and you’d know who each and every character was. Not any more. Take the Netflix Original series for the Marvel Knights such as Daredevil and Luke Cage. If you were young enough to pull it off, you could watch the entire season in one night. I was thankful each broke down into two separate arcs under the umbrella of a single story that would tie it all in together at the end. They took lessons from Graphic Novel storytelling, and told a full year of stories told in a single season. They could take their time with an episode in the middle with a ton of exposition, because they knew they had your attention, and you wouldn’t be at that episode without having watched the others. You were in the middle of your binge, and perhaps needed an escape from the excitement, (or relief from the adrenaline rush of the Hallway Scene in Daredevil Season 1, Ep. 2.)

Why do I bring all this up? Because of this, we now have “permission” to  use the same storytelling form. A novel can be episodic like the Netflix series, or the graphic novel. It was a form of storytelling I wanted to employ in Thrice. “If I was directing this book as a show, how would I break this down?” And so I kept that in mind when I outlined the book. Of course, rules and plans like this don’t always go according to the plan. But analyzing stories, and making plans are important, just as Sun Tzu said, (paraphrase) “Always make a plan, even though it will fall apart as soon as you get to the battlefield. But it’s the margin of the plan that prepares your mind for the battle.” Having a structural plan for my outline was important to me, and would provide the skeleton for the flesh of my outline to sit upon. And I’d like to think it’s the better for it, after these two and a half years of work I’ve put into it. 

February 22nd, 2021

It’s a piece of writing advise that often rankles me. An author is asked “What is the best advice you can give a new writer?” And they give the trite answer: Find what works best for you. 

Why does it bother me? Because it doesn’t help a writer. It tosses them into the pool, when they were asking how to learn to doggy-paddle. I’d like to take the next several posts to delve into what this question is asking, and the intention behind the trite answer given far too often, and then we’ll look at ways of actually putting that “advice” into practice. 

To start, the question, while trite, is the answer. As a writer you DO need to find out what works best for you. But what does that even mean?

To get there, I’d like to break down three main aspects that go into being a writer.

Method – Your method is your means to putting words down on the page. It is the make up of tools you have at your disposal, through which your writing is conveyed. In a future series we’ll be looking at Writer Types/Spectrums, which delve into this. They are the tool bench by which you’ll craft your piece.

Voice – Your voice is the style by which you are noticed. There are a handful of artists that I know at a glance. Adrian Smith has a very evocative artistic style/voice. I can look at his early work now and see how his style has always been there, even as it has developed into a much more mature version of what it once was back in 1997 to today. Other “voices” and styles are emulated. You might say a writer is “very Hemingway” or has the lackadaisical voice of PG Wodehouse. A voice is your own flourishing touch to your work. The longer you’ve written for, the more defined it becomes.

Practice – Your Practice is your Workshop. What is the best time of day for you to write? Are you regimented? Or do you find flurries of energy to write for a week, in sprints and pushes, only to burn out and wait for the next burst? If your Method is your self of tools and your Voice your flourish, then the Practice is your Workshop. It is how and where you go to do your writing. I believe that is where the advice of “find what works best for you” falls. If you can develop your practice—your ability to sit down and write—the Method and Voice will finally have a place to grow. If you don’t write, then you’re just a theoretical writer. Finding that space, and setting it aside is what will allow you to grow. 

Let’s take a look at Best Practices for yourself, and see where the road leads us. 

~Andrew