The Goonies, or How to establish an ensemble in four minutes

An examination of The Goonies’ opening sequence for tips on how to introduce a character ensemble without losing pace.

I typically have a movie playing while I write. I have a rotation of these movies. They’re movies that I’ve loved for a long time, like Dirty Dancing and The Breakfast Club. They’re movies that fire me up, like Bladerunner or Aliens. I recently added The Lost City to the roster just for the leeches scene. On weekends, I almost always start with the 1985 film, The Goonies, which I love for the soundtrack and the nostalgic sense of childhood adventure.

The movie has a lot of merits.1 The cast is wonderful, including Sean Astin, Josh Brolin, Jeff Cohen, Corey Feldman, and Ke Huy Yuan. Although there is a main protagonist (Sean Astin’s character, Mikey), it’s a true ensemble piece and works best when the seven protagonists are “on stage.” Having written my own ensemble pieces with four main characters, I appreciate the talent it takes takes to juggle seven central characters without some of them getting sidelined. There’s a surprising amount of character development for a movie that is, at heart, an adventure. And it’s all done in less than two hours. The pace never slacks and every moment of the film serves multiple purposes: advancing three separate plot lines (defeating the evil Fratellis and freeing Sloth; recovering the pirate treasure and saving the characters’ homes from the rich developers; Mikey’s older brother romancing the love interest away from her rich but sleazy boyfriend). It’s an impressive feat of storytelling.

While watching the movie for the thousandth time, I noticed the way the film introduces the main characters in the opening scene. This could have been a mish-mash. There are seven characters to introduce; that is a lot of characters to throw at the viewer in one scene (plus the three antagonists who are leading the car chase). There’s no background framing, despite there being a lot of backstory to this movie with the treasure hunting/pirate subplot (which is dealt with in a later scene so full of wonder and character development that it deserves its own analysis).

The film starts in media res with a jail break and a car chase. The car chase winds through the beach town setting, passing each of the protagonists. Each character either interacts with or observes the car chase in ways that illustrate their defining characteristics. By the end of the scene, the viewer knows who these kids are (the adventurous group leader, the jock older brother, the cheerleader love interest, the inventor, the “fat kid” comic relief, etc.). This is all done in a scene that lasts less than four minutes.

It’s particularly impressive that the opening scene in The Goonies establishes the characters and the plot conflicts without an info dump. Without any authoritative narration. There’s a sustained action sequence which is both exciting and funny (setting the tone for the whole movie). The ways the seven protagonists react to this seminal event allow the viewer immediate access to their characters and build empathy without manipulating the viewer. The introductions are done with very deft touches, which would constitute just a few sentences in literary form, introducing each character in a memorable way via their “funny hat.” For example, the inventor character is introduced wearing a trench coat that contains all of his wild gadgets (in an obvious reference to the 1982 Inspector Gadget animated TV show). Similarly, the love interest is introduced wearing her cheerleading uniform. When these characters appear again, even after the introduction of several other characters, the viewer immediately knows who they are. In his wonderful Masterclass, Neil Gaiman advises writers to give characters metaphorical “funny hats” to make them identifiable by readers without making them into caricatures. This opening scene is the perfect application of that advice.

It’s no secret that I’m a proponent of the in media res opening. The first scene of The Goonies is a great example of that kind of opening, taking it a step further to introduce a large ensemble cast of characters. It is well worth studying and emulating.


The Goonies is not a perfect movie. Screenwriter Chris Columbus and director Richard Donner might be applauded for featuring a diverse cast, but there’s an ugly undercurrent of racism in the way some of the PoC characters are portrayed (particularly the hispanic housecleaner). Columbus’ movies (which include Home Alone, Mrs. Doubtfire, and two of the Harry Potter movies) often feature absentee parents (particularly mothers), which gives the protagonist children unsupervised space in which to have their adventures. The Goonies is no exception. The parents are clueless, bumbling, and generally absent until the end of the movie. This appeals to me as a Gen Xer, since it echoes my own childhood experience, but it makes for uncomfortable viewing as an adult with a child of my own. I find the scenes where the villainous mother, Mama Fratelli, abuses her two adult children for comic effect difficult to watch and often skip them. While making allowances for the age of the movie, I can still think critically about those elements of the movie which make it problematic nearly forty years later and ensure that I avoid them in my own storytelling.

Blunts Tales – A Messy Tail

Will an impromptu scene help lift the weight from Mac and Bren? And what’s with the celery?

Have you caught up with Master Mac and Brenna?

It has been a day

It started before dawn, with Mac tossing and turning because today’s the day his daughter’s being released from the in-patient facility where she’s been detoxing from a methamphetamine overdose. I check the time on my phone. He should be finished moving her into my old apartment by now, so maybe we’ll both get a better night’s sleep tonight. But we both have a lot on our minds, so that might be a vain hope.

I worked a shift and a half at my shop. My arms are aching from holding the tattoo gun for twelve hours. But we’re busier than busy, as my grandmother would have said, and down a tattooist until Mac finishes the permitting process for the daycare he’s setting up so he can take care of my second tattooist’s kid. He ran into a snag yesterday about his CPR certification, so that may have him tossing and turning tonight. He’s pushing not just because I’m working so many hours with Fareena out, but also because he’s trying to have everything ready for when Logan’s daughter, Olivia, arrives.

We’re all trying to get ready for that.

Which is why I’m doing the grocery shopping at nine o’clock at night after a long-a$$ day. 

Usually, Emily and I put in an order online on Sunday afternoons, which is when we get organized for the week ahead. But I worked through Sunday, and with Emily out of her head with baby-arrangements, she forgot. I only realized how severe the situation was when I got home and tried to make a coffee to perk myself up before Mac got back. Only to discover we were out of beans and milk. 

I grab an economy pack of toilet paper and toss it into my cart.

My phone pings; I pull it back out to check it. Between the baby and Mac’s daughter and sh1t going down at Blunts, there are too many people who might need my attention urgently for me to ignore a notification.

It’s a text from Mac.

My Sir: Sure you don’t want the coconut oil kind? That brand looks a little rough for sore, subby a$$es.

I whirl around to find my Dom and fiancée, who must be watching me if he can see the brand of toilet paper I just picked.

His blue, blue eyes sparkle at me from where he’s leaning against a display of wine bottles. “Hey, girl.”

Will an impromptu scene help lift the weight from Mac and Bren? And what’s with the celery? Find out in A Messy Tail, now live and free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Blunts Tales – A Buzzy Tail

Have you met Annabelle?

When I applied to be a house submissive, I had this ideal of submission. Of kneeling at my dominant’s feet, serene, exotically beautiful, and somehow, fragrant.

The sweaty reality has been very different. Playing at private parties and New York’s underground sex clubs hadn’t prepared me for how much the Blunts dominants would enjoy destroying any shred of composure and leaving me a quivering mess. 

“D’you need another minute to recover or should we get started?”

I’ve given up the idea of enjoying the afterglow with any of the club dominants except Mistress Dana and Master Javier, both of whom are big believers in wallowing in the ‘glow. Some of the Masters even enjoy ruining orgasms, which is turning into a soft limit for me. I want to be relaxed after a scene, not screaming with frustration.

“I’m ready, sir,” I tell him.

He gives me a speculative look. “I think a scene or two about communicating honestly with your dominant might be in your future, sweetheart. But for now, I’ll take that at face value. Pull up your panties while I get an accessory or two.”

I do as I’m told, sliding off the bed and sinking into the basic kneeling position all house submissives are taught while Theo gets busy in a corner. When he returns, he hands me a vintage, leather satchel. I take it from his hands and hold it open while he loads it with three vibrators and three graduated butt plugs. The largest one is ridiculously big, as large as my fist. He turns on the vibrators, closes and latches the satchel, and motions me to my feet.

“You can go anywhere within the club,” he tells me. “You can speak to anyone. You offer them the satchel and ask them to guess what’s inside. If they guess right, you curtsey and give them a vibrator. If they guess wrong, you offer them a butt plug. When you run out of vibrators or have the biggest butt plug in, scene’s over.”

I glance down at the bag in terror. Will that monster even fit inside me? “Sir, I’ve never taken a plug that big.”

He reaches around to pat my a$$. “First time for everything.”

Who will win Master Theo’s game?

Find out in Blunts Tales, now live and free to read with a KindleUnlimited subscription. Never underestimate a Blunts house submissive!

Blunts Tales – A Thorny Tail

Have you met Master Ten?

Operation: Punishment Scene

Location: Blunts

Time: 21:30

I’m on time.

She’s not.

It should be the first and only time Briar Rose is ever late to scene with me, but it’s far from it. She’s habitually late for scenes. Her lateness is part of her testing me. She wants me to prove my mastery.

She won’t be disappointed tonight.

I check my watch, even though I’m perfectly aware of the seconds that have passed.


Officially late.

I move from where I’ve been setting up the punishment frame and take my phone out of my bag. With a tap, I call the reception desk. Austin, a house submissive who would never dream of being less than five minutes early to a scene and who, I admit, bores me, answers.

“How may I serve you, Master Ten?”

“If Briar’s pulling her usual shit, she’s loitering somewhere around the desk. Tell her to haul her ass in here.”

Austin clears his throat. “Yes, sir, I’ll tell her.”

As expected. She’s probably leaning against his desk, gossiping, with that light in her eyes she gets when she’s deliberately thwarting a Dom. Although Briar doesn’t get along with most of the house submissives, I notice none of them dodge her when she has her “I have tea to spill” face on.

And there’s been a lot of tea to spill lately.

I rub my hand over my own face, wiping away frustration and irritation, and return to my preparations.

The last time I used this punishment frame, a very different submissive was strapped into it. If I’m honest with myself—and I’m always honest with myself—I’d prefer it was her I was waiting for. Not that she ever made me wait. DirtyGurl wasn’t as eager as Austin, but she was always punctual. She had her own testing moments, sure. All subs do. But she was respectful of my time.

I’m not sure Briar Rose knows the meaning of the word “respect.”

She might just learn tonight.

Does Master Ten teach Briar Rose a lesson she won’t forget? And what’s with the toothbrush?

Find out in Blunts Tales, now live and free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Blunts Tales – A Queenly Tail

Can Blunts survive the magnificence of Queen Twitch?

Have you met Queen Twitch?

Pence makes me wait longer than anyone else would. He’s intimidated by my fabulousness. I covet his hair, which is better than a Kpop idol’s, I’ll admit, although he should dye it silver-grey like mine if he really wants to turn heads. Otherwise, he’s a nasty little piece of work. How he managed to finagle a collar from Master Harold, who is one of the club’s silverbacks and such a sweetheart, I’ll never know.

Once Pence buzzes me through, I push the door open and take a sharp left, while adjusting my crown in his direction with my middle finger.

“You have to sign in,” Pence barks after me.

I pivot like I’m still walking the catwalk and strut over to his desk. “Oh, darling, didn’t anyone tell you? I work here now.”

The way Pence’s face falls would be comical if I wasn’t well aware of his malice. I was upstate with my sister over the summer when Pence and that false queen, Rachel, ganged up on the club’s little, Emily. But Kiki was in the shower and overhead the whole thing. Emily’s daddy, Master Logan, got to Pence before Kiki got out, but if it had been me, I’d have jumped out in all my n4ked glory to snatch the brat bald for the things he said to her.

Pence pushes the papers on the reception desk around with his fingertip—unmanicured, the little heathen—before he answers me. “No one mentioned it. You’re joining as a house submissive?”

I scoff gently. “As if Sir would ever share me.” His eyes dilate slightly as that shot hits the mark. Master Harold may have given him a collar, but Pence is still a house submissive, so they’re not exclusive the way I am with Sir and Kiki. “Our little club historian has identified holdings in need of repair. Antique books and manuscripts are my specialty.” I flip a silver-gray lock over my shoulder. “So they’ve asked me to accept a position in the library.”

“You’re a librarian?” Pence asks flatly.

I chuck him under the chin with my forefinger, which you can bet has a fresh set. “Stop by the library any time, darling. I’m sure you could use a little education.”

Meet the magnificent Twitch in “A Queenly Tail” and “A Smacky Tail” in Blunts Tales, now live and free to read with a KindleUnlimited subscription.

Blunts Tales – A Party Tail

What happens when Master Shedo buys Tamsin at the Blunts annual auction?

Have you met the mysterious Master Shedo?

I’m scared.

Scared breathless. Scared stupid. 

I tuck my arms behind my back and twist my hands together so the Masters and Mistresses watching me can’t see how badly my hands are shaking. I will my knees to stop knocking. Try to force air into my lungs by breathing in through my nose, out through my mouth to a count of five the way I’ve been taught.

I don’t even make it to three before I’m gasping in another breath.

“Sweet pea, do you need a minute?” 

That’s Master Franco’s cool, deep voice. I can’t see him, because I’m blindfolded for the auction, like all the other house submissives when we’re put up on the block for sale. But I know most of the Masters and Mistresses voices so well I can pick them out, one from the other, without needing to see their faces. 

There are only a few I’ve done so few scenes with that I don’t know their voices. The exclusively gay masters like Charles, Felix, and Pence’s new master, Harry. The heavy sadists like Javier, Karl, and Nico, who say I’m too fluffy to handle their dominance. And then there are the mysterious masters who almost never play with anyone, like Chairman Chess since he lost his wife, or Master Shedo who barely speaks.

I’m so afraid of one of them buying me.

What happens when Master Shedo buys Tamsin at the Blunts annual auction?

Find out in Blunts Tales, now free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Blunts Tales – A Waggy Tail

Can Chairman Chess find a second chance at the Blunts puppy trials?

Have you met Chairman Chess?

Barking and yipping penetrates the sanctuary of my office.

I rub my fingers over my brow. My skin feels both tacky and greasy from working through the night. Since my computer is now cycling as the dividends are paid out to the club’s members, I take the moment to reach into my desk drawer and pull out a Fulton and Roark towelette.

There was a time, not even a year ago, that Sara Ann would have been kneeling by my chair, patiently waiting for me to finish. She wouldn’t have let her master work all night, and if I’d insisted, she’d have been the one to wipe my brow.

She took good care of her husband and master.

I don’t look at the empty space next to my chair as I wipe my face.

Can Chess find a second chance at the Blunts puppy trials?

Find out in Blunts Tales, free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Blunts Tales

Come see what’s behind the facade of Blunts: a place of pain, pleasure, and mystery.

This collection is my first foray into “writing short.” Since college (and one too many collegiate creative writing classes), I’ve considered myself a novelist. I want time and space to develop my fictional world and unfold my characters into it. I didn’t think short stories provided adequate space and I’ll admit to developing a fear of them.

Which is silly. “Writing short” is just a different form, requiring different skills, which I feared having to acquire. I forgot that short stories were my gateway into fantasy and science fiction through magazines like Analog, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Locus, and The Magazine of Science Fiction and Fantasy – publications I could afford when I was a teenager. Those short stories opened new worlds to me, and if they were a briefer taste than novels, they were no less sweet.

That’s what I want Blunts Tales to be for my readers. Sweet, spicy tastes of characters they’ll get to know better in my novels. Some of these characters I’ll explore in Daddy P.I. 3.0. Some might have to wait until De Leon’s book. Some might shine in a series of shorts (Queen Twitch, I’m looking at you). All of them offer a glimpse behind the facade of Blunts: a place of pain, pleasure and mystery no less wondrous than those fantasy and science fiction stories that first opened my mind.

Welcome to Blunts. Come see what awaits …

Get Blunts Tales here, free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

Book Review – The Bonds That Tie series

I’ve been a big fan of J Bree’s writing since reading the Hannaford Prep series, which introduces Eclipse (Lips) Anderson, one of the more memorable female protagonists to come out of the current trend of kick-ass heroines. However, the follow up series (Queen Crow) really didn’t do it for me and I put off reading this series for a while as a result. Big mistake.

The Bonds That Tie series is right back on Hannaford Prep form. There are all the tropes I love: fated mates, rejected mate, age-gap, enemies-to-lovers, found family, self-saving princess, wounded heroes, journey to power, and ultimately, saving the world from a big bad. The series starts in a college, so there’s a touch of New Adult bully romance (with a dash of taboo hot professor), but it moves beyond that setting by the second book for readers who aren’t fans. The characters in The Bonds That Tie series are a little older than Hannaford Prep, which made me as a reader more comfortable with the romantic relationships that the heroine develops with her five heroes, particularly when those relationships have an element of power exchange.

The world building in The Bonds That Tie series is unusual. It’s an alternative, contemporary world that could be Australia or could be America, the author isn’t specific (which I like – it makes the series feel like a parable). People are split into “Gifted” and “non-gifted.” Gifted people have magical powers (via a spirit they call a “bond”). Their magical powers manifest early in life (around puberty), but only fully develop after they find their fated mates and consummate the mating (“bonding”), at which point they get a big kick in power and develop secondary abilities.

For the heroine, Oleander (Oli), her bond is a terrifying thing. I won’t say what Oli’s bond is, but she’s even more of a ninja than Lips. (Think Kali.) Oli’s resistant to bonding because of the potential power kick it will give her inner Kali, which creates plenty of tension between Oli and her heroes, who believe she’s rejecting them. The miscommunication trope is super-strong in the first two books; it is not my favorite trope and I was happy to see it fade out by book three.

The highlights of the books for me were when Oli’s bond was out and doing her thing. I also loved the sections where one of Oli’s mates got a psychic connection with Oli and could hear what Oli’s bond was thinking. Typical J Bree bone-dry hilarity and I am always there for that.

The later books are dedicated to the war between the Gifted who want to crush the non-Gifted to rule the world and our heroine and her five heroes. It’s a war of ever-increasing stakes and there were some impossible moments when it really looked like Oli would lose one or more of her guys. J Bree writes amazing action/battle sequences and her talent was on full display here. The romance took a bit of a back seat in the last two books and I felt that one of the heroes almost disappeared in all the action (that could just have been my own pet peeve because he was my favorite in the early books and he got very little screen time after book 3). But the climax was very satisfying; I’m always happiest when the characters earn their happy ending and these characters certainly did.

There are some big triggers in this series, including incest, so readers should check those before they dive in.

This is a chunky series. Six thick books. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s a half-million words or more. But the unrelenting pace makes those words go fast. This isn’t a series to fear because of how much of a commitment six books is.

Read The Bonds That Tie series here, free to read with a Kindle Unlimited subscription.

2022 Year In Review

So many words, so little time … here’s what’s coming in 2023.

I’m not much for New Year’s resolutions. But I do like to look back on where I’ve been as a way to frame where I’m going.

Where I’ve Been

2022 was a funny old year. I had some expectations for it: that I’d publish another Daddy P.I. book, that I’d finish the Teddy’s Boys series, that I’d have more face-to-face social interaction as the country emerged from COVID lockdowns. Some of those expectations flopped: my first big face-to-face social interaction of 2022 ended with me getting COVID and spending six weeks recovering. Some of them were fulfilled (I published Max’s Bumble and Quaternion, two books of which I’m tremendously proud). Some of them took a zig and a zag but ended up being more satisfying than I could have imagined (my second big face-to-face social interaction, the Books on the Beach signing, was fabulous and convinced me to join signing events in 2023 and 2024).

Because I love numbers, here are some numbers for 2022:

Words written: 415, 447

Novels published: 4

Gabe’s Girl: 105,418

Max’s Bumble: 134,442

Quaternion: 132,830

Capricorn: 51,837

Novellas/shorts published: 3

Curvy Space Girls Need Love, Too: 19,377

Warrin With An I: 5,180

Under the Golden Moon: 16,955

These numbers do not add up, EJ! I hear you saying. True. That’s because some of the words I published in 2022 were written in 2021 (a good chunk of Gabe’s Girl and most of Max’s Bumble, which took me almost a year to write), and because I started a Patreon in 2022 where I’ve been posting short stories that now exceed 50k, which will be collected and released in 2023.

Where I’m Going

I don’t have any plans to slack off in 2023, so this is what’s on the planner:

Blunts Tales Vol. 1: this is the first collection of the steamy short stories I’ve been posting on my Patreon. They feature the house submissives of Blunts, the kinky club in the Daddy P.I. series.

Daddy P.I. 3.0: after the two spin-off books (Max’s Bumble and Missing Ink), it’s time to finish the trilogy. This is the last planned book featuring Logan and Emily, although they will certainly appear in future stories set in and around Blunts. Yes, there will be a baby. At least one …

Seismic Daddy: this is a short that will appear in the spring Dirty Daddies anthology. I’m already ridiculously invested in the characters, though, so they may have to join the Daddy P.I. world at some point.

A Little Summer Sizzle: a character from Daddy P.I. 3.0 will head off to the fabulous Rawhide Ranch to help rehabilitate a daddy who is in serious need of TLC.

Blunts Tales Vol. 2: the second collection of the steamy short stories I’ve been posting on my Patreon, this collection is focused on mischief and mayhem at the club and will feature appearances from a new character in Daddy P.I. 3.0. The clues in the stories will lead readers to a hidden story from the Daddy P.I. world. I really love the idea of sprinkling clues over time for readers to find, so I’m planning to work a related mystery into the physical newsletters I send out (the Emily’s Desk tier+ on my Patreon).

Daddy P.I.: The Second Collection: a box set of Max’s Bumble, Missing Ink, Daddy P.I. 3.0, and two short stories, Something Little This Way Comes, and Have Yourself A Primal Little Christmas, which are only available through my Patreon currently.

The Bad Boys of Bevington College: Arcana Primus: a box set of Teddy’s Boys, Gabe’s Girl, and Quaternion for readers who like to have all the books in one place. I’m planning for the box set to be my first adventure into hardback books; there will be special covers. And, of course, what would one of my box sets be without a bonus novella? There’s several years between Quaternion and Capricorn where Teddy and her boys might have had a few adventures …

Ulune’s Daughter: the next book in the Bad Boys of Bevington College series. It’s set after Capricorn (that is, seven years after Quaternion) and features Kellan, an Air-mage and magickal archeologist, and the three boys who claim their naughty professor and won’t let her go . . . no matter what. Ulune’s Daughter is inspired by my obsession with treasure-hunting shows like The Curse of Oak Island. As with the other Bevington College books, Ulune’s Daughter promises to be a little darker than my other books in both the situations the characters face and the kinks explored. I’ll be emphasising the content warnings on this one. As there’s a lot to this adventure (my plot outline is already over 5k), it may end up becoming a duet.

Fate and the God of High Steel: this is a spin-off from the Bevington College series and part of the Defying the Gods shared world series, featuring Trippy, a Fate with a very little side, and Joe, the God of High Steel. Trippy and Joe have cameos in Gabe’s Girl (although Trippy’s sister, Klotho, has a big role in Teddy’s story). I really wanted to explore their characters more but just didn’t have the space in Teddy’s books, so I’m seizing this chance. I anticipate Trippy and Joe will have cameos in Ulune’s Daughter, but I’m keeping my schedule flexible to avoid painting myself into another spoiler corner the way I did with Quaternion and Capricorn, so this may be their origin story instead of a later adventure. How does a Fate find a mate? Sometimes, they have to make one …

Omega Reclaimed: realistically, this may lap over into 2024, but I really want to get Kieran and Morgan’s first book out in 2023. Their origin story is “Under the Golden Moon,” in the Ruled by the Alpha anthology. Writing just the origin story broke my heart. I know their full story is going to wreck me. A fitting end to 2023, maybe.

What about De Leon, Jou and Tsara, and where are all these scifi-romances I keep teasing readers with? They’re definitely coming. So many words, so little time …

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