Person of Interest: “A More Perfect Union,” “QSO,” and “Reassortment”

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The last act of a story has to be lean and mean. The story’s first three acts (or two or four or whatever) have burned away everything but this final push, our protagonist in the crucible, and there’s only one real mandate: Fight Back.

In a hundred thousand word book, my last acts are usually around 15K sometimes less. That’s seven, eight, maybe ten scenes, tops, for my protagonist to pick herself up, get to the antagonist, and end the damn thing one way or another. This isn’t just for pacing purposes, this is for the reader/viewer, too. She’s waited a long time for this, so I don’t stop for anything else isn’t directly related to getting to that climax. This is the top of the roller coaster; don’t slow down on the final drop. Continue reading

Book Done Yet? Thinking About Tone

One of the things a discovery draft discovers is tone (“the general character or attitude of a place, piece of writing”), which is very close to but not the same as mood (“a distinctive emotional quality or character”). So think of them as attitude and emotion, it you will. The tone of Fast Women is fairly dark, the tone of Bet Me is much lighter and snappier, but I think Bet Me is the more emotional book, and I think Faking It is deeper emotionally than either of them, even though the tone is lighter than both of them. The thing is, I can’t plan tone and mood, they just show up and I have to hope they’re in a good relationship with each other even if they’re very different. Continue reading

Person of Interest: “6741” and “ShotSeeker”

So the first move after the crisis is the reset: the protagonist picks herself up and charges back into the fray, changed irrevocably from where she began and now determined to bring down the antagonist and achieve her goal or die trying. (Since this is Person of Interest, “die trying” is not an exaggeration.) And the first three episodes of Season Five did this: the five remaining Gang members (I’m counting Bear) are relatively safe back in their undiscovered subway lair (or in Fusco’s case, the police station), the Machine is relatively back to normal (big asterisk on that one), and the numbers are coming again. So this is the time for the Gang to move from recovery to assault; this is the last act and it has to move swiftly. And with “6741” and “ShotSeeker,” it does. Continue reading

Person of Interest: “B.S.O.D,” “SNAFU,” “Truth Be Told, ” and the Beginning of the End

So here’s the problem with last acts: You have to pick up after the splat of the crisis (“Oh, my god, we’ve lost!”) and show how the protagonist charges back into action without stopping to explain too much. My favorite solution to this is one from an old radio series (although this may be apocryphal) about Jack Armstrong who at the crisis point falls into a tiger pit and is surrounded by snarling cats who advance on him . . . followed by “Tune in next week!” Then the next week begins, “After Jack Armstrong got out of the tiger pit . . .”

But 2016 has a much pickier audience than the 1930s, so there’s no “after the Machine Gang escaped from the Samaritan forces,” PoI has to show how they did that, which gives us “B.S.O.D.” aka, “The Blue Screen of Death,” which is what you get when a computer (and a big plan to save the world) crashes. Continue reading