Book Done Yet? Pulling Plot Threads Together

So we talked about pulling plot threads together in the last episode of Person of Interest, and by no coincidence at all, I’m trying to get an overview of doing the same things in Nita’s book.

I have
• Nita’s plot–to find Joey’s killer and bring him or her to justice, and
• Nick’s plot–to close the hellgate and find whoever built it and bring him or her to justice, and the
• Romance plot

I’m good with all of those starting separately, but I need to see how they’re going to dovetail. So of course, I went to Curio and did a map . . .

Plot Diagram

Of course, that’ll change, but it’s a start. The two problems I’m looking at right now are that Nita says, “no, I don’t believe you’re the Devil” for all of Act One, and that’s annoying since we know he is the Devil, and they’re apart for Act Four. For Nita, it makes perfect sense that she’d refuse to believe, but if that’s all she does, it’s flat. She has to keep denying in the face of proof, and that makes her dumb. So cogitating on that one. I think I can make Act Four work even if they’re apart: it’s short. Other than those two things, I think it’s going to work.

Of course I don’t have the subplots in there yet . . .

ETA: Plot lines as requested, Deb:

Nita Plot 2

ETA: Link to Curio webpage:
https://www.zengobi.com/products/curio/

32 thoughts on “Book Done Yet? Pulling Plot Threads Together

  1. This is fascinating. How did you make the chart? Is there a reason why Nita doesn’t have a “Moment of no return”?

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    1. Chart was done in Curio, which I use all the time. It’s not cheap, but it’s my go-to in-the-computer place for brainstorming.

      https://www.zengobi.com/products/curio/

      Nita does have a Point of No Return, her plot merges with Nick’s plot there.
      Maybe I should have put in lines to show that. Hmmmm.

      ETA: See second diagram.

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  2. Not believing doesn’t necessarily make her flat.

    You believe, Nick believes but both of you are in a world where it’s a possibility.

    If Nita has a not quite human background, she has probably been lying to herself for years about odd things because otherwise she’s crazy. One wrong word in high school and she could have found herself looking at involuntary commitment and serious meds – not to mention a psych history that would bar her from every job she wants.

    Think of conservatives who scream being gay’s a choice and then get caught in airport bathrooms. They think it’s a choice because they know that’s not who they really really are. Then they have to cheat because that’s who they actually are.

    She chooses not to be crazy and therefore she assumes Nick is choosing to be crazy. And she’s also a cop – so she meets people every day who claim to be Christ or the Great Spagetti Monster or John Wayne because they are crazy. So Nick is not her first “I am the great———”

    Write her as if he was crazy and she’s no longer flat and the reader might sympathize.

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    1. She’s going to be flat is she does exactly the same thing for 30,000 words no matter how rational it is.
      It goes back to the “Fiction has to be better than reality.”

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  3. Why does she have to refuse to admit he’s the devil?

    Characters refusing to admit things that the reader knows in the face of evidence that anyone but an idiot would be convinced by is generally a bad thing — and specifically, with magic stuff, this is one of the things that makes fantasy written by people from outside genre infuriating to read for people who are used to reading fantasy.

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    1. Because I would refuse to accept that without a great deal of proof.
      “In the face of evidence” is key. There are too many ways to fake things to accept the existence of the supernatural, but that’s easier than accepting the Devil if you didn’t believe in him in the first place, and then he shows up in front of you. Plus he uses that to explain why he didn’t get shot.
      Almost any evidence he’d show her could be faked, plus he’s not that invested in her believing him. He has work to do, and he’s running out of time, so dancing through hoops to show her something he doesn’t care if she believes in isn’t on his schedule.
      If Vinnie had been a little smarter, he’d have pointed out that Nick could have faked everything he’d seen.

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  4. Oh, this is very helpful to see. I think even just looking at it is going to really help me with some issues I’ve been having (literally for years) with a WIP. Now to make a scribbly copy of this for myself, since I’m working on the cheap (paper and pencil and not Curio!)…

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for these posts, which are both fascinating and educational!

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    1. Actually, I like pencil and paper for brainstorming. The up side to Curio is that I can keep it on my hard drive and not have to go looking for where I put that paper.

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      1. Hmm, that’s an excellent point… I’ve started taking pictures of important documents with my cell phone, because then they’re harder to lose (automatic backup of pictures to the cloud, because the phone itself is losable…).

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  5. Have the exact nature of the denial shifting across Act One? First supernatural in general, then supernatural in specific, then specifically Nick. And then you can play around with skeptical belief, where Nita is questioning the details of the system. She might know on a surface level that Nick is the Devil, but she doesn’t really believe what that means, in terms of his authority, his duties, his relationship to other supernatural elements, the relationship of the actual system to human religions, etc.
    This would allow for world-building to occur hand-in-hand with characterization, and means that Nita isn’t doing the blanket denial that Jo Walton points out is annoying to genre readers.

    Does Nick really need for Nita to acknowledge his Devil status? If not, then Act One can focus on relationship-building and the murder investigation elements, with minor supernatural elements integrated into that framework as “business as usual” for Nita. It’s not so much that she’s refusing to believe him, as not taking the claim seriously, and nothing yet forcing her to need to.
    That way, in Act Two, when the world-building opens up as Nita has to accept them, she has a personal reason (the relationships) not to walk away from it all/Nick, and their dynamic can be a little more static “fun and games” while the focus is on the Hell plot. (Which opens up more space in Act Three to focus on their relationship again, now that they’re together)

    In Diane Duane’s “So You Want to be a Wizard,” the first act introduces magic in a relatively low stakes framework of a potential solution to playground bullying. But then, the protagonists are dumped into a high-stakes adventure, as a price for their acceptance of magic. The resolution ties it back to the first act, with their character growth during their adventure being the long-term solution to their bullying issues.
    Mayhaps a similar structure would justify Nita’s act one denial, by using said denial to highlight a characterization point? (Like Bridget’s suggestion, and how Sleepy Hollow S1 set it up with Abbie.)

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    1. Well, Abbie sees a headless horseman kill her boss. All she has to do after that is accept that Crane’s a time traveller, which is a bigger stretch, but she’s already had her mind blown. (That first season was so good. And then . . .)

      I think the big thing for me is that these are two people who are pursuing two separate problems that they’re determined to solve quickly. Nita’s annoyed with Nick for the Devil thing because Joey just died and she wants his killer, and Nick’s screwing around like a dumb tourist, plus he’s joking about being dead while Joey’s body is in the morgue. Nick needs to close that Hellgate and get back home because being too long in this world is screwing up his shaky existence plus there’s trouble in the office back in hell, so Nita’s an annoyance.

      Nita gets hit with several big things at the end of the act that make it impossible for her not to accept that he’s the Devil, which means for Act Two, she’s severely knocked off balance, just as Nick’s off balance because he’s spent too long here. But I think at the point, the reader’s going to say, “Yeah, I’d believe at that point, too.”

      The key, I’m pretty sure, is arcing that disbelief. Which is what I’m doing this afternoon, getting out my nice fine points pens and graph paper (I love graph paper) and looking at the big moves in Act One, putting them into scene sequences and seeing how the events lead up to the turning point.

      Scribbling will be involved.

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      1. It occurs to me that you are loving not writing this book. That makes me happier even than the thought of reading another book from you.

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      2. and Nick’s screwing around like a dumb tourist, plus he’s joking about being dead while Joey’s body is in the morgue

        Yes, I think this is key. Not so much Nick is trying hard to convince Nita of his Devil status, and Nita still refusing to believe him. More like if some dude showed up joking that he was a giant company’s CEO, or the song of a Prime Minister, a sensible protagonist wouldn’t necessarily believe them, either. The arced disbelief would be something like “You’re not someone notable –>okay, you’re rich, but just that–>okay, you have authority, but it’s limited–>oh, you really are the big boss.”
        Or in this case, “You’re not someone supernatural–>oh, you do have some powers–>oh, you really are dead–>oh, you have authority over these demons–>oh, you really are the big boss.”

        Would it be possible to have plot reasons why Nick wouldn’t want to advertise his identity, so he can’t pull out the stops to convince Nita? Because of trouble back in the office, he doesn’t want it getting around that the boss isn’t at home at the moment/has been out for too long?

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        1. I was trying to think of why Nick would tell people he’s the Devil (because I didn’t want him lying and setting up that WHEN WILL THEY KNOW THE TRUTH stuff I hate on superhero shows), and what it comes down to is, it’s the only explanation for why he’s still upright and talking. He took seventeen bullets and he’s still walking around unscathed. What else is he going to say? “I’m Superman?” “They missed?”
          It’s the most efficient answer. As he says in Scene Three, lies are inefficient.

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        2. This reminds me of the end of How to Marry a Millionaire where everyone’s bragging about being rich, teasing Cameron Mitchell who has claimed to own this, that and the odd oil well. Everyone assumes he’s joking.

          He then pulls out a wad of $100 dollar bills and Lauren Bacall faints.

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          1. I love that ending. She married him knowing he was poor, and then he turned out to be the richest guy there.

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  6. “She has to keep denying in the face of proof, and that makes her dumb.”

    I think I must be dumb, because I would entertain a whole lot of other possibilities before believing someone was THE devil (a variety of other magical explanations, Mission Impossible is running a scam, I was hit on the head and am hallucinating). As long as she keeps denying it in new ways, it is not flat. (says the person who doesn’t write, never did and never will and who is therefore an expert.)

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    1. Well, that was my take on it to begin with.
      But now I have to arc it. Turns out it’s not going to be that hard (I think, still working with graph paper here).

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  7. Ooh. Not looking for storm-filled paper! Good idea to rationalise the hoard.

    I like bic crystal mediums in colours for brainstorming. Then everything linked gets a colour. That does mean picking up and putting down pens repeatedly, yet it works.

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  8. I’m the Devil.
    Yes, yes, you’re a devil.

    I’m the Devil.
    Yes, you’re a devil and a PITA too.

    I’m the Devil.
    No, you’re an arrogant jerk who I may arrest for obstructing justice.

    I’m the Devil.
    Fine, you’re the devil. Now will you please go do x, y or z while I interview this person?

    You can probably figure out better dialogue and make it arc too. But it’s not outright denial, it’s humoring the potentially mad person and then banter or something as things develop.

    I’m rereading Wild Ride right now so I may have Mab and Ethan’s disbelieving conversations in my head.

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  9. For those of you interested in Curio, probably my most-used program along with Word, Acorn, CloudMagic, and Safari:

    https://www.zengobi.com/products/curio/

    Not cheap but well worth it. The documentation is very clear, and the times I’ve e-mailed support have been fantastic (always because I didn’t RTFM).

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  10. This is all fascinating. I’m world-building in a way where supernaturals fear to reveal their identity, because they don’t want to wind up in the insane asylum. I’m pretty sure their magic is brain-based (somehow), and electric shock therapy would “cure” them of their magic and several other things (so would drugs and other therapies). I want to keep the real world much like the real world, and have a good excuse for why “mere mortals” don’t believe in magic. So, my stakes all must be kept quite small. No headless horsemen beheading policemen. No guys walking around taking 17 bullets without Kevlar. But that’s my world.

    Here, you are going big. Can’t really hide a Hellgate from the general populace.

    And, I can completely understand how Nick doesn’t really care if Nita believes he’s the devil. And here’s another biggie: Nita doesn’t care if Nick’s crazy — he’s not crazy enough to get him committed. So, to them, these are just annoying personality quirks during the first act. Something else should be driving Nita besides irritation at some guy’s “fantasy life” (from her point of view, the Devil act must be some sort of stupid Cosplay). Maybe in this case, what’s driving her nuts is not that he thinks he’s the Devil (which is really the frosting on the cake), but XX.

    At some point, though, it’s got to be important to Nick that Nita trusts him, and important to Nita that Nick is sane enough to be a reasonable life partner. Trust and being a functioning human being is important to most romantic relationships, isn’t it? (I’m uncertain — I’m consuming a lot of stuff that’s not-quite-romance at the moment, and being nutty seems to be part of the relationship — and the relationship always goes down the tubes in the end in the stuff I’ve been reading/watching lately. Depressing. Not stuff I want to write.)

    I think you are right. I can see this being an issue in the beginning, but they need to resolve it pretty quickly, or it just sounds like Nita is beginning to be a not-functioning, not-quite-sane human being. And Nick will begin to think he can’t trust Nita. If that makes sense.

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  11. You said that “Nick is off balance because he spent too long here.”

    Are there physical symptoms of this? Does he have to take some kind of demon prescription medication or see a demon doctor? If so, and Nita witnesses that, she might believe he is mentally ill. Would she humor him rather than deny his devil delusions? Would her internal conflict increase once she realizes she is falling for a mentally unstable man?

    Might any of this round out her character a bit?

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