So that was fun. Kinda. I had to wade through a lot of Hawk to get to the good stuff, but I did learn some things, which I’m going to be cogitating about for probably days in no particular order. For right now, I’m focused on what the hell kind of story I’m writing, something the first season of Legends was great at showing what not to do.
1. Pick a lane.
I want this novel to be:
Women’s Fiction (Nita’s Journey)
Romance (Nick and Nita)
Team Story (Nita, Nick, Button, Rab, and a player to be named later but probably Max).
I can do all of those things, but one has to be first (main plot) and the others have to feed into it and support it (subplots). So time to pick a lane. Because if I don’t, I’ll have the first season of Legends of Tomorrow.
Legends‘ first season intro/Rip’s voiceover tells you what the problem is.
“In the year 2166, an immortal tyrant named Vandal Savage conquered the world and murdered my wife and child.
“I have assembled an elite team to hunt him throughout time and stop his rise to power.
“Unfortunately, my plan is opposed by the body I’ve sworn my allegiance to: The Time Masters.
“In the future my friends may not be heroes, but if we succeed, they will be remembered as legends.”
Look at that plot salad:
The first sentence says the story is about the speaker vs Vandal Savage who murdered his wife and child.
The second sentence says he’s assembled an elite team (lie, have you see these yahoos?) to stop Savage’s rise to power (lie, it’s to save his family)
The third sentence says there’s another antagonist, the Time Masters.
The fourth sentence and the one that should sum up the story, is that his team will be remembered as legends (lie, he’s seen the future and they’re completely forgotten) which says this is a team story.
It’s all over the place, spoken by an extremely unreliable narrator (also Worst Team Leader Ever).
Now look at Legend’s second season voiceover intro, spoken by a different member of the team each episode:
“Time travel is real, and all of history is vulnerable to attack, which is why we must travel through time to stop the spread of these so-called time aberrations and to erase their damage to history. We are a team of outcasts and misfits, so please don’t call us heroes. We’re something else. We’re legends.”
That’s a plot. More than that, it’s a team story because now it’s not Rip and his “elite” helpers, it’s “we.” “We are a team of outcasts and misfits.” One voice, speaking for the team which is the protagonist, giving its mission purpose: guard history from disruption from time marauders.
Legends intends to spread its stories evenly among its team members (hence a different team member doing the voiceover each week), and I’m not sure that’s a great plan. I think that the leader of each team needs to anchor the story the way he or she anchors the team so that the story overall has that sense of an authority in the text, that somebody’s in charge here and we’re going to follow the story through his or her eyes. That said, in a team story as a main plot, all the team players have to play major roles, so you’re going to have some dilution of focus automatically. That makes it doubly important, perhaps most important, that the team have a single focus that pulls everything together.
The Person of Interest team, for example shifts over five seasons from a two-person team to a six-person Machine Gang and from individual antagonists to Samaritan, but they never change their mission of saving the “irrelevant” numbers, and the first season introduction said just that in Finch’s voiceover:
“You are being watched. The government has a secret system: a machine that spies on you every hour of every day. I know, because I built it. I designed the machine to detect acts of terror, but it sees everything. Violent crimes involving ordinary people; people like you. Crimes the government considered ‘irrelevant’. They wouldn’t act, so I decided I would. But I needed a partner, someone with the skills to intervene. Hunted by the authorities, we work in secret. You’ll never find us, but victim or perpetrator, if your number’s up… we’ll find you”.
The key there, again, is “we” “We work in secret.” It’s not Finch and his helpers, it’s the Machine Gang.
Looking at those three voiceovers, two of which introduce teams and one of which introduced chaos, it occurred to me that it might be a good exercise for me to write an opening voiceover for Nita’s story. It won’t be in the book (might be cover copy) but it will help me decide whether this is women’s fiction, romance fiction, or team story. In fact, what I should do is write one of each for Nita just to see what I get. Stay tuned. Or better yet, write one for your story. You don’t have a story? Write one anyway. You’re gonna need:
A protagonist or a team (depending on what kind of story you’re writing)
A goal or a mission
An antagonist creating conflict.
Oh, and it should also make somebody want to watch or read the story.
Go. See you tomorrow. Or maybe the day after; this is going to be difficult.
Edited to add:
You know what’s easy? Team voiceovers:
On Demon Island, tourists come to play at being devils and demons, but we know there’s much more to this island than green make-up and Hell Fries. We’re the Devil’s Minions, and we may not all be human, alive, or even corporeal, but we share the same mission: to protect everyone and everything on Demon Island, regardless of race, creed, or signs of life. Cross us, and there’ll be Hell to pay.
You know what’s really hard? Romance voiceovers. I keep ending up with cover blurbs.
Also difficult, women’s fiction/mystery/single protagonist voiceovers, but nowhere near as difficult as that damn romance intro:
I’m Detective Nita Dodd, and my job is to protect and serve the citizens of Demon Island, an island on which there are no demons, just an amusement park with a Hell-ish theme and a lot of stores selling green baseball caps with horns. The island is quiet during the off season, but somebody just shot my friend Joey, one of the witnesses says he’s the Devil, and another one swears he’s seen demons. I’d say they were all just drunk, but lately I’ve been seeing things that aren’t there myself. Something’s going on here, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it and find out who ordered Joey killed, even if I have to go to Hell and back to do it.
That’s way too long, but still only half as long as the romance version. Maybe I should just go with:
She’s a cop, he’s the Devil, they fight crime!
Yeah, back at you later on that one.