Thank god, the math is over.
Escalation is pretty simple: the stakes get higher in each section between the turning points of the act. So checking for escalation is just making sure the stakes increase at each turning point.. Easy
Unless you’re an idiot who lets huge plot points drop so your protagonist can go shopping.
Let’s look at how this truck draft escalates while I berate myself throughout this post.
Before the act starts, Nita goes to the crime scene to help Mort, and Nick talks to Joey about his missing agents. Those are the stable worlds for those PoV characters.
The act begins when Nita finds out Joey’s been murdered (beginning stakes) and Nick is dealing with seeing Joey get murdered (beginning stakes).
The first turning point comes when Nita sees Nick as a skeleton (but doesn’t believe it so the stakes don’t rise) and when Nick realizes that Nita isn’t completely human (so now he has to find the gate and his agents, get the guy who ordered the hit on Joey AND find out what Nita is so he’ll know if she’s a problem). Nick’s plot escalates, Nita’s doesn’t.
Rewrite Goal: Rewrite that moment when Nita sees Nick as something that raises the stakes for her.
Pushed on by that turning point, Nita goes home and somebody tries to kill her, after which she covers for Button and then goes to breakfast the next morning, mentioning it in passing to Nick and then discussing poisoned doughnuts. Nick chats with Dag and Rab with no escalation, and then finds out about the demon who tried to shoot Nita and the doughnuts. Nita goes to work and Nick eats her French toast.
This is where I banged my head on my laptop several times. You know if somebody tried to kill me at 3AM, I would still be concerned about that at 7:30AM. In fact, I would be concerned about that THE ENTIRE DAMN DAY. I might even INVESTIGATE THAT. And if I also found out that a bunch of people on my island were poisoned by doughnuts, I MIGHT INVESTIGATE THAT, TOO.
And if I’m the guy who cleans up after rogue demons and one of them tried to shoot a woman I know, I MIGHT INVESTIGATE THAT. And if I then find out that somebody is poisoning demons using the guy I liked who got murdered in front of me, I MIGHT INVESTIGATE DOUGHNUTS.
I swear to god, I did not see how incredibly stupid I’d been until I did the escalation check. This is why it’s important to see the forest, not just the trees. I’m really good at details, but big picture? Not so much.
That muttering you hear in the back ground is me, swearing at myself.
So to get back to analysis, if I’d had any brains at all, there’d have been a lot of escalation at the end of this section because both Nita and Nick would have been galvanized by the attempted assassination and the poisoned doughnuts.
Rewrite Goal: Get your head out of your ass, Jenny, and fix your damn plot holes.
So that means a massive rewrite on How Nita Spends Her Afternoon and How Nick Spends his Afternoon, although Nick at least has a great escalation at the end of this section when he finds out what Nita is and gets saddled with Mammon and Max. Nita, on the other hand, chats a lot and shops. Because she’s evidently brain dead.
Rewrite Goal: Nita tries to find out who’s poisoning doughnuts and trying to kill her. Nick tries to find that out, too. Jesus wept.
In the last section, the stakes rise for Nita because she realizes the supernatural is real. The stakes rise for Nick because he’s invested in her even if he’s not realizing it yet, and because he had to smite somebody which is a serious thing for him. That’s still a little fuzzy and needs to be tied to the whole doughnut and assassination thing in a way that shows there are two conspiracies on the island, but at least the stakes are higher at the end.
Rewrite Goal: Set up the two conspiracies somehow so that it’s clear that Nita and Nick are still concerned with the doughnuts that caused Joey’s death and the attempt on Nita’s life, all of which happened about eighteen hours ago, so still very fresh in their memories.
I can’t believe I missed something that freaking huge. I know, I know, early draft, but somebody tried to kill her and she forgot about it? Somebody poisoned the island populace (and Nita) and she let that drop?
It may be awhile before I’m back with the paper edit. Talk amongst yourselves while I go beat up on myself some more.