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.
And now we come to the math portion of our program.
I put all the pieces of the truck draft together in one file and checked the word count: 41,067. This is a fine word count for a book that’s 120,000 words long, but this one is aiming for 100,000. So I need to ax about 6,000 to 8000 words in the Paper Edit. And not just any words, I need to ax for pacing. Argh. Continue reading
Here’s the thing about first acts: they’re a bitch to write. They’re loaded with back story and infodump that you have to make into the now of the story, you have to twist your narrative into a pretzel to foreshadow any character you can’t get into a scene, you have to start not only your main conflict but any subplots you’ve got going, and you have to do it all while moving your plot from the beginning where the stability is shattered to the first turning point where things get much, much worse and the story hits a climactic turning point that swings the entire narrative in a new direction. And you have to do that in 33,000 words or less that are never boring and continually escalate as the stakes rise. Continue reading
Yes, I know, that last scene ended abruptly. Here’s the next part.
Remember how slow the first double scene sequence was? Yes, I’m cutting it, but now we have another one: After breakfast, Nita and Nick go to work because that’s logically where they’d go. Unfortunately that’s boring. The solution: Make sure there’s lots of conflict and cut as much as possible. Continue reading
Welcome to another installment of rewriting the breakfast scene. There’s a reason why this one is so difficult: It’s the central turning point in the first act, the place where Nita and Nick start seeing each other as human beings instead of puzzles to be solved.
One way to describe the difference between discovery drafts and truck drafts is that discovery drafts are “this happens and then this happens and this happens,” and truck drafts are “and this is what those things mean.” The way to do that isn’t by telling the reader what the stuff means; it’s by putting the action on the page in a way that leads the reader to interpret subconsciously what it means. Structure is one excellent way to communicate meaning. Continue reading
So the first part of Act One is two parallel scenes: Nita vs. Button and Nick vs Vinnie. Or, if you will, two determined drunk people against two determined sober people. In the first scene, Nita wins because she convinces Button it’s important to get out of the car and investigate. In the second scene, Nick wins because he terrorizes Vinnie into giving him information. And both winners want the same thing: To find out what’s going wrong on the island and get the person who ordered Joey’s death. The scenes are parallel, but they’re not identical.
The key to parallel scenes is to make them enough alike that they feel as if they belong together, that they’re part of a whole, but keep them different enough that people don’t feel as though they’re reading the same scene with different people. Then having introduced two powerful (hey, they won) protagonists, it’s time to bring them together while developing the plot. In this case, the plot is complex enough that introducing their relationship is going to take more than one scene. In fact, it’s going to take a scene sequence. Continue reading
The opening scene of any story should be (if I’m writing it, your mileage may differ) the transition from the stable world into the unstable. That doesn’t mean that everything is hunky dory at the beginning of the scene, there can be a lot of trouble, but it’s the usual trouble, nothing new, the protagonist’s world is still working the way he or she expects it to. And then Something Happens that turns the stable world into an unstable one. Continue reading
One of the things that charting an act can do (once you’re at the truck draft stage) is give you the synopsis of the act. Yes, I know synopses usually are for entire stories, but if you think of each act as a story in itself (and I do), then an act synopsis is a huge help because if you can tell yourself in one paragraph the plot of an act, you can hold the shape of that act in your head as you revise. A discovery draft is “this happens, and then this happens, and oh look what just showed up, and then this happens and wait this happened earlier, and . . .” It’s incoherent because it’s not supposed to be coherent, it’s supposed to be creative and free and anything goes.
The truck draft has to be coherent. Continue reading