Act One, Part One: Parallel Scenes for the Beginning

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

Act One: The Synopsis

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

Get Your Knives Out

So I’m not a fan of scenes that run on too long. I’m not a stickler about it, but in the first act, I try to keep my scenes under 3000 words, 2500 even better, and then in the last three acts never top 2500, in the last act even shorter. I’ve been rewriting the breakfast scene which has to do a lot of heavy lifting, and I like it. But it’s 4400 words. That’s ridiculous. It must be cut.

I am still in the darling stage with it. I want EVERY DAMN WORD. But at least a thousand words have to go. Your job, should you choose to accept it, it to tell me where it lags, where it’s confusing, where you’d cut it. Feel free to be brutal. As always, I won’t respond for twenty-four hours–YOU WANT ME TO CUT THAT??????–because I need to detach for distance, but all feedback is more than welcome.

Yes, I know I keep exploiting you. But you keep coming back. It’s a symbiotic relationship.

Scene is here.

Act One: Getting Closer

So this week, I cogitated. My first act was too long and too wordy. My fourth PoV was introduced too late. The threads of the main plot and the subplots weren’t coherent. The book didn’t know what it wanted to be.

So I opened my Nita Curio file and did some mapping. Story mapping for me (not necessarily for anybody else) is taking the essence of a scene–Protagonist and Goal, Antagonist and Goal, who wins, what plot does it move?–and reducing it down to a Curio card, and then arranging the cards in chronological order in columns that identify the setting. My curio cards look like this: Continue reading

Expectation and Reversal: A Video Explanation

We’ve talked about setting up expectations and then reversing them in a way that makes the reader/viewer see things in a different way so they feel engaged and delighted instead of swindled (the infamous Gotcha). I love this video because it’s a great short visual for that concept:

My fave is the lightbulb that lights up instead of breaking; not just a reversal but a delightful surprise.

Originally on Vimeo.