“Are there four separate but not equal antagonists, or one antagonist and three minions [in The Devil in Nita Dodd]?”
There’s always only one main antagonist in a classic linear story because you can only have one climax with the obligatory scene of the protagonist and the antagonist facing each other in final battle.
But you can have subplots that the protagonist and (in this case) her team* have to clear out of the way to get to the Big Bad. In the best of all possible worlds, you have one main antagonist and a couple of subplots that aren’t life or death, say family or work. In this case, which I do not recommend, I ended up with five different factions fighting for different things:
I’m working on the rest of the book now, back in Discovery Draft, but I’m far enough along that I need to know What Would The Antagonist Do?
I have my antagonists. There are four separate groups working on the island, all chasing four wildly different goals with wildly different motivations and led by wildly different people. Unfortunately, I can only have one Antagonist, Nita’s opposite number, the person who’s the greatest danger, the one who’s manipulating the other sub-antagonists, the person Nita will face in the obligatory scene. And praise the Girls, I figured that out. Now all I have to do is develop character and plot a bunch of turning points. Continue reading
One of the weirdest things I discovered early in my career was that a story I’ve been writing on a screen not only looks completely different on the page, it reads completely different on the page.
That’s why a paper edit is crucial. Continue reading
Chapters are useless. They’re arbitrary divisions in a story that serve no purpose except to give readers a chance to put down the book and never come back. Unlike acts, scene sequences, scenes, beats, and all the other narrative units, chapters actually work against structure and meaning: you have to bend the book to make them work.
But they’re standard, so they stay. And I’m about to print out the first act which means I have to figure out where the chapter headings go so I put in transitions between the @#$%^&* chapters I don’t want in there anyway. Continue reading
I’m working on the assumption here that somebody out there is interested in this wonky stuff. If you’re not, feel free to skip. There’s math in this post.
So the Breakfast Scene at the end of the second mini-act was 3,524 words, and it needed to be a lot less. I don’t like scenes that are over 2500, even transition scenes like this one, so that was my upper limit. I ended up at 2560, so pretty good but still more cuts to come on the paper edit. Here’s how I did it.
Part of the discovery process for me is finding images that evoke character. They don’t have to look like the character although that’s always helpful, but the pictures I use as placeholders have to capture the attitude and personality of that character. When I thought about the Demon Island Historical Society, I thought of this Grant Wood painting:
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.