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
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.
No, not me, I’m pretty chipper here, getting plenty of sleep, beautiful day, everything’s fine.
I’m talking about exhausting my text by rewriting. Continue reading
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 next chunk. It’s boring.
That’s not exactly true, Nita almost gets killed, so that’s good, but there’s still too much chat. (I love dialogue.) And Nick’s stuff is deadly dull. The structure doesn’t help; it’s two scene sequences spliced together which insures that one of those sequences will be annoying because it’ll take people away from the one they liked. So here’s what I need to do: Continue reading
Okay, before you read the rest of this post, what color are demons? Not in Nita’s book, in real life. When you think of demons, cartoon demons, movie demons, whatever, what color are they?
Decide before you read the rest of this.
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