Act One, Part Four: The Breakfast Scene as a Second Transition


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.  

• Part One is two parallel scenes that show Nita and Nick in stable worlds and the beginning of the fracture of those worlds.

• Part Two is Nita vs. Nick as they both try to find out what’s going wrong and the beginning (however testy) of their relationship.

• Part Three is two scene sequences showing the aftermath of that Part Two conflict with additional hits on Nita’s conviction that there is nothing supernatural on the island and Nick’s conviction that there’s is nothing left of his humanity.

• Part Four, the breakfast scene, is the payoff to all of that as they see each as more than puzzles,  and the transition into the last half of the story:

• Part Five, another double scene sequence (this one belongs to Nick) in which the two of them separately try to find out more about Joey’s death, the missing agents, and each other and getting more hits on their convictions about reality.

Part Six, two parallel scenes that show Nick’s conflict in Hell and throw the act into . . .

• Part Seven, a final single scene sequence with all the players on stage  in which what’s left of Nita and Nick’s  stable world disintegrates.

All of that makes the breakfast scene literally pivotal, that is, the plot pivots on it as a soft turning point.

What’s a soft turning point, you ask? (Well, carolc asked.) I made it up for my own use but I will generously share it with my fellow wonks (that’s anybody who’s still reading this post). Turning points are places in a narrative where a story turns in a new directions. There are big ones–the beginning where the story turns from the stable world; the middle ones that are things going wrong, the point of no return where the events of the story have changed the protagonist too much for her to back to her old stable life, and the crisis or going-to-hell point where all is lost; and then the last turning point, the climax that turns the story out of conflict and into a new stable world. Those are the biggies and they come before, between, and after the acts. But acts are like stories in and of themselves, and so they have internal turning points which are good to look at in a truck draft. (Not a discovery draft. You just write a discovery draft, don’t pick at it.)

So this first act of Nita’s, analyzed with turning points, makes the breakfast scene the point of no return. The elements are already there: Nick’s calm explanation of the supernatural makes it less unbelievable, Nita’s food brings some of Nick’s memories back, they bond over the food and over their interest in finding out who ordered Joey killed. I just need to make those things stronger so that the events send them both out with intensified goals. The breakfast scene isn’t a Point of No Return scene with the same intensity as the midpoint of the whole novel, it’s much softer, but it serves the same purpose in this act. And of course I did most of the stuff you told me to when you all did a beta read on the breakfast scene before, and thank you very much for that. Here’s the turning points diagram for this act: And here is your truck draft for the breakfast scene (you can get to it from the WiP tab on the website, too). It still needs work, but it does what it needs to do for the moment.  As always, all comments and suggestions are welcome. No rewriting, please, that’s my job.

42 thoughts on “Act One, Part Four: The Breakfast Scene as a Second Transition

  1. Hi Jenny, I don,t know how you do it. I thought the other scene? Draft? Was very good But I am sure this will be the final. I loved her dad, and I loved the repartee. Just great. No pressure but hurry up and finish the book.
    Best wishes Margaret

  2. I enjoyed her dad too but I’m confused as to why he was there. Post more scenes with him in it please. 😉

    I’m also confused about the Button family history but assume that will become clear in the final. I didn’t watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer so I only get the most blatant pop culture references to it.

    1. Yep. You can tell this is a first pass, it’s really thin.
      I thought it might be clear that he was there for breakfast, since Dag says in the previous chunk of scenes that the whole town goes there, it’s a townie bar. BUT it’s not clear, so I’ll fix that. (He’s in the next scene, too.)

      Edited to add:
      It’s fixed,.

      1. You’re supposed to go “oh, read the whole thing. It’ll make sense then” and post the entire draft for us.

        It’s worth a shot, right? Sigh. Ok, I’ll stop and find some patience to wait for the whole thing to be done. But I’m pre-ordering this on my Kindle as soon as I can.

        1. The plan is to have the entire first act truck draft up by Sunday and then do the paper edit.
          Then you don’t get any more. Unless you whine a lot. Actually, there’s a chunk at the beginning of the second act that’s really problematical, so you might get that, too, eventually.

          1. As I read this, it’s *already* Sunday in New Zealand. Man, I’m going to be great at whining.

  3. This whole scene. *Love*

    The addition of Nita’s dad and their relationship is perfect. She’s so tough that seeing their warm relationship endeared her to me in a way that hadn’t happened in previous drafts. Just charming.

    Just FYI, for me, it didn’t surprise me at all that the dad was at the diner (small town gathering place, he’s the mayor, etc.) The set up was all there.

    And I love the new way you have Nick grilling Nita about the food. In some of the other drafts, it felt a little forced. Here, not at all. It was funny and relevant and a great way to showcase Nita’s snark. Also, loved the cold shoulder Daphne gave Nick.

    Only one (very little) nit pick from me. At one point, you say “someone came in the door” and then “Mort sat down.” She obviously knew it was Mort who came in the door, so it just seemed weird not to outright say it.

    On the other hand, I really liked how she had her eyes closed when Nick sat down, but knew it was him by his heat before opening her eyes. It felt like a twist on the old romantic trope of having a heroine feel the hero’s body heat.

    Lastly, thank you for this lesson: The other scenes were really good, and had some great lines that I would have been tempted to cut and paste and otherwise stitch into the new scene. But you closed the door on it and rewrote it fresh and BOOM, all the Elvis is back.

    1. The thing is, all those other drafts gave me what I needed in the scene, so they weren’t wasted. And it’s a good way to kill darlings, too; if I’m not trying to save anything, I’ll remember the necessary and put that back and everything else can go.

      Fixing the Mort thing now.

      1. You’ve probably already fixed it by the time I read it because I had no problem with someone coming in, Nita not looking up since it’s a diner & people are coming in and out often, and then having Mort sit.

  4. Soft turning points. Yay! Thank you!

    Loved Nita’s dad, and I loved the Nita, Nick, Mort circus. Button’s family history was great – it added a whole new dimension to Button and the shooting of the demon in Nita’s house.

  5. WHAT WHAT WHAT. You TEASE. You think you know a scene, a family, and then BOOM. Daddy Mayor. WHERE did he come from?

    SERIAL DEMON KILLER? I’m loving this.

    Mort continuing to try to break in about the donuts was a little annoying. At one point I wanted to be like, OMG can’t you see their talking about something interesting, cool it a second. But the donuts are important, so that’s pretty realistic.

    Also more realistic is Nick grilling her on her food rather than them just sharing right away. Though I liked the immediate sharing. Ah well.

    The day I finally hold this book in my hands is going to be a very happy day. Well, download onto my kindle, but that just doesn’t give as nice a visual.

    1. There really isn’t anywhere before this that Nita can say, “My dad’s the mayor.” I think she’d keep it quiet because of nepotism assumptions.
      As for Mort, he’s trying to tell her as a cop that there are two dead from doughnuts, so the chat about Button’s history really would be second to him.
      I thought they’d advanced into sharing food too quickly the last time. There are more breakfast scenes. They share.

  6. Is it bad that I need the truck-typing picture colour changed so I know that this is a new post?

    FYI- State of mind. Today I went to the spare room to get the hair dryer, I wound up opening the spare fridge for the milk.

  7. Thank you for this! Definitely cheered up a grey day. I love the Nita and Nick back and forth in this.
    My only nitpick is that iron does poison (human) people, in sufficient quantities. My prenatal vitamin package always warned me very explicitly that iron was a leading cause of accidental poisoning in toddlers.

    1. That’s why I said “most.” I think. The amount of iron on the doughnuts wouldn’t have been bad for normal adults. Hadn’t thought about Joey giving one to a toddler.
      I have to avoid it because of the blood thing, which means I’m probably part demon. I’m very proud.

  8. Liked it a lot once I got past the newness (sorry, bonded with earlier versions, had to consciously let go). The only bit I found confusing was the Rab/Dag part. Particularly:

    “Rab whistled at Dag and nodded toward Nick, and Dag went back to Rab’s table as Daphne came over to the table….”

    I thought they just walked in together, so how does Rab have a table? If Rab and Nita just spoke, why does he have to point out Nick, which is what I assume he is doing by nodding toward him. I guess I am just not clear what they are doing in this scene at all, except establishing the forbidden Dag/Daphne thing.

    But no one else mentioned it, so perhaps I just missed something, or forgot something from an earlier part that would have made it make more sense to me.

    1. Yeah, I bonded with the earlier versions, too.

      You’re right about the Rab/Dag stuff. I’ll clarify it.

        1. *raises hand tentatively* Second and a half? I figured that Rab went ahead to claim a table while Dag was distracted by his star-crossed love, but I did have to reread that bit to make sure I hadn’t misread something.

          Overall, I’m loving this scene so much more now, it’s just come to life with the rewrite. I especially love the added interactions between Our Heroes and all the other characters, especially Nita’s Dad– not only does it feel less like watching a ping-pong match of Nita-Nick-Nita-etc., it really gives a sense of the community and family of the island, putting flesh on the skeleton of what previous drafts gave us. (Nita has a dad! We know why Daphne’s rude to Nick! Button’s family has even more history than we thought!)

          “Henry X” really threw me until I realized that X was probably a placeholder.

          Also, I don’t know if it being Nita and Mort’s 33rd birthday has any significance to the plot, but I always remember that 33 is the age of majority for hobbits, so if it turns out that some of the stuff is happening because Nita has reached some otherworldly adulthood, I reserve the right to give myself a cookie.

          Now I’m going to go fix myself some eggs, this scene made me hungry. XD

          1. I clarified that. That’s the kind of little fix that clears up places where readers can get confused. It doesn’t change the story any and it takes a minute to fix, so it’s an easy change.

  9. Love it. Laughed out loud at more places than the last ones. The food sharing definitely felt more natural, and I like Mort mooching her food too.

    The only thing that jarred for me was the dead bodies at the end. I thought Mort was a bit too easily distracted away from telling her and Nick about the poisoning.

    Other than that, it’s great, and I’m sure you need this group feedback on act 2 too. Absolutely certain.

  10. This version is so much better. The last version did feel like most of the life had gotten scrubbed out of it. But now I NEED the rest of the book. 🙂

  11. OMG, loved it. Every time I think, “this is wonderful, can’t get any better,” it magically does. I’m your slave.

    And somehow I missed the first scene repost. It’s incredible. I so love Nita’s level of snark. She’s a Crusie heroine now.

    Moar moar MOAR!

  12. It really is much better. I am a little sad about that as I too bonded with earlier versions, but this is great!

    And on to the nits…
    ““Stop it,” Nita said. “Just stop it. Who gave the doughnuts out?”


    Nita ate a donut. Didn’t she get it from Joey? So, doesn’t she already know Joey handed them out? (BTW, spelling of donut vs doughnut, is this a where you grew up thing?)

    Also, “for the love of God” when Nick asked about bacon the first time seemed an over the top reaction. Much more appropriate when it was used later “for the love of” when he mooches more of her food.

    Finally, we really are a helpful group and therefore for your own benefit you should use us to read the troubling scenes/acts that come next. {whining helpfully with a bit of begging – you know we’re all buying this as soon as possible}

    1. Oh, I’m not worrying about you buying it. I’m worrying about FINISHING it.

      Nita knew Joey gave her a doughnut. She didn’t know if he was the only one giving them out. But I agree, that needs clarified.

      I used “love of God” twice? Argh.

    2. One extra thing occurred to me just now. Nita or maybe Mort tells Nick that Button shot a demon but the night before Nita tried to cover up the fact that Button did the shooting. So should/would that be said?

      1. Ouch, you’re right.
        Mort might blurt it out though. I love Mort, but he tends to live in the moment.

        1. Me, too. He seemed pretty resistant to Nita claiming the shooting. Also, I am realizing that I had already accepted that Mort would bond with Nick right away, having no problem with his Devil claims, as it just further proves for him that demons are real. I’m not 100% sure where this acceptance came from. Apparently you can do headcanon for drafts….

  13. Another point that you may (or may not) want to consider.

    “Is she going to eat all of that?” Nick said to Daphne.

    Daphne stared at him icily and left.

    This could also come across as Daphne reacting to Nick seemingly being the food police about the amount of food for Nita’s breakfast. Nita asking immediately after that clears that up but it did cross my mind the first time I read this.


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