Before anybody asks, no I haven’t cut Act Two yet. I’m fairly happy with Act One, and Act Four is going to need very little rewriting and no cutting because it’s already short, thank god, so it’s Act Two and Act Three that I have to cut anywhere from seventy to eighty pages from. Each. As Button would say, Crap.
Act Two is going to be the real bitch, so I skipped ahead to Act Three, thinking it would be a piece of cake since it could be divided into the Three Faces of Nick: 1858, 1934, 1981. And if it were Nick’s book, it would be easy. But it’s Nita’s book, which means that even though I can keep those three divisions, they have to be about Nita, not Nick. I even broke the damn act on the wrong turning point. I had it the scene where Nick collapses from being poisoned, but Nita doesn’t find out about it until several scenes later. So the scene where Nita realizes Nick isn’t Nick any more and she’s alone again, is the turning point. Except I never really wrote that scene, at least not that way.
So now I must rethink this act.
The rest of this post is me thinking out loud, and you know how that goes: disjointed and boring. Feel free to stop reading now.
Okay, so this act is about Nita trying to cope with Nick being different (and kick him into modern shape) while trying to stave off disaster and all the people who have decided to kill them both. But this can’t be about Nita trying to make Nick the man she thinks she should be, she has to accept the man he is. Except the man he is in 1958 is an insensitive, sexist, patriarchal jerk and the man he is in 1934 is a charming, sexist, patriarchal jerk. By the time the 1981 Nick shows up, he’s more evolved but unfortunately overwhelmed by events, not to mention all the times he’s been hit on the head (he tended to be a violent, sexist, patriarchal jerk).
BUT he also has to be Nick because she continues to love him (love is not love that alters when it alteration finds). So at base he has to be Good Nick, doing the right thing, protecting people, working with Nita. And Nita has to keep working because all Hell is breaking loose around her, sometimes literally; she can’t babysit Nick, she has to do her own job and keep agency. Which brings me to the big question: What the hell is this act about?
I know for the love story, it’s a demonstration of unconditional love for both of them. Nita wants to kill him, but she stays by him and protects him. And Nick thinks she’s a pushy broad who doesn’t know her place, but he steps between her and danger every time and refuses to let anyone else insult her. To really sell this, I need them to remake their relationship three times. They definitely do in 1934 and 1981, so there’s that.
So what do I do with all this other plot stuff? Nick’s solo scenes are pretty much him trying to figure out what the fuck is going on, and they’re brief, so they’re fine. Nita’s scenes are trying to solve the problems on her island, and I can shorten the ones that don’t have Nick (summarize, summarize) and concentrate on the ones where he shows up to solve the same problems and joins forces with her. That moves the Cthulhu plot and the romance.
But there’s all this other stuff that I think is just going to have to go because I have to cut a LOT of pages here, and some of this, fun as it was to write, is just all over the place. The attacks on Max, Rab, and Jeo can go, although I lose some dialogue I like between Max and Button there.
Chloe batted his hand away. “Stop touching that. You got winged in the same place I got you, so it’s kind of a mess, the bullet took out a chunk of you, but it went through so not as bad as it could be. . .”
“I got shot,” Max said to her. “It’s bad, okay?”
Chloe patted his good arm. “But you’re strong and brave and it won’t bother you at all.”
Max glared at her through the dizziness. “I’m weak and cowardly and I’m going to whine for a week.”
“I know,” Chloe said. “I was just trying to give you something to aim for, personality-wise.”
Yeah, that’s a darling and has to go.
So the first thing to do is to make the turning point Nita’s, not Nick’s, which means I move a chunk of the first part of this act to Act 2. I know, it’s the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party approach to cutting. Then I look at what happens in the first part of the act–Nita meets 1958 Nick and finds out that he’s lost his memory and he goes through a gate and she’s alone again, and tries to cope and ends up getting attacked at which point 1858 Nick shows up and saves her. So the first part is Nita trying to go it alone and fighting with 1858. Then Nick wakes up in 1934 and is arrogant and dismissive, but also charming and effective, and she eventually gets through to him and they connect on a partnership level and blaze through a lot of her workload. Then Nick wakes up in 1981, thoughtful and depressed, and Nita has to deal with that, mainly by dragging him back to work which gives him a sense of purpose.
But see, that’s still about Nick. What I need to do is break that down into the Three Stages of Nita. How do those things change her? And how does that change the relationship? How does all of that propel her into harrowing Hell?
I wrote this act following my nose, and now I have to re-set it so that it follows Nita’s plot. I think that means getting rid of the extraneous stuff, and I won’t know the extraneous stuff until I put the focus back on Nita. There are scenes of Nita with the Mayor and Nita with Sandy that I really like. I think the one with the Mayor is probably necessary; I’m not sure that the one with Sandy is, so that’s another one for the Outtake page if I set one up. It’s a nice scene and it makes me cry, but I think it’s superfluous. Same with the Great-Grandma scene; it doesn’t move the plot so it has to go.
So I’m back to listing the scenes and scene sequences and taking out the ones that don’t fit with Nita’s arc and the romance plot. This is fine, as KC Green would say.