I am now deep into revisions with the entire book written, which means lots of analysis. Do not do this during discovery drafts, it annoys the Girls.
Basically, I ran the Act Two plot through the analysis wringer five times:
Once to look at the action only.
Once to look at the antagonist conflict.
Once to ramp up the antagonist conflict because it was weak.
Once to look at the romance.
Once to look at the Button/Max foil romance.
Act Two fell pretty naturally into five parts:
Sequence 1. Nita comes unglued after finding out the supernatural is real; Nick takes care of her
Sequence 2. Nita and Nick negotiate relationship, team.
Sequence 3. Nita and Nick work apart, realize better together
Sequence 4. Nita and Nick work together, real partnership.
Sequence 5. Nita and Nick bond, Nick is poisoned and becomes a different Nick, Nita takes over.
So Act Two is strong on arcing the relationship. And the investigation really does turn up a lot: they find the last missing agent and the first gate, they stop the extortion of demons and businesses, they form a Five Man Band (okay, six man band).
Not sure HOW they for a band. Maybe Nita as Leader, Nick as Lancer, Button as Hitter, Rab and Jeo as Brains, and Max as the Chick. No. Okay, let’s do a Leverage band instead: Nita as Mastermind, Nick as the Grifter , Button as Hitter, Jeo and Rab as Hackers, Max as Thief. That’s not right, either. How about Nita as Leader, Nick as Lancer, Button as Hitter, Jeo as Brain, Max as Grifter, Rab as Chick. Note to self: Work on the team.
Where was I? Right, so if that’s all in there, why is this act such a mess?
After Nancy pointed out that Act Two lacks action, I took another look at the events in that Act and tried to treat it as a story in itself by taking the five part outline and rewriting it as a synopsis, just the action.
The problem here is that Nita’s really not active in this first section, Nick is, but it’s because Nita’s just had a major shock. Nick takes Nita back to the bar, gives her food and drink, takes her into a gate to save her from her mother, goes to hell to find her, brings her back to the apartment to keep her safe, works on the stuff they took from Rich’s cabin, and finally comforts her, a new thing for him. That’s all action and movement, but it’s all Nick.
Meanwhile, Nita just tries to keep from screaming. I think I’m okay with that because it’s the first place Nick breaks a sweat. And Nita would be coming unglued. She’s had a long day and then it got really weird.
Nita finds Lily in Nick’s bed. He brings breakfast and they negotiate the new normal while Lily tells them about Pure Island.There’s a team meeting where Nick and Nita struggle over leadership. that breakfast lasts forever, and there’s a lot of talking. This needs work.
Nick finds a gate, Nita struggles with Lily damage at work, goes to lunch with her dad, shuts down Moloch, deals with Button shooting Max, some more stuff I forget which means this is probably where I cut anything that’s not conflict in motion.
Nita and Nick go to the club and search the office, question Tommy; Nita gets attacked by the Lemmons, there’s nothing but action here.
Nita kisses Nick on the street and goes to work, he’s poisoned and loses his memory, she comes back to the apartment for lunch and has abrupt sex with him not realizing he’s not her Nick any more, Nick goes to Italy, Nita has a team meeting to find out what the hell just happened, takes over the team.
I think the problems are in sequences two and three (why is it ALWAYS the mess in the middle?), but it’s also that this is not focused enough. I need events that are conflict with the antagonist (Hello, Cthulhu).
Sequence 1. Nick holds Nita together while he goes through Rich’s books, shutting down that part of Cthulhu’s operation. Cthulhu sent Rich to take out Nita in Act One and instead pushed her closer to Nick, so he’s not happy.
Sequence 2. Nita and Nick send the team out to shut down the gates Cthulhu has opened; Nita floats the idea of Cthulhu (one force behind all the crimes and disruptions) which the rest of the team rejects because of all the different motives. Cthulhu finds out and is not happy.
Sequence 3. Nick shuts down a gate, Nita promises swindled businesses they’ll get redress, rebuffs Moloch, shuts down Lily. Cthulhu is unhappier.
Sequence 4. Nick and Nita find evidence that sends them after the Lemmons in the next act, which will shut down another part of Cthulhu’s plan. Cthulhu ramps up because they’re getting too close and he’s losing too many sources of income.
Sequence 5. Cthulhu’s stepped up timetable brings Nick down, Nita takes charge.
Yes, but if Cthulhu’s just sitting around saying, “I’m not happy,” that’s not real conflict. He has to DO something to escalate the conflict. He does at the end, but that’s only one move.
Sequence 1. Nick kills Rich and takes the evidence of the baph extortion. Cthulhu steps up poison, tells Lemmons to replace income and stop Nita; poisoners will take out Nick.
Sequence 2. Cthulhu sends Lily to see if poison is working, somehow finds out about team plans and moves to stop them. Maybe an attempt on Nita’s life here? Add a spy to the bar? Oh, wait, Vinnie’s right there and he needs something to do in the story. Vinnie, you dumbass, stop talking to Cthulhu. REWRITE HERE.
Sequence 3. Cthulhu sends Moloch to threaten poisoners because the poison isn’t working fast enough, to split up Nita and Nick, and to . . . something a lot stronger because that’s really wimpy conflict. Must cogitate. REWRITE HERE
Sequence 4. Cthulhu sends Lemmons to kill Nita; Stripe saves her, Lemmons get cold feet. He sent Ukoback and Rich to kill her in Act One, but only the Lemmons in Act Two, he’s going to have Moloch take her out in Act Three; maybe have another attempt in Two? Cthulhu screams “What is she, Rasputin?” (I’m kinda wanting a Cthulhu PoV here because what this book need is MORE WORDS.)
Sequence 5. Cthulhu tells the poisoners to just cram the stuff down Nick’s throat and it finally works, Nita steps up to go it alone.
Okay, that’s better. Who knew the antagonist was the key to the conflict. Oh, yeah, I did. (Do as I say, not as I do.)
And then there’s the romance.
Sequence 1. Nita realizes Nick’s been telling the truth about being the Devil’s next-in-line and that she’s not entirely human, which takes down her “he’s a crook” romance barrier; Nick’s poisoning is bringing him back to life enough to notice her body and start thinking about her in terms other than work. Lots of touching.
Sequence 2. Breakfast shows them comfortable with each other, foreshadowing future, working together against Lily without jealousy. Nick proposes. They negotiate the team, foreshadowing future mature love.
Sequence 3. Working apart, they realize they’re better together.
Sequence 4. Good partnership at club, Nita goes to Nick for help after Stripe et al, no drama relationship, solid.
Sequence 5. Kiss on street, Nick is poisoned and comes back as a jerk, weird sex, Nita takes over to save Nick and defeat Cthulhu.
That’s all there, I just need to do a polish. Shiny, shiny romance.
And then there’s the Button/Max relationship. which is there for comic relief and as a foil to Nita and Nick:
1. Button and Max are apart for this section. (This is the first time Nita and Nick really bond.). Button is dealing with Cthulhu through investigating Pure Island and Max is threatening the Lemmons.
2. Button and Max meet, told to search for gate together, don’t like each other. (Nick and Nita negotiate team leadership, grow closer.).
3. Button shoots Max. Max is still working against Nick, Button is not on board with anybody. (Nick and Nita realize they’re better together.).
4. Max brings flowers and candy to the Inn where Button’s staying, tries to charm her into a truce. She rejects the charm, takes the chocolate, they negotiate a cease-fire on Button’s part. (Nick and Nita negotiate during club break-in, become a partnership.).
5. Button and Max at breakfast are working together, cautiously. Nita and Nick are working together, in a romantic relationship. Cthulhu blows everything up by taking Nick out.
Okay, this is starting to take shape. The key is that the same events must do all of those things, multitasking. At least now I have some focus and I can rid of this damn act and go on to Act Three which is all action and fun stuff.
Although there’s also the Nita/Button relationship that arcs here, and the Nick/Max relationship since both are foils to the other . . .
My head hurts.
Must go write now. Y’all have a good day.