Novel Makers Week 4: Sketch your plot

Week 4 introduction part 1, part 2, and part 3.

Here’s one option for the story setup for Mech Runners. When it’s time to write, we’ll create a number of sketches and select the one with the most zing.

Lily is the muscle of an illegal arms-running crew, operating the weapons, including the mech suits they steal.  When the crew steals a set of suits from the government of the Cobar system and sells them to a barbaric warlord exploiting the resources on a hostile planet, she figures she’ll earn enough to move her mother and father out of their wretched home and get her brother a new leg. But when she sees the warlord butchering settlers and taking their children as slaves, she can’t turn her back and walk away. Will Lily be able to take out the warlord and free the settlers when her team is against her, the warlord has a superior force and security, and the team’s crime bosses have told them this is their last chance to pay up?

Other events I didn’t mention:

  • Action stories start in action. That’s another one of those “what’s cool” things. So why not have the opening scene be of them stealing the mech suits? It shows who they are and what they do and lets us get to know the characters.
  • Someone down on the surface, a two-faced settler, rats them out at some critical juncture to the warlord.
  • The crime bosses show up and our little team has to convince them it’s all in their interest.
  • One of the team members gets taken hostage

And so it goes. I hope you have a great time with this.

Hey, what about the government they stole them from? Do they come after them too? Or maybe they put a hunter onto their trail. Humm. A twist to explore. And maybe jettison later. We’ll see.

Your goals

You have one goal this week: sketch your plot.

Good luck!

Discovery Questions & Activities

Question 1: What are the events of my plot? (10 hrs)

  • Read Lesson 7: Develop your ideas – plot and complete each step there (you might find this very productive to do with your buddy).
  • When you finish, create a brief bullet-point sketch that summarizes what you developed; limit it to 2 pages.
  • Summarize in a paragraph or two what happens in the first three events.
  • Post (1) your bullet-point summary, (2) the paragraphs about the first three events, and (3) one insight you picked up about sketching a plot.

Question 2 (optional): What works in story setups? (1 hr)

  • Read the story setups of the other students posted for last week and let them know which of their options you like best.
  • Look at the some of the ideas that you didn’t like as much, and see what they were missing? Was it a clear gnarly obstacle? Significant stakes? What was it?
  • Send me an email with your answers.
Share

23 Responses to Novel Makers Week 4: Sketch your plot

  1. Bret says:

    1. prologue: introduce villain and indicate world rules/ architeuthis mechanica (Archma)
    2. introduce Ellis and changelings with an audition for Col. Gilliam’s Grand Spectacle in Rio Fuga
    a. Romina Adaga kidnaps the boy and demands payment for taking something of hers. “I may have pleasured more men and women than anyone else I know, but I didn’t get to where I am by being nice.”
    b. Ellis pays the fee but Romina pays Alabaster’s price
    3 Ellis loses Amethyst House
    4. Confrontation with Auric
    5. Hiram gets in the way.
    6. Simon Feud sends a messenger
    7. Ghost of Auric
    8. Alabaster seeks treatment
    9. Tanquo
    10. Tio-street fighter
    11. Swamp Monster
    12. Dealing with Hiram
    13. discovery of Zella
    14. unveiling of the crawler and Zella tries to escape
    15. Alabaster sabotages the Mobius Star
    16. Tio’s freedom
    17. 1001 Moldeen Nights
    18. Auric’s Grit
    19. Desert Nights to Scurvy Dogs
    20. Mutiny on the Midnight Quarrel
    21. Infiltrating Amethyst House
    22. Death of Simon Feud and the secret of the Still
    23. Pursuit and boarding
    24. Into the Still
    25. Capture (Into the Belly of the Beast)
    26. Belly problems -clockwork guards siphoning pain from changelings but Tio turns the tide
    27. Changelings vs Clockworks
    28. Tio vs Alabaster
    29. Seduction of Auric
    30. Ellis vs Boscage
    31. Return to Amethyst House
    32. epilogue: Do you have Mr. Auric in a can?

    The prologue shows Dr. Boscage and a crew of changelings kidnapping Simon Feud from the train depot at the wharf in Negromante on the shore of the Coh Sea, east of the Still. There is a fight between three changelings and Simon’s son Tio, who is actually a clockwork man. Dr. Boscage is eventually successful, and Tio is left bleeding out hydraulic fluid on the wharf. This establishes the antagonist, introduces a subplot and character for later, and builds the world while leaving some mystery as to what Dr. Boscage is going to do. Since for a good portion of the novel, people are benefitting from Dr. Boscage, I need to establish early on that he has a dark motive.

    The next scene has Ellis Crafte, the protagonist, sitting in an audition in Rio Fuga. A poor farmer has brought his son to audition for Col. Gilliam’s Grand Spectacle, a circus-like show that also helps changelings around the world. The changeling boy is a wonderful singer, but he’s developing feathers and clawed feet. His parents are eager to get rid of the stigma of being parents to a changeling, but are also protective of the boy. They see the Grand Spectacle as their best hope for a decent life for the boy (and maybe a some money to come their way). The small confrontation with Romina Adaga shows how low the changeling life is and Alabaster’s might.

    The third scene (if the second doesn’t get broken into two) would be Ellis returning home to find his brother has returned from his drug-fueled exile to take up the family business and has removed Ellis from stewardship of the Amethyst House. This reintroduces Dr. Boscage and shows that something is wrong in Coh Widden where the Amethyst House sits. It also sets Ellis on a collision course with Dr. Boscage.

    Insight: I started trying to plot this out in a linear fashion from beginning to end. When that didn’t work, I tried to skip around, but that wasn’t working either. Finally, I remembered about plotting out the antagonist’s moves as well. That’s when I set up a table with three columns. The first column was for the protagonist, the second for the antagonist, and the third was for anything else. Being able to see different ideas in those columns helped me figure out my overall plot. The anything else column helped immensely as it was the pure idea column. There was no editor on that column or restrictions and it helped me get past linear thinking and helped me develop twists and such without restraint. Now I have a novel plotted. I’ve written a novel-length work before, but it was seriously flawed. It has been a decade since I took on that kind of challenge. I can’t wait to dive into this project now.

    • Greg Baum says:

      Wow, Bret, I love that idea of the three columns–I’m going to try that next time.

    • John Brown says:

      I’m excited too. There’s a ton of resonance here.

      And I like you column technique. I’ve broken out the various players into their own columns, but not done a third column. That’s a great idea. And so happy to hear that the idea of playing both sides helped.

      Can you do something for me and edit your post above to show me the beginning of the Struggle and Resolution and where the THOMR is introduced?

      • Bret says:

        I don’t think I can edit it, but I can redo it.

        1. prologue: introduce villain and indicate world rules/ architeuthis mechanica (Archma) (Beginning of MYSTERY)
        2. introduce Ellis and changelings with an audition for Col. Gilliam’s Grand Spectacle in Rio Fuga
        a. Romina Adaga kidnaps the boy and demands payment for taking something of hers. “I may have pleasured more men and women than anyone else I know, but I didn’t get to where I am by being nice.”
        b. Ellis pays the fee but Romina pays Alabaster’s price
        3 Ellis loses Amethyst House (Beginning of Struggle)
        4. Confrontation with Auric
        5. Hiram gets in the way.
        6. Simon Feud sends a messenger
        7. Ghost of Auric (I would say this is the beginning of the THREAT)
        8. Alabaster seeks treatment
        9. Tanquo
        10. Tio-street fighter
        11. Swamp Monster
        12. Dealing with Hiram
        13. discovery of Zella
        14. unveiling of the crawler and Zella tries to escape
        15. Alabaster sabotages the Mobius Star
        16. Tio’s freedom
        17. 1001 Moldeen Nights
        18. Auric’s Grit
        19. Desert Nights to Scurvy Dogs
        20. Mutiny on the Midnight Quarrel
        21. Infiltrating Amethyst House
        22. Death of Simon Feud and the secret of the Still
        23. Pursuit and boarding
        24. Into the Still
        25. Capture (Into the Belly of the Beast) (Beginning of the Resolution. Definitely the innermost cave)
        26. Belly problems -clockwork guards siphoning pain from changelings but Tio turns the tide
        27. Changelings vs Clockworks
        28. Tio vs Alabaster
        29. Seduction of Auric
        30. Ellis vs Boscage
        31. Return to Amethyst House
        32. epilogue: Do you have Mr. Auric in a can?

  2. Greg Baum says:

    The Memory Palace Murder
    Viola Brasher arrives at Saint-Remy for her recovery after hip surgery and, because of her wealth, is placed in one of the finest assisted living apartments. After meeting the formidable Nurse Lee and one neighbor, Ninian Ruggs, Viola tries to sleep. Her rest is interrupted by screaming from next door, followed by an abrupt silence and hurried footsteps. By the time Viola makes it to her walker and to her neighbor’s room, she finds a dead woman (Artimissa).

    When she reports her discovery, Viola finds that the staff and administrators are quick to discount her claim that Artimissa was murdered, and they produce accounts from the night staff that no one was seen entering or leaving Saint-Remy after visiting hours. As Viola learns more about the residents and staff at Saint-Remy, she realizes that the murderer may be in their midst and that the likely motive is greed, which makes Viola suspect that she is the next target. Before Viola can become a victim, she begins an investigation into the death of Artimissa.

    Insight: I liked the practical consideration of length and episodes; this wasn’t something I’d ever done before, and I felt like it was very helpful to have some sort of metric in order to estimate the length of the story and the corresponding number of episodes. I had always worked the other way, plotting first and then estimating a length based on the number of episodes I had planned. I also found the different strategies for developing plot (twists, cool things, imagining the antagonist’s moves) extremely helpful.

    • First night in Saint-Remy, hears Artimissa screaming, hears footsteps, discovers Artimissa dead
    • Reports to Nurse Lee and Hardcastle, They refuse to believe it was murder, insist that the janitorial staff and night nurses didn’t see anyone moving around that night
    • Talks to Ruggs and Joy, learns about various characters; plan to sneak into Artimissa’s room
    • Sneak into Artimissa’s room, framed picture on side-table; jewelry missing; need to find jewelry
    • Sees Nurse Lee kill a cat with a shovel; asks Nurse Lee about photo, learns Artimissa had a daughter who died young
    • First run-in with Skinner (janitor) and Skaggs (threatening another resident), learn about his past and his violence, rumor that he was a rapist
    • At dinner, learns more about different characters and possible motivations
    • Viola’s learns temporary guardianship has been assigned to the nursing home; she’s been committed and can’t leave; meets Dr. Rommel; discovers why she has to solve this murder (personal and justice)
    • Searching janitor’s closet because the trash had already been emptied from Artimissa’s room; caught by Nurse Lee
    • Confrontation with Hardcastle and Nurse Lee; told again to drop the issue; it reflects poorly in her ongoing evaluation and in the evidence to be presented at the guardianship hearing
    • Investigates Skinner’s car; Skinner catches them; he points them to Slick Willie
    • First attempt on Viola’s life; Skaggs is waiting in her room, attacks another patient by mistake
    • Plays rummy with Ruggs; romance; points her towards Slick Willie
    • Tests in Washington; manages to get a break, calls private eye, asks him to look into staff at hospital—esp. Skinner and Slick Willie, but all of them
    • Eavesdropping on nurses (in secret passage?); learn more about Slick Willie and Rommel
    • Following Slick Willie at night; see him stealing from residents; hands over documents to a stranger through the fence; find Nurse Lee meeting Dr. Rommel outside, argument about money and upcoming review
    • Breakfast with Ruggs; tries to establish timeline for everyone’s location on night Artimissa dies; can’t place Slick Willie or Hardcastle
    • Breaks in to Nurse Lee’s office to get results of Alzheimer’s test; finds incriminating note
    • Confronts Slick Willie about stealing; he reveals Nurse Lee wasn’t home the night of the murder
    • Break into Nurse Lee’s home, find stolen jewelry, Nurse Lee and Hardcastle romantically involved; Nurse Lee’s money problems
    • Learn that Dr. Rommel was there the night Artimissa died, his relationship with; he saw Nurse Lee going into Artimissa’s room the night of the murder; second phone call to PI
    • Second attempt on Viola’s life; her pills are mixed up, and Joy spots them before Viola can take them; Nurse Lee seen earlier in the dispensary
    • Information from PI arrives; mostly innocent, but learns Nurse Lee killed a patient in Philippines, acquitted, left for America with plenty of cash; nothing on Rommel; Artimissa’s daughter who died young, complications from surgery;
    • Playing rummy again with Ruggs; learn some more of his backstory; he tells a story from being a detective that sparks an idea for Viola, using bait to lure out criminal; romance
    • Use framed picture from Artimissa’s room as a way of luring out criminal; tell everyone that it had a camera, to prevent against abuse; rumor circulating that Hardcastle is bankrupt and Saint-Remy will fail its next inspection and be closed
    • Struggle; Dr. Rommel and Skinner fighting; Skinner has the framed picture and is fired for stealing; Nurse Lee confiscates frame and refuses to take it to Hardcastle, no matter what Viola says
    • Viola is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s; Viola asks for a special favor
    • Confronts Nurse Lee with evidence in an attempt to blackmail her to stop her from suing for guardianship; evidence against Nurse Lee refuted; the case has fallen apart
    • PI delivers last bit of information: confirms Nurse Lee’s story; offers key piece of information to point to Rommel
    • Confrontation with Rommel
    • Rommel arrested and charged; Viola produces document assigning full power of attorney to Ruggs; she’s happy having solved the case and she starts packing up her room to move into the Memory Palace with Joy.

    • John Brown says:

      I’m going to be very interested to see how this turns out.

      One question: how does she get out to break into someone’s house if she’s recovering?

      Also, can you do for me what I asked Brett to do and show me the Struggle and Resolution breaks. It looks like the THOMR comes right in the first chapter, classic opening with a dead body.

      • Greg Baum says:

        As far as the breaking in, she’ll be mostly mobile at this point in her recovery, but more importantly, she has two healthy buddies who help her around and will be do the heavy lifting (literally and figuratively).

        Struggle begins when she learns guardianship has been assigned to the nursing home and Dr. Rommel reveals that her claims about a murder are only contributing to a diagnosis of dementia.

        Resolution begins when the PI delivers the last bit of information that allows her to solve the mystery and confront Rommel.

  3. John McClain says:

    1. Presentation – Squadron arrives at New Texas (their ersatz base) after a long patrol and discovers that it has been raided.
    a. Admiral arrives in system with fleet colliers to refit squadron.
    b. Valuable infrastructure stolen.
    c. Family members of some crew kidnapped.
    d. Kincaid ordered not to pursue by civilian official traveling with the admiral.
    e. Admiral returns to sector capitol.
    2. Kincaid meets with colony leadership to discuss what action they can take while his ships are undergoing refit/replenishment.
    a. Grants extended leave to crewmembers (bereavement).
    b. Commandeers a freighter.
    c. Converts to Q-ship.
    d. Strap on jump system to be discarded later?
    3. Meet the pirates
    a. Layout the pirate leader’s plan and his/her annoyance with one of his captains taking captives.
    b. Look in on the captives (Kincaid’s wife).
    c. Rogue pirate captain.
    4. Kincaid gathers his crew and jumps to the other side of target system.
    a. Review available intelligence.
    b. Refine plan.
    5. Pirates/Prisoners
    a. Leader removes captain who took captives? Maybe he just confronts him.
    b. Prisoners look for a chance to escape.
    c. Prisoners abused
    6. Kincaid enters the target system from a different direction
    a. Closes with the pirates under the guise of joining them.
    b. Which ship do they board?
    c. Are the ships grounded or in space?
    7. Kincaid assaults the pirates and loses.
    a. Manage to disable 3 of the 5 ships.
    b. Kincaid remains free with a squad of marines and a handful of his crew.
    8. The pirate’s client arrives in system.
    a. Kincaid is out of time and must resolve the issue now.
    b. He has to pick which of the remaining ships to board.
    9. Kincaid takes the pirate leader’s ship.
    a. Captives are on the other ship.
    b. He doesn’t have enough crew left to hold this ship and take the other.
    c. Makes a deal with the pirates.
    10. Rescues his crew and the captives
    a. Captives overpower guards when boarding action begins.
    b. Captives and stolen gear cross loaded to a single ship.
    c. Client ship flees.

    1. Kincaid’s squadron returns to New Texas which is their home system although no fleet base exists. They had been ordered to make a “show the flag” patrol of their sector with the entire squadron. Normally he would leave 2 ships at NT to picket they system while they perform maintenance. Upon arrival they discover that the system had been raided. Valuable equipment needed to construct the planet’s space elevator was taken along with 200 people who were working on the project. A number of the captives are family members of Kincaid’s crew including his wife. As he is preparing to pursue the pirates, a task group arrives escorting fleet colliers and a mobile shipyard. The task group is commanded by the admiral commanding the quadrant (Kincaid’s boss). There is a civilian official traveling with the admiral who objects to Kincaid’s plans to pursue. He orders Kincaid to stand down. The planet’s governor gets into an argument with the civilian. The admiral reminds Kincaid of standing orders for the squadron not to leave their patrol sector.

    2. Kincaid meets with the planet’s governor and tells him why he can’t take the squadron after the pirates. He then tells him the he intends to go after them but he needs a ship. There is a mothballed freighter stored on the planet’s moon. He asks the governor if he would be willing to commandeer the freighter for the New Texas Militia Navy. The governor allows that they should probably form a militia before issuing such an order. (Letter of marque?) Kincaid places all of the members of his crew who lost family members on extended leave. Kincaid takes his engineering chief to inspect the mothballed freighter. They plan how they might make it space worthy within the time frame they have.

    3. Find the pirate leader seething over the actions of one of his captains. He’d needed a second ship with large cargo capacity for this job. He has the hardware and the other ship had the consumables that he needs for his crews. In taking the captives, the other captain has overloaded his ship forcing them to crawl to the rendezvous point with their client. They’ll barely make it there ahead of the client. Kincaid’s wife is seen comforting some of the other captives. Most of the captives are engineers and some of the captives have experience in the navy. They begin to look for ways to free themselves and take the ship.

    I opted for novella length to give me a better chance of finishing. So, I have 10 events to start with. I expect most of those events to cover 2-3 scenes hence the sub-bullets.

    Insight: I’ve got a plot beginning to end and I still feel that there is room for the story to move in unforeseen directions. I found the section on how to shorten stories helpful. BTW, having a head cold is not conducive to meeting a deadline.

  4. John Brown says:

    This too will be interesting. BTW, what’s the reason the pirates want the people? What is the client going to do with them?

  5. Rich says:

    I’m struggling a little. Not much time and everything is hectic.

    Here goes:

    Tentative title: Grimoire

    1. Prologue: Uncle Hiram dies saving the townsfolk from Analyssa, who then loses her soul to the Grimoire.
    2. Nero La Forge hires Witchfinder to hunt a witch plaguing Starke’s Falls. A Dowager Witch. (He is secretly a Warlock and she set wards to keep him out of town.)
    3. Oliver excepts the job and makes the trip.
    4. Town-folk act strangely.
    5. Meets Constance Warde and her mother, who are of few people civil to him and welcoming.
    6. Oliver investigates town, looking for clues to find a witch
    7. Isabelle instructs her daughter to aid in Oliver’s investigation (because Constance knows nothing of the plans) and report back to her.
    8. Pregnant women lose their babies
    9. Indian magics employed, bones, fire kept for six moon, ashes
    10. Nero enters Starke’s Ford
    11. Constance reports to her mother
    12. Oliver studies in the vardo
    13. Isabelle seeks the spell caster she knows must’ve gotten past her ward.
    14. La Forge confronts Isabelle.
    15. Animal spirits/totems guard Oliver from evil things
    16. Townsfolk become henchmen under Isabelle’s leadership, and capture Oliver.
    17. Jailed with La Forge and learns he’s a Warlock
    18. Visit from medicine-man grandfather
    19. Discovers insidious plan to open a gate to the realm of the dead
    20. Race against time with unnatural obstacles
    21. Gate to the Undead Realms opens, drawing souls from townsfolk, glowing streams from eyes and mouths
    22. The distraction is enough for Nero and Oliver to defeat Isabelle and wrench the book free, but it’s hot and neither can hold it. The books is working without a caster.
    23. Book tries to pull Constance under its spell , but with Oliver’s help she resists
    24. Lyssa steps out of the portal and hefts the book.
    25. Nero tries to fight her and the wizard’s spell are of much show but little effect.
    26. Isabelle and Nero try together and are defeated
    27. Something Oliver clings to actually gives Lyssa’s spirit the power to stay. He learns what it is and gives it up.
    28. He fights his sister for the book and his totems join him with their attributes and he retrieves the book from her and closes the portal
    29. La Forge disappears, Isabelle is rendered magically impotent and cannot take the withdrawals and kills herself.

    30 Constance remains in Starke’s Ford to help the town recover from what her mother unleashed and can’t come to terms with her love of Oliver and the repercussion he caused in her life.

    31) Oliver files the book away in the vardo, in a magically sealed container, and trundles away.

    Scene One: After they are orphaned, Oliver and Analyssa Hope are taken in by their Uncle Hiram Hope, where Oliver apprentices to become a witchfinder. They are called out to a remote village to hunt a witch. While they are there, some boys try to rape Lyssa–because her and Oliver are half-Indian, they aren’t considered–and when Oliver fends them off, the villagers complain to Hiram. The next day, Hiram locks Lyssa in the vardo while he takes Oliver out to get the witch. While they’re out, someone delivers a grimoire to the vardo, knocks and then leaves before they can be seen. Soon after Annalyssa retrieves the book, angry townsfolk come for her. The book convinces her to use a spell that will protect her, and when she recites the spell, she becomes a weapon against the villagers and slave to the book. He soul is bound forever–and someone else was released into blissful death. Hiram and Oliver return in time to stop Lyssa, but not before the death spell claims Hiram’s life and Lyssa’s soul. To Oliver, he has lost everything. He throws the book far into the woods, gathers his dead and builds them a pyre. He collects some of his sister’s ashes in a locket, which he hangs around his neck, and heads out of town. Alone. Again.

    Scene Two: Oliver is thrown out of the Winterhaven inn for not having the money to buy the food he ate or beer he drank. (Dispelling spirits that haunted a place apparently wasn’t worth a full week’s room and board.) There is an Indian standing on the mall, watching Oliver stumble to his office. A shaman. Nero La Forge is waiting for him in the small office he inherited from his Uncle Hiram above the dry goods store with a job offer: to hunt a witch. Oliver listens to La Forge’s story and, even with a groggy head, doesn’t like it. A little more digging and La Forge tells Oliver he suspects the witch is a dowager widow he once courted unsuccessfully. He mentions that he thinks she was seduced by a book. At that, Oliver sobers some and takes the job.

    Scene Three: Oliver buys a horse with the money LaForge has given him as an advance. When he limbers the horse to the vardo, he finds a native war-shield and a dream-catcher. On the road, the skies go overcast and he sees a wolf flanking him. The closer he draws to Starke’s Ford, the more unnatural sign (witchsign) he finds: dead plant life and trees, a cluster of dead birds, fish floating on the surface of the lake–living forest animals flee. There is a clean border behind him, where the foliage switches from living to dead. Though the wolf still flanks him, other things (people chuckling madly?) are moving deeper in the skeletal forest, hidden by the darkening sky and blackened shrubbery. He reaches a spot where the horse gets nervous and stops, eventually gets so upset it rears and threatens to overturn the vardo. Oliver uses a native spell to calm him. The spot is the Starke’s Ford sign.

    Insights: This is not something easily realized if you work long creative-thinking days first. Honestly, I’m still playing with it, but it definitely helps you to see the areas at lack or that need more to them. I’ve been refining some of them as I go, and that’s how the thoughts struck me. I also think I have a hard time of coming up with vaguer scenes/events. I also find that I tend to zing visually–I get a picture scene instead of a movie scene–and have to work at it from there. I’m glad I have a writing partner to bounce some ideas off. (I need to read more in my genre.)

    • Rich says:

      Oliver “accepts” the job. Not excepts. Boy, late nights are killing me. (I’m sure there are more typos, 2am here.)

    • John Brown says:

      Rich, scene two and three make a lot of sense to me. Scene one is not one scene. It is a novelette 🙂

      SCENE After they are orphaned, Oliver and Analyssa Hope are taken in by their Uncle Hiram Hope, where Oliver apprentices to become a witchfinder.

      SCENE They are called out to a remote village to hunt a witch.

      SCENE: While they are there, some boys try to rape Lyssa–because her and Oliver are half-Indian, they aren’t considered–and when Oliver fends them off,

      SCENE: the villagers complain to Hiram.

      [There’s probably another scene here with Hiram and the kids to debrief what the in the world went on and what they’re going to do]

      SCENE: The next day, Hiram locks Lyssa in the vardo while he takes Oliver out to get the witch.

      [probably a scene here with her freaked out or stressed or something, worrying about the boys who wanted to rape her]

      SCENE: While they’re out, someone delivers a grimoire to the vardo, knocks and then leaves before they can be seen. Soon after Analyssa retrieves the book, [and it probably starts to communicate with her]

      SCENE: angry townsfolk come for her. [what made them angry and how do they know she’s there?] The book convinces her to use a spell that will protect her, and when she recites the spell, she becomes a weapon against the villagers and slave to the book. He soul is bound forever–and someone else was released into blissful death.

      SCENE (probably): Hiram and Oliver return in time to stop Lyssa, but not before the death spell claims Hiram’s life and Lyssa’s soul.

      SCENE: To Oliver, he has lost everything. He throws the book far into the woods, gathers his dead and builds them a pyre. He collects some of his sister’s ashes in a locket, which he hangs around his neck, and heads out of town. Alone. Again.

      That’s at least 8 scenes. It could be 11 or more. If they’re all 2.5k, you’re looking at a story of at least 20k. It could be longer. That’s almost a Louis L’Amour novel. You could certainly summarize the whole narrative, but why?

      There are better ways to use that information. Better ways to dole it out than summarize it all right up front. I think that would kill your beginning.

      So what to do?

      Here are two options I see.

      GO BIG. If you really want the whole thing, then this story becomes a love story. It could be a tragic one (Analyssa dies or is taken in the end) or a happy one. Or a neutral one. But the whole thing you’re doing in that first bit is making the threat to Analyssa the main story. And the reader will see her sucked away and wonder what the witchhunters are going to do about it.

      If this is what you want, you might want to look at Ken Follet’s A PLACE CALLED FREEDOM to see how he handles parts and long time periods between when the lovers lose each other and regain each other.

      GO SHORT. If you really do just want a prologue, you could take just a little hint of this, just the ending, and have that be the prologue. She’s locked in the vardo and freaked out with all the magical items, and the book’s talking to her, and who knows what else is going on, and she’s telling it to shut up etc. Even that’s a bit long. But you probably could do it and make it cool and raise questions in the reader. Make sure Oliver is there and he’s calling and in grief he’s lost her.

      Then you fill in the rest of the story later in this novel. Oliver could tell Analyssa’s tale. You’d do it in narrative summary and some detail. A talk around a campfire. And they’re all wanting to know what’s happened and you’ve hinted at the Analyssa tale from the beginning so the reader is dying to know it all too. And it comes like 60% or 75% the way through, and there’s some revelation that comes with it for the plot and reader. Or it could come earlier, maybe after they do investigation. In fact, maybe the guy doesn’t hint it’s someone he knew in the beginning. Maybe you plant some detail in the prologue and then produce that detail again in chapter one, so we know it’s tied. And Oliver suspects it too. And they ask him if he knows about this, and he dissembles and hides it.

      Does he want to save her? I bet he does. And I bet he’s thinking, thinking, thinking how he can do it. He carries a heavy burden. And that might be what the prologue is about, his awful burden.

      It will be interesting to see what you choose. Lots of good material here.

      • Rich says:

        I was honestly debating whether to tell the whole backstory in the prologue, or to parse it out throughout the chapters. I wanted to stay away from flashbacks, but if that’s what it needs, I guess I could throw in some internal dialogue, a flashback, and maybe a mention to Constance.

      • John Brown says:

        Flashbacks are only a problem when nobody wants them. If the flashbacks provide the reader critical information, or satisfy a question you’ve raised, then readers love them.

        Also, you don’t have to do flashback. People talking about the past is just fine too.

        Have you read any of Larry Correia’s Monster Hunter International books? If not, Correia loves to plant a question in the reader’s mind, then pay it off later with the tale that goes with it. For example, he introduces you to this secretary with a wooden leg and somebody says that sure is a tale, and he only tells it later. In another, he introduces us to this building with all sorts of claw marks on it, and the MC wonders what kind of beast was housed there. He prompts us with other questions. Then pays it all off later.

        Now these are very often just revelations about various characters. Sometimes they affect the plot. Sometimes they don’t. But they aren’t told in flashback. They’re told by the characters to each other. Just another option.

  6. Rich says:

    I have read some of Larry’s books.

    One thing I wanted to to mention is that I had no intention of showing the orphans going to live with their uncle, those were details to be mentioned in passing.

    So, now I’m thinking it might be parsed out in a second timeline.

  7. Anthony says:

    Sorry for being so late with this. Last week ended up being much busier than I anticipated.

    • Trouble: 6 events
    o Stockton witnesses police apprehend an alleged criminal, and shortly thereafter is presented approached by a shady character and given a bag, with delivery instructions.
    o Stockton gets curious, and looks in the bag, discovers contraband, decides to go to police
    o Police tie contraband to Silent Hand, ask Stockton to make the delivery under surveillance
    o Stockton makes delivery, is given an invitation to meet with “the Elbow”
    o Police ask Stockton to continue acting as their undercover agent, infiltrate Silent Hand, discover who the Boss is. Stockton declines.
    o After appointment time with the Elbow, Stockton returns to his home finds a note indicating his sister is currently safe, but may not remain so. Goes to Police, makes agreement to be undercover agent. Assigned Chervil Worthington as contact. She will cover as his girlfriend.
    • Struggle: 18 events
    o Stockton goes to the second meeting with the elbow makes arrangements to go on an assignment (warehouse operator not up on his protection money to get goods stolen) in exchange for his sister’s safety. Elbow hints at possibility of police infiltration.
    o Dinner with Chervil to discuss how to handle the warehouse job. They come up with plan to cause failure, make it look like Elbows fault
    o Stockton goes to the warehouse, Elbow and one other person there with crowbar. Guards are supposed to have been paid off to ignore them, but they are on patrol. Elbow uses his sound magic to silence the alarm.
    o It looks like the plan has failed, Stockton uses his ability to inhibit Elbow’s silencing, and gets the guards’ attention. The job goes wrong, and they have to scatter.
    o Elbow arranges another job. He’s feeling pressure for the failure, and the higher ups are sure the police have an informant because of it. This time they’re smuggling a wagon filled with something into the city. Supervision by Elbow’s manager.
    o Walk through the city along the canals with Chervil discussing the new job. Speculation about what went wrong, talk about how to get Stockton in good with the manager.
    o Wagon arrives at the rendezvous point where Gang and Stockton are waiting. They load up barrels with false tops, and put a few barrels full of apples at the easy to reach locations. They run approach an intersection with a roadblock and inspection point. Full inspections of every vehicle.
    o Stockton has them turn down a road to another town. Steals a barge, loads the stuff on it, and floats the stuff into Jefferson. Manager is duly impressed, invites Stockton to meet with a group of higher ups.
    o No chance to meet with Chervil, Stockton has to go to the meeting without preparing. They suspect Elbow is a police informant, want Stockton to take over his squad, which will be closely monitored. In order to qualify Stockton must eliminate a deadbeat debtor.
    o Talking with Chervil about the promotion. Stockton wants to back out, he and his family are really in danger now. Stockton is convinced he must continue, but he’s mad at Chervil about it.
    o Two days later, Stockton hasn’t taken care of it. Confronted by the manager about it.
    o Stockton gets back to Chervil about the ultimatum. They plan how to proceed. Stockton notices someone observing him.
    o Chasing, capturing, exchanging for similarly dressed corpse, dumped into the canal.
    o Manager meets with Stockton, Elbow wasn’t involved with police, just incompetent. He was questioning wisdom of promotion, but Stockton pulled through. Squad still under supervision. “Impress us Mr. Bradley, and root out our mole.”
    o Still on the outs with Chervil, Stockton begins to plan a heist of a shipment of exotic silk. Asks Chervil to pin it on one of the gangsters.
    o At an underground boxing match, Stockton informs the Manager of his plan to get the silk, how to catch the mole.
    o Night of the heist, Elbow doesn’t show up, in his place is a new man. Things fall apart. A few of his men are apprehended, and Stockton calls things off.
    o Meeting with Chervil to discuss the failure. Someone brought in uninformed policemen. Manager shows up. Chervil kidnapped. Stockton decides to follow.
    o Tailing the Manager to cleaning lady’s. Witnessing payoff to Richard “Rooster” Rashburn (Chervil’s main rival in the department).
    • Resolution: 5 events
    o Planning infiltration to save Chervil/Get proof of washer woman’s guilt.
    o Sneak into washer woman’s shop.
    o Confrontation and foot chase through Jefferson streets, canals. Apprehending Rooster.
    o Free Chervil, inform police of washer woman mastermind, hand over Rooster
    o Conversation with police commissioner. Offered job in detective office. Chervil and Stockton agree they work better as friends than as a couple.

    While Stockton is out enjoying an afternoon on the town, he is practicing with his ability to sense the use of magic (his passive ability). In doing so, he notices a man dressed the same as himself with the same general physical characteristics. He is a pick-pocket, and Stockton prevents his use of magic (his active ability) to get him caught stealing a woman’s wallet. The police arrest him, and haul him away. Just after the police leave, a man sits next to Stockton and gives him a bag, with instructions to deliver it to a particular location before Tuesday. The man stands and leaves. Stockton is confused and wonders what has happened.
    While carrying the bag home because he doesn’t know what else to do with it, Stockton opens it, and discovers it contains opium. Not knowing what else to do, Stockton goes to the police station. This serves as an introduction to the city of Jefferson. The canal city on the edges of the frontier.
    At the police station, Stockton meets with the head detective. He is introduced to a few of the detectives in the division. Including Chervil and Rooster. Rooster recognizes the opium packaging as belonging to the Silent Hand, a relatively new, but powerful gang in the city. The police have very little information about the gang, and they’d really appreciate the opportunity to surveil the delivery. They ask Stockton to make the delivery with them watching out for him.

    Insight: Plotting doesn’t have to happen linearly. One idea begets another, and soon I’m changing things several events in the past or in the future relative to the one I was originally working on. It also takes me a few iterations through the outline to get something I’m happy with. Though it’s still not great, this is the best plotting I’ve ever done. I expect I’ll get much better with more practice. I need to finish this project first though.

  8. John Brown says:

    Anthony,

    Good job stepping that out and getting the work done. It’s SOOOO much easier working with a first draft than coming up with something from scratch. So congrats on finishing this!

    At this point I’m seeing two plot holes. Plot holes are when somebody does something without any good motivation, but it has them do what fits your plot.

    Now, you might have the motivation in your brain, but I’m not seeing it in the summary 🙂

    First, why would a secret group dealing drugs give a total stranger a bag of opium and ask him to deliver it? Would you give a bag of $500,000 to a stranger and tell them to take it to Boswell street and then walk away?

    I don’t see him wondering about this. And I don’t see a sneaky plot in it by the Hand in your outline. Which means it’s an unmotivated way to get the guy involved with all of this. That’s no good. They must have a good reason. Something we’d all agree makes sense.

    Did they mistake him for someone else? Does he realize this? If so, you need to state it.

    If not, you need to figure out what that reason is or come up with another way to get him involved 🙂

    Second, look at this.

    While carrying the bag home because he doesn’t know what else to do with it,

    What would you do if you were sitting on a bench and a guy gives you a bag of opium?

    If you’re a greedy SOB, you try to figure out how to capitalize on it, maybe skim some off the top. If you’re a good guy, but don’t trust the police, you flush it or bury it in a dumpster. If you’re a law-abider, then you think you need to get it to the authorities immediately.

    If you’re a guy secretly stopping crime with your magic, do you wonder who the guy is and if he saw you stop that guy with your magic? And if you’re already out stopping criminals (a cool thing), then do you know about the Hand? Do you hate the Hand?

    It might be you have all of this, but it’s not in your summary. Try your two opening scenes again 🙂

    Having said that, I love the idea of this guy out there stopping others from using their magic for nefarious purposes. Of course this begs the question–if he’s watching, is there someone else watching? If magic criminals know they can be seen, will they want someone who can detect a watcher? Or are they just rare?

    • Anthony says:

      Thanks for your thoughts. Being new to generating plots, I’m sure I’ve missed more than what you’ve pointed out.

      Not explicitly stated, but in my head is that the criminal he stopped, and caused to get picked up by the police was the intended recipient of the handoff. And that it was a recruitment test. I think I need a better McGuffin than the opium, but it was all my tired brain came up with at the time.

      I think I’ll need to either cut the second event, or shorten it, and combine it with the first event. I think I’m getting closer to a compelling opening though.

      People with magic abilities are rare in general in the world, and people with Stockton’s abilities are the most rare. Statistically, Stockton is likely to be the only person within hundreds of miles with his abilities.

      • John Brown says:

        Don’t ever be stressed or apologetic about finding something that doesn’t work in sketches. It’s a celebration. It’s what sketches are for.

        And no excuses about tired brains 🙂 Because it’s not about coming up with the right idea on your first try.

        The main key to plotting is stimulus-response. Plot is, at its core, this: something happens and the character responds.

        Your job is to make sure the response makes sense to the reader. Otherwise, they stop believing your tale. And when they stop believing, then all of the emotional effects go out the window.

        You only jump when you think the snake is real, not when you know its rubber and one of the fangs got chewed off by the cat.

        Your other job with the stimulus-response exchanges is to make them interesting. And that’s conflict, surprise, suspense, etc. But the motives need to be rock solid or explained so they’re rock solid.

  9. Mark says:

    plot summary

    • Chal is separated from his friends and breathes the fumes of Valampurn–beginning his transformation into one of the tempered
    • Naive and hale for the first time in his life, Chal begins to heal himself and have adventures. He hides this by breaking his own ankle when he returns home
    • Chal goes too far and the villagers search for him. Ephanie is almost killed. Chal heals her by giving her his gift. This is misunderstood, and Chal flees in disgrace. On his way, he is aided by mercurials, leaving him with a flame-shaped scar or dye on his leg.

    For paragraphs on these three, see last week’s post under “problem.”

    • Chal limps, burnt, filthy, and starving, into Olms. He is bullied when he tries to beg, and learns that there is a pecking order he must climb even among beggars.
    • When Chal goes for healing into a temple, the priest is shocked to see his flame scar. Chal doesn’t know why, but he recognizes the look in the priest’s eyes, and slips away.
    • Romar pursues Chal into Olms, and soon learns about the boy with the self-inflicted broken ankle. (one of the beggars can tell Chal’s injury is no accident.)
    • Chal turns to crime to eat. But the pecking order of thieves is worse than that of beggars, and Chal is terrible at it anyway.
    • Unable to beg, steal, or be healed, Chal learns of the Prophetess of Tyrms. He enlists as an acolyte, where he can at least eat, hoping to meet her.
    • Romar learns of Chal’s criminal and begging efforts but then loses the trail. He believes his hatred of Chal, already confirmed, to be fully cemented.
    • Chal hides his ability to read, and so is not vigorously kept out of the cloister library.
    • Chal reads a fragment about the crucible, related to his scar, and knows that’s what he felt. He has learned as an acolyte it will be years before he is allowed to go to Tyrms. He runs away.
    • Remembering the healer’s reaction to his scar/tattoo, Chal returns to the temple to ask the priest about the crucible. He bumps into Romar, who has guessed this is where he must go. Chal only escapes by pleading for sanctuary.
    • The priest tells Chal he has uncovered a dangerous secret, and only the public nature of his plea has prevented him from being killed already. Chal isn’t sure if the priest is warning him or threatening him. He decides to escape again.
    • When Romar finds out the next day Chal is missing, he remembers Chal’s head was shaved and he wore a brown and maroon robe. He finds out this is the habit of acolytes of Tyrms. He goes to the cloister but they tell him Chal is gone from there too. Romar finds a friend of Chal’s and discovers Chal asked a lot about the Prophetess.
    • Chal tries to hire on to a caravan to Tyrms, and only succeeds because of a strange affinity with their largest elephant, a difficult to manage beast
    • Romar arrives too late to catch him, so starts for Tyrms on foot.
    • By the time Chal gets to Tyrms, Kalida is aware of him. She is in contact with others of the tempered who share her views. This is the first time we get an inkling that Chal’s expanded consciousness is incomplete, as we see what Kalida’s is capable of.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *