Even as I write this, I can totally hear the miniature version of Pot sitting on my shoulder saying “This is all good and well, Kettle, but when are you going to write the trials?”
Go make a cake, Pot, and let me muse.
I am one scene away from the dreaded trials, still unsure exactly what’s going to happen in the next 3-4 scenes. So what do I do? No, for once, I’m not off plotting some new adventure (bully to me, right?). I started looking over my listing of scenes, particularly Act 1. Or, more specifically, the stuff that comes before the First Plot Point (to use Larry Brooks‘ terminology). I know, I’ve been mentioning him a lot lately, and at the risk of sounding all fan-girl, his approach to story architecture is genius and will change your writing life. Anyway, I’ll take a moment to direct you to the relevant article on The Set Up. Read it? Ok good.
Now, later on in his fabulous series, Larry gives us this great little worksheet of stuff we need to know. I’ve been going through today and trying to answer these questions for both my hero and heroine:
How does your story open? Is there an immediate hook? And then…
- what is the hero doing in their life before the first plot point?
- what stakes are established prior to the first plot point?
- what is your character’s backstory?
- what inner demons show up here that will come to bear on the hero later in the story?
- what is foreshadowed prior to the first plot point?
The thing that I realized is that as it stands now, the setup is all about Marley. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing if this wasn’t a romance novel and the hero is supposed to get equal face-time. I only have ONE scene in Conall’s POV before the First Plot Point (hereafter the FPP). I don’t do anything to REALLY show what his life is like before the FPP. I don’t really show much in the way of inner demons or backstory. I have no idea what the stakes are for him. All I really manage to do for him in the set up is introduce him, give a hook, and have him meet Marley.
Apart from that glaring hole at the end of Act 3, this may be the gnawing sense I’ve had of something missing. So over lunch today I did some thinking about what I could do with the front end of this story, where I could start it, what sort of scenes I could insert that would give us those things for Conall, show us better what his life is like before the FPP. What I’ve thought up I kind of like, though it would mean we don’t even get a hint of Marley until Chapter 3. As a reader, would that annoy you not to meet both the hero and heroine in the first couple of chapters? I’m sure there are other options that haven’t occurred to me yet, and I’m not sure that this first thought is the best one.
Whatever I decide to do, I’m not rushing off to do it right this second instead of pushing forward (i.e. jumping off the cliff that is the great unknown of the next few scenes). But it’s definitely something I want to address in revisions.