Scene and Sequel – bloody progress. xbyfri Part A

After playing an hour of terrible BF4–either everyone was hacking or I was terrible, or both–I settled down with Word to churn out my ten pages.  I managed to do 6.

This is an analysis of what I’ve written. I won’t reproduce the actual writing here, as there is no point. I will talk about my processes of what I’m doing. This might get messy. Those of you in front might get splashed with outline.

At this point, I’m putting content on the page. It looks pretty. Garamound, twelve words a line, and hanging quotes.  Yeah, that kind of pretty. What’s happening in the story is not pretty.

The first scene, the one that’s supposed to grab my reader by the throat and light ’em on fire and offer no hope at all… that one is meh.  Heart pounding excitement? Nope. A routine destroyer makes long range contact with four warships.

Yawn.

How dull.

Where’s the conflict? The XO is afraid to wake the captain. That’s it. That’s the conflict. And it’s not much of a conflict. See, we know that when the warships get close enough, then you HAVE to wake the captain and say “we’re in a pickle Captain” and maybe you get yelled at, but we also know if the ship gets destroyed, like so many bookend space vehicles do, it was justified for him to wake the captain and we aren’t emotionally invested in the XO because we know he’s going to die anyway, right?

So let’s discuss the bookend space vehicle.  A bookend space vehicle is a space vehicle that is destroyed or disappears in the opening scene of a book or movie. It may be the focus of the story to discover or uncover the reasons behind its destruction. Because it is frequently used, readers typically do not want to invest in the BSV at the beginning because it usually turns out to be a waste. If we start to identify with a character and the character is then snuffed out, we mistrust the writer because that was Not Nice.  The BSV does afford a good grabbing moment as the BSV can be put in horrible straits and suffer destruction and it makes an exciting opening scene.  If, however, the BSV is the focus of a Goal/Conflict/Disaster, it is almost impossible to provide a sequel to the scene and thus it is stand-alone.

So there’s my answer. Putting on my Pontius developmental editor hat, I’m going to have to scrap the scene and either replace it with a scene sequel or leave it out.

The next scene is the marines aboard the ship being alerted and them getting suited up and loading on to a shuttle.

Purpose? Introduce us to the marines, and then locate them on the shuttles for the upcoming Disasterous Space Battle.  Focus is on Lcpl Yuen, who leads a fireteam. We meet the fireteam and find out things about those four characters which fill in our background.

The writing there is adequate, but again, where’s the conflict? Um… Yuen has to get her team suited up in a hurry.  The new guy is slow.  That’s conflict?  I guess it could be.  Marines are about conflict. Maybe some background–the fireteam is in trouble for not being fast enough or efficient enough, and they’re under the gun.  If they screw up one more time, Yuen gets a negative counseling statement on her record. Who cares about immanent destruction of the ship when your career is threatened by the new private screwing up by the numbers all the time? If he fails, it’s your fault.  We know, as long as I’m writing this much detail about these characters, that we’re going to be packed up in their duffels for the long haul, and that even if the ship is a bookend, the marines are not.

Thus:

Scene: The XO and crew are terrified of the captain, who is asleep.
Goal: XO wants to get through the watch without any incidents.
Conflict: Possible incoming fleet is not acting friendly. When to tell the captain?
Disaster: Waiting too long to call the Captain when the ships are, indeed, unfriendly.
POV: XO (executive officer, second in command)

Sequel: The Captain bawls out the XO for waiting too long -in front of his troops-, and will put a note in the XO’s file derailing the XO’s career. Captain attempts to hail the incoming ships.
Reaction: XO mourns that his career is destroyed by drunkard Captain.
Dilemma: Should the ship run or turn and fight the fleet?
Decision: The ship will fight and probably lose.

To fix the scene, we’re going to have to emotionally invest in the XO and we need to ratchet the captain into a real Queeg character- a drunkard with a mean temper who will never be promoted above destroyer Captain. The focus is on the XO’s internal processes, not the brick brack of running the ship and routine contacts and all that jazz.

More on the marine section later. That’s going to need a good tweak to introduce conflict and make sense.

Scenes and sequels

I’ve been delving into story construction, breaking it down into the essential parts. The essence is that each section is a scene or a sequel.  

With Scene we get three parts:

Goal. The character has a goal. Goals make characters interesting.

Conflict. This is the person or thing keeping the character from reaching their goal. Without conflict, things will be deadly dull.

Disaster! The scene ends with a bad disaster. It’s what keeps the reader reading.  Otherwise it’s boring and they’re going to put your reading down and go post on facebook.

The question I’m musing on is whether the conflict must be with a person or it can be circumstances?  That is, I’m writing a sci fi scene and the conflict is with the decay and hopelessness brought on by the lousy Empire’s lack of funding and spare parts and maintenance.  But putting a human face on it for conflict, that’s going to feel contrived.  So I need to figure this out.  Obviously, it’s fiction, you can do ANYTHING you want… but then it won’t be considered readable or good or what have you. If I’m going to produce 120,000 words, I’d prefer it to be smashingly good.

Time to research the subject.

Lisa Piatz Spindler gives an example, and I think it answers the question of whether the conflict has to be with other people; it seems it can be the circumstances.  That post is from 2007.  Hasn’t there been more research since that year? Okay, okay, truth is timeless.

And in 2005, Marg McAlister said something similar here.

Marg says,

2. What is the source of conflict? What complications will arise to prevent your character from achieving her goal(s)? How will your character try to overcome these problems? Will the readers worry about whether the character will achieve her goal(s)?”

She seems to indicate that the conflict can be the complications or problems, not necessarily people.

Perhaps I’ve misconstrued the idea that people must be the conflict.

UA-61292114-1