I sent a text to Lisa* this morning. “Thaw him out. I’ll be there in a few hours.”
“Are you sure? Lefty can be kind of disruptive.”
“I’m sure. I need to expand my outline.”
I spent a couple of hours reading your blogs and going through email. I really didn’t want to do this project, but it was time. I headed for the writing cabin.
I climbed the stairs from the basement and Lisa met me in the kitchen. She had on a nice suit in Autumn colors with matching pumps. “The cork board is all set up in the paranormal office.”
“He’s in there sharpening all the pencils, filling your fountain pen, and lining up all the index cards and sticky notes.”
I headed for the paranormal office while talking over my shoulder. “You need to watch him. He’ll rearrange everything if you let him.”
We walked in and pulled on our lab coats. Lefty can be a little gooey. The left side of my brain stood on the working surface of the roll top desk from Will ‘O the Wisp.
Lefty held up an index card. “Here you go. This is your first target. You’ve finished act one, and some of the characters drifted into act two already. They’re all at different places and need to be–
I held up my palm and stopped him. The card said, “Midpoint Act Two: Completely changes the game, even the plan. A setback, loss, death, love interest, huge revelation, huge personal loss.
Use recalibrating, desperate acts, unethical behavior to get to the end of the act. Great place for ticking clock and dark night of the soul.”
“I don’t know what you were thinking. You got three point of view characters in three different places. How are you going to introduce all this for each character?” Lefty asked.
I pinned the index card to the cork board. “I’m not. I think whatever events I choose must happen in the story. I don’t think they have to happen to each character.”
“Sounds like crap to me. Move that card so it makes a nice column. Hey doll face, make genius here drink some coffee. I’ve been frozen for months.”
I moved the card and rolled my eyes. “Think about it. I’ve got two characters that would do something unethical. My heroine has to give up on a lifelong career and that’s a huge personal loss.” Lisa handed me a cup of coffee. “I think I can mix and match. Besides, it’s a first draft.”
“Remember, you have to do some plants along the way leading up to this.” Lefty handed me another card. “Just pin that one to the bottom there. A little more to the right. Then your payoffs can come in the second half, or even Act Three.”
The card said, “Act Two Climax: Full revelation for the characters. They know who, what, when, where, why, and how. This includes how dangerous and what the stakes are.”
I made cards for each character and decided to send them to New Orleans. I like to make my characters work in an unfamiliar environment. It adds a subtile tension you don’t have on familiar streets.
“When are you going to kill the dog?” Lefty asked. “I don’t see that card.”
“I’m not. It’s been done so often I think it’s cliche.”
“Come on. You need a personal loss somewhere. Does that mean the sidekick dude bites it?”
“Don’t know yet. There has to be some creative way to put a little emotion in here.”
“Go with the classics, I say. That’s why they’re classic. I know, you could kill that little girl. The readers will be all pissed off, but your other leads will never know.”
“Dude, seriously? It’s more classic to save the victim, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, that’s also a classic.” He moved closer to my cup to warm his backside.
I added some sticky notes off to the side to remind me about plants & payoffs, important events, and character arch. We even googled some old mausoleums and pinned up a few photos.
“Now in the second half, they have to get the maguffin, and find out they’re in the wrong place. You could have the wrong guy get it, and lead to a big chase or a shootout,” Lefty said.
“Not today,” I said. “I’m going to write this part and see where it goes. That makes the next part of the outline tighter.”
“Pansy. You should have done the whole outline before writing the first word. It makes you more efficient.”
I wiggled my finger at Lisa and she took a freezer bag from her lab coat. “There’s a reason you don’t get to write with me. You’d have all my stories full of pie charts and graphs.”
Lefty used the drawers like stairs and scurried out of the room and down the hall; Lisa in hot pursuit. I wiped down the desktop and started writing.
*Lisa is the main character in Wild Concept. She’s a robot and works for me at the writing cabin these days.