Friday, January 09, 2009

Revision Blues

So, I'm up to my elbows in revisions for Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: The Basilisk's Lair. The good news, the second and third act are solid with plenty of conflict and dramatic tension. The bad news, the first act is a bit...flat. And actually, the first half of the first act is solid, there are just about three chapters that feel flat to me. Gah! The problem is, I need them there because the protagonist travels from point A to B, and it's the first time he's seen Africa--so it's a significant event in his life. But right now it's reading like a travelogue, so I need to find some sort of dramatic tension or push/pull dynamic to insert in there.

This is, however, the reason it is so helpful to write in acts. I can evaluate each act and clearly see where I have the problem and what significant event (turning point) I'm building to.

Now I'll write down a brief description of each scene and (1) identify the purpose of the scene--why it's necessary to move the plot forward; (2) the protgaonist's goal or desire in the scene--if any (and I think it's that if any part that's my problem); and (3) what the source of conflict or dramatic tension is. For those scenes that are lacking any of those three elements, I'll have to rewrite so that all three are in there.

My fail safe test for whether a scene is where it needs to be is the value test. The value test comes from Robert McKee's STORY, wherein he talks about a scene needing to "turn a human value" meaning, take the character on a bit of an emotional journey of some sort; from happy to sad, from hopeful to despairing, from trusting to suspicious. If the character makes that sort of change during the scene, then I'm usually satisfied that there's enough happening that it can stay.


Sheri said...

Wow--that makes so much sense to me! And it's so simple...

Have nothing helpful to add to keep the first chapter(s) from being a travelogue other than maybe have something mysterious happen that is a precursor to his adventure... Something that he has to investigate because he doesn't understand what it is--maybe have a bird show up and have it steal some little bright thing and he has to follow it to it's nest and finds a clue in the little hoard of sparklies in it's nest. Some birds are thieves and use sparkly things or things of a certain color to make their nest pretty to females. Not too far fetched and you could use the chase to show some more of the area while not sounding like a tour guide...

I am looking forward to this new book--love the premise!