Tag Archives: plotting

Nano2018 – when a Pantster just has to Plot

In a previous post I waxed lyrical about how I’d worked out what made Bountiful so deadly. Flushed with euphoria, I thought I was home and hosed, and that the writing would now flow. Not so much…

Since then, I’ve had to acknowledge that the core of my Nano story this year is actually three-fold:

  1. What made Bountiful so deadly?
  2. How did Beaumont cover it up?
  3. How did James Milgrove, aka the Burning Man, discover the Beaumont cover up?

I thought I had the answer to no. 2, but I soon realised that if I went with that particular solution, no. 3 would be almost impossible to achieve. I say ‘almost’ because I could have fudged the solution. ‘Oh  look, I just found a memo that proves Beaumont were culpable. How lucky is that?’

Just writing those two sentences raises the hackles on the back of my neck because it’s such a cheap trick, and so patently unrealistic. I mean really, with billions of dollars at stake, readers are supposed to believe that Beaumont cares enough to send an assassin to Innerscape, but not enough to burn the evidence?

Fortuitous events do happen, sometimes. Most of the time, however, big events are the result of a cascade of tiny, seemingly unrelated events, and the decisions taken over each one.  And that’s where plotting becomes a necessity.

Although I call myself a pantster, the truth is that I’m a hybrid who does a lot of research and a lot of plotting to make the base mechanics of the story work. In the case of P7698, that core revolves around the pseudo-science of Bountiful. In the Innerscape trilogy, the core centred on the constraints of the digital world itself. In Vokhtah, it was the whole world vs the biology, culture and history of the Vokh and iVokh.

Science fiction may demand more, in terms of these core mechanics, than some other genres, but I know that the best fantasy results from the same, fastidious attention to detail. Characters have to react to believable events and circumstances or their actions will come across as ‘fake’, and none of us want that. So here I am, a little bit stuck on points 2. and 3. 😦

I gave up the idea of winning Nano almost a week ago, and I can live with that; the element of competition was just a little added extra to keep me going. But getting this stuck is seriously depressing as I know I’m going to have writer’s block until I find solutions that feel real.

Anyone else having this problem?

Meeks


#Innerscape part 10 – the thriller I had no intention of writing

I’m in way over my head! I write sci-fi, not thrillers or mysteries…so how did I get to a point where I’m having to work out time differentials for the plot?

Before I try to explain what’s been driving me crazy, I need to say that all of my favourite sci-fi books weave together a mix of history, culture, psychology, politics, technology, conflict and an element of mystery. Think Dune, and working out the relationship of the great worms to the planet’s ecology. All of that is normal because good sci-fi creates worlds, and worlds are full of people, and people do ‘stuff’.

I understand all that, especially the bit about people doing ‘stuff’. My problem is that I never expected the characters in Innerscape to finish up doing mystery thriller type stuff.

I’ve read mystery thriller type books by the boat load, but there is a world of difference between reading in a genre and trying to write in that genre. I feel as if I’m groping for the ‘rules’ on the fly, and it’s hard. Integrating the requirements of mystery/thrillers into a sci-fi environment is even harder, and at the moment I’m stuck on ‘time’.

To make the plot work, various people have to do various things, together and in sequence, so I have to know when things happen, right down to the last minute. But…in order to make the Residents of Innerscape feel as if they are living for longer, time in Innerscape runs faster than time on the outside. About twenty minutes faster.

As an aspect of science fiction, this time differential between Innerscape and the outside world is not a big deal. I do some hand waving and a bit of arithmetic and the time flows make sense. Easy peasey…until I introduce the twin elements of mystery and thriller to the mix. Suddenly the difference between Innerscape time and real world time matters, a lot. So does how I present this conflict between internal and external time.

Right from the beginning of Innerscape, I’ve worked hard to make the reader feel as if time really is passing, hopefully without hitting them over the head with dates and durations and elapsed blah blah. Now, though, I’ve reached a point where I really am going to have to elevate time to the position of Very Important Plot Element, and I’m struggling.

The pic below is a screenshot of the StoryBox navigation pane for Part 10. It’s one of the reasons I love StoryBox as it allows me to outline, more or less on the fly:

innerscape navigation time

 

As an outline, the pic only makes sense to me [just as well or I’d have to post a Spoiler Alert!]. But it does show how I’m trying to work out what happens when.

Sadly, the reason I’m writing this post is that I’m sort of stumped…and procrastinating. Once I finish the post, I’m going to have to resort to pen and paper to storyboard the exact sequence of events because at the moment, I feel horribly muddled. -sigh-

If there are any thriller/mystery writers out there with tips, I’d love to hear them.

cheers

Meeks

 

 

 


Vokhtah, book 2 – some plotting

I’m a pantster not a plotter, however there comes a time in any story when I have to take a step back, and really think about the wider ramifications of the story I am trying to tell.  This usually involves thinking about the world as a whole. 

What outside forces are at work? And how will they impinge on the lives of my main characters? In particular, how will history, culture and politics help or hinder their personal stories?

The following excerpt is something I’ve been working on for days.  The scene will impact two of my main  characters. One, the Apprentice/Kaati you already know. The other is a character I introduced in book 1, but only in passing. As such, the information in this scene is vital, so it needs to be clear. But I did not want to write just an info dump. 😦

I’d really appreciate your feedback on whether I got the balance more or less right.

***

The Master of Acolytes was something of an anomaly amongst the higher ranked healers of the Guild because it had a powerful talent, but very little personal ambition. It did not attempt to curry favour with either the Yellows or the Blues, and tended to avoid Guild politics where possible.

Nonetheless, even this mild, self-effacing healer nurtured one, powerful ambition – it longed to be the healer who finally freed the Guild from the Traders forever.

The Master did not hate the Traders. It did not even object to sharing the Settlement with them, but it did fear another Great Unrest, and knew the Guild would never be truly safe while it was dependant on outsiders for any of its important needs. And Traders held a monopoly on two of the Guild’s most critical needs.

Ever since the time of the Rogue, the Traders had been the Guild’s only link with the outside world. Traders kept the Guild’s maps up-to-date, and the Trader Quartermaster made it possible for the Guild to know where and when its Triads were needed. In return the Guild offered the Traders shelter and food.

This symbiotic relationship had worked well until the Great Unrest had disrupted the Guild’s ability to service the needs of the eyries, and their Vokh. The Guild had acted quickly, yet even so, the Nine had promised to withdraw the Vokh’s protection of the Settlement if such a disturbance ever happened again.

That was when it had become obvious the Guild’s dependence on the Traders was a weakness, a dangerous weakness. Nonetheless, despite over two hundred years of trying, the Guild had not been able to breed even one healer-seneschal. The two talents could not seem to co-exist in the one body. Those Initiates with healing talents strong enough to survive the Quickening could not mind-speak, while those who could always died because they lacked the healing talents that should have kept them alive.

The Master of Acolytes was well aware of this long, long history of failure. It had personally nurtured six young candidates with the ability to mind-speak, and had watched five of them die during the Quickening. Yet despite these failures, it continued to believe the mix of talents was possible. It was convinced the answer lay in finding candidates who had the potential for both talents… before the Quickening.

All five failures had been first rate apprentices who should have made good healers, yet they had still died. And now there was just one hopeful left. It possessed a very strong talent for mind-speaking, however it was the young iVokh’s empathy that made it truly special. Even as a first year apprentice, it had shown a natural ‘knack’ for soothing fractious newborn that was unmatched by any of the other apprentices.

Of course, empathy alone did not guarantee the Quickening would trigger the full range of healer talents. Nonetheless, experience had shown that natural empathy was the best indicator of latent talents.

In an effort to release more of this latent potential, the Master had arranged for the sixth candidate to work with a powerful healer in a safe eyrie. Unfortunately Needlepoint had turned out to be anything but safe, and now no-one seemed to know whether the Triad, and its precious Acolyte, were still alive.

The only one who might know was the Yellow Councillor, but it was the least approachable, and most feared healer in the Guild.

The Master had never spoken to the Yellow, nor had it ever wanted to, but after almost two ti’m’akh of fearful waiting it could wait no longer. It had to find out if its life’s work was over.

Taking a deep, tremulous breath, the old healer raised its hand and knocked on the Yellow’s door.


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