Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Chapter Anatomy: Disaster

It’s hump day, and what better topic for such a day than disaster?!

scene sequel breakdown

The third and final part of your scene is the culmination of your goal. I like how Jack M. Bickham puts this in Scene & Structure . . . Your goal being a question, the disaster is the answer. And not in simple yes or no terms. We’re writers. Make the shiz hurt.

Here is how your “disaster” should answer the goal: with a yes, but . . . or a no, and furthermore . . . .

If you go with the “yes, but . . .” answer, the but must include options your mc can’t accept. In the “no, and furthermore . . .” you not only sock ‘em in the nose, you uppercut the chin, maybe a few punches to the gut, knee in the groin . . . you feel me? Make it go from simply bad to worse. Much worse.

SO. On to my two examples, which happen to be the first two scenes of chapter one in my urban fantasy.

Example one: Natalie is trying to get Travis on the road without her because she’d prefer to avoid the inlaws. Travis is concerned with her brother showing up and would like her to go with him. Goal-Motivation-Conflict. Now, the “disaster”. This is where I might end up in the #EpicFail department. The point of the disaster is to stop the goal. It does, however, lean toward the “yes, but . . .” option. So let’s check it out.

I waved from the drive until he was out of sight. My heart ached now that I was alone. We’d spent plenty of time apart in the past couple years, but I’d grown used to him being around since he moved in a few weeks ago. I didn’t look forward to having the large house to myself.

Resigned to spending my weekend alone, I turned on my heel to face my childhood home—one-story, white clapboard with a basement. Mom and Dad left the house to Jon and me after they died earlier in the year. Jon said Travis and I should have it. I recalled Jon’s face when he laid out his stipulations for me. Only a week after the funeral, it was the one time a smile touched his mournful eyes.

“You have to have a minimum of two kids,” he’d said. “One boy, one girl. This house needs a family and of the two of us, you’re the only viable option.”

“That’s not true.”

Jon cocked me a lopsided grin. “Come on, Nat. We both know I’m not cut out to be a dad. World dominance, maybe . . .”

I’d laughed for the first time in weeks. “Watch out Lex Luther.”

“Now we’re on the same page.”

The house was too much for just Travis and me, but I loved every square inch of it. Jon did too, so when he handed over his half without blinking a single eye, I was that much more grateful to him.

If things went as planned, one of the two extra bedrooms would have a new addition within the next year. This image brought a smile to my face. A baby would bring so much life to this house. A son with Travis’ dark hair and fuller mouth because mine was too thin, but he could have my smaller nose and high cheekbones.

I shut my eyes against the setting sun and let the heat warm my face for a long moment. I stood there for so long, the idea of crossing the line of shadow formed by the house made me weary. Goose bumps rose on my skin at the idea of the air-conditioned, shadowed foyer.

I faced the road once more. I could go. I could be behind Travis in less than an hour and wouldn’t face an entire weekend without him. But I was being silly. What could possibly happen in two days?

Decision made, I crossed the threshold into the cool shadow and closed the front door behind me.

This is kind of iffy for me. Technically, you could say I skipped over the disaster, jumped right into sequel, skipped over reaction and there you have the dilemma and decision. If you have no clue what sequel’s are, you didn’t understand any of that, but I’ll get to it in future posts. Don’t worry. Anyway, I actually lean toward this being the end of the scene. The culmination of the goal. And as you’ll learn, sequels don’t have to follow scenes. SO, my final judgment, iffy though it is, is that I have a “yes, but . . .” here. I’ve foreshadowed events that will make Natalie sorry she stayed.

Example two. Natalie just wants to simply relax and forget about Jon and what he’s getting himself into but she can’t stop thinking about the events leading to their big fight. Goal-Motivation-Conflict. This “disaster” is a little more clear cut.

The muffled sound of “Forever” by Sevendust came from between my upturned knees, alerting me to the phone call I’d been waiting on from Travis. Only it wasn’t his name on the caller ID.

My heart seized and I had a moment of panic. I hadn’t seen Jon’s name flash on my caller ID in almost two weeks . . .

Natalie receiving a phone call from the very brother she’s been asked by her fiancĂ© to avoid is definitely going to put a damper in her relaxation time. This is a “no, and furthermore . . .” situation. Not only will she never reach her longed for point of bliss and relaxation, but it’s interrupted by a phone call, and not just any call, but one from her brother.

So there you have it. That’s disaster. Once your goal is stated, make sure you follow up with a disaster that’s sure to put a stop to that goal one way or another. And don’t let the word disaster fool you! It doesn’t mean gloom and doom. This can be a funny culmination to the goal. I read a post in which the example gave the woman’s goal—to buy her husband a Christmas gift—and she sold her hair for the money and bought him a fancy chain for his watch. When she got home and they exchanged gifts, he’d sold the watch to buy her a set of hair combs for the hair she no longer had. This left them both with completely pointless gifts, and it made me laugh. But you see my point? This is not gloom and doom. It’s just an #EpicFail of the goal.

I’m a pantser, so I don’t plan these things ahead of time, but the best part about this scene/sequel business is that I can go back and fix. I could go back to my first scene, give it a clear disaster and follow up reaction, and turn that last bit into a sequel. Easy peasy. So if you come across these areas like I am, don’t get discouraged. You can fix them.

Until Friday when I get into Sequel!

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