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My Story is Full of Plot Holes

I’m still working on my NaNo pre-planning tasks (http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/6-tasks-youll-love-yourself-for-checking-off-your-nano-pre-writing-list/).  Task #2 was described as “Identifying Potential Plot Holes”.  To do this, I was instructed to first write down everything I know about my story.  When I read that bullet point, I nearly blanked out.  Everything?  Really?  If I write down everything I know about the story, isn’t that well…writing the story?  Or maybe it just meant making lists?  A list of characters, a list of locations, a list of themes?  Do I have themes?  Aaaaaaagh!    Maybe I can skip over bullet point one and move onto the rest of the points?  Yes!  Bullet point two sounds totally doable.  Highlighting and asking questions?  Bring it on!  I decided to do a Q and A on my existing scenes. Now that I’ve gone through this process, I should be able to apply this kind of technique to additional unwritten scenes.  So maybe that’s what bullet point one meant?  Writing down a list of possible scenes?  Neglecting doing this kind of listing and brainstorming might be why I run into problems with plot.

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Eels Q and A

Scene 1: Rendezvous at the space port. Laying the foundations for the job.

Questions: Why does the Albion company want to steal this technology? Albion doesn’t. Arch is working alone, but claims to be acting for his company. Allright, why does Arch want this technology? To eventually use it to get off world. Why? To impress/outdo his dad. Arch’s motivation boils down to a not so great relationship with his father. So this just a giant cry for attention? No. The colony world is pretty miserable/limiting. Many people would like to get off so achieving this goal would be a big coup for anyone. Why does Persephone take this job? Because money (also excitement). I think that comes through in the first scene. She’s bored. What would happen if she refuses to take the job? Arch would go in on his own. Could need rescuing. This would trash the first five or six scenes, but might make a more interesting story. Perephone rescues Arch? Could make Persephone more appealing.

Scene 2: Visit to the H-craft track. Persephone gets an initial impression of the tech.

What happens if there’s a wreck at the track? Perhaps one of the eXime craft? Breaking and spilling the engine compartment would quickly reveal the creatures inside and that’s something I’ve been trying to keep mysterious. Although honestly, with the title of this story, there’s no way to be cagey about it . The mystery is how and why they work and what can be done with the tech.  And while I’m at it, how exactly do the eels work? They run on meat, blood, tissue containing iron-rich heme compounds. Hence the disappearing rats. Also, native life forms aren’t a good meal since they don’t contain enough iron. I set up a metal-poor world with a different biology for a reason.  So if the things get out during a crash, do they maul someone? I didn’t think of the eels as being particularly effective predators. They rely on people to dump in their next meal.  eXime engineered their engine components from a small local worm that uses levitation as part of its breeding cycle.  What happens if Arch is driving (instead of injured which is the way I wrote it originally)? Could Persephone end up in the race? It doesn’t make much sense from a practical perspective to have ‘passengers’ in a race vehicle, but it would be fun to experience this from a cockpit view instead of from the stands. What if the police do more than just toss Persephone out of the arena? They rough her up or arrest her? Arch comes to the rescue? Or bails her out? What happens if Blondie isn’t just a nobody race car driver? Or maybe it’s not Bondie who’s doing the driving. Maybe it’s the orange-haired woman from scene 3? Perhaps she’s gay so Persephone’s little fan-girl act could still work. The rendezvous at the bar could be jazzed up a bit as well. Maybe turned into a chase scene where the orange-haired woman notices Persephone in the bar and tracks her. Or maybe the orange-haired woman (for the love of God, give her a name!   oh…I gave her a name. Myra Holloway). Myra is much more interesting than Blondie (who was after all, just a throw away character that Persephone was using to get at the janitor).

Scene 3: The break in caper.

And what about Mr. Adams (the janitor). What happens if he realizes that Persephone is researching him?   Or perhaps he realizes someone broke into his apartment? He’s likely the one that called in the agents that show up at Persephone’s place in scene 5. Do we really need to invoke some random maintenance guy at all? It might be easier for Persephone to get in if she can get a higher level access pass. This gets us back to Myra again. She’s a wily and worthy opponent (who just happens to feed people to the eels if she catches them). During the caper itself, what if Persephone decides to go after the craft (instead of or in addition to the plans). Maybe she is unable to get the engineering schematics and has to escape in a stolen craft? How does she hide the craft? Can the Albion people reverse engineer the “eels”?   What happens if Arch goes in with her? or after her? Again, a much more interesting scene with potential for thrilling heroics on someone’s part.

Scene 4: Interlude out in the Floats

What happens if Arch takes the injured Persephone back to the Albion compound instead of to Japeth’s place out in the floats? We have a chance to meet daddy, Quentin and the rest of the Albion family. Also, Persphone and Arch will be in the compound when the retaliatory strike comes in. A potentially much more interesting event than watching the building burn from a distance. Might be the instigating event that really gets Persephone on board.  Where and how does Japeth fit into this story? She serves as a foil for Persephone (as well as a ‘rival’ for Arch’s affections). She also could be an eXime agent? Or turn on her friends at some point in the story (likely because Persephone finally pisses her off to the point of no return). In short, I think we still need Japeth (just like we need Arch’s family) to reveal aspects of our main characters. And while I’m pondering characters, is this Persephone’s story or Arch’s? Should I switch to Arch’s viewpoint? No. Persephone is a useful viewpoint character because she is outside of the corporate rivalries that make up colony politics. Arch is more of an insider and thus not as useful. What if eXime staff (maybe Myra) show up instead of just the mindless tube-fish? And what if the tube-fish aren’t really mindless? Or maybe they’re a bigger version of the levitating creatures used to power the H-craft? Hmmm….flying predators with gyrating mouth parts. Now we’re talking. I think I need to re-write the attack scenes. What if Persephone brings the stolen H-craft here? And she and Japeth end up in a chase scene. Neither character really knows how to drive (but maybe Persephone got a primer from Arch back at the track).

Scene 5: Interlude in Persephone’s Apartment.

Why did Arch break into Persephone’s apartment instead of just getting in touch by more normal means? I guess he could be worried about electronic surveillance, but it seems odd to me. His family was just attacked, his brother died and Arch is testing his con-man skills? I do want to set up a feeling of competition between Arch and Persephone, but this probably isn’t the place for it. Yeah. Really have to rethink this scene. What if it’s not Arch in her apartment? Maybe Agent Hixton? However, I was already questioning the roll of the government in this. Hixton could appear to give Persephone a friendly little “hand over the stolen data (or stolen car) or a lot of people are going to die” talk. The government should be trying to shut down eXime operations by now because their bio-engineered critters are a public safety threat. And eXime and Albion are actively shooting at each other. Persephone doesn’t initially believe agent Hixton, but witnesses something Myra does that convinces her of the danger of the tech? Or maybe just enough people die in the trade war? I think the plot arc needs to be something like this. Protagonist warned of danger, rejects warning due to ambition. Through research and experience realizes warning was accurate. Finds way to harness technology safely. Gets off planet. Runs head long into the bigger mystery of the missing trade empire.

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My Drawing Board is Full of Eels

It’s obvious by now that I’m not much of a blogger. I fell out of rhythm and didn’t feel like posting anything, so I didn’t. It was a question of intent. I was unsure and am still unsure what I want this site to be. I like writing and I want to talk about it, but I’m not convinced I have much to add to the noise. After all, there are plenty of blogs of writing advice out there and many of them are excellent. Also, putting up raw, unedited writing snippets was starting to feel like walking around in my underwear with all my bits hanging out. First drafts are ugly little things and the pundits suggest you keep them locked in a closet until they are suitably domesticated. For the most part, I think that wise, but keeping raw text invisible doesn’t help beginning writers (a.k.a. me) follow a refinement process. So, I’m back. National Novel Writing Month is approaching and I plan to use it to finish “Eels”. I don’t expect I’ll be churning out 50,000 words this year, but I do hope to have a complete story by December. One thing I have learned in three years of NaNo is that I can’t fly by the seat of my pants. Oh, I can churn out some good bits, interesting characters, fun dialogue, general weirdness, but I’m consistently unhappy with my plots. So, this year, I’m doing something unusual. I’m pre-planning. A writer and friend of mine (https://www.facebook.com/Andyfixwriter) was kind enough to point me to one of those aforementioned excellent blogs (http://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/6-tasks-youll-love-yourself-for-checking-off-your-nano-pre-writing-list/).   I’ll try it. Hell, at this point, I’ll try anything.  So instead of raw text, I give you exercise #1: Write Your Premise Sentence.

Featured image assembled from free clip art (https://openclipart.org).

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Concept: A colony world is left stranded when the galactic trade empire collapses for unknown reasons.

Who is the protagonist? Persephone Rae, science fiction “thief” for hire.

What is her starting situation? Jobless in mud-city, mud-world.

Objective? Her superficial objective is to survive and maintain her perceived “status”. Her subconscious objective is to find something more meaningful to do.

Opponent? The government and eXime.

What disaster ends her normal world? The failure of her break-in attempt (perhaps). This is a weak area. I have 30,000 words written and the character doesn’t feel committed to any cause larger than herself.

What is the conflict? On a superficial level the conflict is a race between the eXime faction and our heroes to gain control of the antigravity tech. Will it be used for good or ill?

Premise:  Persephone Rae, detective and sometimes thief for hire (situation), wants nothing more than to pay her bills (objective) and eke out a comfortable existence in the only city left on a crumbling colony world. But when a job goes badly (disaster), Persephone is drawn into a city-wide conflict (conflict) between corporate factions and the government over control of a novel antigravity technology, a technology that might either save or destroy the colony. Persephone must race against the clock and the forces of the mysterious eXime corporation to save the colony.