NaNoWriMo Day 5: The Reset

This entry is part 3 of 3 in the series NaNoWriMo 2019

I didn’t do a lot of writing yesterday, but that’s okay. I did some important thinking about the story and how I want it to unfold. I don’t want the Sonny/Emily story to take over, to take focus away from Elizabeth. It needs to happen because it motivates things later on in her story, but it’s not important. It doesn’t have to happen on screen, so to speak. It has to happen in the background.

So I rewrote my outline for the first chapters, tweaking them so that Elizabeth is the central focus. I changed her inciting incident which means I have to readjust the rest of my Central Narrative Conflict’s anchor scenes.

So basically, here is how the way I understand the anchor scenes and how I put them into action into soap opera fanfiction (info is taken as notes from How Story Works and Lani Diane Rich’s podcasts).

Act One is your set up. You introduce the world. In soap opera fanfiction, this is also important because you need to situate the viewer in the time you’ve chosen to rewrite. I’ve picked March 2006 as my beginning point, thirteen years ago. I have to refresh the viewer on what was happening back then, but I also have some freedom to set my own universe. I can change the chronology — for example, Manny Ruiz was hired before the quarantine but I’ve moved that to post-quarantine. I compressed the amount of time they spent on Sam finding out Alexis is her mother because the search for that answer isn’t important. It’s how Sam deals with that information and how it ripples into her universe.

So in my Act 1, I have to create the universe of my particular story and introduce the characters that are going to be important — particularly my protagonist and my antagonist. Act 1 has two anchor scenes. The inciting incident and the first turning point (also called the acceptance of trouble). 

The inciting incident is the protagonist being confronted with the conflict and acknowledging that it exists. Broken Girl is the story of Elizabeth’s marriage — the deterioration not only of the relationship in the present, but also breaking down Elizabeth’s lies to herself about it. So the inciting incident has to have acknowledging that something is wrong. That it’s not about Lucky still recovering from the back injury during the train accident or the virus. She could wait those out, but she needs to see there’s something rotting at the core.

In the second anchor scene of Act 1, the protagonist needs to engage in the conflict. I don’t think it has to be a positive way — but that she acknowledges it and then decides to do something about it. And that’s another pacing problem — I had my original turning point as something else — something related to the Manny subplot and that’s not the right place for it. Elizabeth has to decide something about her marriage — whether it’s to stick it out, try to change what’s broken, or even just to ignore it. But she has to make an active choice.

After that, we go into Act 2 which is usually the longest. There’s a mid point (the view of the conflict has to completely change), then the no way but through (she has to make another active choice to do something about the conflict) which is the turn to Act 3 where we have the final 3 anchor scenes: the dark moment (she keeps going though all is lost), the climax (who is going to win the Central Narrative Conflict?), and then the resolution: how has the world changed?

These seven scenes have to completely revolve Elizabeth and her conflict. Otherwise the story doesn’t resonate as well and the pacing doesn’t work. There are subplots — the carnival shooting, Manny Ruiz, Sam’s surgery — all things that happened in 2006 but with a twist. These plots all influence her story, but they can’t be the things driving her story. She has to be at the wheel.

So I’ve rewritten the outline for the first few chapters and I’ll be digging into them today. I feel really good about this shift and I’m excited to get into it.