The next step I take is to cut and paste the story parts in order. At this stage you may notice we have some names. Jack J. Novak, Jules Sinclair, and Isabel Novak. I chose these on the fly as I wrote. Note the syllable ratios. Jack J. Novak=1:1:2. Jules Sinclair=1:2. Isabel Novak=3:2. For some reason, to my writer ear, an equal ratio or a change of no more than one sounds right. Examples: Jack Ryan, Jack Reacher, James T. Kirk, Sherlock Holmes, Clark Kent.
While we’re on the topic of names, it occurred to me that Jules Sinclair sounds British. I originally intended him to be an American. Perhaps British could make him sound very different and a lofty kind of villain. So, I’ll change that as I write it.
I’d like Isabel to come across as likable, and perhaps a little naive. So, I’m going to get her to act and speak like the librarian, from real life, at Mt. Ommaney library.
And of course. Jack has to die.
S1 Cont. Some camped overnight on footpaths in all kinds of weather, foul or fair, freezing or sultry, it didn’t matter. All that mattered to them was the assurance that they could buy his latest book—before it sold out.
He was a mega-star-author: a household name. Somewhere in the world, three people bought one of his books every second, of every minute, of every hour, of every day.
That’s a lot of books.
At five minutes past nine, in the leafy outer suburbs of Brisbane, a telephone rang in a quiet library tucked away behind a busy shopping centre. It was unusual. It was early, five minutes after opening, and the librarian picked up the phone. “Mt. Ommaney library. My name is Isabel. How may I help you?”
“Hello, Ms. Novak,” a cultured voice said. “Jules Sinclair calling from London, your uncle’s agent. I’m terribly sorry for your loss. I understand you and Jack were quite close.”
“Thank you, Mr. Sinclair,” she said. “Everyone’s in shock. He was so young.”
“He will be sorely missed,” Sinclair said, and he paused a moment. “I hope you don’t consider me crass, but I’d like to meet with you, after the service of course, to discuss his new book idea.”
“A new book?”
“Yes. He and I discussed it over the phone. I’ve made notes.”
“I don’t know anything about—”
“I’ll explain it all when we meet. You’ll love it,” he said, hanging up.
Slowly, she put the phone down.
(I did agonize about two things. The adverb “Slowly” and the emdash after “his latest book.”)
That’s all for today. Scene one is looking reasonable. It may look like a mess to you now, but hopefully this is making some sort of sense. If there is an interest, we can dissect the third draft in the next article.
S1. (Use writer intrusion tool and break the rules by going from first to third.) What if I told you . . .? I know why some great writers die early. Would you listen? Would you believe?
Well . . . believe or not, this is how it happens.
Every time Jack J. Novak wrote a new book, his fans lined-up at bookshops all over the world . . .
S3. Misty, grey clouds hung low above the cemetery, puffy in the damp afternoon air, and rained a fine drizzle over the ocean of black umbrellas moving towards the carpark.
The service was over. Some lamenters mingled in solemn groups, catching up with rarely seen relatives or friends.
Jules Sinclair and Isabel watched the line of departing cars from a coffee shop across the road . . .
Prompt: A contract/bounced cheque.
A story about a writer who makes a deal with the devil, trading success and money for their very soul. Or what if the story is about a succession of writers, and each one makes a bad contract with a literary agency, for a certain number of books. They get to enjoy their success until the last book is written and then they die and the agency gets their soul. The agent then cons the next family memeber into the same bad deal, the exact same way and it goes on and on, with the bad guys winning.
Scene1: Shows a very successful author doing his thing. People camp overnight at bookshops to buy his books. Like a new smartphone release.
Scene2: Author number one is dead. The next author in line is his niece, a librarian, like the Brisbane City Council librarian at Mt. Ommaney. She gets a phone call from her uncle’s agent in New York. He tells her about a new book idea that her uncle had and suggests she write the next book.
Scene3: Funeral in the rain. Black umbrellas. The agent bumps into the librarian and convinces her to step up to the plate. He gives a story outline to start her off.
Scene4: (inciting incident: for her at least) She writes the first book and the agent sends her the contracts. It’s a bestseller. She quits her job. Her life changes. She marries a famous guy and they have a boy. They divorce. All her books, one a year, are best sellers. Her boy is now grown up. She gets tired of writing. The agent freaks and tells her she can’t do that. Her laptop finishes the book for her. She dies.
Scene5: Repeat The Pre-incident tool: Repeat scene three with her dead now, an the agent cons her son at the funeral (verbatim) to write the next book. Maybe use Mark Greaney’s scene setting tool for scenes 3 and 5 to make them stand out.
5 responses to “Tim Sorrensen on Writing Part 2”
Tim, I have been following your blog on your writing methodology. I find it fascinating how many different ways writer’s approach the craft. You are much more organized than I am. I tend to draft a rough plot outline. But once I develop the main characters and complete worldbuilding, they (the characters) take over the script. Many times completely changing the original outline. Thank you for sharing. Tom.
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No problem, Tom.
It’s interesting that your characters take over the script. I’m guessing you’d call it ‘Character Driven Writing.’ Perhaps they need a reminder about you… Without you, they cannot exist. Lol.
My characters are well behaved.
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Tim, a little more detail. On how the characters drive the writing bus, with me. After further developing each character’s personality I inevitably reach a point in the original plot outline where the characters balk. Usually, something along the lines of “Hey, Tom, this reaction you want me to take won’t work for me. I would handle it differently. This goes against my true nature or character.” (pun intended). After a lengthy discussion, the characters often win the argument and convince me to see their perspective. I am enjoying reading the nuts and bolts of your methods and I am certain others will also. Looking forward to reading more. Tom.
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My characters function like Tom’s; they basically take over the story. I work from a detailed outline which the story follows rigidly in the early going but begins to deviate from the farther in I get. Most of that isn’t so much a result of the character “speaking” to me as it is of the characters’ development suggesting more dynamic routes forward than I could envision when I first wrote the outline. Of course, the outline, following such a major change, becomes a bit useless, like your grandfather’s road map that you find in an old box, faithfully describing a landscape that no longer exists…
It always amazes me how many different roads we take in our efforts to get to the same place.
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Excellent point, Jack. The plot final outcome remains unchanged e.g. save or destroy the world. BUT the path becomes less linear
Love those less traveled paths. Must be the frustrated poet in my crying out for recognition. Tom.
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