This is the way I am working on Book 2 of System War:
High level plot of the book arc, this includes the following:
The current situation – I.E. – what has happened since we last saw our heroes and villains. Spoilers below, not that anyone has read book 1.
Large Book Arc Points
An inciting incident occurs that spins out the stories for the rest of the book. The characters are scattered throughout the system. Each set of them is isolated by physical distance and separated. The common theme is they all have to rely on themselves, they can’t count on the others to save them. The weaving together of their individual plot arcs will occur after the climax of the story in the denouement. As in the first book, there will be a space battle with all our characters in various roles before they are all flung away from one another.
The main starting point is event based; they are fighting a war and they must break a blockade. The main character in this arc must control her impulsive nature and realize that not everyone can be saved. This will fundamentally change her for the remainder of the series. Until now she has been able to save everyone.
The main love arc between two characters, doesn’t move forward in the traditional sense, because they are seperated. The frustration of absence and worry. There is no communication between them until the end of the book. Each of them focus on their given tasks to distract them from the seperation.
The environment or the universe arc is summed up with the following:
– The dangers of the Jovian Moon and traveling in deep space with no repair port near by. This is the outer danger, the danger of distance.
– The fear of the unknown as two characters discover a fundamental change in the universe, a mini disaster movie arc.
An Espionage/spy arc where characters have to be like spies and make contact with a foreign government, with no support.
/digression – The Bad Guys – yea they get an arc too.
The protagonists must weave their way around the successes of the heroes and then foil them. Even with the successes and sacrifices of heroes, the villians will be closer to winning the underlying contest of who will get interstellar travel and saving humanity from living in one solar system and more importantly who gets to survive. We will also learn why the protagonists are focused on escaping our solar system. The big reveal of ‘the evil’ at the end of the book will be the focus point of driving the third and final book.
These scenarios put pressure on the characters which will reveal more about them. Some will fail, some will overcome themselves and the roadblocks in front of them, some will remain the same.
Characters remaining the same. Why they are interesting.
The best example of a main character remaining the same that I have heard of and agree with is Conan the Barbarian. In each of the movies he is the same. There is no dynamic change in who or what he is. The characters around him change, he enables them to change by forcing them to looking inward or aiding in their external conflict.
Seems straight forward? For me examining the process and trying to write it becomes very difficult. The character has to be put under additional strain and pressure that would force them to change, to compromise or act differently. The tests must be harder than in the first book. It is this escalation and how it is managed that is difficult. If Conan fought 10 people at once, he must fight 100 people at once in the next conflict.
This should expose if the values of the character are true? What is the price to give in? For the Series this process must be escalated slowly. In the first book I tried to show her skills and abilities. Continually building her need to be better, to be smarter. Tougher problems. She must be jeopardized and more importantly, what she loves and holds near and dear must be directly attacked with the intent of compromising her.
At the same time the arc must be balanced against what is going to happen in the third book. This balance is often compromised by not being realistic. The Death Stars in Star Wars escalated out of control. Even for the Star Wars universe.
In the first book, the plot attacks on one of the main characters were focused on the external components of the character – can she lead her crew into battle? Is she a good tactician? In book two the focus will shift to the game of diplomacy and spy craft, something she is awful at and the underlying mystery of the character will be revealed. This answers the question: If she is such a great Space Ship Captain and military strategist, why was she dishonorably discharged from the Fleet? This of course leads to the question: Why tell us this now?
If the overarching point of the book series was about this character, then it would be inappropriate to resolve this plot in book two. Why read book three if main plot point is resolved? However, the answer to this question must be answered at some point as it is an implied promise to the reader. Secondly it is one of the mysteries in the series. Book Two must move the main arc of the series AND have a fundamentally satisfying resolution to a character arc.
Could this be handled in book three? Certainly? But at what cost? The pace of this book series is deliberate with the intent of the tension in various plot points to be satisfying, not a constant roller coaster. The action and anxiety may run for several chapters and scenes, but in the overall pacing I’ve tried to keep specific points where you get to see the characters recovering, being ‘normal’. Why? I’ve always enjoyed books that have done this. Who doesn’t like witty banter at a coffee shop? I mean really…it’s necessary…even in the Marvel universe – why else is there a Shawarma scene?
And that’s this weeks ramblings – return next week where I’ll write something – I hope – until then wash your hands and