Plotting to plot the plots: The Post-Procrastination plan: The third installment of the overly large blog titles series.

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.

Detail of ‘Yellow Smoke Dancing’ by d.c.dear

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.

Detail – Jupiter Rising – d.c.dear

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

Be Well…dcd

The character sketch that let a character live

In my last blog I had discovered that one of my main characters had hijacked the plot and I didn’t know what to do. By the end of the blog I realized all I needed to do was review the character sketches that I did to discover the answer.


Before we find out if I have to kill this rogue character, let me talk about character sketches and why I did one.

Early on in the writing process, I came to understand that I liked outlining.  I know their are many who write “by the seat of their pants” or “pantsers”. I am not one of those. I really enjoyed the outlining process. It gave me a lot of confidence in being able to complete a novel, after all this is my first novel  (and I hope not my last).

The character sketch gives you answers to questions you don’t know you will need until you are writing. It also allows you to write to the character and keep each of your characters distinct and unique. Not just “Generic OverLord 1”. They became real to me, I can see them and see how they would act.

Here is a portion of the character sketches. The full character sketches are much too long to include in blog.

Edur Characteristics: Use to leading people and people look to him for leadership, a very strong personality. A fierce negotiator and clever tactician. Enemies often surrender before battle because they know they have already lost. He does not like to lose, but is aware the appearance of losing often strengthens ones overall position.

The Abbott Characteristics:  Taken from his family at an early age to become a monk, was an excellent student with a very good mind for science. A number of patents and discoveries belong to him from his high school days, in University his true leadership showed and became the first student leader to become Abbott. His young age signaled a change in the previously slow moving Dominion, they are in evangelism and expansion mode. He is an apt negotiator, but realizes he lacks experience; so always works with a senior staff person.

Conclusion: Based on these snippets from the character sketches, Edur, would be the more likely as the tactician to have anticipated the danger and therefore planned accordingly. As a result of this it will be the escape from a riot.

However, I will use the idea of manipulating the masses by releasing a video showing the human nature, compassion and helping the injured ambassador, to refocus the anger, the following day.

From this, I also concluded I need to go back and review my character notes to help in the writing this scene. While this is stating the obvious, if you make an outline, you need to use it. You actually have to go and use it! Not just leave it on the shelf. What I discerned is that I did not FOCUS on what I wanted to write in this scene, I just wanted to write.

When I played sports I had a wise coach who said “Perfect Practice Makes Perfect”. His point to us was that if you practice sloppy, you play sloppy.

As a writer who outlines, I need to use all the tools and resources that have been put together over the process of writing this first novel. This is what I would identify as a “rookie” mistake. I don’t want to be sloppy writer.

Hopefully this will help you identify something in your own writing that you can change to be a better writer.

Be Well – dcd


What to do when a character runs away with your plot…HELP!

I am not happy, I may have to kill him, one of my characters. He has stolen the plot right out from under me! ARG!

You see, I had this nice little escape from a restaurant. Our gang of merry adventurers are having a fabulous little coffee after the church service where the “Council of Reconciliation” was announced.  At this point there is suppose to be a minor riot in the cafe and our band of heroes escapes though the back door in the kitchen unscathed.

I start writing the scene, the riot starts to occur and we get out the back door, and then…instead of escape from near death, we find out that the riot is not a riot, it actually is outrage at the fact that some group tried to assassinate their Abbott. The Abbott released a video that showed all of the leaders as great heroes, they weren’t in any danger. They had over re-acted to a careful plan of the Abbott and his accomplice had planed.

I like both, in the first we have the classic escape from a trap because someone has anticipated the coming issue avoiding the fight. The second has the same resolution – someone thinks ahead and finds a way to channel the anger of the crowd, the mob, to focus on the enemy that unknown enemy.  This prevents the mob from realizing that the Religious Government has just set aside all civilized behavior to find the enemy.

I don’t know what to do. The point of the scene, and remember all scenes have a point or a purpose to move the story along, is to show the following:

1) The common person is focused on the Council for reconciliation, which will allow our team to brashly search for the real terrorists. Running rough shod over civil liberties and religious freedoms.

2) A small by-play that produces a minor romantic tone

3) The flavor and character of our main players in the story.

All of these points can be accomplished in both scenes. I think the question boils down to how clever do I need to make characters? Do I need to make the Abbott clever? Is it true to his character? To resolve this I need to go back to the character sketch that I did for the Abbott as part of my outline. As well I need to review the character sketch for the our military leader who senses the riot first and sneaks us out. Does it help his development as character more…

The answer in the next episode of “ARG! The Character who stole my plot!”

Be well – dcd


And the plot thickens…

DoorReSize(Why yes, I am addicted to ellipses. Why do you ask?)

I don’t know much about plots. I have always assumed that plots are the action of the story. This is how I will proceed until I think/decide otherwise.

The problem with this approach is that I have to remember that the reader doesn’t know everything at every moment of time. They don’t know that this is a clever piece of dialog, because they don’t know the whole story.  They don’t know that this is an ingenious plot twist.

The resolution to this problem at least for me, is to go back and add bits to the early part of the story to help prepare the reader for what is coming ahead without giving away the clever bit. Well at least I hope it is clever or at least unseen to some degree. Some wrinkle that the reader did not anticipate.

I am at the stage of outlining each scene. For this particular novel I know how it ends, where I want to get to geographically and character wise. Now I just have to get to from point A to point Z, that’s a lot of letters.

To help make this easier for me I have separated the journey into logical “chunks”. This has been the easy part. Travel to Planet A and see what’s going on and try and solve the mystery – the new information on Planet A forces us to travel to Planet B where our hero discovers critical information – but he also becomes sick! Sick unto death! This means they have to go to Planet C to get him healed and made well. To Planet C where they almost all die and escape to return to the starting planet. (The sentences in this paragraph have been brought to you by the letter “T”)


[There is a martyr in this story; who becomes the martyr? Well, we have to wait and see. You do at least, I know who becomes the martyr, I know who lives and who dies. Now if the characters will only behave, I will be on my way.]


Sadly plotting is not this simple for me. As each point in the plot is split apart and looked at, it becomes more complicated. Fearful that I will forget some key point of plot I have written somewhere, I am re-reading everything that I have written. This has forced me to re-write pieces and places already. This is based on how the characters have made themselves known to me.

Plotting has become one of those games where you shoot the large rock and it splits in half. Then those split in half and so on and so until they are gone. There is a lot of bits and pieces to this novel, to this, story. Hopefully it will fit in one book!

I stumbled across this quote:

Of all sad words of mouth or pen, the saddest are these: it might have been. — John Greenleaf Whittier

Or in my case: If I don’t write and outline, there will be nothing to correct into an actual novel.

‘Tis better to have plotted than to have never plotted at all.

Adieu mon ami I am off to PLOT!

Be Well – dcd