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Plotting: The Paradigm

Originally published at Joely Sue Burkhart. You can comment here or there.

My new motto: when all else fails, turn to Syd Field’s Screenplay.

I’d forgotten about the paradigm he outlines, although I know the Three Act Structure and Hero’s Journey. He has a slightly different spin on the same thing. Most significantly, he tells you exactly what you need to know in order to say what the story’s about, and exactly how many turning points.

For Night Sun Rising (NSR) I had all this figured out. I drew the paradigm for it days ago and then stared at it, overwhelmed with how to fit the “new” story either on top or extended or…something. That’s when I started Connecting the Dots and Pulling Threads. Those helped, definitely.

Last night, I came back to the Paradigm, or timeline. First, I took four sheets of normal 8.5×11 paper and labeled them Act I, Act II Part 1, Act II Part 2, and Act III. I marked out the paradigm for NSR again, and added some of the plot detail that I already knew, along with Jaid’s journey. Then I started considering the new threads I identified and matching up any overlaps, where possible.

What I found helpful was to identify key characters/plot threads and their movement, even if they aren’t POV characters. So I have my bad guys making their move, and I can track it, even though none of them have a POV. Between my possible scene cards, and all the brainstorming and doodling…

Dawn broke. The pieces fell into place. Angels started singing.

Seriously, I have it. The green and red threads (new) now fit on top of NSR. It all makes sense. I finally FINALLY!!! figured out how the end of the new threads completes and compliments the end of Jaid’s story in NSR and what that means for the future.

*dies gasps keels over*

I think I even have a good start on what the next book will be. I mean, it is frickin’ hysterical. The set up is perfect. I’d laugh if I hadn’t been beating my head so hard that I left a bloody smear on my Demotivator.

Now that I have 4 pages of very messy scribbles and exclamation points, I need to more finely define the scenes. The first order of business is to go through the existing draft of NSR and create a notecard for each key scene. I added the new threads through Act I, but everything got seriously muddled in Act II Part 1. Some brand new conflict needs to be added that will significantly impact the existing scenes with Jaid and Ruin. So I decided to get the whole first draft outlined, then I’ll step back with the paradigm spread out in front of me and a nice stack of clean notecards to begin the real work.

The “final” paradigm will be on 4 legal sized pages to allow room for all the plot threads. Xibalba, it might end up on four sheets of poster board before I’m done, because this sucker is huge.

I see it. At last, I see it. Beginning, middle, end; purple, black, orange, green, and red, all blended together into a tapestry of Story.

I worked on it so long last night that my eyes started to hurt and my back was killing me. I felt this burning obsession to write it all down, now, before I lose it. However, the existing draft of NSR kept sucking me in. I was supposed to only skim enough to get the notecards down, but I ended up reading more than I planned. And that’s a very good thing. :D

So the bad news: I won’t be giving away NSR as a serial on the blog.

The good news: most of it will be salvaged and become something much bigger and meaner. It’s so complex, now, I have five colors for POV threads! Whew, boy, it is definitely a doosie.

But I. Must. Write. Faster. There’s a very important date tied to this story. It would be really stupid for me to dink around and miss it. So you know what October-December are going to be, right? Nose to the grindstone, belt another complex, deeper draft out. In other words,

Revision Xibalba.

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