Recently, I searched for a writers group.
I wanted one with writers more experienced than me, and I now meet monthly with a group that includes two screenwriters with three decades of experience each, and a published non-fiction author.
I submitted the first two chapters of my current WiP for review. I hate anyone reading something of mine at first draft stage, but that’s what you do in a writers group.
I was expecting a lot of critique.
Instead, I received praise and a few minor notes such as adding descriptions of my characters, and adding a couple of paragraphs at the beginning to set the story up more traditionally. So, of course, I was on a high when I stepped out of that meet up.
But something else became evident in my feedback. The second chapter ends with bitchy gay man, Jagger, shouting a few home truths at an older woman named Dorothy. One of the people giving me feedback said that this was beautifully set up, and she assumed this would be the main conflict throughout the book.
The thing is, I’m not sure what their resolution will be.
In my outline, Dorothy befriends two other gay guys and their stories are fully fleshed out. She also gets to understand her husband better.
I’ve been meaning to expand Jagger and Dorothy’s part of the tale in more detail, and because of my feedback, this is now a priority.
And I’ve found a way to help me with this task.
I recently submitted a completed manuscript for assessment. As part of this submission I had to include a 300 word synopsis, and the organisation provided guidelines on how it should be written. These guidelines reflect a structure I heard of long ago as a way of scripting Hollywood movies.
The structure is:
An image/setting/concept that sets the stage for the story to come.
Who is the main character? Give a brief description and explain what they want.
What event/decision/change prompts the protagonist to take their initial action?
Plot point one:
What is the first turning point? What action or decision does the protagonist take that changes the book’s direction for good?
Conflicts and character encounters:
Now the main character is experiencing a new life, what happens? Introduce the antagonist.
What is the middle turning point, causing the protagonist to change direction/emotion?
Positivity and difficulty:
What happens to make the protagonist think they’ll prevail? How is this changed/reversed?
What happens now that the main character must work through the darkness and find strength for the final struggle?
What takes place in the final confrontation between protagonist and the antagonist?
Does everyone live happily ever after? What happens to tie up loose ends—or not?
What is the last image to leave your reader with? Has the main character succumbed or prevailed? What does their new life look like?
This is more than I need to nut out Jagger and Dorothy’s story.
While I’ve been avoiding going into the nitty-gritty of their conflict, I now have a better blueprint to weave their part of the story into the whole narrative.
And as it was an experienced screenwriter who saw this as the direction of my book, then it’s a good a reason to meticulously flesh it out.
UPDATE: I have also gone back to the completed manuscript I sent for assessment and wrote in a final confrontation between the protagonist and the antagonist. The protagonist already had the perfect reason to confront her nemesis in the previous scene, so it was easy to add their final conflict.
It also gave the following chapter where the protagonist’s own sister finally makes her realise how destructive her own behaviour is, stronger, without any alteration.