Very good progress on Covet Thy Neighbor. Had to tear out and redo earlier passages as the end developed -- exactly as expected. This, of course, left a couple of messy or jumpy places in the notes, so I have decided that as the last pass, I need to type through the whole outline.
The numbers for the status are:
- Act 1: 4.0
- Act 2: 4.0
- Act 3: 3.7
- Act 4: 3.2
(The scale is 1-4, with 4 being that all the scenes have their beats sorted out. As described here.)
I'm doing it in the form of a "long pitch" -- the opposite of an elevator pitch -- where you tell the whole story in detail. So I thought I'd give you the Xtreme Outline for the first chapter:
Scene 1.) Amy driving to her new job. She's got her whole life packed in the car, except for a few things of her mother's which are in storage. A summer of writing in a beautiful location -- all thanks to a job helping an elderly man write his memoirs.
She is almost there, when she sees an accident developing ahead. Someone passes her, going too fast, at the top of a hill, and can't stop when a car pulls out of a blind corner at the bottom. The truck coming behind Amy is also going too fast, Amy can't quite stop, so she slows as much as she can and swerves into an empty gravel parking lot near the corner. She hears the truck run into the accident. She is shaken, and fumbles for her phone, but others have already come to help.
She is in the weed strewn lot of an abandoned restaurant (which is right on the corner) but there is another restaurant right next door. There is a big sign on the corner directing customers to the "live" restaurant - Fedler's Home Cooking and Quick Stop.
She leaves a note on her car for the police, saying that: she is a witness, but she felt sick so she has gone into the restaurant.
Scene 2.) Inside she gets sympathy from the staff and takes a seat near the front. Has some soup and hot rolls. Comfort food. They may give her more than she orders. (Some discussion overheard among staff as to whether to send out something the people at the accident. Fedler would approve -- good for the restaurant's rep -- but Mrs. F might object, and she's the one in charge while Felder is off working on preparations for the town shindig.)
Amy asks about how to find Topline Road, and the waitress comments about how Mr. Fedler lives up there, does she know him? Or is she there to visit the Blackwells? When Amy gives Adam's name, the waitress reacts with a little upper midwest condescension. Oh, Adam? Oh, he's a sweet old guy. Yah. Well, you know, one of those creative types. Amy reads between the lines. Adam, her new boss, is known to be gay. But she already knew that.
Scene 3.) Before the waitress can give directions, the chief of police arrives. A woman in her 40's. Getting a little broad in the middle. She's friendly, but it's that "evaluating the witness" kind of friendliness: asking about where Amy was headed, how fast she was going, whether she was wearing her seat belt. Plodding, methodical, but also calming.
Part of the calming is asking her about what she's doing. Maybe asking about Adam and the job. (The waitress is hovering, and definitely overhears Amy describe herself as a writer, come to write something about Adam.) Amy assumes the cop knows Adam. "I suppose everybody knows everybody around here," says Amy. The cop, however, demurs. She hasn't been around long enough to know everybody, but she knows places.
At the end, the cop gives Amy directions on how to get to Topline Road. Maybe cap it off with waitress asking about whether she's a reporter or something. Amy is a little shy of what to say, so she doesn't actually answer that. Just says, "well, I write books."
I would normally have used an outline that says:
Driving to her new job, she nearly has accident like the one in the back story. She pauses to settle her nerves and asks directions at a gas station. (Good place for more background on the job.)
And that's it. Then later I might realize that this is actually the ideal place to introduce some locations and characters, and also seed the fact that gossip will spread the word about her arrival.
And because I'd only discover this after having written quite a lot, I'd have to toss out or seriously revise whole large sections of scene, or just muddle through with a less effective introduction. (Which is never as viable as it seems.)
Plus in this case, it wasn't until I was nearly done with the story that I realized I had to find a place to introduce the cop character earlier. This opening is the perfect place. Furthermore, I have a very good idea, now after developing the whole story, where I want certain facts to come out. Therefore I know what to hold back on, what to lay the groundwork for.
Did this process take the fun out of the scene?
No way. It only makes me look forward to it more. I have lots of rich and interesting and resonant details to play with and some lovely characters to illuminate, along with their attitudes and styles.
And I get to see Amy discover these people, and they discover her. That brings a lot of freshness to everything.
So, I'm looking forward to next month when I write this.
In the meantime, I may once again be slightly late in posting the podcast -- early afternoon rather than early morning -- but we'll see. I'm having fun editing the sound, and I did the story music myself. You'll hear from me about this on Tuesday.
See you in the funny papers.