I'm poking at some Mass Effect 3 ending fanfic. The mood is a cross between the Guardian Legend introduction and Nine Inch Nails' A Warm Place. Incongruous as that sounds, it works in my head, and I'm sure it will work once my notes congeal into actual prose. Said notes largely consist of disjointed snippets of conversation, scenery, and internal exposition. Say hello to pretty much my entire writing process.
Sometimes lightning strikes and I see a full scene all at once: the gist of conversation and expository balance, the intended mood, relevant plot development, any deeper symbolism or allegory that happens to belong there. More often, my inspiration comes piecemeal. I know what development I need, but I have no compelling idea on how to sell it. Or I have conversations and scenery floating around with no place to go. To plan the FIRST DRAFT FOR REALS THIS TIME of Arise, I have the following set up in Scrivener:
- Basic list of shit going on: actions, character frustrations, primary circumstances driving the conflict. This keeps track of cause and effect propagation and helps ensure that it all makes sense at its most fundamental level.
- Any scene ideas I can come up with, from specifics to development that eventually needs to be put somewhere. These are roughly ordered at best. A bunch are repurposed from the better fruits of my NaNoWriMo draft.
- List of unanswered questions and relevant rambling. This includes research topics and undecided motivations and plot points.
To rebuild my foundation, I refined my basic plausible conflicts to strongly evoke the setting. Gao Feng Tao took over his uncle's handbag factory, but I didn't know the circumstances. Further research turned up the perfect solution - Tao stole the chops. In China, business and financial authority is conferred via stamps that are difficult to forge and respected as official word regardless of whoever is using them. It's a wonderfully specific detail, and it poofed into my head with a dramatic confrontation scene. Bonus!
As you may gather by my constant rambling about the brilliance of the show, I took yet more cues from The Wire. I found more court cases and business news to inspire tidbits of character back story. I rethought conflicts to arise from basic problems, such as supply chain price increases and the cutthroat competition inherent in the trucking industry. I got a better handle on understanding my characters' mentality of copying and skimming as fair game - it's just business and all. At around 60% sketched, my revised plot already feels closer to the natural result of an ecosystem than it did in the NaNo stage.
I'm almost ready to dig into Rough Draft 1.0. (NaNo was 0.1a.) I have enough scene specifics to work on, lots of promising rough prose to polish, and placeholders for undecided development including lead-in needed for the final act. There's enough to do that won't be invalidated by further research and planning. Chums up let's do this! (Again.)