Plotting To Be Scene – Part Two
My next area of study is plotting. I am using James Scott Bell’s Plot and Structure as a companion piece. I am plotting a new project, Scepter’s Sacrifice, and hope to use some of his techniques in finalizing the overall story. His second chapter, Structure – What Holds Your Plot Together, includes three exercises at the back of the book. I will bravely post my answers.
EXERCISE ONE – Analyze Burn Notice a view toward understanding their three-act structure. Specifically note:
(a) When is there a disturbance to the Lead’s ordinary routine?
A disturbance happens in the first scene after the Prolog, where part of the team is going off to do another job.
(b) What changes happen early on?
The next scene has the other team getting ready to do a job, assigned to protect potential victims. They establish the stakes.
(c) At what point is the Lead thrust into the conflict? At what point can he not return to normal?
The lead, Mike, is thrust into the conflict immediately after Plot Point One, when he must come in to save a member of his team and one of the victims.
(d) When is there a major clue, crisis, or setback that makes the climax inevitable?
The team member being held is ready to break out, and Michael finds out where the kidnap victim is being held. From there, it is just a case of knocking the pins down.
If you’re bored, ask yourself why. Look to see if the LOCK elements or three-act structure is weak.
This episode moved along very rapidly, as do all the Burn Notice episodes.
EXERCISE TWO – Look at the elements of your current plot.
(a) Are they lining up in a way that will help readers get into the story?
I have identified putting in the following items to go into my story: First Image, Save the Cat, State the Theme, Inciting Incident, First Plot Point, First Pinch Point, Mid Point, Second Pinch Point, Whiff of Death, All Is Lost, Dark Night of the Soul, Second Plot Point, Finale, and Final Image.
EXERCISE THREE – Using the structure diagram, map out your current plot.
(a) Come up with a disturbance scene and events that make up the two doorways of no return, and write them down in summary form. Make them original and involving.
Pia’isa meets with the leaders of the five clans of the Ston. This is the last big meeting of the Clan leaders before the Clans break Summer Camp and go to their home territories for the winter. Pia’isa intends to announce that the Duke has agreed to allow Ston passage through the Bon Valley, showing good good faith. In return, the Ston agree to allow more Jaeni traders in, and migration of Jaeni farmers across the River.
Two of the Clans oppose the Alliance. They feel the Ston are strong enough to force their way into the Bon Valley and do not need Jaeni permission. And they oppose an expanded Jaeni presence on the other side of the River.
The argument escalates to the role of Regar and Deheya. They oppose their return to the Jaeni Capital, and feel Deheya has whored herself and has become more Jaeni than Ston.
More harsh words follow. The leaders of the two Clans storm out of the meeting.
A messenger arrives, telling Deheya that Ren Gar is dead, and Ad Gar has proclaimed himself Lord Protector. She and Regar are to return to the Capital at once. She no longer has a strong protector for her son, and the Alliance seems doomed because Ad Gar opposes the Alliance.
Ad Gar demands that Deheya surrender herself, and implies threats to Regar if she does not. She has to go. She also realizes that he wants her very much, and she hopes to use that against him, but isn’t quite sure how to do it.
So, what does this all mean?
I’ve read the theory behind structuring. And I have begun writing with the structure in mind. By analyzing Burn Notice, I was able to look at something someone else produced, and see it in action.
I picked a Burn Notice episode, because the series is highly regarded by some teachers as a well designed and well written show.