As you might have guessed, the title for this story is “The Honeymoon”, with the first act named “Wedding Crasher”.
The first scene is the hardest of them all. Here, I have one shot at establishing the mood for the rest of the narrative. I have to decide whether I want to present the story in first-person or not, past or present tense, average word count, and so on.
I already know that the scene begins with the car crash (the element to Nathan’s and Sarah’s Relationship). I also know that half the scenes later down the road will play out before said crash, using that moment in the narrative as both start and finish line for the story. That means that whatever I mention about the circumstances that lead here, I need to make sure to keep the plot straight for later scenes. Starting in the middle is fun and exciting, but it can easily screw up the timeline if I don’t pay attention.
The first scene is also hard because of the extra weight I added to the randomized narrative: The Writer Emergency Cards. I’ve been talking about them in every post leading up to scene you just read, so now it’s time to show you what those cards actually do.
How this works
I pull a card randomly from the deck, flip it over, and let the picture, the title, and the little blurb inspire me to a particular part in the story that I’m stuck on, or unsure of. Since I have no part of the story written out at this point, it’s a little more tricky to use the cards. They’re designed to inspire you out of a dead-end in your writing, not to get you started before. Luckily, I wrote an outline. I can use the initial idea for the scene to focus on and apply the card towards.
Then I will write a bit about the card itself and how it influences my ideas of the scene (as written in the outline). Then I’ll go and write the actual scene with all those new ideas, and after that, I’ll write another text about what I think using the cards and writing the actual scene. Talk about what happened and such. (Both Before and After post will be combined in one single post.)
Before Writing Act 1, Scene 1
The first thought about the scene was Sarah and Nathan driving the car off the road after being chased by the bad guys. Sirens in the distance were also mentioned. I think I will take the heat off just a little, and let them assume they’ve escaped for now. So, no direct danger from the people chasing them. But their car is still broken, they probably fought (since they don’t like each other), are wounded, confused, maybe dazed, and now they rolled the car off the road. Sarah wants to get away with the drugs. This is her scene, and that’s her motivation: Get the hell out of here alive with the drugs (she knows they’re worth a lot, but doesn’t think this through enough to realize that she needs to sell them first before getting any money). Tunnel-vision–own survival. But with her is Nathan, who doesn’t like her much, is friends with her husband they just screwed over, and might want to convince her to turn around and let them have the drugs. So (at least in her mind) that idiot step-brother is holding her back, or standing in her way.
With that in mind, I drew a card randomly:
Card # 24 — That’s Not The Dragon
You thought that was the enemy? Nope. The real danger lies ahead.
Found it fitting, but hard to implement the ideas. Sarah does think the enemy is behind her now. So, putting a new danger ahead of her, the real danger, seems to be a logical progression. The picture shows a couple of warriors fighting a fake dragon, while the real monster lies in wait hidden behind a mountain. Distraction comes to mind. Now I think of Nathan, how she might think he’s holding her back or stand in her way. To her, he might become the enemy now. She might distract herself with him while missing that the real bad guys are catching up.
Not bad so far. Let’s dive into the detail-card to that idea, and see what else we can get from that.
The best villains often hide behind henchmen and facades. Your hero might believe she has defeated the enemy, only to discover he’s stronger than ever. Or perhaps, like The Wizard of Oz, there’s a man pulling levers behind the curtain.
Look for reversals. Can the supposed enemy be turned into an ally? Has your hero been an unwitting tool of a greater evil? Was the whole thing a trap. or just a delay?
Even fake dragons have teeth. Let his bite count.
I particularly like the last phrase in context to the current scene. Assuming Nathan is only the bad guy in her view, making him the “fake dragon”, distracting herself with him will not only slow her down, but might even make things worse for her later down the road. Going deeper into the idea of the card, Nathan could be closer connected to that drug-mob than anyone has thought, making him more dangerous now that they’re alone. Though this scene is about Sarah, I could hint towards a bigger issue with Nathan, which I can go into when it’s his turn to play out a scene after the crash (thus showing how the cards not only change the current scene, but have an effect on the overall narrative).
The back of the detail card has a few exercises to try and get you back into writing. Since I’m not using the cards as an actual “emergency” tool, this part might not be very useful right now. Nonetheless, let’s go over them so I can show you the value of the Writer Emergency Pack.
Bait the trap. List three things that could could be used to lure your hero to danger.
- If Mitch talks to her and convinces her that it’s safe, she might decide to stop running and give up. Of course he’d be lying to save his own ass.
- Nathan could try and convince her that he’s on her side, wanting to help her get away from the mob and sell the drugs to other contacts of his. But he’s too much of a coward and sell her out the moment he has a chance.
- Can’t really think of a third one at this point.
Picture the puppet master. Who could be pulling the strings? What would he gain by remaining hidden? How could your hero discover him?
This doesn’t apply much. What I can come up with is that Sarah might convince herself about some larger scheme. Maybe she thinks that Mitch is behind all of this, and Nathan is on it. Instead of having an actual puppet master, Sarah could fabricate one in her mind. If the narrative unfolds to a point that the drug-mob catches up to her, and Mitch is with them, it could confirm her suspicions and up the drama of the confrontation. I guess it can apply more than I first thought.
Heroes can have puppets, too. Brainstorm deceptions your hero could use to confuse or delay the enemy.
She only other person around at this point is Nathan. Maybe there’s a way she could try and use him to delay their pursuers. Knock him out and leave him behind with the empty case, while she stuffs the bags of cocaine in all the folds of her wedding dress.
This already has given me some nice ideas for the first scene to add some more drama and dynamic. I haven’t thought of Nathan being a real problem for Sarah up until now, but that card has helped putting that thought in my mind. Chances are good that I’ll go with some-such concept.
But let’s read the first scene of act 1 again and see how much of that found its way into the story.
After Writing Act 1, Scene 1 — Sarah Goes For Broke
As I always do, I struggled with the opening line of the scene. This is one of the hardest thing for me to write, and I’m sure many of you can sympathize. The empty page. The blinking cursor. When I began writing, I noticed quickly that this scene will not start with the crash, but just before it. The crash is still a break in the narrative. We go from both Nathan and Sarah arguing to her deciding to leave him behind. To her, he’s just dead-weight at this point. As you guessed, that’s the way I used the Writer Emergency Card–she’s seeing Nathan as the bad guy in this story. At one point she even blames him for stealing the drugs in the first place. Whether that’s true or not is something we’ll find out later in the story, of course. But right now, it’s Sarah against the world, and she just knocked out her only help–however much or little help he really was.
If you read the outline, you might have noticed that things changed a little bit already. In the original draft, Sarah and Nathan were to flee together after the crash. It wasn’t until Scene 5, Nathan’s scene in the “NOW”, where one of the two gets knocked out. I don’t think I need to change too much at this point. Depending on what I do with Mitch, there’s a chance I can just pick up on Nathan’s scene where I left off in Sarah’s, with her just having knocked him out and he just now waking up.
I find the card Card # 24 — That’s Not The Dragon done some damage to my initial idea of the story already. It gave Sarah a very dark side I didn’t quite foresee before. Now she feels she stands against everyone else. Well, given that she’s always been a quiet girl, taking care of house and men, it’s no surprise to see her explode in such a dramatic way.
I’m loving it.
Next week, we’ll go into Act 1, Scene 2, where we see both Mitch and Nathan at Mitch’s bachelor party, going too wild for too long. I can’t wait to see what card I draw for it, and where it will lead me.
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