new scene from book 1, Act 1: Darcy is a private person

A quick refresher. Modern narrative theory says that all books have three acts:

  • Act 1: introduce the characters, make the conflict clear
  • Act 2: the hero faces greater and greater obstacles as he tries to resolve the conflict
  • Act 3: the final battle, the hero wins (or loses), and all the loose ends are tied up

A book usually divides its pages 20% / 60% / 20%, or something like that… which means that Act 2 runs the risk of being mammoth in proportion to the other two acts.

Thus, some folks say that a better way to break things up is

  • Act 1: introduce the characters, make the conflict clear
  • Act 2-A: the hero faces greater and greater obstacles, leading up to the first “boss fight” (metaphorically speaking)
  • Act 2-B: the tenor is even more serious as things head into the ultimate conflict
  • Act 3: the final battle, the hero wins (or loses), and all the loose ends are tied up

Given that my story is spread across two books, my division looks like this:

Book 1: The Powers of the Earth

  • Act 1: introduce the characters, make the conflict clear
  • Act 2-A: the invasion from Earth is coming – and arrives on the very last page

Book 2: Causes of Separation

  • Act 2-B: the first invasion is fought off, but now everyone is committed, and the second invasion is going to be far, far worse
  • Act 3: the final battle, then all the loose ends are tied up

    About a month ago I started on the fourth draft. Today I finished Act 1.

    Recall that the purpose of Act 1 is to introduce everyone and make all the conflicts clear…but it’s also to hook the reader. This is tricky – you simultaneously have to do lots of information dumps (at least, if you’re writing a sprawling 270,000 word epic with a really convoluted fictional world), and you have to move things along quickly – the bodies have to start hitting the floor.

    At this point, most readers here have read previous drafts, so it’s not a huge spoiler to note that Act 1 culminates in Earth forces using satellite energy weapons to destroy lunar satellites.

    Here’s the complete scene list for Act 1:

    1. Mike and Javier at range
    2. White House: president v Linda Haig
    3. Allan goes rock climbing
    4. Dogs/ Gamma intro
    5. President / Restivo
    6. Hugh
    7. Leroy talks to Dad
    8. Restivo to Florida
    9. Mike notes tunnel breakthrough
    10. Mike talks to Kevin
    11. Mike meets with Bao after Kevin failure, meets Ewoma
    12. Mike learns about Hugh Haig
    13. another scene with Linda Haig
    14. Darren talks to advisor
    15. Darcy talks about Mike
    16. Dogs lose signal
    17. Dogs investigate signal loss

    Note that scene third from the end: Darcy talks about Mike.

    The goals of this scene:

    • lay the groundwork to explain Mike and Darcy’s relationship – and set up the small dollop of romance-novel type conflict there
    • make it clear that Darcy is personally conservative and doesn’t want to blab about her personal life
    • make it clear that Darcy is a professional, so we’re not surprised later when she does great work
    • make Waseem sympathetic and human so that when he’s in peril later we care.

    So, with all of that said, here’s a new never-before-read scene (because I just wrote it this morning):

    === 2064: Lai Docks, Bay Four

    Darcy held the railing of the platform as the overhead crane carried it over the empty concrete floor of the dock. The dinged, marked deck of the Wookie slid beneath, then the forward motion ceased. After a pause the platform was lowered slowly. Darcy tapped her fingers impatiently on the railing until the platform hit the deck with a muffled thud and the cables above went slack. After unclipping the chain she stepped onto the deck and walked to the castle where both doors were open. A moment later she walked into the bridge – and saw that the lights were already on.

    “Waseem – you’re here early.”

    “Oh, hi Darcy. Yeah, I started the recalibration run.”

    Darcy was flummoxed for a moment. “Oh – well, then there’s nothing for me to do until it’s done. How much longer?”

    Waseem looked at his screen. “Maybe another ten minutes.”

    Darcy shrugged, sat down at her console, and surfed to SurfaceMining.ari.

    Darcy felt a brief hum run through the ship as the AG drives spun, then it dropped off. A moment later the hum returned, then again dropped off.

    Waseem typed something at his keyboard, then leaned back in his chair. “The cal run should take care of itself for a few minutes.”

    Darcy saw that the disagreement between Fournier and Mike had reache the front page. Crap. Mike was going to be in a bad mood. “Mmm-hmm.”

    Waseem craned his neck to look at Darcy’s screen. “Oh, yeah, I read that. That story makes no sense. Mike wouldn’t try to steal Fournier’s space, would he?”

    “No.”

    “So what -”

    “I probably shouldn’t speculate.”

    Wasseem took the hint and let the conversation drop. Thank goodness. Waseem was a nice kid, but –

    “So how long have you been dating Mike.”

    Darcy tried not to roll her eyes. Maybe if she answered one or two questions he’d let it go. “Six years.”

    “He must be really cool. I mean, escaping, founding Aristillus, digging all those -”

    “Cool?” Darcy suppressed a laugh. “No, Mike’s not exactly what you’d call cool.”

    Waseem looked disappointed. She realized that Mike must be a sort of hero the poor kid. She took pity on him and opened up a little. “Mike’s not cool. He’s more…effective. That’s not quite the right word, but – yeah – Mike is effective.”

    Waseem seemed downcast. “Effective?”

    Darcy sighed. “Have you seen any interviews?”

    “Just the one. Mike doesn’t – ”

    “Yeah, I know. He doesn’t give interviews because he’s not ‘cool’. He’s got his own interests, and explaining himself to others – heck, WORKING with others – isn’t one of them.”

    “So you like Mike because he’s effective?”

    Darcy looked at Waseem quizzically. “No. I like Mike because … well, because he’s a force of nature, I guess.”

    “I know what you mean. I’ve met a few CEOs back on Earth. Like Steve Bowser, of Transportation Solu-”

    Darcy shook his head. “No, Mike is nothing like Steve Bowser.”

    “But the forcefulness -”

    “When Bowser was arrested in the CEO Trials he turned state’s witness and gave false testimony about other railroad firm execs. That’s how he got his job. Mike would never do something like that.” She paused. “He DIDN’T do anything like that.”

    Waseem nodded. “Cool. Yeah, I read about that.” He paused. “So, would you say that you and Mike -”

    Darcy put on a polite smile. “You know, Waseem? Mike and I really don’t like to talk about our personal lives. You understand, don’t you?”

    Waseem was suddenly embarrassed and backpedaled. “Oh, of course. Sure.” He looked down, then back up. “Sorry.”

    “No, no problem. No harm done.” She tried to give him another smile, a little warmer, to take a bit of the sting out of it, then turned back conspicuously to the console. She saw the page of SurfaceMining.ari that had started this whole conversation sitting there in her browser. She clicked a bookmark and went to Earth news website. There was the normal few seconds of lag, but then the icon kept spinning. The page wasn’t loading. She clicked refresh and got the same result.

    Hmmm. She turned away from her console. “How’s that calibration coming?”

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    2 Responses to new scene from book 1, Act 1: Darcy is a private person

    1. Brian Dunbar says:

      “After unclipping the chain she stepped onto the deck and walked to the castle where both doors were open”

      Castle? Aftercastle? The part at the back where the super structure pokes up, and the bridge is located? Do they call it that on a modern cargo ship?

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