As part of the GMC revision of book one, I have to write a few new scenes. After seven years of NaNoWriMo and its wonderful effect of silencing the internal editor, once I have an idea these days, the words flow pretty easily. That’s not to say that the words are brilliant, but they make logical sense and feel like something that mostly completes what I want it to do.
However, what these words often lack, what doesn’t come naturally to me, is momentum. I have things happen to my protagonist rather than have her acting to do things, and my MC therefore comes across as a goal-less wimp, when in reality, she isn’t. I can’t believe what a difference working out the GMC makes to a scene…
To illustrate; I needed a new scene to provide motivation for one that happened later, set up for that scene so to speak. I have a mass poisoning event, which motivates a whole lot of action after it, but the event itself came out of the blue with no rhyme or reason. I wanted a scene to motivate it, something to show that the masters created the seeds for the rebellion themselves. So I decided to have some slaves demolish a town, one that several of the slaves used to live in.
V1: My first draft, just writing down a scene as it came to me…
MC gets told to supervise slaves in demolishing some buildings, her long legs let her get ahead of the pack and goes looking at the place, and finds it pretty. Tells slaves to start dismantling, finding the destruction sad. She runs into her Flight Captain, they go for a walk and talk, he gets angry at evidence of human sacrifice, but not for the reasons she thinks it’s bad (conflict), she learns some history, and he gets called away. She goes back to supervising, and notices a slave acting oddly, an ‘accident’ happens, and she gets into trouble for not being right on the spot (disaster, but not directed towards anything).
As you can see, I had a very passive protagonist. Everything happened to her.
V2: After some very deep thinking about the Why of the scene…
MC volunteers to supervise the slaves, because she wants to do recon of the surrounding area to assess the potential for escape (motivation & goal). She tells the slaves to start dismantling, knowing that the slaves are going to be unhappy because of it, so it’s also her sympathy which drives her to leave them alone and go exploring on her own. She gets interrupted in the attempt by the Flight Captain (conflict), and is asked to accompany him (she can’t refuse, it would seem strange). She sees the place is beautiful and is angry at the masters (internal conflict). The FC doesn’t notice, but gets angry at evidence of human sacrifice, not for the reasons she thinks it’s bad (more internal conflict), then when she calms him down, casually tells her some history, which reveals a greater danger to her homeland and in so doing ups the stakes of the story (greater motivation for escape). Then she gets called back to the slaves, who have broken into a fight in her absence (external conflict), and gets lampooned for not being there by the masters who broke up the fight. She is escorted back to base (disaster for the goal).
In V1, no goal, no motivation, conflict is undirected and disaster unearned, all we do is set up for the poisoning.
In V2, The goal is clear, the motivation is clear, we have both clear internal and external conflict, the disaster has consequences, AND we set up for the poisoning later on.
I think you can agree that V2 is a much better scene.