05 November 2007

The Breadcrumb Trail - Scene Transitions for Reluctant Characters

Figuring out what is log jamming my thought process is almost as interesting as the writing itself. I finally nailed it down to a scene transition. I needed to get my characters off the ship they are on and into the city with no one being the wiser. Can't just pull up to the port and unload, bad guys could be waiting. I could, of course, just plop them in the city and go forth from there – matter of fact I have made scene transitions like that, they do work, but in this case even if it ends up getting cut I need to know how they overcame the obstacle because elements of it figure into a scene later on. Another logic speed bump for my rapidly-becoming-linear brain.

I turned to my sure fire, scene solving, transition assistance method. Research. I read about schooners, ports, and bays, then old travel diaries from Brits abroad in the 1800's. My conclusion was that people weren't as lazy then as we are… and didn't mind getting a little wet and dirty. So instead of approaching it from my 21st century perspective of 'Eww, leeches!", I put myself in the protagonist's skin. The goal is in sight. He's got a sword he's itching to use. Several weeks on board a ship has made him stir crazy. So…

Objective: Get to shore quickly and disappear into the forest before the bad guys have a clue you're even on the continent. Problem: You have to take other people with you, and you don't know their capabilities. Problem: You need to take your animals, or it's a long walk to your destination, and you could miss the person you need to rescue. Minor Problems: Clothing? It'll dry. Weapons? Swords, they'll dry too. Provisions? Well, if you're not successful at the rescue, you'll be dead and not eating anyhow. Scrap major provisions. Tell your companions exactly what they'll be doing, when, and how they'll get eaten by tigers if they lag behind.

The ship captain is friendly to your cause, (for a nominal fee) so he'll anchor as close to shore as he can, drop a small boat over the side, and have a crewman row you in. So far so good. The animals are another story. They'll have to go over the side, into the water and swim to shore. They won't be happy, but hey, they'll dry, too. Better take the tack with you in the small boat. Wet saddles are uncomfortable for everyone.

So I get everyone on shore, saddle the animals, and set off through the jungle to creep our way to the outskirts of the city. Aw, crap, one thing I forgot. The characters are sneaking through what constitutes the king's hunting preserve. If found trespassing, they'll be shot. And hung. Then hung and shot. If they dawdle too long from bush to bush, they could miss the window of opportunity to rescue their target. If they race through the jungle willy-nilly, they could get discovered. What's a protagonist to do? Use magic? Well, now that you mention it… the protagonist just happens to be mage-handy, but if he uses magic, the bad guys can pinpoint their location and either move the rescuee or send troops to delay them. A prudent man would proceed quickly, but with utmost caution to avoid detection.

My protagonist is not a prudent man.

What, you thought I'd transition him gently into the abyss? This is where we find out if heart or mind will rule the day, and if our hero – and heroine – have learned anything over the course of the book. After all, 'full speed ahead' is what got them into this predicament in the first place.


Gabriele C. said...

Well, depending on how long the books shall be, they could either have learned something, or they could make more mistakes and get into more trouble.

And there's alwas the gnomes. :)

Carla said...

Sounds like a great predicament :-)

Constance said...

Um, I really want to FINISH this book, you know? So I think they learn something. *g*

I sent the gnomes over to torture Scott.

Constance said...

Carla - I love causing trouble for my characters. Maybe too much... :)

Hermit said...

Do you realize that such blocks are contrary to the spirit of NaNoWriMo? You're supposed to surrender to the crap generating mechanism and go for broke. (I cheat by just going to a later chapter and letting my subconscious ponder the puzzles; usually get an answer in a day or two, or figure out a way to bypass it completely).
Have fun. Write well. You go girl! and all that hip-hip ya-ya stuff ;)
PS: pirates? sounds fun! I have no seafarers on Kumari

Constance said...

Hermit - sorry, I categorically refuse to write crap. Just can't do it. Besides, I do what you do, let my subconscious chew on it while I write other things. It was just interesting to finally be able to pinpoint what was holding me back. I'm at the 'tying up loose ends' part of the novel, so things are proceeding a bit more leisurely than normal.

2937 words. Most of it dialogue. Hey, my characters like to talk. :)

Where is your blog update on NaNo progress? How can I harangue... encourage you if you're playing it close to the chest??

(Oh, and I don't have pirates, exactly. They're more like the Ferengi of the seas...)