Method 1: The Lester Dent Plan
I had no idea who Lester Dent was until I stumbled across an article talking about his short fiction master formula. Since I’ve never really tried short fiction before, I thought I should give it a go. After all, he was able to make a living writing short fiction in a time when it wasn’t yet the go-to market for up-coming authors. And, to be honest, I haven’t yet read any of his works. But I trust the theory should be sound. I’ve put his work on my ‘To Read’ list, which is an ever expanding thing.
The following is a breakdown of the plan for the prompt ‘A story entitled “A New Beginning”’ from the 52 week short story prompt challenge.
Now, to be really clear, I’m not taking the main advice of making sure the murder is unique because I don’t want to have a murder to investigate. That is much more planning than I’m up for right now. My unique factor is that the Hero is a scion of a literal god, Bastet, and that’s going to be one of my complications. The motivations of my two main forces are pretty simple.
- The Hero, Lili, wants to change her life, stepping away from her job in a tv series and her on-screen/off-screen partner. Things have been a bit on the ‘warning bells’ side, and so once she’s managed to break-up with him, she leaves. Of course, that means starting again, and trying to avoid her Mother saying ‘I told you so’, but she’s prepared to do that.
- The Villain, Jared, wants to return to the way things were. He’s prepared to do whatever it takes to prove to Lili the relationship is the only way to be successful, the only thing that will get her what she wants. Because it’s what he wants, and he cares about her. And he didn’t see the break-up coming.
And the conflict is based around what they are willing to do in order to achieve that establishment of the ‘correct’ world order.
The First Quarter:
- Start with the Hero in action, and hit them with a fistful of trouble.
- Put the Hero in danger
- End with a twist.
Lili, the Hero, moves to San Fransisco, to get away from the life she led as a small screen darling. Since I need to give her a flaw to overcome, at some stage, I’m going to say that she’s made this move with the barest of consultation of her support network. She wanted to avoid the ongoing conflict from the break-up. And her agent is working out the final bits he needs to do with the filming of the show. She’s in action, check
.So, I have to hit her with a fistful of trouble. There are a lot of clichés I could use.
- Someone leaves pictures under her door or emails them to her of something horrible. Jared cheating on her, her travelling, something equally dramatic but lacking depth since you’ve just met her.
- Someone overtly threatens her.
- She gets a stalker, who is actually a PI paid by Jared. That one I like but not for this story I think.
- The apartment she’s moving to is damaged in a freak accident/storm, and she has to find temporary accommodation.
- Her Mother can show up. Nothing like a deity running around to make trouble.
- Her moving van gets sidetracked. Simple, believable. And not going to throw anyone under a plot-bus yet. I think I’ll go with that. I can always add to it.
Fistful of trouble, check.
Now we need danger. This one is a little trickier, since I don’t want to make it a very physical, life-threatening sort of danger. So, I’ll use this as a chance to chuck in some world building.
As a scion of a god, there are some perks. But there are also downsides. One of them is that mortals can be a particular danger to you, because they can shape the way the world responds to you and the world can reflect that onto mortals. I promise I will explain that better in the text itself.
A sort of vicious cycle where you end up playing the part you’ve played and can’t get out of it. And even if you do break the rules of that part, there might be another easy path to step down that causes more problems. She’s been portrayed as a lovely ‘girl-next-door’ sort of character, which would get her help and sympathy usually. But, she’s only got an overnight bag, her cat, and she is running away. That’s a bit different, and the people of San Fran end up responding to that. It doesn’t help that she wants to keep things low key, and that there are rules about pets. She also needs to find a place that isn’t packed, which is another mundane problem to add to the mix.
The danger is that she’s going to end up with the people who she means to befriend treating her as suspicious, and thus undermining her chance at establishing herself. I know it’s not perfect, but it’s good enough for vomit copy. Danger, check.
The twist? There is a message waiting for her at the hotel. It’s from an associate of her Mother’s. After all, her Mother is a cat-goddess, so it makes sense she would use cat’s paws. And again, dealing with mortals is risky for those of divine nature. Twist, check!
And now I should go write that bit, so I can do the next bit with clearer idea of what is happening. Any plot threads will get tidied up between vomit copy and first draft. Huzzah! Plotting!
Our family cat, Mouse, helping with the Christmas tree. Such a well-meaning kitty.