On FaceBook the other day, there appeared an ad which a younger, less-mature me would’ve gotten really pissed-off about. It was for a weekend writing retreat (hundreds of starry-eyed writers crammed into a conference room) where someone could ostensibly learn to write a novel in 40 hours. Four-zero hours.
When I thought about it (and this feels like a gimmick sale) this would only make sense if someone gets the bones and structure and a few character details in place. Then, their story is done. (Well, not really.)
To get the bones and structure worked out is to simplify the overall narrative and arc into elemental terms. “Man falls in love with woman” becomes “boy meets girl” and so on. Naturally, life is that simple, isn’t it?
For fun, I decided I’d try it with “Endgame,” a war/sci-fi novel told from the perspective of my heroine, sniper Captain June Vereeth. (Probably 2,000 hours of work, all told.)
(The story starts in the middle of a battle, when Vereeth and company are defending a fuel dump on a Hoth-like world.)
Girl (Captain June Vereeth, in the midst of battle) shoots bag-guy enemy commander.
Girl meet boy (Dhani, equipment tech) in cave during battle.
Girl re-joins best friend (Prubius) and boss (Joffe) in battle.
Girl is nearly killed by falling, exploding enemy craft.
Girl and best friend are nearly killed by cave-in. Boss dies (crushed).
Girl, best friend, boy and two others are trapped, cut off from battle. Boy’s arm is pinned.
Girl, as ranking officer, orders removal of boy’s trapped arm (lest boy dies).
Girl tries not to panic, orders party to find a different route back to Base (main route is compromised).
Girl and party are saved from cataclysmic blast (fuel cache detonation) when bad guys penetrate the Base.
Girl wonders what to do (party is without maps or radio and is stranded 70 million miles from friendly territory).
Girl orders party to push on, mulling options and the war itself and the opposing side.
Girl and party emerge from cave tunnels, look back to see volcanic-blast aftermath of Base explosion behind them.
Girl and party are surprised to see planetary defense rockets (which were delayed by cyber attack) suddenly launch skyward, aimed at bad-guy cruisers in orbit.
Girl and party are nearly crushed by many tons of falling debris (those bad-guy cruisers).
Girl and party move on, knowing bad guys will be back (and will be as surly as ever)…
Okay, so this story doesn’t break down into really simple statements, after all. But it sure was fun to write!