Avon (avon) wrote,

Anyone want to give me some feedback?

I am working on a novel.  I think most of you know that because I talked about World Building June over on tumblr before.  The novel is nominally a present for my kids, but I suspect they will graduate college before it is done. Anyway.

I am struggling with the outline.  I am not trying for anything innovative - basic hero's journey/three act structure is my goal.  I am trying to use the snowflake method of outlining and I would love some feedback.

Here is the one sentence summary: A young scout searches for a home for her people.

The next step is to write a paragraph summary.  Five sentences.  First sentence is the setting, then three disasters and the conclusion.  In terms of the three act structure, the first disaster is the end of the first act, the second is the midpoint of the second act, the third is the end of the second act and the conclusion is the third act.  I have two ideas.

Idea #1:The G.Is.S. Spero is a vast generation ship that has been traveling between the stars for thousands of years.  (1)Systems can only be repaired so many times, and the hull breech was both tragic and inevitable.  (2) Desperate to repair the ship, scouts are sent on dangerous missions which result in injuries and deaths.  (3) Defying orders, Skylar takes risks and gets injured, looking for a home.  (C) With help from her friends, she gets back out there and finds a planet.

However, it occured to me after I wrote this, that my main character, Skylar the scout, does not really have much agency until Disaster #3 and maybe that is too late.  So then I thought, what if I move the hull breech tragedy into the backstory?

Idea #2:
The G.Is.S. Spero is a slowly failing, vast generation ship that has been traveling between the stars for thousands of years. (1) Desperate to repair the ship, scouts are sent on a dangerous, risky mission which result in injuries and deaths.  (2) Skylar, realizing the ship needs to be scrapped not repaired, pushes the range of her scout ship resulting in her having insufficient resources to get back. (3) Trying to repair the ship, Skylar crashes on a planet.  (C) Once she gets back in space, her scanner picks up the planet of their dreams.

This moves Skylar's agency forward to disaster #2 and it more closely aligns with the hero's journey model.  However, it reduces the role of the supporting cast substantially because for the majority of Act 2 and 3, Skylar will be off on her own with only "radio" contact back home.

Does anyone have any thoughts?
Tags: spero, writing
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I thought about this way too much this morning.

The hull breach disaster is really the event that kicks the story off. Until that happens, there's no real urgency about ending the Spero's travels. That seems like it should be in the setting, maybe in the first few pages of the story. So I'm basing the rest of my comments on idea #2.

Sending scouts out seems necessary, and losses during the mission seem not so much like a disaster but a predictable consequence of the decision. Perhaps a more specific disaster would help anchor this step 1?

As far as Skylar's agency, she presumably wants to save the Spero. So what if she decides to volunteer for the scot missions? Or if she's not supposed to be a pilot, but "borrows" a scout in order to try to help? By choosing to be a scout, her agency can start in step 1 or earlier.

At the end, it seems like you're introducing two planets, one where Skylar crashes and one where everyone can live. But what if they are the same planet? Skylar crashes on a planet that doesn't scan well, but while trying to repair her ship she discovers that it's livable after all. Or, Skylar finds the perfect planet but crashes before she can tell the Spero about it.

So this might be a possible structure:
(S) The G.Is.S. Spero has been traveling for thousands of years, but recent breakdowns mean its journey must end soon.
(1) Scouts are sent out, but many missions end in tragedy.
(2) Skylar pushes too far, and is forced to crash on a seemingly inhospitable planet.
(3) Skylar figures out how to make the planet livable but she loses contact with the Spero and can't tell them about it.
(C) Once her ship (or just her communications) are fixed, the Spero can be rescued.
It seems like there are two parallel stories you could tell here: 1) Skylar goes on a quest and finds a way to rescue the ship; and 2) crew on the Spero wait, worry, and try to keep things going until rescue arrives. You can switch viewpoints to tell these stories interleaved with each other. But I think ultimately spending more time focused on Skylar's story means less time with the rest of the ship. And how much really is there for the rest of the crew on the Spero to do? There are a lot of side stories you could tell about the crew, but they aren't really part of Skylar's story so leaving them out of this book seems better.

An exception is that whoever Skylar is communicating with on the Spero will be an important part of her story line (at least until she loses contact).
Hello! Wow! Thank you for your thinking and not one but TWO comments!

I like the idea of Skylar volunteering. Because of course she would. That fits her to the T.

I am not sure if I want to collaspe the two planets into one because of the premise of the world. The reason they have been traveling for thousands of years is not because they have high standards - it's because while the galaxy is vast, and the number of planets that can and do support life are large, the reality is most of them have not evolved anything more interesting than slime. No plants, no dirt. They can't grow crops. Since they left, they have not encountered a single planet with complex life on it. (My thinking behind this is that for roughly 90% of Earth's history, the most elaborate life on it was alga. Complex life is recent, and complex life on land is even more recent than that. So, odds are, if you come to a random planet with life, it is most likely to be not terribly interesting.)

And you are absolutely right - the person she talks to on Spero is has to be part of the story.

Hrm. This is good stuff to think about - THANK YOU!
ARGH. I totally wrote a long reply and livejournal ATE IT.

Let me try again.

First off, I love the idea of her volunteering. That is perfect for her. :)

Second, I had a long explanation about the planet search. Probably is not worth retyping unless you want a long explanation of the proterozoic period on Earth. Suffice to say, good planets are hard to find. :) Anyway. :)

Finally, you are right. Her lifeline - the way she communicates with the ship - her contact back there - is absolutely an important part of the story. I will have to think more about how I use that.

THANK YOU for not one, but TWO thoughtful comments! I really appreciate it! :)
Well, looks like that comment appeared! Weird!
I think part of it may just be the phrasing? Try to phrase all the individual sentences from Skylar's POV. How about:

(1) Skylar volunteers for a dangerous mission to try and save the ship, but barely manages to survive when [something goes wrong].
(2) Skylar pulls herself together and goes out on a second mission, but pushes too far in her determination not to fail again, leaving her lost.
(3) Trying to save herself, Skylar crashes on a hostile planet.
This is a really good idea! It does very much change the feel. Thank you!
I'm glad it helps!

Another thing I like to do, to make sure my characters are active and not just being moved across the chessboard by the plot, is look at every section (part/chapter/scene) as someone making a choice. Big or small, something that moves the story along on its path. (And if no one makes any choices - even if only to acknowledge the facts or stick their head in the sand, which btw totally counts as a plot-significant decision - it probably doesn't need to be there.)
That's good advice. I took a writing class at the beginning of the year where the writer urged us to to not only think about choices, but also transactions - and what is the coin of the transaction. It definitely adds an intensity to the story. BUT, I had forgotten that advice, so this is a great reminder to think about as I work on my outline. Thank you!
I remember you talking about that! It's a very useful way of thinking about it, yeah - I'll have to keep it in mind myself.
I really like the second idea. It feels much stronger than the first, and more complete. In fact, it seems to me to have all the right seeds for a tragedy. Such as: Skylar finds the planet of her dreams when she crashes on it, but having lost all systems and having no way to contact the Spero, she is stuck there without any way to save her race.

It could even be two books, wherein book 1 we learn about the mission and maybe the politics and issues driving Skylar to take such risks (does she have a lover on the ship she needs to save? is she a zealot committed to a religious cause like 'salvation'?), and then in book 2 she fights to survive on this dream planet and finally reaches her people again. Like... Mary Doria Russell's Sparrow, a bit. (You can use flashbacks and natural disasters to fill up space in acts 2 and 3, btw.)

Anyway, that's what came to me just now. I'm sorry if it doesn't make sense, as it's late here. I think your outline is wonderful! And the story sounds great!

xo - lamarrey
Oh gosh. The Sparrow. Now you have me intimidated. That book is SO GOOD. I have like three copies on my shelf so I have extras to lend to people.

Heh, making it a tragedy. That would be very true to my character as a writer - here, have this character, now I am going to kill them. My kids (who this book is nominally written for!) would murder me. :)

I have an vague idea for as second book - exploring the planet that they found - but, one thing at a time.

THANK YOU so much for the encouragement and ideas to mull over. :) (I friended you by the way, and I'd love to see your stuff!)

I tried to friend you back, but I'm on mobile so I hope it worked! I don't really write for children. I have tried but... I get real dark real fast haha.

I'd love to know what you think about my stuff!

So have you started this one yet? I seem to recall that you had something else in the offing, too.


It worked! I will take a look at your post in the near future. Yay!

Oh, what I write is usually pretty dark. My fanfic is usually about imprisonment, one way or another. The people in prison or the guys who put people in prison. Valjean in Les Mis, Hydra and Bucky in MCU, the precogs in Minority Report, etc.

Spero is a story I started a year ago - I wrote a short story in the world (well, sort of) for my kids when they were at sleepaway camp last summer. I liked the world and I have continued to think about it and work on it and develop the characters and ideas. I decided I wanted to write a YA novel of it. I've never written a novel before - this will be my first. So, this year, when I joined GYWO, I started with the goal of drafting a novel in this world. Over the last few months I got thousands of words of character sketches and worldbuilding, but no actual progress on the story yet, besides the outline.

Now, it's a year later and my kids are at sleepaway camp again. I wrote them a different short story - this one fanfic for their current obsession: Team Spartan Challenge. (I mentioned that on the chat). That is done and sent. It is goofy and fun but not worthy of more. Now I am back to focusing on Spero. :) Ultimately, I am trying to keep my kids in mind. They are tweens now and they like a variety of things, but I don't want it so bonecrushing depressing and/or disturbing as my fanfic is. This is an adventure story with an upbeat ending. I can get my angst out in other places. Bucky aint going nowhere.

Cheers !

The whole concept looks wonderful.

I'd think about the opportunity you have with the character and loss.

The hull breach could have cost her family, friends, or both.  She may volunteer in the hopes that nothing like that will happen again.

I'll think on it more, but I believe you are heading in the right direction.

Say hi to Lesley for me!


July 30 2016, 12:23:02 UTC 6 months ago Edited:  July 30 2016, 12:23:32 UTC

Wow!!! It is great to hear from you!

Thank you for the feedback. My thought on the loss was to actually do the opposite - everyone she knows knows someone who was killed or hurt in the disaster, but she doesn't know anyone directly. This is an incredilby odd feeling for her - putting her at odds with everyone around her, making her feel more than a bit guilty and left out.

Trying to make it right for everyone else is a motive. (though, honestly, she is more than a bit of a daredevil and she does not need to much of a motive to go out and do something dangerous and stupid.)

Does that make sense?

(Oh, and BTW, Leslie says hi back!)