Friday, July 06, 2007

Plotstorm-A Soldier's Surrender

Welcome to the Plotstorm of Book 4 in my USAF PJ (Pararescue Jumper) series, two of which are contracted by Steeple Hill publishers. Book three is currently under consideration.
This plotstorm will be a little different, and not as intensive, as the other ones I've done. Reason being, book 4 (originally titled Stealth Surrender) was actually written years ago, at the same time as book one. I usually cannot multitask well, but I wrote those two books simultaneously, targeting Steeple Hill's romantic suspense line. When I sold, Steeple Hill asked me to revise the books for the regular romance line rather than the suspense line, so of course I abliged.
Since book four was already written at that time, I decided to change up the order of the PJ books. So I wrote two other PJ's stories, aiming at the romance line. I did this out of sheer procrastnation, since it is MUCH easier for me to write a new story than to fix an old one. LOLOL!  
But, I've put it off long enough. So now...I have to strip the suspense out of book four. LOL!
I can keep some of the action, because I feel that's part of my trademark/brand as a writer (action-driven romance). I don't usually put mystery type suspense in my stories...but I did with this book. Sigh. I shoulda stuck with the high-adrenaline. LOL! Also, this story won the Mystery/Suspense/Thriller award (First Place) in the 2006 ACFW Genesis contest. LOL! But the romance is more front & center and integral to the story than the mystery, since I love romance and a happily ever after.
Since the mystery is pretty heavy in this book, my word count will be too low if I simply remove the mystery thread in the story. And the story will also unravel a bit. The romance is strong though, and I'll play on that.
This plotstorm will deal with changes in the storyline due to removal of the mystery thread throughout.
I won't confuse you with details of how I remove the mystery unless I get tons of requests to do so. If that happens, I'll do an entirely seperate tutorial about "Revision: targeting a different line than the story was written for" or something similar.
I will focus purely on the Plotstorm.
Camy Tang, Robin Miller (writing as Robin Carrol), and Pamela James helped me brainstorm the changes to this book.
(Incidentally, if you're interested in joining ACFW- American Christian Fiction Writers), now would be a great time. Lacy Williiams is heading up an online course on Brainstorming. I'm having great fun and learning tons. Go to for more info. You have to be a member of ACFW in order to get the transcripts and participate, but it is well worth the money. You get so much for the price.
Okay, back to the plotstorm for book 4:
Here's how the brainstorming convos went(after coming up with a gazillion scenarios that didn't work...we thought this one would): 
Cheryl: I need to figure out a new relational conflict (conflict between hero and heroine that is keeping the romance from starting or continuing) since the hero and heroine aren't going to remain in captivity as long. I also need a reason to keep them both in Refuge. (Fictional town my Wings of Refuge Series is set in.)
Camy: What's your heroine and hero's story goal? (Note: Story goal has to be measurable and attainable by the end of the book. Has to happen within a certain amount of time. Character goal can't just be "to win the heroine's heart.")
Cheryl: Ummm, his goal WAS to rescue the heroine, then keep her safe throughout the book until they find out who sabatoged her Raptor. He was to drop in behind enemy lines, allowing himself to be captured by the political group that captured the heroine, so he could free her. But since that part of the story is shortening, he needs a new goal. Her goal is to garner enough flight hours to become an astronaught. That's why she became a fighter pilot in the first place. Time is running out for her though because of her age, and the war on terror and repeated overseas deployments pushed back her dream.
Camy: What's keeping them together? Or forcing them to stay together in the story? Something has to be there to justify both of them staying in Refuge after her rescue. 
Cheryl: Oh! His goal could clash with hers. Maybe they're ordered to work together by superiors for some reason.  
Camy: Make him sick. Maybe he gets a virus in captivity.
Cheryl: Can't use that. I have that in another storyline.
Camy: What about PTSD? Could they have that?
Cheryl: YES! Maybe she gets Post Traumatic Stress Disorder secondary to being shot down and captured. Only she doesn't know it. The hero recognized the symptoms and voices concern. This causes relational conflict because all she wants is back in the air, and he doesn't think she's ready. When she pushes the issue, he goes over her head, because he fears for her safety. He was her jump instructor in flight school, and she thought he was out to clip her wings even back then...15 years ago. But he saw her potential as a fighter pilot and pushed her harder because he wanted to see what she was made of and make her the best soldier possible. There's still some residual feelings of the heroine that since she's a female in combat, she has a chip on her shoulder. Part of her epiphany is learning that a lot of times people aren't judging her or out to clip her wings as much as she expects them to be. So when he goes over her head and voices his concern about the PTSD...her superiors force her to physchological consult. She's dx with PTSD.
Camy: And they won't let her fly until she has a certain amount of counceling. Until she's met all her therapists' goals. Which causes relational conflcit because one of her goals is to learn to communicate and work better with others...including Nolan. So their commanders have her work in his office, and Nolan is supposed to keep an eye on her.
Cheryl: Have to see what kind of work he could be assigned to that would keep him on base though. Maybe he got a little virus or something and is put to desk duty for a few months. Although I hate to make him have a medical issue since the book they just bought has a wounded hero. PTSD is relevant for today too with the war. I need a little something to keep him in the office so they work together. Maybe they teach a flight class together.
Camy: That could  keep them in Refuge long enough to cause conflcit. And so his goal is to keep watch over her, and observe her for PTSD.
Camy: What's his spiritual flaw?
Cheryl: He's a new Christian and doesn't think he's qualified to be of use to God.
Camy: I think you need more. That's not strong enough. Make is stronger without wimping him out.
Cheryl: I'm on it. I'll figure that out later. SO for now, his story goal is established. He's ordered to work over her and observe her and she doesn't want to work with him. She wants back in the sky and he won't clear her for takeoff. LOL! That'll put tension on every page, at least while they're working together.
Camy: Have the counselor give her goals...and she has to meet them all before she can fly again.
Cheryl: Yeah.
Camy: Maybe you could leave in some of the mystery. Maybe they don't know for sure who sabatoged her plane. Maybe she thinks they're working together due to the PSTD but really, their commanders want Nolan to protect her because maybe someone is still out to kill her and they don't know who. So he's protecting her too.
Cheryl: But wouldn't that make the conflict be based too much on misunderstanding? Of course if he's protecting her...but I'm thinking that's too suspensy for the LI line. I may be okay with what we have since the word count guidelines are lower now.
Camy: yeah, try this. Do your scene index and see where you are word count wise and go from there. You need a reason why she doesn't like Nolan.
Cheryl: I know but the problem is...she'll look like a hag if she hates him after he risked his butt to rescue her. It's a fine line between having a character who's flawed enough for readers to identify with, yet not so flawed readers don't connect or hate them. LOL!
Camy: LOL! True. Um, let's see. Focus on the PTSD thing. See what you get with that. Drag it out. She needs early intervention for PTSD. Nolan's going to know that. Play on that. Think of a stronger spiritial conflict for him. Maybe he's a little arrogant about his abilities.
Cheryl: Dunno. Nolan's pretty humble. He's known for his compassion, yet he's a spec forces soldier. Used to be a SEAL in the he's in the Air Force... a PJ.
Cmay: Maybe he cares about people but has too much faith in his own ability to help them. He doesn't realize yet that God is the one who helps them.
Cheryl: Maybe this also causes relational conflict since he tries to help her and only God can help her completely.
Camy: yes. Maybe he used to be cocky but not anymore, but struggles with his old way.
Cheryl: Actually, he WAS cocky as an instructor when she knew him 15 years prior. That's how she remembers him so this'll play in nicely.
Camy: Maybe he has too much faith in his ability to right wrongs.
Cheryl: He has to realize it's God doing it through him. God does the work. Nolan does always feel the need to fix things.
Camy: And he can't fix her. And she can't fix herself even though they want to. God has to do it.
That's as far as we got that convo. There were several others over the course of several days.
By the way...if you want to make 100% sure the structure of your stories is sound...I highly recommend Camy Tang's Story Sensei...VERY reasonable. Camy is awesome at synopsis too. There should be a link there for more info on her story structure. My storylines and character GMC's are much stronger because of her structural editing. You can see a little sample here of how to figure out teh GMC of your characters.
G-character's goal, dream, etc. (what they want.)
M-motivation. (why they want it. What drives them. My characters' motivation often originates from something in their childhoods)
C-conflict. (what keeps them (repeatedly) from attaining or reaching it)
Okay, 'nuff plotstorm for today.
Hope you found something helpful.

Cheryl Wyatt   Gal. 2:20   Pouring my vial of words over Him.

A SOLDIER'S PROMISE~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Jan. 2008
A SOLDIER'S FAMILY~ Steeple Hill Love Inspired~ Mar. 2008


Hope Chastain said...

Awesome! It's wonderful to watch you guys at work! *grin* That's what I need to do. And also what Mom and I are trying to do with the first of the series mystery we're doing. I can see where I need to do something like this when I look over my old novel to revamp it.

I remember one of the earlier straight LI novels that had some suspense in it. The h and her young sister were in danger from drug dealers, only they didn't know it. It was well handled. Maybe it was one of the first ones that gave the editors the idea that there was a market for LI Suspense.

What I'm trying to say is that maybe you don't have to take out ALL the suspense. After all, remember that Alfred Hitchcock never would order souffles, because he couldn't stand the suspense... *wink* Life is suspense. (Will it rain on the picnic? Will the dog survive having twenty-five puppies? Will I be able to fit into the dress before the big party?)

Keep up the good work, and get well soon!
Hugs, Hope

Patricia W. said...

Thanks for sharing! I'm working through goal/conflict issues for my wip. Your brainstorming session helped.

And I love Camy's Story Sensei too.

Lacy J. Williams said...

Thanks for the shoutout, Cheryl! I enjoyed reading your plotstorm. It's fun to know how other authors do things.

Also, just to let everyone know - ACFW members can get archives of the online brainstorming course through :) Another reason to join a great community of writers.