My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

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Preacher
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My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by Preacher » July 18th, 2012, 10:42 am

Here is what i have:

My protagonist gets a call frim a friend requesting a late-night meeting. At the met, the friend asks the protagonist to find a woman, and to keep her safe. The friend can't do it because he doesn't want to alert certain interested parties that he is hiding the existence of this woman. The woman is missing, and the protagonist needs to find her, and to keep her safe.

I have 2 interest groups at work here:

Group 1 - a radicazl terrorist cell who has actually kidnapped the woman, with the intention of using her knowledge and to make her broadcast to the world who she is and what she knows.

Group 2 - a cabal of interests within the US Government who want the woman silenced, for the exact same reason that the terrorists want her to speak.

So: the protagonist needs to track down the terror cell and rescue the woman for there and then find a way to protect her and keep her safe from the elements within the US Government that wish to kill her.

I am calling the US INterest group "The Court" -a group of people who dispense their own forms of "justice" and help fashion policy in the United States and all around the world with their money and influence.

My line of logic has the protagonist trying to find out "who" she is to then try and figure out who would have taken her. He learns of the existence of "The Court" and when he goes to where she was living, she is gone, and then her house is blown up. The protagonist correctly realizes that "The Court" would have just killed her and that a second group is in play.

How does all this sound? Does it sound logical and make any kind of sense? Any hints or help would be greatly appreciated.

writersink
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by writersink » July 18th, 2012, 10:56 am

Sounds interesting! I'm guessing a thriller of sorts?
Here is what i have:

At the met, the friend asks the protagonist to find a woman, and to keep her safe. The friend can't do it because he doesn't want to alert certain interested parties that he is hiding the existence of this woman. The woman is missing, and the protagonist needs to find her, and to keep her safe.
I don't understand the friend bit :) The friend is "hiding the existence" of this woman... so he knows where she is? What's the friend's involvement with this woman? It sounds a little forced... but that could be because I don't get it.

Preacher
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by Preacher » July 18th, 2012, 11:04 am

The friend is a retired soldier who knows who the woman is and brought her back to the states and hid her away to keep her existence hidden from the court. My working idea is that maybe he had been instructed to kill this woman by a superior under influence of the court and set up a fake death, bringing her to the states to keep her safe. The friend is afraid his direct involvement would shed light on him to the court so he asks his friend, the protagonist, to look into it as to not put him on their grid.

The other way is to not involve the friend at all, but then i lose the way to get the protagonist in the case of finding and rescuing this woman. If i had another vehicle TO ALERT MY PROTAGONIST TO THIS WOMAN THAT MADE MORE SENSE I WOULD GO WITH IT.

LizV
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by LizV » July 18th, 2012, 11:10 am

Preacher - With your addendum, this makes sense to me. Sounds viable enough for a working theory, anyway!

My only concern would be, how does Friend know enough about this woman to know she's this valuable, without knowing enough about her to tell Protag who she is? Or is there some other reason why Protag has to start with finding out who she is, as a way of finding out where she is? (IOW, it sounds like Friend didn't give Protag much of a briefing!)

Preacher
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by Preacher » July 18th, 2012, 11:23 am

Hoe doesn't give much of a briefing, going with the idea the less he knows the better. Their conversation is going to be cut short when guys with guns show up and shoot the friend, sending the protagonist on a quest with little info.

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polymath
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by polymath » July 18th, 2012, 12:59 pm

Break the plot down to first principles. Begin with who has the greatest problem wanting satisfaction, the basis of the plot. What's the protagonist's agenda? Revenge for The Court killing his friend, right? Will he satisfy that problem? How? By tracking down the woman and rescuing her from two nemeses: nemeses because they want mutually exclusive outcomes, and mutually exclusive outcome wants for the protagonist.

Outcomes: The Court wants her dead, period. The other group wants her talking to the press. He wants The Court exposed and thus eradicated, and the other group to leave her alone so she'll be safe, but he doesn't realize or care about her until he gets close to her.

His initial motivation is revenge for his friend's death. The change in motivation to rescuing the damsel in distress will provide a possibly artful combination of anagnorisis and peripetia; respectively, an abrupt, profound realization of the true circumstances and an abrupt, profound reversal of circumstances. What are the true circumstances? That he's lonely and she becomes his love interest? Love story. That The Court is a vile demon? That only he can expose and stifle their wicked activities. That the other group is equally opportunistic? That only he can thwart.

It all comes together in spoiling the others' outcome wants by how he secures her safety. That peripetia reversal might come about by discovering a way where she's no longer relevant to either group. The peripetia setup should be introduced early on but not fully discovered until the transformation crisis just before the denouement act. She's the sole survivor of an atrocity, right? What would make that irrelevant to all concerned parties? The protagonist discovering and exposing all on his own initiative, for example.
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LizV
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by LizV » July 18th, 2012, 5:49 pm

guys with guns show up and shoot the friend
That's a good reason. Gives the protag extra motivation, too. Sounds like a plan to me.

Doug Pardee
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by Doug Pardee » July 18th, 2012, 6:07 pm

Preacher wrote:Their conversation is going to be cut short when guys with guns show up
Raymond Chandler would approve. 8-)

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LurkingVirologist
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by LurkingVirologist » July 18th, 2012, 11:22 pm

Maybe a peripheral issue - but why blow up the house? If it's a terrorist cell, then presumably they are adept at keeping under the radar. Setting off a bomb is going to draw attention from all sorts of folks, most of whom have the potential to make the terrorists' lives more difficult. What's the payoff for them? Did one of their members get killed during the kidnapping and they needed to destroy evidence? Did the woman have something vital to the opposition that they couldn't find, so they just blew the house to make sure they got it? In terms of clues for your protagonist to get him on the trail, can you make more out of a blown up house or a not blown up house? Just curious.

I like the three-way conflict. Just to make sure I understand your plot:

1) friend saves woman (from The Court) - putting him on their hit list
2) terrorists kidnap woman
3) friend asks Protag to help him find her while he runs interference (so The Court is looking for him, not your protag who is actually saving the woman)
4) Court agents show up mid-conversation, kill friend
5) Protag goes to find woman to honor friend's last mission, while figuring out how to get revenge on The Court for his death
6) Protag and Woman may or may not develop relationship after he rescues her

Sounds like a pretty workable thriller to me. Betrayal, terrorists, conspiracy, gunfire...what more could you want?

I read something, I believe from Michael Connelly, wherein he recommended always asking the question "What are the bad guys doing right now?" The basic principle (as far as I understood it) being that the bad guys are generally driving the action for the bulk of the plot, especially the thorny middle bits, with the hero usually seizing the initiative in the final ramp-up (or sometimes not at all). So if you know what the bad guys are doing, even if it's "off-page" it sets a framework that can make plotting the protag's moves easier. I haven't plotted a straight thriller like you are, but it definitely helped with my WiP in terms of setting up the 'plot maze' through which my MCs would be running. Also, knowing what the bad guys were up to ahead of time allowed me to set up or foreshadow certain events early, without having to backtrack and re-write things later on, or suddenly jink in another direction to get to a climactic scene.
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sldwyer
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Re: My thorny plot mess .....HELP!

Post by sldwyer » July 20th, 2012, 2:04 pm

The first question I would have to ask is whose POV are you going to use to tell the story? That should be where you start and plot the story. How much is he/she going to know about what the "others" are doing? Does he/she have people to keep him informed? Is he/she just going to be going on the run as reactionary or forcing the situations? Is there a plan in place for the rescue and how is this person going to be able to find her? What resources are available?

Your basic premise is good and sounds like a fast action thriller - or are you going to keep it low key (search with friends in place to feed him info he doesn't have access to) or shoot ups, blow ups and car chases?

In a story such as this one I would keep asking myself "what if....and then..." Works for me all the time when I am beginning a new book.

Good luck

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