Shaking It Up: Part 13

Once again, I find the value of Truby’s process in that it forces me, or rather guides me, to exhaustively think through the nuances of the story before I start writing. This comes down to the question of plotters vs pantsers. Plotters work out the story in advance. Pantsers write “by the seat of their pants,” discovering the story as they write. I’m way too fond of efficiency and horrified by extensive rewriting to be a pantser.

Common wisdom tells us that a whodunit must be plotted, but there are countless successful whodunit writers who are pantsers, so you can disabuse yourself of that notion. To borrow a phrase from a popular YouTube whiskey channel, the best way to write a novel is the way that works for you.

Chapter 6: Story World

One of the features of Truby’s book is that each chapter builds on work done in previous chapters. Consequently, you will see a lot of restatement of previous decisions followed by a new element.

Truby says, “The designing principle and the story world work in opposite ways. The designing principle describes linear story movement. The story world is everything surrounding the characters, simultaneous elements and actions. To connect them, take the rough story sequence and expand it three-dimensionally. To start, use the designing principle and create a single visual idea that expresses the line of the story.”

Jack’s dual life sleeping in trees and acting on the ground. Detour into a culvert at some psychological moment.

Designing principle: Use the classic David vs Goliath story to show how a reclusive vagabond overcomes his nature to solve the murder of a childhood friend by exposing the crimes of the monied elite.

Theme line: The journey of the Randall knife from honor to dishonor to honor. [I’m seeing a scene where Roger pulls the knife on Jack, who recognizes it as the treasured possession of his childhood friend, Riki.]

Story world: The urban dichotomy of downtown Austin between structures and green spaces, and the intersection of the two in homeless camps under overpasses, etc.

Visual oppositions: Explore the oppositions between the characters and their values. Contrast Jack’s arboreal world with the ground level life and also high-rise life of opponents (Roger, Zoe).

Exercise 5

Story world in one line: This David-and-Goliath story contrasts the high-rise offices and condos of downtown Austin with homeless camps in green spaces and overpasses.

Overall arena: Austin, cross cutting between privation and privilege.

Character value opposition and visual opposition

Jack: Values: peace, inner and outer. World: neither and both. Jack’s appearance communicates balance. You would never peg him as homeless, or as affluent, based on his dress or demeanor. He passes through the story world with ease, neither attracting or avoiding attention.

Roger: Values: survival = financial success. World: neither and both. Roger has become a past master of working the system of the underworld to leverage his gains and avoid losses. In Austin he makes a move to up his game, serving as the fixer for the upper class. However, he dresses a bit too flashy for downtown and a bit too classy for the netherworld. This gains him access to both worlds, but denies him acceptance in either. The more he tries to game the machine, the more he gets caught in the gears.

Zoe: Values: respect. World: downtown. Like Roger, Zoe lives in a world of connections, concessions, and back-scratching symbiosis, but she is firmly at home in the upper class. Her visual cue is business fashion. By unintentionally pricking the attention of Jack, and to a lesser extent Dan and Noel, she runs into a brick wall of uncompromising opponents who are not susceptible to bribes or blackmail, none of whom are impressed with her “accomplishments” or power.

Dan: Values: stability. World: downtown (legal): Dan’s visual identity rests in the vestments of office. He moves easily between the power elite and his understated domestic world.

Bella: Values: harmony. World: midtown. Bella’s visual cue is the apron, representing both her career (food service) and her calling (mother).

Jodi: Values: domestic tranquility. World: distant past (suburbs), recent past (downtown), present (homeless). Visual cues vary according to the time period of the flashback.

Riki: Values: accomplishment. World: drug scene. Visual cue is stoner attire.

Noel: Values: control. World: dark underbelly of downtown. Visual identity is the traditional detective suit and tie.

Weather: The story takes place in spring/summer. Typical Texas unpredictable weather, working in heat, temperate days, and a powerful thunderstorm that throws the plot into turmoil and pressures Jack into a daring flash flood rescue.

Man-made spaces: Runs the gamut from plush executive suites to homeless camps and all the between places.

Becoming big or small: Perhaps Jack has to disappear when the heat comes down, to become small to survive to fight another day.

Hero’s change: Perhaps as Jack works through his issues to champion justice, he abandons his arboreal refuge in the canopy of Austin’s green spaces to buy a tiny house from Joe Davis.

Visual Seven Steps: mapping the main structure to the story world

Weakness or need: Green spaces
Desire: Austin
Opponent: Smooth mobility between power centers in the upper and under worlds
Apparent defeat: Retreat to the Hill Country
Visit to death: Jail
Battle: Downtown, from executive suite to backstreets
Freedom:Tiny house