Monday, March 18, 2013

The Case of the Missing Plot

I didn't get much writing done this weekend.  By late Saturday I barely managed to complete Cursed Be Ye Who Moves These Bones, which was nearly complete Friday afternoon.  Sunday I wrote nothing.  Today I spent most of my time reading through Chance Encounter, which in my mind was a nearly complete Vashti story that wouldn't take very long to finish, but in actuality needs more work than I remembered.  Mostly, I have the first few scenes written, and a bunch of middle scenes sketched in, and a final scene sketched in which should wrap everything up.  But there was something big missing.

Let's start with what we have:

Scene 1:  Banta Zuvela (rich zebra boy from a rich family) and his rhino butler, Rodger Saark.  They're supposed to be a bit like Jeeves and Wooster, really.  Banta is bored.  We establish why he's on the Quantum Lady, so that's good:

“You are here to attend a conference, beginning next week, with the Ambassador of Johdpur and the heads of the Kaeraet and Modine mining companies, as well as the Johdpur Outer System Mining Union.  Your are to finalize an agreement between the two mining interests and the union and complete the purchase of Modine by the Zuvela Clan.  You will also meet with the Ambassadors of Indus and New Oslo at a function to be held ahead of the conference this coming Sunday, which you will host.”

So far so good.  We also have the representative from Modine Mining Corporation try to contact him.  Okay, that's good too.  We also establish that Banta has recently dumped his girlfriend, something that apparently is never referred to again after it's mentioned here.  Granted, Wooster is often on the rebound from a girl or helping friends fall in love with each other or break up, but it seems kind of like there should be more to this recent breakup than mention once and forget.

Other than that, Banta and Rodger talk a lot and Banta decides to go gambling, because it's stupid to be bored on a pleasure craft like the Quantum Lady.

So basically, nothing much happens in this scene.

Scene 2:  Banta gambles.  He's exceptionally good at it, and is bored.  He wins a lot of money and then hands his spot over (including all of the money) to the pretty husky who's been hanging onto him.  This turns out to be Sahvet, renowned female impersonator and the proprietor of The Lady True, a nightclub for female impersonators.  But Banta doesn't find out who she really is, it's not clear why the proprietor of a club is hanging around in a casino trying to suck up to a rich Zuvela boy, and she doesn't appear in the story again.  So.. why?  Why?  Why?

At the end of the scene Banta bumps into Vashti.  This whole story revolves around Banta becoming infatuated with Vashti, so this is clearly the start of my plot.  Except... this is actually the subplot.  I don't think I knew that at the time I began this story, but it is.

So scene 2 is mostly nothing happening, with the exception of the "chance encounter" of the title happening at the very end.

Scene 3:  Oh, let's cut to the chase here.  Banta can't stop thinking about Vashti and decides to go catch one of her shows.  I mean, that's the whole scene.  It could almost work, if there were more going on, but anyway... it kind of moves the plot along but you could just as easily jump to him actually being at a Vashti concert, if there's nothing else to do in this scene.

After this we have a lot of half-scenes and sketches, but the gist of it is:  Banta sees Vashti perform some Hautakivian folk music on her kantele, he's very much taken by this music (much better than the noisy plutonium rock he'd seen videos of).  He meets her and on the spur of the moment claims to be a big producer who wants to record her folk music.

There's probably a scene where they rent a studio and Banta pretends to know what a producer does.  There's a scene where he is confronted by Boss Tweedlo, who is technically Vashti's manager, but who does not see any value in recording Vashti's folk music.  Banta throws money at him for the opportunity to do it himself.

There are some other scenes, I think.  Ultimately the folk music is recorded and there's a big banquet involving the mining companies in which Banta invites Vashti as a performer, and hands out copies of her recorded folk music, and then there's a terrorist hostage situation which is resolved by the butler, and Vashti, and possibly also with the aid of some of Boss Tweedlo's thugs.  There's a lot of news feeds about it, and all of the attention pushes sales of Vashti's folk music.  Boss Tweedlo tries to claim the bulk of this sudden success, but the butler Saark has negotiated a contract in which Banta, who took all of the risks, also reaps the rewards.  Tweedlo is impressed with the butler's sharp mind and attention to detain and tries unsuccessfully to hire him.  Somewhere in here, Banta will need to realize that he and Vashti are not really meant to be.

Where's the Plot?

Hopefully you can see what I saw when I read through this today.  The affair with Vashti is my secondary plot, a side plot.  The main plot is, of course, who are the terrorists that appear suddenly at the end?  What happens with the negotiations that Banta is supposed to be involved in?  Who is the head of Kaeraet Mining Corp., who is head of Modine Mining Corp., who leads the Johdpur Outer System Mining Union, and which of them wants to scuttle the Zuvela buyout of Modine Mining Corp.?  Well, all of those questions aren't a plot exactly, but obviously once I know the answers to those questions, the main plot will fall into place and I'll be able to weave it into the first scenes and throughout the story.

Right now my idea is that contract negotiations have been dragging out between the union and the two mining companies, and Modine decided to sell off to the Zuvelas rather than deal with it any more.  But Banta comes in and (possibly with the aid of his butler) realizes that the miners are getting paid comparatively poorly, and all of the company's executive officers are making out like bandits, while running the company into the ground through mismanagement.  Think of how Hostess went under as an example of the kind of thing I'm thinking of.  So it looks very likely that the Zuvelas will clean house and strike a deal with the miners, and the other mining company, Kaeraet, doesn't want that to happen.  Kaeraet tries to scuttle the deal and make it look like the miners are behind it, and possibly also tries to have Banta assassinated somewhere in the middle of the story, then they stage the hostage crisis at the end by hiring fake miner terrorists, and either being in charge of a lot of the security at the party or paying off the hired security (they would have insisted on not allowing station security to run things, perhaps).  In keeping with the theme that the Butler (Jeeves clone) always sees three to five steps ahead, Rodger Saark has hired backup security or possibly even hired Boss Tweedlo's people as undercover security.

Possibly Kaeraet even orchestrated the downfall of Modine Mining Corporation, thinking that they would buy out their chief rival... and then the super-rich Zuvela Clan outbid them.  In this scenario, I imagine that Kaeraet controls Modine Mining security as well, and their main goal, aside from fear of having to negotiate a fair contract with the union, is to drive off the Zuvelas so that they can buy their rival and form a monopoly.

I really think that's my main plot.  If I start in the first scene with the head of Kaeraet trying to warn Banta of the dangers of the mining union, and the head of the mining union trying to warn Banta of what the mining companies might do (or wording it poorly so it sounds like they're threatening him when they're just trying to warn him), then I can salvage my first scene and make it kick off the main plot.  And I can have at least one of these people trying to talk to him in the gambling scene as well.  Then the plot turns more naturally to Banta ignoring warnings from people, and the reader trying to figure out which warnings are real and when something bad is going to happen.

And we can go directly from an assassination attempt on Banta's life, to his "rescue" by miners, followed by his "rescue" by Kaeraet mining security forces, and possibly being kidnapped by Boss Tweedlo for their confrontation right after.  ^_^

Somewhere along the way, I think his recently-dumped girlfriend should show up.  And the girl he meets in the gambling scene, whether it's Sahvet or someone else, should be important to the plot later on.

But yeah... as you can see, this story needs a lot more work than I first thought.  But I have an idea where I'm headed at least, and how to get there.

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