I got Assignment 2 back from my instructor and in general, she was pleased with what I wrote. If our work was graded, I think I got a "B". There was one point in my scene, just a three-line paragraph, where I switched from my protagonist's point of view to my antagonist's, and then back again. That's a no-no. When you're in a scene, pick one point of view and stick with it. Maybe do a little flashback when you're doing a narrative from the antagonist's p-o-v later on if you think it's necessary, but it should be one p-o-v per scene. But the part she had the most negative things to say about were when the protagonist revealed her background to the antagonist. She felt it was illogical for her to reveal so much where I thought it was the right time for her to come clean. Well, let's face it, right now, I have a better view of what I'm trying to write than she does, and I know where I'd put that scene--about two-thirds into the story. But I also understood what my instructor is saying. And besides, that scene might never make it into the final manuscript (but I think it will, in some form or another).
So now it's time to craft my plot. I haven't been able to write much of anything for the past two weeks (wow, has it been that long since I've blogged something?) because I've been trying to figure out what external conflict my protagonist is going to have to face. See, most of my protagonist's conflicts are internal, which is fine, but you can only read just so much of someone's internal arguments before you wish some natural disaster would take place, just to shift focus for a while. An external conflict is necessary because we all have outside influences in our lives--some major, some minor. But I didn't know what hers would be. I've had a few ideas, but I need to make it (1) logical and (2) writable, meaning I have to know what it is I'm writing about to make you, the reader, believe it. I wouldn't have her uncover some major mob racketeering "thing" because what I know about mob racketeering "things" wouldn't fill the back of a business card! I thought about accounting fraud...that idea has merit, because though I'm not an accountant, I took it in college and I still understand the basics, but again, what I know about fraud...well, look at the previous sentence.
So my plot narrative starts out: Kris driving home after picking up some craft supplies, and she's reflecting on how good her life is. She enjoys her work, has good friends and her hobby is starting to get her noticed and she's got the potential to make good money from it. If it really takes off, she may have to drop some of her bookkeeping clients. She knows who would be the first to go, this one client whose business is growing so fast, she almost can't keep up. Her other clients get a half-day, once a week where she's had to go to a full day once a week for this client. By the end of the year he's going to need a dedicated full-time bookkeeper/assistant, and she didn't want to be it.
Nice, I thought. This makes a good beginning, and it sets up a few scenes to take place later in the story. This all came to me today while I was at Arby's having lunch. After lunch, I ran a few errands then went home. I took care of a few things around the house, then sat down to begin working on my plot. I started my letting my thoughts just kind of free-float, seeing what could go where--mostly to dead ends. I need that external conflict. I thought about what my instructor said about Kris revealing too much too soon about her background. I wondered if she thought the scene I wrote about--which to me is only part of a single chapter--applied to the whole story, and I explored that for a while.
Oh, when she returns my assignments, she includes these worksheets with helpful hints and tips on how to work on the assignments. The one I got when she sent back Assignment 2 suggested that I re-read one of my favorite books and try to adapt some of the mechanisms from that story for mine. I thought about one story I read recently that I really liked. That protagonist's external and internal conflicts were easily defined. I thought about her external conflict, how it was revealed and slowly built...then I thought about my little opening scene...and that little mustard seed of an idea grew and grew and grew! And now I have my external conflict!!!
You all have noooo idea how happy I am to finally, FINALLY, have the outside conflict that I was looking for. Now, this doesn't mean I'm going to be able to write my plot summary tonight. I just finally have my external conflict and I have a good idea where this is all going to go. I still have to shape it all and fill in some gaps and some of those gaps are Grand Canyon sized! I have to submit it by the end of July, so that gives me a month.
Oh, and did I mention...my office is going to start moving to our new location...the new place is officially ours on July 1 and we have to be out of our current place by Aug 14. That's a six-week overlap but you'd be surprised how fast six weeks can go. So while I try to write, I have to coordinate an office move. Talk about internal and external conflicts!!!!!