Last week I put together a plan for reworking the middle act of The Storm. I decided to divide it into a miniature three act structure, where it alternates between escalating danger and somber introspection.
I also identified sixteen distinct sections from my current middle act, which are bite-sized pieces that can be discarded or reused as needed. Today I am going to introduce those pieces into last week’s outline, and also make note of new scenes that need to be added. The result will be a new outline with a high level of layer of detail, which will be the master plan for the rewrite. Here it is:
- Slow accumulation of stress while moving against the waves
- Oscar and Harry tether the boats together
- NEW They move up one wave after another, describe the difficulty of climbing and falling while tethered
- NEW The rolling eddies are described as they grow nearer and nearer on the starboard side
- Attempt to break through eddies but can’t build up enough speed because of Harry’s engine trouble
- NEW Oscar times the rising and falling of the waves, then dashes for the eddies when gravity is on their side
- Harry’s engine cuts out part way and they have to go slower, which messes up Oscar’s timing
- Swamped in the cross-current, drastic maneuvers to turn head-on into the waves
- Trying to retreat from the eddies Oscar gets stuck at the crest of a wave. He pulses the engine up and down, holding the boat in place until Oscar pushes him through from behind
- Mournful introspection
- Oscar regrets having not quit before James’ death
- Oscar regrets having not quit before James’ death
- Continuing up against the waves, but gusts of wind buffet them sideways
- NEW Oscar and Harry settle back against the waves, they discuss whether they should go up past the eddies, or just enough to turn around and rush through them
- NEW They reach a point where the water becomes much deeper, and they are now at the center of the storm. Huge sidewinds suddenly pick up, buffeting them on the port side
- Try to hold the line, eventually give up and decide to turn around
- Fighting against the sideways push Oscar’s boat gets its rudder arm bent
- Oscar’s boat tilts into a wave. Completely swamped, Oscar holds to the line for dear life
- Oscar tries to hold back his nervous breakdown
- NEW Oscar says they will need to turn around, but finds his nerve is so worn down he can barely do it
- Oscar stifles his nervous breakdown, forces composure long enough to make the turn
- Build up speed, moving with the flow of water
- NEW Moving at high speed accentuates the jerking back and forth on the tether, making it difficult to maintain a straight line
- Watching for rocks or lighthouse, very anxious that they will slam into the shoals before they push through the eddies
- Oscar knows it is time to try breaking through the eddies once again, but is terrified of it
- NEW Oscar regards the eddies growing nearer and nearer again, this time on the port side. Timing things is even harder at this faster rate, and he is filled with dread that they won’t make it out if they turn into them again
- NEW Oscar decides he isn’t ready to face this, but also that he has no choice on the matter. The die has been cast and the rocks are looming ahead. Wonders if James also felt this way before the end
- Finally throws in, everything is a froth, lose all control
- NEW At first the eddies push back, and Oscar is in danger of getting pinned into a groove of the sea which will cause him to be overrun and sunk
- Oscar uses the water sloshing in the hull and swings his boom to make it through
- Harry’s confession
- Harry has his own problems and starts to roll. Oscar pulls him back
- Both boats lose all control in the competing forces, they are entirely at the storm’s mercy
- Harry breaks the silence to make his confession. He states that Oscar might yet be able to get out of this whirlpool if he was sailing unburdened
And there it is, the complete outline. There is a fair bit of new material in there, and this might extend the size of my story considerably. I may end up trimming it back later, but I believe part of the reason my middle act got so out of hand was because I cut it down to the point that it no longer had any clear definition. A story, and an act within a story, need to have a well-defined structure, otherwise it all becomes amorphous and vague.
There are a couple elements from before that I am planning to not bring back, though. I have taken out the part of the sailors throwing around the fuel canister and refilling their tanks. I’ll probably still have the waning fuel as a point of discussion, something that adds even more pressure on their journey, but they will just have to go along with what they already have. I’ve also removed the elements of them moving slantways up and down the waves, replacing that with the crosscurrents.
I’m happy to have a clear plan moving forward, but I also appreciate that what I write next will still need a good deal of polishing and tweaking before it is complete. Outlines always sound so perfect when first conceived of, but during the implementation things never stay exactly as planned.
Next week I’ll finally move on from these outlines and actually write material for The Storm. I’m excited to see how it goes, and I’ll let you know how I’m feeling about it along the way.