At the core of any story is the premise, what the story is about. Often this is a moral statement. For the Ruby Spider Conspiracy, it consists of seven elements that I combine into four clauses, creating a simple statement that is the flesh of the entire story. I then reduce it to one sentence that summarizes the story, similar to a tagline.
- It identifies how your story starts: Raisa develops a deadly plague under contract to what she believes is a legitimate institution. Her carelessness allows an evil cabal (the Ruby Spider) to steal it for the purpose of reducing human overpopulation.
- What does the main character do about it? Having seen the results of the plague in Mombasa, Raisa sets out to develop a mechanism to fight the plague.
- What climactic event forces the main character to increase her efforts? The next two attacks take place worldwide and kill almost four billion people, seriously threatening the underpinnings of civilization.
- How does the main main character respond to complete her objective? Raisa finds herself at the center of the world crisis and directs an international council to end the Ruby Spider’s threat.
Combining these clauses into a statement, I have:
Raisa develops a deadly plague under contract to what she believes is a legitimate institution. Her carelessness allows an evil cabal (the Ruby Spider) to steal it for the purpose of reducing human overpopulation. Having seen the results of the plague in Mombasa, Raisa sets out to develop a mechanism to fight the plague.The next two attacks take place worldwide and kill almost four billion people, seriously threatening the underpinnings of civilization. Raisa finds herself at the center of the world crisis and directs an international council to end the Ruby Spider’s threat
When a biochemist allows the release of a deadly plague, she must destroy an evil cabal to prevent them from using it to destroy civilization.
Sooner or later in your writing, someone will criticize your sentence structure. Most often, they’re not remarking about a single sentence but concerning the use of various structures to add variety to your prose. Most of us learned a long time ago that a sentence contains a subject, verb, and object:
“Bob threw a ball.”
“Suzie jumped rope.”
“Rover chased a cat.”
Those sentences are descriptive and full of action, but an entire book written in simple declarative sentences couldn’t go anywhere and would become tiresome immediately. We could tie the sentences together and give a composite picture:
“Bob threw a ball while Suzie jumped rope and Rover chased a cat.”
This is a compound sentence and adds some variety over a number of simple declarative sentences. It’s still subject, verb, object and that will get old quickly. Also, it is a way to vary sentence length, but be sure to avoid comma-splicing, which is just adding commas to put together two or more stand-alone sentences.
We can add variety by inserting prepositional phrases or dependent clauses:
“While throwing a ball, Bob watched Suzie jumping rope and saw Rover chasing a cat.”
“Bob, who was throwing a ball, watched Suzie jumping rope and saw Rover chase a cat.”
We have added a point of view (Bob’s).
It’s easy to fall into the pronoun (or name), verb, object trap where your sentences repeat the same structure and have the same length. Review your entire manuscript to ensure that you vary both.
I love to watch opera, and watched La Traviata yesterday. Before any actors take the stage, the music sets the mood and we get a view of the setting before the performers move or sing. In the opening, everyone on stage is positioned at the party like manikins in a storefront. When the action begins, I know exactly where I am and what is going on.
In today’s action-oriented novels, it is easy for a reader to stop and ask: “Where am I and how did I get here?” When I drafted Chapter 44 of The Ruby Spider Conspiracy, I moved quickly from venue to venue without adequate transition. As one reviewer said, “It looks more like a synopsis than a novel.” I had rushed through the sequence of events, eager to wrap it up and transition to the crucial moments in Chapter 45. Of course, if I lost the reader in Chapter 44, they would never read 45.
Chapter 44 is from Kassar’s point-of-view, the antagonist. After writing in Raisa’s POV for three chapters, I had to change the mood to get into Kassar’s soul. Just as the music and scenery change in an opera when the villain comes on stage, I had to change my own mood and perception when Kassar appears. He is in Mong-la talking to Jonathan Pembroke when the scene opens.
His mood changes from relaxed to anxious when Pembroke threatens his position. This results in a flurry of activity to put their scheme into action, moving from Mong-la to Pingyang to several locations in Lagos. When moving from place it is essential to maintain Kassar’s POV while transporting the reader from the domestic setting in Mong-la to the militaristic order of Ai-mei’s lab in Pyongyang to the chaos of Lagos.
The changes in setting are compounded by his dislike of Pembroke, squabbles with Ai-mei, and the gang-like atmosphere in Lagos. I am currently rewriting Chapter 44.