As you may have read in my last blog post, I’ve been working on a new adult, science fiction romance set in the Distant Horizon universe. Which has been… interesting, to say the least. Romances in that particular universe have a habit of not ending well.
However, since I challenged myself to write a romance, and not a science fiction story with romantic elements, that means I’ve got to figure out how to give my hero and heroine a happily ever after with each other. Or at least a happy-for now ending.
Right now I’m working on the climax. I’m in a lovely spot where I’ve figured out what triggers the ending… but not where to go from there.
Let’s take a look, shall we?
Quick back story: Tamara is the main character. She doesn’t have powers and she craves stability (and a stable relationship), but secrets bug her to no end. Meanwhile, Cole (the hero), is a telepath working under Mr. Rivera, who has ordered Cole to date Tamara so that he can get close to her best friend, Amy (who has successfully concealed her powers), to see if Amy has ties to a so-called “terrorist” group, Challenge. There’s plenty of secrets surrounding them, which Tamara is trying to unravel.
Got all that?
So here’s the precursor to the scene I’m on.
Tamara figures out that Cole has telepathy, thanks to her long-running interest in super powers. She calls him out on it, and though he physically can’t tell her everything, he gives her enough information that she finally realizes that he has some kind of telepathic block holding him back. While he’s trying to work around that block, Amy bursts into the room. (She’s Tamara’s roommate and doesn’t expect to find them nuzzling). Cole instantly notices that his powers have been shielded. Since Amy was already scanned a while back… and she didn’t show as having powers, Cole attributes this as proof that she has a rare set of powers and that she may be working for Challenge. He runs off to report to Mr. Rivera because he’s worried for Tamara’s safety if Amy is involved with Challenge.
Shortly after their talk, Mr. Rivera reports to his superiors (his actual superiors, he’s a double-agent for Challenge) so that he can try to recruit Amy. But Cole doesn’t know this, so he’s moping around thinking that he’s just sent away the best friend of the woman he likes.
Meanwhile, Tamara goes to Mr. Rivera’s office in hopes of getting information from him about Cole’s strange behaviors. Instead, she finds an empty office with a folder of incriminating evidence on Mr. Rivera’s desk that suggests the counselor is a member of Challenge… along with a note that has Amy’s name on it. Worried that he’s going after Amy, she tries to contact her best friend. After no response, Tamara then contacts Cole to confront him and see if he had any idea that Mr. Rivera was a double-agent. Cole is perplexed, since Mr. Rivera has been his supervisor for the last several years. But he begins to question himself when Tamara shows him her evidence.
This is where I run into problems.
Tamara has just enough information to be suspicious of the government’s motives, but she has no absolute proof. Cole, on the other hand, has long believed that his powers were a result of the plague he survived, and Amy has been rather vocal in her distrust of the government’s recent actions. So when Cole explains that Amy might have blocked his powers, Tamara is not entirely surprised. But she has evidence that, prior to the plague, Challenge was typically a criminal group (and they had super powers), so she’ not ready to trust them immediately, despite evidence suggesting that Challenge might no longer be criminal. If the government has been corrupted, Challenge is not be the bad guy everyone thinks they are. However, if the government hasn’t been corrupted, then Challenge is most definitely the bad guys.
Back to Tamara and Cole.
They could sit around and hope for the best, (but that would be boring and they have enough evidence to be worried for their friend’s safety), they can call the police, or they can investigate on their own.
In order to figure out what should happen next, I needed to look at the whole picture, even that which isn’t going to be shown to the readers.
Let’s figure out what’s going on with Amy and Mr. Rivera, even though we may not see this particular exchange in the story.
First of all, I needed to know what Amy could do to get out of a tough situation. If you recall, she’s a shielder, which means she can block powers. More importantly, shielding is a combination of three powers: life-spirit, radiation, and power steal. That’s a pretty nice combo to have, especially if she has any training. Given that she’s been meeting with her cousin, a member of Challenge who would want her to protect herself, it’s certainly not impossible. In addition, her power blocking skill is coveted by pretty much every group involved.
People want her alive.
Mr. Rivera, on the other hand, does not have powers, but he does know of a ‘key’ that has been telepathically embedded in Cole’s brain that would allow Mr. Rivera to issue commands to Cole… which Cole would have to follow. The particular process could be experimental, though, and may not always work properly (especially if anyone else knows they key).
The question, then, is the order of events after which Mr. Rivera learns that Amy has powers and might be sympathetic to his cause. He might inform someone in his group that he’s going to approach a potential recruit in case he needs backup. Or he might approach her directly. If Amy has a night class, he might wait until she’s done with class and try to talk to her afterwards, if he’s not afraid of scaring her off. (Granted, I’m not sure about taking this route, since a similar scene happens in Distant Horizon).
Or Mr. Rivera might contact Amy shortly after he learns what she can do, and not bother talking with other members of Challenge. He tries to approach her directly, and thus meets with her in a semi-public place to ease her concerns.
As for Amy, she would be skeptical. She knows that the government is trying to weed out people with powers. But she’s also been trying to get involved with Challenge, so she might take risks that she wouldn’t otherwise take.
Let’s say that Amy skips her night class and goes to meet Mr. Rivera at the coffee shop in the student union. She’s in public, so she’s not meeting a stranger in a high-risk situation. But she’ll have to be careful about demonstrating any of her powers. If innocent people notice and she causes a scare, the security involved may just wipe out the whole area and claim the campus was devastated by the plague.
Wouldn’t be the first time it’s happened.
Now that we know where Amy and Mr. Rivera are (not in a secret facility, like I initially day-dreamed, though that may happen later, depending on the outcome of this scene), let’s jump back to Tamara and Cole.
If Tamara and Cole call security because they’re worried for Amy’s safety, they’ll be questioned and a search will go out for Amy and Mr. Rivera. If Cole mentions Amy’s powers, Special Forces will get involved and everyone’s chances of surviving gets really slim.
This makes for a difficult happily-ever-after, though it has nice stakes if I can figure out how to get them out of trouble. Amy can fend for herself, while Tamara and Cole could potentially help them escape (not quite sure how yet), unless they go the ‘bad guy’ route and go pro-government, entirely believing Challenge is the bad guys. (This could happen if Amy and Mr. Rivera aren’t careful of what they say).
But if Mr. Rivera has a chance to explain himself first, he may be able to prove that the government has been killing off people with powers, and doing a few other nasty experiments on them, too. Cole, with his telepathy and persuasion powers, would be a perfect test subject for their major experiments, and Cole can’t be certain they would let him go after Mr. Rivera gets captured, even if he complies with their orders (and does he even want to? His life hasn’t exactly been his for the past few years).
If Cole agrees to help Mr. Rivera, they could get Amy to safety, and then Cole has to find some way to stay in the country without drawing attention to himself. Or he could flee altogether.
In the meantime, we have Tamara. She would want to protect Amy and get answers, and she would get a lot more transparency if she leaves with Mr. Rivera. But then she wouldn’t be able to see what’s going on from the inside the way that Amy has. By playing the part of the ‘good citizen,’ Tamara might be able to help other people with powers escape.
But then she wouldn’t have the stability she longs for.
Here we have a sacrifice on either end of the spectrum. Does Tamara flee the country, in which she gets the stability she longs for and a more definite idea of what’s going on? Or does she stay behind to pass along inside information to Challenge and help others escape? How does Cole figure into this equation?
This story is supposed to be a romance, after all, with the two of them discovering that they want to be together.
Maybe Tamara remembers that Amy has a night class, and decides it would be best not to jump to conclusions. Cole asks if she’s had dinner yet, and she hasn’t, so they decide to head to the cafeteria while they wait. But once they get there, they see Mr. Rivera sitting at a secluded table chatting with Amy.
But this feels like it has lower stakes, unless they make a pre-emptive call, only to discover the Amy and Mr. Rivera in the cafeteria, and security quickly descending on them…
I haven’t quite decided how this scene plays out, but I’m another step closer. By looking at the whole equation, the potential actions of each character makes a lot more sense, and gives me more room to play while narrowing the options to a logical path.
So… will they call security? Or will they set out to find Amy themselves?
To be determined.
I hope you found this post helpful. 🙂
What do you do when you get stuck with a scene?
4 responses to “Thoughts on Writing – Figuring Out ‘What Happens Next?’”
Loved this post and seeing how you work through things. Really helpful!
Thanks! I’m glad you found the post helpful. I’ve been finding that noting down the actual thought process helps in figuring out the story. 🙂
It’s so true! I do that with editing sometimes.
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