Preptober 3: Rising Action

Oh my gosh, is it the 13th already? I can’t believe we’re almost halfway through the month. That means we’re halfway through my Preptober series, where I plan and outline a novel within the month of October! And if people like it enough, I’ll try to write it in the month of November for NaNoWriMo.

If you’re just joining us now, feel free to bounce back and read the first two blogs in the series. Then pop back as we discuss Rising Action and Climax.

The Story So Far

Over the last two blogs, I decided on a story set in a world where dragons are hunted for the rare magical components that make up their bodies, including their metallic scales. Our hero, Victory, is an untried dragon hunter seeking her first mission, so that she can build her career and provide for her younger siblings.

At this point in the process, I stop and make a more fleshed-out character list. The original Preptober calendar I used puts Dramatis Personae quite far down the list, but I find it easier to continue with the outline if I have names for the characters. Placeholder names are fine (although I do tend to get attached). I add a line or two of description if they occur to me; otherwise, I leave them for later in the outline.

“How do you come up with names?” I hear a million voices cry out in unison. Hahaha, I wish I knew. Seriously, though, I have a few go-to resources. I usually like a mix of real-world but old-fashioned or unique names (like Victory) and made-up names. For the former I really value Nameberry’s lists, as well as Social Security name lists by decade. For the latter, you can find tons of fantasy name generators out there, but I’m partial to Rinkworks. I’m going to go ahead and come up with some names to fit the characters now.

NameRoleDescription
VictoryHero; dragon-hunterMuscular and fit, short pale-blonde hair dyed funky colours; old suit of armor (nb: inherited? a gift from her trainer?)
DantanaMentorJane Lynch meets Sigourney Weaver
JusticeLittle brotherIf her parents named her “Victory,” they probably gave her sibs similarly ambitious names
JoyLittle sisterAlso if they’re twins, having names with the same initials could be fun
Citrine,
“Trina”
Wizard apprenticeAnd love interest ❤ I’m thinking wizards might have natural or elemental names, so I looked at gem and plant names for inspiration
OretorenBig bad guyEvil wizard
FlamerazerDragonThat’s what people call him; he has a secret real name
UnmostMayorI guess the town needs a name too
Shady Pinesthe townSHADY PINES, MA

I think that’s all I need for now. They’re pretty good names! I might change some later (well, I’ll definitely change Shady Pines) but overall I’m happy with them.

Now, onto the Climax! Wait, what?

Climax

Going back to the chart from last blog, we can see that rising action leads up to the climax. Lithub has a helpful guide on what is rising action with some good examples.

So if Rising Action leads to the Climax, why start with the latter? That’s one thing the original prep calendar does that I actually really like. Knowing what the climax is helps me define good ideas for the rising action leading up to it. It’s hard to come up with waystations if you don’t know the final destination.

The Preptober calendar notes that it can be hard to tell when exactly the Climax occurs. I somewhat cheekily think I have the perfect answer to that—I know when the Climax happens because I start writing the Denouement next. Once I start wrapping up the characters’ arcs with farewells and looking to the future, the book is done.

In SCALE HUNTER, the Climax isn’t going to happen when Victory fights Flamerazer (which means that will be Rising Action and I can tuck it into the next section—see, it’s working already!). It’ll happen when she confronts the evil wizard that I’ve already forgotten what I named him and exposes the whole dragon-hunting scam.

(Oh yeah, Oretoren. That’s a good name. It’s one of those name gifts that sort of fell out of the sky. I went on Rinkworks and generated random long names, as befitting wizards. One was “Overtoren” or something, and I’d already decided that gem/metal names would be a wizardy thing. By replacing the first syllable with “ore,” I got a name that fit into my fledgeling world building, sounds ominious, and also sort of sounds like “wartorn” which is a good association for the villain. Anyway, moving on.)

So the Climax will be Victory facing Oretoren and demanding he tell the truth about draconic intelligence. Maybe she wants him to work toward a reconciliation between dragons and wizards. Only Oretoren won’t, cause he’s a slimeball.

It’s a little thin right now, but—actually, let’s go back to Theme.

My original Theme list included abundance/scarcity, greed, heroes, nature, price of progress, quest for knowledge, survival, and a sort of generic “don’t pillage nature or it’ll be bad for you.” In the last blog as I examined Victory’s character, more of the greed/price of progress/hero narrative started to emerge.

So in that vein, an appropriate Climax would be Victory securing some kind of sacrifice or fostering a spirit of generosity towards the dragons (opposite of greed), convincing the land that the price of progress was too high or unsustainable, and perhaps putting aside her own needs to be the hero her people (and family?) truly need.

I don’t want to go all DARK KNIGHT here and have Victory sacrifice her integrity or reputation to secure victory. It doesn’t feel like that kind of a story, and I like happy endings. It also makes sense that the humans going “okay, we won’t hunt and murder you any longer” might not be enough to appease the dragons after generations of slaughter.

I’m not sure where to take this quite yet, but I’ll put down some ideas and circle back as I get farther in the process.

  • Victory offers Oretoren as some kind of human sacrifice to the dragons as a token of goodwill (eeesh, not very heroic)
  • Victory uses some kind of dragon hunter attack to kill Oretoren and releases a shocking expose on the truth about dragons. Maybe no immediate resolution, but evidence of a shift in society. (weak?)
  • Victory works together with Flamerazer to arrange a council of dragons and wizards, but Oretoren tries to stop it and Victory has to stop him so the peace accords can go forward (has potential)
  • Victory goes to live with the dragons as a human ambassador. She has to leave her family behind, but she knows she’s building a better world for them (definite potential! I can do this in combination with something else)
  • Victory and Trina work together to somehow strip Oretoren of his powers, then capture him so he can tell the world the truth (better than killing him)
  • OH, what if there’s a new kind of magic? One that needs both (living) dragons and humans to tap into? Humans have been doing it the hard way, but they can cooperate with the dragons to really tear shit up. Only they’ve destroyed the trust between dragons and humans, so the “price of progress” is to rebuild that trust. Oh, I like this. And Victory is the first dragon mage! Ok, I’m going with that.

How does this always work?! It’s a mystery. But that’s a really good Climax I think, and it gives me a lot of directions to take for Rising Action.

Rising Action (Finally)

And now we’ve come to the title of the blog, and I can start laying out some ideas for Rising Action. The original Preptober calendar has some good prompts for this. It asks if there is intial refusal on the part of the MC, when the MC answers the call to action, and when the MC reaches the point of no return where they cannot change their mind.

Initial Refusal: I don’t see Victory refusing the challenge to hunt Flamerazer, since killing a dragon is one of her life goals. When she actually figures out that Flamerazer is a sentient being and dragon hunting is morally questionable, though, she might try to justify the slaughter to herself. Wizards have been hunting dragons for centuries, and it makes society great (price of progress)! She’s a dragon hunter; this is what she trained for; this is who she is (heroes). Her family needs the money, she can’t blow this mission (greed).

Answering the Call to Action: At the beginning of the novel, this is Victory arguing for a chance in front of the town council and then agreeing to team up with Trina. (She might have some hesitation about joining forces with Trina, I guess, which could go in Initial Refusal. But I don’t want to slow down the beginning too much.) After she meets Flamerazer and has her struggle with herself, she overcomes her doubts by… seeing the dragon do something compassionate? Or maybe the dragon is helpless and Victory has to kill him in cold blood? I’ll have to think on this a bit—why does she turn her back on everything society and her teachers have taught her to spare Flamerazer (and try to communicate with him)?

Point of No Return: On a practical level, once Victory gets far enough out of town she might not have the supplies or savings to turn back. It’s kill Flamerazer or watch her younger siblings go to the workhouse. There could be a physical impediment too, like she has to jump down a ravine to get to Flamerazer’s lair and can’t climb out again without going through the dragon’s lair (I like that). Once she teams up with Flamerazer, I think her point of no return is now she knows, like, for-real knows, that dragons are sensitive creatures that can suffer and mourn. Killing them is just wrong. She can’t un-ring that bell of knowledge.

So an incomplete event list would be:

  1. Victory hears of the bounty on Flamerazer. She tries to get the town to send her on the mission, but they refuse.
  2. Trina approaches Victory and offers to team up. The women agree to work together.
  3. Victory and Trina travel overland to Flamerazer’s lair. Victory lowers herself into a ravine to reach the dragon’s cave.
  4. After a ferocious battle, Victory has Flamerazer at her mercy. But by then she’s noticed the intelligence of the dragon, as well as clues (?) around his lair hinting at his intelligence. She tries to communicate with him instead of killing him.
  5. The communication attempts are rocky at first, but eventually Victory and Flamerazer find a way to share meaning (nb: could this be related to human-dragon magic?)
  6. Victory learns the dragons’ point of view on the slaughter and decides she has to help negotiate peace between humans and dragons (okay, a little lofty there. Maybe she starts out with a smaller goal that turns into negotiating peace?)
  7. Victory and Trina travel back to Shady Pines to talk to the mayor (about what? What goal could he help with?) He freaks out and contacts the contract holder, Oretoren.
  8. Oretoren confronts Victory and Trina in some way (sends minions? Invites them to his tower?) The women realize the wizard already knew the truth about dragons and chose to ignore it for his own benefit.
  9. Victory and Trina come up with a plan to use dragon-human magic to defeat Oretoren.
  10. After a difficult battle, Victory strips Oretoren of his powers. She takes him to Firerazer and agrees to remain as a human ambassador.
  11. Trina comes with her, though the twins have to stay in town until they’re older. But Victory knows they’ll be taken care of now. Happy ending!

That’s a solid fledgling outline right there. I’m actually really excited about the progress here.

This was a long one but it filled in a lot of the details of the novel. In the next blog post we’ll take a look at worldbuilding, and then I’ll share my super secret outlining document so you can use it to structure your own outline. Until next time!

Featured image by Victoria Borodinova from Pexels

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