Plotting Act II

I've been stalled on writing the second Melantha Caldwell book, and I know why. I don't have a firm grasp of the second act. I have the major plot points, but I don't have the shape/feel of it yet. It isn't burning up inside me trying to get out. I need to stoke the fire so I can get back to writing, so I had a look at what I know and what I don't know. Know what I don't know? The story question for Act II. I'm not sure how this happened. Usually I have the acts sketched out with their questions and major plot points before I start writing. I've searched all my notes, but it looks like I just jumped into writing this time. Oops.

The story questions act as focal points for me. They're the lights at the end of the tunnels. Here's the story questions for The Secret Keeper (a YA science fiction (about a boy who gets separated from his body, the girl who races across the desert to save him and the secrets that could tear them apart) that I put away in the Writer's Trunk because I got the voice wrong and have to completely rewrite from scratch if it's going to work):

Act I - story question: will Merrilee believe Jax is still out there, or will she give in to her mom and go for therapy instead? [theme: believe in yourself]

Act II - part 1 - story question: will Merrilee and Jax find each other? [theme: strength in the face of adversity] complications of Brent & parents; adelaide & keeper. Ends when Merry hears Jax and leaves home to go with him.

Act II - part 2 - story question: will Merrilee and Jax make it to Jax's body in time? [theme/story theme: keeping secrets is costly/not worth it. Be accountable for your actions, even when it's hard.] Jax finds his father; tries to save him Ends when they reach the underground lair, but Jax changes plans and decides to go after keeper.

Act III - question: will Jax & Merry live happily ever after or be destroyed by the secret?

Except for Act III, the answers to the story questions has to be either "No, and..." or "Yes! But..."

So now I have to go & do this for Dealing With Demons.

june-july 2012 103

3 Tips for Writers: agent searching; nora's insights; myers-briggs in fiction

1) If you've started looking for an agent, you're probably aware agents like writers to research before querying. But what does that research entail? Agent Bree Ogden explains.

2) The recent loss of Nora Ephron has prompted a lot of her words of wisdom to appear around the internet. Here is a taste:

On structure, part 1Structure is the key to narrative. These are the crucial questions any storyteller must answer: Where does it begin? Where does the beginning start to end and the middle begin? Where does the middle start to end and the end begin?

  Go read the rest.

3) Author Kim Harrison has said she does Myers-Briggs typing on all her characters. I love this idea, especially because I used to work at a place that offered Myers-Briggs typing as a service. Here's an article explaining Myers-Briggs and gives examples of MBT in literature. (I'm an INFJ, sometimes an INFP. What are you?)