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Each card describes what that scene or act should contain.
Edit the cards, and replace the description with your own story elements.
There are two kinds of cards: sections, and checkpoints.
What if a girl who didn’t care was the only person who could save the memory of her grandmother?
Present the “normal world” of your novel—before everything goes haywire.
The end of Act I should be a “point of no return.” Usually something is taken away from your protagonist, and they can never go back to the way things were.
They have no choice but to continue into Act II.
In the beginning of Act II, we get to explore the “new world” of the story. We meet its characters, as the hero is put through greater and greater challenges, until…
Something drastic happens, to change the course of the hero’s journey. Where before things felt like “rising action”, now it feels like “spiraling out of control”. The challenges seem insurmountable, and the hero is beat down, again and again.
The resolution of the story and its subplots. The climax is the scene or sequence in which the main tensions of the story are brought to their most intense point and the dramatic question answered, leaving the protagonist and other characters with a new sense of who they really are.
If you had to choose a short scene to establish what “the world” is like before your story starts, this is it.
Make it stand out, because first impressions matter. They set the tone and mood and scope, and hook the audience (or reader).
If it’s a vast epic, the opening image should be grand. If it’s a small intricate family drama, the opening images are small and subdued.
It might not be clear at first, but your story should have a theme.
Make sure you’ve mentioned it by the time you are ~2300 words in.
You can think of the theme as an argument, that the rest of the movie has to prove.
Remember that a theme is there to guide you as a story writer, and provide a strong undercurrent to your story. It’s not a restriction, it’s a fountain for your imagination. If you ever get stuck, go back to your theme and you will find your answer there.
By the first 4500 words (or 5500 at most), you need to have set up your story.
If you think of your story as a cannon shot, by page 4500 the cannon needs to be loaded, aimed, and ready to be fired.
Again, with the cannon analogy: Your cannon is aimed in words 1-4500, it needs to actually fire by word count 5500.
Here again, the size and scope of the catalyst event must match the size of your story. If it’s a small drama, it could be a phone call announcing a death in the family, or it could be a breakup.
If it’s a sprawling epic, it should be something grander. The outbreak of war, or the destruction of a planet.
If your hero starts moving towards his goal immediately, it’ll seem as though he’s just reacting to what happens around him.
No one wants to see a hero react, they want to see him or her act.
That’s what the debate section is for. This is where the hero shows that he/she knows that it’ll be a long road, but consciously decides to act.
Once the hero decides to act, it’s time to step through a membrane, and enter the world of Act II.
For example, in Star Wars, the catalyst is Luke’s parents being killed, but the Act II event occurs when they board Han’s ship, and the journey begins.
The reader has been through a lot of turmoil to get to this point. Introduce a secondary story to give them a rest.
This B story usually involves a romance, or a new friendship, or some other relationship with a character from the “new world” of Act II.
It also serves two useful tools for you as a writer:
This is where the B Story starts, but it runs throughout the rest of the movie.
This is where you get to have fun (yes, even in a serious drama).
With your logline, you asked a question: “What would happen if __?”
This is where you answer that question.
You’ve set up your story, your characters, and propelled them along in their journey. This is where you get to explore what happens.
If there was a teaser for your movie, most scenes will come from this section.
Your cannonball has reached it’s peak. The fun and games are over. There’s no better way to put this, than: “Shit just got serious!”
The midpoint is where the stakes are raised.
If people are to die in your story, this is where the first character dies. If it’s a smaller drama, a bombshell is dropped here.
Something important has to happen at the midpoint.
Things get progressively worse… the challenges are getting harder, while the hero is getting more downtrodden.
Don’t hold back, or feel sorry for your hero. Give ‘em hell.
.. until it seems there’s no hope. This is the darkest part of the screenplay, where the hero realizes how bad things are. If there’s no death in your story, you might give a “whiff of death” here (even in comedies).
How does your character feel about the darkness around him/her?
Even if it’s brief, this moment is critical. The hero is not only beaten, but he/she knows it. Your hero must admit defeat, and must learn humility.
Only then can your hero…
Find the solution!
Because of everything that’s happened so far, and with the help of B story characters, the hero finds his last best effort to find a solution.
The idea for the solution is at hand.
Wrap it up.
The climax must be the result of the entire chain of events leading up to this point. A chain that should be linked by the words “therefore” or “but”… it’s not enough for Y to follow X, Y must happen because of X.
Your climax is the result of
Dispatch all the bad guys (literal or figurative), in ascending order. At the end, a new world is born.
Not only must the hero suceed, but he/she must change the world.
The opening image is your “before” shot, this is the “after”.
The world must have changed, and the difference between the opening image and the closing is the proof of this change.
THE REAL WORLD: We are introduced to Grandmother Felicity’s old house. If you take the road out of town to the place where the buildings have almost entirely given away to fields, and the roads wind to fit around the landscape rather than ploughing through it, and then you take that turning that’s so easy to miss, the one with the overgrown sign advertising roast dinners and tango lessons at a pub that doesn’t exist anymore, and then if you pick your way through the elder copse and over the poor excuse for a stream, you’ll come to a gravel path that leads to Elfwood House. It is a big old mish-mash sort of building, designed and added to at all different times of history. It’s full of junk - knick knacks, bric a brac, a diving suit, the works. We meet Grandfather Edmund, Mr Beigeman, the cousins William and Naomi, Aunt Hannah and dad Luke, and our hero (though she doesn’t know it yet) Alex.
THEME: “All of this is junk!” (Disprove in one novel.) The preservation of memories, nostalgia, filling houses with rubbish etc. Grandfather Edmund has fond memories in the house, doesn’t want it sold and bulldozered. Mr Beigeman wants the place razed to the ground to build new sustainable housing (he’s also EVIL and wants memories to be destroyed, but shh, we don’t know that yet.) Aunt Hannah is enjoying getting the mess tidied up and gets sidetracked by a set of toys that take her back to her childhood in the house. William and Naomi are having great fun discovering things and dad Luke is telling them all the stories associated with them. Some tall tales, Alex is not impressed.
Alex hates being here. She understands they have to get the house tidy and sorted before she can go home, and as sulking is proving ineffective, she’s decided to go and help out clearing the mess rather than listen to her cousins asking about every little thing in the house, especially with the stupid stories her dad keeps telling about things. She gets assigned a room, and has been told to sort things into broken and not broken, but not to throw anything away - “We don’t know what might be precious memories.” She chucks everything into a plastic bag unceremoniously. And takes it to the skip outside. It all looks like junk to her.
On her way back in, Alex runs into Flitty, who pulls her into the world of her memories.
Through the toilet and out into A Great Gatsby party. Flitty knows exactly where she’s going - she gets Alex through and sits her down to tell her the story. It’s a route through a convoluted list of people following a lost mask at the party via a tango, climbing through a window and the kitchen sink. She introduces Alex to the people and then shows Alex the mask, given her by James. Alex touches it and WHOOM! They’re back in the real world. (Alex briefly spots a blue moth, but it’s not made a huge point of. “Well, I didn’t remember everything perfectly! I filled in the boring gaps with more exciting things!”)
Flitty tries to pull Alex along into more memories, but Alex resists. She wants an explanation. Flitty pulls her into a new memory before she can stop her.
Alex falls through a picnic basket into a riverside scene. Alex refuses to go on until she has an explanation. Flitty explains that she is a memory of Alex’s grandmother, and Grandmother Felicity’s death has caused all the memories of Flitty to become loose, because no one is alive to remember them. The only way they can be saved is if someone living can remember them, and Alex is perfect because she still has enough belief to enter the world of memories (not as much as the kids, they would have been much easier to work with) and learn them from Flitty herself. Once the story is known, they can save the memory in a object that exists in the memory and the real world - a talisman. That way any time the object is seen the memory is remembered, meaning people are less likely to forget. “Writers understood it - immortality, darling. Keep yourself alive in worlds that you designed yourself!” And Flitty, who can move in the real world but not interact with it, can move between memories via routes in a house rich with memories of her. Having talismans nearby and knowing where they are give her shortcuts to them. If the memories are not saved, Flitty could drift away into nothingness. Alex agrees to help her just once more, and then get William or Naomi to come and help.
Alex walks through the riverside world with Flitty and takes in the scene. Flitty talks about the memories she has of this place. She introduces Alex to James, seen briefly at the end of the party - her partner in crime. There are some woods across the river. They board a boat and start rowing down the river.
Alex meets Hemmel the Angry German Beetle. He is not happy with the way he has been remembered. Flitty explains that she and Mark made the joke about Hemmel the Beetle on one of their days out here and he stuck. Hemmel wants Alex to remember him differently, tries to wheedle in great good looks, hundreds of women throwing themselves at him. Something dark watches from the banks. Blue moths flutter among the reeds.
Alex walks with Mark and Flitty into the forest. There is a magical faerie banquet. They enter the Court of Oberon and Titania and dance a roundel with the faeries. Alex says, “This can’t have been real.” Flitty says, “It was real for us. This was what I remembered.” Narnia is mentioned. And Alex understands why her dad tells the cousins the tall tales. Flitty and Mark dance together, young and happy. Alex meets Oberon who declares that she is, “Not of this world,” and warns her of dangers, saying she should not treat her duty lightly. Alex can’t see what the harm is in enjoying herself - time moves different here, she could collect hundreds of memories before the day was out! Alex has an altercation with a horrible spoilt faerie - a lot like how she used to be. She saves a teacup faerie - and realises it was one she threw away. She resolves to go and save it.
Alex spots the blue moths and asks Flitty, but Flitty isn’t overly interested. A shadowy figure comes over to Alex, asking if she is admiring his moths. She asks what they are, and he explains that they are bred beyond memories, like sniffer dogs or bloodhounds, and they trace through the darkness beyond, heading towards the brightest, most wonderful memories, to bask in their glow. Alex agrees that they are very pretty and asks why the figure breeds them. He explains he is not from these memories. He has come from Porlock on important business. “What important business?” “Revitalisation. Rebirth. These memories will give me new life in the real world, especially ones as strong as these. They look positively delicious.” The stranger reveals himself as a vortex of darkness and teeth and attacks Alex, biting her. She cries out and the party stops. The stranger jumps back like he’s been electrocuted and disappears off into the trees wrestling with a golden light. The party is over. Flitty shows Alex the talisman - The Storyteller’s Circle - and they return to the real world.
Alex draws the line. She’s just been attacked by a horrible monster. Flitty’s just going to have to fend for herself. She’s not going back anywhere, and she’s not sending one of her cousins off either. She walks off.
…And discovers no one in the house can see her! She goes back to Flitty to ask what’s happened, and they realise it must have happened when the Porlock attacked her. Flitty doesn’t know a whole lot about Porlocks - but she knows someone who does. Someone who was once forgotten by everyone and had to deal with them first-hand. They crawl under an opera ballgown.
…and appear under the ballgown of a singing diva in a crumbling Italian theatre. This is Flitty’s memory of a theatre she worked in for close to a year - as they walk around they come across scenes from across the years, seasons out of time, catch different scenes from different plays as you walk between the curtains in the wings. They meet the characters of Commedia Dell’Arte, who are good fun. And they meet Bussy D’Ambois, who’d been written into a play that was never performed and forgotten for hundreds of years. He’s fought with Porlocks sword to fang, and was saved when they play was rediscovered by a theatre company and performed, spreading his name back out into the world. He doesn’t know how to get Alex’s reality back, but he knows the best way to weaken a Porlock is to keep as many memories from being lost as possible. He will also explain that Porlocks are trying to become human and destroy memories in the real world. He gives Alex his sword, that has protected him from many a Porlock, and she may be able to fight the Porlock for her reality. “But what can a Porlock do with my reality?” Nothing, probably. A Porlock can’t attack a real person, reality isn’t something they can digest. It’s an “Unless they figure out how to open doors,” moment.
Immediately followed by a cut back to the Porlock wrestling with Alex’s reality outside of the memories and finding himself catapulted into the real world! He looks around at all the trinkets, all the shortcuts into Flitty’s life, and rubs his grubby little paws together.
Flitty and Alex return to the real world via a Bussy D’Ambois poster (to the room where the Porlock just was, but isn’t now, ooooooh) and Alex is resolved to go fight the Porlock. Suddenly Flitty begins to go all funny. Bits of her memories are disappearing. They realise the Porlock must be tearing through her memories at break-neck speed. How has he managed this? Alex’s reality. It’s given him access to the other side of the balloon strings. Alex gets Flitty to concentrate on what’s disappearing right now. It’s a garden scene. They run out to the front door and climb through a wellington boot.
Into a scene outside a garden maze. The Porlock is disappearing into the maze. James is there because of course he is, they did this one together. They chase the Porlock, but as Flitty’s memory begins to fade the route changes, they get lost, separated from each other. Alex runs into the Porlock, James defends her and gets bowled into the roiling foliage. Alex finds Flitty, follows the Porlock’s moths and hacks her way to the middle where they reach a statue Alex recognises from the garden. She touches it and they get back to the real world.
But the Porlock follows them through! Alex draws her sword and chases the Porlock through the house. She turns into a room in time to see him climbing through a life ring on the wall. Alex and Flitty dive through after him.
And onto a cruise ship! Flitty was on this on her way back home from a world trip. They chase the Porlock - it’s a race for the talisman. If they can get to the talisman before him, that’s his route out and Alex can fight him. Flitty struggles to remember that the talisman must be her stickered suitcase. They find the suitcase and run into the Porlock - who changes the memory and makes the ship sink! They lose the suitcase which the Porlock grabs, “Have this memory! I don’t want it anyway, I think it’s leaking,” dons a captain’s hat and devours the suitcase, disappearing. Alex and Flitty are stuck on the sinking ship with no way of getting the suitcase. Alex runs around with a failing Flitty on the ship which is filling with water. In the lower decks they find a diving suit which Alex recognises. With water pouring in she straps herself and Flitty into it and they appear in the corridor back at home.
Flitty is now too far gone. Alex can’t get any clues about where to go next. In a last ditch attempt to find James, she opens a wardrobe and bundles into it, demanding to be taken to Narnia!
They emerge from the wardrobe into a decimated ashen wasteland. This memory has already been attacked. James is sat in the mess of it all, despondent. Flitty runs to him - and it’s not James! It’s the Porlock, nearly human! He attacks Flitty, draining all but the last of her energy. Alex grabs her and pulls her back into the wardrobe, but it’s now an empty wardrobe. They’re trapped.
Alex tries to revive Flitty but she’s nearly gone. The Porlock is hammering at the doors and walls, taunting them.
Alex decides she’s going to go and face the Porlock. Flitty says no, she should try and escape and use Flitty as a distraction. Alex says if the Porlock wants Flitty, he’ll have to go through her. Coz she’s a HERO now.
Alex goes out to fight the Porlock. The sword has a memory of fighting, so Alex puts up a bit of a fight. It looks for a second like she might win! But then the Porlock uses a nasty underhand trick, disguising himself as Flitty. While Alex is distracted the Porlock knocks the sword away. Alex is defenceless, and the Porlock gloats a little about how he’s going to become human and build flats over all the beautiful buildings, and close down libraries due to lack of public funding, and that Alex is going to make this all possible. Might be able to remind Alex that she doesn’t care. Zing. Then he ATTACKS! And DEVOURS her! Alex is dead. End of novel.
OR SO WE THOUGHT!
From within the Porlock, Alex is reunited with her reality and becomes a real person again. Porlocks cannot attack real people and due to the paradox, the Porlock unwravels like a jumper and explodes! All his moths burst into flames as the bright shining memories flood back into the world. Alex has just enough time to see Flitty and James reunited, loving, happy, “You did it Alex!” before…
WHUMPH. Alex is back in the real world. Aunt Hannah comes up and asks where she’s been. “But thank you for the work you did on the room, did you throw much away?” Alex remembers all the stuff she chucked and is like, “OMG NO!” and she runs down, drags the bag back out, puts everything back, saves the Teacup Fairy, goes running around looking for the talismans, gathering them together. Everyone’s looking at her like she’s nuts. She entreats Edmund not to let Mr Beigeman destroy the house. Mr Beigeman has disappeared, though he’s left his hat … wink The house is safe, and Edmund wants Alex to keep the things she’s picked up - “I’d rather they went to someone for whom they meant something.”
THE END MUFUKKAS!
The Porlocks don’t want memories to survive. They want to build new lives and new worlds and forget the old. It’s how they survive. They bring progress, they march things forward. They are common sense and new order.
Alex doesn’t care about the past. It didn’t happen to her and has had no impact on her. Until it does, at which point she learns to care, learns there are lessons and adventures and people she’d been missing out on.
Now, some of the family want to remember things. But there should be some people who don’t. And they should have good reasons too.
Bussy D’Ambois never held so much stock in history in his life, but is glad to be re-remembered and saved from the torment of oblivion.
Who’s on the side of the Porlocks? Those who want to drive things forward, who want revolutions. Let the old die. Make room for the new or there is no way to grow.
Alex and the Porlocks have a similar view. Until Alex begins to learn, we cannot just live in the past any more than we can forget it altogether.
Flitty didn’t want to live in the present. She was always harking back to eras that never were, or before her time. Oberon, the Gatsby party, the cruise liner, Narnia. She didn’t want anything thrown away, she wanted to live in the past, in the memories and the stories. It meant she didn’t live properly. MAYBE SHE DIDN’T HAVE ALL THOSE ADVENTURES! Or had them when she was younger and then never again, was never brave enough to on her own, after she lost her love. She’d rather live in those old worlds than move on and make new memories.