The best thing I learned in screenwriting was The Rule of 10. Basically, if there is something that needs to happen in your story, come up with a list of 10 reasons why that thing happened. The first one will be cliche. The second one will be, too. The third will be pretty familiar. But by the time you’ve gotten to 10, you’ve come up with a couple of things that are pretty unique.
An example: in The Physicist (working title for the prequel to The Rival), Iago Andronicus’ brother Armando needs to be at the research station with Iago in Hawai’i. I did not use The Rule of 10. So my first thought was Iago and Armando grew up in a rough neighborhood, and Iago was getting Armando away from their abusive father. When I told my sister this on the phone, she was like “Ug! Cliche! Racist! Forget about it.” She was right.
This has been percolating for a couple of months now. The progression has been:
- Bad neighborhood / abusive father
- Orphaned in terrible car accident
- Distant, preoccupied parents usually send Armando to camp anyway
- Summer vacation
- Armando is interested in nature conservation
- There was a house fire, and while Iago was able to pull Armando out of the flames, the trauma has caused Armando to become withdrawn and uncommunicative. Perhaps a new setting will help him to recover.
I still haven’t made it to 10, but I really like #6 because, without giving too much away, there are some ways it ties nicely into not just the rest of the story arc for The Physicist, but The Emissary as well. I’ll still keep playing with this list. You get the idea.
So, how about some surf music?
If you’ve read The Rival, you’ll find something familiar in the name Armando Andronicus. He’s Dr. Iago’s little brother. And where we pick up with Bex at the start of The Emissary, he’s been in stasis for 17 years. Armando might look like he’s asleep on a space mission to a far off galaxy… but he’s not.
Meanwhile, Bex comes face-to-face with the leader of The Insurgency. More on her later. But she also meets Kimora Khan, the leader’s little sister. And what Bex doesn’t know is that Kimora has been trying to find Armando since she last saw him in Hawai’i… 17 years ago.
Kimora is an expert in bird conservation, just like her big sister. One of her key areas of study is the ‘I’iwi bird.
‘I’iwi, or Scarlet Hawaiian Honeycreeper
In Hawaiian poetry, the sweetheart is personified in the ‘I’iwi. It is mentioned in one of my all time favorite Hawaiian songs, Ka Ipo Lei Manu (My Cherished Sweetheart). Enjoy.
And let’s hope Kimora doesn’t do anything crazy…
When we leave Bex and her friends at the end of The Rival, we’re left asking questions that The Emissary is going to have to answer. Who is really in charge of The Insurgency? Why are the Electroleviathans getting involved now? What made Dr. Andronicus go criminally insane? Who is The Man With the Beautiful Voice? And most importantly, what is Bex’s next move?
I’ve been working hard answering these questions. The process involves a lot of me turning into a prune in the shower while I space out pondering how the Mauna Loa Space Observatory might be involved, and what is the Latin word for destruction. (Not going to post any pictures of that!) But it also includes scribbling down a lot of questions on a notepad and key plot points on post-its, like this:
Then, I start organizing the post-its by act and scene, like this:
Then I usually stare into space for a while longer, pondering the intricacies of time travel, and how to save the endangered Honey Creeper. It’s around this point that I am both very excited, but also pretty overwhelmed. How is all of this going to turn into a story? But somehow it does. I can’t wait to see how it turns out.