So, I’m deep into my revision of Starfighters: Infection, my 1000-page epic sci-fi story. One thing that’s utterly fascinating to me, having lived through drafting this thing, is how the PSR turned out.
I figured out the storyform pretty early in the draft (around page 30) and it turned out to be correct, though I recall I wasn’t certain of Driver until the midpoint. However, I had some trouble using the PSR while writing. Although I had loosely outlined the story, it was sort of just a “bunch of important scenes” outline, which I knew where they vaguely were in the story, and knew a couple of them were Act Turns, but definitely hadn’t connected all the dots.
While drafting, I tried to use the PSR but kind of gave up by Act 2… I found I had trouble seeing which PSR item I was currently on, and sometimes it seemed like the PSR items were going in different orders, repeating, etc. The one thing I did find was the entire QUAD of the PSR always felt right, e.g. the feeling of Closure/Hope/Dream/Denial was absolutely perfect for OS Act 3, and I decided that was good enough. So while drafting I felt like I was hitting various PSR items at various times throughout the act. And I was happy to just let that happen.
But lo and behold, now that I have a complete draft and have gone through and analyzed every single scene to see what the exact conflict is … the PSR sequences are SUPER clear to me. I can even give each sequence of scenes a title that fits perfectly, like an act within an act.
Here’s an example from my notes on the first two acts (focused on OS):
Act 1 (Being)
Opening (scenes 1-2)
VALUE - the value of the Gyrfalcon, and of keeping more good fighters on Earth; bystander Devin having little value i.e. being expendable; (a bunch of Value was in backstory too)
Getting Involved With the Club and the Unworlded (scenes 3-11)
CONFIDENCE: Simon’s confidence in Becca as a recruiter; Becca lacking confidence in the Club (making it difficult to bring her back); Bertram’s supreme confidence in his superiority; Cole putting his confidence in Devin (thus getting Devin involved in everything)
Professor Bertram Abducts Becca (and Fallout) (scenes 12-20)
WORRY: Becca worries about Cole and her mom and then about the portable detector; Bertram worries about what Becca saw so kidnaps her; Devin’s worry is what gets him to go in and save Becca; Becca worries about the upcoming interrogation.
Club Interrogation (scenes 21-29)
WORTH: (?) This one is not as clear, which is interesting because the interrogation scenes do fall a little flat (see next post for more on this). But the good parts do fit Worth: The worth vs. worthlessness of Club rules, Alice finding worth in Becca’s feelings for her mother, Becca making Devin her wildcard even though he’s not truly worthy of it (I should probably hint at that in the scene with Simon!).
Act 2 (Becoming)
Meeting Cole (scenes 30-42)
INVESTIGATION: The bug/tracker investigating them; Devin “investigating” or looking into what the Club really is; Becca meeting Cole in order to investigate his warnings and her aunt’s death; Devin and Eric looking around for Becca; Bertram and Mandy investigating what happened to their comrade (injected into Becca).
Becca Learns About the Cure – And Protects It (scenes 43-52)
APPRAISAL: This whole thing is about Becca making a limited initial assessment about what Chatham tells her, about the cure, and then acting on that appraisal (assessing that she has to blue-pill Max). While Devin and Max fail to appraise Becca’s demeanor and the situation properly.
Deciding About The Club (scenes 53-64)
REAPPRAISAL: Devin reappraises joining the Club (with Jess’s help); Becca reappraises Devin as a recruit; Devin reappraises Becca’s request when they race.
Passing The Test (scenes 65-72)
DOUBT: Okay, this whole thing is perfectly about doubt about the Club, doubting what’s going on, doubting the skydive…