One of the changes that I’m making to Perceval in this rewrite is to bring back the prologue I’d written for earlier drafts. I no longer care what the publishing industry thinks about prologues to novels. My initial impulse to write it was correct. It is my “Sing, Muse” introduction to all the big conflicts that thread through the series. It introduces a social conflict that plays out on a personal level for Evan and becomes a matter of life or death for him. So, it’ll be back in but it needs an overhaul.
The first thing I realized: not enough tension. A few days later, as I was sitting on a city bus on my way home after a full day of work at the day-job, I started to see the problem in terms of point of view. I think I’ve begun with the wrong point of view, although I’ll need to shift to Randall Quinn’s (Evan’s father) for a while then back to the Lieutenant’s. I need also to heighten the conflict between them. They’ve known each other for years, their sons are around the same age and were in the same schools, they lived in the same neighborhood until the Lieutenant received a promotion and big bump in pay. Their sons have a history, too, but one the father’s aren’t really aware of. The fathers look at each other, standing in Randall’s study, and know only one thing: they hate each other.
Why? To answer this question, I need to shift from one point of view to another to show what each man is thinking in this situation. That’s when I realized that I need to begin with the “bad guy’s” view, his thoughts, his attitude toward Randall, his disgust. I need to show his lack of empathy. What does he want? He wants to kill Randall himself. What does Randall want?
Randall is a dissident, a leader of the Underground movement that the government has labeled domestic terrorists. Randall wants to protect his people, his networks, everything he’s worked for in protest of the dystopia America has become. At the same time, he wants to kill the Lieutenant, the leader of the group of Internal Security Services agents who have pushed their way into Randall’s study in the wee hours of the morning to arrest him.
What are the Lieutenant’s orders? Does Randall have a weapon? What will the other agents do if Randall full-on attacks the Lieutenant? I realized that if Randall were to do that, it would give the Lieutenant a reason to shoot him, and I wanted something else. I wanted the Lieutenant’s action to be wrong, illegal, personal. It must not be something that could be officially sanctioned so it would need to be covered up.
In the original draft, the other agents bring up Evan and taunt Randall with threats to Evan’s life. Suddenly, Randall’s motivation changes. Now he wants to protect his son. The dynamic changes as a result. It’s at this point that I need to shift to Randall’s point of view, I think. How does Randall feel about his son? What does he know about Evan? There needs to be tension within Randall’s thoughts also — he’s aware that he may not really know his son. But the one thing he does know is that Evan is a dedicated musician and conductor and would do nothing to jeopardize his music career. At this point, I need to slide back into the Lieutenant’s point of view and show his thoughts in juxtaposition to what his agents are saying. He knows this will not end well for the family Quinn.
Each character’s motivation must be clear and in conflict in order to create tension and suspense. The stakes need to be high. Now I just need to write the scene….