And we’re off! It’s the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo and we are on the go!
But where on earth do we start? If you haven’t already, have a look at the prep work spread from yesterday and see if that helps get the creative juirces going.
But a vague frame of the story and a vague character outline is going to get you to the finish line. There’s more to it than that if you want a good story. What makes a good story?
What we need, right here, right now, is a first scene. So what does that entail?
- Problem that propels the story forward
In fact, that could just about be what every scene entails. With the exception of the last few. Those scenes are generally wrapping up a problem. But we’re not there yet! At least, I’m not there yet.
First of all, to make for a good first scene, you need to know what the over-arching problem of the story as a whole is going to be. Then the first problem in the first scene can either contribute to the development of the whole problem, or it can be something which leads the MC to the inciting incident.
So today, we are going to look at two thing:
- How to discover your over-arching problem
- How to create a first scene that contributes to this problem.
The Over-Arching Problem
I’ve already written on how to create a developed plot in my post called ‘New Tarot Spread for Writing Prompts.’ In this, I give the spread for how to start a story if you have basically the concept of a story, but no plot to go along with it.
In my concept though, I already had a problem. That problem was that I had a character jealous of her husband and her mother and who felt like she lacked an identity. What about when we have the concept but no problem?
Let’s return to yesterday’s spread, in which we looked at the beginning, middle and end, and the themes that connected each Act. Let’s get rid of the climax and focus on the five cards before hand. It might be helpful if you lay the cards out again and look at them while you shuffle the rest of the cards.
When you’re ready, draw the top card, then cross it with a second card. The First card is going to represent the status at the beginning of the story based on your concentration of the story you already had vaguely outlined, and the card crossing it will be the over-arching problem for the story.
If you want to add more depth to it, look at the numbers again, and combine them, reducing them down to a single digit, which will point you to a Major Arcana Card.
Opening Scene Spread
Now, I like to overly complicate things. I sometimes like to overly outline things. So I have quite a complicated reading for my first scene. But I’ll let you be the ones to decide.
At this point you should have your character developed, at least enough to get them interacting with other characters on the page. If not, I have a spread to help you develop an Antagonist to go along with your Protagonist and help you drive the story forward. Pick a signifier card that you feel matches your MC before you get too far into this. If you’re still developing your character but have an idea of your plot, then pick a card that you feel represents what you have for your plot so far.
Right, are you ready for this?
Card 1: Opening Hook
You’ll draw the first card which will represent your over-arching theme of your hook, or the quick one sentence summary of your opening hook. Then you’ll draw three more cards, putting the first card to the left of it, the second card across Card 1, and then your third card to the right of it. These cards will be labeled a b and c.
- A represents the problem
- B represents the solution
- C represents how this relates to the bigger problem of the story.
All three of these should support and contribute to Card 1, or be details of Card 1.
Card 2: Setting
This card is going to represent the setting of your first scene. There are a few ways of going about this. This can be what you see in the card, or it can be the general feel of it. It can be a story that you associate with the suit, or a place that you feel is represented within the colors. You interpret this how you’d like. This card is placed under Card 1, and has three cards placed under it, labeled d, e, and f.
- D represents the MC’s mental state in this setting. So if it’s a nice setting but your MC is in a bad place mentally, it will change the perception of the setting.
- E is the physical setting. This will contribute more specifically to Card 2 and the description of the place. Again, interpret this how you will, but try and combine it with Card 2 as a whole.
- F is the feeling of the setting. This is the general energy of the setting, how it feels maybe to those outside the MC’s head, since their perspective of the place is set by Card D.
Card 3: Conclusion of the Scene
You’ll place Card 3 on the left side of Card A. This is going to be what the whole scene is driving toward. This is how you’ll close your scene. Try and see what you can do to make all the other cards steer specifically toward this card.
Card 4: What This Scene Sets Up
Place this card on the right hand side of Card C. The purpose of this card is to act as the transition into the next scene. This prepares you for what’s to come next, whenever it is you write it.
When considering this card, try and link it to the theme of the first half the book, as well as your card for the Act 1 of the spread from yesterday.
Right, so, as promised, I’ll be looking at following my own layouts. Because I got the 8 of Pentacles for my starting position in my spread yesterday, I’m going to use that as my signifier today, as I feel that it aptly summarizes my character.
- Card 1: The Starting Point—The Ace of Pentacles Reversed. This is perfect, as it corresponds with my theme for the first half of the book that I pulled yesterday—exactly in fact, since I got the Ace of Pentacles then as well. However, since it’s reversed, I would see this as money problem. Quite possibly broke. But then again, I’m writing a fantasy piece with a person who’s honing in on their skills, so that doesn’t seem too outlandish.
- Card 2: The Problem: Death. Well. I feel like this is a little too obvious, really. Change in the problem. But I can take it quite literally as well, and be that the over-arching problem is Death. Or, on a deeper level, it can be my MC’s concept of mortality looming over them in such a way that it paralyses them.
Opening Scene Spread
Card 1: Opening Hook – 9 of Wands
This is a card of someone on guard. There is someone who has worked really hard, who has always fought for their way of living, perhaps their passion and business. Thus, they need to let go and hand off the watch to someone else.
Regarding the MC, I think this is what my MC is training for, what they’re diligently working toward in their craft. While I know I said yesterday that it might be saddle-making, I might change that. I have something in the middle of a city in mind, and while I don’t’ think that saddle making wouldn’t be in the city, I just don’t think that’s right. But I think that the person my MC works for is looking to hand off the business, if my MC will invest in it. Which is where the problem for the money comes in. My MC needs some funds to make that happen.
The problem is that the MC needs time. They can’t act right away. They need to save up the money, and learn what the business itself needs, never mind be skilled enough in the craft itself to carry it on solo. The solution is a wealthy woman (9 of Pentacles). She could be able to at least loan the money to my MC. The Ace of Swords in the position of the smaller problem connecting to a bigger problem is a letter, a message that throws a wrench in the works. I think this might be a legal matter.
Card 2: Setting – Strength reversed
The Setting is Strength. This indicates to me that it’s a hostile environment, someplace where people are just aggressive, possibly physically pushy. The card I’m using in the Trippin’ Waite deck is a really lovely environment, with a giant sunflower as a sun, and rainbows, and a hill. This could actually be the garden to the wealthy woman.
The mental state of my MC is the 6 of Swords reversed, which is that they’re just going along, but don’t really see any solution. There’s no good option available to them so far (which teis back to my 2 of Swords yesterday with the decision they don’t want to make), and the physical setting seems unbalanced (2 of Pentacles reversed). It could be that the garden of the wealthy woman is beautiful and serine, but in the middle of a hostile city, and there are dangerous guards everywhere. Her garden is filled with beautiful, but poisonous things. The feeling of the setting is the King of Swords—I think this will tie in to the Ace of Swords. I feel like he represents a highly appointed Judge, or someone with workings in justice and legalities. Possibly philosophy as well, though we’ll see how much I want to go into this. Someone of wealthy and high esteem, but also quite knowledgeable.
Card 3: Conclusion of the Scene – Ace of Wands
There is a new opportunity, there is something within the realm of my MC’s passions that gives them an idea as a potential solution to their problem.
Card 4: The Set-Up – Queen of Swords reversed
What this scene sets up for the next scene is definitely connected to this King and Ace of Swords. Perhaps it is that the wealthy woman is related to the King of Swords. She illegally gives out loans, and my MC hasn’t actually met her, but has only heard of her services.
How’s your first day going? Was this spread helpful for you?
I still have space in my Cabin, so if you’d like to join me, let me know!
Also, here are some additional linkes that might be helpful during the writing process: