Sarah Mussi's Here be Witches blog tour – post two

During my blog tour I will be interviewing myself on HOW TO WRITE A SEQUEL!

So here goes…

Sarah interviews Sarah on how to write a sequel in a thrilling and compelling romantic fantasy!

Sarah

Welcome to the world of WRITING A SEQUEL.

I am using Here be Witches to explain my thinking on how I did it.

Sarah

Okay great. I shall be asking you lots of questions … now where did we get to? 

Sarah

A.

We got to the narrative equation and writing a synopsis.

Q.

Ah! I remember you were going to share the synopsis of Here be Witches, can you do that now?

A.

Well, a synopsis can go on for a bit longer than you might want to post here, and a synopsis for a sequel might have to contain vital exposition from book one … so I’ll just put the beginning of the synopsis for Here be Witches in this blog. The beginning is always the most important bit anyway, as it sets the scene, identifies the genre and whets the appetite (hopefully) for more. So here goes …

Here be Witches

Ellie’s heart is broken and there is only one person who can mend it: Henry Pendragon, royal heir and Y Ddraig Goch, Red Dragon of Wales. But Henry can’t help Ellie, for he is badly wounded and entombed under Mount Snowdon, held there by ancient magic along with Sir Oswald, his fiendish uncle, and White Dragon of Wessex.

Determined to free Henry, Ellie dedicates herself to the task. On the 29th February, an auspicious day in the calendar of dragons, she receives a distressed message from her bestie, Rhiannon, something terrible has happened at Henry’s cavern. Her heart misses a beat. As soon as possible, Ellie sets out for Dinas Emrys where Henry lies imprisoned.

On her arrival at the lair, Ellie discovers that her friend, and other members of a witches’ coven have performed a sinister ritual on the cliffs above the subterranean cavern, a ceremony designed to break the magic laid upon the dragons and awake them.  

In horror Ellie hears how the ceremony went terribly wrong. The earth cracked wide, one of the girls slipped into the chasm and was impaled upon two shimmering crystals. With a sound like thunder, the mountain split open and from inside it arose a terrifying white dragon, alive, awake and very angry …

Q.

Yes, I see how each paragraph is a scene with some paragraphs acting as exposition too, but I can also see that because you have chosen to have Ellie as the narrator again, you have been unable or chosen not to have her see the witches’ ceremony first hand. Why was that?

A.

OK, those are very perceptive questions, and I can’t answer them fully until we have established a few basics. Can I just go back to basics for a minute?

Q.

Sure. Go ahead. 

A.

Right before we dive into the content and the problems of point of view and the delivery of ‘off stage’ scenes, I’d like to show you how I answered some fundamental narrative questions when planning Here be Witches. They involve looking at:

What exactly is a narrative?

What exactly is a plot?

What exactly is structure?

Q.

Why do you need to ask that?

A.

It really helps with the planning. Here’s why…

In a narrative you need at least three things:

A character, a setting, some events (so in Here be Witches that breakdown runs like this: Ellie lives in Snowdonia and must overcome problems to achieve her goal).

In a plot we need at least three things

A character, a goal, a problem (so Ellie’s goal is to be with her true love Henry, but the magic, which has gone wrong, has banished Henry forever from the world).

For a structure we at least need three things

A beginning, middle, and an end (therefore Ellie must discover why Henry has been banished and then set out to find a way to reverse the magic and restore Henry to her and finally overcome those who wish to stop her).

Once you’ve got that in place then you can then decide about narration and point of view and ask yourself, if your lead character/protagonist is really the best person to tell this story and the one most affected by the action in general. If the answer is yes – you can then use additional devices to ‘show’ key ‘off stage’ scenes that are not within the remit of the protagonist’s point of view.

Only then can you really start to climb the narrative mountain and plan out a totally thrilling story.

Q.

OK, but how did you decide Ellie WAS the best character to narrate this story?

A.

Well despite the fact that she was the narrator in book one Here be Dragons and there might be readers who are already invested in her story, I had to establish that she was still the best character to continue to tell the story and to do this I had to revisit an important principle – that it’s not what happens in a story, so much as who it happens to that is the most important aspect. Readers live the story through the characters, so they need a really nice/reliable (usually)/interesting and convincing companion to see/live the events through. 

Q.

But what makes an interesting, convincing character?

A.

Good question! Here’s the way I decide:

Firstly a character needs characteristics

A main character should be heroic, and strong (perhaps)? Good-looking (controversial?) Independent? Kind? I try to think of characters I admire in fiction I’ve read and ask myself why do I like them? Then add my answers into the mix when creating my characters.

I also like to choose a flaw that my protagonist will need to overcome. Flaws make us human and help readers to identify with the character and understand the decisions they make. (My flaw for Ellie is that she is loving out of her element, and it is bringing harm down on those others who love her and on her home.)

Secondly, a character drives the plot forward

So a goal is important, as this is the engine of the story. I always choose the person who has the strongest/most interesting/most identifiable with goal to narrate my stories (forbidden love is a V strong goal and has driven many a better narrative than mine!). The character’s desire to achieve their goal drives the action forward, and when the character meets conflict they struggle to overcome it. 

Note to self pinned on my wall: PROTAGONISTS MUST CONFRONT OVERWHELMING CONFLICT IN THEIR PURSUIT OF SOME VISIBLE GOAL. 

This is so key because then the plot structure simply follows the sequence of events that lead the hero toward their goal, which mean all the hard work of plotting is done for me! 

Thirdly, a character with a goal has motivation

Motivations make the character keep going when things get tough. Though sometimes it is the fear of what will happen if they fail and the stakes that drive them forward.

Finally, a character needs a background

Name/age and looks/ family/a place to live – all these things can help to make the story just right for the reader – as I choose a protagonist that might be very like the reader in some of these aspects to create reader identification.

After thinking about all of these points I decided that Ellie was still the main character and I was going to tell the story from her point of view.

Q.

So will you tell us then how you dealt with ‘off stage’ scenes and what devices you used to help the reader feel present at the action? 

A.

Yes!

I’ll do that in my next post!

So stand by for tomorrow’s blog with tips and tricks for drip-feeding or even elbowing-in all the dreaded EXPOSITION and POV conundrums! 

SEE YOU THERE!