My experimentation with Terry Pratchett’s “scaffolding story” writing process continues, now with ingredients from the Eleusinian Mysteries!
Not many ingredients. Just a bit.
Okay, so remember how I wrote the alpha draft of Wealthgiver by the seat of my pants? I skipped chunks of plot, went with whatever whims took me, and generally had a good time for about ninety minutes four days a week until I hit the end of the story. For draft two, though I needed more structure.
For that structure, I turned to the Eleusinian Mysteries, which include a narration of the story of Demeter’s search for her daughter Persephone, after Persephone is stolen by Hades. It’s split into three phases: Descent, Search, and Ascent. First Hades abducts Persephone, then Demeter searches for her, then Persephone comes back from the underworld. It’s actually a rather good mystery story.
Anyway, I matched that up to the three-act structure, where the book’s hero gets abducted, then casts around trying to figure out ever comfortable way to solve his problem, until he finally makes the sacrifice needed to become the person who can solve the problem. The first two items in that list are specific scenes in the story (the inciting incident and the inflection point before the climax), but the middle part is the whole second act. That second act, is anchored by its midpoint (the middle of the book), where the character thinks “is this who I am?”
I found that point in the story and discovered something: the stuff I had written last year was almost completely contained in the second half. The first half of the story was still mostly missing. So I – I actually don’t know why I did this – I mirrored the whole book around its midpoint. I took every scene in the second half and made a mirror-scene of it in the first half (and vice-versa). So for example there’s a scene near the beginning where the hero is dragged into the underworld. Then near the end, there’s a scene where he willingly goes back into the underworld in order to save someone.
I juggled those scenes around for a few days until I had a chain of plot points the filled up the blank spaces in my manuscript. Then I prioritized the scenes based on how exciting or pivotal they were. Then I juggled them a bit more, lining up the symmetries in tension and theme and pacing just so…then I realized I was procrastinating and started writing again.
And a month later, here’s what I got!
Complete skeleton (beta draft) finished at 49, 218 words
Begun (writing) at 2:45pm on Thursday, April 16th 2020 in the highest chamber of the Balkan Tower of Matriarchy.
First line (of new scenes): “A little yellow snake slithered through the grass by the crack in the earth.”
Finished at 11am on Tuesday, May 26th 2020, still in that tower chamber.
Last line: “’It remains only for us to build something.'”