Fiction Writing Made Easy

#120: First Chapter Analysis: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros

December 12, 2023 Savannah Gilbo Episode 120
Fiction Writing Made Easy
#120: First Chapter Analysis: Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros
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Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

“I think that's really important at the end of every time that you write a scene. Ask yourself, how can I raise the stakes even more?” - Abigail K. Perry

Join us today as we embark on a thrilling literary journey through the fantastical world of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yaros. In this episode, I'm joined by Abigail K. Perry and I encourage you to read this mesmerizing tale, peel it apart with us, and participate in our analysis of it.

Read the blog post here!

Here's a preview of what's included:  

[05:42] Chapter summary: The first chapter of Fourth Wing leaves readers hanging on the edge, both emotionally and figuratively, setting the stage for a tale brimming with intrigue, familial conflict, and the high stakes of a world defined by war and loyalty.

[11:53] Macro analysis: This novel aims to captivate readers with its combination of action, fantasy, and romance within the new adult framework. The novel features a skillful balance between internal character development and external conflicts, seeking approval from parents, creating a rich narrative that explores both the character's inner struggles and the broader context of a war-torn world filled with secrets and conspiracies.

[32:54] Micro analysis: Discussing differing views on the crisis and turning point, a debate about whether to consider the author’s writing as one scene or split it into multiple scenes, and understanding the protagonist’s goal and actions and decisions within it. Also, there is the effectiveness of putting a crisis on the page, illustrating the character's internal struggle and the stakes involved.

[53:08] Final thoughts: The balance between setup and resolution in scenes, emphasizing the need for purposeful content that propels the plot forward, and the careful construction of scenes, focusing on character development, plot progression, and the effective integration of stakes and conflicts.

Links mentioned in this episode:

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Speaker 1:

It is a setup, so be prepared for that to pay off you know, it's another great setup that's going to pay off in some way.

Speaker 2:

Which is cool, because then you know, like most things, we want everything in our story to be serving multiple purposes. So this is showing us character, it's setting up something, it's providing conflict. You know it's doing a lot. So so that's. We found that to be a very significant decision, even though on first glance it might not seem like that big of a deal.

Speaker 2:

Welcome to the fiction writing made easy podcast. My name is Savannah Gilboe and I'm here to help you write a story that works. I want to prove to you that writing a novel doesn't have to be overwhelming, so each week, I'll bring you a brand new episode with simple, actionable and step-by-step strategies that you can implement in your writing right away. So whether you're brand new to writing or more of a seasoned author looking to improve your craft, this podcast is for you. So pick up a pen and let's get started.

Speaker 2:

In today's episode, Abigail Kay Perry and I are diving deep into the first chapter of Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yaros, and I'm super excited to share this episode with you because it is one of my most recent favorite stories. I just read the second book in the series and am equally obsessed with that one, but also we just dove into this whole entire book for our last book club meeting and it was my favorite book club meeting to date so we dug into the story to figure out how and why it worked and why it was so popular with readers. I'm sure even if you don't read fantasy, you've probably heard about Fourth Wing because it has made such a splash in the book world. So in a way, this episode is a special treat for those of you who came to our book club meeting. Thank you so much for being there. We didn't have time to dive into the first chapter, so Abigail and I really wanted to make sure that we tackled it on the podcast for you as a little bonus. And if you've never been to one of our book clubs and you like today's discussion about Fourth Wing, you can always access the replay by going to savannahgobocom forward slash book club and if you just scroll down to the bottom, you can find a link to the Fourth Wing recording.

Speaker 2:

Now, with all of that being said, I do have a special guest for this episode. She's the co-host of our book club. Her name is Abigail Kay Perry. She's a developmental editor and the host of an amazing podcast called Litmatch, where she helps writers find the best literary agent for their writing and publishing careers. I will link to her podcast in the show notes, as well as where you can find Abigail around the internet. But if you've ever tuned into one of these first chapter episodes, you know who Abigail is and you know the deal about these episodes.

Speaker 2:

In case you're brand new here, or in case you need a reminder, though, Abigail and I like to pick apart the opening chapters of stories to see how the author hooks our attention and pulls us into the rest of the book, and we're analyzing these opening chapters on both the macro and the micro level. So basically, we're asking why does this chapter work? And then how does the scene or the scenes within this chapter work? So how many scenes are there? And then how do they work together to create this chapter? So that's a very quick overview of what we're going to dig into today. You'll hear more explanation for everything once we get into the episode. So, with that being said, let's go ahead and dive right into the conversation. Hi.

Speaker 1:

Savannah, thanks for joining me today. I am super excited to dig into our analysis today. If you were unable to attend it, savannah and I actually hosted a book club on Fourth Wing and studying Fourth Wing, and this was a book Savannah brought to my attention. I had heard about it before, I knew the hype about it, but this pushed it to the top of my reading list when we started to read it for book club and it did not disappoint. The first chapter does not disappoint. It's a trickier one, I would say, to analyze. Would you agree with that, savannah?

Speaker 2:

Totally agree and just based on how much time we spent discussing it, it was definitely tricky but worth the thought exercise for sure.

Speaker 1:

Absolutely. So lots to dig into with this first chapter analysis. Savannah has a summary of it, which we will, of course, go over before we get into the chapter itself. That being said, I encourage you to read it and peel it apart with us and see what your analysis of it is. We will be using the seven key first chapter questions to do the big picture analysis how does this set us up for expectations of the story as a whole? And then we will dive into the scene structure, which is definitely a mind game. This is where we were debating a lot in that scene structure area, so we'll go in there with the five commandments of storytelling, as well as understanding what the character's goal is and how the scenes are executed. So let's go ahead. Savannah, do you want to go ahead and take over with the summary?

Speaker 2:

Sure, and just a spoiler alert, we'll definitely tell you guys why we struggled with deciding how many scenes were in this and kind of what we talked about. The other thing I'll just say up front, as we're going into talking about this, is that this is a great first chapter. You'll see why. We think that when we go through the seven key questions of you know what a first chapter should do, and I think there's something really unique about this first chapter in the way that it, you know, if we're looking at story structure methods something like Save the Cat it calls for scenes that are a setup of our story, and this first chapter does, I think, an excellent job of being the setup for the story, while also opening the door for the big picture and all the things that we're going to dig into, while having really tight scenes that raise the stakes. So I yes, I'm totally obsessed with this book. I'm a big fan girl of it, but I also think it's a very good craft example of a great first chapter. Anything to add there, abigail?

Speaker 1:

I think that's a great overview of it and I'm excited to dig into it. Okay, so I'll kick us off with the summary.

Speaker 2:

So this is just a very high level summary of what happens in the first chapter. So Violet Sorengale she's our main character. She's visiting her mother, general Sorengale, on Conscription Day to say goodbye. So Conscription Day there will be no spoilers in this. I should have said that earlier. No spoilers in case you haven't read the next book.

Speaker 2:

But Conscription Day we find out in chapter one is basically when the cadets in this war college choose the faction of service they're going to enter. So it's Conscription Day. Violet's going to say goodbye to her mom. She gets to the office and she overhears her sister, mira, arguing with their mother about Violet's poor chances of surviving Should she pursue a place among the writer's quadrant. So she's been trained her whole life to enter the scribe's quadrant but for some reason we don't know quite yet she's about to go into the writer's. So we hear Mira beg their mother to let Violet enter the scribe quadrant as planned, but Lilith refuses and kicks Mira out of her office. Shortly after that, mira helps Violet reorganize her pack in Violet's bedroom and gives her some protective clothing and some new boots and things like that to help her survive the upcoming experience, specifically crossing the parapet, which is something she needs to do to enter the writer's quadrant. Then Mira says that you need to be careful because even if you do survive the parapet, other cadets are going to try to kill you mainly because of your name. You're the general's daughter and the general obviously was responsible for killing a bunch of people in the war. That has already happened. But she says, hey, if you can find your childhood friend, dane Aetos, he will help protect you.

Speaker 2:

So we fast forward a little bit. Violet and Mira walk downstairs to the entrance and she's surveying kind of that tall tower of the writer's quadrant entrance and the parapet that sits at top. So it's a very thin wall, a kind of thin bridge that she has to cross to enter. And as they're standing there, mira continues to pepper Violet with advice as they wait and she says oh my gosh, I forgot the most important thing steer clear of Zaden Ryerson. He's the son of the great betrayer who led the rebellion years ago and he's definitely going to want to kill you with the first opportunity. So no big deal, right?

Speaker 2:

Then Mira leaves and Violet meets two other people who are trying to also join the quadrant, rhiannon and Dylan, as they climb up the tower to cross the parapet and then, at the top of the tower, the three of them prepared across and then one of the people that's kind of monitoring who crosses at what time is this really good looking guy who just happens to be Zaden Ryerson, the guy that is destined to kill her, according to Mira. So they confront each other and Zaden reminds Violet that hey, your mother executed my father. And Violet says, yeah, that is true, but your father killed my brother. So there's a lot of tension and that tension is broken when Dylan screams and we see that he's fallen from the parapet and he is dead and that ends the first chapter.

Speaker 1:

Big stakes in multiple playing fields. Yes, a lot of stuff happening too. Yeah, yeah, I think this is. Let me see, I have the printed copy in front of me and I don't know. You might know the word count, I think, savannah, I think you've lost that out. It's 20 pages long, though, in the printed copy. So how many words today, was it?

Speaker 2:

let's see, let's see, let's see two, four I'm just doing some math.

Speaker 1:

Six, it's about yeah, it's about 8,000-ish words, which is a big opening chapter, a big opening chapter, and we'll get into this when we do the scene structure. But I think that it's very important to see how to break down the scenes, to see it not as just like one there's one chapter, but reinforcing that there can be multiple scenes in one chapter. So how to write that tightly? We're going to get into genre. We are working with fantasy, so there is room for some higher work count, but we'll see why it works well, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And so just a quick note. So when we were analyzing this and I was kind of doing my pre-work, I looked at this. You know the word count for the chapter and that was a thing that stood out to me because typically, you know, you hear the advice. We want to capture readers' attention as quick as we can. We hear some advice these days, like make your chapters on the shorter side because we have less attention span. But you know, in this case none of that seems to apply. So part of what I wanted to dig into and study is like well then, why does this work? Because it worked for me really well. It hooked me We'll see in a second. It did all the things the first chapter should. So, yeah, again, you'll just hear me kind of be obsessed with this the whole time, but I think it's a great example.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, all right, so let's talk about why we're obsessed, and to do that, we'll start with the seven key first chapter questions. So these are going to focus on macro, or big picture. How does this novel, how does this opening of the novel, prepare us for what the novel as a whole is and why we should get excited about it? The first question deals with genre and oh and these come from Polymunes, the writer's guide to beginnings.

Speaker 2:

Which we'll link to in the show notes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, if you're ever looking for a good resource on writing story beginnings, and the first of these we categorize as really fitting genre If you've listened to other episodes before. We separate content genre from commercial genre, commercial genre how is it marketed? Content genre what is the content of the book? So what kind of story is it and how does this first chapter appeal to that? Content genre and commercial genre?

Speaker 2:

So the commercial genre we've landed on is this is a new adult story. So that's a new adult's kind of one of those squishy categories that if you're a reader of new adult you know fullheartedly believe that it exists. Because it does and we love it. Publishers kind of maybe aren't quite there yet for some reason, whatever. But this it tends to be targeted at readers who are between 18 and 25. So it's a new adult fantasy novel and it's often referred to as romantic because it's such a big mix of that action slash, fantasy and romance. So that's the commercial genre and then the content genre. This is an action story primarily. We'll talk about that more in the plot section, like why it is and Violet, the main character, goes through an internal worldview arc. So it's a mixture of the action and worldview content genres.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, definitely. I second everything that Savannah says. You know this is an action genre and right away the death stakes are high. They're on page one. They're reinforced in ways that raise the stakes as we go through the events that are unfolding in the first chapter. So we know that we're dealing with life or death here. At the same time, this is a romantic scene, so we are having a very strong love story, a romance inside the story as well, and I think that this does a really good job at still prioritizing the death stakes but getting those love stakes in there in the first chapter as well, at least, like with the attraction and the heat with Zana Mejersen. So I think that, while you can see, love stakes are in this, death stakes are prioritized. So we're leaning on that action genre.

Speaker 1:

And, yeah, interesting with the new adult, I've heard this term, been familiar with this term since probably like 20, I mean, it's probably even before this, but I started to become familiar with it around like 2014, 2013. And yeah, it's interesting, savannah, that it's never really become a big thing in publishing. I felt like it was there for a while. I actually attended the righteous digest courses on it and then it faded away for a while. So I don't really know the reason for that, but we were falling into the ages of the protagonist and the main characters here in that age range and it appeals, I think, a lot to those target readers as well, although it can expand beyond that age, of course.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so it's one of those things that like, if you're a reader of this genre, you're like it totally exists, right, it's just there's, for some reason, there's that disconnect with publishers. Hopefully we'll see that change because I mean, obviously these, some of these books that are in new adults are some big hitters. But to piggyback off what you just said, so I think it's cool, like, yes, we've set up all these life and death stakes. We know that she's about to cross the parapet, which she doesn't think she'll really survive. She hopes she will, but she's not sure, based on a lot of reasons.

Speaker 2:

And then we also hear about, and hear about to the two love interests that are coming up, so Dane Atoes, and they didn't Ryerson, who we actually meet. So all that set up and for anyone that's writing a romantic, we did a deep dive of the key elements of romantic in the book club meeting and if you want to catch a replay of that because we can't go deep into everything here but the replay can be found at savannahgilbocom forward slash book dash club and we will link to that in the show notes as well- Great, okay, let's move on to the second question.

Speaker 1:

This deals with plot, and the question is what is the story really about?

Speaker 2:

Right, and so we get a huge look at that in this first chapter. It's about survival, and the question that we're kind of asking is is Violet going to become a writer, is she going to survive everything the writers quadrant entails, or is she going to die trying to become a writer? So that's on our mind from literally the first couple of pages.

Speaker 1:

Yes, and I mean I'm trying to pull some quick lines in this, but even like line one, conscription day is always the deadliest, right, but right away, like we're hearing the deadliest in there, visualizing the parapet. I think it's Amazon. Did Amazon just pick this book up for a TV series? I think so. Yeah, I think so. So they just picked this up and this whole first chapter. I mean talk about visually appealing, about what it's really about with crossing the parapet.

Speaker 1:

We're going to, like Savannah said, we're probably going to get into why Violet doesn't think that she or there's a high chance that she doesn't think that she'll survive this first day. It deals a lot with her character and I'm sure we'll dig into that in the character question. But when you actually get to the parapet at the end of this chapter, you're throwing tremendous deadly stakes at her, from everything from weather and slippery surfaces to the fear factor that comes into are you able to cross or not. So there's a tremendous balance of interiority with the external conflict and we are one of our questions in here on BUPOV. So we'll get to that next.

Speaker 1:

But I think that, looking at line level, if you're ever interested in looking at line level to see what the story is really about. You can see that this is going to be a fight for her survival within the grand scheme, the big landscape of this war that is going on in this world and secrets and conspiracies and things like that. So that is something that you get into more detail as you explore the story itself. But this does a tremendous job at figuring out how to plant on like one or two sentence level big expectations for what might be explored further in the plot itself. And I think that it's fun. If you read the whole book of the Nucleback and you peel apart on the line level, you can start to see where those setups are.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, it's also cool. I think I mentioned the bigger scope of the war because we don't I don't have all the backstory in this first chapter about like almost everything. We get a little bit of detail about Violet and context through like her relationships and things like that, but we do know that they're at a war college. So we're kind of like why is there a war college? And like who are they fighting and why? We have those questions. We want to know things like you know what happened in the rebellion? Why did Violet's mom kill Zaden's dad? What's the story here? We want to know more about this stuff. So it also does a great job of raising those big questions that we're going to get answered throughout the rest of the story.

Speaker 1:

Exactly Okay. So the third question deals with POV and it is who is telling the story? And we're looking at first person, right. So who's telling the story, savannah, and why do you think that that was a smart choice?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so Violet's telling the story. Like Abigail said, we're in first person, so we're really grounded in her point of view and it's the smart choice. It's the best choice because it's her story. She has the most at stake and the biggest growth in terms of her character arc.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, definitely, and you are really you know. This really moves us into the fourth question, dealing with character. Which character should they care about the most, they being the reader? So which character should the reader care about the most? And naturally, this is Violet, right, Right Now.

Speaker 1:

I think what's really interesting is that she, violet, goes about doing things that I think not everyone would do right on conscription day, one of those being is that she makes friends almost immediately, one of them being Dylan and one of them being with Rhiannon, and I think that that's something that she is advised not to do because death stakes are so high. So the closer that you're attached to someone, the more difficult it will be if you lose them, and there's a chance, high chance that you know, I think it's even like 50% chance that you're not going to make it. So what's interesting about that is that I think being grounded in Violet's POV and starting to see what matters to her and how she's starting to be torn between how she's analyzing situations, who she's feeling danger around, who she's feeling closeness to it is a brilliant way of helping us be limited into that POV that can help us be surprised later if things change. So that's a really great tactic at being able to kind of steer the wheel of red herrings and things like that At the same time, with Violet's character. Going back to why we should care about her, violet is an underdog in the situation. So her mother she wanted to be ascribe, she is overhearing, she's walking in overhearing her mother and near her older sister arguing about whether or not she should even enter the Asgai War College because she probably will die based on just her physical disabilities. So she is severely smaller, I would say or at least she's ascribed that way compared to these other teenagers who are going into this opportunity of basically being bonded with a dragon and entering the war. So that's something that is really interesting about her.

Speaker 1:

We see why she's in the underdog. We also see how intelligent she is and how not much gets past her and how she's able to really process information in a way that I think slows down so that she is aware of what she's aware of, which can raise the stakes. It can raise the suspense and the tension and it also helps ground her in understanding what makes her interesting, because being intelligent is one of her greatest strengths and I also think that her kindness, which we see, when she lends her boot, for example, that's going to put her at risk. But she lends her boot to Rihanna and I think that that is giving her a disadvantage to get across. But she gains friends even though she's advised not to gain friends in that corner, and that's going to eventually help her. So there are a lot of interesting qualities about Violet as she goes through this first chapter and being grounded in that POV. I think this cements this further into reasons to like her.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and on that note, that's kind of like her arc throughout the stories, that it's part of her arc where it's like she can do what she's told or she can process information and make her own judgments, and she's very good about making her own judgments, which we learn kind of throughout the story.

Speaker 2:

But the other thing this first chapter does a really nice job of is it sets up the base of her character arc.

Speaker 2:

So she has been raised to believe that she's going to be ascribed just like her father and that she has a physical limitation because there's a condition she was born with that makes her basically her joints pop out and so that makes her physically weaker than other people. Also, she's only trained for six months where other people have been training for years and maybe even their lifetime. So she kind of goes into it with this mindset of I'm not as capable of surviving because I don't have that typical strength or that I don't have that physical strength. And then in this first chapter we see her mom and Mira kind of reinforce that Mira in a big way, mom's kind of half and half. And then what she's eventually going to learn is strength is more than physical, and so she's going to come to appreciate her own gifts even more and see that the things that we see in this first chapter that she is good at come in handy. She just doesn't see them that way because of external circumstances, right exactly, and I think that reinforces again.

Speaker 1:

going back to plot, what is the story really about? It's more thematic, about the idea of that strength, when we're not limited by the physicality, that there's more to strength than just our physical strength. But we're seeing this, as you said, grounded in her character and that's what makes it such an amazing opening, because they're not preaching it at us. We're seeing it through Viola as she experiences her conflict and how she faces that and makes decisions about it. One of my favorite lines from this first chapter you might have it written out, Savannah is what her mother says to Mira in an argument as to why she thinks that Violet will survive. Because Mira is insistent that she doesn't think that her sister will survive and she's mad at her mom for entering her.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I can read that if you want. Yeah, go for it. So, violet, she says, are we just listing my faults now? And mom says I never said it was a fault. And then she says Mira Violet deals with more pain before lunch than you do in an entire week. So my children is capable of surviving the writer's quadrant. It's her.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, exactly, and I think that is a super powerful line, especially because her mother is this person who is grounded as very high expectations, cold even, especially since her father's death. So Violet stops, basically, and she's like is that a compliment, right? And I think that that's also a very universal thing. We seek approval, often from our parents, right? And that's something that we're not in our everyday world. So it's interesting to see right away how almost that takes Violet off guard, that her mother would pay her that compliment, and at the same time, we see through her actions why it's not even just the pain that she faces, but how she deals with that pain in a way of moving forward and thinking even beyond herself. So those are a lot of reasons why I like her.

Speaker 2:

And I like what you said too about where the author's showing us this right. And the thing that I think is so visual about this first chapter is in the very beginning she's huffing and puffing her way up the staircase to go see her mom and she's got this heavy pack on her shoulders and if you're a normal person that might be difficult we can kind of use like a normal I don't want to say the word normal, but if you're of normal fitness average fitness, I guess, yeah, average fitness then that could be challenging for us too. But we see that it's extra challenging for Violet and we have questions of like why is this extra challenging? She gives us that information in little bits throughout the chapter but it's a great visual of how she believes that she's physically weaker and in a lot of cases she is especially in the opening.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, yeah.

Speaker 1:

And you know one of the scenes that we're going to talk about. It's really interesting is that Mira, once her mom, refuses to pull Violet out of this is that Mira sets her aside and she's starting to give Violet tips on what she needs really in order to survive, and one of the things is that she's helping her repack the bag and we see that Violet has prioritized a lot of books in her bag, that's. You know, she's raised to subscribe, so books are really important to her, and she has to start even making decisions between the books and what she's going to keep or not. And Mira says something like and it's very important why she's choosing between these two books. But I won't give a spoiler. Yeah, and she is. She's picking between these books and she wants to keep both of them in.

Speaker 1:

Mira's is to her are you willing to die for it? So it's interesting to see, like, what Violet has packed versus what Mira is going to help her pack. And then, of course, all of these things that you're carrying in this pack are heavy and you have to cross this giant parapet that you can. Just the wind can blow you right off of it, right? So challenging, definitely challenging, and that leads us pretty well into the setting. The fifth question dealing with setting where and when does the story take place?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, so the story takes place. We know the whole thing is kind of at Baskyeth War College. It's in a fictional world. The realm we're in is Navarre right, and then there's Pomoriel right next door. There's just, it's a giant fictional world. Specifically, we're kind of in mom's office. So in the war college in mom's office we're in Violet's room and then we go down to the where they're, you know, the entrance of the quadrant where they're going to cross the parapet.

Speaker 1:

Mm-hmm. Yep, exactly. And that will lead us into the sixth question, which deals with core emotion. So how should the reader feel about what's happening?

Speaker 2:

Well, actually I want to back up to setting, because if I'm a writer and I'm trying to plan out where the opening is going to take place, I think it's interesting that there are those locations, because one mom's office comes up again later in the story. They need to go in there to get something. Her room, you know, is interesting because it's kind of her normal world, her normal place. We also can see, you know, mom has her boxes packed up already by the time she gets back from saying goodbye to her. So we can kind of it shows us the setup of Violet's life there, and then the parapet becomes obviously a huge deal. So it's interesting just to think about. You know, why were those settings chosen? Why did we start here versus any other place? You know, just a good thought exercise for your own work.

Speaker 1:

Mm-hmm. Yeah, and I also like about the setting that you know we're in this big fantasy world, but you mentioned things like the office and then you know the rooms no-transcript. Getting seeing those before you get to the parapet, I think, also helps it feel very realistic. Right, despite being in a huge fantasy world and world building is absolutely, unquestionably important in a fantasy story you have to ground us in this world at the same time having us see that sense of relatability and realistic, you know, a mental picture, a realistic mental picture that feels very human. I think.

Speaker 1:

In being in an office, in the bedroom, we're doing interesting things, we're preparing for this grand setting that we're going to reach by the end of the chapter, but it does, I think, at least for me. It helped me set my feet on the ground before moving forward, and you know I mentioned that Amazon picked this up and I can just imagine how exciting that visually, that first scene is going to be, and it's exciting visually in this first chapter as well. But there's something to allowing us to get to know the character in their everyday setting before throwing them into the grand setting of the parapet and like entering the sky at the war college, because I think that helps us get to know the character and care about the character and something with death stakes. Death stakes don't work, or at least they're not effective on me personally as a reader, if I don't care about the character. So it complimented that.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and the other thing too is you know it because I see a lot of drafts where it's like the writer has the right intention of show the everyday world, show what their life is like, and then they read the scenes back and they're like these are kind of boring, right. So something we'll talk about when we get into the actual scenes is that this accomplishes it in such a great way because the stakes keep escalating and because the setting and the setup, what we're showing the reader, serves multiple purposes. So just something to keep in mind for anybody listening.

Speaker 1:

Yep, and so actually let's, let's pair. Could you just kind of touched on both of these, Savannah? Let's pair the sixth and seventh question. They basically can be paired. The core emotion is the sixth question. How should they reader feel about what's happening? The seventh question is dealing with stakes. Right, why should the reader care what happens next?

Speaker 2:

Well, we've had such a great setup right. So we know that if Violet isn't successful in crossing the parapet, she's going to die, and because we've, like Abigail said, we've set her up in such a relatable, kind of familiar way, even if we're not you know, we're not, unfortunately, going to be bonding with dragons but we can relate to wanting to please our mom and maybe going off to college and like what that's like saying goodbye to parents and maybe comparing ourselves to siblings and all the things right we can.

Speaker 2:

we can relate to all that. We can also relate to like not feeling, like we measure up, even if we're not about to cross like a eight or 12 inch parapet. So we relate to her, which means we care about her. We see how she's interpreting and feeling and what she wants and things like that, and we know what's at stake. So that's a recipe for caring and concern.

Speaker 1:

Yep, absolutely, yeah. And then you know again those death stakes, how they the stakes are raised throughout the chapter, and being able to do that effectively in the first chapter sets the expectations that you can do it throughout the novel. We always need to be considering how do you raise the stakes whenever you're doing just as a writing exercise. I think that's really important. At the end of every time that you write a scene, ask yourself how can I raise the stakes even more? Because if there's a way that you can do it, do it, and you know that doesn't mean it has to be this soap opera drama of stakes being raised, but it effective for what makes sense for the story and what it's really about. And how can you raise the stakes on that on an internal level as well as an external level. The pairing of the two is what makes it effective.

Speaker 2:

Right, and the other thing about, like, how we should feel. So obviously, I think, primarily we're concerned. We're worried about our safety. We're also curious because of all the little, like you know, hints that have been dropped and the questions that have been raised. So what really happened in the past? You know, how did we get to this war? What's going on? We have a lot of questions, but that's secondary to concern. And then I think we also start to feel that sense of wonder, because we know there are dragons coming and we know, like we know, we're in a fantasy world, right, so we are grounded in a relatable situation, but we're getting that immediate sense of wonder that readers of fantasy want to feel.

Speaker 1:

Yes, Yep, okay, so that covers the seven key first chapter questions that explore a big picture. Now let's zero in, let's go micro. Let's look at scene level, and Savannah and I had a lot of debates between how many scenes were in this first chapter. We talked about it a lot before we had our book club meeting. First we even had, I think, we changed our answer, didn't we? First we had four and then eventually we settled on three. Is that right?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so this is. It's a funny scene because we did this chapter. It's a funny chapter and we did. We did an analysis of this in my story lab membership and I remember asking people like how many did you see? And the answers were between two, three and four. So you know, if you've read this and you're coming to this and you're thinking one of those answers, it's not strange, like everybody's having a hard time analyzing this. But we landed on three and we're going to tell you why we think that Mm-hmm, yep, yeah.

Speaker 2:

And.

Speaker 1:

Sven even asked me before we were coming to record again are you still on three? And yes, I'm still on three. You're still on three. So we feel pretty confident about three. We'll see what you think and we'll see why we're settled on three.

Speaker 2:

So, yeah, and actually, sorry to interrupt you, abigail, but it's funny because there's really one of the scenes that we landed on that was the problem child.

Speaker 2:

So the first one, we think, is actually quite easy. And remember, we like to start with the goal. So we're in Violet's point of view. We know pretty quickly, right away, that she, she's heading upstairs to say goodbye to her mother. So that's her goal. She, she's going to do that, and we get the sense that she's hoping mom's going to change her mind about making her join the writers quadrant, even though it's like she doesn't really expect that, but she has this negative hope. Okay. So that's kind of like what we're basing things off of. And then we want to find those five key scene elements that we pull from the story grid. So the inciting incident, the turning point, the crisis climax and resolution. Yes, and Abigail, did you want to walk through what you see those as, or do you want me to take?

Speaker 1:

that. Well, let's, let's walk through the first scene, I think so the first scene. We're dealing with that. Basically, what's happening is Violet is overhearing her mother in mirror talk.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

So when you're going into that, the first thing that we like to talk about, before we even go into commandments, is goal setting right.

Speaker 1:

Right, right, right. So when you're doing this, so when I agree with you and then going through that, I think now I want to be asking myself what is going to be upsetting that goal Right so for me, I guess, when I hear that I I think that for me it probably is going to be just when she first hears Mira hearing talking to her mother. So it would be Mira surprise, like that's the surprise is that her sister is here and then she's hearing this idea of Mira and her mom arguing would you agree with that?

Speaker 2:

I agree Because, mira, for anyone who's not going to read the book or who hasn't read it, she's she's supposed to be stationed elsewhere, so it is a true surprise that she's even here in the building.

Speaker 1:

Right, right, so that's what. And then it's like this idea of how do you proceed forward into that. So after I would do that, I would go for that turning point and I think for me personally, I think that the big turning point is when her mother makes that line that we talked about, where her mother gives the compliment and she talks about how she thinks that. I mean, I guess it just reinforces why she thinks that Violet can survive, because she thinks that she's handled more pain. Did you see something different?

Speaker 2:

I did, and so that's tell me first what you see as the crisis following that.

Speaker 1:

I guess for me, like with the crisis, the reason why I think that one is and maybe this is because I just felt really drawn to that state, that quote in general, but that was big for me because I felt like it changed Violet's perspective on her confidence and whether or not she could survive or not. And I think the crisis then is like the crisis inevitably is going to be do you proceed forward or not? I think, in a general way, like as you're going, as you go forward and we talk about raising the stakes as you go forward through these scenes, we're going to have a continuous crisis of does Violet proceed forward and take on the parapet or does she run hypothetically Right? I think, in general, that's the crisis that you're going to be navigating. And then how did the stakes get raised as you go forward with that? So, in general, I think that that's the crisis.

Speaker 1:

I think that her mom making that comment gives her this almost like unexpected boost of confidence, and maybe I can do this, so I would see the crisis of do you listen to that and move forward or not? But I'm open to negotiating what you think was also a crisis with this, because as you make that, as you ask that question, I can see why it's more ambiguous on my end versus a concrete. Okay, this is now throwing us into the decision of this.

Speaker 2:

Well, and it's so interesting because what you see as the crisis, let me just see because, just for anyone who's listening and not actually looking at the text, there is a part where let's see, I just lost it. Let's see, okay, so right, right, where you see the crisis, where she's like you know, you're the one that can survive, if any of my children. Right after that, there's literally two sentences that separate that from what I see as the turning point. So I see the turning point as when Mira brings up their brother, brennan, and she says how many writer candidates die on Conscription Day? Mom, 40, 50, are you that eager to bury another child? So this is like I feel like that's her last plea. And then I feel like Violet faces a decision to get involved or not.

Speaker 2:

So you know she's thinking about the argument you think, yeah, or just what is she going to do? Because now it's like these are two strong women that are kind of coming together and that's kind of a low blow. So she sees her mom's jaw tighten and she's glaring at Mira. Mira swallows but holds her own in the staring competition and then Violet kind of says, mom, she didn't mean, and then Mira gets kicked out.

Speaker 2:

So I felt like that was the turning point in crisis, because it's like I came to say goodbye to mom Mira's here. She's made it about Brennan and kind of mom's decisions. Now what am I going to do? Because I can't. It's not the same intention I came in with. So she kind of for the most part, stays silent, like she tries to say something but she gets interrupted, yep, mira gets kicked out, and then Violet says this weird goodbye to her mother. That's kind of like a half goodbye. So, interestingly, no matter which we choose as the turning point, like you said, the crisis is still. You know how are we going into the next scene? And she ends the scene walking away with Mira, kind of unsure about what just happened with her mother, you know.

Speaker 1:

so it's interesting, I'm going to tell you this because I think that that's sorry to interrupt you. I think that's really interesting what you pulled out. When I see that, I feel like I can absolutely 100% see what you're saying with Violet.

Speaker 2:

Yeah.

Speaker 1:

I also think that the question, almost like the crisis, is dominated by the mom in that confrontation because it's directed towards the mom. I can see why Violet's you know, do I interfere or not? And there is action that she takes on that. So I like that there's action that she takes. I think that what's interesting about that is that would you agree that the mom is probably the main antagonist in the scene?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and that's what I was gonna bring up too, because we talk about this in my notes and novel course, like what's the antagonist goal in the scene? So if we're thinking of antagonists like what is the mom doing in the scene and what is she trying to accomplish, what would you say I think she wants her daughter to enter the war college. Yeah, and to follow orders. Basically she wants both daughters to follow orders, Right right, yeah, so that's where it's like anyone.

Speaker 1:

In both situations you have Mira pushing her on that Violet feels like she's pretty much ready to follow orders and I think that that's something that is interesting that you bring up about. She is more passive in this first scene, yeah, and I think that sometimes with writers in general, we see this a lot in Harry Potter. So Manon and I have analyzed Harry Potter so carefully and there are a lot of scenes where, especially with Harry Potter's, when he's learning his world, he tends to be more passive in the beginning books and he's still, but like at the term I like to always use is like you can't be a dead duck, you can't just like only be observing all the time. So it's important that we see how Violet is kind of rounded in this. Do I interfere? I like that you've said, like do I step in and interfere here or not? My goal is basically trying to say, like goodbye to my mom and get ready to go off.

Speaker 1:

At that same time, like I think that pulling us deeply into her interiority and understanding or her you know her psyche of, or I guess, like her handling of this situation that's going on, that is a clever way of setting her up as someone that's going to have rising stakes throughout the scene itself as well. Because if the crisis is about, do I, do I enter the college or do I, you know? Or do I run? You know, if you do, I go against mom. Maybe in the scene you can see how it's going to get trickier and trickier as she proceeds forward. In the scene itself, we're here like we do have a more subtle conflict and more subtle crisis, but it's not that there's no crisis in the scene itself. It's just how she's handling. It has lower stakes than the next scene, which has lower stakes than the next scene. Would you agree with?

Speaker 2:

that, yeah, and what's interesting too is that this speaks to her arc, right. So by the end she's someone that is going to stand up for herself and here she's not. So even when she in the version that I see, when she kind of starts to say something, it's mom, she didn't mean so it's not like mom, that's true, I don't want to join it. It's she's defending Mira. So in a way we're seeing she defends others, but she won't quite stand up for herself to mom or to the system. So I'm not going to let them, how we want, to say that. The other thing, like this is a third option I'm just saying to like there's a part where it says it's the first time mom and I have been alone for months. So like that could also be a turning point, because now it's time to accomplish that goal. And how are you going to do it, given what just happened? But I think what's cool is that no matter which of those three options you pick, you're getting to the same place Right, like something like this.

Speaker 1:

we're looking at a sequence of scenes in this first chapter because they build off one another.

Speaker 2:

Right. So that leads us to kind of okay, mira gets kicked out. They say this you know, weird, goodbye. And then what? So, because of this first scene, mira's in the hallway waiting Violet walks out and we learn that Violet only has well, not only because she expected, probably the goodbye to go a little longer, so now it's like she has an hour to get ready. Mira's here, I only have an hour to spend with Mira. What's that going to be? So that's kind of she has an hour before she needs to report with the other candidates, which is what I would say summarizes kind of her goal in scene two.

Speaker 1:

Right, right, and I mean her goal in scene two to me is just like pack her bag and get ready. Would you agree with that?

Speaker 2:

Kind of because she's already packed. Remember she brought the pack upstairs.

Speaker 1:

But I guess I was thinking because, like that, she's going to repack it, so do you think that? Just Mira repacks her. So do you think that her goal then at the second scene deals more with just what she's going to be having this conversation with Mira?

Speaker 2:

Well, I think she knows, like we know, that in an hour she has to go report and check in. So, I think that's the goal and that she. What is she going to do to fill that hour? Well, mira's kind of taken over, right, she's? Okay, let's go to your room. We're going to repack you. I'm going to give you all my knowledge, because Violet didn't expect Mira to be here Right Now. What's?

Speaker 1:

interesting about this is you've mentioned that the second scene is where we said it was kind of the.

Speaker 2:

It was messy.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, well, it's the messy one because it was the outlier in the situation of. Is this the scene that we split into two scenes, or is this one scene? So I'm curious, why don't you talk real quick about Savannah? Because I had always seen this at three scenes. You saw it as four scenes. I could see it as four scenes. Maybe we'd make it three scenes. There's a lot of debate about that. So I'm curious. With goals, what originally did you think was separating the goals between the scenes and why did you decide to change it to one?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I'll tell you kind of my thought process, because this is like for anyone that's listening, that does this kind of analysis. My very first pass through this I was like, okay, this part it's really long. So what are we doing in this scene? Like it's double. If you look at scene one, I believe the word count was like 2000 something, maybe right at 2000. And then what we're calling scene two now is almost 4000 or it's just over 4000. So that was my first indication of like let me think harder about this. Right, I need to see is this one scene, is it two? What is that? So then I kind of looked at the action in there and it's kind of like, okay, there's a chunk where she's with Mira getting ready and all that. There's a decision there which we'll talk about in a second. And then there's this other chunk where they're kind of they've packed, repacked and now they're walking and they're checking in. So that's kind of where I went. Next is there's two main things that are happening here and then where I got stuck and why I eventually went.

Speaker 2:

You know how Abigail and I ended up talking about. This was like but what is her goal and her decision in that second piece of the scene where they're walking down and getting in line, right, and we couldn't really have a. We didn't have a really good argument for that. So then we said, okay, pause there, because we've exhausted this line of thought for right now. What does it mean if this is one scene where her goal is to you know she has this hour and she knows she needs to go check in. The conflict is still around Mira. Mira's there and she's dumping out her bag and she's repacking and offering her advice and changing her clothes and all this stuff, right?

Speaker 2:

Both Abigail and I centered around this decision. We felt it was really strong where Mira says you can't take all of these books, you can take one, otherwise you're going to fall off and you're going to die. And then what's the point? Right? So it comes down to this choice of are you going to take the book of poisons or the book on fables, and each represents something to Violet. We can talk about that more in a second.

Speaker 2:

But she chooses the book on poison and then, like, that feels like a scene that wraps up, but then there's a lot of other stuff that happened. So that part made sense and then the part after that didn't. In terms of scene structure, the story is great, but what we landed on is that that's a lot of resolution, so it's all a part of the scene resolution. So they're walking downstairs, mira is communicating more and more advice. She's pointing out rebel kids. She's you know, I think that's when she brings up. Stay away from Zaydan and go find Dane. So there's a lot that happens, but it's like a result of the scene before it and there's not a new goal and a new decision to be made.

Speaker 1:

Exactly, and that's the one thing I was going to bring up for decisions, because I could see people arguing. When Mira says, find Dane, he tells us as we cross through the courtyard heading for the open gate, I could see people settling on that and be like, oh, that's a pretty high stakes crisis, like that's something that she needs to go do, but she doesn't need to act on that crisis in this scene.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

And that's where I think that the stronger choice for a crisis is the debate between the books. We see this in that, in that crisis, you see that on the page, and that's something that I was. I'm curious, as your thoughts are Savannah, because sometimes I feel like do you see a lot of writers who imply a crisis but it's not actually on the page? And then there are other times where a crisis is on the page. Is it more effective to have a crisis on the page versus not? How do you approach that when you're coaching?

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So I always say like default to putting it on the page, and writers do bulk it this a lot because they're like I don't want to literally be like should I take this book or that book Right, and I'm looking for it in the text because I want to show, I want to read it because it, when you read it as a reader, it doesn't feel weird. But writers think it feels weird.

Speaker 1:

So let me just find this here and this is like a hard way to explain this, but you just know when it is to, when it's flat, really, when it's like the character had to decide between this and this. No, that's not what you want to do. It needs to always be embedded in action. I think, yeah, okay.

Speaker 2:

So listen. So here's, we'll show you this, right? So basically, mira says pick a book between the fables or the poison, not literally that, but you can go read it. And then she says are you willing to die for it? Violet says I can carry it. And then there's a lot of interiority. So you know, this is all wrong. I'm supposed to be dedicating my life to books, not throwing them in a corner to light my rucksack.

Speaker 2:

And then Mira has this whole argument of, like you can't, you're not strong enough to carry all these books, right? So then Violet says dad gave this one to me. I murmur, pressing that book against my chest. Maybe it's childish, just a collection of stories that warn us against the lure of magic and even demonize dragons, but it's all I have left. And then Mira sighs and says is that the old book of folklore about dark wielding Berman and their wyvern? Haven't you read it a thousand times? And then you know they just talk about it more, until Mira says decide, violet, are you going to die a scribe or live as a writer, right? So then she says you know, you're a pain in the butt. And she puts the fable in the corner. So all of that, the discussion and the interiority. To me that's a crisis.

Speaker 1:

Yes, yeah, I would agree with that.

Speaker 2:

It's showing what Abigail's saying is. It's not her going. Hmm, this book on poisons is super important to me because of my dad. It smells like him and everything you know. Or I could take this book on poisons that it's going to help me survive. He's not literally saying that. It's showing us the decision she's going between. So I feel like writers bulk at putting the crisis on the page because they don't want to write the dry version.

Speaker 1:

Right, okay.

Speaker 2:

So the challenge to everyone listening is yeah, don't write the dry version, write a version like this. That's interesting, that shows us something, but don't leave it off the page.

Speaker 1:

And notice how that is shown through conflict with another character, right? So it could be conflict with even environment or something like that, right? So it's like it is showing us how the main character is responding to that conflict and how they're again being pulled in that balance of interiority. The show and tell, I think, is what's really important, right, you know versus just you can. When it is told, when it is just telling you know, if I had to decide between this and this flat, right, maybe you start there, maybe you're trying to figure out how to carve out the main points that you're seeing and you need to just put it down in that flat way just to know that it has purpose, that it's advancing the plot and developing the character, because that crisis exists on the page there. But then you have to electrify it. You have to make sure that it becomes your unique voice and style and how you're paving around the content, that is important.

Speaker 1:

What the story is really about. You start to layer that. You layer character into that crisis, you layer theme into that crisis, right? So when she's dealing with literally like Mira, that's something that's really interesting. Mira is calling her out. You are not strong enough to carry these books. Some characters could respond in a really stubborn response and insist that they would need to do that. But who versus not what Violet is known for? Right, and I think that, if anything like she, because she recognizes her limitations, that actually allows her to become stronger than her physical limitations, because she doesn't dismiss them, she acknowledges them and then figures out how to rise above them in her own way, which I think is really cool.

Speaker 2:

And also Just to evade some of that decision. Yeah, and her choice too is showing us what she's prioritizing, which show us how high the stakes are. Like she's willing to leave this only thing she has of her dad behind because she needs to survive that bad and a book on poisons might help her more than Vables will at this point, and it's of course, like you know, not to give too much away, but it is a setup, so be prepared for that to pay off.

Speaker 1:

You know it's another great setup that's going to pay off in some way.

Speaker 2:

Which is cool, because then you know, like most things, we want everything in our story to be serving multiple purposes. So this is showing us character, it's setting up something, it's providing conflict. You know it's doing a lot, so that's we found that to be a very significant decision, even though on first glance it might not seem like that big of a deal, it actually is. So then there's, like I said, there's all this stuff that happens after right, which we're calling the resolution, and Abigail and I talk about this a lot because we're like you know, every now and then there's a scene that will have a long setup or a long resolution, and it's not a problem if there's like a very good reason why and it's, you know, here and there in your draft it's not something you probably want in every scene, because your draft's going to be bloated and the pace will feel weird.

Speaker 1:

And you're not just dumping backstory or something like that, right, right. And so we're still trying to tend just for content's sake. We are still moving the plot forward with what happens in the resolution.

Speaker 2:

Right and it's really cool. This is one of the ways that you know when you're writing an action story. I feel like a lot of writers are like how do I raise stakes, how do I make things more dangerous if I can't have, like, car crashes and explosions and dragon fire in every scene? Well, this part of Mira walking her downstairs and saying, oh yeah, and by the way, there are less dragons willing to bond this year, that's information that raises the stakes, because now she has to survive and then, once she gets into the writer's quadrant, there are less dragons to bond, which means other cadets might kill her right. Also, the weather is getting worse, so because the parapet's going to be slippery, that makes it more dangerous. So the stakes are being raised even though, like nothing dramatic is happening. It's just information that is raising the stakes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, that's a really interesting thing that you pulled up there, Savannah, because that's a setup that pays off in the scene versus a setup that pays off later in the story. So you're really you're pulling out some great examples of how to weave detail in a way that we're going to see immediate, immediate payoffs that reinforce the death stakes, as well as setups that are going to be surprisingly inevitable or at least very satisfying when they pay off later in the story.

Speaker 2:

Yeah. So this piece also is doing a lot for the story. It's giving the reader context, it's increasing the conflict in the stakes, it's making us worried more for Violet because of all that, and it's literally getting us down to the entrance. So what happens basically is she checks in at the end of the scene as part of the resolution, and then the next scene so this is scene three opens up where she's now in line for the parapet. So she's behind a bunch of cadets and she's mentally preparing to cross it. So that's her goal is to. When she steps out on that parapet, she wants to be as ready as she can. So do you want to talk through the incident there?

Speaker 1:

Well, I want to talk about options.

Speaker 1:

I think because I want to with details here. So again, we mentioned this is the scene where we are going to meet Zaden Meyerson and that is interesting because you're seeing both death and love stakes when you meet him, because we're immediately, we're seeing her attraction to him, but she has been told that by mirror directly he will try to kill you and we see that. She feels threatened, that maybe he'll throw her off or something like that if he gets the chance to do that. So I think that I could see readers feeling like he's going to be something that's really important in the scene. I could see, like I mentioned before, this is where she kind of starts to make friends. She's been advised really to stay away from people. She starts to make friends in the scene. She, in my opinion, makes a big sacrifice in order to do that, just by being her. So I am interested, like with you, to get this to set the goal. And now we've reached the goal of we're about to cross right.

Speaker 2:

Well, sorry, because she actually crosses in chapter two. I think this we could say that, yeah, her goal carries through to chapter two and the scene carries through. That's fine. Or we could say that this piece is like she needs to make it up the stairs to the parapet and get ready, because we know that the cadets kind of could do stuff.

Speaker 1:

Right, right. So yeah, I agree with that. It's amazing how this scene as the final scene we are raising the stakes all the way through from the beginning scene with the mom. If you settle on the turning point of what Savannah said, does she interfere or not? We know that that's dealing with death or not? Do you obey mom or not? Whatever that, I guess that's the mom's goal. But we can see that we're talking about why death is so likely. We get to mirror that conversation becomes more intense through action. What are you going to prepare in order to try to survive the day? And now we have reached the moment where we are physically going to be tested.

Speaker 2:

Right, well, and mirror is gone. At this point, too, mirror is gone, we've removed a resource.

Speaker 1:

So I would agree with you because I just wanted to point out that I think that that's a great this is such a great setup to her actually crossing, and I think that there's a really brilliant move in not having chapter one as her crossing Right. I think that the stakes are raised so dramatically, both psychological stakes and physical stakes are raised in big ways because of how the first chapter is published, versus if you were to say, I could see easily someone saying why don't you just start with her crossing? And for me it's because you need to get to know the character in order to see the context.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, we don't have enough context Right, if she dies or not. So if that's the goal, then, savannah, let's get up the stairs, would you say that's the goal?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I think it's like how are you going to say it? So it's get up the stairs. It's mentally kind of get myself in order now that mirror is gone and I don't have, like I have to prep myself because I don't know I'm thinking of myself if I were to do this. It's kind of like I need to make sure I can actually step out on that thing and yeah, get up the stairs, get to the top. I don't know.

Speaker 1:

So what I think is interesting is, like what is probably the first thing that's going to start to interfere with that For whatever reason? I'm really drawn more towards her bonding with people in this scene, so like when she starts to really bond with Rian and Dylan. So that's what caught my attention is when she starts to really like associate with these other cadets, and that's what I would call the insidious in, because it turns her from becoming someone who is focused on what she's doing to focus on what she's doing and these other people that she's already making friends with, right.

Speaker 2:

So I agree. And the first person she talks to, I believe, is Rianne, and she just says like oh, that's your sister. So there's a couple of things going on. Is one Mira said don't make friends, and someone's being friendly to her. But also she's saying you're a soaring gale as in like the general. So Mira kind of warned her against both of these things. People are going to want to kill you based on your name. They're going to want to kill you because there's less dragons and don't make friends. She's kind of going against all of this stuff. And then I think the conflict increases when she's made a couple like allies, friends, whatever we want to call them. And then there's Jack. So Jack's kind of the jerk that is in this group, going up to the top. I think the turning point is when she realizes that the hot guy at the top is Zaden Mm-hmm.

Speaker 1:

And that's where it's like. This is where it's really interesting, because now we're starting to really tightly weave main plot and extremely important subplot. But this is going to be almost like a subplot that rivals the importance of the main plot.

Speaker 2:

Right.

Speaker 1:

So that's just really. I think it's really smart to get that in there in this way that we see, because now she feels like there's a direct. There's a direct threat in front of her. Jack is kind of this annoying threat that could be like a future threat, but Zaden, she thinks, is going to try to kill her now, and I think now it's a matter of how is she going to stand up against him in order to get across like or to prepare to get across right.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so what I wrote for the crisis is kind of like is she going to let Zaden intimidate her whatever that would look like, whether it's turning and running, whether it's breaking down, crying or whatever it is right, we don't know or is she going to defy him by crossing? And that's the choice she makes. So it's like she kind of stands up to him, she raises her chin and she says are you going to kill me? And then, like Dylan falls off and there's some drama there, and then at the end he's like why would I waste killing you, my energy, killing you, when the parapet will do it for me? Your turn. So like she's accomplished her goal, despite the conflict and despite all these setups that are going to come into play later.

Speaker 1:

You know, one thing that I think is really interesting. I could see people saying well, dylan, dying, whenever you have death on the page, that feels like you can't ignore that action. And I've seen people say even like, if death is on the page, that almost feels like an automatic turning point because it feels like the value shift is going to be from life to death. But this is Dylan's and I think why I side with you on it being Zaden, in realizing that Zaden Ryerson is in front of her, is because the body, the central conflict, everything that is the scene is centered around. Is that. Am I going to allow him to intimidate me or not? And Dylan is what distracts them. Like it's almost like they've had this. Everything is centered around.

Speaker 1:

It feels like this confrontation between the two and then Dylan screaming is what pulls us out of that argument. Yeah, and I feel like not everything. It feels like we have tremendous setup, in the sense that we understand that it's getting windy, it's going to be slippery. All that is emphasized by her recognizing that Riannon doesn't have the right boots and she's going to fall off. And she's going to switch her one boot with her so that they have a chance of having some stability and all, and you get closer and closer. Dylan's enthusiasm about crossing probably undermines his maybe his awareness, I guess of how dangerous it's going to be. And all of that then pauses in order to have this confrontation with Zaden Ryerson, and then we are pulled back with Dylan, which reinforces the death stakes that, yes, life and death is very real. Dylan has now died in front of you and you're going to be next in chapter two. So what a way to end a chapter, because that's moving us into the second chapter.

Speaker 1:

I'm definitely turning the page, but it's such a personal conflict between her and Zaden that, I think, raises the death stakes in its own special way, only to then prepare you for actual life and death stakes that she's going to face as she crosses in chapter two.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and there's also this part that I I like to. When I'm looking for a crisis, I'm like what pauses the character? So like, yes, dylan's death pauses her, but it doesn't. There's not thought on the page of like what am I going to do?

Speaker 2:

And in this part where she kind of says you're a Fen Ryerson son, internally she's like he will kill you the second he finds out who you are, mirror his words bounce around my skull and the fear knots in my throat. He's going to throw me over the edge. He's going to pick me up and drop me right off his turret. I'm never going to get a chance to even walk the parapet. I'll die exactly. But my mother always danced around calling me weak. And then he says your mother captured my father and oversaw his execution. And she goes wait, like he has the only right to hatred here. Rage races through my veins. So it's almost like that rage powers her to. She goes from like scared and you know whatever, to feeling this rage and in the indignation almost, and then that kind of powers her forward. So that's where I feel things shift and I look for where that character is thinking and where, you know, can we pinpoint on the page where things change.

Speaker 1:

What I love about you, Dylan, with that example and reading it out loud, Savannah, is you almost you pointed out to the specific turning point within the turning point. Yeah, so I think that that I like to look for if there are as well. Are those there? Are there those exact moments? Because when you have that, I think that we get closer and closer to making this as real as possible. When we're like you feel the emotion inside of you, I think, at least for me, I shift with violet and that is a, again, a big testament to her character. So whenever I'm looking for turning points and value shifts and you know, based on crisis, a character is defined by how they act. So the crisis is really important. I'm looking forward. Does that turning point crisis lead to not only plot development, but does it lead to character development? So when it does both, it feels really satisfying.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and just as an example, to read the part with Dylan, just so listeners can hear it. So a scream runs the air and Rhiannon and I bolt your attention to the parapet. Just in time to see Dylan slip. I gasp, my heart jolting into my throat. He catches himself hooking his arms over the stone bridge as his feet kick beneath him, scrambling for a purchase that isn't there. Pull yourself up, dylan. Rhiannon shouts oh God's. My hand flies to cover my mouth, but he loses his grip on the water, slick stone and falls, disappearing from view. The wind and rain steal any sound his body might make. In the valley below, they steal the sound of my muffled cry too. So that's like action, right, she's just like showing us what's happening and reacting to what's happening. But it's not. What am I going to do because of this right? Correct, yes.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, if anything, it just elevates the death stakes. Exactly, we've been talking about the stakes. Now, actually, someone has died.

Speaker 2:

And it sets up what she did about it. Yeah, he's like why am I going to waste my energy when you're going to die out there anyway?

Speaker 1:

Right, such a cold thing to say.

Speaker 2:

Yeah, and so zooming out, if we look at the because this is action, right. And so if we just think about chapter one, she has not crossed the parapet yet but can like as a listener. Can you see how these three scenes are moving her closer to danger or to being less safe? So, at the very beginning, she hasn't committed to anything yet, right? She could, in theory, run away and hide when she's at the top of that parapet getting ready to cross. There's not really a ton of options to turn back.

Speaker 1:

Exactly.

Speaker 2:

So I like to think about, like what you know. Can we argue that each of these scenes has brought us closer to you? Know where we're going in a story For sure, absolutely.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I mean, and that's, if anything, it's a model of how to do that. So I think that definitely look to this as an example of if you do have multiple scenes or you have a sequence of scenes in a first chapter. We want to be reinforcing main conflict, as well as how it's touching a genre, plot, character, theme, all these things, and just elevating that with the crisis itself.

Speaker 2:

Right, yeah, so I mean, I think this is probably going to be one of our longer episodes, but I think it's worth it because, you know, sometimes we pick ones that are easy, sometimes we pick scenes or chapters that are a little more difficult. This was definitely a difficult one and, you know, listeners may agree with our analysis, they might disagree and they might see four scenes. That's okay, as long as we kind of all zoom out and get to the same takeaway, which is that the stakes are raised. Each scene deserves its spot in the story and you know, we've shown character, given just enough context, not anything extra and things like that.

Speaker 1:

Yeah, like at the very bare bones of it, things happen, yeah, and we care about why those happen, because we care about the character and we see how she is making decisions in the face of conflict, right, yeah.

Speaker 2:

So a tool that we can all use, whether it's Paul Monnier's seven key questions for your opening or the story grids five commandments. Whatever tool it is, it's a great exercise to go through your draft, especially when you're getting ready to rewrite or just trying to figure out why something's not working. But yeah, again, if you, we did a whole two hour discussion on this book, the big picture of it, and you know we did subplots, we talked about the antagonist romantic as a genre and things like that. If you want to get your hands on that replay, you can go to savannahgilbocom forward slash book dash club and we will put that in the show notes. Anything else from you before we wrap up, abigail?

Speaker 1:

No, I think that's a great way to sum this up. As always, so much fun being here with you, savannah. I hope everyone learned a great deal from this analysis. I'd love to hear about your analysis as well. You know, as Savannah said, whether or not it's the same or not, it's always cool to continue the discussion and I look forward to another episode soon.

Speaker 2:

So that's it for today's episode. As always, thank you so much for tuning in and for showing your support. If you want to check out any of the links I mentioned in this episode, you can find them in the show notes listed in the description of each episode inside your podcast player or at savannahgilbocom forward slash podcast. If you're an Apple user, I'd really appreciate it if you took a few seconds to leave a rating and a review. Your ratings and reviews tell Apple that this is a podcast that's worth listening to and, in turn, your reviews will help this podcast get in front of more fiction writers just like you. So, if you're there, go ahead and hit that follow button, because there's going to be another brand new episode next week, full of actionable tips, tools and strategies to help you become a better writer. So I'll see you next week and, until then, happy writing.

Ep. 120 - First Chapter Analysis- The Fourth Wing by Rebecca Yarros (Raw)