Behind the Phil Phorce

The Phil Phorce Episode 5 just ended.  Since I believe it is my best yet, I wanted to show you some of the different things I did this one.  First, I outlined it.  Second, I included a character arc intentionally.  (Or so I told myself.)  Third, I copied Captain America.

The last bit was never different, really.  I’ve always copied successful stories when I write these things.  Episode Two had Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox, for instance.  For this one, I outlined it with Captain America in mind.  The purpose of that wasn’t to copy the plot– it was to remember where the structural points were, especially for the Hollywood Formula.  I wanted to try an action-movie format for this one.

My outline included one point per scene I thought I would write, but only the barest hint of what happens in those scenes.  I had no relationship character at that point, no character arcs, nothing but bare action movie plot.  The outline is here:

  1. The Phils are sent a ransom video about Sebase: a day to pay the ransom or Sebase and thousands of people die.  Unspecified ransom.  (1/2 of Act I.)
  2. The Phils plan a counterkidnapping.
  3. Quirk feels obligated to go, though he is plagued by flashbacks at random times.
  4. During one of them, Percival takes a team and tries to save Sebase alone.  (End of Act I.)
  5. Another ransom video showing all the Phils except those who had stayed.  Unspecified ransom.
  6. The Castle falls apart.
  7. Quirk mounts a rescue mission.  (Midpoint.)
  8. Quirk finds out that Public’s brother (Jordan?) has allied the Blanks with the Phils’ kidnapper.
  9. Quirk finds and frees the Phils
  10. Quirk is captured; he was the ransom.
  11. The Phils escape without Quirk, disheartened.  (End of Act II.)
  12. Megalomaniac speech.
  13. (Optional.  The kidnapper sets Quirk up as Manfred’s kidnapper.)
  14. The kidnapper does something evil.  “The Quirk I knew would have anticipated me, defeated me by now.  This Quirk is nothing.”  [Marked as one of Myklusch’s “moments that matter”.]
  15. The Phils counterattack.
  16. Kidnapper flees.
  17. (Quirk follows.  Final battle, bad guy dies is immortal, escapes, untraceable.)

Soon after writing that outline, I fleshed out each scene in Acts I and II:

Scene 1 (and scattered throughout)
Quirk’s Visions
 So Actions
He doesn’t like people to know, so he doesn’t talk about them
He’s afraid one will hit in public, so he spends a lot of time alone
He doesn’t know what triggers them, so he documents the visions (time, place, prior thoughts, real world vision length compared to dream world length)
He’s both afraid and eager for them, so he impulsively seeks them out, but sometimes talks himself out of it

  1. Phils sent ransom video about Sebase.  Unspecified ransom.
    Create the bomb under the table (suspense).  Show/tell what bad thing will happen if they try to kidnap Sebase back.
    ? Spoof animal rescue videos.  ?  Show as a TV commercial.  ?  [Question marks inserted at random.]
    Possibly thousands of people will die if they don’t pay ransom.  Added incentive.
    Phume will be the forefront of the campaign to get Sebase back unharmed, though most Phils will be eager.
    Quirk just recovering from a flashback.
  2. Phils plan counterkidnapping.
    Phil conference, Quirk presiding.  Show both support for his leadership and disdain.  Percival dutifully supportive, but not entirely confident in Quirk’s leadership.
    (3) Quirk feels obligated to go, but feels reservations because of his frequent debilitating flashbacks.
    Also address the issue of the Castle falling apart, but make an acceptable segue.
  3. [There was no paper for scene three, since it was included in scene two, but the numbering system for this post insists I have a three in there.]
  4. (After 2.)  During Quirk’s latest flashback, Percival takes a team and tries to rescue Sebase alone.
    Only tell up to the point where all is lost.  Don’t show the kidnapper if possible.  Don’t show the “bomb under the table” exploding yet.  Just make sure they’ve been captured.
    End of Act I.
    What transportation?  Gologer?  Aircraft?
  5. Another ransom video: Sebase, Percival, and his team.  Ransom yet unspecified.
    Build the suspense.  Bomb under the table still exists, but Quirk has to save them.  Tension, tension, tension.
    Try the abandoned animals video again, but add “their numbers increase daily”.
    Again, Quirk recovering from a flashback to find the others gone.  This on TV when he wakes.
    Some Phils may not have gone with Percival; character foils.
  6. The Castle falls apart.
    Cloud dissipates, castle crumbles, everything gradually turns to water vapor… whatever works.
    Quirk and whoever else barely escape, and don’t manage to bring much with them.
    Transportation=Gologer?  Other aircraft?  Percival would have needed something too.
  7. Quirk mounts rescue mission.
    Possibly joined by remaining Phils, possibly not.
    Bomb under the table at fever pitch by now.  We know what will happen, but someone has to save them all.
    Almost no resources.  Feiron should probably not join Quirk, though he could join Percival, with or without Isaac’s consent.
    Still no sight of kidnapper.
  8. Quirk finds out that the Blanks have allied with the kidnapper.
    The Blanks are under Public’s brother’s control now.
    The name of the kidnapper will be given for the first time here.  ?(No realization on Quirk’s part.)?
    Probably, all this comes through a conversation between Quirk and Public’s brother, who will also direct him to the cell bay.  No recognition (or little) on the Blanks’ part.  Small talk about how far each respective organization has come.
  9. Quirk finds and frees Phils.
    They will have to split up at some point.  If Quirk had a companion, they will lead the Phils to safety while Quirk does who knows what.
    Bomb under the table still exists– what if they are found trying to escape?  Perhaps one of the Phils tried it and got hurt doing it.  “Getting in is easier than getting out.”
  10. Quirk is captured; he was the ransom.
    Once again, cut away before we see the face of the kidnapper.  Perhaps we hear the voice this time.  Perhaps Quirk remembers who this is and has a flashback.
    Quirk must be alone.
    The voice orders the Phils to be let go, since he has the ransom.
  11. The Phils escape without Quirk, disheartened.
    Low point.
    The bomb under the table doesn’t come to nothing, but they are let go.
    Maybe don’t show the actual escape, just the powwow afterward in Percival’s apartment or wherever.  Possibly include the determination to repay the favor and get Quirk back.
    End of Act II.

I didn’t care about what happened after the low point.  After that, I was sure I could make everyone prevail.  It was making everything go wrong that I wanted to excel at.

If you’ve read this episode of the Phil Phorce, you know that I didn’t stick very closely to my outline.  I added a lot of stuff as the mood took me, like the beast, and the shrines, and Stephen, and Stephen’s grandson, and the story falling out of the Cloud and being found by the shadowy guy.  All that stuff– the best stuff, in my opinion– came by chance, not outlining.  Nevertheless, the plot structure was there and it pervaded the story as I wanted it to.  Best of all, it didn’t restrict me that much when I wanted to add a skydiving segment.

Was the plot outlined?  Yes.  Was it all outlined?  No.  Was it outlined in detail?  No.  Were the character arcs outlined?  No.  Was I aware of the bad guy’s hideout before I said it would be in a cemetery?  No.  Did I know what that first dream sequence was going to be?  No.  (I originally thought I was going to write a plane crash there, but I decided killing a small army of men wouldn’t be good form for a Phil Phorce episode.)

Did I know what I was doing?

No.  And I think it worked out fine.

Bonus segment: the pseudo-scene I wrote by hand when I couldn’t make it to a computer.  (Note: “The crypt of the rubber ball” was the original name for the shadowy guy’s crypt, but I edited that out.  Also, this was just after I had decided to add the torch seller and the beast, but before I had remembered to give the coin back to Quirk.  It was also before I decided to use the scribe– in fact, it made me decide to use a scribe.)

‘Torches for sale!’  Thus calleth the torch seller in the crypt of the rubber ball.  ‘I hath not much business,’ sayeth he; ‘therefore I giveth you this torch.’

And Quirk said, ‘Thanks,’ and he took the torch, and the light of the torch fell all around them; and thereupon they descried singular carvings on the walls to their right and to their left.  The carvings they descried showed a shadowy man battling for eternity his immortal foe.  And Quirk spake, and he said, ‘Hey, that looketh like unto mine own image.’

‘Indeed it doth,’ spake a voice from the shadows.  ‘For it is thou, just as the other man be-eth none but me.’

And Quirk replied unto the voice, ‘Dude, wherefore is thy face gone?’  [For the record, I know exactly what “wherefore” means, and I used it in that sense here.  It means why, not where.]

And the voice did reply not.

And Quirk continued, saying, ‘Thou canst not be as ugly as that.’

The voice spake, but behold! it was no longer a voice, but the hungered roar of a great beast.

And Quirk looked, and he descried a skeleton, gnawed and white, held clutched in the claws of the great beast; and he sayeth unto himself, ‘Oh, no.’

I hope you enjoyed seeing my outlines for this thing.  I could try to explain my thought process for all this, how I thought up the beast scene while watching NCIS of all things– but I won’t, because I don’t really understand how I think yet.  As for the next episode, Episode 6, it has already been outlined and written completely, but I’m going to wait an unreasonably long time to publish it just because I can.  No spoilers yet.


24 thoughts on “Behind the Phil Phorce

      1. Oh my gosh it was amazing. Interestingly enough, I didn’t hate the end like I did the end of Inheritance, though the end of Hero of Ages was arguably worse. In fact, I rather liked this ending. It reaffirmed that I prefer happy endings, but left me with that weirdly delicious feeling of emotional torment.

        And now The Alloy of Law is sitting on my nightstand, but I promised my sister I’d read fluff next. Sigh.

      2. Inheritance just didn’t make sense, but Hero of Ages totally did, and you both hated and loved the author for it.

        I still need to find the Alloy of Law.

      3. Exactly. Also I liked these characters much better than the characters in Inheritance, and it felt like the deaths meant more, if that makes sense. Admittedly, I got a spoiler from this piece of fan art (I told myself that would happen if I went looking for Pins, but did I listen?) so I knew something would happen with Sazed, but the sweet twist of the character with a crisis of faith becoming…yeah.

        I hope you find The Alloy of Law. It’s a lot shorter than the others. By hundreds of pages.

      4. Definitely. The deaths were evil, but when you see their purpose you can’t help but accept them. Suzanne Collins just kills for the hatred of killing, and other people just enjoy it.

  1. Congrats on figuring out an outlining system that works for you! I did enjoy reading this and seeing how it all worked. And that deleted scene is funny. I did not know that’s what “wherefore” actually meant.

    (Also, I’m sorry for posting my first comment first. That was rude of me.)

  2. This was definitely interesting. The way you fleshed out the outline points reminds me of the way I write stuff down when I get ideas.
    I like the pseudo segment. Does writing like that come naturally to you? You’re good at it.
    Was the bomb metaphorical, one of the ways you deviated, or did I not only misread this post but the episode as well?

    1. It comes that easily after I’ve been reading a lot of Shakespeare or King James Bible, which technically was also translated by Shakespeare, so it’s all Shakespeare to me.

      The bomb was metaphorical– if you remember, there’s an Alfred Hitchcock quote I gave in one post on suspense that talks about the bomb under the table. That’s what it was speaking of.

      1. Liam might come after me with a lightsaber for the puns…

        Oh well. May the Phorce be with you.

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