Outlining my novel

This morning in the Tarot for Writers chat, we outlined our NaNo novels. It’s very rough. Basically, Corrine asked a series of questions, and the answers form our basic outline. I am working today and couldn’t dedicate the time to just the meeting, as I had people to help too, but I got most of it done. Plus I’m not sure about certain plot points yet. I’m slowly figuring things out, though, and this definitely helped. It’s also helped me to decide that this has to be about more than just Cassandra. I need to research Apollo and include him in the story. So I’m working on Apollo research, but anyway, here are my answers as written this morning. (Except answer 29, written now.)

The Tarot comes into play, by the way, in the form of answering the questions. For any answer we don’t yet know, we are supposed to pull a card and write the first thing that comes to mind. But I didn’t have time for that, and my cards weren’t out, so I’ll finish and edit in the rest of the answers later.

1. If someone asked right now what your story was about, what would you say?
My story is about Cassandra, and maybe Apollo. He gave her the gift of prophecy, and the curse that nobody would ever believe her. But my story is told backwards. Somehow, there will be a plot and it will be modern and twisted.
2. What is your working title?
The Ultimate Rewind… but I don’t like it.
3. Who is your protagonist – the hero of the story?
Cassandra, a prophetess who is never believed.
4. Describe your protagonist’s physical appearance.
She has long hair, traditionally kind of messy but I’m not sure if I’m keeping that.
5. Describe your protagonist’s personality. Spiritual, emotional, and intellectual?
She is very smart. Perhaps a bit “crazy” in the eyes of others, but only because they don’t believe her.
6. Where will your story be set? Describe the time and place.
Set in the present day in a large city. New York maybe? Maybe related to 9/11? But I don’t want to go there. But I feel like maybe it has to be something like that.
7. Why did you choose that setting? What symbolic meaning do you associate with that time and place?
Present day because I am rewriting a myth, to some extent. The fall of Troy was a big deal, so I think NYC is a similar type of place.
8. How will your novel begin? (Start with an action scene. Make it dramatic or compelling.)
NYC is in shambles. Entire buildings have crumbled to the ground. Or maybe they are crumbling as we open. Something big is happening, something terrible. Cassandra can only look on… but it’s not in horror. It’s far worse. She knew it would happen and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
9. Most protagonists resist change at the start of a story. How will your protagonist act during the opening scene?
Cassandra doesn’t have much reaction. Maybe she just walks away. Maybe she is taken by someone. I’m not sure yet.
10. What will convince your protagonist to become a key player in this story? What is at stake for your character if he chooses not to act?
This is irrelevant. She will act because everything that follows happened before.
11. What is your protagonist’s greatest strength?
12. What is your protagonist’s greatest fear? (strength and fear are two sides to one coin, and overcoming fear will be a strength in the end)
Nobody believes her, so it doesn’t matter what she says.
13. How will you force your protagonist to confront his fear? How will you make his fear a reality, and weave it into the story?
She will play with ideas like telling lies (opposite prophecies), but they will come true (with a twist)?
14. Who is the antagonist in the story?
Apollo, who gave her the gift as well as the curse. Maybe a game of cat and mouse as Cassandra tries to get him to take back the curse? But she won’t give in to his desires for her.
15. How do your protagonist and antagonist know each other?
They met in childhood and had a fling some time ago, but they are no longer together.
16. Describe your antagonist’s physical appearance.
He has long-ish blonde curls and is very attractive. Glowing in the sun.
17. Describe your antagonist’s personality.
He has a quick temper, and you do NOT want to get on his bad side. He can change on a dime from pleasant to angry.
18. What are your antagonist’s goals and objectives? What is at stake for him?
He wants Cassandra to love him, but knows she never will. He wants to find a new love but can’t stop thinking about her. He is scorned, and that fuels his actions in a big way.
19. Who will help your protagonist? Does your protagonist have a partner or best friend? Describe the person.
She has a twin brother who also has the gift of prophecy.
20. Now set up a series of crises and complications for your hero. Start by describing the first obstacle your protagonist will encounter. Try to base that obstacle on your protagonist’s fears.
Cassandra tries to get Apollo to take back the curse. She tells him what will happen in NYC and begs him to make people believe her, she has to stop it.
21. Now add a complication: Make that obstacle even harder to overcome.
22. Add another complication. Be ruthless.
23. Go over the top and add another complication. Make it the biggest complication you can imagine. (This will probably become the climax of your novel.)
Maybe this is where Apollo curses her? It’s a pivotal moment in her life, and her lack of knowing what will happen at THIS point makes it more climactic.
24. Now this is where you get to be truly, truly wicked. Convince your protagonist that the problems you’ve piled up can’t be overcome. Describe the scene in which your hero realizes that “all is lost.” How will your protagonist react?
25. Make your hero fail in his quest.
26. Now give your protagonist a last-minute reprieve. Show him how to solve the obstacles you’ve placed in his path. What can he do to save the day?
27. When your protagonist is victorious, what will happen to your antagonist?
28. How will the story end? Describe the last scene.
The very last scene is Cassandra receiving the gift of prophecy, and her first premonition is one of a happy ending. This is further down the road than the NYC events at the start of the book. This happy ending is a new beginning in a new city. She doesn’t know why she is in a new city, but since she doesn’t know the horrible events leading up to it, she’s just really excited about it.
29. Write the last line or sentence of your novel.
(I won’t do this until November, but I do know that it will be the beginning of the story, which is when Apollo gives her the gift of prophecy. The last sentence might be him asking her if she wants the gift, even though that’s mythologically incorrect.)

30. During the course of your novel, what lesson will your protagonist learn?
31. How will your protagonist be changed? And how will he remain the same?
She will be changed in that she is back in time to her “old self” – by the end of the story (beginning of the novel) she has a much less rosy outlook on life. As the novel progresses, she gets more and more lighthearted and innocent (naïve).