I can't figure out a pivotal loaction.

by James


I'm not wholly sure if this counts as a plot question, but I couldn't figure out where else to put it, so I might as well, right?

I've been struggling with this sequel on-and-off for the better part of a year. Don't be surprised if I come back and ask some more complicated questions later on. But my problem right now is more small-scale. I can't choose a location.

The overall setting is San Francisco, 1972. My main character was arrested at the end of the first book and is being held in the FBI field office in the northeast part of the city. He was arrested because he broke out of prison with the last book's main character and murdered someone. At the start of the sequel, he and his partner-in-crime start receiving threats that they later find are coming from the daughter of the man they killed. Escalation happens, there are some attempts on their lives while the MC tries to not go back to prison on an information plea.

For the all-is-lost moment, there's a burning building which injures both main characters, set by the daughter who's after them. I want the location for this fire to be significant somehow, but none of the characters are particularly familiar with San Francisco, and I haven't been able to pin anything down. Do you have any tips for figuring this out?

Thank you!

Answer: Well, I'm a little confused by your summary. Is the MC still in jail for the murder, or has he now been released?

Assuming it's the latter... I think it's a good idea to choose a significant location. I assume you are familiar with San Francisco, but it can't hurt to do more research/scouting.

I can't give you the answer (you know your story better than me). But I can ask some questions.

One question I might
ask is... Who is this building significant to? Did the daughter choose the location for the fire specifically because it is ironic or symbolic or because she needs the police to examine the scene after the fire to discover something? With the latter choice, is there a way to connect it to another plotline?

Is the building perhaps significant to the MC's ally? Is the daughter attempting to isolate him if she can't kill him?

Another question is that of motivation. Clearly the daughter wants revenge, but is there more to it? Does she want the MC to learn something or understand something? Does she want him to suffer in a particular or personal way? Does she want to rob him of something? Is she making him play a role in some larger pursuit of hers? Does she want him to reexamine his past or question his beliefs? What does she hope to achieve with this choice of location?

Of course, the above assumes the location is entirely the daughter's choice. It could also be that she simply picked a place she knew the MC would be. In that case, what was he doing there? Could the place be important to some goal he is pursuing? I assume he has some goals other than avoiding her revenge.

Was the building chosen specifically because the fire undermines a goal the MC has that the daughter knows about?

You might brainstorm answers to all the questions above, and any others that occur to you. Have as many possible answers as you can, but don't settle on one right away. Set the list aside for some time. Return to it after your subconscious has had a chance to work on it for a while. You may find one idea stands out... or you may find the real answer when you aren't even trying.

Best of luck

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