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Day 3—Writing a Novel—The Deep Blue Cage

... I’m still not clear on how she gets off the boat....
Note: Unedited writings from my notebook for this novel. Square bracket items represent added comments.
T
ime to work on this story. I gave some though to the title. I am going with THE DEEP BLUE CAGE. But I might go with THE DEEP BLUE PRISON. Both have pluses and minuses based on the connotations. I also had some thoughts on the cover. I see a shipping container with an image of a Chinese flag. That would be sufficient.
I came up with a plot point. Based on betrayal. Our hero [I use hero for male and female.] is freed from the ship. She’s plotting how to get back at the Chinese officers and the ship. She goes to a private security company [mercenaries] to hire some former Navy Seals for the plan. But here’s the betrayal. The guy she meets with at the company, records the talks. He uses it. Takes it to DOD [Dept. of Defense] or State to earn some brownie points. Their his bread and butter. That’s the betrayal. She thinks everything is a go until things go south. That’s a good twist, a good disaster. Not sure where to take it after that…
Here’s another thought. She gets off the ship because of ransom [is paid]. It’s a cash payment. In the end the captain gets the cash in the prison but of course doesn’t get to use. Nothing to spend it on. And for her it shows she’s not about the money. I imagine a cell on this prison ship filled with the cash and the prisoners get to see it day after day.
One negative thought—the second act slump. Need lots and lots for that but see some darkness. It depends on how detailed I get with the life on this ship. And I suppose figuring out how to get off the ship—that would be her main objective—after staying alive. And there is a bit about the second mate—helping her. No there’s the smooth talking to win favours.
So what can happen in Act II?
  • she learns about the other women [kept captive]
  • up to a point she think she’s saved until that is ruined
  • one of the ‘girls’ dies or is killed and her body is tossed over board
  • she gets loose and is on the run, trying to stay hidden
  • observing the routine so she can plan an escape
  • physically fights one of the crew but is physically hurt—not sure how much
  • pirates approach the ship—seems like a way out for her, but the pirates are slaughtered and tossed overboard. Their boats are sunk. It was as if they never existed. [These container ships drill on how to deal with pirates.]
  • she sets a fir on one of the containers but it only shows how the crew are trained to fight fires and put it out
  • she goes on a hunger strike and they try to force feed her
  • say an image of a table with women around it [can’t remember what that was about]
  • she tosses a plate of food
  • she ends up tied to bed
  • she notices how these women willing go along with the routine [she doesn’t understand why]
  • there’s a language problem—except with the Filipinos
  • Stockholm syndrome
  • they taunt her with promises of freedom that never comes
  • they said they have heard from family or US government but they won’t pay ransom because of policy [against doing that]
  • US won’t go ahead with a raid to rescue her because they don’t want fallout with the Chinese [Also likely they don’t know she’s on a ship and Chinese would deny any such activity. The ship is indirectly state owned.]
  • the ship docks in Middle East—the FBI aren’t allowed to come aboard to check
  • in another point they do a search of the ship but can’t find anything. And they can’t do a complete search because the ship is too big and there’s a schedule to keep.
  • to twist things up, there could be a sister ship [identical except for name] and that confuses the US
Okay. I’ve filled up two pages with ideas on how the second act can go. That’s good. And I’m sure I can come up with lots of other ideas and I should do that now.
  • The sister ship. The US does launch a raid on it 9or something like that) but find nothing. Had to because it’s the wrong ship.
  • These ships rely on computers. Somehow she gets access to do some type of damage.
  • one of the pistons of the engine craps out and has to be replaced but that’s standard operating procedure. [The engine still works, the boat still sails. The engineers are merely tied down in the engine room working on putting in the replacement.]
I’m still not clear on how she gets off the boat.
I was thinking about how there’s a limited amount of things you can do on a ship. And many of them have been seen. It reminds me of the move Lifeboat by Alfred Hitchcock. He brought in something new [to the story] by bring a new character—the German seaman plucked from the sea. With it a plot twist and new angles for the story.
So, someone new comes onboard. Not sure who or why.
One of the girls does something out of line and gets a beating. [Can’t say I want to write that sort of thing plus it’s a cliché.]
Building the suspense. The threat of something going to happen. I see her watching a clock as it ticks towards the hour. I want to hear and see the threats. They don’t do anything to her right away. Why? Because she’s injured and need mending. So she’s in the infirmary and seemingly safe. They keep her drugged. And than a second person comes into the infirmary. That’s the hint of something bad.
I have an image of them photographing these woman. Maybe even porn. But that’s too obvious. [It’s also creeping me out. I wouldn’t want to write about it.]
Drugs. They drug these women so they are controlled. Heroin. Opium. Amphetamines. Something. Again that seems obvious but it could come later for her when she’s more resistant. Getting drugged later increases the load. [Not sure what I meant.] Makes it worse for her.
Still not sure how she gets off the boat.
She’s focusing her mind to remember specifics—names of people, but finds after days she’s losing things. The drugs are affecting her.
So how does she get off the boat…She’s set adrift in a life raft. The good guy mate [officer] helps her. He gets found out and is killed.
I like that approach. He helps her escape. It’s night. They try to spot the lifeboat and get her back but she has to kill the beacon and [running] lights. Her hope of rescue [rests with those]. She left the ship with the mate saying he’s report her location so they can locate her except he’s dead and can’t do it. [She has no way of knowing that.] I like that because it increases the dread factor. More reason for the reader to worry.
Then the second rescue from the sea. Who? Where? How?
I’m not liking the second act. [Typical for writers.] Well, parts of it. I like that she goes to the infirmary. All of the officers of the ship know she’s onboard. That includes the second mate who doesn’t know about the women kept onboard. It’s a bit odd he wouldn’t know because they are all over the ship. But there has to be someone who wants to help her. That’s new info that has to come out. And there could be a cook who helps.
A way to create tension is paranoia by the captain or someone else when they find out who she is. They fear the worse could happen. [So it’s justified fear and not paranoia.] That could be the reason to set her free…Something to think about…But they would just dump her overboard. If they set her free, there’d be a risk of retribution. [Also, the captain is likely overly confident, hubris, thinks he can handle whatever may come his way so not afraid of her.]
Here’s a way. To get her off, hide her in a container that is off loaded on a dock. That’s possible. And it might seem obvious. Too obvious.
There’s another issue. How does the family [hers] know what is going on? Start with back-story when things are fine. She’s on this sailboat by herself, but with tech, she can communicate with others back home. They can track her movement. But then the storm [hits]. It damages the electronics. They lose contact. The emergency beacon may or may not work. Could they find the boat but without her? She’s been picked up. There could be clues on her boat about what happened. Shit. I had a thought and it vanished.
[I’m reminded of a Malay or Chinese plan that left Kuala Lumpur headed for China. That’s a NE direction. For some reason, it turned and headed SW only to vanish and months later no definite location of where it crashed, although bits of wreckage have washed up on shores. Even a large plane is tiny in a big body of water.]
James Piper
Kitchener, Ontario
Posted 2017/03/20 at 17h49ET in The Deep Blue Cage.
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