Inside the Black Folders: Scarlet

Posted on: 26th Mar 2014  /   Categorized: Scarlet

In February I talked about the things I collected while writing Cress, and on Monday I gave some behind-the-scenes info on the inspiration and process behind writing Cinder.

Today, we’re peering into the black folder for Scarlet . . .




 Inside Scarlet’s Black Folder

Scarlet 1

Once you get into the second book of a series, you’re faced with a constant balancing act. You have to quickly engage your reader and keep the story moving forward, while also reminding them (in a natural, non-intrusive way) about what happened in the previous book so they’re not confused. Here I made my list of the major points I needed to remind readers about as soon as possible. (Note also the brief summary of the book and my early concept of the book’s major themes. Though these things often change during revisions, I like to have at least a tentative idea of them from the beginning so I can try to keep the “big picture” in mind while I’m outlining and writing.)



Scarlet map

This is a map I printed out showing the main agricultural areas in France. This first helped me determine what sorts of crops Scarlet and her grandmother would grow on their farm, and it also gave me some ideas for the path Wolf and Scarlet would take to get to Paris (since I knew I wanted them to end up in a forest).



Scarlet sewer research

My black folders are full of research notes. Here are the notes I took while watching the episode of Dirty Jobs in which Mike Rowe has to trudge through a sewer system, so I could apply the most gruesome and realistic details to the scene in which Cinder and Thorne do the same.



Scarlet trains

An article from Sunset magazine theorizing some accommodations we may have to look forward to in our train travel. Not many of these ideas made it into the book, but it did get me to start thinking beyond my own limited knowledge of train travel.




Scarlet plotting

I mentioned in my post on Cinder’s black folder that I’m always trying different plotting techniques. Here I was trying to build my plot using the “Quest Decided > Action > Quest Thwarted > Reaction > New Quest Decided” method. I *think* I heard about this method from Victoria Schmidt’s writing guide Book in a Month, but I’m not sure. Anyway, it’s a pretty basic way to build your story and figure out the overall progression of your novel.




Scarlet Wolf Haven

An article from South Sound magazine talking about local wildlife protection groups. I think this is where I first heard about Wolf Haven in Olympia, WA, which I did eventually visit for my research on wolves and wolf packs. (If you’re ever in western Washington,  I highly recommend giving them a visit. It’s so fascinating, and the wolves are gorgeous!)



Three folders down, one to go! One Friday I’ll be giving a sneak (non-spoilery) peek at some of my early inspirations for Winter.


  1. adele commented on:

    Do you have any tips for someone to start their own black folder?

  2. Emily commented on:

    Thank you for sharing these! It’s actually pretty helpful for those of us who are writing our own novels. 🙂

  3. Marissa commented on:

    The best tip I can give is to just start collecting things! Any notes you take on your plot or characters or research, any pictures or magazine articles that spark an idea or you think could be handy in the future – file it away. Not everything will be important later, but you never know what will give you that ‘Aha!’ moment that you needed to make a breakthrough in your book.

  4. Monique commented on:

    Awesomeness! You know when you said you did research, it didn’t click in my head that you actually researched that much! Can’t wait for the sneak peek at Winter. I’m dying to read this book!

  5. John Sayre commented on:

    Wolfhaven is an awesome place. Been there several times(more than the Tacoma zoo and NW Trek) The last time was shortly after you visited for resaerch and they mentioned you in the tour.
    Awesome writing tips. I use some of your ideas for my own research .

  6. Bianca commented on:

    I was studying a book called How To Read Literature Like A Professor by Thomas C. Foster. Foster introduces many literary patterns like Quest, Vampirism, Christ Figure, Irony, etc. Foster lays out the Quest as 1. The quester. 2. Destination. 3. Stated reason to go there. 4. Conflicts or challenges along the way. 5. Real Reason. (The real reason is always self-knowledge. Did you use something similar to this method?



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