We've already covered the first two stages of Precontemplation and Contemplation, and this week, we're looking at the third stage of Preparation.
Depending on the type book and genre, either the Contemplation stage or Preparation stage might take the bulk part of your book. I imagine that characters can vacillate between the two frequently. Either way, you want to make sure that the tension ramps up to a point where at some point they have to make some sort of decision.
During the Preparation stage, the character realizes that they can't put off the decision heralded by the inciting event any longer. They begin to get their ducks in a row, so to speak, to enable them to run for office, attract the elusive guy, or try to catch the killer without getting killed.
Think about the movie Rambo: First Blood Part II. (Bear with me, ladies. I had two older brothers.) Rambo agreed to search for POWs in Vietnam in order to photograph them, not rescue them. He of course doesn't follow rules, and ends up getting captured. He escapes, and has a little kiss scene with the native girl--who then dies. Rambo gets ticked, and begins to assemble his weapons.
This scene goes on for maybe a minute or so, as he's saddling up all his knives and explosives and guns and ammo, cinching them into place on his body. This is Rambo's Preparation stage, as he gets ready for what's sure to be a big "shoot 'em up, kill 'em" event, as my dad would say.
Let's say you have a heroine who is deciding that she needs to lose weight and get healthier. Her first act of Preparation might be to toss out her carb-heavy dinner-in-a-boxes and give away her private chocolate stash. She might stock the pantry with low-fat snacks and more fruit. She might even invest in new walking shoes or a gym membership. This is all in preparation to tackle a new diet and exercise regime, but she can do all of this and not actually lift a finger to cook better or get off the couch. That would be the Action stage.
So the Preparation stage takes the reader right to the brink of action with the character. In a way, it makes every book a little suspenseful. The reader should be just as invested in the character's preparation for action as the character is.
The Preparation stage is also a time when most characters turn to an outside person for advice or support. Friends can give encouragement, therapists can be great sounding boards. Characters (and people) are often driven by an internal mantra of sorts that is their motivation for change. You might be able to discover this mantra by looking at your client's GMC chart (Goal, Motivation, Conflictby Debra Dixon).
For example, if a person thinks they aren't good enough for someone to love them, typically during the Preparation stage, that mantra will begin to morph. They might think, "I'm good enough for some people," (or some other variation), which suffices to motivate them through their preparation.
Let's revisit Edward from Twilight. Last week, we left him contemplating what to do about Bella, the smell of whose blood he can hardly withstand but who is so intriguing because he can't hear her thoughts. Edward's Contemplation moves into Preparation dramatically when he saves Bella's life from her friend's van. If he'd not, though, Bella would be dead, and then his contemplation would be for nothing. At least with her alive, he still has a decision to be made (and the movie can go on). So in a way, he was preparing for the decision he made to get to know her.
Edward's Preparation goes further, of course, when he takes her into the forest on that day when they both just kinda skip off from school. He tries to scare her by getting her to admit that he's a vampire and watching him run fast and chunk trees, etc. He's preparing Bella for his decision. Preparing others is also part of this stage. He's even preparing for his decision when he sneaks up into her bedroom and says he has one thing he wants to try, and that's to kiss her. All of these actions, while being active, are still Edward's way of preparing to have Bella in his life on a more permanent basis.
Q4U: If you're still hanging with me, what are some more famous Preparation stage scenes from books or movies that you can think of?