I have a great appreciation for writers who are able to make things seem organic and emergent even to someone who has studied what Narrative is and how it works. It's one thing to know that Protagonist is meant to get his shit pushed in before he succeeds. It's another see it handled in a way that has even the most jaded reader go "No, that's completely reasonable and therefore plausible."
Don't tell me that we don't write using narrative formulae. We do. Folks put bread on the fucking table by mastering those formulae and then making it seem like they aren't there. It's a fucking craft for a reason, and that reason is--like in science--there is a body of knowable acumen to study and master that then has to be practiced until the principles within the knowledge get grokked. Until then, it's all one big Git Gud Scrub trip.
Well, I'm on that Git Gud step.
The Burning of Hugo underwent another significant revision. I cut out the previous opening with Hugo's ex-wife, opting to open with Ken's arrival at a book launch party for Hugo's third novel (formerly Scene 5 of Act 1, and yes I default to an Act/Scene paradigm; reading plenty of Shakespeare throughout my youth left its mark) and getting on with it.
The reason? The information that the previous opening gave to the reader (a) arrived too early and (b) proved redundant with a later scene, after Ken got into a fight with some minions of the cult that got sicced on him after making Hugo look bad at the party, where he meets The Dark Lord and gets briefed on what the hell is up with Hugo.
I also changed Ken and Hugo's relationship. Hugo's novel success comes from taking Ken's real adventures and fictionalizing them, something Ken allowed in return for acknowledgement and some of the proceeds. This means that the party appearance is justified on multiple grounds, meaning that the cultists can't just eject him when he triggers them.
This means that the fight scene that follows has a grounding; it's the measure that the cultists employ when their go-to de-platforming move fails for reasons that they can't touch (i.e. a legal obligation). The attackers are themselves useful, but expendable and fungible, dupes fortified by a toxic combination of illegal narcotics and a criminal (literally) sense of entitlement. Ken gets them, but not without getting badly hurt, and it's as he recovers that Act 1 shifts to Act 2.
So, there you have the first Act summarized: Ken gets thrown up a tree.