Last week I promised that today I would be posting a ‘she-said, she said’ brainstorming session that features Jeanne Estridge (friend of 8L and McD alum) and her story, The Devil She Knows. Instead of posting a transcript of that actual session verbatim (lots of boring stuff in there), we decided to use outtakes of it to show what we did wrong and what we did right.
Looking for the “big thing” or the clever thing isn’t necessary when brainstorming. That was lesson number one. Sometimes it’s the everyday actions—done cleverly—that can drive the story. Another thing we found was this: never dismiss anything. All is fair in love and brainstorming and the exchange below proves it.
While identifying threats to the clinic—Dara’s goal is to protect it—we tried to determine possible actions Belial could take to “save” it and hence make Dara fall for him:
K: Tell me about the clinic. What’s going on there?
J: It’s got ongoing financial issues, like any non-profit does.
K: Could that tie somehow into the air conditioner? (This refers to the air conditioner Shaun gave Agnes in Jenny Crusie’s Agnes and the Hitman. It’s a reference to a practical thing the hero does/gives to the heroine to show his love).
J: Yeah, maybe. The clinic is actually under other threats, which is…
K: Yeah, I think that’s a good idea if you put it under other threats. It would open up possibilities of things he could do, because to me the thing he needs to do to make her fall in love with him is related to helping her…well actually, if she decides that he’s after the clinic, that he’s out to destroy the clinic, but that he comes up with an idea to save it or resolve some issue, then, wouldn’t that kind of lead her down this path that she’s wrong and can trust him.
J: It could.
K: So it’s key, right? It’s key to gaining her trust.
J: As I originally conceptualized the book, Lilith (another demon) created that other threat. She was always trying to make Dara look bad, and questioning her in front of the Board (of Trustees). But then some of the other girls in class came up with this idea that Lilith would pretend to be friendly, which I really like, but it took the other thing away. Of course I could create another character—someone on the board that’s always ragging Dara’s ass, always questioning her actions. Like when I worked at the clinic here in town one of the things that happened at a board meeting was that two older women had this idea that our clinic could save money by making the staff do the cleaning instead of having a professional cleaning company.
K. Hell, no.
J. Exactly. First of all, there were a bunch of people there who said they didn’t go to college to become cleaning ladies, but the other thing is, it’s specialty cleaning. You have to deal with lice and bedbugs and MRSA. It’s not just cleaning; it’s specialized cleaning.
K. Right, but that’s not really a threat to the clinic.
J. It is if it makes all the staff quit.
K. So…(pause)…I don’t like that idea. I’ll be honest; I don’t like that. I don’t know, I think it needs to be more concrete because what can he do about that? Clean? She catches him cleaning the bathroom?
J: Okay, I gotta tell you, I could be in a love with a man…
K: I was just gonna say, a man that cleans my bathroom, I’m there. That would be alright.
J: That’s the dream man.
K: Yep, that’s the dream man. That’s the gift that keeps on giving.
J: Yeah, honestly I have yet to find a man that will do that. Actually, though…
K: Wait a minute, wait a minute! Does that have any real possibilities? She finds him cleaning the bathroom? Seriously, maybe that has some potential. Let’s look at that…
We quickly realized we were in love with the idea of a demon who wins his lady by cleaning toilets.
I’ll stop there. Obviously, you never know where a remark or idea will take you and that’s the key to brainstorming. Let it all hang out, nothing is off limits, and don’t dismiss things out of hand (as I almost did).
NEXT WEEK (Two Parts): Where We Went Wrong