Justine: New Story Squee!

tag for clothes that says New; eight ladies writing; justine covingtonI’m totally breaking my rule of not working on a new book while I haven’t finished the first one (especially when the first one has a few folks requesting it!), but after reading Elizabeth’s post last week, I couldn’t help it. See, the Girls in My Basement have been complaining about their diet of white rice (a.k.a., Three Proposals) for awhile now, and I’m getting a mite bit tired of their noise, so I figured it was time to serve them coq au vin so they’d shut up and cooperate.

It’s working. They like coq au vin.

Actually, this all came about when I started taking a class called Story Structure Safari (SSF) taught by Lisa Miller. I’m LOVING it. What I didn’t want to do is apply this new technique of plotting to 3P, because EWW, I would find so many things wrong with it and I really just need to get the story done.

So instead, I pulled out what I thought would be a relatively easy story to write (“easy” as in “not a lot of heavy research”). It’s Tradwick’s story…Nate’s friend and fellow spy…and I’m having such a great time discovering this character and what makes him tick! What’s even better is because I’m figuring this out now, I can go back in Three Proposals and get Tradwick all squared away so he’s the same character in both books.

Tradwick’s story (no title yet — the high concept is “James Bond meets young Philomena, but in post-Napoleonic France” so if you have any ideas, let them fly) centers around his assignment from the Home Office to find and return a marquess’ socialite daughter who had gone missing. Her father was told she fled the country, but in fact, her stepmother, upon discovering she was enciente, trucked her off to a girls’ home in France to have the baby. What Tradwick doesn’t expect is that Catie, the daughter, won’t come back home unless he finds her baby, who was sold to some unknowns.

This is the basic plot I had before starting SSF. In Lesson Two (OMG!!! So much great story discovery and I’m only on Lesson TWO!), the plot got a lot deeper. Higher stakes. More emotional investment. More conflict.

See, I discovered that Tradwick has a past that’s inexorably linked to his challenge of finding this missing baby and returning Catie to England. When he was young, his mother got pregnant with another man’s child and Tradwick’s father made her choose — them or the baby. She chose the baby and disappeared from Tradwick’s life (ouch). Their family name was marred by the scandal and Tradwick’s father has instilled in his son the importance of propriety. The family has worked hard to restore their name, and the coup de grace will be the promotion Tradwick receives at the Home Office once he finds the marquess’ daughter.

What he doesn’t expect to find is his mother, working in France to shut down the homes for girls, establish proper and respectable orphanages, and find and prosecute the people running the baby selling operation (ouch, ouch).

He also doesn’t expect to find Catie had a child. Her lack of propriety is such a turn off to Tradwick that he almost drops the case (ouch, ouch, ouch). But what makes Tradwick really interesting, I think, is that while he’s high in the instep in his personal life, in his social life, he lives a bit more loose…or he at least appears to. Regarded as the “Don Juan of the Beau Monde,” he’s great at flirting and living as if he has no morals, but he always goes to his house at the end of the night, and never has sleepovers (if you catch my meaning).

In other words, he’s a very complex guy.

I’m just starting Lesson Three in SSF and I’ll start to dig deep into the first act. I’m looking forward to that now that I know more about Tradwick and what makes him tick. Catie is no simple miss, either. She’s grown up a lot during this whole ordeal and she’s not the catty society miss she once was. She’ll be a challenge for him.

I’ll report more as the story develops. In Three Proposal news, however, I DID clean up my MS (all the chapters were out of order and misnumbered) and I’ve edited a few more chapters, so I’m making progress. The slate is pretty clean this week in terms of other non-writing activities, so the goal is to get through the wedding scene by then. It’s a lot, but aim high, right?

Have you started working on something new? Any new character or plot discoveries you want to share?

7 thoughts on “Justine: New Story Squee!

  1. I’m still trying to iron out why Finch’s mother committed suicide. I can’t come up with a reason that isn’t a cliche. I have been able to link more of the characters and incidences with others in the story to make it stronger. But why why why??? It is very frustrating because now that I am finished with my masters, I actually have time to write and my creative juices dried up. Argh!

    • It’s been a long time since I looked at your book, Michille, and I don’t remember it very well, that is to say, not really at all. But in general—I’m thinking that if you’re really at a wall about why Finch’s mother committed suicide, maybe, just maybe, this is not supposed to be in the book. Maybe there is no why. Maybe you’ve hit the literal and proverbial dead end, and you have to figure out another way through the maze.

      If Finch’s mother absolutely, positively has to die, maybe she could just drive recklessly on an icy mountain road and go over the side. She was reckless, and she tempted the Fates. And she lost. But it was sort of an accident.

      Justine: congratulations on the new start! I’m so glad if this class is helping you figure stuff out and that you’re making such good progress right out of the gate. Way to go! (And don’t forget to finish and send in Three Proposals. Those editors did request it, after all….)

      • I have a binder thick with 3P chapters that need cleaning up. I’m going to plow through them one by one, and as I finish, remove them from my binder. In some cases, I know entire chapters that I can lop off. The goal is for the binder to be empty! I will say that working on something else DOES clear my mind up a little bit and refreshes me to go back to 3P. At this point, I think I’m going to alternate days. We’ll see how it goes!

        It’s exhilarating discovering new story stuff! I’m loving it! Of course, I’m behind in the coursework, but that’s okay. It’s sort of a “do at your own pace” kind of thing.

    • So my husband is actively involved in all sorts of suicide prevention campaigns and has studied it. The best understanding we have of it is that people take their lives because they want to end the unbearable pain they’re in. There could be any multitude of reasons for it…general depression, job loss, feelings of unworthiness, etc., but sometimes, as Kay mentions, there is no reason. It just happens.

      For now, I’d suggest tabling the issue of why she died by suicide (FYI, no one in the suicide field says “committed” suicide anymore — they “died by” suicide. “Committed” implies there was personal choice in the matter, and that angers lots of folks in the suicide field, particularly those who have survived it. They don’t choose to die, they choose to end the pain…Sorry for the rant).

      As I was saying, table the issue of why she died. Focus on the rest of your story and as things develop, an idea may present itself. Or not. That’s okay, too. With something like suicide, there doesn’t have to be a reason.

      • As it turns out, I went for a run tonight and spent the entire time thinking about what would cause Finch’s mother to make her decision. I realized it was a chronic pain issue. She had exhausted all the conventional meds and had gone to the dark side for relief (one of the reasons people turn to heroin – oxycodone stops working or is hard to get/expensive). An event triggers her to take a good hard look at what had become of her life and, as you said Justine, she chose to end the pain – in her case it was physical pain from a debilitating condition (have to decide which one because there are several that cause chronic severe pain – one of my professor’s sister’s lived with her and she had one of them – from what the professor said, it was awful). Finch is there, gets a scar from it, but doesn’t remember it – until it’s time for Haemon’s mother to die in the Antigone plot. Then he remembers and has to re-grieve. Mom doesn’t die on the page, but in the past. The death on the page is that Finch has to grieve for his mother again.
        I just read an article on committed versus died by. It takes a while to shift after a lifetime of using the same turn of phrase.

  2. It’s really cool to know that it’s possible to create and edit . . . I have a feeling that there’s a definite difference between the two, and that compartmentalizing them wouldn’t be too bad, if one had the time to split between the two endeavors.

    I am miserable. I don’t have the voice right in the first five paragraphs or so, and it finally does kick in, and I just don’t know whether to go back and fix things, or move on. I decide to move on, and run into new decision after new decision to make. In the first draft, Bunny and Michael had a working relationship; he had a good reason to hire her, and he knew her finances, so he puts on the screws to make her accept a costume for the assignment. The dressmaker had made dresses for his dead wife, etc. etc. But I pull that one string and make Bunny a new face, hustling to break into the world of New York Journalism, and suddenly . . . the bottom falls out of the plot. I’ve got to make new stuff. Why should Michael do any of this stuff for a stranger? Her portfolio is good. Her clothes are covered in burns and chemicals, though, and she’s probably not going to represent the magazine well. He’s got the center pages covered, anyway. ARGH!!!!! (Not much of that made sense, either, did it? Oh, I got a mess o’ plot stewin’ here.)

    I write ten words, and I’m stymied again by the necessity to create a new plot. I haven’t decided if it’s too hard and I should go back, or if I just need to suck it up and create.

  3. Pingback: Elizabeth: Back to Basics – The Characters | Eight Ladies Writing

Let Us Know What You Think

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s