Michaeline: The Benefits of Goofing Off on the Internet

A woman with a pen in her hand contemplating a blank sheet of paper.

Think, think, think. (Image via Wikimedia Commons)

So, long story short: my friend and I were texting this morning about various womanly complaints, and she said Amazon has now got a sparkly menstrual cup on offer. It’s the kind of idea that hits you in the middle of the forehead with a solid slug of “Why?” and then slaps you on the back of the head with a good, “Why not?” The things are becoming more popular, and I suppose there’s now a market for sparkly menstrual cups. (Note: I can’t actually find such a thing on Amazon now, but now that it’s out there, it seems like it should be an idea.)

But of course, this reminded me of the Glittery Hoo-Ha, and Jennifer Crusie’s post about it. HER friend, Lani Diane Rich (aka Lucy March and other names) had brought up with half-serious literary theory about why the hero loves the heroine and only her – even though she is a diamond in the rough, or in this case, even though he’s a man who enjoys women and enjoys have sex with many, many women.

You’ll have to read it, and the comments (and the second page of comments when there so many that the blog broke), but the gist is that once he has dipped his wick in her glittery hoo-ha, no other hoo-ha will do for him. He’s in love, and ready to be faithful.

This random summer surfing came at a great time: I’ve got some empty hours coming up this week, and I’ve been thinking about the multiple problems of my work in progress (WIP). Right now, the conflict box is pretty weak. (Conflict box a mystery? Let’s raid Jenny’s blog again, with a fabulous explanation of Michael Hauge’s conflict box here.) My heroine’s goal is to be the hero’s lover until death do they part! Jack’s The One! What’s the conflict? Olivia thinks she’s not in his league as far as magic powers and social graces with magical creatures go. She’s not ready to commit until she knows she’s strong enough not to wind up the midnight snack of some monstrous friend of Jack’s.

What’s Jack’s goal? He wants to marry this woman! Olivia’s The One! But, he’s got a sordid past . . . well, maybe not sordid, but certainly filled with enthusiastic sex and bad break-ups. He wants to show Olivia that he’s done with all that, and ready to be the sort of good boy who she can rely on. The conflict? An old lover comes back to right wrongs, kick ass and if she breaks up Jack and Olivia, that would just be the frosting on the vengeance cake.

See? The conflict lock doesn’t quite match up. I have set the story in a summer camp for magical beings who need more training. The way I have it set up now, Olivia is studying with the old lover to improve her magical skills, and along the way, she’s getting a front seat view of magical politics. I have lacked the confidence that this is a solid conflict lock.

As far as the Glittery Hoo-Ha and Magical Hoo-Hoo go, they’ve got it. But neither of them have confidence that the bond is enough; they both think they have something to prove outside the sexual attraction.

In some ways, I’m reminded of the old O Henry story, “The Gift of the Magi” where the glittery bonds won out in the end, even though both characters made sacrifices to come up with a perfect gift. They are both trying hard to conform to goals that society sets (you must exchange great Christmas presents with your lover), and they fail so utterly, yet they still have each other, and it turns out that’s all that matters.

I see Olivia as trying to live up to some sort of imaginary standard that’s completely self-invented – she thinks she can only have Jack if she can achieve X. Jack doesn’t know she has these expectations. He’s so busy worrying about his own more-real expectation that a good man is faithful and doesn’t have vengeful ex-lovers trying to kill him and his True Love. Somehow, I’ve got to figure out how Olivia can show him that she’ll stand with him, no matter how many angry people come after him. That’s the real story here.

The problem is somewhat complicated by a strong subplot (or two or three). The lover is after some gold that Jack stole from her. Jack’s given the gold to a mutual friend, who also happens to be on the board of directors of this summer camp. The lover and the friend had a torrid one-night stand, and are actually The Ones for each other. So, it’s not like I can shove the lover in the fireplace, or drown her in the lake during a summer thunderstorm. I want the lover to live and be the hero of her own story (at least in the reader’s mind, even if I never get around to writing it).

But any way, thinking of the expectations angle has (maybe) opened up a new way into the story for me. I’ve got some hope, at any rate. Not bad for an hour or so of goofing off on the internet.

5 thoughts on “Michaeline: The Benefits of Goofing Off on the Internet

  1. I can’t wait to read Jack and Olivia’s story, whether you think you’ve got a good conlictlock or not. That has always been something I’ve struggled with, especially since many of my favorite stories – the ones I reread time again have questionable conflict locks.

    The story you’ve described sounds engaging and fun.

    • What Elizabeth said. Some of the books I’ve most enjoyed and re-read recently have character or relationship arcs but have been about characters responding to extraordinary personal circumstances. They do not have goals, let alone a classic conflict lock, and I couldn’t care less. I’ve been hatching a blog post about it 😉

      It sounds as though both Jack and Olivia have character arcs, and the story sounds like a lot of fun. To use a McKee-ism, the story values definitely change. So don’t worry about the conflict, just get the story down and then we can read it!

      • Thanks, guys! We’ll see what happens. Right now, it’s not working, but it’ll get there. I think that’s the real use of a conflict box — when things are not quite working, then the conflict box can give you some insight on how to change things up.

  2. There are all kinds of stories, and all kinds of readers out there to enjoy them. The important thing is to find a form of writing/storytelling that works for you as a writer, and conveys the story you want to tell. While I learned SO MUCH great stuff through our McDaniel classes and our workshopped books, there are things I’ve had to leave by the roadside to find my own way of developing the story. Lisa Cron’s Story Genius approach works much better for me. I think it provides strength and structure in areas that are weaknesses for me. YMMV, as it should ;-)!

    • That’s another thing I love about Eight Ladies; we can keep up with all the different experiments, and learn about new techniques and styles. It’s one thing to read on a random blog that X is a good writing system because of A, B and C. But it’s a different thing when Y says X is a good thing, and I know Y writes G, H and I like I do, so the system might be particularly suited (or not suited, as the case may be) for my own writing.

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