Retconning a WIP

That title has to be the most jargon-y post heading in my history. A WIP is a work in progress; retconning means “the alteration of previously established facts in the continuity of a fictional work” (that’s Wikipedia). I am retconning like crazy, including that DSP (Damn Stupid Premise) we were talking about.

Here’s what’s going on (this is all about what I’m working on, so if you’d like to skip to something more interesting, there’s always good stuff on io9):

So first a brief recap:
Many years ago–okay, five years ago–Lani and Krissie and I came up with the idea for a collaboration featuring fairy tale heroines. We brainstormed a basic plot, did collages, developed characters and then . . . wandered off. Later we came up with another collaboration in that world, brainstormed plots, I did a collage and then . . . we wandered off. But I really liked the world so I kept world building and started working on a novel told in short stories/episodes and then I got hit with about forty different crises and it slowed me down considerably. I kept working on it, but I was just not in a romantic comedy fantasy frame of mind, so I was pretty much spinning my wheels. About two months ago, Lani said, “Let’s do an episodic novel set in the Fairy Tale Lies world,” and I said, “That’s what I was trying to do with the Zo stories, I really like the concept, let’s do it,” and Krissie said, “Yes,” and I said, “Let’s invite Toni Causey in, too,” and they both said, “Absolutely,” and we asked Toni, and she said yes. Then Lani got swamped with her own work, and Krissie got overwhelmed with other things, but Toni and I kept working, and having somebody to brainstorm world building with galvanized me, and we started e-mailing obsessively, pulling everything together, and as of today, we have a new world built with a logical system of magic and a cast of characters I love and I have 30,000 words done. Thatsalotta words for starting from scratch two months ago.

Okay, that recap wasn’t all that brief, but I had a lot of ground to cover.

So now I’m going back to the Zo stories with my head screwed on straight for a change and a much clearer view of not only the world, but also of what was wrong with the Zo stories to begin with, which means it’s time to retcon. Before they were fairly light, more screwball comedy, which I wouldn’t have been able to maintain anyway, but with the new stuff I’ve written for the book that takes place six years after the Zo Stories (that would be Monday Street), the mood and tone of the narrative world has shifted. I still want to write the subplot about the girl who got kissed and the kisser who turned into a frog, I just have to base it a little more in reality.

Reality. Always a longshot for me.

And so I came back to what I always have to come back to if I’m going to make any progress: What is this story about?

That is, I can do a rambling summation of this woman and these kids and this guy and this other woman and this other guy but that’s not what the story is about. The story is about this protagonist and this antagonist and the struggle between them that begins on the first page and end, if not on the last page, then on the third to the last page. So I know my protagonist is Zo, but the focus of the story shifts dramatically if the story is mainly about the guy who wants to kiss her or about the guy who wants to kill her. One of those is main plot and one of those is subplot and I have to decide which is which before I can really plot this story.

The truth is, in general I’m not that interested in writing straight romance plots. They’re about growing closer and compromising, and while it’s fun to put that on the page, it tends to make for a pretty low affect in plotting. On the other hand, the romance lover in me gets annoyed when the bad guy keeps making things difficult for the heroine. I want to read the love story, buddy, could you get your head out of the way?

So generally what I try to do is tie the two plots together so that one plot that spurs the other plot: the danger from the Big Bad pushed the lovers together, and the partnership of the lovers makes things worst for the Big Bad, so he increases the danger . . .

But even so, one of them has to dominate, so I’m choosing between Plot One and Plot Two.

Plot One is about an evil politician who wants to kidnap Our Girl and take her to her Evil Stepmother who wants to eat her heart (Our Girl’s name is Zo White because I never waste time with subtleties) by kidnapping her foster children (she had seven but that was too many so we’re working with the five-kid-band) and forcing her to come after them. Several times. Yeah, that one needs work.

Plot Two is about the cop the foster kids call after they break into the politician’s mansion so he’ll see all the illegal things the pol has been doing, which works until the cop sees Zo and pretty much falls at first sight, and then has to half kill himself to win her over throughout the book. Yeah, that one needs work, too.

So I have to pick one, and fix that plot. I can slide a little bit on a subplot, but my main plot is the boat that floats the story: it has to be watertight. I’m thinking I’m going with the suspense plot and play the romance as the subplot. Which is odd because Monday Street is the opposite: romance main plot, suspense support. You gotta go where the story leads you.

And of course, some of you have already noticed the really big problem there: Odolph wants to kidnap Zo, Ecks wants to kiss Zo, WHAT THE HELL DOES ZO WANT? Beside to not be kidnapped–hello, folks, it’s our old friend the negative goal–so that needs work, too.

I’ve been building new collages which is helping hugely. We also moved the time period up ten years so women can wear pants; how the hell did our great-grandmothers manage life in those skirts? Plus the illustrations from the 20s are fabulous: Leyendecker, Coleman, Eastman, and so many more. I really like using illustrations for the main picture even if I fill in with photos. I’m trying to un-photo photos with pasteurization but they’re still photos. At this point, I’m collaging the stories/chapters, and then I’ll move on to the characters, and then back to the chapters. The only thing that’s as good as collaging for freeing up the brain is driving, but I’m paranoid about that now since I rear-ended somebody while thinking about a story. That’s inexcusable.

All of which is to say, I’m working. Also, my brain hurts.

But here’s a collage in progress. See, pictures! I’m thinking of you guys ALL THE TIME.

The Frog Principle Collage

Now off to reread all the comments on the DSP. Back later.

Oh, and it occurs to me that I have forgotten Cherry Saturday. I’ll put up a poll. Vote on the right if you want to keep it or you want to let it go (if you’re undecided you can vote for more than one thing because it’s that kind of day).

ETA: The collage wasn’t right so I futzed with it. This is why I never get anything done.

The Frog Principal Final2

46 thoughts on “Retconning a WIP

  1. Zo wants to have a stable home for her foster kids so they won’t get kidnapped and turned into pickpockets, beggars and chimney sweeps.

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    1. Actually all of Zo’s fosters are dangerous in some way which is why they couldn’t stay at the orphanage. She has to keep them safe because they’re kids, but she has to keep an eye on them because they have powers/conditions/skills that could be disastrous. The kids are all good kids and they listen to her, but they’re kids, and if anybody finds out what they’re capable of, it could be horrible.

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      1. I think a few of her kids are in my study hall. Really.

        This post really encourages me on MANY levels.I have been working on a story and the writing is just not there. I was afraid I’d fallen into my no-goal trap, but I just realized this time I do have a character with a goal – I’d just lost sight of that and was writing as if she hadn’t. Since I haven’t found her voice yet, it may be that I just need to write more, but I think more collage time is in order. So, I have a mere 6K words for Nano.

        On the OTHER hand, I have started a writing club at our high school, I am learning my way around Scrivener, I am writing and thinking about story while still being a Mom and going on college visits and having parent-teacher conferences, and helping oldest kids as she tries to nail down a major, and I have 6K I didn’t have before. I don’t know if I’m in love with this story idea any more, or if it just needs to percolate, but I’m sticking with it through the end of the month and then importing all my old stuff into Scrivener and seeing what I love.

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      2. That sounds like a good double-sided What Zo Wants: she wants to keep the kids safe (therefore hidden) but also let them test themselves against the world, because the powers, conditions, and skills need to be shunted, met, practiced?

        Maybe Zo herself was kept too safe or not safe enough when young?

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        1. She does have a fairly violent past, but I’m not a fan of “This happened in the past so this is why she’s doing this now.” People who have similar pasts often do things very differently in the present. I like my characters doing things because of who they intrinsically are and because of what’s happening now. So she’s a good person who encountered these kids because of the work she was doing and protected them and now they’re family. It’s all in the now.
          Sorry, that was more answer than you wanted. b

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    1. I don’t remember where I found the badge, but I changed it in Acorn a lot. I think it’s just a six-pointed star with some blue glass work.

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  2. Oh, and just to be clear, we’re still simultaneously working on Monday Street… Jenny’s working on Zo while I am catching up, because I am much slower.

    Of course, much slower than 30K in a month means I have somewhere closer to 12K in that time frame, and for me, that’s Lamborghini fast, so yay, progress.

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  3. And I’d like another option for the Cherry Sat. poll please.

    Skip them for now but come back to them later on. That’s not an obvious choice from what’s there. At least to me.

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    1. Actually, once I wander off from something, I never go back unless somebody requests it. So request it when you want it again. Or I can just keep doing it. It only takes a couple of hours to do a whole year’s worth.

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    1. Lavender is still on the hard drive but I couldn’t make it come alive. Collaborating with Toni has brought me back to the place I was ten years ago, so I’m sticking with this world. If it’s working, I’m not going to mess with it. Once these two books are down, I can look at it again, although these books are so studded with characters that I think I may want to just keep writing here. I love these people.

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  4. Hmm…Why does the politician have to kidnap the children in order to kidnap Zo? Can’t he just kidnap her outright? Seems like less work to kidnap the actual person you want to kidnap. 😉

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    1. He’s not actually kidnapping the kids; that’s the short hand. In other words, he lures one kid into his house figuring Zo will come looking for him (he doesn’t know where she is, he’s just managed to discover that she has a foster whose father he used to know) and he can use the house as a trap. Things go wrong for him, but the trap works; he just has to go on the run before he can take her. So he goes into the Valden woods (next country) and lures one of the kids into there because he can’t go back to Riven to get Zo. It’s actually a good plan: snatching an adult witch in the middle of Great Riven isn’t easy; luring a kid into a house with a promise of something he’s interested in (and delivering on it so he stays) means that she’ll come looking for the kid. What he doesn’t bargain on is that there are five kids, they’re really smart, and they’re ruthless.

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    1. I’m so glad you’re loving these books, and I appreciate the fact that you want to remain in the ‘world’ you’re in right now. I like working when I’m passionate about the place and subject.

      I don’t think reality is a longshot for you. I think the wee detachment is part of your charm and talent. I get enough reality from David Muir.

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  5. I could live without Cherry Saturday, but what about Happy Sunday? I’d kinda’ gotten out of the habit of Happiness Sunday, and I definitely got more cranky. It’s not even just forcing myself to acknowledge some happy for myself, which I could do on my own, but also seeing all the other happies that makes a difference.

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    1. It was a good idea, wasn’t it?
      The problem was, I had Cherry Saturdays and Happiness Sundays, and Cottage Saturdays, and miscellaneous posts here and a house that needs work and Christmas presents to make and then the books took off and I looked around and said, “Some of this stuff has to go.” Because it isn’t just making the posts, you have to moderate, too.
      But Krissie wasn’t to do things on her revamped Drama Queen blog when she gets her life straightened out, so Happiness Sundays may end up over there. It’s a really, really good idea to take the time to talk about what made you happy every week.
      So basically, I don’t know. I’m not sure Argh is the place of happiness (g).

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  6. First of all, can I say how WONDERFUL it is to see you so excited about writing again?! (Thank you, Toni!)

    And this whole world sounds great–I was really looking forward to the fairy tale world stories (so much so that I wrote fairy tale books myself while I was waiting), but these sound cool too.

    I love having Cherry Saturdays to check in with folks. Can we have them with dogs in too?

    Go, Crusie, go!

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  7. Well, fwiw, my muse is back because of Jenny, so it’s a mutual admiration society over here. I am having so much damned fun, I swear, it should be illegal.

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    1. Having so much damned fun shouldn’t be illegal. Arrests would certainly suck the fun clean out of it. (g)

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  8. Well, since you told Non Writer Beth to speak up, I am going to throw my 2 cents in.
    I liked Random Sundays, which, by their own name, could be random, and could include dog photos. I’d rather have Cottage Saturdays when you have something to post. I don’t think it should preclude another post if you had something to say, but I do love to see the house progress when you have time to show it.
    As for the rest, do we really ever not take the time to talk when we want to get off-topic anyway? 😉 I vote for you talking about what you are writing and what you are thinking. I like it when you have time to lead a discussion on a specific theme, but it doesn’t always work out for me time-wise when you do, so I participate when I can, and I don’t when I can’t. I think you should have the option to do the same.
    You’ve also had great guest-posts in the past. So, I say, don’t over-think it too much.

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    1. I also support Random days, Cottage days, Dog days, Happy days, and whatever you want days. These do not need to happen in the same week or with any regularity.

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      1. You know, Kelly S., that’s the wonderful thing I figured out about potlucks. If everyone brings what makes them happy, then everyone has something that makes them happy. I went to a potluck where I and 3 other people brought fruit salad. It was GREAT. We all _needed_ fruit salad, all of them were slightly different, and we all were happy. (also, someone made baked beans with bacon. It was a complete potluck)
        So, I’m figuring if Jenny posts it, chances are some, or most of us, will want to read it anyway. The others can check in and comment when they want fruit salad.

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  9. This all sounds great and I’m hoping like heck that it keeps rolling along for you because I’d like a new Jenny Crusie to read, please.

    I finished the first draft of Demons Don’t (turns out Belial was the protagonist after all) and I’m now revising and trying to figure out what’s the least amount of time I can cram the wager into (shooting for 40 days/40 nights). Does that count as retconning?

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    1. Which one’s the bad guy? (Heh heh heh.)

      Oh, wait, I take back the Hehs. I put a badge on the cop. Ignore me. That’s Brandon Routh with some heavy posterization. Illustrators just don’t do a lot of men the way they drew women, Leyendecker excepted of course, but all his men are gents in Arrow shirts.

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      1. Yay Elliot! Also, Brandon Routh is now on Arrow playing Ray Palmer aka The Atom. He’s kissed Felicity & has also been shown exercising shirtless… I mention this for Julie B.

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  10. Isn’t her goal, like lots of your heroine’s goals, to have a family of her own choosing? That is, the people and how they live and all of it. I may be in a grouchy EVERYONE SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO MAKE THEIR OWN FAMILY mood because of an article I read about zoning issues in Hartford CT. How dare multiple families come together to live in one house??? *eyeroll forever*

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    1. Her goal is to save the kids. She’s just trying to get them into adulthood without dying or killing anybody. She pretty much gave up on having a life of her own at fifteen. Of course, that’s gonna change . . .

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  11. This is so great! I can’t wait to read the books. As for the plot dilemma, I have been thinking about this kind of thing A LOT lately (since there is a conference that I want to go to and I need to have something actually written). I can’t tell you if I would chose plot one or two because I don’t feel I know the characters well enough, but I can tell you one work that I’ve been trying to analyze. I even asked you about it a few months ago (and many thanks for the response). The kdrama City Hunter (yes, I know, I know – I am still over the moon in love with Korean dramas – I get obsessed, what can I say?) – *spoilers ahead* Anyway, I loved the romance in this drama, but there was so much revenge that I couldn’t decide WHAT it was – Action? Romance? Revenge story? Plot one is about the hero who is raised in a harsh environment by his step-father, a Golden Triangle drug lord, but formerly a good guy military officer. He makes sure that our hero will avenge his (hero’s) father’s death by finding the government officials that killed bio-dad in a mission gone wrong. Hero systematically begins uncovering the identities of the mystery killers, and deals out justice that the law can’t provide. Plot two is that of the spunky heroine, a secret service agent for the president, just like her father. She’s poor and basically orphaned after her mother is killed in a car crash and her father is a vegetable on life support. She’s running out of money and the hospital’s going to unhook dad. She needs cash, so she moonlights as a driver for hire, and she is completely focused on saving her home and her family. So, they meet, and the hero falls in love with her (of course) and the love changes the man that he is, in turn changing his quest for revenge. The romance is strong from the second episode almost to the end, but the ending is definitely the hero’s moment. His desire for revenge has been changed into a desire for justice because of the changes that love made in his life, but the story is his, not hers, at the end. She has an arc, but not the sweeping one that he has. And if it is his story, then revenge/justice will be at the heart if it. So, I would ask you (humbly since you KNOW this stuff already) which character changes the most? Which story is more powerful (if that makes sense)? Which is the story that wants to be told and whose story do you want to tell?

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  12. I take it back about not choosing. I’d pick plot one as the main plot because of the desperate nature of the situation – Zo pitted against someone who wants to hurt her children and eat her heart. Plot two seems to be uplifting, but watching a nice guy try to convince a girl that he loves her doesn’t seem to have the dramatic pull of watching a heroine fight against evil to save her heart.

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    1. Yep, that’s what I gravitated to, too. I think any time you put kids in jeopardy, the kids come first. That’s what happened with Maybe This Time.

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  13. Sounds yummy whichever one you decide to go with. Pick a lane any lane is a pain in the neck, but it does prevent getting your car side swiped or your story turning into a mish mash. I had to go back into my latest suspense and build up my antagonist in earlier chapters, as I’d given too much focus to the unfolding romance. In your case it sounds to me like #1 takes precedence. He’s going to drive the story, he sounds like a good evil antagonist. : )

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  14. Sounds like it’s going to be a good ride, whichever lane you pick!

    Love the collages, as always. Those pinks! And look how the frog’s foot kind of echoes the badge . . . . I also love how when you say things are not right, you increase the size of the dagger. (And the wedding ring, and the stone statue — I guess a lot of elements got bigger parts. Zo stays the same, but her dagger gets bigger (-:.)

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    1. I was a little worried about heroes and heroines being pasteurized, because would that remove all the snark? Then I realized it was an AutoIncorrect.

      Loving the collage, and loving your excitement.

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  15. Apropos of not much, I just want to say I ADORE Leyendecker. I once had the great fortune of going to the Norman Rockwell Museum in CT on a whim and completely accidentally stumbling upon a special exhibit of Leyendecker paintings. It was awesome.

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