We’ve got miserable weather coming in (although not as bad as the midwest, sorry about that, Midwest) so I am counting my blessings. The big one is that Milton is just old, not dying, and his arthritis is giving him hell, so new meds and a snooze on the electric blanket are fixing him right up. With that worry off my mind, it’s time to get back to work. I’m rebooting a novella I began a couple of years ago that has Alice at fourteen and Southie meeting Alice’s art teacher. I only have the first five scenes, and I’m not feeling the heroine, and there are some major plot holes already, but that’s par for my course. My beginnings are always 747s on icy runways: I know exactly where I want to go, I pick up speed, and then I slide sideways into where I’m going to end up. Exciting.
So here’s the beginning of the rebooting process.
First the heroine. I don’t like the one I’ve got, so back to the drawing board. She’s frazzled, of course, and she’s dealing with Alice and then Southie shows up. Southie, much as I love him, long ago decided that ambition could be left to his brother and mother and so he slouches through life, observing, helping out where needed, generally enjoying whatever comes his way, fixing it if it’s not enjoyable. So his opposite number would be somebody well-organized, Type A, ambitious, driving . . . kill me now. That’s not somebody I’d even want to spend a novella with. So what if he meets the female Southie? They can’t both be laidback, nothing would ever get done. Unless Southie has to step up for a change. North and Annie are out of town, so he can’t suggest them. I like this. Love makes Southie break a sweat. And since the heroine won’t be impressed by a slacker yuppie, he’ll have to work for her. I must cogitate on this, but I like it.
Drawback: the heroine cannot be somebody who waits to be rescued. Plus she’s a teacher, so she’s going to be proactive in controlling her environment. But I can see her being an observer; she’s an art teacher (write what you know). And she’d be there to help Alice, certainly, her student, and I can see that as a general help-anybody-who-needs-it kind of thing that would lead her to help Marilee, too. Good teachers are like that, plus they pay attention so that if something they’re doing isn’t working for a student, they can shift gears. I’m liking this woman. I think her name is Mackie, short for Mackenzie. (I went through a lot of names to get that, so don’t judge me.)
Southie I don’t have to worry about. I already know him and Alice, so that’s two more characters taken care of. Marilee, the ghost, I know, since she’s not complex, although I might have to change her name since it’s a Ma- name and so is Mackie. I’m getting an idea of the two principals (remember the Mayor from Buffy? I’m using him as a placeholder for one). Julie, the guidance counselor and best friend, will fill in herself since she’s Mackie’s foil. Mackie’s mother is already fun. Lydia and Isolde I know from Maybe This Time. I think I’m good on the cast.
Which brings us to the plot. Since I already know this is a cold case murder mystery, the external plot is going to end when the murderer goes down for a crime, and the romance plot will end when Southie and Mackie do something serious about romance. So all I need to do is get my five turning points:
Inciting Incident (Stable World disrupted): Alice sees a ghost and Mackie has to deal with her.
First Turning Point: Things get worse: Mackie sees the ghost, has to deal with supernatural now.
Midpoint, Point of No Return: Mackie decides to go after the murderer.
Crisis: Mackie gets arrested?
Climax: Mackie brings down the murderer.
And then there’s the romance which has to be tied to the external plot.
Inciting Incident (Stable World disrupted): Alice sees a ghost and Mackie calls in a parent conference; Southie shows up.
First Turning Point: Things get worse: Mackie sees the ghost, has to deal with supernatural now, calls Southie for help.
Midpoint, Point of No Return: Mackie decides to go after the murderer, enlists Southie to help.
Crisis: Mackie gets arrested, Southie bails her out and hides her.
Climax: Mackie brings down the murderer with Southie, Southie does something that evokes permanence in their relationship, god knows what.
Of course the fun part about writing a novella is that the space in between each of those points is about seven thousand words, so this things will move swiftly. In theory. Given my propensity to overwrite, this could end up The Novella That Ate Chicago.
But at least I have a plan.
(Count down now to slide off runway . . .)