Lily Notes 4

I was re-reading Thief of Time and found this:

“And if you want the story, remember that the story does not unwind. It weaves. Events that start in different places and different times all bear down on that one tiny point in space time, which is the perfect moment.”

That whole page is a great musing on story in general (it’s page 5 in iBooks edition), but that idea that everything rests on that one point, the perfect moment, the obligatory scene (in my interpretation) when the whole story universe completes itself, that, I think, is the key to fiction. (And Thief of Time does ends on the perfect moment.) The problem is that I don’t know what that moment is until I get there. Well, I know it for Nita, but not for Lily. I’ll never have to know it for Lily (not a book), but I kinda want to anyway.

And that means I really need an antagonist in here. Because the obligatory scene/climax needs an antagonist. And then maybe a resolution for an even more perfect moment, but still, an antagonist is key.

I have Sebastian, of course, but he feels like a minion. Which means whoever the Big Bad is, he or she is not on the page yet, because I don’t see Bjorn as a master criminal, and I want Cheryl to stay good and nuts. Vanessa is out, too. And I definitely don’t see Ferris as Dr. No.

So something to do with the Lily’s old job which was working in Seb’s department at the university’s teaching museum on the latest exhibit which was about Vikings, which is how she got hit by a reproduction axe. Of course, there’s always Seb’S Uncle Lewis, the head of the museum, but I don’t know anything about him except he feels like a minion, too. I’m thinking maybe a secretary, everybody overlooks her, expects her to do everything, so she does: graft, blackmail, theft of office supplies . . .

Okay, maybe not.

A Doppelgänger Antagonist would be good, but I don’t have a firm enough grip on Lily to play off her. Maybe somebody else who thinks he/she/they is reincarnated? Somebody with a Viking grudge? No. Leave the Vikings to Lily. But the doppelgänger idea is still good.

And then there’s the whole therapy thing. I still think that Nadia is like salt or a Greek chorus or a border on a medieval manuscript: She’s important but she’s not part of the narrative. I’m thinking there should be six Nadia scenes, no seven, for the six weeks (?) of the book’s timeline, the one at the beginning where Lily meets Nadia before she goes back to the diner and meets Fin (and talks to Seb, need him in there) and another six Nadia scenes, one at the end of each of the following weeks. It would be Lily talking to Nadia about what happened that week, getting re-oriented, going off to do better . . . Yeah, no idea what that would entail, but that’s what the Girls are sending up.

And then there’s reincarnation problem, except I think Thief of Time may have given me the key to that, too. There’s a bit in there about the universe recreating itself every moment, so that there is no past or future, there is only the now. That dovetails neatly with the reason I loathe flashbacks: There are no flashbacks in real life, there is no moment when we are transported back to see exactly what happened in the past (there is no past, there is only the now of the story), instead we have a memory of the past in the now. Or as Thief of Time has it, there is only the present and the memory of the past, there is no past because this moment is brand new so nothing came before it. I love this idea because it explains Lily’s reincarnation: She has the present and the memory of her reincarnations (not twelve, that’s too many); therefore whether or not she was actually reincarnated from a past life is irrelevant, there is no past, there is only now. That’s not just good philosophy, that’s good fiction craft.

I have really enjoyed re-reading Thief of Time.

Although now I have to figure out what to do with the damn cat. Really, this thing is a mess. Thank god it’s not a real book.

So what are you expecting next? What do you need/want? What the hell am I doing?

51 thoughts on “Lily Notes 4

  1. I really like the idea of Nadia and the therapy sessions being the recurring marker for Lily as she goes through whatever happens.

    I really want to see Lily interacting with Seb. I get the feeling there could be interesting tension and drama there. Does he think she knows more than she actually does about whatever it is he’s up to?

  2. The idea of therapy can be boring because of the long-held stereotypes of it. It’s the “sit and talk” or “lie down and talk” image.

    This idea of the therapy needing to be more reminds me of the director commentaries for the movie Mr and Mrs Smith. There’s a scene where the main characters are discussing their planned individual ways out of their lives. The director mentioned that when it filmed with the MCs standing face to face and telling each other, the scene didn’t work. He then filmed it with the MCs hiding in a stormwater drain or air duct (or something, I forget) and that added tension changed the scene and made it work. But it had the exact same dialogue!

  3. I think that I need to spend more time with Lily so that I have a better understanding of her as a character. So far we have seen her in action scenes with varying levels of stress and other characters. Who is she when she goes home for the day, takes off her waitress uniform and puts on her silly pajamas. What part of her day rises in her mind and needs to be talked about with her cat? What does she need to do to prepare for tomorrow.

    I guess I feel like my head is cluttered enough these days and I am projecting the same feeling onto Lily. I want her to have some quiet.

  4. But does the antagonist need to be a person? When we saw a bit of Fenris 🙂 it seems to me that she was kind of personifying things that Lily was working against or rebelling against — superficiality, a tendency to try to control others or manipulate, something like that. And in therapy, doesn’t that happen all the time? You gradually realize that you don’t like so-and-so because there’s the same so-and-so inside you, which shocks and embarrasses you but leads you to the next bit of self-knowledge.

    I would be interested in seeing the little conflicts in Lily’s life that drive her batty about others, but that she’s kind of blind to in herself. And I’d like to see a bit of what have got to be areas of conflict between Bjorn and Fin, because…brothers. And I’d like to see the first signs of something that boils up behind the scenes, because it would be very satisfying to have a huge surprise for Lily with a good outcome at the end of the story. (Rereading Captain Vorpatril, which has the sudden appearance of at least one dead or missing family member, a secret hunt for treasure, and the sudden death of a very large structure, so I’m probably in that mood.)

    1. Yes, the antagonist needs to be a person. (In my books anyway.). The external conflict pulls the book together, and concrete conflict is infinitely more interesting and telling than theoretical conflict. It’s one of my baselines. If she’s not in conflict with someone, then she’s just in trouble.

  5. I vote for Jessica. She wanted that job for a reason, and I can just see her asking innocent seeming questions that leave Lily deeper in the hole of sounding crazy as she’s trying to explain the problems with the exhibit. Plus, you wouldn’t have to write in a new character. And she has the potential to make a decent doppelgänger. Both young, professional rivals, both dismissed or underestimated… So the next scene I would like to see is Lily vs Jessica, and Jessica wins.

    I like the idea of Nadia’s sessions acting as bookends to the scene sequences, and I am fully on board with them not hashing out what happened in the past lives and focusing instead on the present. On that note, maybe six past lives to echo the timeframe and therapy cycle, and each comes up during the events of the previous week somehow?

    Also, on the collage, I think it bears pointing out that the second largest figure is not the love interest, it’s the cat. Pangur might be the key to the story after all?

  6. I have wondered why the rigid therapist would be in a practice with Nadia. I also wonder if Lily meets Nadia because she is a patron of the diner instead of through the more rigid therapist? Maybe she leaves therapy frustrated and goes back to the diner and meets Nadia without realizing that she is also a psychologist and they develop a friendship? Or did you specifically want Lily in therapy?

    It’s hard for me to think of an antagonist that doesn’t move into the realm of the supernatural.

    Why is Vanessa out? Isn’t she the woman who took Lily’s museum job? Maybe that was her way in to cause chaos and disorder and promote her evil agenda?

    1. Sorry, I’ve gone back – Jessica took Lily’s job. I like her for evil mastermind.

  7. If you decide to have flashbacks was Lily the same character and personality. Was she at one time a queen, a prostitute, a suffragette – pick a category and then evolved into who she is today?

  8. I’m mostly thinking this because my sister loves The French Exit, where the woman is convinced her cat is her dead husband reincarnated, but the cat could be the antagonist.

      1. Even if the cat was her dead husband, it wouldn’t care. Unless, of course, it involved food, someone sitting it its chair or Lily was paying attention to someone else when it wanted something. Oh, wait. That would be a husband too.

        1. Opps. The exit from bold was suppose to happen right after “its”. Actually, I have a great husband other than not being too adventurous about food (“Do you think I should try making haggis sometime?” “No”). Oh wait, that would be my cat too.

  9. What if the antagonist were someone (secretary, Jessica?) who thought she was someone like Cleopatra reincarnated (real or not, I’m actually thinking not). She could be very grandiose, very manipulative, always wants things to be bigger and fancier, always needs to have a certain level of power whether open or behind the scenes, always willing to fight to the death (or almost) over even small issues (but being grandiose, doesn’t see small things as small)…and she is extremely offended by Lily because 1) she thinks she’s very subtle about her reincarnation beliefs and then Lily starts up like a blunt object, ruining her subtleties and delicate hints on the subject and 2) Lily’s memories have a gritty realism that makes hers seem like the fantasies they are, but she just CAN’T admit that. So she has to get Lily away from her and anyone she wants to keep under her thumb (i.e. Seb’s uncle, Seb himself, probably)?

    She’d also be pushing the museum in a very grand and pretentious direction that Lily would hate. (Thinking that even if no one else realizes it, this museum is her palace and needs to reflect that, rather than being about teaching.) Fraud or other criminal activity would not be beyond her, she’d think it was justified because she needs to make her circumstances reflect who she believes she really is. But on the surface, she’d look reasonable, not crazy, because she’s good at presenting herself.

    1. I envision Jessica as a blonde. Maybe she could be the reincarnation of Marilyn Monroe? Or another silver screen movie star? I just think it would be funny if she wasn’t someone ancient or grand. Or someone no one remembers, like Richard Nixon’s secretary who is bent on fixing the world now that she has a second chance…

  10. I vote for a dean’s assistant/secretary to be the antagonist. They have a lot of power and the motive can be simply jealousy – see’s Lily as a competitor for Bjorn? Or just because Lily rubs her the wrong way? Maybe trying to torpedo Bjorn, sees Fin/Lily as too sane. It shouldn’t be for a rational reason – rational people are in short supply in academia (personal experience). Like David/The Bet in Bet Me – the bet exists only because David believes it does and his ego is bruised. And maybe the assistant/sec is male and chafing at role as support staff vs dean. Borderline competent, manipulative (that’s a benefit in that job), presents well, devious as hell.

    1. I like the idea of the antagonist being somebody everybody takes for granted like a secretary but who is really the brains of the organization. Somebody everybody sees everyday so she’s like wallpaper, and then she turns out to be smarter than everybody else.

  11. Maybe the reproduction axe was actually a real axe, valuable in itself, but perhaps also tied to her reincarnations? And someone wants it? And… this is why I’m a reader, not a writer. : )

  12. What do I want to see next? Cat. Cat. Catcatcat.

    I had other thoughts but they have evaporated.

  13. I also like someone overlooked as the antagonist, whether Jessica or a secretary.


    The Girls threw in Pangur for a reason. Why? What is Pangur’s role in this story? Why is he important? And if he is important, then I’d like him to show up soon. Also because cat. Snarky cat, warm and purring cat, imperious cat. Just cat.

  14. I agree with those who want to meet Pangur and see Lily in her home.

    I agree with Jessica as the antagonist. Maybe she has infiltrated the museum on behalf of a rich family (pharmaceuticals?) who want the power and prestige of being the Big Name patrons of the museum. Part of their plan is to play up the expensive galas and show off the few big name artworks they can afford. They want to cut the kids’ programs and community activities that “drain the resources” of the museum. Jessica is a plant; she replaces an exceptional children’s program worker (Lily), and her purpose as a plant is to make the children’s programs fail.

  15. +1 more cat. +1 vote for Jessica as antagonist, with or without academic/secretarial henchman/henchwoman. otherwise nothing to add, everyone else here is thinking better than me today 🙂

  16. Is Pangur an indoor cat or an outdoor cat? Because an indoor cat is basically tied to
    Lily’s house (even if he does sometimes go outside) as most people don’t take their cats out in public the way they do their dogs. Whereas an outdoor cat has a wider environment while coming home to eat and maybe nap. But the owner / animal relationship is different; in my experience outdoor cats are far less likely to sit on your stomach while you lay on the couch and let you pet them. My indoor cats however loved that. At least I assume they did. They kept doing it. 😀

  17. Okay, for what these thoughts are worth: Six reincarnations for matchup with six weeks of therapy. In each session, Lily details one reincarnation. Nadia guides her to see how that reincarnation offers insight for handling whatever happens in the next week. Times six.

    Oh, your Girls are good!

  18. It’s the cat, he’s the brains behind it all. (insert evil laugh) Or he was someone who failed to achieve a sacred purpose, possessed the cat to hide from his enemies and since he died with Lily, their fates are entwined and she is now his protector and they will keep coming back together until she changes their collective destinies, or someone offers him smoked salmon

    Though from the previous posts, Jessica is looking good for antagonist, manipulator of her superiors and possible femme fatale, think indiana jones and the last crusade

    I am starting to envision Nadia’s therapy sessions might be like The Booth at the End (web series) but not evil. Lily tells Nadiah everything and Nadiah gives her a task to move her forward that week…

    1. One of the web comics I read was Too Much Information. (“was” because the artist had a stroke.) There was an arc that included goddesses and reincarnation. Ace, protagonist extraordinaire, is spirit walking with a kitten. He asks why the kitten reincarnated as a kitten instead of something higher. The kitten replied, “You got something against vacations?”

  19. I was raised on archy and mehitabel, so the notion of an animal effecting any story by inhabiting a consciousness which exists as if on the other side of the looking glass seems natural, even missing, if not included. Mel Brooks made the duo’s after dark communications from the NY Sun’s news desk into a script; Carol Channing and later Eartha Kitt graced productions with their large presences. I can see a Carol/Eartha popsicle sized figure on a Starbuck’s stir stick being manipulated through the action, a la No theater, … Hmmm. Well, you’d have to finish painting the clown, somehow … um.

    1. There was a cockroach that my grandmother called Archie who made a few brief appearances until my grandfather got to him. My grandmother left me her copy of archie and mehitabel and I still love it.

  20. Jenny, I am a reader..I can never think of some of the ideas the other Arghers give you, but what I personally would like is someone like Randal (the snake) But I don’t want him to be a bad guy… could he help Finn? Be a friend, or Van boy friend.
    (Randal from GH behold here’s ☠️ poison.

  21. I too would like to meet Pangur.
    As to reincarnations: six doesn’t seem much, as you said Lily died at birth or soon after in quite a few of them. Not a lot to tell about those lives, I expect.

  22. I don’t want Jessica to be the antagonist. One woman stabbing another woman in the back for a job, I’m not a fan of this plot device. I get annoyed when people/media try to pit women against each other.

    I don’t mind if the antagonist is a women. I’d prefer the antagonist did not cause Lily to lose her job, but that Jessica replacing Lily has given he/she the opportunity to ramp up their nefarious scheme. Seb could suspect that something is/was amiss, but wrongly thought Lily was the culprit or thinks he is covering up for his uncle. Seb is trying to do the right thing, but getting it all wrong.

    The antagonist could know Lily and respect her. Lily doesn’t realise there is another persona to this person, and as Lily explores her previous lives with the therapist, Lily could discuss these findings with the antagonist. Something she says could prove to be important for the antagonist.

    I’d like the next scene to be Seb and Jessica, because I don’t feel we’ve met them yet, and/or a conversation between Van and Cheryl about Lily. Best friends can know you better than you know yourself.

  23. I just saw a 2017 article from The Atlantic about researchers culling animal DNA from medieval manuscripts. Extremely cool. Google “Sampling DNA from a 1000-year-old illuminated manuscript.”

  24. Could the antagonist be related to the Governing board? Lots of museums have them and they can be made up of community members and doners, rather than museum professionals. So they can have a lot of clout since they are tied to fundraising and money. Maybe the board secretary or the sweet grandparent type.

    1. I have no idea. I’ll put that in the list with all the other possibilities people have offered.
      I still don’t know why there are Vikings in this.

  25. So, I agree, 12 past lives are too many. There are six weeks. What about six lives? Or, eight? Cats have nine lives, so this could be a “last chance” to reinvent stuff?

    1. I think three tops, just because I don’t want to mess with them. I still don’t know why she’s remembering them or even if they’re real.
      Discovery Draft . . . ARGH.

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