So About Dorothy

We’ve been doing the Heart of the Story discovery stuff on HWSW, and it’s made me rethink Surprise Lily because, as I wrote over there, a story is nothing without a strong antagonist, and of course, as we talked about here, Lily doesn’t have an antagonist.

Except I’d been thinking about Dorothy, Louis’s admin assistant, lurking in the underbrush at the museum. And I love a doppelgänger antagonist, so I thought, “What if Dorothy loves the museum as much as Lily does?” And then to add some more motivation (that’s what I’m writing about now, motivation), what if Dorothy had been in line for directorship (?) (note to self: research how museums work) and Louis had been given the job from the outside because of his connections, and then brought in his nephew Sebastian. Lily would have been upset for her, but they’d have been coping, and then they would have found out what an idiot Louis was. I mean this clearly needs a lot of work but I can see them aligned on that.

Plus once I’d named her Dorothy, I thought she’d keep a stuffed Toto on her desk, so I went to Amazon to see if there were any and found this awful cheap Toto-in-a-Basket that would be perfect for hiding a recording device or a taser. And I kind of fell in love with Dorothy. She’s like a nefarious Cheryl.

Below is my first Dorothy scene. Way too much thinkin’ and info dump, but it’s a start on character exploration. Dorothy might be fun to write, too. And maybe if I throw an antagonist into the plot, the voices will come back. I miss Cheryl.

Dorothy Gage watched Louis Lewis strut down the hall of the admin section of the Children’s Museum, away from her desk in front of his office. The new girl, Jessica, pep-talked along beside him, smiling at him, pretty as a little blonde daisy, if daisies had butts that were high and tight.

Perky, Dorothy thought.

The perky had probably gotten her far, though. It had definitely gotten her into the Museum.

“You’ll like Jessica,” Louis had told her. “She’s very enthusiastic.”

I like Lily, Dorothy had thought, but she’d beamed at Louis. “Oh, how nice.”

She had liked Lily, a lot, but Lily was too damn smart. Lily noticed things. She was definitely going to get Lily back once she was in charge, but for now Lily was best out of the way, recovering from the awful shock of being hit by an ax, which really had been an accident.

Dorothy winced, thinking about it now, and adjusted the small, cheap basket with the stuffed Toto dog on her desk. That made her think of Lily, too. Louis had asked Lily what he should get Dorothy for Christmas, and Lily had said, “She likes the Wizard of Oz,” and Louis had said, “Really, why?” and then cheaped out on this paper thin basket. Fortunately, it had a label that said “Toto” on it. She’d thought at first that the stuffed animal in it was a rat with mange.

But then, fortunately, it had occurred to her that the basket would be a good place to hide recording equipment. Or a tazer. Or a Glock. No not a Glock—

It’s my fault Lily got hurt. No matter how much she tried to forget, she was the one who’d bumped the ax reaching for the same box that Lily and Sebastian had been after. And then Lily had gone down with a dent in her head. Traumatic, that’s what that was. For both of them.

Fortunately, Lily had been so dazed that when Dorothy had whispered, “Sebastian did it.” she’d just blinked at her. She’d been trying to figure out what to do about Lily, maybe send her on a trip somewhere for the museum? But then Sebastian had seen the box Lily was going to open and lunged, and it was most unfortunate and at the same time so fortunate. Six weeks the doctor had said Lily should be out. Plus counseling.

Fortunately, Dorothy knew a wonderful therapist.

She really did feel bad about accidentally axing Lily. Lily was so nice. So competent. So . . . Lily.

But fortunately, Lily was doing fine now, working for her insane cousin, and she looked pretty good these days when Dorothy went into the diner, you could hardly see the dent in her forehead at all.

Of course, putting Lily on the sidelines led to Jessica, but Jessica had fortunately turned out not to know a damn thing about teaching, kids, museum displays, or Vikings, so Dorothy had just incorporated her into her plans to destroy Louis Lewis. “I know Jessica is hopeless,” she’d tell the chairman of the museum board when he looked into the disaster she was about to facilitate. “But Mr. Lewis insisted.”

Really, there was so much good fortune, it was like Fate was telling her that she was doing the right thing.

She patted her stuffed Toto, now looking marginally better after some grooming. Almost like a dog.

Of course, she was doing the right thing.

Louis came back through the atrium doors, looking perturbed.

Louis Lewis, even his name was ridiculous. His mother must have been an idiot to name him that, which was genetically sound: Louis was also an idiot. He’d once been a very good-looking idiot, but he was going to seed now, so looks were not what he was getting by on at present. That would be his connections.

And the thing about connections, Dorothy thought as Louis came toward her, looking like a disturbed turkey, is that they can be severed.

She imagined a giant Viking ax and Louis, all alone. Quivering.

“Dorothy, the waterfall isn’t working.”

Dorothy smiled brightly at Louis. “None of the water in the building is working, Mr. Lewis, the plumbers are flushing the pipes. There are signs on all the restrooms, and I put the memo on your desk. It will be back on at four.” She checked her watch. “Twenty-seven minutes from now.”

“Oh.” Louis blinked at her, his brow furrowed. “Perhaps next time you could mark the important memos, Mrs. Gage. I can’t read everything, you know.”

You don’t read anything, Dorothy thought, but she didn’t say it because the last thing she wanted was Louis Lewis suddenly becoming literate.

“I’m sorry, Mr. Lewis,” she said, properly submissive. “I should have thought of that.”

“I’m sure you will in the future,” he said, smiling at her with superiority that he probably thought was charm.

“Absolutely, Mr. Lewis,” she said as he went through the atrium door.

I am absolutely going to destroy you, she thought, and went back to the concession order Jessica had just given her.

Jessica wanted custom ice cream bars, “Vik-Cream Bars” she’d called them, giggling, ice cream in the shape of ax heads mounted on wooden sticks.

Lily would have vetoed those because she would have seen ahead to small children smashing frozen dessert into each other’s hair. It was going to be a disaster.

Dorothy sighed happily and picked up the phone to order the ice cream.

Really, nothing but good fortune everywhere she looked.

62 thoughts on “So About Dorothy

  1. I can see why you like Dory. Children wielding ice cream axes, and she places the order. She reminds me of that secretary that ran the school helping the boy principal fall on his axe.

    1. I don’t think there was as much malevolence in that one. As I remember, she just stood back and watched him fall.
      Dorothy is going to give Louis a push.

  2. This is suddenly absolutely my favorite part of Surprise Lily. A benevolent-ish antagonist? OOHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. I think you should make hay with Dorothy.

  3. Every organisation has one person who knows how it works, never overlook them 🙂 they can use their powers for good or evil. This is going to be fun.

    1. Not gonna lie, wish I were that person. I know a lot, but still missing too much to be truly effective.

  4. Dorothy is SO. GREAT. She’s like the vitamin B12 injection the museum needed all along. I want to know what was her major in college. What kind of computer equipment is on her desk (and what more efficient kind does she keep hidden in her credenza drawer labeled “Ladies Room Supplies”). What part of Northern Europe her ancestors came from. Her astrology sign. Her Usual (order) at the diner. Her favorite Beatle. Things like that. Please?

    1. Like I’d know.
      I’m just pleased she has the awful gift from Louis on her desk.
      I ordered one. I’m hoping it’s awful, the reviews all said it was.

      1. Computer wise, I think she’d have a much better set up then Louis, but it wouldn’t be obvious on sight. (His sight if he wandered into her office) While everyone else’s equipment requests would get stuck due to form filling, budget constraints, permission sign offs and that black hole of no one actually getting a response from IT requisitions. While she just doubles up their paperwork for stuff she wants

  5. Holy cow! Are they serious?
    Completes your Dorothy costume
    Wipe with clean damp cloth. (Wipe what?)
    Officially licensed Wizard of Oz accessory

    Yeah, I’m not surprised you had to get this, Jenny. Officially licensed is the best.

        1. We’ll see. It’s arriving Thursday, so if I have time there will be pictures on Friday.

    1. Scrolling down the page I spotted a pair of witches stripped socks/leggings with red shoes attached. Looks like an easy peasy project come fall. That’s if I can remember by October. When fall rolls round I have a basket filled with various size fabric pumpkins and those legs will look so cool poking out of the bottom of the basket.

  6. In my experience, an admin assistant wouldn’t be in line for the directorship. It would more likely go to an assistant director or someone like the education or exhibit coordinator.
    But Dorothy’s pick for the Director could have left after not getting the job which would have opened a slot for Sebastian to fill.

    I like Dorothy. She has a plan. I learned early to not mess with the admin assistants.

    1. So I could make her assistant director? Excellent.
      Please keep telling me about museum stuff. If this turns into a book (it’s not going to turn into a book), I will research museums, but I will also put your e-mail on speed-send.

      1. What Phred said. Admin Assistants not in line. But what if she got demoted and used to be in line? (That would be a terrible demotion, but what if there is some reason she is desperate to stay at the museum? Then she’d take it, no matter how demeneaning.)

      2. I’ll answer whatever I can, as long as you remember that my experience was 20 years ago and our place was very small.
        Our museum was too little for an assistant director. We had the director, the admin, the education director, 1-3 grad students and a bunch of undergrads for the main work.

        If Dorothy is the assistant director, the admin person has to be on her side, otherwise they could thwart her plans. Do not mess with a competent admin.

        1. Maybe Lily was the admin, and that’s why Dorothy had to sideline her for a month.

    2. Dorothy being Education Coordinator could be great, seeing as that’s the area Lily’s in. And then Dorothy would have even more reason to be pissed off at Louis, because not only did he get the job she deserved, but he’s stomping all over her turf by bringing in Jessica.

    3. The art museum/ gallery at my school wasn’t big enough to have an assistant director. The students did the grunt work and learned how to run a show and such, but there were only two ladies in charge of the collection. I don’t remember what their titles were. Still, we had good pieces, ancient greek through present, pulling from the faculty work.

  7. Nothing but good fortune everywhere she looked? This character has taken your tag line and made it mushy. She may have to talk that way at work, but I would hope that she was a bit more direct in her thoughts.

    I am feeling confused about Dorothy, but look forward to seeing how she develops. I’m also confused about the antagonist. You keep telling us it isn’t Seb, and now you say that Dorothy is really an ally in wolf’s clothing and I keep wondering who is left? Louis Lewis? So far he seems more idiotic than evil. And we need someone to be responsible for directly killing Lily’s kids’ programs, which is the part that really hurts her.

    1. Maybe someone of the Board of Directors who is Louis good friend (hence Louis got the job because Dorothy is not manipulable) but has twice the brains of Louis is the responsible mastermind. But I can’t think of any motivation for someone on the Board to be an evil puppeteer. Although the Board would be involved with fund raising, maybe the funds are going to board meeting in exotic places with exotic dancers (I am thinking the board member is female and the dancers are the ChippenDales or raunchier).

      1. Or the Board Member could be Louis sister or aunt. But then they would have to be related to Sebastian too. Oh well.

      2. I think it’s entirely possible that Louis got the job through the Good Old Boys network, but I’d rather concentrate on Dorothy as the mastermind.
        She’s really angry. I love writing angry women.

    2. Oh, no, Dorothy is the antagonist.

      And just for the record, I often think, “Nothing but good times ahead,” especially when life goes pear-shaped. Some of us are just positive thinkers (g).

      1. I’ll have to work on that positivity thing. I think I lost mine in my early 30s. It’s probably in a box I haven’t unpacked since then.

  8. If children with snacks are let loose in a museum the snacks will end up on the walls, shoved into educational materials, and will be found months later by disgusted staff. If there’s anything that’s like a touchable historic example (say, a small jar) it will be filled with jelly beans. Gum will be ground into the floor, crayons will be used to mark up walls.

    I also agree about the admin assistant thing – if it’s small the front desk person could be a volunteer coordinator or a visitor services coordinator and they could be doing a lot of admin work for the director but it would also require a lot of museum knowledge.

  9. This is delicious. The trouble with promoting Dorothy is that the admins, who know where ALL the bodies are buried, really do have power but with a corresponding lack of accountability for say ordering ice cream for children in a museum. “Jim Bob Asshat instructed me to do it.” And I’m guessing, a shitload of resentment which is what makes that ice cream order so wonderful. If they like you that day, they point out the problem but if they don’t….

  10. I just clicked on the Amazon link. What the hell is THAT? Dust mop head dragged through mud and allowed to dry?

    1. Hence the rat-with-mange description.
      Thursday. I can’t wait for Thursday to see this thing in the fur.

  11. Is Dorothy a Viking descendant, given that she beaned Lily with an ax, albeit “accidentally”?

    She is deliciously cunning!

  12. Ahhhhhh!!!!! Off topic but too exciting not to share! Katherine Addison released a new book today!!!!!!!

  13. I like that the antagonist is named Dorothy. Dorothy is usually a sweet girl or old woman. Maybe someone who bakes tea cakes.

    Usually an antagonist is a bad guy, right? (Unless the protagonist is the bad guy.) But Dorothy doesn’t seem evil (yet). Can you have a powerful antagonist who isn’t a bad guy? Or is Dorothy’s evil-tude still behind the curtain?

    1. The antagonist is the character who blocks the protagonist from getting her goal.
      They can both be good people or both be bad people or whatever, it’s not a moral role, the determinant is that the antagonist creates conflict for the protagonist and vice versa.

      Do not ask me what Lily’s goal is. I’ll get there later. Probably.

      1. So that regularly makes children and adults antagonists. Or pretty much me and every guy I ever went with. I see now.

        1. Kind of depends on the children and adults, but often, yes.
          The key to story antagonists is the depth of the goal and motivation.

    2. My mother’s name was Dorothy, although she called herself Dot. Her father called her Dorry, which she hated.

      No one ever accused my mother of being sweet. The woman gaslighted me my whole childhood until I escaped, and she was extremely OCD.

      I laugh every time I read what a ‘typical Cancer’ is supposed to be like; they clearly never met my mother. This is the perfect name for the character!

      1. I worked with an admin who went by “Dottie” just to fool everyone into thinking she was cute and sweet. She was definitely a Dorothy all the way through.

  14. I’m loving the Dorothy POV.

    I once dressed up as Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz for Halloween when I was little, and my mom made me a Toto-in-a-basket that looked remarkably (frighteningly?) similar to the one in the link. I bet she still has it somewhere, I’ll look next time I visit. And link pictures.

  15. From a research point of view, museums function a lot like colleges but with an even smaller staff.

    I work in a small museum and can attest that the old saying is true – you have to wait for someone to die before you move up. And I’ve seen people work their way up from intern to staff to asst director and then not even be considered for the directorship because the board wants “an outside perspective” or “business experience”. Which means not even hiring from within the industry. Would you hire a hospital administrator who had business experience running a publishing company? This has happened twice at my place and at lots of other museums I know. Both times here, the directors had zero understanding of the museum culture, best practices, or work flow. Sometimes, not even an idea of what a Curator really does at a small history museum as they only had a visitor’s perspective on art museums. Waves of people leave when this happens. Museum ethics get trampled on, visitors get frustrated by expectations not being met or exhibition delays because the director wants to “change directions” with no understanding that exhibition and interpretation planning are both usually about two to three year timelines. And in our case, we are owned by a larger organization that has a different mission – so conflict on all sides.

    Wow. I guess I have some pent up anger.

    1. And one director kept asking me to type up letters or schedule meetings for him because he had no secretary. Type your own @#*! letters.

      1. Of course Louis would expect Dorothy to type. Excellent.
        I mean, that was awful for you and I sympathize.

        1. And he’d expect her to reschedule his meetings at the last minute because he wants to go out for last-minute drinks with major donors instead. Important meetings that took her ages to set up in the first place, because the other parties only fly in every month or so.

          That’d be even more annoying than typing.

          This is fun!

      2. Sarah has articulated what I’ve learned from my kiddo – in a very short time. I think Dorothy could be working as a manager, or assistant director, and have been passed over more than once, because “She’s so good where she is.”

  16. I love this so much. The idea of a benevolent antagonist had never occurred to me. I love the excerpt and I’m itching to read more. I’ve been obsessed with writing an Oz-related story ever since I visited the on-its-last-legs Americana Amusement Park in Ohio. I loved WILD RIDE and I keep thinking of neglected faux-Oz rides in a rural setting. For research, I recommend the Daily Ozmapolitan newsletter, which reports on all kinds of Oz trivia.

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