Plotting, a Whine

By now, it’s obvious to anybody who reads this blog that I am not a natural plotter. Some people think in plots. Those people would be Bob and Krissie. Normally these would be aim-for-them-when-I-drive people, but they are important to my life, so I just have to put up them. Meanwhile, I make tables and conflict boxes and mind-maps and act diagrams and scream a lot. Really, I just want to write people having snarky conversations; a reason for those conversations seems a lot to ask.

Take Lily and Anna, for example. I don’t think Lily is ever going to have a plot. At most, I’m guessing it might be a novella. It’s just a bunch of people I like sitting around eating food I like and flirting. There is nothing wrong with this as long as I don’t show it to anybody (well, except for you guys, you’ll read anything). So I really don’t think Lily is ever going to be a book. But Anna . . .

Anna has been weird. That first 6000 words/Chapter One just wrote itself. I’ve tweaked it since, but it’s essentially the same as the first draft. The second 5000+ was a little harder, but not much, and again, I’ve tweaked it, but it’s pretty much the same, too. This is new for me. Usually I’m slashing the beginning or at least rewriting it severely (Remember Mort? No? That’s because he’s gone) but the first 12,000 or so words are pretty much what they’re going to be, I think. (I could regret saying this.).

But once I got into the third chunk of narrative, I had to start making some plot decisions. As in “Get one.” I had the romance plot and the art fraud plot and one of them had to get first position, and that was the romance. Which is when Bob said, “Forget the art fraud for now, you can put that in later, concentrate on your main plot.” Which is really good advice. So now there’s all this stuff happening (Fairfax, anybody?) that I’m not sure about but that complicates the romance nicely. I’m sure the Girls have a plan that I cannot see yet, so I’ll just write down whatever they send up on the crime subplot and just concentrate on the journey that is Nate and Anna.

Of course, that leads me down some possibly blind alleys. Like the scene in the grocery store (in Chapter 4, which you haven’t seen yet). What the hell that’s doing in there I don’t know, but I remember thinking the same thing about the softball scene in Welcome to Temptation and that turned out to be crucial. And then I did a cast list table with one column for the romance plot and a second column for the crime subplot and realized that the romance plot was Anna, Nate, and Anna’s mom, which is not enough for a developed plot, I think. But there was the grocery scene, with three other characters who were only romance plot. So the Girls probably know what they’re doing.

What I’m thinking is that there are two or three subplots and Anna and Nate have to untangle them. The reason I’m thinking this is that I was rereading Leave It To Psmith, and that has one of the twistiest plots ever (it’s a farce that the Marx Brothers would be in awe of) and I thought, “That would be fun,” so now I have two subplots, one for money laundering and one for an old crime of Grandpa’s, and I’m thinking some kind of art fraud would be good for the third one. I have no idea what any of these plots are. Yes, absolutely come here for writing advice.

In other news, I just made a floor plan for the museum. It’s in an old Victorian, three floors and a basement, and while I was figuring out what and who went where, a lot more information bubbled up from the Girls. They LOVE floorplans and maps.

So I am working. I have no idea what I’m doing, but by god, I’m doing it.

The Museum:

77 thoughts on “Plotting, a Whine

  1. Anna thought something in Chapter One — at least, I think I remember that Anna thought about a secret that she didn’t want tell. Has that secret been revealed yet? Was it her family mob connection?

    Why isn’t Mr. M. under investigation? Sure, he’s in the hospital with a heart attack or something, but he’s the one who gave Anna the package to deliver to Barrett in Los Vegas.

    I absolutely adore the museum and its floor plan. I hope Anna has an escape or break in through her balcony. And, with luck, one of the arches has fake cinder blocks/stones in which something is hidden. The hint concerning the hiding place makes Anna/Nate initially think they have to break down every arch. Do they really have closets in the display rooms? Bridget must have a heckofa job keeping the exhibits at the right temperature and humidity. Does Mr. M. have trouble with the stairs? Does any visitor ever wander back into Mr. M.’s room? Wow, I just saw the fireplaces! Almost as good as arches. Hmm, Anna has the smallest room but she’s the only museum employee with a balcony.

    Whatever you do with it, this is gonna be good.

    1. Mr. M is under investigation. Milo’s on him.

      Anna had a secret? I’ll have to go check. I don’t think Anna’s capable of secrets. Too much work.

  2. I adore floor plans! I’ve been making them up since I was a kid. They often have hidden rooms, of course. Yours is lovely. I’m really looking forward to reading more about Anna and Nate et al. This is so fun!

      1. Well, it’s over the third floor bathroom, so no art. Probably nothing but dust and cobwebs. It wouldn’t be convenient.

  3. I got curious about this Fairfax guy, and looked up Lord Fairfax on wikipedia. He was one of those irritating Lords Proprietor in the UK’s American colonies, and sounds like a jolly enough old guy. He owned huge swaths of land across what is now Virginia, West Virginia, and some of Maryland. He was George Washington’s first employer — had him go out west past the Shenandoah valley to survey some of his more remote land holdings. One of the more horrifying things he was known for is this (according to wikipedia):

    Fairfax depended on hundreds of slaves who worked among his 30 Virginia plantations. He was active in trading slaves and, at the age of 84, he still engaged in rape, participating in a “little talked about” activity called “bedding down with a negro wench,” for which Lord Fairfax would pay a fee to the person who supplied the “wench.”

    Not that I have anything specific against your story’s Fairfax other than nefarious breaking and entering, mind you.

    1. I don’t know much about this Fairfax yet except I do know what he’s doing in the story, so that’s something.

      1. When I first read Fairfax in the previous section, I was confused for a minute until I realized it was a person. Fairfax, VA, near DC, is a huge hub for federal government and government contractor work, so that’s where my mind went. I don’t know if that confusion is at all helpful, or if anyone outside of “the beltway” would know or care about that.

        1. The first mention is Sabrina saying something like, “I’m going on with Fairfax and Milo .. .” so I don’t think there’s any ambiguity. I think the next time he’s mentioned he’s speaking at the team meeting. I think he’s always presented as a human being in the first two sections, and after that he’s established as agent-Nate-doesn’t-like. I’ll go back and check.

  4. Me knowing nothing about museums, can they get by with only 5 rooms of display content?? I only know big museums. And why 2 for Russian? Figured that opened the door for the Russian trying to kidnap Anna.

    I guess I figured some people would be sharing office space to maximize displays.

    And where would they park? That seems like a dumb q, but occurred to me. What’s around the museum?

    I have also wondered about guy with heart attack and whether he’s a suspect.

    So excited for Anna’s story!

    1. It’s a small private museum funded by the family because it’s a useful tax write off and a few other things.

      The staff is small and their collection is limited.

      Parking is around in back. They paved the back yard and there’s an entrance on a veranda back there. There’s also on-street parking.

      Mr. M is definitely a suspect since he’s the one who sent the package to Vegas.

    2. My town has an art museum that only has one room, plus a small gift shop. The one room has a few divider panels to help make it seem like there might be more to it, but is very definitely just one not-very-big room, with very limited display space. There is no permanent collection, because there isn’t space for one.

      The best thing is that the outside of the museum is quite ostentatious, with columns, carvings, high-arched windows, and a huge, sweeping staircase. It absolutely nails the look of a real art museum in every way. So visitors to town invariably think that it might be interesting to see what’s at the local art museum, only to discover that in fact, the current exhibit is quite likely to be something like: “Hope is the Thing With Feathers: An Exhibit of Birdhouses Crafted by Local High School Seniors (note: overflow birdhouses are on display in the hallway that leads to the bathrooms)“. Entrance costs $17.50.

      The gift shop is pretty nice though.

        1. IT and Accounts go together. Jimmy and Magnolia can share.
          Move the French Room to Jimmy’s room.
          Put Le Gift Shoppe in the 1st floor French Room

          1. Magnolia needs her own space; Jimmy’s only there one day a week, so he gets the room under the eaves.
            I deleted one of the Russian rooms and put the French Room on the first floor up there; the gift shop gets the front corner room as you suggest.

  5. It’s funny what you said about Lily having no plot because while reading the stuff about Anna, I was thinking « oh, there is a plot here while Lily has none ». Even though I wanted more Lily, I now think you are kind of done with her really. She’s met her man and they are good now. No need for Dorothy really. They can just live happily after at the Diner.

  6. Rereading WTT now cause it took me a while to remember the softball game cause remembering the pool table kept getting in the way.
    Love me some sophie and Finn.

      1. I’d forgotten that I had two books with softball. I never even PLAYED softball.
        WTT has Phin telling Dilly that she can’t see Sophie any more, and Dilly asks if Sophie can come to her last game, which causes gossip and upsets the antagonist enough that she steps up her assaults on Sophie.

  7. ‘ There is nothing wrong with this as long as I don’t show it to anybody (well, except for you guys, you’ll read anything).’

    Hey, I’ll have you know that we’re very discerning people!

    1. No kidding. Jenny has educated us well. I pick up a new author, and they have to do their job. I just read a book, with a subject I’m interested in, but nope. While it was ok, I really have no desire to read further. It ended on a cliffhanger, but since I know there’s 5 books in the series, I’m not very worried about the main character. She’ll be fine.

  8. I love floor plans. Have you seen this?

    The Russian rooms make me think of Hillwood Estate here in DC founded by Marjorie Merriweather Post. One of her husbands was the ambassador to the (then new) Soviet Union and she snapped up a bunch of pre-Russian revolution art. Thanks to that Hillwood has more Faberge and Russian religious icons than you can shake a stick at.
    (I also just found out just now that she owned Mar-a-lago before He Who Shall Not Be Named bought it.)

    1. Do they do an afternoon tea? Because I think my friends and I went there a few years after college because “afternoon tea” was on someone’s “we’re adults now” to-do list. The tea was fine. The museum was GREAT.

    2. I think you could sell many books with banter and no plot. It’s absolutely the best banter around.

    3. She gave it to the government which eventually decided it didn’t need it and sold it to Trump.
      Who then completely redid it I think .

    4. And MMP had a pink bomb shelter (actually, two, in case staff were at the far end of the property when the bomb dropped). Can’t give Anna’s museum a bomb shelter since there was one in Agnes, but maybe a crazy coal cellar? Carriage house?

  9. That right there is the house for Jane Langton’s Diamond in the Window, a book that had an HUGE impression on me in my youth – a gigantic victorian/Addams Family pile that sticks out like a gargoyle on a New England Unitarian church.

    I lurve it.

    1. I had better go read Psmith again. It has been long enough that I remember I loved it, but not much more.

  10. I will say I only skimmed this in hopes….I am not sure if this will even reach you or if am just throwing it out to the universe. I am not as savvy as most that post. I did look for a contact link to no avail. I do search for you constantly in paper, which I know is not the new way of the world. But I have to
    say, I am an Elvis fan (I was 3 when he died) I love old detective movies, other than ravens they are creepy, and I wish with all my heart for another paper book. You are the guardian angel Liza to my Minerva and I hope xo

  11. I confess, I’m behind. Haven’t had a chance to read Anna yet. But I have a good excuse–I’m trying to plot my own book. The third in my new cozy mystery series. WHY did I agree to write mysteries? WHY? Oh, gods, the plotting….

    I swear, I’ll catch up with this soon.

    1. I JUST caught that. There’s an open room under Anna’s office that just became the meeting room.

  12. There are other paths… After more than 40 years of not being able to believe in a book long enough to finish writing it, I looked at my tools, decided that I really wanted to write a book that was nothing but dialog, and started looking for a story that could not be told any other way. And I finished it, and I published it, and the people who have bothered to read it seem to like it. Of course, I can’t use the same bag of tricks a second time, but it DID work once…

    1. I don’t think that’s a “bag of tricks.” Sounds like an analog of a epistolary novel. Or maybe a radio script. You can do that again.

  13. I think when I’m working on a story, I think in big emotional sweeps. It’s sort of like a plot, in that it goes, “Here’s what it feels like when they meet, here’s what the middle should feel like/ some things that happen to make it feel like that, here’s what the post-middle feels like/something that happens to make it feel like that, and here’s what the end feels like/how it all wraps up!”

    But it is unlike a plot in that logic, details, and consistent characterization take a backseat. In the early days all I have is banter and emotional-truth-synesthesia.

    I love seeing all of your floor-plans and detail work, and I LOVE the books that come out of them. But I’ve learned that for me trying to make a floor plan or pick out an outfit for a character would be like if the Sharknado writer had stopped to ponder, “Yes, but how will the sharks breath when they are in the tornado?”

  14. In the floor plan Anna’s office looks like it would include a spiral staircase to gain access to the turret room above.

  15. 1. I love this house. Where did you FIND it?
    2. I love Psmith.
    3. Almost as much, I love the Efficient Baxter. (I’ve based characters in two short stories on him.)
    4. I LOVE maps. (Don’t we all?) Ahhh, the old Dell Mapbacks….

    1. I googled for Victorian Mansion floorpans. It was a search, but this one was the most applicable.

      You like BAXTER? One of my favorite scenes is when Psmith hits him with the flower pot. And when he slips on Freddie’s golf ball and falls down the steps. And . . .

      Dell Mapbacks. I used to have a bunch just for the maps. Those book covers were fabulous.

  16. Floor plans and maps are my favorite things. I

    Wouldn’t it be logical to have the Russian room and the Ikon room on the same floor? There would be overlap, right?

    I care about the plot theoretically, but it turns out that I can ignore implausibility if I like the central story (see Red White and Royal Blue). Mostly I just really want another Crusie. A LOT. I am a woman of simple needs.

    1. Oh, Red, White, and Royal Blue. Definitely on my list of Top Ten Romances Ever.

      Logic does not figure into this museum. They needed a smaller room for the ikon exhibit, so they went there.

  17. I love maps. One of my favourite things is a souvenir floor plan of The Louvre museum in Paris. To facilitate my dream of going back, it hangs above my bed. Who needs “Always Kiss Me Goodnight” when you got this going for you. 🤷🏻‍♀️

    1. You really need to watch The Art of Crime. Florence works in the Louvre and occasionally people get murdered there. And you get to see the art up close. Really wish Mhz would put the third and fourth series up.

  18. Okay, I had to go find ‘Leave it to Psmith’ which fortunately was cheap! Yay cheap books!

    Also yay Anna and that awesome mansion.

    Also +1 on boo plotting. Plotting is hard.

  19. Would you be willing to share what your cast table looks like? I do something like this, mostly so I don’t reuse demon names for completely different demons in later books, but I’d like to see what you do with it.

    1. Most of the time, I just put the cast in alphabetical order to make sure none of them have the same syllable (which I’m violating with Anna and Angelina, hoping the difference in length is enough to not confuse). This time I just used a regular Word Table with heading for Romance Plot and Subplot, but I think I’m going to break it down into three subplots. Since this is a Night-at-the-Opera/Leave-It-To-Psmith plot, the subplots are simple but need to have distinct casts.

      Basically, it’s just a Word table with the plots as headings.

        1. I was afraid of that.
          I wanted the names to be similar so that Angelina was essentially naming her kid after herself. Maybe if I go for a name that ends in Anna. Roseanna doesn’t seem right. Marianna? Still not right.Hmmm.

          1. I’m still a little stuck on Nate being Agent Miller when that’s Andie’s maiden name in Maybe This Time.

          2. I can change Miller. I like it as a last name. Simple and common, but not as common as Smith.

  20. If the museum is in a high traffic area it might need an elevator, and some kind of break room/kitchen. Exhibit storage doesn’t usually have windows and would climate controlled. If it’s all donated from one family you probably don’t have to have too much archives/accessions paperwork storage and you also wouldn’t (maybe) have as many members of the public trying to come in and donate things like family heirloom stuffed owls or fossils with no provenance. Also, if the offices are off the same hallways as the exhibits they will absolutely have members of the public wandering in looking for the bathroom or thinking there’s another exhibit no matter how many informative signs there are. If you need docents, retirees and students needing volunteer hours work.

  21. Our breakroom in a house museum was the butler’s pantry. Tours went right through while we were eating. Every group had some card who would say “and these must be the servants!” I can see that happening in Anna’s museum, essentially a family collection.

Comments are closed.