Friday, July 07, 2006

What next? Plot troubles!

Clearly I'm having a slow day at work today since I'm posting so much... But I'm at a crossroads in my short story I'm working on, and I need to brainstorm for ideas. Here's the basics: Susan's mom has just passed away. She is going through her mom's stuff and she finds a datebook with "H" and a time written on various days. The other dates have more explicit things written next to them (ie: Dr. Frank, 2; or lunch with Mary), so the vague entries pique her curiosity. She evenutally figures out it stands for Harold, a guy with whom she had an awkward exchange at her mom's funeral. She tracks him down and they meet at a diner. He tells her that he and his mom were just really good friends. It comes out that they were actually in love with each other, but didn't do anything physical.

OK, so that's where I'm at. Susan's marriage is in trouble, and I assume that the end of the story will be when somehow her talks with Harold help her figure out what to do. I'm pretty sure they will meet multiple times.

Brainstorming: What could happen?
  • He could get Susan to talk about her marriage somehow.
  • They could reminisce together about June (S's mom)
  • He could give her advice about marriage based on what June had said to him about Susan
  • She could ask him what his wife knows
  • She could yell at him
  • She could tell her dad
  • She could talk to her aunt about telling dad
  • She could not even think about telling dad until Harold/aunt asks if she will.
  • She could start crying
  • He could start crying
  • What about sis? Does she play into story at all? (It's mentioned in the beginning that she and her sister had gone through the boxes together, but so far Liz hasn't come back up)
  • They could have an affair themselves
  • He could tell her something she doesn't know, would never have guessed about her mom.
  • She could share something that he couldn't have known, from June's life before knowing Harold.
That's all I've got so far. Any other ideas? Or do you particularly like/dislike any of the list? (Note that this was brainstorming, so I didn't censor out any stupid ideas!) Best Blogger Tips


FatCharlatan said...

I really like some of the items on your list, especially in combination...remember, raise the stakes (were you in that seminar? If not, read "Writing the Breakout Novel" by Donald Maass--it's excellent...and it talks about "raising the stakes").

Have Harold tell Susan something shocking about her mom: maybe she was a former CIA agent, maybe she has a large secret stash of money somewhere, maybe Harold has the key to safe deposit box that holds some sort of damning information, maybe Susan is the love child of Harold...maybe Susan's father isn't her REAL father...I like the idea of Harold and Susan having a relationship or, at least, flirting.

Of course, I'm just brainstorming as well and haven't censored MY stupid ideas either...

I think raising the stakes for your characters is good advice, though (you MUST read the book!)...what would be a life/death situation in Susan's life? In Harold's? Why should we--the readers--care? (This last question is not mine, but comes from the book...Maass says writers need to raise the private and public stakes of their characters).

Okay, I've babbled enough...

Anonymous said...

I like your list but I want to get to the bottom of why her Mom was writing H instead of Harold. I want to see more of a mystery around the Mon/Harold connection. Maybe it could be shocking at first and then start to intrigue Susan until she finds herself repeating her mother's adventures. I also like the idea of Susan and Harold flirting. Oh, I don't know...I'm a non-fiction writer!

Bug said...

Thanks to you both! Great suggestions.

FC, I didn't take that seminar, but I did download the readings cause it looked good. I'd love to hear more about it sometime! I just reread the download, and it helped A LOT. I think I know where this is going now...

TI, Thanks for your question! That point had been so apparent in my head--that she wanted to keep Harold a secret from her husband, just in case he read her datebook. It's so helpful to hear what's not clear to readers. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

You might also want to think about it from Susan's perspective. What marriage troubles is she experiencing? What does her marriage lack? How does THAT play in to her relationship with Harold? Is her husband having an affair? If so, that would color the impression that she has of H. If she's the one who's looking, that is something else entirely.


January said...

I'm not going to any help here, other than I see your brainstorm as a great poetry idea for me.


(I do think this is a great technique you have, and I can wait to see where the story takes you.)

Bug said...

Thanks Erin. I'm pretty sure cheating isn't involved in Susan's marital troubles, but you still pose an interesting question.

And thanks for the encouragement, Poetmom!