STEP 1 ONE SENTENCE SUMMARY
A woman who has never fallen in love finally looses it when watching her twin sister get divorced for the 2nd time and helping her last single best friend plan her wedding.
STEP 2 ONE PARAGRAPH PLOT
Julie is 40. In fact, she had celebrated the big 40 with her best friend Claire just last Friday. Today she is standing in front of Claire at ‘Gowns by Tracie’ and looking at her 40 year old face in the mirror beside the most hideous fuchsia number she’d ever seen. You think being single and bridesmaid as many times as Clair had she would have some mercy on her friend but it seemed more revenge than mercy, and Julie was asked to pay the price. Sigh…It seemed to be Julie’s role in life cheering on her friends while their lives got interesting and she had the same old, same old. Right now Julie’s sister Lisa was going through her second divorce and she called her at all hours of the day. Why anyone would call her for advice she would never know. The truth is she has a secret. Julie is 40 and has never fallen in love. Never even been kissed. She hasn’t been twitterpated or excited over a guy. She hasn’t had her heart broken. She hasn’t even held hands with a guy. Why? She has no idea except it seems to be her calling to watch others from the sidelines.
STEP 3 DEVELOP CHARACTERS
Julie- 40 year old woman, never fallen in love, hard worker, perhaps even workaholic, likes control which means romance drives her nuts, practical but also a dreamer. She has a twin sister who is very demanding, critical and a mess with her life. Wants to support everyone but having a hard time.
Claire- Julie’s best friend and the last of their group to get married except Julie. She’s lost in wedding plans as it is finally her dream come true. She worries about Julie but everything has happened very fast. She’s scared of all the change but feels like she can’t talk to Julie about her worries.
Lisa- Julie’s sister and twin. A mess with relationships. Can’t keep a job and her kids are a challenge. Jealous of her sister always having things together. Feels Julie judges her.
Mom and Dad- Supportive parents but tend to forget Julie and give all the attention to their kids with grandkids.
Julie and Claire’s group of married girlfriends
Love interest? New friend like in My Best Friends Wedding she doesn’t end up with anyone.
STEP 4 PLOT SUMMARY
The story will kind of be as if Julie is a pot of water and as the pressure and heat increase Julie will get more stressed until it boils over. Eventually she will have to reconcile her life and the expectations she had for it. Meanwhile there will be Claire’s wedding and all that goes into putting that together. Julie and Lisa have to deal with their envy of each other. Don’t want everything to end with a tidy bow. Should be still challenges, unknowns but some peace and comfort for the future.
There are other steps but I will wait to do those another day.
So that’s a start. Would love your thoughts and suggestions. Cant’ say I will take all of them but I know it will be helpful as I put it all together.
Those are some initial thoughts at least!
26 thoughts on “Nanowrimo Snowflake Technique”
[Questions first, comments next.]
“Claire- Julie’s best friend…. She’s lost in wedding plans…. She worries about Julie…. She’s scared of all the change but feels like she can’t talk to Julie about her worries.”
“You think being single and bridesmaid as many times as Clair had she would have some mercy on her friend but it seemed more revenge than mercy, and Julie was asked to pay the price.”
[There’s some irreconcilable inconsistency in this “best friends” relationship: Claire is worried about a friend, but is taking revenge on her? Which is the real relationship, and why?]
“Right now Julie’s sister Lisa was going through her second divorce and she called her at all hours of the day.”
“Lisa- Julie’s sister and twin. A mess with relationships. Can’t keep a job and her kids are a challenge. Jealous of her sister always having things together. Feels Julie judges her.”
“Julie and Lisa have to deal with their envy of each other.”
[More contradictions: Why would Lisa pester Julie for advice, if she felt that way? What would Julie envy about her mess of a sister?]
“Sigh…It seemed to be Julie’s role in life cheering on her friends while their lives got interesting and she had the same old, same old.”
“Why anyone would call her for advice she would never know. The truth is she has a secret. Julie is 40 and has never fallen in love. Never even been kissed. She hasn’t been twitterpated or excited over a guy. She hasn’t had her heart broken. She hasn’t even held hands with a guy. Why? She has no idea except it seems to be her calling to watch others from the sidelines.”
“likes control which means romance drives her nuts”
[A boring old-maid life for no known reason is an unsustainable trope: How can she not have a clue, if she’s a control freak and romance drives her nuts? Why does she feel that way?]
All fair points. I’ll definitely consider it. I do have to say I have no experience in love or romance and yet people ask me for advice all the time. Why? I have no idea.
It seems like all people are contradictions. I can picture someone worried about their friend but being so focused on her wedding she doesnt realize it is so ugly or the dress matters to Julie.
It also makes sense to me someone would be needy for advice and time and yet be envious of family.
I guess I have no idea why I havent found romance and I’m somewhat controlling which romance being out of my control (some I can do but it requires another person who I cant control) so that contradiction makes sense to me too.
A lot of people who ask for advice are just juggling ideas and want to say them aloud to another person, just to get their own better perspective, kind of like what you’re doing here.
A “friend” who picked out ugly bridesmaid dresses is nobody’s “best” friend but her own. That’s why you do have the makings of an intense psychological melodrama here, if you can steer clear of the glib stuff. You have to choose the more unsavory of your contradictory premises, in order to have a story that would be as helpful to you as it would be interesting to readers.
Than I have a lot of crappy friends… I think people just get caught up in the wedding and forget. Plus, everyone has different tastes and when you are trying to get everyone different shapes and sizes in the same dress it’s going to be awful on some of them. So I suppose it’s a lose-lose situation.
You are right. Just throwing ideas out there but I really like this idea of a character who has never been in love. i feel like there’s something that moves me and not just because it is me. I’m intrigued but the rest of the stuff is just me brainstorming.
I really appreciate you taking the time to give me so many suggestions. Sincerely do. Not begging for compliments but did you like anything about my little pitch? Anything stand out or seem interesting?
There has to be, or have been, some kind of love in her life that is preventing her from forming a romantic attachment: forbidden, mistaken, unfulfilled, unconsummated, lustful, betrayed, abused, happy-but-lost (happy, lasting love is the real world goal, but it doesn’t make interesting storytelling).
Her simply never having been in the right place at the right time, is a weak premise that won’t wash with readers (even if it may happen in the real world), and a character’s being in that situation and not caring about it, at the very least would make her unbelievable and unsympathetic.
Filial piety and other forms of extended-family love count for more in some other cultures than they do in the US, but in no case do they add more than a wisp of feel-good fluff to a novel. Altruistic love can help a little more than that, but even if a character is a clone of Mother Teresa, and is suffering under extremely heroic circumstances, she won’t get much mileage out of it.
A writer would have to be a very good psychologist to write a completely loveless character who wouldn’t creep out readers, as being abnormal or inhuman. Just about the only things that most readers would perhaps accept as absolutely insurmountable impediments to forming a romantic relationship, would be a congenital physical abnormality that would prevent consummation, a transmissible genetic defect, contagious disease, or impending death – although there have been love stories written around those kinds of things, too.
Im sure you are right for publishing but I kind of want to write this character for me. Give it a go at least and if it doesn’t work I’ll move to plan B which is totally different
If she’s going to feel pressure, boil over and “lose it,” she has to have something to lose. Then something has to drastically change. Have you ever read “Now Voyager,” by Olive Higgins Prouty? (Don’t watch the movie; they screwed it all up.)
I haven’t. Couldn’t the fear of losing her best friend be enough?
Nope. Not compelling enough. It has to be a personal threat, something that shakes internal foundations and makes them crack.
Fair enough. I don’t know if I agree but I appreciate the feedback
Pretty much all my best friends weddings were happy and completely devastating at the same time. I want to try and capture that sense of change and loss. Friends are basically my family so when they marry and have a new family it can be a tough transition even though you are happy for them of course.
Hmmm. Given me a lot to think about. thanks!
There may seem to be no traumatic reason for things that happen (or don’t happen) in a real person’s life, but fiction is different. You have to put the pieces of all kinds of real lives into a bag, shake them up, and pull out the ones that bite your fingers. I had no ideas of going where Irish Firebrands took me, and when I got there, some of it was more than I wanted to know, but it also pulled together in unexpected ways.
In its current configuration the pitch is pretty rough, because it’s obvious you’re being pulled in two directions, but in your post the other day, you did say you wanted to stay away from cliches. I do like blurbs that hint of characters with psychological depth that keeps them from being cardboard. So if you can hang on to your intention, you’ll have a solid Transformation story.
Good luck with this!
I do want to stay away from the cliches. Sorry if I seemed a bit defensive. I guess a few things just caught me off guard. I totally see your points. Thanks again and I will keep you posted as I write
See you at NaNoWriMo! 😉
Will be super fun. So you don’t do any kind of outline?
Nope! After I wrote things, I’d put a note on a calendar, stuff like (on the 1st of August), “Dillon & Lana to Stonehenge. Rained. Industrial School discovery.”
Depending on what plot hole I felt like fiddling with, the next calendar entry would jump ahead or behind. Fairly early I figured out how the story would end, but I didn’t know how it would get there. Some of it I couldn’t write until after certain stories came out in the Irish newspapers, and then it was light bulb time: “Ah! So that’s why….” The whole thing was a surprise to me.
Neat strategy. Ive always had such a clear idea of what I’m writing. This time just a character. I’m just going to write and write! 🙂
Have you ever seen About a Boy? Or read the wonderful book by Nick Hornby? It’s about a man who likes being alone, believes no man is an island is rubish. Then he meets a boy named Marcus who won’t leave him alone. I wonder if something like that could work for a woman who had never fallen in love? Some kind of combination of Jules in My Best Friends Wedding (I love how that movie ends up with her not getting the guy and just getting a friend) and About a Boy.
Anyway, just pondering. Both MBFW and AaB are movies about people who have more or less accepted their loneliness and then something happens to make them reexamine things . Both are funny and both have less than sympathetic lead characters who change but only in small ways. They feel real to me.
Again, just ramblings.
This is a case when Art could pay a bit more attention to Life, to the benefit of both.
Some books and most movies miss the point that people who are subject to the extremes of emotional expression need more than just a wake-up call to change their outlook and their ways. Books are better equipped than films are, to do this kind of heavy lifting, but the assumption is still usually that this was a completely voluntary choice on the part of the character (sometimes prompted by a past traumatic event), and that the character just needs to straighten up and fly right.
I tackled this kind of problem head-on in Irish Firebrands, but I have the advantage of a healthcare professional’s background. Most writers don’t even think to consult an expert on such topics. Some will go to the trouble of looking things up in a textbook, but because those resources aren’t written for laymen, they still get something wrong. Then, because the reading and movie-going public usually don’t have a clue, they accept what they see as gospel, and real people with real problems of this nature are misunderstood and mistreated by others (not to mention the associated failure to get proper healthcare).
A good story with well-developed characters will pay attention to all these little details. Otherwise, the story arc comes across as contrived, and the characters as cardboard.
(BTW, I’m speaking in general terms here, not as a specific critique of MBFW and AaB, because I have no experience with either of those works.)
You should. They are very good. Nick Hornby sometimes has language in his books but he’s a great writer. What I like most about him is he takes pretty unlikable characters and finds their humanity. Like you are saying he straddles that line of caricature vs complex character very well.
Research is a good idea and so easy now that it helps. I guess maybe a downside to ‘writing what you know’ is you might be less inclined to research and more likely to fall into those lazy arcs and stories as you suggest.
I’m getting excited to start writing!
Last night a new idea for the story hit me. I think it is going to be good!
Some good ideas here! I think you have some really good contrasts at work in the difference between the MC’s life and her sister’s and best friend’s lives. It’s always good to have characters that sharply contrast!
One thing that I find helpful is to simplify.
For example, when you state the story in one sentence, try to simply suggest the arc of the whole story.
For ex, About a Boy would be “A self-centered bachelor learns lessons about life and love from an unlikely friendship.”
You said “A woman who has never fallen in love finally looses it when watching her twin sister get divorced for the 2nd time and helping her last single best friend plan her wedding”
But can you see how this is more a description of a one-time event than a promise of a story? It’s hard to imagine a story in someone simply losing it–though that certainly reflects real life!
Some random ideas that suggest more of a main-character-driven story: “A woman who has never fallen in love starts a Singles Anonymous book club” “A woman who has never fallen in love travels across the US looking for love” A woman who has never fallen in love tries her stop her serial-relationship sister from getting married yet again” “A woman who has never fallen in love falls for her best friend’s latest boyfriend” “A lovelorn woman starts a cooking club and forms a circle of eccentric friends” “A woman who has never fallen in love tries to keep her sister’s latest marriage together.”
I know none of those may be the book you actually want to write, but I’m sure you get what I’m saying 🙂
Another simple technique: Answer these questions (in one-word or one-sentence answers). #1: what does the main character want? and #2 What does the main character need? (they’re never the same thing in books! 🙂 Then the story can be the journey to get from one to the other. I can’t tell from your description what your character wants (and it needs to be specific, for it to be a character-driven journey, instead of it feeling like your character is just a victim of circumstance).
Another simple question to ask yourself: why is the story starting now? What is happening right now in the story that is going to compel my main character to embark on a (probably painful!) journey of change?
Hope that helps! Here’s a quote to inspire you 🙂
“I admire anybody who has the guts to write anything at all.”
― E.B. White
This is all so helpful! Thank you!
I like that technique of asking questions. I’ll try that. And you’re right about my sentence. I hadn’t thought about it quite like that but it’s true mine was kind of an event and not a story. Very helpful!
Last night I had a eureka moment and figured out what I want to happen in the story!!! Call me and Ill tell you about it.