Monday, March 15, 2010

Just Peachy

I’ve been struggling with a plot. This is the most I’ve struggled with any plot. This isn’t writer’s block; I’ve got plenty of other plots floating around in my head. The thing that makes this different is that there are a significant number of restrictions on this story. They are all self-imposed, but it doesn’t matter where they come from, the fact is that they are there and that is making this process difficult.

The basic constraints are these: The story must involve Sara, Kelly, David, Neal, Kelly’s mother and Kelly’s father. Sara must be the protagonist. The movie studio from And Thy House must be filming a movie on or near Main Street. At the end of the story, Kelly’s mother must have accepted Christ, Kelly’s father must be back in her life, and Sara must be in love, or so Sara tells me. Add to that the fact that I want everything to turn out well. But it has to be a good story.

You’re probably starting to see the problem and just writing it out like this is helping me. I think the big problem here is that I’m afraid to follow Vonnegut’s sixth rule, “Be a sadist.” So far, what I have is a bunch of fun stuff that we would like to see happen to the characters. Kelly will be acting in a movie. David and Neal will be close to home. Kelly’s mother is going to get her life straightened out and Kelly’s father is going to make amends. That’s all great, but it makes for a boring story. So how do we fix that? What we need is to find some bad stuff to throw at the characters, especially Sara.

For Sara, about the lowest blow I can come up with is to kill off Ellen, Mark or Mark Jr. I’m not sure if I want to go quite that low, but it’s worth a thought. If we could destroy Ellen’s restaurant in the process, that would only add salt to the wound. So what we need is something to come crashing through the front windows of Ellen’s restaurant while one of the three is sitting there. Let’s say it’s Mark Jr. and he’s sitting there because Sara sat him down there with a coloring book to keep him out of trouble. Now she feels responsible. We need the movie studio tie-in. So whatever comes through the front window must be something related to filming the movie. It could be a camera crane, a light stand, a car used in a chase scene or whatever. It will look like an accident, but this “accident” must be directed at Ada, making it a sadistic thing to do to Kelly as well, since those of you who have read And Thy House know the relationship between Kelly and Ada. But it hurts David also, because he has grown to love the movie studio and this accident is going to hurt the studio financially, as well as in other ways. Then there’s Kelly’s mother, who may have done something to cause the accident, out of her hatred for the movie industry.

That gives us some strong emotion, but where’s the story? We find that in Sara’s reaction to what happened. Sara isn’t one to sit around the hospital waiting for her brother to die. She’ll sit there for a while, but if it doesn’t happen right away, she’ll go back to work. She’ll also start asking questions. She’s nosy; she can’t help herself. There’ll be other accidents or maybe some have already occurred. The police may not think there’s anything to it, but Sara won’t be satisfied until she understands.

It makes things a little messier, but it adds interest to the story. We can still stay within most of the constraints, without it seeming like everything is just peachy. But now we have to wonder if this plot is too much like so many others.