Tag Archives: protagonists

THE BOOK I HAVEN’T WRITTEN

Thea Devine today.  I’m working on a variety things, but I’ve been thinking a lot about the book I haven’t written.  We all have one of those, the one you started, wrote, rewrote, set aside, tackled again, fell into a rut long before the middle, and packed away because you knew you were absolutely going to finish it — someday.  I think mine is buried in the attic right now just because I’m itching to get my hands on it and of course, Murphy’s Law, I can’t.

I started this book back when I was working for that big multi-national advertising agency I wrote about previously.  In fact, nearly everyone in the copy department, when they weren’t working on copy, was writing a book.  I had no idea what I was doing — I was maybe twenty-three or four.  I just loved to write and the intermittent stabs I made at writing advertising copy petered into one interesting idea one of my bosses used in a tv commercial she pitched which ultimately got shot down.

So definitely not copywriter material (remember I was very young).  But a book … that was a whole other story.

There was small branch library across the street from where I worked, and there I came across a pictorial history that piqued my interest.  From that I devised a scenario with an unconventional heroine,  her male friend, a missing family member (little did I know then that I had one too), an ambitious father, a prim and proper older sister, the daughter of a family friend who comes to stay with the heroine’s family, a housekeeper with a mysterious past, a stranger in town who falls for the heroine, and the town madam.

Sounds promising, right?  I had NO idea how to write it.  I started with the heroine and her male friend on an adventure, but that seemed to go nowhere.  I wrote a prologue with the missing family member, a brother, which made more sense, but then what?  Okay, so what about the daughter of the family friend?  Or better yet, what about the interconnections between the families, and why was the old friend’s daughter even there?  Yikes.  Now I had to go back and account for that somehow, but if I did that, I’d throw some other plot points off kilter.

So — send the family friend daughter back to her father.  But then, the only ones the heroine is at odds with are her sister and her father and maybe the housekeeper.  I also had the mystery of the long-gone brother permeating everything, because the heroine wouldn’t let go of the hope he’d return someday.  Well, okay.  But what if he didn’t?

Put the mss aside for a bit.  And then — start the story with the stranger coming to town who will fall for the heroine.  How do they meet?  Should they meet?  What’s his business in town anyway?  Is he a good guy or is he dangerous? Did I really have to know all that before I started writing about it?

You bet.  And worse, as I continued flailing along, the daughter of the family friend started taking over the story. She was beautiful, greedy, outspoken — that girl could have been the heroine but that wasn’t how I envisioned the story. I wanted unconventional girl to be the heroine.  She flouted conventions.  She was at odds with her family.  She had more at stake.  Wait — what did I mean by that?  So time to put the thing down and think about it some more.

So I thought about it some more — like, oh, 40 years, and now, even though there are days I don’t think I know what I’m doing, I do think I finally know how to write this book. I think it could be pretty good.

I could be wrong.

I still haven’t found the original mss pages I wrote, but I do remember the plot points.  I’m thinking I should just start all over, divef in and see what happens. We all should start all over and see what happens.

After all, we all know how to write it now.

Do you have a book you haven’t written?  Or you want to write?  Or never want to tackle ever, even though the idea of the story haunts you?

Thea Devine is working on her next erotic contemporary romance (and peripherally the book she hasn’t written).  Her sequel to The Darkest Heart. Beyond the Night, will be a September 2013 Pocket Star release.

What Lies Beneath

Thea Devine today, thinking about families and secrets. One of my cousins passed away suddenly and very recently.  I didn’t really know her until we reconnected as adults: her family had moved away years before. As an adult, she became the one in the family who always knew what was going on and what everyone was doing, where and when,  She’d worked in finance, she was involved in local politics, and she was well-loved by those who knew her.  She was pragmatic, empathetic, a great listener, a wonderful friend, and a very very dear person.

Her sister sent me, and other cousins, an Hermes scarf in its original box, mine with a Revolutionary War motif as a momento.  It was rather a puzzling thing.  The cousin I knew just wasn’t an Hermes scarf type of person.  Another cousin and I discussed it quite a bit — what to do with these obviously expensive and highly decorative designer scarves, and why the sister had chosen them as something for us to remember our deceased cousin by.

Long story short:  at the memorial service, it was one of things most talked about by her friends and family —  our cousin’s well-known love of scarves and how she collected and wore them as her signature accessory.  And that too seemed startling and totally out of sync with the woman I knew.

But it made me think about it in terms of the characters we create.  What lies under the skin that we don’t initially know, that we discover later on to have major impact on the story (or a life)?  A man who resented his late mother’s influence on his father, always feeling she’d held him back and that his father had resented it, discovers his father actually needed her plain practical common sense to keep him grounded.

Because the hero had discovered in his father’s bedroom a drawer full of his mother’s things, redolent with her scent, including her wedding gown that his father kept all these years.  And why?  Because despite of all their fights, disagreements,  and the-on-the-surface disdain for each other, his father really loved his mother deeply, a conclusion that turns the hero’s world upside down.

Another scenario:  a rich playgirl takes a local country girl into her glamorous hedonistic set, ostensibly because local girl had saved her from drowning. As the heroine is more and more both seduced and corrupted by the playgirl’s lifestyle, she never considers there might be something else propelling all that generous gratitude.

What subtle clues do you leave?  The playgirl’s gratitude is beginning to become too extensive and intrusive, leaving the heroine no choice  but to accept all that she offers.  How could she say no?  And yet –

The heroine starts to feel wary when she’s convinced to leave an internship and become the playgirl’s personal assistant.  How close can they get?  What ‘s really going on?

What does the playgirl really want from someone she would normally consider a “nothing” in her world?   Or does the playgirl have plans for the heroine?  The heroine is in love with the man she wants, and the playgirl will corrupt her to the point that that she will be rejected by him. If that doesn’t succeed, the playgirl has a more drastic plan.

What secrets are your characters hoarding, like silk scarves in a dresser, to be taken out judiciously and worn discreetly, and eventually coming  to light to reveal what at first seemed to be hidden?

What was there about your character all along that we never consciously saw, never considered?  What indeed lies beneath?

Do you have someone in your life or fiction who surprised you by an aspect of their personality about which you had no idea?  Are you the one with secrets under the skin?

Hermes, scarf, writing, craft, clues protagonists, characters, clues, personality