Bouncing a story off an assumption

I’d sent my heroine, Aleksa in one direction yesterday—and I thought it was a pretty good one. But today as I was re-reading my last couple of paragraphs, I discovered that I was missing an opportunity to make her life miserable—as if having people trying to kill her wasn’t enough.

I deleted the last two paragraphs, re-wrote them to change the neighborhood through which she was driving, and suddenly the identity of the person on the phone with her became suspicious, the instructions she was being given became frightening…

…And as I realized she was in real trouble, and getting in deeper by the second, she came up with a cool-headed way to save her own neck from a danger that hadn’t even existed last night. The solution flashed on me as I was writing—as quickly as the problem had tempted me to write it, and it’s just beautiful.

So tomorrow night I have something cool to start out with, and something scary to continue—and all because the neighborhood she’d previously ended up in was simply too nice.

I got 520 words not including the two paragraphs I deleted and re-wrote. Good writing night.

Coming up with any cool twists on your story?

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

31 comments… add one
  • Lisa R Nov 3, 2009 @ 11:28

    523 words!!! The best part is I didn’t have to force the words once I started. It was a very good night. I also ended realizing that my two village girls would not have had the chance to ever see Clydesdale horses before back home, but one of them recognized them. The unordinarily big man driving the team then made sense. He is part troll. A small fun trist.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:20

      Neat. Keeping track of your details and thinking things through gives you some wonderful insights. The one about the Clydesdales is excellent. Curious about how you’ll use it.

  • Peggy Nov 3, 2009 @ 9:25

    I spent Monday on the busman’s holiday project, because at the moment I’m still in relatively simple territory on that one so it seemed like the perfect thing to work with on a time-change-fallout day.

    603 on it, though they’re very rough and today I’ll be smoothing them out and hopefully finishing the coitus scene that was very interruptus due to Life Demands yesterday.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:19

      LOL. Sorry for them and their interruptus. Life Demands a lot of crap it ought not, and interrupting that is dirty pool.

  • Jessica Nov 3, 2009 @ 9:20

    1182 and I made a breakthrough in character writing: the chase has ended with Cait tossed in a mausoleum, banging on the door and screaming – instead of breaking down and crying like a little girl which is what normally happens to my female characters and innevitably leads to tossing a story. The difference is that this time she wants something, REALLY wants something, and it’s not just being let out of the crypt. (Special props to Holly for helping build stronger characters!)

    James, meanwhile, is getting more and more annoyed with the ghost of Cait’s dead fiance – who is really only a manifestation of his guilt, so he’s really just backtalking himself. And instead of finding Cait, he comes across her BFF bloody and bruised (but alive) on the side of the road.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:18

      😀 Cool. What characters reaaaaally want is the key to the whole thing.

      You have some amazing conflict in here.

  • Larkk Nov 3, 2009 @ 8:13

    3263 words with my characters feeling stiff and new to me. Gotta break ‘em in I guess, and get them talking. So I’m a bit behind on the outline, but since this is NaNo and the characters want to talk, I’ll just have to let them.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:17

      Great word count.

      Let ’em talk. You can always shut ’em up in revision. 😀

  • Khena Nov 3, 2009 @ 8:06

    I did pretty well during my morning writing session, getting about 1k words and moving my NaNo total to 3882, but then I didn’t write anything else the rest of the day =/ I’ve picked up a virus or bacterial infection in my throat, and it moved to my ear with all the running outside i did in the cold air yesterday for my kidlets. So I went back to my Dr to get some drops before I did something drastic to my ear… But I feel oh so much better this morning, so hopefully that’s well. And my mother is feeling better, so I don’t have to worry about her anymore. So all in all things are looking up.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:16

      I’m glad to hear you’re feeling better. Writing while you’re sick is pretty miserable—especially with a tight deadline. Good luck with NaNo.

  • Cat (from HtTS) Nov 3, 2009 @ 7:35

    Wow! I managed 2257 words in one morning without breaking a sweat. I even had some spare time to walk the dog. I nearly caught up with my average wordcount for NaNo. Let’s just hope it’ll go on like this.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:15

      😀 Fantastic wordcount!

      And I’ll bet the dog was grateful, too.

  • Greg Nov 3, 2009 @ 4:29

    D&D: 503
    OFL: 1048
    RFW: 1037
    MY spreadsheet word estimator indicates that I’m more than three-quarters of the way through D&D now, meaning, as its a short story (probably YA) there’s less than 10k to go…

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:14

      Congrats on excellent progress. And on getting near the finish line with one.

  • The Pencil Neck Nov 3, 2009 @ 2:47

    545 words.

    Standing in front of an audience at an opening ceremony, The Princess finishes making nasty comments about The Mayor. Hears popping noises and the sound of distant thunder. And then is knocked to the ground by her bodyguard. She screams for him to get off of her and then realizes he’s dead. People are running everywhere, her guardsmen are firing back and taking defensive positions. One of her guards grabs her and navigates her through the crowd to the foyer of the hospital before he goes down and hands her off to another of her dwindling guard.

    Even though she’s a li’l bitch and spoiled as hell, at least we see her compassion in this scene because she doesn’t want to leave her dead guard behind and actually fights (a very little bit) against the guard trying to take her away. I think that ever so slightly foreshadows the hero she’s going to grow into.

    I love Pandora. I love writing with music going in the background. I had Steve Vai, Jeff Beck, and Steve Morse guiding me through this scene. Very cool.

    • Lisa R Nov 3, 2009 @ 11:22

      I am intrigued how you are going to take a spoiled princess and turn her into a hero. Working on HtTS, this is a great example of the things Holly is teaching. Excellent!

      • The Pencil Neck Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:37

        She’s got a lot of discovering to do. And a lot of pain and anguish.

        It’s going to be fun.

        But. You know. Not for her. I originally pictured her as Sophia Myles from Moonlight and Underworld but as I got to know her she first morphed into the dancer, Edyta Sliwinska, but about 2-3 months ago, when I wasn’t looking, she changed into Morena Baccarin from her Inara days on Firefly. And that made her mother, the Queen, Monica Bellucci.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:14

      Excellent. I love watching this story unfold.

      Off topic (sort of) I don’t have any Beck, Vai, or Morse. What single track would you recommend by each of them. I’m curious, and I got iTunes points for my birthday that I haven’t yet touched.

      • The Pencil Neck Nov 4, 2009 @ 1:12

        One? A single track? I’ve been listening to Beck and Morse since the 70’s and you want a single track?

        For Beck, for pure elegant style and beautiful melody and phrasing, I’d choose “Cause We’ve Ended As Lovers” from his Blow by Blow album. For more of his original 60’s rock feel, I’d go all the way back to the Beck, Bogert, and Appice album and pick up his version of Superstition. It rocks. If you like more jazzy sorts of things, then there’s Freeway Jam (Blow by Blow) or Goodbye Pork Pie Hat (Wired.)

        Steve Morse is harder to quantify. Because… he’s God. Which makes things more confusing. He mixes rock, jazz fusion, classical, and bluegrass. And it’s great. I could recommend any cut from Dregs of the Earth with the Dixie Dregs or really pretty much any of the Dixie Dregs’ albums, or Steve Morse, or Steve Morse Band. I’ve never heard anything by him that I didn’t like. For writing fantasy, you can’t go wrong with Old World (Dregs of the Earth) or Flat Baroque (Coast to Coast by Steve Morse Band), or Point/Counterpoint (Southern Steel by Steve Morse) or even Wolf Song (Southern Steel). But if you like to rock at all, then… hmm… so much to choose from… Sleaze Factor from Southern Steel? Or… no. I have to stop.

        Vai? I’m really not that much of a Vai aficianado. He just happened to come up on my Dixie Dregs Pandora Station with a good song. I just don’t know the name of it.

        Now, I’ve got to put the caveat on this that I’ve been a lead guitarist playing in rock, jazz, country, and fusion bands since I was 14 years old and I’m almost 50 now. I’m an honors graduate from the Musician’s Institute. My tastes tend to the technical. So be warned.

        • Holly Lisle Nov 5, 2009 @ 0:20

          I’m a huge fan of technical proficiency mixed with passion. Yo-Yo Ma playing Bach. Clapton playing anything unplugged because then everyone else doesn’t get in the way. Snuffy Walden, Andres Segovia (especially playing John Dowland lute pieces, which I know are simple, composition-wise, but which I love for their clean melodic lines), anyone who can do Mozart well. J.D. Souther, Phoebe Snow, Ry Cooder.

          Nick Drake, sometimes. AC/DC, lots of times. Julian Bream, Billy Joel, and Blues Traveller.

          I’ll check them all, but from your descriptions, Steve Morse sounds…right.

          • The Pencil Neck Nov 5, 2009 @ 1:42

            I studied composition from this one old jazz pianist (who used to be a room-mate of Jan Hammer’s back in the Mahavishnu Orchestra days and who has played with everyone from Johnny Cash to Frank Sinatra and Sarah Vaughn). And he said a lot of things that I took to heart but something I always come back to is: There are 4 kinds of music. There is music that is simple and sounds simple and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s music that’s complicated and sounds complicated and there’s nothing wrong with that. There’s music that’s simple but it sounds complicated and that’s even okay. But the best music, at least for musicians, is music that’s complicated but sounds simple. There’s something deeply satisfying in delivering something like that.

            One of the common elements in a lot of those great Beatle tunes and even a lot of the Motown tunes is that they took some standard progression and tweaked it somehow to make it odd, but not always noticeably different unless you had to play it. Take a chord that’s normally minor and make it dominant. Shave off a beat or two from a measure here or there to add surprise like something’s arriving faster than it should.

            My favorite technique, which is a common jazz technique, was to write a melody that was simple and diatonic and then harmonize it with non-diatonic chords. A lot of very complicated jazz chord progressions are really just reharmonized versions of a standard blues progression. If you solo over them using very vanilla blues note choices, it will sound jazzy because the chords underneath it add the interest harmonically and you don’t even have to worry about what chord you’re soloing over.

            Oh.

            Did I just go all music geek?

            Sorry.

  • Teri Nov 3, 2009 @ 2:15

    No twists yet, but I’m getting ready to set one up. Only 622 words for today, which finishes the third scene and starts the fourth, and not much real action. I’m not writing a roller-coaster ride of action, but the beginning may still be a little slow. I’m trying not to worry about that yet, just get the words down. I can fix it up later, when the draft is done.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:12

      Still nice progress. I don’t give that an “only.”

      • Teri Nov 4, 2009 @ 6:02

        You’re right, of course. 622 words isn’t an “only”. Even though my target is the Nano daily goal of 1,667 words a day, 622 words is considerably more than my average words per day this year. Though that average is steadily rising since I accepted your invitation to write a book with you. Reading your, and everyone else’s, posts here is a huge boost to motivation.

  • Ieva Nov 3, 2009 @ 1:11

    2500 words. Good character development (“but she really is…”), first major plot point and everything.

    • Holly Lisle Nov 4, 2009 @ 0:11

      I love “but she really is…”

      That’s got to be one of the coolest games a writer can play. 😀

  • PolarBear Nov 3, 2009 @ 1:03

    No, but I need some. 10,106 cumulative for 2 days of NaNo.

  • Patricia Nov 3, 2009 @ 1:00

    I’m not so sure about twists, because I’m just plodding along right now and hoping that everything will fall into place as I write. I did get a good word count though, 1,256 actually, and I’m happy about that. I’m not exactly sure what is going on or why Ryan’s enemy decided to confront him- in daylight what’s more- so I’m hoping that’ll clear up when I continue the scene tomorrow. 🙂

    • Holly Lisle Nov 3, 2009 @ 1:08

      Good luck. In first draft, it’s usually plodding along hoping everything will work out.

      Nice word count.

      • Patricia Nov 3, 2009 @ 9:34

        Thank you 🙂

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