Writing Things, Part 5

Spoilers Abound

In the latest chapter, I introduce a lot of cussing. I never claimed the book wouldn’t involve cussing, but I admit I didn’t really warn the reader there would be language, either. I don’t know if this matters.

Maeve’s mother Ani is not Maeve – she’s another hero of another story, and how she goes about things and expresses herself is different. This is obvious: we’re all different. We’re also all the main character.

This book is about Maeve, which must involve all those people around her. I suppose I want them all to feel like they could have had a book written about them too. That’s been a part of the book idea since the beginning, as I’ve already said.

So, Ani’s story has more swearing in it… it’s just that some of her scenes show up in Maeve’s book, where most of the characters say things like “dumbass”, rather than “shithead”.

I like Maeve’s way of cussing better. I think she decided to do that because her mom probably swore a bit too much around her while she was growing up. Every kid needs to rebel in different ways, I suppose. Ani still feels like Maeve’s mom, to me. I like her a lot.

I named Maeve’s mom after Ani DiFranco, whom I learned about in my twenties from my then-girlfriend’s sister, who also gave me a mix tape of Ani’s music. I liked it. I think Ani DiFranco swore in one or two of the songs, but I don’t recall. She probably has a tattoo or two, but I’m not sure.

This is how fictional characters come to be, maybe. Ani’s neighbour, Lynda, is named after Lynda.com, which is was a website for learning things. Apparently Lynda is now owned by Microsoft. Oh well. This is random trivia about my book, which might never be finished. I’m giving you bonus material ahead of time. You’re welcome.

Anyway, I’m stuck on chapter 15, which is actually chapter 14, because chapter 12 is intentionally missing. I’ll tell you about that first, then get back to my stuck-ness.

Maeve, when she first comes to stay with Bee on Sisters Island, is “eleven, going on thirteen”. There’s a scene I haven’t fully baked yet, where Ani decides to pretend Maeve is turning thirteen instead of twelve, in order to get her admitted to a better school in Elders Falls (with very particular age restrictions, for some reason).

Maeve is used to Ani doing things to her life at this point – but being asked to lie about her own age puts Maeve in an awkward spot. The number 12 disappears from her life, in a way, and from that point forward, she’s both older and younger than she actually is.

Curiously (though it’s no coincidence), the number 12 does not exist in the Allegoriian Isles – a “Baker’s Dozen” in the Isles means either 11 or 13. You might find this preposterous, and I would not blame you, but that’s how it is. The Isles, perhaps only because of this curious fact, can never progress in terms of science and technology: it is a magical realm, where mathematics simply fails, after a point. Imagine we encountered quantum weirdness, but way, way sooner: once we tried multiplication and division of slightly large numbers (anything over eleven), we simply got nonsensical results. Mathematics itself is simply an unsolvable mystery in the Allegoriian Isles. I haven’t written about that yet, except here.

Because I’m writing a speculative fiction novel, I don’t have to defend anything nonsensical that I’m writing, so don’t try to make me. There’s just no number twelve in Bardlii’s world. I might need to revisit earlier chapters and remove any 12’s, I’ll have to check. This no-12’s thing sort of arose on its own.

So that’s why there is no chapter 12, though (on Earth, anyhow) you could still say there was a twelfth chapter. Bardlii would have no idea what you meant by twelfth, though, so instead we can all just agree that the next chapter after chapter 11 is chapter 13. There you go.

Back to the problem of stuck-ness.

I want the book to have 3 acts, but it might have 4, I’m unsure. Probably 3 though, all a Baker’s Dozen chapters long. The chapter Crossroads (chap 13) represents an end of Act I of the book: The characters are established, the villain (whom Maeve claims early on does not exist in her story, but now we know why she thinks that) is introduced indirectly, and Bardlii and Fenrii arrive at a crossroads (although I don’t mention crossroads in the chapter, so I might need to fix this). There’s a crisis in Maeve’s world: Her friend Liz is upset with her because of a double deception. Then her cousin Olive arrives, and she’s in a kind of crisis too.

What ended up happening, which I didn’t see coming (just like every other part of the story), is Olive and Maeve both needing one another right now. Olive’s crisis is hinted at, but not revealed. Maeve forgets her own problems (her friendship woes, her leg, Bee’s recent passing) for a while, because her cousin needs help, and that’s more important. It’s a problem to fix: like a broken radio, or roof shingles.

This is a soft end to Act I, and it’s good enough for me. Act II is more about what Maeve and Olive get up to, on Bee’s island… and also, how Bardlii and Fenrii parts ways with the soldiers, and why. These two stories need to converge in this book. I need an outline.

I’ve been dragging my feet on this outline thing for long enough. Act I was a stream of consciousness, which allowed me to find Maeve’s voice and personality, and introduce a lot of detail that remains unresolved, but has potential. There’s a trajectory established, but now these arcs need some definition. I need to use some math, and make some calculations about where things need to land.

Act II has to establish what it is that is bothering Olive, and then, what Maeve decides to do about that. This parallels what Bee does for Maeve, when Maeve is left to stay with her on Sisters Island. So, this section of the book has to flashback to Maeve’s stay with Bee. Bee’s way of being around younger Maeve will inform how Maeve is around younger Olive; Maeve has taken Bee’s place as the matriarch of the island, but she’s still young, and her story is not Bee’s, and neither are all of her ways.

We don’t know what details matter, at this point. I need to make some decisions about that. There’s a treasure map, and there’s a board game, and there are crows that curiously stroll around instead of flying about, and hoards of cats I mentioned but who haven’t appeared yet, except in one scene… and a spirit, and gnomes which might or might not exist for real. What about the ocean, and what about the villain? What about Bently? What about all those promises I made? So many little promises.

I’ve bitten off a lot, and maybe promised too much. The outline is for building some bones… and later, maybe the fat can be trimmed off of what shape emerges.

I need to write an outline. Really, I think I just needed to write that first.

Now I have to write the outline.


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