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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Brainstorming with the Noodlers

Whether you’re a Plotter or a Panster you’re going to need to write a lot of scenes from beginning to end, so today and Thursday we’re all going to join in and help you come up with ideas for scenes for your story.

As an example, last time I met with a writer friend we brainstormed scene ideas for her book which was a western historical. The hero and heroine and the heroine’s young sister would be riding horseback across a large open area of land, heading for gold country. Here’s a small part of what we came up with:

Snake bite or Indians attack
Set up camp and make dinner
Everyone is hungry and tired
Hero tells younger sister a story so she won’t be scared
Younger sister gets sick

Okay, this is your chance to get help from the Noodlers. Tell us where you’re stuck or give us the set up of your story and let’s brainstorm scene ideas—don’t hold back. Anything goes! Who’s going to be first?

And for humorous yet helpful tips on plotting, visit Lisa Gardner’s “Plotting the Novel” at

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At 9:11 AM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Me!Me! I'd love to be first :)

Okay, here's where my manuscript is stalling. I've recognized that it's probably more women's fiction at this point, which explains part of my problems so far.
Summary: Teenage sweethearts are ripped apart in high school by a mentally ill mother (hers). Even though they agreed to go to college, they'd vowed to get together right after and start their grownup lives together. That never happened. Ten years later, the high school reunion iinvitation reminds him of his broken promise and he comes back for her, just as she decides to give up on him.
They end up getting married early on and must face their moms and fit into each other's new lives.

Right now, I'm stuck on the wedding scene. It's an elopement in a neighboring small town. How should I handle it since there's not much external conflict, mostly internal, in that these 2 people no longer really know each other, but are clinging to the past.

The scene after this is them confronting their mothers in a scenario similar to the one that tore them apart as a kid.

I'd love your thoughts on how to give this couple the memorable wedding ceremony that they deserve before I make them struggle to hold this impromptu marriage together.
Thank you.

At 9:40 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Eden this sounds angsty and full of conflict!

Now I don't write contemps, but my first thought was--what if the minister is someone they know but didn't expect to see--if it's ten years later then they are around 28-30, right? So maybe the minister is an old school chum, or rival, or enemy...?

So if it's someone who knew them, and maybe thought they deserved to be together way back when, then this person could stall the initial quick wedding by a few hours or a day or so in order to put together something really beautiful for them...I don't know what part of the country your story is in--maybe something outside, or in an old house?

That's my five-second first thought--dashing back to work-- Good luck!

At 9:42 AM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

And if we were supposed to leave the plotting suggestions to the Noodlers, who I know will have way better suggestions, then Good Gads, I'm sorry, and please disregard....

At 10:02 AM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Gillian, thanks for the input! (I welcome all comments.)

It never occurred to me that I could connect their past to their present in this scene. Maybe that would explain why I felt this scene was "disconnected" to the others before and after it.

Of course, the pastor/justice of peace might be someone they know! Hmm, I'll have to think of who, but I like that they might be instrumental in making it special for them.

And this is a planned series, so maybe I could do that person's story later on. Thanks!! I love this option. (And you've gotten me excited about my story again.)

As for the angsty stuff, it should have dawned on me a long time ago that this was women's fiction with strong romantic elements instead of a straight romance :)

At 10:30 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Thanks for jumping in, Eden. That's great!

And Gillian, I think it's great that you have jumped in with your brainstorming ideas. This is exactly what I was hoping for.

Eden, I am assuming that the hero and heroine have NOT had a lot of time since the reunion to get reaquainted. Who will be at the wedding? Will they both have a close friend attending? To brainstorm, let's focus on the wedding scene. At this point, do you know who you want to be at the wedding?

If it is an elopement there would only be a minister and a few close friends. No mothers will be there, right?

At 10:40 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Assuming two close friends and a minister are there and you want this wedding to be nice, here I go:

a) Music - perhaps a song from long ago that will stir up memories

b) Flowers -- are there any? And what about the rings.

c) Close friends who are happy or worried for them.

d) Maybe they even dance. I'm not sure how an elopement works. Not much happens, right?

e) How about a very small reception AFTER the ceremony and this can be perfect with dancing and flowers, etc., they can't believe how lucky they are to have found one another. But then end the scene with a the mother shows up or an ex girlfriend, reminding them that this isn't going to be all peaches and cream.

Let me know if I'm on the right track with focusing on just the wedding and what they will do...

Now, if you want trouble/conflict:

a) boyfriend or girlfriend of hero or heroine could show up to put a stop to the wedding

b) A mom could catch wind of what's going on and cause chaos


At 10:41 AM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Gillian, if you have a scene you want us to brainstorm, toss it in and let's do it.

At 11:04 AM, Blogger Mo H said...

If you want to keep it angsty, maybe the pastor/justice of the peace knows the hero or heroine's mom and brings up the objections of the past and performs the ceremony reluctantly and that objection rolls around in the heroine's head as she goes through the motions. She's getting what she's wanted all these years. She pushes the doubts aside, but the reader can see her fighting them. Things that can happen--They go out to a dinner at a fancy restaurant to celebrate and he orders things that don't jibe with the young man she knew so well in the past. He does things that seem out of character--maybe an expensive ring and a luxury car--not things he cared about in the past.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Hi again,
I'm back on the computer for a short time.

The answers to a few questions; I'll have to think through some of the others. The only invited guests are her best friend & new business partner, and her friend's new love=the groom's old friend. (This couple will be the star of the next book and the events will parallel when appropriate.)

One of the surprises (to the heroine, but not the reader)is the mother's involvement in getting them back together to make up for the past mistake. The other mother is now leery of the reunion.
So maybe I can show the mother peeking in at the service. For the heroine, her mother's involvement would be a secret dream come true and would lend itself to her fairytale ending.

And no, they haven't seen each other in a long time.

Mo H,
I like the reluctance on the part of the pastor--a good alternative. hmm. I really like using the things from the present that don't jibe from the past. Since he has been so successful, this will also show her the kind of life he has been leading--way different from her frugal existence. Thanks for your thoughts.

and thanks to all!

At 1:07 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

I think I would make the wedding ceremony almost a trip to the past.
You can blend in the words to the ceremony, but be in one character's internal thoughts- the character who has the most at stake. Maybe that's the heroine. Maybe she sees him looking as he was, young, skinnier, whatever. Maybe she remembers dancing at prom night, or how he looked when he first proposed. She feels the rightness of the ceremony, that this is where she was always meant to be. Maybe you could have words of the ceremony trigger each thought or memory in some way.

You could even switch POV in the middle and show what the hero was thinking.

It would be nice if the setting could be romantic, or ... or even NOT romantic, like the sterile office of a Justice of the Peace. Maybe your characters can rise above it all and experience the ceremony as romantic and profound and hopeful -- the conflict can emerge later, but I think it would be very cool if this did turn out to be the wedding of their dreams, because, no matter the setting and how they are dressed, they belong together.

Maryland used to be a state where couples could marry right away. It was where people eloped to. Not sure if that is true today.

At 1:27 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Eden, I really like the twist to the mother playing a role in getting them back together. That's great!

And I agree with Diane in that it can be romantic and perfect no matter where it is. Do you have the first sentence to this scene written?

I will have to think about this more and get back to you guys. I'm away for a few hours and I will be back with more ideas, whether you want them or not! :)

At 2:15 PM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

first line goes something like this (still in draft state):

On an otherwise ordinary Tuesday afternoon, in less than three hours, Kate was ready. Wispy cirrus clouds painted white brushstrokes in the Carolina blue sky, her dream wedding dress fit perfectly, and her maid of honor stood fingering the pastel roses by her side. Surely God must be smiling on her imminent union to Josh.

I'll be back in a few hours.

At 6:42 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Eden, I love that first sentence of the scene. Wonderful. Sounds like it's a pretty nice ceremony for an elopement.

Things to have or happen at the wedding:

VOWS could be very romantic and touching if they wrote their own.

The Kiss - make the kiss a GREAT one! Better than all the rest...

Lifting of the veil?
rings - simple and meaningful
friends - joy and happiness surrounding them
Bouquet - the smells
Dance - being held in his arms after all this time
Cake - they nicely feed each other
Mother peeking through the window

Nobody else has a scene to brainstorm?!

At 7:21 PM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Theresa et al,
Many thanks! These wonderful options are a way to bridge the distance I felt in the chapter. Also, I was afraid that the wedding thing might have been done to death, but I'm hearing if I do it right, the readers will be rooting for them, knowing that harder times will follow.

Thank you for your very thoughtful input!

Now, if any lurkers have any questions, what are you waiting for? There is no challenge too big for this posse ;)

At 8:23 PM, Blogger Ladyhawk said...

Gorgeous opening, but weather changes, power goes out, or delays happen, due to other appointments that run over or unexpected phone calls.

What are they remembering? Feelings, specific incidents? Tying past and present. Did they have similar experiences during those 10 years, as if they'd been tied somehow, or were they bring to the table completely different adult lives that somehow still complement each other.

Children or pets?

~Judy T

At 8:32 PM, Blogger Gillian Layne said...

Hi all! Wow, this process is amazing. Eden, I just think some things can never be "over-done"; who doesn't love weddings? And I quite frankly love how your story "starts" with a wedding, when so many love stories end with one.

I'm brain dead on my own works tonight; it's been a huge long day at work with whiny kiddos and home with whiny kiddos and I can't think.

Or actually, I'm kinda able to think again, because I'm writing in one of my handy-dandy notebooks, instead of the computer. Does that ever help you all, to switch how you work? I don't know how people work only on a computer screen....

I'm sure I'll have loads of plotting questions by Thursday :)

At 9:05 PM, Blogger Delle Jacobs said...

Eden, I'm doing this on the fly since I'm promoting my book that was just released today and not thinking too clearly about anything else. But two things came up in my mind:

First, is the mother still mentally ill? What's the illness? (that determines what she does, doesn't do)
I think usually mentally ill people stay that way to some degree, and they have a tendency to revert to previous behavior in spite of promises or other intents.

Second, I thought of the wedding my daughter and her hubby had-- at a jail! It's a touristy place in Kentucky that does weddings in this "jail" complete with locking them in a cell and in the stocks. There's actually a lovely courtyard where they had a neat reception. You may be able to tell they did this on the spur of the moment and I didn't get there in time... living half a continent away tends to get in the way of attendance at spontaneous activities.


At 9:33 PM, Blogger Ladyhawk said...

Gillian, I write on the computer, in a special notebook, and on scrap paper. Sometimes, it really helps to see it on paper.

Delle brings up a good point: was the mental illness trauma/stress related or a chemical imbalance? Drugs and/or counseling can control some illnesses.

~Judy T

At 9:41 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Delle, your daughter married her husband in a jail?! That's hilarious!!

Eden, Judy and Delle have me wondering about the mother's mental illness now?! Curious minds want to know. :)

At 10:08 PM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

Eden, Delle and I can help with mental illness questions because we both were social workers who worked with mentally ill people, and anything we can't answer, we can get our own Dr. Debra to help, because she's a very talented psychotherapist as well as a talented romance writer. (note everyone, that is one sentence. One long sentence)

At 11:26 PM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Eden: Boy, some great ideas here. Can't improve on them right now. I think getting on the trail of the mom's mental illness is key. If she's been historically unpredictable, that would generate a lot of tension. They're grownups, and so they're officially out of her control; they're trying to make a new start, and ideally she would be part of that. They might also secretly be giving her a big, "I told you so." And all of this is set against this very fragile emotional commitment.

Gillian: The notebook is where I find solutions. Maybe it's the memory of writing as a kid, but it seems to take me back to a looser, more creative me. I spent a lot of time in the notebook today, too.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Eden Sharpe said...

Wow ladies, you were working after I logged off last night. Thanks Judy T, Delle, Esri, and Diane.

The mother is bipolar, and had tried meds over the years. When Kate goes to college, starts her own business, and breaks contact with her mother (while staying in contact with her mother's psychologist), her mother finally hits rock bottom. She starts trying to get better and start using her meds consistently.
In the meantime, Kate uses the last of her trust fund $ to secretly pay for her mother's treatment and must drop out of school from lack of funds. So by 10 year later, her mother's mental health is stable and she's been desperately trying to reach Kate to be a good mother, not knowing about Kate's involvement with her treatment.

When her plan to reunite the 2 at the reunion doesn't work, she goes off meds and attempts suicide. [Question for the medical professionals: How long should the going off meds take before she attempts this? I have it quite soon.] That's what brings Kate home, where Josh finds her by her abandoned car alongside the road.

Hope this answers some of the questions and why her involvement in Kate's life is key in Kate's happily-ever-after!

I've gotta run, literally, then I'll be back. Thanks for the brillant work, you girls :)

You have renewed my faith/interest in this story. I'll share a little bit of my proudest moment with you wonderful people: Kate Duffy's "I love it! I love it!" at the anonymous 1st page critique at the WRW retreat and her enthusiasm for the whole series--I pitched 4 novels--in the private pitch session. She's waiting on my partial and I want my story to be stellar and solid even at its unfinished stage, which she's okay with.

At 9:25 AM, Blogger Diane Gaston said...

hey, Eden, that is GREAT News!

To answer the bipolar question---I don't know! I'd guess she'd have to be off the meds for a month or two.
I know a psychiatric nurse I can ask if you need me to.

At 11:08 AM, Blogger Esri Rose said...

Eden: WOW on Duffy's comment! Sounds like you have a winner on your hands!


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