Waiting for "The Call"

“Honey, it’s always crap. Every book I write is crap. It’s my job to fix the crap afterwards,” according to Nora Roberts. Well, I've got it half right. Still working on the "fixing it" part. "Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices." Advice from Michelle Styles that might help!

What now? December 4, 2010

No writing this week. Not wasted time- I’ve read two Blazes which I loved, as I wanted to get a feel for the line and I hadn’t read one for a while (they were Sam Hunter’s Taking Care of Business and Kathy Lyon’s Make Your Move). I’ve also done a lot more reading and thinking about a whole lot of stuff that goes into making stories with strong proactive characters who drive the plot. Main things seem to be good conflicting goals for the hero and heroine, something that drives them to act and therefore drives the plot. In my stories at least one character always seems to have the goal of keeping their life how it is when the other character erupts into it. I’m not sure that’s good enough, as it’s almost always going to make that character reactive and not proactive. Unless they can then come up with an active plan to stop their life being disrupted, which is something I only just thought of…

Anyway, all that thinking and I can’t decide what to do next!

Option 1– Do I use what I learned so far to have a go at rewriting the rejected Superromance story? Reasons for- I love these characters and have a completed first draft. It may not take too big a change to fix the issue of reactive rather than proactive characters and too much external stuff. It’s hard to explain that one- it is a big change, but I know how to do it so it won’t be hard,  just a lot of new words, if that makes sense. Reasons not to- I suspect this story has other problems besides the key one Megan mentioned. Mainly that a lot of the heroine’s internal conflict hinges on her big sekrit, which she keeps from both the reader and the hero until the big reveal at the 3/4 mark, which triggers the Black Moment. That needs rethinking too. She can’t reveal it to anyone else, that’s not at all in character, but maybe the reader needs to know, needs to understand her conflcit, why she’s so torn, why she can’t accept what the hero is offering her. The other issue is that while she has a big character arc, a lot of growth and change, as it is the hero does not.

Option 2– Do I keep going with the WiP, which I know has the same problem of at least one essentially reactive character,  the additional issue of not being clearly targetted to any line ( it’s feeling too sexy to be a Super, as the sex is the way into the relationship; yet not sexy enough to be a Blaze), and also conflict that just doesn’t feel strong enough to carry the story? I know the basic internal conflict can’t be right yet as I needed to add something new in- the heroine can’t have kids and the hero wants them- what I am doing is an old problem of combining lots of conflicts rather than one core conflict. I did think of one thing that would tie it all together for the heroine and make her key issue one of seeing herself as a defective woman so rejecting her femininity and any sort of traditionally female role. Lots of backstory in her family of origin that created this, topped off by her discovering a health issue aged sixteen that meant she would never menstruate and could not have a child. Needs to be worked out more. Her issue will be self-acceptance then. The hero needs more work too- his issue is more around being willing to roll with change, and the heroine is a change agent. It’s all a bit messy. Odd that when I started writing I thought I had a good clear-cut conflict- it just gets messier and messier- which tells me I don’t have it at all! I did have a good aha moment when I realised in my plan as it was I had the heroine’s resolution of her conflict looking like it came from an external event. I know now that it can’t- she has to decide to change. I want to keep the external event, but she needs to have already decided to change. All the external event does is delays her being able to tell the hero, and gives her more emotional grief and some deep regret- she’s ready to be with him, all her excuses have fallen away, and now not only can she not tell him, their chance of a future together might be gone. It feels kinda powerful that way. Almost will give a double black moment- it looks resolved, then this external event gets in the way. She needs to have made the decision to go to him, be feeling happy and relieved and as if it’s all going to work out before she hears about the external event that puts the hero in danger. Not sure if it will work like that (though now I think about it I do remember reading a Sarah Mayberry- Home for the Holidays- that had something similar) but it feels like it would.

Option 3 -Do I start over and try to get it right from the start with the new story idea?  Build in strong organic conflict and goals that will drive the characters into action. Have both characters needing to change, and their impact on each other forcing that change. This new idea seems to offer that, good opposing goals, the hero and heroine both have much the same internal issue and need to change (both of them have their whole personal identity and self-esteem wrapped up in their work, and they both want the same external thing- to run her father’s hotel chain), but I can’t see what the resolution will be! Also, is that enough of a relationship block? Neither allow close relationships, neither want to fall in love or be in a committed relationship. I need to know more about why.

She has been burned too many times by men who only wanted the heiress and not her, which is why she doesn’t tell the hero who she is when they first meet, and also doesn’t feel she is lovable (both because of the jerks and more fundamentally because she’s spent her whole life not measuring up to her father’s and her own memories of her perfect, beautiful, dead mother). He doesn’t want to let another person into his heart because his sensitive older brother committed suicide in his teens due to the pressure to succeed in their family. Mace succeeds easily, feels he owes it to his brother to be even more of a success as he took on the role in the family company that was meant to be his brother’s. Giving that up will feel like betraying his brother again. Allowing himself to love means risking the same hurt again he felt when Adam died. Hmm, there’s some potential there.

I want to go back and read the fabulous blog series the even more fabulous Julie Cohen wrote on character arc.  She shows how she plans character arc and then the key plot events flow for that. I want to see how that works with my characters for all these stories.

I’m inclining towards starting a new story. Of course, that shoots down any chance of entering SYTYCW, with a closing date of the 15th. I could possibly have a first chapter (though not really polished) and a synopsis- but not anything resembling a completed story! So maybe I should try option 2. Now I’m thinking that would be better- want to see it the double BM works.  Or why not option 1?

And now I’m back to being confused again!


Productive procrastination May 31, 2010

Filed under: What I'm reading,Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:19 pm
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Well, that’s what I hope I’ve been doing!

Still no actual work on the rewrite, but I’ve gone through all of the first draft looking at what needs changing and what works. The bad news is- nearly everything needs changing, there’s a lot of work involved. The good news is- the love scenes worked, the black moment made me cry, and the happy ending made me smile. Please God the final version will do that for it’s readers too!

I’ve spent the last two days going right through Writing the Breakout Novel Workbook: Hands-on Help for Making Your Novel Stand Out and Succeed, workshopping the story. Twenty pages of notes later I have a deeper knowledge of the characters and their conflicts, and a load of ideas to power the rewrite.  (And a fifty work pitch too!) I know how I want the completely new first three chapters to go, and I know the ending I have will work, with some tweaking. There’s a swampy middle bit I have not much idea about yet, so I’m hoping that will work out once I get the rewrite started…

I’ve also been reading as many stories as I can from different lines with similarities in the situation and the conflict, whether that’s the secret child, old lovers reuniting, or heroines who’ve been raped in the past. Not to copy other writers, but to see if how they handled it can spark any ideas, show me what I need to make sure I do to make it work.

Liz Fielding’s “Five Year Baby Secret” reminded me that the hero is not just going to be a little annoyed, he’s going to be angry as hell, majorly pissed off when he finds she’s kept his child from him. Donna Alward’s “One Dance With the Cowboy” showed me how reunited lovers will have that same sweet yearning for each other, despite what has come between them. Both those stories showed that the same issues that drove the couple apart in the past will remain unresolved now- and they can only reach their HEA by both dealing with the past issues, as well as their feelings about their separation.

No similarity to my current characters in any way, but a deeply emotional (three tissues needed!) and very hot Superromance- Sarah Mayberry’s “Home for the Holidays”. What was interesting there is that she has the same double BM/HEA I gave my characters- where it looks like things are resolving and they can be happy, then bang, something even bigger comes between them to push them apart. For her heroine it was something totally unexpected, while I hope mine still works even though the reader will know it’s coming.

I’ve just finished an old Presents- Jane Porter’s excellent “The Sheikh’s Virgin”, recommended by my crit group when I asked for stories with a heroine who had been raped. From this I’m getting the shame and yet paradoxical fierce courage of the survivor. My heroine has the shame and guilt, but she needs to show more of the tenacity, fight, and will for life that helped her get through something  so devastating and soul destroying.

Now I have to say- enough of the procrastination. I still have more books to read, but it’s enough.

Tomorrow I start the rewrite. For real. No excuses.


Bodybuilding for wimpy characters May 18, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 6:02 pm
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It’s official. Both my hero and heroine are Too Stupid To Live.

My hero is inconsistent. An example- he says he doesn’t want anything to do with the heroine, then goes around to her place to check she’s all right and invites her to his house for dinner. He falls straight back into his old pattern of being there for the heroine. Except where it’s all too obvious I’ve thought “But there’s no conflict!” and made him suddenly resist her.

The heroine is weak and wimpy. She is supposed to be a successful business woman, who’s made it on her own despite being a single mother. She sure doesn’t seem like that reading the story. She doesn’t make decisions and go for things, she just reacts to what is happening. And yes, she’s in a difficult situation that’s just turned her safe organised life upside down. Her old best friend and one time lover, who may or may not be the father of her seven year old son, has just reappeared in her life. He’s demanding she go back to her childhood home town, as her mother, who disowned her when she announced her pregnancy, is ill, maybe seriously.

But she needs to be stronger, feistier, have goals of her own and not get pushed around by other people’s needs and wants. She was a victim of her mother’s perfectionism growing up. She was a victim when she fell pregnant aged twenty and dropped out of uni. She stopped being a victim the minute she decided to keep her baby, survive on her own no matter what anyone else wanted her to do. (So deciding to run away and hide from her best friend Lock wasn’t the smartest idea, but she was young and dealing with some big emotional issues, and she was afraid he would reject her as her mother had done.) Anyway, she can’t be a victim now. She needs to find the emotional equivalent of a Bullworker, to turn her from an emotional 90 pound wimpy weakling into a strong independent woman worth loving, worth a great relationship.

I was on eHarlequin buying books and I saw this quote from MIRA author Robyn Carr –

“I’m naturally drawn to strong, capable female characters, and when I begin a story I ask myself, ‘What is she up against?’ I try to write about issues that every woman faces at some point in her life, without ever losing sight of the basic sense of humor that helps us all through hard times.”

That’s what I need to know. What is Cady up against? What does she want to happen? (Given that once the inciting event occurs, having things the same as they were is not an option, no matter how much she wants it.) What plans does she make for dealing with this? How does she regroup when things go wrong? How do her strengths help and hinder her?

I’m getting some of the answers. Her goal isn’t and can’t be just to get back to having things how they were before the story started. The most important thing of all for her is making a good life for her son Josh. He not only doesn’t have a father in his life, he doesn’t have grandparents either. Maybe he’s been commenting on that, even getting teased by other kids at school. So when Lock erupts back into her life, she may not want anything to do with him, but she could decide her goal is to mend the damaged relationship with her mother. Not for her sake, or her mother’s sake, but for Josh’s sake. As I wrote, I had the sense that things with her Mum were working out too quickly.  This goal can’t come easily. So she’s struggling to reestablish the broken relationship with her mother, at the same time she and Lock are struggling not to reestablish their own broken relationship.Meanwhile, Lock is getting to know the boy who may be his son, and come to terms with his emotions about that. There’s a lot going on there, a lot to pull them together and a lot to push them apart. The conflict with Lock, and with her mother, is the Bullworker that brings out Cady’s strength. The big weakness of my first draft is the lack of conflict, which comes from the characters not having meaningful goals.

Okay, it’s a good place to begin the rewrite. I can see what I need now, the first few scenes are falling into place. Not much of the first draft will survive into the second draft, but that’s okay. It was the “getting to know the characters” draft. Now the real story starts!

Edited to add- make sure you read Les Edgerton’s reply below- it’s a writing tutorial in itself!


Looking at scenes May 11, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 10:28 pm
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I have too many nice scenes where nothing really happens! Or stuff does happen, but the characters don’t seen to be driving it, they’re reactive all the time, rather than active. I wrote stuff that I hoped would move the story forward and keep the focus on the central relationship, but there’s no sense of the characters having goals, and the conflict is weak.

I haven’t really done any editing or rewriting yet, there are too many scenes that needs to be cut and replaced, or extensively rewritten. This is not a bad thing! My new plan is to spend the next few weeks digging into the first draft, and coming up with a roadmap to fix what’s wrong with it and keep what’s good about it. Then I have five days off to spend intensely rewriting. The write-a-thon worked so well, it’s time for an edit-a-thon!

I’ve been working through the story, scene by scene, making notes, trying to get a handle on what I’ve got and how I can make it better. I’ve been using a simple scene checklist I modified from ideas in a workshop I’ve done (can’t remember which now!) to keep me focused on making things happen in every scene.

It goes






Edit notes-

Simple and to the point.

I was in the bath, thinking about this afternoon’s work on the story, and I wondered if I should make it even simpler for a conflict thicko like me to understand. Like this-

What does the POV character want?

What is he/she doing to get it?

What stops him/her getting it?

What does he/she decide to do about it next?

Which is just Action-Reaction-Decision, but in a form that I can grasp easier. Also reminds me that escalating conflict and tension mean that things keep getting worse no matter that the main characters do to try to fix things. I need to be able to answer those questions for every scene.

I’m going to give it a try when I’m planning what I want to do for the rewrite.


Digging into emotion May 4, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 4:07 pm
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I still haven’t started any actual rewriting on Cady and Lock. I did have a brief temptation to start another story in the series, but I resisted, just wrote notes and filed them away instead!

I am trying to work out what needs fixing with this story, how it can be made stronger and better and especially more emotionally satisfying, before I dive into edits. I know I need to dig right down deep to the fundamentals of character and conflict and get that right before I do anything. I want everything in the story to be driven by who the characters are and what they need.

I’ve spent today getting to know my characters better, working on some questions about them and what they want and how the other person affects that. I realise my first draft feels a bit directionless, because no-one seems to have clear goals, they just go from one thing happening to another thing happening to another- it’s all reaction. I need to focus on that in the rewrite- making sure the character’s initial goals are clear and that in each scene the POV character has a goal, something they are trying to make happen. That will make the characters stronger and the story feel more purposeful. It will also feed into the conflict more. There is no conflict if no-one wants anything!

Doing a list of 20 Goals for each character was fun and told me some things I didn’t know. By the time I got to the end I was right down deep in the hidden emotional needs that Cady and Lock wouldn’t admit to themselves, let alone anyone else. That made me realise that a weakness in the story is that the characters are too self-aware. I have Cady doing something and Lock thinking, “This makes me feel rejected, just like when my father left when I was a kid.”


Okay, it’s not quite that bad, but close!

Real people (maybe especially men?) aren’t so aware of their issues and relationship blocks, otherwise they’d do something about them. Knowledge of what they are really feeling and why the other person is triggering them so badly needs to come gradually, in a dawning self-awareness, initial resistance to changing their beliefs, maybe small superficial changes that don’t affect their deepest held self-beliefs, up until the dramatic moment of “change or lose everything” of the Black Moment.

Next step will be storyboarding the scenes as I have them in first draft, and figuring out what should and shouldn’t be there. Some scenes can be kept but tweaked to make them better. Some scenes will need to be rewritten. Some scenes that are pretty but aren’t earning their keep may need to go entirely and be replaced with better ones. The story will be essentially the same, but I have plenty of ideas to make it stronger, more focused, more emotional, more dramatic. Hopefully, more Page Turning Quality to make it interesting for the reader!


Day Three Progress April 3, 2010

Filed under: Writing and Life — Autumn Macarthur @ 8:26 pm
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A tougher day today.  The magical flow was most definitely not with me!

I struggled to make not quite 5,000 (a hundred words under my target!) Part of the problem was I wanted to jump ahead- I clearly saw a scene with the hero and heroine that would have written very easily, but that won’t come until about half way through the story. Maybe I should have written it anyway, but I don’t want to end up with a jigsaw puzzle effect where I write scenes out of order then have to try to piece them together. I know some writers do work like that, I’ve done it in the past, but for this one I want to try to write straight through. If I write things out of sequence I find I have to bend the story to make them fit. It might work for writers who have their story very planned, but I’m totally pantsing it on this one. The other thing that slowed me down was accidentally deleting a couple of pages- no idea how that happened.

Everyone is back to being  far too nice to each other again, in fact it looks like my heroine and her mother have pretty much reconciled and I’m only a third of the way into the story. I didn’t really want that yet. Will have to work out how they can delay that a bit. They’ve dealt with one layer, but there’s another bigger layer underneath of issues with her mother that the heroine needs to resolve before she can believe the hero loves her.

I’m also noticing I have very little hero point of view- only two scenes so far, though one is a good strong scene. He didn’t get any POV at all today. I’m wondering if I should aim to finish short on the word count, maybe 55,000 or even 50,000. That way I’ll have plenty of space to layer in more emotion and sensory detail and sense of place, as well as leave room for more from the hero.

My worry then of course is that when I cut out all the dreck and the scenes that don’t earn their keep I’ll only be left with 30,000 words!

The truth is, there’s no way I’ll be able to manage things well enough for the story to come to a good satisfying conclusion at exactly the right word count! I just don’t have enough control of my writing yet for that. It will finish when it finishes and then I have to work with that. But I’m not going to stress if it comes up a bit short.

I have absolutely no idea how I am going to resolve the conflict. I don’t even have a really strong grip on the hero’s conflict yet! He’s got a major trust issue with the heroine because she betrayed him badly in the past (he thinks). Her telling the truth of what happened will be emotionally powerful and he will feel for her strongly, but in some ways he’ll be even angrier once he learns the truth. It’s not going to fix the situation, it will probably make it worse, far worse. And she’ll be devastated because she hoped telling him would make everything all right. I think the truth telling needs to be the Black Moment. The resolution will be them coming to terms with the effects of the truth.

Of course, I could end up in a tangled screaming heap at around 50,000 words with no resolution in sight if it doesn’t work!

I have two books on my TBR pile that deal with similar issues and I’m deliberately not reading them until I finish writing this. I don’t want to end up copying how someone else has done it. Once the first draft is done, then I’ll read them.


Conflict March 21, 2010


One of my biggest problems, I think. Getting enough of it, getting the right sort of it, making it all hang together right to build an emotionally satisfying story.

The main reason I feel I need to leave Third Time for the time being is that I don’t have a solid enough grip on the internal conflict. It’s there, but it’s tricky, because rather than being in direct opposition, their goals and motivations are kind of tangential to each other. And most of Nick’s internal conflict comes from the situation with her, which could make him too passive, as resolving his conflict as things are relies on HER changing, not on HIM changing.

It could be said I am overthinking, just get in and write the thing, but this has been the problem with every story I’ve written. I would quite literally be wasting my time writing their story now. I’d just end up in another tangle of excessive external conflict thrown in to cover up the weak ineffective internal conflict.The key thing could be to be sure that the external issues all tie in together, as do the internal issues. Where I seem to go wrong is to keep throwing in new things instead of digging deeper into what’s already there in the characters and their situation.

I know that for me the solution is to mine for another level of emotion in the characters, rather than create more issues. Michelle Styles wrote it in a comment last time I was stuck-

Trust your characters to be complex enough and to have enough emotional baggage. Force them to make hard choices.

Now this is a big long ramble, I’m trying to work out what all this means!

 The problem with external conflict is that it makes the characters passive puppets. They don’t make decisions proactively, something happens, and then they react. It’s got to be all about the characters making decisions, rather than being pushed and pulled around by external stuff. Otherwise, it’s not emotionally real or satisfying. The story has got to be driven solidly by the character’s deepest needs, which they express by having an external goal. Everything they do in the story will be directed towards either reaching their goal or fulfuling their need.

The goals are always something external,that the character wants, something solid and tangible like a house, or a job, or a business. The motivation is internal, the real reason why they need the goal, always something emotional, like acceptance, belonging, self-worth, control. So though the character makes the decisions they do based on striving for their goal, the driver is their motivation. And the decisions always need to be expressed in action, that moves the story forward.

The conflict comes because the hero and heroine’s issues need to be in direct opposition. Whatver actions she takles to meet her goal triggers his internal issues, and vice versa. So there’s escalating conflict until change occurs, internal emotional change in both characters, that make the lasting relationship possible. While both of them keep doing what they do to reach their goal and fulfil their internal need, holding on to their old way of beliveing and behaving, this couple have no chance of a lasting relationship.

It’s the internal need that is key. Often there’s a shift part way through anyway- they get the goal, but it makes things even worse. Whatever decisions the character makes has to be true to their internal need, the deepest thing in them that they are usually not even aware of. Two people may have an identical goal, but because the reasons they really want and need that thing are different, the actions they take may be different too. Two people may have an identical internal need, but look for very different ways of achieving it.

For example the hero and hero may both have massive self-worth issues because of  lousy childhoods. One seeks to meet that unspoken need by becoming CEO of a multi-million dollar business. The other seeks to meet that need by becoming a doctor working for next to no pay in a clinic in the poorest part of town. They both want the same thing in their hearts, but there’s going to be instant conflict if these two collide, because they’ve chosen such different ways to get there. Every decision these characters make and every action they take will be determined by that internal driving need and the way they’ve chosen to fulfil it. So when the CEO decides he wants the land the clinic is on to build a new development, the doctor is going to fight back tooth and nail. It’s not just the external goal that’s at stake, it’s the very core of who she is, the rock her entire sense of self-worth is based on. And the same for him, he cannot lose the land, because that makes him the pathetic loser his step-dad always told him he was. He might decide to let her keep her clinic, but to be able to do so, he needs to have something else to make him feel he’s in control, he’s won. So if this was Presents, he might agree she can keep the clinic on condition she becomes his mistress for a month. That’s when the internal issues should take over. The action has to be driven by the heroine and hero making decisions, acting on them, and reacting to each other.

Now if I was writing this story I would feel obliged to throw in an earthquake or kidnapping or something to keep the plot moving after that. But this is where the digging deep comes in. If the story seems to be slow, losing momentum, sagging in the middle, it could be that the characters have stopped acting, and are waiting for something to happen, instead of making things happen. In the battle over the land in this example, one will win and one will lose. But they are BOTH losers, either way. He’s lost the chance of a good relationship with the heroine because he’s still stuck in getting his self-worth from being a ruthless money making machine, always in control, always holding the power. He believes emotions and especially love make him weak and pathetic. She’s lost the chance of a good relationship because her sense of self-worth is totally tied up with a life of dedication and giving out to others, not believing she is worth receiving anything back in return, especially love.

They will keep making decisions based on meeting that need, which should make things worse and worse because everything they do triggers the other character’s internal issues even more. Like in this story, she could deal with the issue of having lost control through agreeing to his deal by putting in longer and longer hours at the clinic, which would really hook into the hero’s own control issues. He would respond by becoming even more controlling, and there’s an escalating spiral that culminates in the black moment. The black moment is inevitable, because even though one or both of them may have changed their external goal, what neither has changed is the way they go about getting their internal need met.To find the truest way to meet their deepest need, they both need to change. They both need to realise that the way they have been trying to meet their needs isn’t working, is actually getting in the way of them getting what they really  want. This is the ONLY way these two can ever be happy, and can ever make a future together.

Now I just made that fairly rubbish example up, that’s not the story I’m planning to write!

Already, with a new story that’s only a few pages old, I’m falling into the same old pattern. I want to throw in every possible conflict, but I HAVE to learn to keep it simple. I’m wanting to give my hero some dark painful thing in his past that gives him trust issues, but actually, he does not need it at all. Neither does she, besides what I’ve already given her. No-one has a perfect childhood, we all have some emotional issues. I don’t need to give these characters an OMG awful upbringinging for the story to work.

This was the beartrap I fell into with Meg- not only is she disabled, she has guilt that her parent’s marriage broke up over her health problems as a child, her mother turned to alcohol and abusive relationships, then one of her mother’s boyfriends came on sexually to her when she was sixteen so she ran away from home. That poor girl! I cried when I realised the bit about the sexual abuse- I saw the whole scene and she was sooooo brave and resourceful in how she coped with it! You can see why I am shying away from writing her story just yet, it’s just too much. It could work perfectly, but I don’t have the hero’s conflict solid yet, I can’t see how the two mesh together. It’s possible Nick needs to change, that I haven’t given her the best hero to bring out all her issues. And I can’t get Meg quite right in the present either, she needs to be kind of coltish, skittish, wanting to explore the possibilities of an adult romantic relationship yet terrified too.

Which is why, for now, when the new story jumped into my head I decided to go with it!

But again, I want to overcomplicate. I need to keep the external stuff very simple. Golden girl of Haven Bay, Cady needs to be perfect. She’s almost achieved it.  She has the perfect job, with the twentieth floor office overlooking Sydney Harbour. She has the perfect flat, again with harbour views. She has the perfect housekeeper, so she can work out and keep herself a perfect ten. She has no time for a relationship. That’s okay, she doesn’t want one messing up her perfect life.. She’s the girl who made good. But her seven year old son is acting out, getting in trouble at school, and now her mother is ill and needs looking after. She has to go back to Haven Bay. She has to face Mitch, her childhood sweetheart. The man who believes she two-timed him then dumped him cruelly back when they were uni students together, destroying their dreams of a life together.  She made him think that rather than tell him the truth about the date rape she blames herself for and feels so desperately ashamed of.  No hope of avoiding him. As Mitch is the head and teacher at the small school in the community, he and Cady are going to be thrown together a lot, as he gets involved with her son.

Do I really need to give him any other reason to have trust issues and be wary of trusting her now when she comes home after seven years, isn’t her betraying him so badly in the past enough? And do I need to give her any other reason to feel shame and no self-worth when she blames herself for her rape, and feels a failure over her relationship with her son, the product of the rape? There’s enough emotion there to mine for a thousand page story, let alone a two hundred page one. Maybe they do need underlying reasons that what happened seven years ago affected them so strongly, drove them deeper into dysfunctional choices? But it really was a life destroying event. Maybe Mitch had abandonment issues already, because his Dad had affairs and left his Mum when he was in his early teens; maybe Cady had issues of needing to be perfect because her parents had very high expectations that she would excel, and withdrew their approval if she didn’t measure up. I guess that would make sense. But it doesn’t have to be something really big and really dark in their childhood, like I did with Meg. They just have to have good enough reasons to drive the decisions they made and are still making, to explain the way they behaved in the past and the way they are still choosing to behave now. Cady choosing to keep up her facade of perfection no matter what the cost to herself and others, Mitch choosing not to trust, not to let anyone get inside his shell again.

Now, this may not be quite there yet. They don’t have goals that are in opposition. Her surface goal is to do her duty to her Mum and get back to her life in Sydney ASAP, avoiding contact with Mitch. But her deep goal is to solve her relationship issues with her son Josh, and even deeper under that to resolve her issues with Mitch. Mitch’s surface goal is to help Josh with his behaviour problems. Not only is Josh disrupting his classroom, he feels an instant bond with the kid. It’s just possible Josh could be his son, despite the fact Cady told him she’d slept with another man. He sees the best way to help Josh is by giving him a strong male role model- spending as much time as he can with Josh. His deep goal is to resolve his issue with Cady- he is still angry with her over the way she betrayed him.

I may still not have it right of course, and getting it into my writing is a whole other thing…