A plot can emerge in a story while my characters are in the midst of doing something else, and it’s reminiscent of the adage, “Life is what happens when you’re making other plans.” Who came up with that saying it is uncertain. John Lennon said it in his song “Beautiful Boy” (1980), but it also has been attributed to Allen Saunders (1957), Quin Ryan (1958), and others.
To me, the phrase seems to say that living is a fluid experience and thus we may find that our plans and even the way we live diverging from their expected paths.
When it comes to the characters in the Saint Maggie book, A Good Community, plot happens when my invisible friends are engaged in their day-to-day activities, and suddenly they find themselves enmeshed in something they did not quite expect.
This is clear in the new book’s first chapter. We know something crazy will be going on later in the book because of its first entry, which dated August 1. Then we jump back to June 14, where Maggie is struggling to get noon dinner ready for over a dozen people with only two helpers and herself in the kitchen. Worse yet, one of the “helpers” is her domestically challenged daughter, Frankie. Maggie’s future plans here are limited: get dinner on the table.
We go next to her husband Eli, who has other plans: he wants to enlarge the reach of the newspaper where he serves as editor-in-chief and floats an idea by the paper’s publisher, Tryphena Moore. He wants to do something daring. He wants to put advertisements in the paper to supplement the income from subscriptions.
Check it out. (I know I've ;put this up before, but I've made some changes.)
In Chapter 2, Nate and Emily’s baby is born. At the same time, Maggie realizes that her oldest daughters, Frankie and Lydia are becoming women. Letting go of them, allowing them to live independently is a struggle many parents have faced throughout the ages. And this is one thing life is now throwing at Maggie. But it’s not the life-changing plot.
That starts to emerge in Chapter 3 with the arrival of Mary and Addie Brooks, two orphaned girls of color, who happen onto the Greybeal House property. The desire to provide for Addie and Mary’s education is the spark that leads Maggie and her friends into action that in turn leads them into controversy, and then leads Maggie to into on a role she never considered, much less wanted. In short, it looks as if our heroine’s life is rudely upended by the plot. So, plot happens!
I’m looking forward to releasing the novel, because it will lead Maggie into new territory that will be explored in later books.
NOTE: Speaking of planning, I had planned to release the book this month, but things have happened in the lives of two of my beta readers that have slowed and even stopped their ability to read the beta draft. Likewise, I spent the first half of 2019 with my own “life happens” moments: caring for a dog with cancer, having her pass away in early May, and then grieving for the loss of a dear, furry friend.
But finally it looks as if the book is close to being released.
Regardless, this all has been a huge lesson for me: while I was making plans for the new book, life intervened. Whether it is releasing a new novel or planning to live quietly in 1860s Blaineton, life (and plot) happens and can turn things around.
One final thought. Having been around for a while, I know that it’s not so much what happens to you as how you deal with it. It a difference whether we get engulfed the life-wave or whether we are able to surf it.
But that’s a story for another blog.
Until Monday, friends! Have a good weekend.
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Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder