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It’s Frustrated Reader time in my in-box. Definitely the most frequently asked question is this:
Q: Why, oh why, did you leave Daisy twisting in the wind at the end of Lakeshore Christmas? Curse you! May you burn in hell! (But after you finish Daisy’s story.)
A: WARNING. There are bound to be a few spoilers in my reply. If spoilers bother you, please don’t read! If you don’t mind the spoilers, hold down the mouse button and roll over the hidden parts of the reply to highlight and reveal the text (I’ve written it in white font).
Oh, Daisy. When will you learn? We’ve been following you since you were a troubled child of divorce in Summer at Willow Lake, a pregnant teen in The Winter Lodge, leaving home in Dockside, a college student in Snowfall at Willow Lake, a career girl in Fireside and a busy single mom in Lakeshore Christmas.
And all we’ve ever wanted was for you to find your happily-ever-after.
You keep being pulled back and forth between Logan, the handsome, well-born father of your child, and Julian, the dangerous but adoring adrenalin junkie in search of adventure.
And now this! Somebody’s about to pop the question and we don’t even get to know which one, or what your answer is!
Argh! I could kill you dead right now!
There is no way everyone is going to love everything that happens to a character in a book. I just hope I can be true and fair to the characters and storylines I’ve set up.
It’s true that there is a major, major unanswered question at the end of Lakeshore Christmas. Daisy finds herself in quite a pickle. A delicious pickle.
The good news is, somebody wants to marry her.
The bad news is, we don’t quite know which somebody.
Do I know who dropped the d-bomb on the train platform? Yes.
Is it who you think it is? Probably not.
Disclaimer: Even though I do know how this is going to go down, Daisy’s book is full of surprises. As the story unfolded from my imagination, the twists and turns surprised even me. Sometimes a story goes off in its own direction and I have no choice but to follow.
I had a title I really like: Daisy+Logan+Julian which doesn’t really give anything away. It’s a working title and my publisher tends to change them so didn’t hold my breath. Ultimately, the perfect title emerged from lengthy discussions with my editor and agent: Marrying Daisy Bellamy.
One thing I can promise: There is an enticing excerpt from Lakeshore #11 in the back of the new edition of Daisy. Please enjoy the exclusive preview of Starlight on Willow Lake.
Premise in fiction. Your undergrad English professor probably taught you a fancy definition for this concept, but every novelist will tell you this: The premise is the cool thing your book is about. Simple, right? Like, a crazed fan holds an author hostage and forces him to write a novel (Misery by Stephen King). The lives and loves of best friends through the years (Light a Penny Candle by Maeve Binchy). A forbidden love that lasts a lifetime (The Thornbirds by Colleen McCullough). A Navy wife whose marriage is in crisis learns her husband is missing at sea (The Ocean Between Us by my favorite author). In The Art of Dramatic Writing (1977), Lajos Egri (who seems to have been obsessed with the concept of premise) states:
“Everything has a purpose, or premise. Every second of our life has its own premise, whether or not we are conscious of it at the time. That premise may be as simple as breathing or as complex as a vital emotional decision, but it is always there…Every good play must have a well-formulated premise…No idea, and no situation, was ever strong enough to carry you through to its logical conclusion without a clear-cut premise.”
I envy the writer who comes up with fantastic ideas again and again, using the same method–listening to music, going for a drive, staring out the window, reading the paper, brainstorming with a friend. For me, coming up with a premise is like going shopping without knowing what you’re looking for.
“I’ll know it when I find it,” you tell yourself. Figuring out exactly what “it” is can be all-consuming. All I know is that “it” will be the driving force that sends me on the longest walk in the world, every day for the next six months to a year–that deathly commute from the couch to the blank page. So “it” had better be good. The funny thing is, the harder I try, the more elusive “it” becomes. I think myself into a dither. I fiddle with things. I “what-if” myself into a state of confusion. I go on personal quests in search of the Cool Thing.
Sometimes I get lucky. I might discover it as I take my dogs for a walk on the beach. Suddenly, I might think, “a lonely woman who runs a beachside restaurant.” And I’ll think about why she’s lonely, and what it feels like to own a place where marriage proposals happen on a regular basis. Or I’ll be digging in the garden or Windexing the kitchen, two activities that any writer will tell you have enormous appeal when confronted with a blank page. Maybe “it” will smack me upside the head as I stand at the refrigerator with the door propped open, contemplating the merits of leftover mac-and-cheese for breakfast. Aha, I’ll think. How about a struggling young widow and a bazillionaire?
Then I’ll have to test the idea in a thousand ways, figuring out what the most compelling elements are. Where will the tension come from? What will the reader see on the page and how will I make myself–and then the reader–happy to be reading it?
For most books, my story premise is cobbled together the way a magpie gathers things for its nest, with a shiny object here, a twisty thread there. At some point, maybe while making a story collage, these seemingly disparate pieces will coalesce into the Great Thing I’ve been seeking, the thing that will consume me through the next year: IT.
Do you have a favorite story premise to read or write about? Share below! My inquiring mind want to know.
Help me out here, people. For the umpteenth time, I’ve had a note from a reader telling me about an error in my book. Many writers I know, including the peerless Tess Gerritsen, get this kind of feedback.
Now, ordinarily, I love getting corrections from readers because it means that in future editions of the book, I can change, says “commissary” to “dispensary” or put the Pax River Naval Station in the right state (blush).
But quite often, a reader wants to change a word that’s already correct. The latest? Gabbie K. tells me I’ve spelled “minuscule” wrong. She wants me to spell it “miniscule.” Is it because it’s derived from the ancient root “mini” as in, “mini marshmallows”???
And don’t get me started on words that are spelled right, but are perennially misunderstood. There has to be a term for this–words that don’t mean what you think they mean. You know, like toothsome. Ask anyone what she thinks it means. Use it in a sentence, even. “He had a toothsome smile.” Trust me, toothsome does NOT mean toothy. It has nothing to do with teeth. Look it up, I dare you.
And niggardly is not a racist term, although this word is so misunderstood that I’m nervous just typing it. niggardly“>It means stingy, and always has. Out of ignorance, some people think it’s an offensive term. So much so that when I need to say “stingy,” I’ll just say “stingy. Or maybe if I’m feeling daring, I’ll say “begrudgingly.”
Oh, and just so you know–when someone makes a speech and you want to agree with them vociferously, it’s “Hear! Hear!” Not “Here, here,” unless you’re calling a dog. And did you know that if someone was killed by hanging, he was hanged, not hung? And the past tense of sneak is sneaked, not snuck. Check it out, people. You know I’m right.
[Note: Some sites like the New York Times have a new lookup feature. Select any word, and it will takeyou to a dictionary link.]
Here are a few more “counterintuitive-nyms” for you. Treat this as a pop quiz. Do you know what these words mean, how to use them and how to spell them? If yes, then YAY YOU:
Noisome, inflammable, invaluable. Chasten, bemuse, vilify. Fecund, lachrymose. Guttural. Timorous. Restive, leman, sacrilegious.
How about you? What are some sadly misunderstood and misspelled words in your writing world?