Misunderstandings on WIP Wednesday

Lady_BlackwoodMisunderstandings are another stock-in-hand strategy by which we make sure our stories don’t end a page or two after they start. And boy, can they be true to life! How often do we make assumptions about what someone else means, or thinks, or has done—and then act on that assumption without bothering to check the facts.

Post a piece from your work-in-progress that shows a misunderstanding (either in progress or ending). Somewhere around nine lines (mine is longer this week). And please share so that other people can enjoy your extract and those of other guests.

My characters tend to talk to each other when any reasonable person would, so if a misunderstanding is to continue, I need the characters to have evidence that they don’t believe they need to check, or I need outside circumstances to prevent them from asking the question that would clear everything up. Or I clear the misunderstanding immediately and use it to bring my characters closer.

The piece I’m posting comes from the end of Kidnapped to Freedom, which will appear next month in Hand-Turned Tales. My heroine has just realised that the privateer captain who rescued her is the boy she loved thirteen years ago.

As she crossed back to the rail, adding up all the little clues she’d noticed this past week without being aware of them, he came from below and made a straight line for her.

“Good evening, Mrs Morien.” The slight husk in his voice had been turning her knees to water all week. Quickly, before her fears choked the words in her throat, she said, “Finn, when are you going to take off the mask?”

The captain went completely still. Then, slowly, he raised his hands to the back of his head, fumbled with the strings of the mask, and let it fall into one hand.

A man changes a great deal between seventeen and twenty-nine. She knew him though. She should have known him a week ago, by his eyes alone. She clamped firmly down on the hurt that he’d felt the need to hide from her. He owed her nothing. She owed him everything. He had saved her brother and sister. He was in the process of saving her and her children. He clearly wanted not to acknowledge her, and he had every right.

“You do not need to wear the mask,” she told him. “I understand. I have no claim on you and I will not be a nuisance.” She made to pass him, but he put out a hand to stop her.

“No, Mrs Moriel… Phoebe. No, that isn’t it at all. I was… The Blakes have done so much wrong to you, to your family. You must hate us all, especially me. I don’t blame you. I left you in that place. I knew what Chan was like, and I walked away. I wore the mask to make you more comfortable. No. That isn’t true. I just didn’t want to see your eyes when you rejected me. You stay here. Enjoy the fine evening for a while longer. I’ll go.”

She was so stunned that he was halfway to the hatch before she found her voice. “I don’t hate you, Finn. I don’t blame you.”

“I blame myself.”

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6 thoughts on “Misunderstandings on WIP Wednesday

  1. My not-exactly-WIP The Long Shadow is pretty much built on a series of misunderstandings. 😉 At the root of it is the misunderstanding between John (Lord Chatham) and his brother, William (Pitt the Younger): not a traditional “romance” then, as their brotherly relationship forms the heart of the book, but the love story between John and his wife Mary is its backbone.

    In this excerpt near the end, John is in thorough denial that his brother is dying, and that he is running out of time to clear the air between them. He meets his cousin, opposition leader Lord Grenville, at a levee, and this is the moment the penny finally drops.

    ************

    ‘Many things have passed between Pitt and me over the last few years, but if I thought there was even the slightest chance of being allowed to his bedside, I need not tell you how quickly I would go… How severe is his danger?’

    Mary opened her eyes. Beside her John had gone totally still. His face in the half-darkness of the council chamber froze in a sudden diffidence. Mary felt his hand round hers tighten convulsively. For a moment she dared hope the truth might be sinking in, but then anger flooded his face like the tide. ‘I have told you all I know, my lord. What do you wish me to say? That my brother is dying?’

    ‘Oh, John…’ Mary muttered. She pressed a hand to her heart. It was beating hard, fit to break.

    Grenville stared at John. ‘He is not?’

    ‘Would I be here if he were?’ John said coldly.

    Grenville said nothing. John’s forehead was beaded with sweat despite the heat from the crowd. The anger drained away from his face to be replaced by a grey, paper-like vulnerability Mary had not seen before. After many years of offering impeccable service as an emotional shield, John’s fury at his brother had finally met its match in the cold reality of William’s mortality.

  2. This work in progress is from my next time travel release, To Follow Your Heart, in my Knights of Berwyck series. Jenna has just fallen through time and finds herself facing a mysterious stranger dressed as a knight of old.

    “Come out of the water, mademoiselle. You shall catch a chill and we are not in need of another ghostly apparition giving us advice no matter how he may feel ’tis needed to guide us.”

    “Sweet Jesus, I’m dead,” Jenna whispered in fright. Her head darted back and forth trying to determine which direction she should run so she could get away from this lunatic.

    “You are most certainly not dead, my lady, and I assure you I mean you no harm.”
    His hand extended again for her to take but she had no plans to go anywhere with this handsome stranger towering over her. Handsome? Where had that thought come from?

    “Sorry, pal. I don’t know you, so that’s the end of any conversation I’m going to have with you!” Thrusting out her arm, she pushed the button and the spray of mace hit its mark as it went sailing into his face and eyes.

    “God’s wounds! What witchery have you cast upon me that spills forth from your fingertips like the fires from hell?”

  3. The fact that your hero is named Finn is making smile, since mine is named Finn, too.

    And my excerpt (longer than nine or so lines, sorry!) has my Lord Haughton arriving at Sophia Brixton’s house with the intention of settling an annuity on her, since he believes her to be the mother of his brother’s illegitimate son. But, of course, things aren’t exactly as he believed them to be…

    ***

    But he should have known. From the moment he saw Sophia, he knew there had been some trickery at play. David would never have gone for such a woman, and Haughton felt strangely relieved to know that his younger brother had not suddenly altered his preferences. At least that was one thing on which he could still depend.

    “Mrs. Brixton,” he said, smiling at her over the rim of his own cup—a chipped thing, decorated with rows of poorly rendered periwinkles. “Perhaps we should start again, don’t you think?”

    “Start again?” Her fine eyebrows drew together. “How so?”

    “I am afraid I have arrived here under some misapprehension.”

    The woman drew in a deep breath, her chest rising beneath the ghastly, high-collared frock she wore. And it was grey, a faded color that clashed horribly with her own vibrant complexion. “I do not understand what you mean.”

    For a moment, he said nothing. He would watch her fidget, watch her attempt to play whatever game she had most likely used upon his brother, and then he would tear apart her poorly constructed facade.

    “Allow me to be blunt, Mrs. Brixton, as I do not believe we will get on well together with any amount of prevarication. Now, tell me the truth. Are you or are you not the mother of my brother’s child?”

    He expected her to squirm. Aside from a slight tightening in her jaw, he witnessed no other change in her composure. “I am not,” she said, her voice irritatingly calm and clear.

    “And would you know who is?”

    She took another sip of tea, returned the cup to the tray, and pointedly ignored him as she aligned the handle of the of the cup with the spoon beside it. “Perhaps you should provide the answer to your own question,” she said without looking up. “Seeing as how you already seem to know so much about my family.”

    ***

    • Ooooh. Intriguing! (And mine was longer than nine lines, too. You could not possibly have left us only partway through that excerpt.)

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