And I didn’t choose the title of this post to acknowledge that it isn’t even Wednesday. Today, I’m using a writing tip as my starting point for the day’s theme.
When writing, don’t ask yourself what happens; ask yourself what goes wrong.
If nothing goes wrong, there isn’t a plot, and every plot is a series of obstacles, external or internal, between the protagonists and their goals.
So please share a few lines in your WIP where things seem to be going as they should but suddenly turn pear-shaped.
My excerpt is from the second book in The Golden Redepennings series, A Raging Madness. Alex and Eleanor have stopped in a village so that Alex (who has large chunks of shrapnel floating around in his thigh) can rest and Eleanor can go through the worst of the withdrawal from the opiates her horrible relatives have been forcing down her throat. But Alex has just met someone that Ella knows; someone who believes her brother-in-law’s claims that she is insane. Note that Alex, a product of his time, tries to avoid a direct lie.
Ella sat at the table under the window, where she could peer around the curtain at the garden without being seen. No rector yet. Down below, Alex had moved her chair so he could watch the path from the house. He was eating her toast, and drinking tea from the cup Jonno had poured her. After a moment’s hesitation, she lifted the window, just slightly. There. If they talked in the garden, she would hear the whole conversation.
She flinched at the sound of the door knocker, and fought the urge to run across to the other side of the house to see who was calling.
“See who that is, Jonno, would you, since our landlady is out?” Alex said calmly, and he had buttered and jammed another slice of toast before Jonno ushered two men out into the garden. Yes. The rector, and the other must be his friend, the local vicar.
From this angle, she could see Alex’s face, but not the rector’s. She could hear their voices, though.
“So! You are this Mr Reid. What are you playing at, Redepenning, and what have you done with poor Lady Melville?”
At the last question, Alex, whose eyes had been twinkling, sobered. “Lady Melville? She is still missing then? Surely you do not think I…?” He stood suddenly, looking so affronted that the rector took a step back. “Rector, I must protest. What sort of a gentleman would take advantage of a woman of frail mental capacity? I am not such a villain!”
He subsided back into his chair, waving the piece of toast he still held at the other seating around the table. “You will excuse me; the walk tired my leg. Please. Take a seat, gentlemen. Can my servant fetch you tea? I regret that our landlady is from home, but I would happily convey a message.”
The vicar sat, while the rector remained standing. “Mr Reid, or is it Major Redepenning…?”
“Mr Redepenning, in fact. I have sold out, sir, because of my injury. But I beg you to keep my true name a secret. A lady’s reputation, you know, though I am embarrassed to discuss such a matter with a man of God.”
The rector sat then, and rushed into speech, leaning towards Alex in his urgency. “Yes. Well that is the point, is it not? This so called lady; this Mrs Reid. If she is not Lady Melville, who is she? Eh? Who is she? That is the point.”
Alex, amusement lighting his face, said, “Jonno, is Mrs Reid still off on her walk?” He dropped his voice, confidingly. “You would be reassured if you could meet the lady, gentlemen, though I do not suppose she would be pleased with that solution. Alas, I fear I have been a disappointment to her. Hence the walk! And last time she lost her temper, I did not see her for months. Still, you are welcome to wait. I am sure she will return.”
He dropped his voice, and Ella had to strain to hear him. “She is not happy about her condition,” he confided. “Well. And one cannot blame her, of course.”
“Her condition?” The rector seized on the words. “She is ill?”
“Oh yes,” Alex confirmed. “That is why we stopped in this village. The motion of the carriage… One hopes the child is her husband’s, distressing though the thought is. It would be most unfortunate were it born with fair hair like mine. Or the Redepenning blue eyes. That would be hard for a husband to overlook, do you not think?”
“Sir!” The vicar rose to his feet, almost spitting with shock and horror. “I take leave to tell you, sir, that you are a despicable cad.”
(And yes. I’ve been missing my usual WIP Wednesday posts because things went wrong. But hey. Life.)