The back-cover synopsis for My One True Love wrote itself. In that, the book was only partially written when I wrote it, so in truth, I had not a clue what in Margaret’s present and Joe’s past would threaten young Maisie, but I figured I’d figure it out during the writing. This is one fatal-flaw in being a Panster.
Panster? A term authors use to describe those of us who don’t plot a story beforehand but write in scenes per the voices/images in our heads, trusting the story will come.
Plotters, on the other hand, often plan the story from opening scene to climax with all pivotal turning points pre-established to some degree. They also develop character backgrounds and motivations—sometimes whole series’ spin-offs—before writing page one of chapter one of the first book. That’s not how I write, though I am going to give it a whirl for a contemporary I’m working on (keeping that under wraps for now). Back to Maisie and Plot.
What’s hollowed out my insides at the same time I’ve sipped tea smugly after a two-thousand-word sprint that felt effortless in the writing, was the knowledge I had no idea what threat Maisie faced. None. Zip. Nada. But I promised one in the back-cover synopsis, so…
*Cue sleeplessness, anxiety, and absolute conviction I should just give it up. Toss in the towel, erase my laptop, and donate it, start up a dog-walking business.* A heart-warming prospect.
Yes, there’s still poo-poo to deal with, but it’s swiftly cleaned up. Then there’s the tail-wagging licks and warm, furry, happy woofs, not to mention getting paid by the owners for my efforts. Far as I know, dog-walkers don’t have dogs or walks stolen. But I digress…
Maisie. What awful thing could she fall victim, to? Illness? Fire? Kidnap? Think Deb, think. What’s next? What are you going to do about this very important plot point?
Did I mention I like dogs?
All this came to a head last night, after a dismal, less than 500-new-word’s day (though I did get a bunch of Life things accomplished, like the boys’ taxes). As I floated in the tub reading Daniel Kalla’s Nightfall Over Shanghai, the deep recesses of my mind hummed away flashing through scenarios like a newspaper press pumping out the day’s breaking news for bundled distribution. I emerged from the tub an hour-and-half later, scalded-pink head-to-toe and half-way through Kalla’s novel, no wiser for the soak and subliminal summations.
Teeth brushed and jammies on, no longer distracted by the engrossing conflict and characters of Kalla’s story, my mind immediately returned to my own, and how I was going to resolve this plot issue. Instantly my chest filled with dead air, and my heart-rate sky-rocketed. Aware if I was to get any sleep last night—or any night until I had an answer—I had to release the fear; I closed my eyes, breathed in, and promised myself I would work out the problem in my sleep. I’d let my subconscious find the solution for me.
Somewhere in the night, either through a dream, or during the twilight between waking and slumber, my brain whispered an answer so simple and obvious given the nature of Maisie’s character, that I almost smacked myself for being so obtuse. But that is the nature of trying too hard.
Sometimes, in our fret and fury to do, or to have, we overlook the obvious.
Romance writers write about this scenario all the time in the Friends to Lovers trope, where Character A is bemoaning the scarcity of good men or women and Character B, a good man or woman, is there all along, secretly in love with Character A, yet still trying to help A find that perfect person. Spoiler:
There is no perfect person. No perfect plot. No perfect plot-point. But, as Character A learns, as I’ve learned, when you finally stop chasing the perfected ideal, perfectly ideal catches you.
The quest for certainty blocks the search for meaning. Uncertainty is the very condition to impel man to unfold his powers.
Keep an eye out for my review of Nightfall Over Shanghai in one of my future Review Wednesday posts…
Daniel Kalla is an Emergency Room Physician in Vancouver, BC, and an author of ten novels. Nightfall Over Shanghai is the third book in his Shanghai trilogy which has been optioned for feature films.
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Available in 2019.