Plot It Out

If you’ve read my about me, you’ve noted that I wrote a book for NaNoWriMo about a group of teenagers at a summer camp. And that book…it is filled with great pranks and hijinks, but it has many plot problems. Namely, the plot needs more conflict so that my characters can grow and their world can evolve. Currently, I’m trying to figure out how to make teenage girls detest each other enough for some conflict, but not so much that they won’t forgive each other in the end. My plot problem is: how far is too far for forgiveness?

I don’t know the answer, because I have writer’s block. I can’t seem to figure out how to mess up a friendship in my book AND I couldn’t think of a topic (or plot) for today’s blog post, either. Plot problems abound!

I took a break from brainstorming my book and my blog to browse books on Amazon. As soon as I read the description of Sarah Pekkanen’s new book, The Best of Us, I knew exactly what I was going to blog about. Plot. And I would start writing just as soon as I finished downloading the book.

sarah-pekkanen-the-best-of-us

Sarah Pekkanen is a masterful plot writer: she creates convincing characters who quickly win your empathy and then fills their world with conflict so gripping, you’ll find yourself in bed with a flashlight. Or in my case, the Kindle cover with the light built in.

Here’s the description of the book from the Amazon page:

An all-expense-paid week at a luxury villa in Jamaica—it’s the invitation of a lifetime for a group of old college friends. All four women are desperate not just for a reunion, but for an escape: Tina is drowning under the demands of mothering four young children. Allie is shattered by the news that a genetic illness runs in her family. Savannah is carrying the secret of her husband’s infidelity. And, finally, there’s Pauline, who spares no expense to throw her wealthy husband an unforgettable thirty-fifth birthday celebration, hoping it will gloss over the cracks already splitting apart their new marriage.

Languid hours on a private beach, gourmet dinners, and late nights of drinking kick off an idyllic week for the women and their husbands. But as a powerful hurricane bears down on the island, turmoil swirls inside the villa, forcing each of the women to reevaluate everything she knows about her friends—and herself.

Since I haven’t read the book (yet), I thought it might be fun to imagine all the ways the plot could evolve based on the description. Or to “Plot It Out,” as this blog is titled.

Here are some guesses as to how the plot could potentially evolve:

  • Tina was a straight A student. Anything she does, she does perfectly. So when she decided to become a stay-at-home Mom, everyone announced that she would be “the perfect mother.” An image which she has projected to the world, whether or not she believes it herself.
  • Tina secretly wants to go back to work and misses being consumed by her professional ambitions. She resents that her husband gets to go to the office everyday.
  • Tina’s husband has been laid off, but hasn’t told anyone, yet. Including Tina.
  • Allie realizes that she will become afflicted with this terrible genetic illness and spends the week engaging in reckless behavior, all in the name of ‘living life to the fullest.’ She engages in a lot of drinking, a lot of flirting and a lot of revealing secrets from the past. As Allie reveals more and more secrets, friendships become divided and new alliances are formed.
  • Allie also becomes great friends with the night bell hop at the resort, as she has been out until the wee hours of the morning. This proves useful during the hurricane.
  • Speaking of the past, one of these girls previously dated someone’s now husband. Old feelings begin to resurface. Thoughts of “what if” haunt one of the gals.
  • Savannah decides that the best way to live with the secret of her husband’s infidelity is to create a few secrets of her own. She comes dangerously close to having an affair with Pauline’s husband.
  • Savannah is jealous of Allie having four children, as she is infertile.
  • Pauline was the last of her friends to get married. She married a good guy, but the passion is lacking. They both know it.
  • Pauline can afford an extravagant birthday party because her husband got lucky with one good business idea. He is lacking his next idea and blames his ingenuity on Pauline’s lack of support.
  • Pauline’s husband attempts to save their marriage by funding Pauline’s new business venture. Pauline quickly hires Tina to save her from the stress of mothering and sends her back to work.

Or for some happier thoughts:

  • Tina enjoys the escape and the fun atmosphere of not needing to mother anyone. She wins the limbo contest.
  • After thinking she was on her deathbed, Allie checks her email to discover that the lab made a mistake with the blood test and she is not carrying the genes for a fatal disease.
  • Savannah’s husband realizes he made a monstrous mistake. He begs for forgiveness. He proposes marriage again (with a new, bigger ring) and asks to start over. Savannah says yes.
  • Pauline’s husband leaves her. There are cracks in the marriage for a reason. But he leaves the island before the hurricane. During the tense times of the hurricane, Pauline falls in love with another guest at the resort. As the novel comes to a close, we find out that the mystery man is also from Kansas City. They return home to live happily ever after!

I’m curious to see how Sarah Pekkanen will handle the notion of expected behaviors. If they are celebrating a 35th birthday, it’s been more than a decade since college graduation. Will these girls expect one another to behave as though they are still in college or will they give each other room to grow? There could be a wealth of plot in that idea alone. Human behavior is certainly captivating.

Meanwhile, being a romantic and all, I’m hoping for a good love story with a happy ending. Or rather, with four main characters, I’m hoping for multiple love stories with multiple happy endings.

And you? If you were to “Plot It Out” based on the description, what do you envision? Do you think it’s fun to daydream up plots? Is this the kind of book you would read? And do you also hope for a happy ending for the love story?

I’m off to start reading. I’ve loved everything Sarah Pekkanen has previously written and expect this to be just as good.

Until next time!

xoxo,
Stacey

Postscript 1: Teenage girls fight over boys. I figured out the next step for my book.

Postscript 2: Would you want to see another “Plot It Out” for a different book? Was this blog okay just once or worth repeating?

Comments

  1. Did you ever read those books as a kid where you had to guess the ending of the book or you were given several choices? I can’t remember the name of the series, but based on this post you would have loved them. Having a teenage girl right now I can tell you there is a lot of drama going on at school. Luckily, she tries to stay out of most of it. I would say fighting over boys is a given and there is always conflict with jealousy over other friends and taking things personally. The Best of Us looks like a great beach read. I’m going to buy it on my kindle now. I’ve never read any of her books. I’m reading Wild now by Cheryl Strayed and I love it.

    • Hi Dawn!

      The Choose Your Own Adventure books!! I loved them! I actually tried writing one for my first NaNoWriMo! I love picturing all the different ways the plot could unfold.

      Ooo! I should pick your brain (or your daughter’s) for my book. I wrote a first draft as quickly as I could (the point of NaNoWriMo) and am now trying to outline it and decide what is staying (very little) and what is getting scraped (most of it). I had set up a love triangle where two boys like the same girl and she has to choose, but now I’m thinking the girl’s friendship would be much more interesting if two girls like the same boy. I hadn’t yet considered jealousy- but you are right, that would be the perfect plot point and so true to life! Thank you for the ideas!! Unbelievably helpful!

      Also…Wild is on my Kindle and I am so looking forward to reading it! Glad to hear good things! Let me know if you read The Best of Us, I will likely read it this weekend.

      xoxo,
      Stacey

  2. I liked it! It was fun reading your ideas on what the plot could be. Congrats on completing the NaNoWriMo Challenge! That’s awesome!

    • Hi Kimmy!

      Thanks for the feedback, super appreciated!! Have you ever done NaNoWriMo? I find it really fun.

      xoxo,
      Stacey

Trackbacks

  1. […] she does an amazing job depicting relationships. In fact, I even imagined the plot to this book in Wednesday’s post. And the lastest Grisham (The Racketeer), because, let’s be honest, who can resist a […]

  2. […] 7.  CATCHING AIR by Sarah Pekkanen.  Two brothers and their wives move in together to escape their lives and run a B & B in Vermont.  Each person is forced to confront that living with your family faces you to confront the feelings you have towards the families you were born into.  This book forced such a feeling of “I need to see what happens next,” that I read the entire thing in one day, with little sleep.  (P.S.  We’ve discussed Pekkanen before.) […]