Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Who's Who in It's a Dog's Life

My comedic paranormal, It's a Dog's Life,  for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) is about to begin. November 1st I can pen the first words of what I think is going to be a fun book to write. Who is in this opus and what are their relationships? I turn to astrology to help identify character traits and who gets along with whom.

Kathleen (Kitty) Stanley is a somewhat overweight, 5’7” early-40’s woman with fine and straight dark brown hair she mostly wears in a ponytail or with a headband. She writes household how-to books and simple cookbooks. They are moderately successful books, providing income for family treats and trips, but not for living expenses.

Her passions are cooking, reading, and she is an avid word puzzle and word game addict. She is a coffee and chocolate addict. She hates cleaning, which is how her first book, The Phony Housekeeper, came about. She has always volunteered at her kids’ schools and can be counted on for last minute details for the PTA and other groups she is in.

Maudie, the family dog, came to them several months ago as a favor for a friend who couldn’t keep up with a younger dog. Kitty likes Maudie, but sees her more as a responsibility than as a companion. She foists most of the love-time off on her two kids. She does the feeding, walking, cleaning up after despite her threats to the family to stop and let them pick up the slack.

Aquarius Life Pursuit: To understand life's mysteries
Aquarian's Secret Desire: To be unique and original
Strengths: friendly and humanitarian; honest and loyal; original and inventive;
independent and intellectual
Limitations: intractable and contrary; perverse and unpredictable; unemotional
and detached
The Sun signs are trine (Libra and Aquarius). The individual emotional dispositions are similar enough to understand, and different enough to be exciting

Maudie is a yellow lab with dark brown velvety pools for eyes. The family threatened to change her name to Velcro because she is always in whatever room Kitty is in if that is possible. There is no happier dog in the world than Maudie. A middle-of-the-pack dog, Maudie is confident and curious. It is impossible to hurt her feelings because she can’t believe anyone could stay mad at her for long. She lives to eat, and she will eat anything. A strong dog, only Kitty and husband, Robb, are able to handle her on walks.

Cancer Life Pursuit: Constant reassurance and intimacy
Cancer's Secret Desire: To feel safe (emotionally, spiritually, romantically and
Strengths: emotional and loving; intuitive and imaginative; shrewd and cautious;
protective and sympathetic
Limitations: changeable and moody; overemotional and touchy; clinging and
unable to let go

Robb is a genial guy the same age as Kitty. He is 5’11, hazel eyes, thinning black hair with the beginnings of gray. He enjoys sports and being with his wife and kids. He’s present in their lives, but he defers in many matters to Kitty’s judgment. A typical Libra, he doesn’t like conflict or chaos. He likes things to go smoothly. He is heart-broken to have lost his wife, and he is oblivious to the moves the casserole ladies put on him. He is an architect who designs energy-efficient, green, low-footprint buildings for socially-conscious corporations.

Libra Life Pursuit: To be consistent
Libran's Secret Desire: To live an easy, uncomplicated life.
Strengths: diplomatic and urbane; romantic and charming; easygoing and
Sociable; idealistic and peaceable
Limitations: indecisive and changeable; gullible and easily influenced; flirtatious
and self-indulgent.

Libra with Aquarius:
Both of you are very social, active people. You are involved in community groups, and your line of work probably brings you into contact with lots of people. You harmonize well with each other and are great friends.

AQUARIUS is very attached to clubs, social groups, and colleagues. LIBRA may feel that AQUARIUS needs friends more than a marriage partner or lover. In fact, LIBRA devotes much more attention to any close partnership. This difference in orientation is fairly subtle, however, and may not be a source of difficulty or conflict. You both tend to live in your minds, and enjoy a partner who is awake and alive mentally - an intellectual peer. Fortunately, you have this in one another.

Libra wth Gemini
You have an excellent mental rapport, and you enjoy one another's intelligence, wit, and style. Both of you are very social creatures who thrive on interaction with people, cultural activities and conversation. Your match is likely to be a very egalitarian one, for you both want a partner who is an equal and a friend above all else.

LIBRA is very considerate, has a strong desire to please GEMINI (or any partner) and will compromise readily; LIBRA always sees numerous possibilities or desirable alternatives, and you both have trouble being decisive or making up your minds sometimes.

Paige, a senior in high school, is a typical self-absorbed teen with her first serious boyfriend. She is on track to get academic scholarships. 

Brian, an 8th grader, has done well-enough in school, but he is easily distracted and doesn’t apply himself as he could.

Eve, Brian’s science teacher, encourages his interest in science and worries about his work ethic. She meets Robb and family at a coffee shop and Robb is intrigued by her. They begin to date, cautiously. She is bright, caring, and an intellectual match for Robb. The kids are not so crazy about her entering their lives, but for different reasons. Paige resents another woman trying to take Mom’s place. Brian thinks it’s weird to have your teacher date your dad. Kitty/Maudie ignore then antagonize Eve before finally accepting her. She is slender (which Kitty hates), eats healthful foods (which Kitty likes), is athletic, and has short brown hair in a bob. She dresses in very casual, informal clothing. She is divorced from her husband, no kids.

Gemini’s Life Pursuit: To explore a little bit of everything.
Gemini's Secret Desire: To be ahead of the crowd
Strengths: adaptable and versatile; communicative and witty; intellectual and
eloquent; youthful and lively
Limitations: nervous and tense; superficial and inconsistent; cunning and

Those personalities ought to allow for some interesting conflicts and collusions!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Plot Points and Planning for NaNoWriMo

Like last year, I am using a grid to plan my scenes. I am finishing those up early this week. I’ll let them percolate a couple of days and tweak them. Then, early next week, I will print off the scene grids and affix them to 5x8 cards, one scene per card.

I came up, initially, with ten key scenes. From there I built out on either side to create scenes leading up to and leading from the key scenes. I ended up with ~40 planned scenes that way.

Here are the 10 Key Scenes for It’s a Dog’s Life:
1. Kitty and Maudie are walking behind the grocery store when Maudie is distracted by a neighborhood dog friend. While distracted,  a pallet of dog food falls on them and kills Kitty.
2. Kitty can’t accept she is dead, so she becomes a walk-in to the still-live body of Maudie, the dog who resists the effort. They negotiate a sharing arrangement. She teaches Maudie spoken vocabulary.
3. Maudie finally released from vet hospital and Kitty/Maudie come home where Kitty tries to let them know she’s there.
4. Kitty tries to adjust to her new reality: eating dog food, limited communication skills, and watching the family slide into poor eating habits and loose supervision. Worst are the casserole ladies vying for husband Robb’s attention.
5. Waiting at door when Calista her daughter breaks curfew. She breaks up a necking session with a boyfriend Kitty hates.
6. Helps son Brian with homework assignment for science report. She teaches Maudie to read/count.
7. Maudie fed up with sharing and wants her body to herself. Tries to boot Kitty out. Kitty resists because she’d be finally dead.
8. Family starts calling her “Mom” because she involves herself in everything about their lives. She gets peace from that.
9. Dad finally gets a serious girlfriend Kitty grudgingly accepts after Maudie chides her for selfishness.
10. Maudie and Kitty settle into their life but Kitty realizes Maudie is pregnant. A sequel maybe???

Each day of NaNoWriMo, I will type one or two scenes from the cards I made. That way I will complete the novel easily before November 30th.

This year I am adding in two other components. Before I begin each morning, I will read over what I wrote the previous day and do some edits and revisions. This is because I want to have the novel in pretty decent shape by November 30th to enter it into a contest run by One-Book Arizona. Deadline: November 30.

The second piece I am doing that is new this year is when I finish for the day, I will put in italics at the end any questions/thoughts/issues I want to be addressed in upcoming pages. These will be the “hot off the press” issues that I am dealing with in my mind as I write.

These two pieces will serve two functions: 1) they will get me into the novel again pretty quickly, and 2) they will keep me focused on the story so I am not as likely to stray.

Here are some of the early scenes that, as of now, I plan to write the first few days:
Point of scene
What happens
Store back lot near home
Kitty, Maudie, truck driver
mid-morning on a week day
Kill Kitty but not make it too awful (absurd death)
Dog food truck accidentally dumps pallet of dog food on Kitty and Maudie while the dog is checking out a male dog of interest
Store back lot near home
Kitty, Maudie, truck driver, police, paramedics
mid-morning on a week day
Show Kitty as a walk-in soul who will still be part of her family. If she went into one of the other people, she’d be separated from them.
Kitty panics when she realizes she is dead & the dog is gravely injured. She slams her soul into Maudie. The dog resists her but is too weak to fend Kitty off entirely. She hangs onto her body, too.
 Vet hospital
 Kitty/Maudie, Vet, tech, Robb, Brian, Calista
Early afternoon, day of accident
 Kitty isn’t hurt in mind, but she is frantic about how to let the family know she’s alive
Licks family members, whines, as she tries to let them know who she really is; they take it as sweet she knows them; worried about her pains
 Vet hospital
 Tech, Kitty/Maudie
 One week after the accident
Kitty shows her human side
Tech spills coffee and she laps it up while he gets a towel; doesn’t suspect the dog; happens again so tech slips her coffee everyday thinking it’s a weird side effect of anesthesia or the pain

Any comments? Suggestions? Concerns? Please comment below so I can adjust if I need to before writing! Thanks so much for any help you can give!

Friday, October 18, 2013

In the Beginning . . . NaNoWriMo Prep

As I was doing the preliminary planning for this year’s NaNoWriMo, I realized something very interesting. I’ve written before about Holly Lisle’s One-Pass Revision method and how impressed I am with the process she describes (http://bit.ly/XxGWXz). Check her out at www.hollylisle.com for lots of good, practical writing tips. Wish I could perfect it, but I’m still a newbie.

Anyway, while implementing the first steps of her plan, I realized that I had inadvertently fallen into one of the important components of her process. She talks about finding your theme by identifying those questions you still struggle with, wonder about, puzzle over. Hmm, was my first thought last year. Like I know what that means or is!

So, last year, I didn’t search in myself, but in my paranormal ghost story for NaNoWriMo to find the theme. Then, voila! This year, looking at my second NaNoWriMo paranormal, the theme hit me! Both years my story premise centers around is death the end of the road? What happens after death? Is it a permanent state or can the dead communicate with the living?

Is that interesting, or what??? I AM intrigued by the questions surrounding life-after-death and have been for decades. So it is no wonder that my paranormal novel ideas center around that, too. You gotta love the subconscious!

Holly’s point is that, in part, doing some serious upfront prep will speed up the revision process. She claims that she edits 125K in two weeks and that she has never had to do more than two light edits for an editor. Okay! Sign me up!

One of the things to do upfront is called “Discovery”. Discovery includes identifying the theme, subtheme(s), one-line story arc of MC, writing a 25-word book summary, creating a back-of-book story blurb, and writing MC descriptions.

Theme (15 words or fewer):
         What happens to the essence of a person when the body dies?

Sub-Themes (1-6, depending on manuscript length):
         1. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
         2. Accept what you can’t change.
         3. Why do bad things happen to good people?

Micro-Summary (25 words or fewer):
         Kitty’s life abruptly ends and then restarts in her dog’s body causing more
than a little confusion for her, the dog, and the family.

One-line Story Arc for Kitty Stanley:
         Kitty resists the finality of death by sharing the body of the family dog
where she learns to accept her new role in the family.

Book Blurb (no more than 250 words):

What’s a busy mom to do? Killed in a freak accident, Kathleen Stanley freaks out. Staring down at her dead body, her spirit realizes her only hope for survival, and a continuing life with her family, is to become a walk-in soul to Maudie, the family dog.

She meets with understandable reluctance from the dog because likes living in her body. In fact, efforts to boot out the dog’s soul do not work, so they come to agreement on terms for sharing the body. The family are puzzled by the changes in Maudie but put them down to the trauma of the accident and missing Mom. All goes along well enough, however, until the dog starts aggressively parenting the kids, sticking like Velcro to Dad, and demonstrating increased vocabulary.

Maudie continues to fight with the invasive spirit she’s co-habiting with while dealing with her own doggy issues of independence. Will Kathleen ever accept her new reality or will she either find another way to be part of her family’s life or finally let go?

I am confident that knowing what my book is about at center, I will be able to complete it in the 30 days I have for NaNoWriMo. Stay tuned. In the next post, I am going to reveal some of the plot points and the chart I am using to track them.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

And We Have a Winner!

Voting is over and the count is in from both this blog and from FB postings. OVERWHELMINGLY, I mean by a LOT, It’s a Dog’s Life is my NaNoWriMo novel to write in 30 days.

Am I nuts? Of course, I am. What does that have to do with anything???

The title of my newest book came to me in a flash when I thought of the plot line. It is a double entendre, which I love. Not only is the title an expression often used to indicate an easy life, but in this story line, a walk-in takes over the dog’s body and life to save her own soul from perishing.

And it’s a comedy. Seriously.

I was disappointed that my FanFic option (Wayward Pines tie in) didn’t get a single vote. Sigh!

And the historical fiction about a Virginia Dare/Pocohantas connection garnered only half the votes of It’s a Dog’s Life. Sigh, again. You people! But isn’t this fun for you to be part of what is certain to be a blockbuster, breakout seller? Yeah. Right.

Below is the synopsis for It’s a Dog’s Life. Please comment if you think I should take the story in a particular direction. I’m still planning it, so I appreciate your help.

I will post here planning pieces such as plot points, character sketches, etc. as I did last year for your NaNoWriMo pick, The Quick and the Dedd.

Brief Synopsis:
It’s a Dog’s Life is a paranormal comedy. While walking her dog, Maudie, Kathleen Stanely has an accident. Both she and the dog are seriously hurt, and she dies. Not at all pleased she has been pronounced dead, she desperately looks around for a body she can grab that will keep her close to her husband, daughter, and son. Her spirit becomes a “walk-in” [walk-ins are an aspect of paranormal phenomena] trying to replace Maudie’s spirit in its dog body. She attempts to boot the dog’s spirit out, in effect, so she can inhabit a body and not be totally, absolutely dead.

Her family is unaware of the switch, of course, and hilarity ensues as she tries to let them know Mom is still with them. Other comic bits are when she and Maudie argue over joint control of the body. She monitors family food choices and other activities she used to be in charge of. She also devises ways to change up Maudie’s kibble diet to more palatable food. The family notice Maudie is more proactive and start to call her Mom. But things get really “hairy”, so to speak, when Dad begins to date again.

Any ideas/situations/changes you think I should make?