Carol had never felt anything towards anyone before, and had never had a reason to be uncomfortable with that fact, either. But something about Lambert was strangely familiar, as if they were simply falling back into a relationship that had begun long ago. Somehow, she was certain that she had been to his house before, and had sat in the living room watching a movie in much the same way, only this time they were finally indulging in their feelings for each other.
It was a very odd sensation.The Scion Suit – Multiverse Edition
A stereotypical formulaic story:
An ambitious and spunky woman hits a low point in her career, so she leaves the big city to visit her small hometown, where she rekindles an old flame and learns a lesson about what’s really important in life. *cue heartfelt music*
Which basically means that once you’ve read one such story, you’ve read them all. *yawn* Yet a lot of writers keep sticking rigidly to the “basic plot” for whatever their chosen genre is, which ultimately makes them uninteresting to read.
I’ve decided to go ahead and break it down farther, to give you the analysis of the framework, so you know how to write a story without relying on imitating a plot that’s already been done.
I give you, the bare bones:
1.Exposition – Tell us who the story is about, the setting, and anything else that’s relevant to understand the rising action.
From our example above, this would be the description of ambitious and spunky woman, her chosen career, why she’s in a slump, why she chooses to return to her hometown.
To mix it up: An introverted yet successful cake decorator is given the challenge of a lifetime — making a cake to welcome the alien invasion. Describe how she’s successful, and why she was chosen.
2. Rising Action – This is usually the bulk of the story. The conflict has been introduced, and now it’s up to the characters to play it out.
From the example: The spunky woman meets her old flame, swoons over how gorgeous he is, then gets upset that he’s a jerk. Meanwhile, she has several deep conversations with her mom and/or best friend.
To mix it up: The cake decorator is teamed up with some important guy from the government, and together they work out the alien symbology to avoid accidentally offending the invaders. Meanwhile, they discover the aliens are allergic to buttercream, and need to come up with a substitute.
3. Climax – This is the culmination of events, and often the turning point in the story. It’s usually exciting.
From the example: Spunky woman and her old flame are stuck together somehow. They reveal their feelings and begin their relationship.
To mix it up: The cake decorator and government man realize that they were set up as scapegoats, and decide to hijack an alien cruiser to flee to the stars. Earth is doomed.
4. Falling action – This is where the characters work through the consequences of the climax.
From the example: The spunky woman is offered a new job, and she must choose between returning to the big city, or staying in her hometown with her old flame.
To mix it up: The cake decorator and government man discover an established colony of humans on Mars. Turns out, the aliens have been kidnapping people to populate it for years. They settle down together to live inside a dome city.
5. Resolution – The conflict is resolved, and the loose ends are tied up. Basically, it’s the author’s job to bid us a proper farewell so we feel satisfied that the story is over.
From the example: The spunky woman learns an important lesson about life and love, and decides to spend a little less time working, and a little more time living.
To mix it up: The cake decorator opens a new business on Mars, because frosting is her passion in life. Thanks to her knowledge that the aliens are allergic to buttercream, the colony can live in peace as long as they eat cake regularly. She is much happier than she ever was on Earth. She and government man have an unbreakable bond because of their shared experiences.
It’s essential that every story have all five parts. The climax doesn’t necessarily have to be big and dramatic, but there does need to be some pivotal event. Also, if you just end abruptly without a resolution, the story is going to feel unfinished.
If you use the story map as a guide for the events in your fiction, you can come up with new and exciting plots that don’t repeat the same old tropes over and over and over. Branch out, do something new, and still leave your readers feeling satisfied in the end.
I had wanted to write a fun short story for Halloween, but that ain’t happenin this year.
I did come across this concept story that I had written in 2011, for one of my more surreal ideas, though.
Esriel shivered, holding the brick tighter in her hand, fearful that the rain could compromise her ability to use it. In a moment the girl would be close enough, and Esriel would fix her mistake. It had been wrong of her to descend to the lower realm, and unfortunate that she had been seen. It was disastrous for the girl, however, that she had chosen to follow Esriel.
Never leave a loose end.
The girl was clumsy. Her breathing was loud, and her footsteps louder. She kicked pebbles, and cursed when she unexpectedly stepped into a puddle, soaking her shoe up to her ankle. Then, just barely out of position, she stopped.
“I saw you . . .” she began, her voice quavering. “I want to know . . .”
For a moment there was a twinge. No, she thought, never back down. Never let a mistake go unfixed. It wasn’t guaranteed to be a killing blow at that range, but it would do enough damage to let the second one do its work.
“Please, come out . . .”
Closing her eyes, Esriel steeled herself for the task and began to slowly count down. Three . . . two . . .
Esriel’s eyes snapped open, the urge to obey already tearing at her body. She couldn’t leave the girl here, not with what she had seen. Willing herself to believe that she didn’t have any other choice, Esriel bounded out of the alcove that she had hidden herself in and grabbed hold of the girl’s shirt, dragging her along as her form shifted and dissipated, taking both of them to the higher realm.
Alice sulked in bed with a number of candy wrappers lying around her, darkly thinking back to how much she had hated Hackett after the very first time she had met him. First impressions, she chided herself, and wondered if she should have kept her vow to hate him forever.
Except that she hadn’t truly hated him, even back then.
She had been impressed by him.
Hackett had been calm and self-assured, with an office that smelled nice and a bookcase full of interesting titles. Her first impression had been that he was smart and intriguing, someone that she could admire and look up to. It had been herself that she was ashamed of, wearing a stereotypical costume of rebellion and acting like a prostitute.
Unbidden, the memory of the night he proposed to her crept into her mind:
Alice, I want you to say no … It’s easy to be a hero in here; all I have to do is eat breakfast and take you on a walk through the woods. But the outside is different. Outside, you’ll be alone while I work long hours, and you’ll discover disappointment after disappointment in me.
Now that she was living with him on the ‘outside’, Alice was beginning to understand that had been his way of expressing his insecurity, the fear that one day she would accuse him of being ‘selfish and controlling’ in the same way that his ex had, and the possibility that he might have his life ripped out from underneath him again.
Yet there she was, lying in Hackett’s bed and eating the chocolate that he had purchased for her, taking him for granted.
Damon had never cared if she felt used or hurt. He never bought any sort of treat for her to enjoy, or provided any sort of stability for her safety. In the end, he had tossed her aside without a goodbye or anywhere for her to go, and Hackett had been the one to pick her back up and tell her that she still had value.
Alice heard Alicia crying outside the door, followed by a gentle knock. She immediately felt embarrassed by the mess, but sat up and called out, “Come in.” She couldn’t let her self-pity get in the way of caring for her daughter, and the ache in her breasts told her that the infant was most likely hungry.
Hackett came inside and handed her the baby. His eyes took in the candy wrappers, and his mouth twitched slightly, but he didn’t say anything.
Alice couldn’t help but coo over Alicia as she prepared to nurse her, kissing her before settling her against her breast.
“You aren’t dressed,” Hackett said.
“Hm, no.” Alice had pulled her pajamas back on with the intention of staying in bed all day, but she was too embarrassed to admit that out loud.
“That won’t do. The guests are going to be here in an hour.”
“For the barbecue.”
“I completely forgot! I must look so awful right now … is it too late to cancel?”
“I’m afraid so. But don’t worry, darling, because I am here to save the day.” Hackett browsed through the closet until he found a dress that Alice hadn’t had the chance to wear yet, and pulled it out – a pale pink maxi dress, with lace sleeves and a deep v-neck. “Here. This one is cute.”
“You really think so?” Alice asked uncertainly. The dress had struck her as pretty when she ordered it, but she wasn’t certain if it was worthy of the barbecue that Hackett had planned. From the way she had been acting, she wasn’t certain if she was worthy of wearing it either.
“Of course. You were a good girl and avoided pleather like I asked you to.”
“Oh hush.” Alice picked up a bite-sized candy bar and threw it at him, but he caught it and ripped off the wrapper to eat it, winking at her.
“It doesn’t really matter what you wear, Alice, you’ll be the most beautiful woman there,” he said.
Alice blushed. “I hope I don’t say the wrong thing and make everyone think poorly of me.”
“Hm, I think that it would be better if you did. Then I’d know who to cross off the list for next time.”
“You mean that?” Alice couldn’t help but gape.
Hackett sat down on the bed next to her and reached over to hold her hand. “Anyone who thinks negatively of you isn’t welcome in my – our – home.”
Alice rested her head on his shoulder, staring down at their interlocking fingers. “Hey … I’m sorry for acting so weird earlier. I mean, you were there when I gave birth and all, so I shouldn’t get caught up with modesty around you. For some reason I can’t stop myself from getting massively emotional over everything.”
“I think that’s your reason,” Hackett replied, nodding towards the baby. “I figured that you needed some time to yourself to rest, and you do seem much better now.”
“Well, you know, massive amounts of chocolate will do that.” Alice smiled as she closed her eyes. It felt good to be holding Hackett’s hand again, soaking up the warmth that radiated from his body. “Having you here is helping me too.”
“In that case, stay by my side for the entire evening.” He leaned over to kiss her forehead, then abruptly stood. Alice watched him with confusion as he wordlessly left the bedroom, unsure of what to make of it until he returned with the hairbrush from the bathroom. He sat down next to her and began brushing her hair.
“I hate the bleached part,” Alice murmured. “But if I cut it off, my hair will be too short.”
“It’ll grow out in time,” he answered.
“I still don’t really understand why you love me.”
“That’s something else that will take some time.” Hackett’s fingers touched her neck as he worked on her hair, sending chills throughout her body so that she couldn’t help but shiver.
“Basil … when the time is right, you won’t say no … right?” she asked timidly.
He paused with the brush mid-stroke. “How do you mean that?”
“I don’t know.” Alice bit her lip. She was too scared to say it out loud.
Hackett silently resumed slowly brushing her hair. When he was done, he put the brush down and placed both hands on her shoulders, whispering into her ear, “I won’t say no again.” Then he stood. “I’ll take the baby so you can finish getting dressed. Is she done eating?”
“Oh. Yeah. She fell asleep. Here, you can take her.” Alice had to shake herself slightly to regain her grip on reality, her heart pounding fiercely in her chest.
He won’t say no again.
It was a quarter to noon when Alice woke up, with burning eyes and a heavy head. She sniffled as she attended to her baby, then picked up the infant and went in search of Hackett. The house was unexpectedly empty, and a painful lump formed in her throat with the realization. Had he gone out with Kate in order to avoid her?
In retrospect, Alice felt ashamed of her behavior. Hackett had opened up to her about a tragedy from his past, and in response she had tried to push him into something that he had responsibly put a stop to. Instead of appreciating his strength of will, she had sobbed pathetically. She wished she hadn’t acted so selfishly.
There was a piece of paper on the kitchen table, with a note that simply read, ‘At grocery store.’
“At least that explains where he went,” Alice murmured to Alicia. “You know, I wouldn’t be surprised if I was the first person he ever told about his brother – he’s exactly the sort. I should have taken the chance to hold him and say something perfect and reassuring, so he’d know beyond a doubt that he hadn’t made a mistake in marrying me. Instead, I broke down because he wouldn’t have sex with me, even though I know that we shouldn’t be doing it yet.” She let out a depressed sigh. “Though seriously, if that man says ‘no’ to me one more time, I’ll tear my hair out. Is he really impotent? Or does he not want me that way?”
She looked down at Alicia and bit her lip. “I’m sorry, I’m venting. Babies don’t need to know about anything like that, so go ahead and forget everything I said.”
Alice rummaged around until she found her phone on the kitchen counter, and typed out the message, ‘About last night … I’m sorry.’ She hesitated before sending it to Hackett, then deleted it. This time she typed, ‘Just got up. I love you.’ and hit send.
“I don’t want to make it awkward between us,” she explained. “Especially with Kate staying here.”
A minute later her phone chimed, and she checked Hackett’s reply, ‘Love you too.’
“I guess that means everything is fine. I’m going to ask him to pick up some chocolate, take Tylenol, then it will be baby bath time. Does that sound good? Good.” She still felt tense, and still wanted to apologize for her foolishness. “Lots of chocolate,” she added, then put her phone down.
Alice didn’t understand why she was going so crazy. She always had the idea that women took forever to want sex after giving birth, yet she was becoming ridiculously over-the-top horny despite still needing to use a pad for postpartum bleeding. Remembering the way it felt to wrap her legs around Hackett’s hips made her want to start crying again. It had been the first time her actions had been done with her heart, and the first time nothing had followed.
“Basil could do with a little less dignity and self-control,” she muttered darkly. “C’mon, Alicia, lets get to that bath.”
The warm water put Alicia soundly asleep, so Alice took advantage of the opportunity and turned on the shower. It felt good to lather up shampoo in her hair, and the heat eased the tension in her neck, helping her feel more clear-headed. She was not going to make a fool of herself, she decided, and it was about time that she regained control over her emotions no matter what her hormones were doing. She cried way too much, and it didn’t suit her. Besides, she didn’t want to ruin Kate’s visit by sobbing over every little thing.
Alicia gave a squawk from her crib, so Alice turned off the water and wrapped herself up in a towel. Her hair was still dripping heavily as she scooted into the bedroom, then froze. Hackett was already there, picking up the baby with a grocery bag looped over his arm.
“Basil!” she exclaimed, turning bright red. “I didn’t know you were home.”
“Just barely came in,” he murmured, smiling as he gazed unwaveringly at her. “You can go back to showering, if you’d like.”
“Oh no, no, I’m fine. I’ll get dressed and join you in a minute.” Alice unconsciously clutched tighter at her towel. Of all the things that could drive her crazy, she had to walk right into the middle of a bad stereotype.
“Here,” he said, holding out the grocery bag. “For you.”
Play it cool, Alice reminded herself, so she took the bag and peaked inside. It was filled with a huge assortment of chocolate bars and candies. “Wow, did you buy the whole candy section?”
“Tried to, but the store manager wouldn’t let me.”
“You didn’t have to get this much for me.”
“I know. I wanted to.”
“Uh, thanks.” Alice put the bag down on the bed, then shifted uncomfortably. “I’d like to get dressed now.”
“Go ahead.” Hackett showed no signs of moving.
“Are you teasing me?” Alice asked, growing frustrated. As much as she was tempted to drop the towel and give him an eyeful, she wasn’t in the mood to risk another rejection.
“Well, get out!” she snapped.
Hackett nodded then turned to leave, still carrying Alicia with him. Alice felt herself turn cold.
“Wait,” she said quickly. “I really appreciate the chocolate. I asked for a lot, and you really went above and beyond with it, so thank you. I’m just … tired.”
He stood at the door with his back turned towards her, his broad shoulders seeming like an impenetrable wall. “I don’t want to hurt you, Alice,” he said softly.
“I know.” Alice looked down, shifting her balance to rub her ankle with her other foot. “But you did anyway.”
The door opened and banged closed, leaving Alice alone in a stunned silence. Numbly she went to the closet to pick out a new dress to wear, but her hands shook as she sorted through the hangers. Her knees slowly sank to the floor, and she found herself staring at the grain of the hardwood underneath her, barely able to breathe. “I fucked up,” her voice squeaked, and she felt as if her heart had been torn in two.
Out in the hallway, Hackett paused to kiss the baby’s hair and rub her back as he frowned thoughtfully. Then he walked back to the kitchen where Kate was waiting.
I decided to change the featured image for this story, just because it’s been going for a few months. Felt like shaking things up a bit.
With her teeth freshly brushed, Alice tiptoed out of the bathroom and quickly crossed the hallway to the bedroom. Alicia was already asleep in her crib, which was pushed up next to the bed where Alice could easily see her at night, and Hackett was propped up on pillows with his phone in hand.
“Hey,” she whispered as she climbed into bed next to him.
“Hey,” he whispered back. “You look happy.”
“I am.” Alice snuggled against him and hugged his arm. “Though I have to say, it was super embarrassing when you called me brilliant, and all I could think of was, ‘Dur, I like sci fi.’ I didn’t come across as remotely smart.”
“Don’t sweat it. My mother loves you. She thinks that you’re the bee’s knees, and wants us to live happily ever after.” Hackett put his phone down and turned to stroke Alice’s cheek. “I knew she would.”
“Basil …” Alice scooted even closer to him and laid her head down on his chest. “Why didn’t you tell me about your brother?”
His breathing halted for a moment, then the air came out through his teeth with a small whistle. After a heavy silence, he said, “Thank you for not bringing this up in front of my mother.”
“I kind of sensed that I shouldn’t.” Alice hoped that she hadn’t made a mistake in bringing it up with Basil as well.
“Jasper was … well, I idolized him. He was a top student, good at sports, and got along with everyone he met. He was the sort who could make friends with just about anyone, and he was always striking up conversations.” He paused, so Alice nodded but didn’t say anything. Her fist subconsciously clutched at Hackett’s shirt, as if to brace herself for the rest of the story.
“When he was 17 and I was 14, someone broke into our house in the middle of the night. Jasper heard the intruder first, and he grabbed his baseball bat with the intent of sneaking up on him. As luck would have it though, mom came out of her bedroom while Jasper was still getting ready to hit him, and the noise alerted him.
They grappled for a bit, until Jasper managed to land a good blow to the intruder’s temple and he was knocked out. I remember I was about to shout triumphantly, when Jasper suddenly collapsed. It turned out that the intruder had a knife, and he had managed to get Jasper in an artery. He bled to death in my mother’s arms as we waited for the ambulance to arrive.”
“No …” Alice gasped. “No. That’s too horrible.”
“Mom used to blame herself for what happened, until one day she stopped talking about Jasper’s death entirely. I suspect she never got over it.”
“Oh Basil, I’m so sorry.” Alice felt like she was going to cry from the guilt of asking Hackett to relive the story all over again. “I should have realized that there was a reason why you never talked about it before.”
His hand closed over hers and he slowly kissed her forehead. “It happened 24 years ago. I found my peace, and that event was what inspired me to become part of the criminal justice system. I never told you because I didn’t want to place anything heavy on your shoulders with everything else that you were going through.”
“How are you so – I don’t know – ‘zen’ about everything?” Alice asked.
“Age, mostly. I was a lot angrier about the world when I was 21, and a lot more scared too. I even vowed to remain a bachelor for my entire life, so I would never leave anyone heartbroken when I inevitably died young.” His hand slid up her arm to her shoulder, then down her side to her waist. “Or maybe I was waiting for you, and using that as my excuse,” he whispered.
Alice moved so she could kiss his lips, thrilled by the way his hand gripped the curve above her hips, and she wondered if it was still too soon after giving birth to consummate their marriage. In the back of her mind she had to grudgingly admit that it was, but sharing a bed made the thought hard to resist night after night. The way Hackett’s body turned to press against hers made her decide that she didn’t care to resist after all.
His tongue found hers, and he leveraged himself over her as her heart pounded furiously in her chest, and she touched his neck lightly with her fingernails before sliding her hands up under his shirt. However, when she wrapped her legs around him, Hackett yanked himself out of the spell that had crept over them and he pulled away.
“I’m sorry,” he murmured, then turned to lie with his back towards her. Alice felt hurt.
“Basil,” she said, then bit her lip to keep from crying.
He sighed, then turned to face her again. “I’m sorry, Alice,” he repeated. “Now isn’t the right time.”
“I know.” She couldn’t hold it in anymore, and broke down crying.
Hackett pulled her into an embrace and gently stroked her hair until she fell asleep from exhaustion.
I’ve hit 30,000 words with Alice and the Warden. While I had originally intended it to be a cutesy little side project, I just keep having more ideas. Thus, the story is still ongoing, and I haven’t even proven who the real murderer is yet.
At this point, I’ve realized that if I properly fleshed out the descriptions and gave it a (very) solid round of editing, I could publish it as a novel. Insert philosophy about additive writing, blah blah blah, etc. Basically, with my writing process, I metaphorically paint in broad strokes with the first draft then go back and add the details in later. That means that 30,000 words is going to end up being longer in the final version just from adding in details.
Not right now, though. Right now it’s July. My brain is melting out of my ears, and I’m having weird dreams about my children eating moldy cabbage. Like they’d ever willingly touch cabbage. I do not handle this part of summer all that well.
Anyway, it is kind of funny that my little romantic story has taken on such a life of its own.
I haven’t even gotten the two of them laid yet. XD