The Story of a Novel – where’s the story arc?

My time is fragmented into small slices these days – see recent post Writing While Caregiving – and it might not surprise you to know that small bits of time are not conducive to creating a novel. However, I have now accumulated many potential plot points and difficulties for my heroine to face. What’s not yet working is the overarching story arc and its corresponding character arc.

Source – https://hunterswritings.com/2016/03/31/character-and-plot-arc-resources/

With so many novels set during WWII, and many recent ones featuring female spies or women working with the resistance, I want this one to be different. And yet readers enjoy characters who are larger than life, who face danger and impossible odds and yet survive. What is the right blend for Claire – my protagonist. Who will be her friends and her foes? How will her biological father factor into the story? Will he have a large role or a minor one?

And then there’s the question of how the war will change Claire. Will she experience a love affair? An unexpected betrayal? A brush with death? The loss of a parent or brother or sister? The destruction of her home? Will she be wounded? If so, how? Those of you who have read of the plane crash I survived might not be surprised to know that I’m toying with that idea.

As you may have guessed from an earlier post, D-Day will play a role in this story. The planning and build-up to D-Day was a phenomenal feat with the British, the Americans, and the Canadians playing significant roles. Interestingly, despite being leader of the free French, Charles De Gaulle was kept out of the planning for D-Day. In fact, he didn’t even know the timing until the last moment. Not surprisingly he was furious with Churchill, Roosevelt, and Eisenhower. How might that bit of history factor into the story?

I have a feeling that tunnels will be involved in some way. Miles and miles of underground tunnels were built during World War One. Many of these underground passages survived into World War Two. I’ve also discovered that there was a hidden tunnel complex inside the White Cliffs of Dover that formed Britain’s first line of defence in World War II. Such interesting tidbits are hard to ignore.

So, you see, I have lots of work to do to flesh out both the story arc – drawing on real historical events – and the character arc. I’ll be back when there’s more to share.

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M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from AmazonNookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on FacebookTwitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.

The evolution of a novel (3)

… or how East Rising Sun morphs into The Admiral’s Wife. I left off with my wonderful colleagues at Lake Union suggesting I weave a historical thread into the contemporary novel I set in Hong Kong. And you might recall that I was not exactly pleased 🙂

This little suggestion was tantamount to starting over. I fussed and fumed, muttering less than positive statements about my publisher. “They have no idea how difficult this is!” “Why did they encourage me to write this novel in the first place?” “I should throw it out and work on something else.” Mutter, mutter, mutter. My poor husband had to listen to all this and I’m grateful for his patience and encouragement.

After several days of paralysis an idea twigged. I scrolled through the WIP looking for something I’d written – a few throwaway lines about one of my characters’ family background.

Early in the nineteenth century, the Wen family fortune began with diamond mining in China then expanded to ship building and lucrative trading across Asia. In a move against the British, Patricia’s great-great-great-grandfather used his trading company, cleverly hidden behind several shell companies, to transport opium to Europe and Britain. That decision generated even more wealth.

Maybe this could lead somewhere. Thoughts swirled around. This could happen. No, that wouldn’t work. What about this? What about that? I kept mulling until something finally gelled.

I now had two story lines and a sense of how they would connect. The present day story featured two expat women: Patricia, a Chinese American, and Sara who was from Boston. The past storyline focused on Winifred, the admiral’s wife, who was British and had arrived in Hong Kong because her husband had been posted there. And of course, there was a connection between the two stories that would gradually emerge.

I discussed the general idea with my editor. She liked it and made several suggestions. She wanted roughly 75 pages and a chapter-by-chapter synopsis. I worked on it for several weeks – hardly did anything else. My agent reviewed it. I made changes. My agent reviewed it again. A few minor edits. Then we sent it off.

Wait, wait, wait. After a heads up from my agent, I received feedback from my Lake Union editor. The floor plummeted out from under me again – they weren’t going to take it. Didn’t think my writing was good enough. But, but, but.

To make matters worse, I then sent the same material off to a freelance editor I work with. She gave me the honest truth. Definitely not my best writing and there’s too many main characters. You should cut out one of them.

Bloody hell. Did I tell you writing is hard work?

So here’s where I am. The present day story features Patricia, my Chinese American character. She’s married. She and her husband have moved to Hong Kong to reunite with her parents and older brother. Having lived in the US her entire life, this new world is foreign and disorienting. The past story focuses on Winifred, the admiral’s wife. She’s moved to Hong Kong because of her husband’s naval career. She too finds the place foreign and disorienting. And there’s a mystery connecting the two timelines – hopefully a fascinating, dramatic connection.

The novel has taken shape. I’m excited about it and love my main characters. With any luck I’ll have the first draft completed by the end of March.

FOR MORE ON READING & WRITING HISTORICAL FICTION follow A WRITER OF HISTORY (using the widget on the left sidebar)

M.K. Tod writes historical fiction. Her latest novel, TIME AND REGRET was published by Lake Union. Mary’s other novels, LIES TOLD IN SILENCE and UNRAVELLED are available from Amazon, NookKoboGoogle Play and iTunes. She can be contacted on Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads or on her website www.mktod.com.