#ROW80 Update: Ch-ch-ch-changes and #WIPpet Wednesday – A new history for some characters


A Round of Words in 80 Days, the writing challenge that knows you have a life. Click the image to visit the site.

ReGi McClain, if no one else, will be pleased to hear that I’ve been working on my outline for Operation: Sugarplum again, finally. In light of having read the full original text of The Nutcracker and the Mouse King, however, a lot of what I had already written is going to change. Max and Clara now know each other when the story starts. In fact, they are a couple. I’ve figured out the history between Max and Lauren Pirlipat, and kind of inadvertently ended up with a love triangle, but as much as I hate love triangles, I think it’s the best way to go at the moment. It’s not really a love triangle, anyway, as any romantic relationship between Max and Lauren is well and truly over, but as you’ll see from the excerpt below, it’s kinda left Max a bit messed up.

The changes do mean that I probably won’t have the cool bits where plot is revealed through characters texting each other or posting in forums; it’s just not going to work with the characters knowing each other outside of the Internet. Max and Clara only knew each other online at the start of the first version, but having them know each other in person from the start makes it quite different. I’m also probably going to want to change the title, mostly so that the word “Sugarplum” isn’t in it and I can use it for a character based on the Sugarplum Fairy in the ballet, but I suck at titles, so it’s going to remain Operation: Sugarplum for the time being.

wednesdaybannerBut onto WIPpet Wednesday!  I did try convincing myself that I should write the whole outline before I start writing any of the text, but yeah, like that was ever going to happen. Some of you may remember (though that is unlikely) this WIPpet Wednesday from May, which takes place immediately after Clara and co. discover that Lauren is working for the enemy. The scene I’m about to share with you is 14 lines from the new version of that scene, taking into account the changes I’ve made, and I wrote it earlier today, so it couldn’t be much more of a first draft if it tried.

“Who was that?” Clara asked, but no one answered. Drosselmeier was looking at Max, concerned, while Max himself had shoved his hands in the pockets of his suit and was pacing the cave.

“Max,” Drosselmeier said finally. “I think you should explain to Clara.”

Max stopped pacing and looked up, though his shoulders remained hunched and he kept his hands in his pockets. He looked at his uncle briefly, and then took a deep breath and looked at Clara.

“Her name is Lauren Pirlipat,” he said. “About a year and a half ago, she was interning at Drosselmeier Industries. I met her in the cafe one day and we hit off and a little while later, started dating. We were together for about six months…”

“And then?” Clara prompted when it seemed Max wasn’t going to continue.

“And then she disappeared without a trace. She handed in her pass at work, packed up her flat, stopped answering my calls… I called the police but they turned up nothing. It was like she never existed. I guess if she was here, that explains a lot.”

He frowned, and looked like he was going to start pacing again. Clara quickly crossed the cave and pulled him into a hug. He returned the embrace and rested his chin on the top of her head. She felt him ball one hand into a fist against her back and wished she could think of something helpful to say.

There are two ways you can join in on WIPpet Wednesday. Either post an excerpt from your current WIP, or write the opening of a new one, that somehow corresponds to the day’s date. I posted fourteen lines for the fourteenth of August, but you can play around with it (chapter numbers, numbers of lines/sentences/paragraphs, page numbers, everything counts, and we don’t mind what mathematical operations you throw in either). Once you’ve written up your post, leave your details at this linky and check out some of the other offerings the WIPpeteers have brought to the table this week. I also encourage you to stop by some other ROW80 participants at today’s blog hop and cheer them on.

It is now 10pm, so I think it’s time to start considering sleeping. I look forward to reading all your blogs in the morning! 🙂


26 thoughts on “#ROW80 Update: Ch-ch-ch-changes and #WIPpet Wednesday – A new history for some characters

  1. L. Marie says:

    It’s hard to be made a fool of, isn’t it, Max? There are no Hallmark cards for that. Oh well. A hug from Clara helps I’m sure.
    Great scene!
    My hat is off to you for outlining. I’ve never been much of an outliner. I have one outline for a novel. I keep trying to ease away from it like a snake shedding skin.


    • Emily Witt says:

      Yeah, he needs a few hugs right now, poor guy.

      Outlining definitely depends on the story for me, and often I only get as far as the first third, maybe, before my brain starts whispering, “You should write this scene. And that scene. And ALL THE SCENES.” And then the outline gets kind of forgotten. But I wanted one for this, snce it’s based on a pre-existing story, so that I knew what I was doing with regards to references to other things and things like that.


  2. Jae says:

    I’m totally an outliner. I can do free write for short stories, but when it comes to novels, I’ve got to organize my thoughts before I can move forward.

    Nice excerpt. Lots of tension. Looks like it’s coming along nicely. 🙂


    • Emily Witt says:

      I have the issue that certain scenes or characters usually come to me so vibrantly that I want to start writing them straight away, but I know from experience it is better to outline first. I’m more likely to actually finish something that way.

      Thanks! It is coming along well. I’ve put this story off for far too long, I’m really glad to be working on it again.


      • Jae says:

        That’s great that you’ve learned to work with yourself. Don’t you think it makes it a lot easier to write? Sometimes if I’m stuck I ask myself if this is usually how I tend to write or if I’m doing something different or new. Occasionally going back to old, comfortable habits helps me move forward.

        Thanks for sharing your story! 🙂


  3. kathils says:

    I am definitely NOT an outliner. I truly have to let my characters have their way with me and the story. When I try to force them to fall in line — well, it ain’t purty.

    I love the bit at the end where she feels him make a fist. Such a telling tidbit. Nice scene.


    • Emily Witt says:

      Haha, yeah, mine have been known to just completely veer off the outline as well. I had grand plans for the hero in my NaNoWriMo last year, and while the basic plot stayed the same, when it came to specifics, he was like, “Nope! Imma go this way!” and there was nothing I could do to stop him.


  4. Alana Terry says:

    I don’t like too much of an outline either, but you’re right… Sometimes it leads to more work changing things up later! Regi’s not the only one glad you’re on this again!


    • Emily Witt says:

      😀 Yay! I’m also really having fun with it again. So true – I have this terrible habit of just launching in, even though I know I should have some sort of idea of what I’m doing first.


  5. Eden says:

    Love triangles… The problem with them is how they’re so seldom done as a break in the usual script of “Must Decide Between The Two I Love BUT…” Bah! How about “I don’t want to decide” or “Why are these two twits bugging me?” or… 😉

    Emily, have you considered the possibility that Max and Clara still have an online relationship at the beginning of the story? Maybe one of them had to travel without the other for work or family or…

    That said, I think the piece you posted today has a better feel to it than the first version. It gives a lot more characterization and connects emotionally with me more than the first version.


    • Emily Witt says:

      So I read this comment when I got up this morning, and then I pondered it some on the way to work and at work, and now I have you thank for my epiphany regarding the opening. Because originally I was all, “Well, no, they have to be together by the end of the day the story starts on, so they can’t really be that far apart… And also they’re together in this opening scene I have in mind… ” But then it occurred to me that it’s really not imperative that it opens that way, and that Max could be on his way home from somewhere, trying to get in touch with Clara the same way he was in the first version of that scene and he can still text her, not get any reply, then tweet her to see if she sees that, that sort of thing. I’ve even come up with a way to use “The Nutcracker” as his screen name without it just seeing completely arbitrary and shoe-horned in there. So hooray, and thank you for the inspiration.

      I hate the regular sort of love triangle, too. I don’t know if you’ve read the Hunger Games, but that was one thing I enjoyed about the first book: Katniss’ reaction to having boys in love with her was basically, “… Really? I have other priorities here, guys, like trying to not be killed.” But then it got more love triangle-y in the subsequent books and that was a bit disappointing.


      • Eden says:

        Glad I was able to help. And adding that extra bit of “will he reach Clara in time”, “why is all this stuff happening when they’d just wish to be able to relax and enjoy being with each other again for a bit” … those sort of emotional tensions should help add more to the story.

        I like your description of the original “triangle” in Hunger Games (haven’t read it yet). Really it’s a cultural thing… It’s one of the reasons I enjoy Lisanne Norman’s Sholan Alliance books. There are a lot of “triangles” in her books, but there isn’t much of the “oh, who will s/he decide on” but more of “so we’re in this together and we’ve all got lives that we need to live, often putting us all in serious danger–can we make it work?” type.

        (They’re more than that too, but there is that theme in the books too.)


  6. Ink and Papyrus says:

    I felt the name Pirlipat sort of jolted me out of the tale a bit as all t he other names are quite standard and recognisable and then Lauren’s surname defies all your other (apparent) naming patterns but the excerpt felt nicely paced and characters actions and voices seemed natural rather than forced. 🙂


    • Emily Witt says:

      Hmm, you make a good point, actually. The reason I used Pirlipat was to reference the character of the same name in the original story, but it does kind of stick out. However, I may be able to get around that by using Pirlipat in the kingdom she and Max are from, and something else for the real-world stuff (something like Peri could work, but then both my female characters would share names with Doctor Who companions and that would be weird, so I’ll have to think about it a bit more). Thanks for the feedback!


  7. Christina Olson says:

    I’m not really fond of love triangles either, but the one you describe sounds more realistic and interesting then the ones we see in a lot of books today.

    Outlining and I have a love hate relationship. I don’t like it, I prefer to just go with the flow, but I often find myself plotting things out in my head, and for TUO I did write out an outline, and it is helping a lot.

    The snippet was enjoyable, and I think it flows better than the previous draft. I look forward to reading more about Operation: Sugarplum as you continue to work on it 🙂


    • Emily Witt says:

      Yeah, I think it’s pretty realistic. Plenty of people date more than one person. But he and Lauren are definitely over and there’s not going to be any “Oh, no, who will Max choose, he is so torn between these two girls!” stuff, because to be honest that kind of drama in a novel makes me gag a bit.

      For me, it depends on the story. I really only wrote down the premise of A More Complicated Fairytale before just rolling with it and seeing what I came up with. With this one being based on a pre-existing story, though, I wan to make sure I’m making the references I want to and that sort of thing. But I totally know what you mean abou the love-hate relationship.


  8. Tony McFadden says:

    Like the idea of posting an excerpt…might take you up on that next week…

    And as far as outlining goes, can’t – absolutely CAN’T – write without one. I find it actually adds to my creativity. Glad to find another proponent.


    • Emily Witt says:

      You totally should! We are a fun bunch! 😀

      As I’ve said in a couple of the comments above, I find it very hard to resist the temptation of just diving in when I get an idea, but I know from experience I do much better if I DO have an outline first.


  9. Kate Frost says:

    Don’t you just hate it when you don’t know what to say to be helpful? Good simmering tension in this scene. Glad you’re working on Operation: Sugarplum again. I’m not one for a detailed outline either. It’s interesting to have a sketchy plot and then just see where the story takes you.


    • Emily Witt says:

      Thanks! I wanted to portray them as normal as possible. Even when my plan wasn’t to have them already know each other, I didn’t want to be any kind of intense, passionate love affair but something a bit more realistic.


  10. ReGi McClain says:

    😀 😀 😀
    You’re right. I am happy. And this is a very sweet scene. I doubt I’d handle the same sort of “there was this girl I really liked and then she left without saying goodbye” as graciously as Clara.


    • Emily Witt says:

      She does pull away and launch into the thousand questions she has a moment later, but her initial reaction is “… Oh, well, that’s something I didn’t know you’ve had weighing on you all this time.”


  11. Shan Jeniah Burton says:

    Ooh – I didn’t see the May WIPpet, but I LIKE this!

    The emotions felt raw and deep, and there are mysteries, and it’s clear that Max had a life before Clara…

    I was never much for dating, or triangles, in the traditional sense. But I do like characters to have a history, so that they have some idea of why they are with the person they are with…

    And it just occurred to me, that, while I don’t especially like triangles, they do crop up fairly often in my fan-fiction…triangles of necessity or triangles by proxy, you might say…

    I am an evolving pantser. I used to not plan anything, then wander around until I felt a need to pull all the threads hastily together.

    I’ve recently started using Rock You Plot and Rock Your Revision. The outlining is pretty basic…goal/motivation/conflict/disaster. A line at the beginning to pinpoint where the scene starts.

    For The Stars are Fire and Perchance to Dream (the Niaan and Spock as children stories I shared in July), I detailed the pivotal scenes, and, for the rest, am trying to keep one scene ahead of each POV character. (So, I write a T’Pol scene, then plan her next).

    It’s not so involved that I can’t adapt as the characters show me how it REALLY is (like Kathi’s, my characters own me!). It’s not so much that it stifles creativity, and it only takes a few minutes to outline each scene.

    What I have at the end is a loose, changeable framework to weave the story through…

    It’s the just-right amount of structure for me. I love that you know what works for you, even if it’s not what you think it ought to be!

    Eager for more!


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