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Brainstorming The Art of Romance–You can help!

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Okay, y’all know me and my different methods—all visual—of working out my story ideas.

First, there are the notes I made about the characters when originally coming up with the story idea, as well as things that came up when writing the first book of the series:

And of course, there’s the synopsis I wrote that the publisher bought the series from.

But still, I somehow always manage to get myself lost after starting the book. Sometimes it’s about 1/3 of the way through. With The Art of Romance, it’s at the beginning of Chapter Three!

So, since I’m going to have a few hours of alone-time with my laptop in the car this week and a lot more than a few hours in the car next week, I decided I needed to know where the story is going.

Now, you’ve seen me post the picture of when I use Post-it Notes to do scene cards to work out the direction of a story by figuring out what scenes I’ve already planned for still need to be written:
Wall Plotting | KayeDacus.com
Scene cards from Ransome’s Crossing

But even after reading the synopsis for The Art of Romance, I still didn’t have a clear picture of the scenes/conflicts (other than the main story conflict) that need to happen in the story. So, since I was preparing to teach a session on writing synopses using Billy Mernit’s Seven Story Beats, I decided I needed to go back to the beginning with this story and outline the synopsis in the way I was getting ready to teach forty other writers to do it.

So, I pulled out the trusty Post-it Note Flip Chart Pad (down to only three or four sheets—yikes! Time for a new one!) and started outlining:

I started this last week—and got stuck right where I’m stuck in the story! (The Post-it Notes along the top and on the page are questions and ideas for the characters/settings.) And this week, I’ve got two editing projects clamoring for my attention in addition to needing to get moving on this manuscript (only 46 days left until deadline—which means I need to be writing at least 2,000 words a day on this thing!).

So I decided I need help brainstorming this story. And who better to help brainstorm it than my readers?

Here’s the story summary:

      English professor Caylor Evans moved in with her grandmother five years ago when Sassy’s eyesight became too poor to get her driver’s license renewed. Though she is now writing sweet/inspirational romance novels, Caylor still draws inspiration for her heroes from the portfolio of covers and sample images drawn/painted by Patrick Callaghan for the steamy romances she used to write (as “Melanie Mason”), and dreams of meeting a man like that cover model.

      After losing his teaching position at a prestigious art college and being shunned by the fine-arts community in Philadelphia, artist Dylan Bradley has returned home to Nashville to regroup and determine the next step for his life. His grandparents offer him their guest house for as long as he wants it—along with plenty of opportunities to meet young women. Though it was years ago, Dylan is uncomfortable with the fact that his face—slightly disguised—is on the covers of half a dozen steamy romance novels by Melanie Mason, the artwork he did to put himself through college under the pseydonym Patrick Callaghan. Especially after he meets Caylor Evans, a woman who has her life together in a way he only dreams of. Will Caylor and Dylan learn that the true art of romance is grounded in honesty and truth?

And here’s the first draft of Chapter One.

Now . . . what kind of “what if” questions does that raise for you? What kinds of things would you like to see in Caylor and Dylan’s story? What would you like to find out about Zarah and Bobby? about Flannery? How much involvement/viewpoint would you like to see from the grandmothers (Sassy and Perty)?

And don’t think this will go unrewarded. It’s this kind of situation that Acknowledgment pages were made for!

33 Comments leave one →
  1. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 7:39 am

    You’re so organized! The story sounds great.

    Like

  2. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 11:09 am

    Oh, Kaye, I love the “what ifs” that this brings to mind. How long until they actually discover that she’s the author of the steamy novels, and he’s the model (and artist) for the covers? I can only fathom the embarrassment that they will feel when the truth really does come out. While she’s attracted to this “model,” does she also have preconceived notions based on the characters she created? Does HE have preconceived notions based on the type of novels she wrote? Will he be able to justify the sweet inspirational romances with her former offerings? Will she be able to look past the hair, tattoos, earring, “bad boy” image?

    I’d like to see more of Dylan’s grandparents. Like Forbes’ parents, they don’t come across as very likable at first, but I’m sure they have redeeming qualities!

    And by the way, love the way your post-it notes are so straight! 🙂

    Like

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 1:41 pm

      It’s easy to keep them straight when I line them up against the grooves in the 1970s faux-wood paneling.

      Like

  3. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 1:40 pm

    Oh, the sacrifices we make in the name of character development/research. I had to stop at the grocery store on my way home from getting my driver’s license renewed (not the headache I expected from previous experiences) . . . and, naturally, I had to purchase—and eat—one of the Reese’s Peanut Butter Pumpkins, just to try to get inside Caylor’s head and see if I can figure this story out.

    Like

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:31 pm

      Well, of course you did. I’m that way with Russel Stover Chocolate-covered Easter Eggs. Note to self – include those in my next book so that I’ll have to do research.

      Like

  4. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 1:53 pm

    Ooohh, what a treat, thanks for posting that chapter!

    Like

  5. Sarah R permalink
    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 1:57 pm

    I’m curious to see how Caylor will react when she sees her cover model in real life. Will she try to hide her amazement or will she embarrass herself by gawking at him? I can’t wait to see how their relationship will develop and when they will recognize their true feelings for each other as well as the big reveal when they find out who the other really is.

    Like

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:11 pm

      Hmmmm, interesting possibilities…will Caylor immediately recognize him? Or will it be one of those situations where she *thinks* she’s seem him somewhere before, but can’t quite place him…I’m thinking there’s loads of humorous possibilities for how the truth will come to light.

      Like

  6. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:03 pm

    OK, Kaye, here we go. This comment is NOT going to be as organized since I don’t have faux paneling (praise GOD! after years of it in parsonages I don’t want it again!).

    First, you are asking us about people you haven’t told us about yet! (about Zarah and Bobby? about Flannery? WHO???) How do we know if we want more? Are they the best friends? The grandpas? Someone from a previous novel in the series I haven’t read yet? (if that’s the case, many apologies…)

    I love the name Flannery. It’s been used to great effect before, but not often (Lorna Landvik names a daughter Flannery in “Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons).

    Personally, I’d love to see that the grandmas are secret closet readers of the steamy books. My hubby’s grandma had literally grocery sacks full of the red-covered Harlequins–and we know what the red cover means!

    It’d be sort of fun to include some of the text of the steamies without actually going into the intimate details…I don’t know if you are planning that or not, and obviously as a Christian myself and considering this is a CBA novel, we can’t have you sinning on the page 😉 But maybe a kiss from Melanie’s book is inadvertently acted out by Caylor and Dylan…or some of the Melanie dialogue comes out in real conversation with Caylor and Dylan, and he thinks, “I’ve heard this before…” and gradually he figures it out.

    Is Dylan going to get a job at the university doing something other than teaching? Obviously there’s got to be some professional jealousy going on. Not just because she’s a woman and has her job and he’s a man and lost his. But because there is stiff competition for academic jobs. Will he be an adjunct faculty member in the meantime? How is he making a living? Will he consider doing artwork for covers again? Or will he just paint houses inside? These are all questions that come to my mind.

    AND…Caylor doesn’t have her life together like Dylan thinks. We all know she has some sort of flaw (all of us do). What is it? How will her carefully constructed facade give way? Will Dylan visit and see the cover of a book on the shelf? On Granny’s nightstand as he uses the restroom down the hall?

    These are the ideas I have for now. But I’ll come back with more later. 🙂
    Have a good weekend! Yay for Labor Day!

    Like

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:15 pm

      Thank you so much, Pattie–lots of food for thought here . . .

      And yes, the characters names you don’t recognize are from the first book in the series, Love Remains. Click on the Books page and then click on the link to The Matchmakers series to find out more about Zarah and Bobby.

      Like

    • Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:19 pm

      I really like the idea of brief snippets of scenes from Caylor’s “Melanie” books somehow getting worked into the storyline…

      Like

  7. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 2:07 pm

    OOPS. I missed the link to chapter one! *redfaced girl walks away*

    Like

  8. Sylvia M. permalink
    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 3:29 pm

    Here are some plot ideas.

    * Make the hero and heroine have to cook a meal together for their grandmas. There’s nothing like a man and woman cooking together for lots of stuff to happen! 🙂

    * Use the tried and true scene. It’s pouring down rain. Our heroine has just walked to the library or somewhere because it’s such a lovely day. Out of nowhere a thunderstorm arrives. Hero drives up and invites heroine to come into his place to get out of the rain. Things always happen. She shivers. He offers her some dry clothes. She changes and so on.

    * The post office, waiting in line, post master/mistress likes to talk. Curiosity arises at the mysterious package that the other person picks up.

    * If everyone knows he is an artist make the hero give some art talks on the basics of drawing. Heroine attends, does a bad job, keeps having to get “up close and personal” assistance! 🙂

    * A friend asks him to start doing a weekly cartoon strip for their blog. Heroine favorites it and slowly begins to realise some of the subject lines sound like one of her old books. Hero doesn’t read these kinds of books, but was dared to in his younger years. He has read one and only one and secretly thought it was well-written and interesting, but wouldn’t be caught dead reading any more of those.

    * Flat tires and fender benders always make great ways to bring the hero and heroine together.

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  9. Leah permalink
    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 4:34 pm

    Do they like each other or hate each other? When the character’s can’t STAND each another that’s always fun!!
    I liked the idea of the Grandmothers secretly reading “Melanie’s” books.
    I’ll keep thinking about it and write more later.

    I LOVED the first chapter!!!!!!! I cant WAIT to read the book! I’ll have to get the first one in the series.
    I just ordered Stand in Groom and Menu for Romance from the library. Cant wait to get them!

    Like

  10. Audry permalink
    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 7:36 pm

    couple thoughts here:

    do other characters at some point find out about Caylor’s/ Dylan’s secrets? What are the repercussions of that? Does it happen before or after they find out about each other? I could see someone finding out about, or maybe coming close to finding out about Caylor’s novels and the situation causing her to withdraw from Dylan because she’s afraid he’ll find out, or vice versa. (can’t think of a specific suggestion, not knowing anything about how the plot’s supposed to play out)

    Alternatively, maybe one of them could find out about the other and the other assumes they’ll think the worst of them, which causes an unnecessary rift in the developing relationship.

    Plus it seems like both secrets will have to come out for the story to be completely resolved.

    Like

  11. Leah permalink
    Tuesday, August 31, 2010 8:12 pm

    Caylor’s grandma knows she writes, right? Does she now what she writes?

    Like

  12. Tuesday, August 31, 2010 8:24 pm

    Kaye!!!!!! I got the best birthday present EVER today! I found a white, perfectly shaped box on my front porch after a hard day at work and guess what it was????

    LOVE REMAINS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I can’t wait to crawl into bed and read all about Zarah and Bobby. Sigh….I’m so happy.

    Like

    • Leah permalink
      Wednesday, September 1, 2010 2:13 pm

      Oh how exciting!
      I haven’t read it yet but after reading about this one i sure what to read it!
      do you have to read the books in order?Its probably better that way huh?

      Like

      • Wednesday, September 1, 2010 9:46 pm

        These books will be very much like the Bonneterre books. Each will stand alone, but if you want to know what’s going on with the secondary characters in each book, you’ll want to have read them in order.

        Like

  13. Amee permalink
    Wednesday, September 1, 2010 2:39 pm

    I would definitely like more involvement with the grandparents. Mostly just because they’re what make the whole series come together. Aside from wanting them to get together and getting Bobby to join their church, it didn’t seem like they had much to do with the romance in Love Remains. I’d like to see more involvement from them and see the couple pushed together at first instead of it being what they want (because most matchmaking in my experience comes with a lot of resistance. I know I’m pretty resistant anyway). This might help with creating additional conflict when they find out who each other is. Perhaps after they decide they do have feelings for each other, they find out who they really are, and the grandparents have to come back into it to push them back together again.

    I would love to see how Zarah and Bobby’s relationship is coming along. I always enjoy getting to see where the characters from previous books are at in their lives and relationships.

    I love the first chapter and I can’t wait to read the whole book! It’s going to be good! I can tell, even if you’re stuck right now. 🙂

    Like

  14. Tammy permalink
    Wednesday, September 1, 2010 6:28 pm

    After rereading part of the 1st chapter and having read the comments above, the question came up “Why does she hide the candy stash?” You make mention of her being size 14, so the thought is that at one time she was possibly larger. If so, what was the event that pushed her to change her ways in eating and creating “the hidden stash”.

    Also did she and/or Dylan ever see each other in person when she was writing as Melanie from afar? This could add to the idea of “I know you, but can’t place you” that someone else mentioned. The weight change could really add to this, especially if Dylan is the one who had seen her from afar and knew who she was. He would have preconceived notions about “Melanie” that don’t quite jive with who Caylor is now.

    Other questions that came to mind: Why did Caylor change what type of book she wrote? What was the event that caused her to change? I love the thought of the grandmothers reading the books and at least Caylor’s grandmother knowing of Caylor’s Melanie personna. Caylor may not know that Sassy knows either, or it could “elephant in the room” that no one ever mentions but everyone knows.

    In reading the relationship between Caylor and Sassy, I sense it is a unique relationship. As much as we get the idea that Caylor is helping Sassy, I am wondering if Sassy hasn’t been a big part of Caylor’s life changes. Was she the one there when Caylor made the choice to “clean up” her writing? What support did Sassy lend to Caylor along the way? And where are Caylor’s parents?

    I don’t know if making such changes are easy or not in the writing world . . . so could it be that Caylor had to find a new publisher for her new genre? Did her old label issue an ultimatium and then drop her when she wouldn’t “sex up” the next book they were about to publish? There would be other reprecussions from having her publisher drop her, legally speaking that is.

    Can’t wait to see how this all plays out in the book! 🙂

    Like

  15. Wednesday, September 1, 2010 8:03 pm

    See, I’m not much help right now, because I’m stuck at about the same place on my Embarrass book (so I’m spending time trying to edit my Sandwich luck, with not much luck!)

    *sigh* I think my brain has stalled. This is not a good thing.

    You could always… kill someone? Isn’t that the advice people give? Or blow something up? I guess a grandparent could have a heart attack or something.. not die but close to it.

    See, I told you my brain stalled!

    Like

    • Wednesday, September 1, 2010 9:45 pm

      Or there could always be an “accidental” kiss or physical encounter, like he ends up with his arms around her when reaching for something or trying to keep her from falling after a trip or he thinks she’s choking and wraps his arms around her.

      Like

  16. Wednesday, September 1, 2010 9:37 pm

    Had to laugh at your facebook comment about Starbucks; you talked in chapter 1 about coffee!!!

    Like

  17. Jennifer Fleming permalink
    Sunday, September 5, 2010 8:40 pm

    I love the last line! That is classic : ) Now here are my random ideas; ahem- I like what someone else said about Caylor’s weight and maybe that could play a part in Dylan not recognizing her right away, but her seeming familiar to him.

    I think it would be fun if at some point in the book, when both characters are getting the feeling they know each other from somewhere, there was a scene where Caylor saw Dylan with his shirt off. : ) I’m thinking on accident, like maybe he paints that way sometimes, or he is doing yardwork for his grandparents and she happens by, or they use the same gym and he was swimming…..I’m visualizing when Darcy went for a swim and Elizabeth catches him-one of my favorite scenes!! It could be a fun way for her to finally connect the dots about who he is-recognizing his physique. I also think it would be fun if one or the other “knew” before the other one, so future encounters could be so much fun in their awkwardness! : )

    I think Dylan should definitely bring Caylor either coffee or Reeses trees as an “I’m sorry” present, maybe even at the end of the book. Ooh, maybe he should bring both!! : )

    The grandparents should definitely know the connection between their grandchildren. How fun would it be if the grandfather judge read the books? That could be a cute reveal scene. Or if the grandmothers were in a reading group together when the books were new and had forgotten about each other, and just found each other again at the coffee shop and that’s why Dylan’s grandmother had her number memorized.

    Another meet cute is the runaway pet. This could even include the “rain, come up to my place” someone mentioned that is a great idea. : )

    I’m having fun with this, thanks for the opportunity!

    Like

  18. Tuesday, September 7, 2010 12:16 pm

    I’m late to the brainstorming session but I thought I’d join in anyway. Here goes…

    I love that we don’t know who everyone is or have all the answers in chapter one. Makes me want to read to find out.

    I’m wondering:

    Where are Caylor’s parents? What happened to them?

    Why does Caylor assume marriage means she won’t be available to look after Sassy?

    What’s the underlying source of the tension between Dylan and his grandparents? Surely it’s not their occupations? Or, is it his? Do they not respect his artistic endeavors?

    Why is he ashamed of what he did to earn money? It was legal and not illicit, right?

    If he used to teach art, what transpired to make him “tired of taking handouts”? Wouldn’t he have been paying his own way, as he did by way of the cover art work when he was in college?

    What’s the image that he wants to paint but promised himself he wouldn’t? Is this a promise of positive, forward motion or one of avoidance/denial?

    As to what-if’s:

    What if Caylor and Dylan somehow must work together again, and in the process, she starts to recognize things about his work that remind her of those covers. But she can’t or doesn’t want to think it’s the same guy…

    What if Caylor assumes the man behind the art looks like the art, and she discovers this to be true by way of an interview or something in which she finds out that the artist used himself as the model. Then she wants to meet him, not knowing that she already has, and when she does, she’s disappointed because the face no longer matches the covers. And worse, she’s disappointed in herself for feeling that way. He’s hurt because he hoped she, who hid behind a pseudonym, might be the one person who would accept him for who he really was and then, she doesn’t…

    What if there’s a big fanfare because the publisher wants to re-release her books, which she has mixed feelings about but she wouldn’t mind the royalties–and wants new covers done by the same artist, which he has mixed feelings about but wouldn’t mind because he needs the money, but still…

    Does Sassy know about Caylor’s writing past? What if Sassy and her girlfriends find out, or worse, find out about Dylan’s secret identity, which will probably mortify his grandparents, and they make a big deal out of it, which only serves to make Caylor bound and determined that they never know she’s the author, except it will be hard to keep the secret because…

    This is pretty cool. I know that you will take these ideas and marry them with the great ones you already have (they just haven’t percolated to the top yet) and produce another wonderful romantic read.

    Happy writing!

    Like

  19. Monday, October 11, 2010 7:12 am

    I have to say Kaye you have been an inspiration! This blog post has been an eye opener. I have a program on my computer that lets me do the Post-It Notes on the computer. I was unsure how to do this since I have most of my novel written already. Now I see clearly, thanks to your instruction, what I can do to advance my novel to the next step. You should be a teacher, if you are not already! Just saying! 🙂

    Like

  20. Thursday, October 14, 2010 2:55 pm

    OK! I have ran out and purchased a tri-fold cardboard storyboard (can I say it that way?) along with multi-colored Post-it Notes and WOW, what a difference it makes when I visually display the scenes and the characters! Thanks Kaye for the tip!

    Check it:
    IMG_4555

    Like

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