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You think you know where you’re going.

I don’t know many things about my father. We are eating dinner–my son, my father, my father’s wife, and I. “So, Dad,” I say. He looks up at me. We sit across from one another. “I have a question for you.”

“Okay,” he says and eats a meatball.

I say it quickly as if I’ve decided to jump into a pool of cold water. “Do you remember your first girlfriend?”

My father’s wife laughs. My son laughs. I smile brightly.

“Oh yeah,” he says and twists noodles around his fork. He eats the noodles.

“Do you remember her name?” I feel braver now. Certain things I know. He married my mother when he was 28. They’d known each other 2 years when they got married. He’d left home, Rhode Island, as a teenager to live on his own in Key Biscayne, Florida.

My dad nods. He laughs a little. “Yeah, I remember her name.”

“Good luck getting anything out of him,” his wife says. She laughs too. “Oh boy,” she says.

“Well? Dad. What was her name?” I know my father. He will either tell me the truth or an obvious lie like Martha Washington or Queen Elizabeth. I’m ready. If he tells the truth, I will ask about her. If he lies, I will tease him. I will get my step-mother and my son to gang up on him. I’m about to find out something I never knew about my dad and I can’t believe I had the nerve to ask. “Dad?”

“Marta,” he says and eats a tomato.

I’m named after my mom. “What? Seriously?”

He nods. “Yes. Your mother.”

My father never jokes about my mom. He doesn’t talk about her at all. It is impossible that this is a joke. My brain stalls on this fact. He was 26 when they met. 26 and she is his first girlfriend? But I can’t ask that. That question goes too far. My mom? My dad who always had a date when he was single? In-between wives he had lots of girlfriends. What was he talking about? “Oh,” I say.

He keeps eating dinner. I’m grateful when my son wants to know what his grandfather’s first job was.

I think I know where a story is going. I don’t write an outline or take notes or draw charts. I just imagine a character in a situation and run. But the story goes one way, I’m sure I know…and then I don’t. I’m in a strange place, saying things that I never expected. Later, I read over a scene and say out loud, “Seriously?”

My plots feel such a mess I should have a better plan. I should know what is going to happen. But I don’t know how to do that.

Do you?

4 thoughts on “You think you know where you’re going.

  1. Oh my goodness, that’s a great story! What an unexpected answer! And kind of sweet, in a way. Your mom apparently was your father’s first love. Does that change things for you in some way?

    As for plotting, all I can say is this: Darc bought a lot of books about writing, and he follows several writers and agents online, and he came across someone that helped him (I think tremendously) with plotting. He’ll probably be along later on and say something about it.

    But dear, with 7 novels under your belt, you don’t seriously feel that you don’t know how to plot a story? Or were you just being rhetorical? I haven’t read everything you’ve written, but what I have read has been well done and didn’t feel like it was lacking a plot at all.

    • My mother told me that my dad was her first love. She was 21 when they met. But I never thought to think that she was my dad’s first love. If that is the case. I guess it shows my thinking about men that I just thought it impossible. I mean, he was 26 when they met. Maybe I shouldn’t asked about first girlfriend. Maybe I should’ve asked about first date. I don’t think I have the courage to ask about a first kiss.

      I plot after the fact. I go back and figure out what I wrote, cut and rewrite from there. Seriously, I’ve never been able to work these things out ahead. Usually I put the novel on the floor, each scene separate from the rest, and then organize them, realize a connection is missing or a scene redundant or out of place. Then I rewrite and edit and usually completely change the ending. So I wonder if I’m the only person who it all makes sense to.

      I’ve read books about plotting, but I always end up feeling like I’m in geometry class and an idiot. I can never manage any of the advice they give. But I’ll look forward to Darc’s insight.

      And thanks for your comment, too.

  2. It isn’t so much plotting I’ve become facile with; it’s story structure. If you have an idea you can lay down some basic framework without having to outline anything or take the creativity out of pants-seat writing and work with a structure which tells you what’s needed and where to put it. (By the way, it works with literary fiction AND genre fiction. Principles of story structure remain the same regardless.)

    But with plotting? Nah, I’m nobody. I feel the same way you do. If I have a good idea I dry to draw it out with my story structure framework in mind, and see if I can come up with at least the major points. If there’s a subtext or subplot, I try to work that out so it ends at the right time and doesn’t clog up the ending.

    Other than that, I got nothin’.

    But I’ve only had hit-or-miss success with just winging it along and seeing where it goes. There’s WAY too much revision in that for my taste. But that’s me.

    And I don’t have seven novels to my credit, so you’re probably okay to just ignore me. Sorry if I disappointed with this. 🙂

    • I sense that I’m not really replying to DarcFalcon but to DarcKnyt. Just a thought.

      EIther way, I’m not disappointed. Even knowing what you think you don’t know tells me something. Did that make sense? My way is a ton of revision, but I can’t make myself work any other way.

      Ha. 7 novels. What kind of crazy person would write 7 novels? To do that even when you aren’t published and have no agent would be, oh, I don’t know, compulsive or something. Don’t you think?

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