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firewhiskey

Untitled, by firewhiskey_ginger

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Hello there! Thank you so much for stopping by my Nano nest. Not only is this my first nest, it's my first November writing original fiction! While I've filled almost half of a notebook with my ideas in three days, I could really benefit from having a little discussion as well.  The story is untitled for now.

 

The story, a dark humor and coming-of-age drama, begins at a Los Angeles funeral.  With an open bar.  Joni has reunited with her estranged college friends as they come (grudgingly) together to support Max after his two-week fling, Jade’s death.  As Max has always insisted to Joni, Avery, Marianna and Luke, their group is cursed.  Despite Joni and her friends’ skepticism, there is no denying that they have seen their fair share of death.  From high school, through college, and especially the death of their dear friend Zach—for which Joni still blames herself.

But Max continues to tailspin, and they are compelled to reunite (even more grudgingly) at Zach’s family home in remote Washington state.  Think lots of fog, moss, ferns, and weather changing into a wet autumn.  Stranded together in their former state, the five—plus Luke’s new girlfriend, a stranger to the group—struggle to mend their brittle friendships.  Here Joni must face the ghosts of her past, including her lingering feelings for Zach and everyone’s blame for his loss.  More troubling is the way Luke has begun staring at her over his girlfriend’s shoulder.  All the while, despite their outer skepticism, the group is secretly worried that the reunion will claim the life of another.

*

I plan to make this largely a dark humor (despite how morbid it sounds) to diverge from the “returning home” trope.  But how I really want to differentiate this novel is to introduce a second narrator who is an unnamed omniscient presence.  This couldn’t exactly be called a supernatural story, but I’m considering the narrator even being Zach’s ghostly presence at his family home with them, though nobody will exactly be aware of him.  I’m toying with the idea of Joni being attuned to it, but nothing so much as witnessing his presence.

There will be lots of morally gray characters.  Joni is in the middle of an affair with her boss's husband, is struggling to find a sense of self, and is a hermit in Chicago with no real friends.  Luke isn’t doing much to assure his girlfriend that Joni isn't a risk (she looks unsettlingly like Joni did in 2010), Max is particularly cruel and bitter, Avery is enabling the fragile Max’s drug habit. Meanwhile, Marianna, the only married member of the group, seems to be the only person who truly cares about anyone’s wellbeing.

Also, to continue the idea of the curse, I will set up several different possibilities so that it’s clear that one of them will die by the end.  Between Avery’s drug abuse, Max’s suicidal thoughts, and Luke potentially incensing his girlfriend with his behavior towards Joni, I want to keep readers guessing about who it will be that the “curse” claims next.

Edited by firewhiskey

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Hello!

What a well-thought out story idea! I can definitely imagine this being published, easily! The idea of Zach narrating from beyond the grave reminds be of The Lovely Bones, which is one of my favorite books. i think that's a really cool idea!

I enjoy thinking of titles, so if you want to message me to talk about that, feel free. (Although I make no promises that I"ll think of something good. haha!)

Questions!

  1. How did Zach die?
  2. How will you use the omniscient narration? 
  3. What compels the group to reunite in Washington now that they are estranged?
  4. Where is Marianna's spouse while she's in Washington? Is (s)he in the story?
  5. What part of the story are you most excited to write?

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Hello there! Here to spam you with questions!

  • Why is Max so determined to have the whole group attend Jade's funeral? I get why he'd want/need to, but why the others?
  • How/why are the group at Zach's home in Washington? Who is letting them stay there, and why isn't the owner there too?
  • Why does everyone blame Joni for Zach's death?
  • I love morally grey characters. How do you plan on having the questionable actions of the others manifest in a way that Joni, as narrator, is aware of those actions?
  • Do the group find out about the affair with Joni's boss' husband? Does this put Luke off at all?
  • Is Joni's hermit lifestyle in Chicago a consequence of the affair or is it one of the reasons that her boss' husband is pursuing an affair with her? (e.g. she doesn't go out drinking with her workmates so she's unlikely to drunkenly spill the beans to her boss)
  • How did Joni meet her boss' husband and start up an affair if she leads a hermit lifestyle?
  • Have you decided which of the group will die at the end, or are you setting up a lot of possibilities and leaving your characters/the curse to decide?

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Ahhh, what a wonderful thing to wake up to. Thank you both for the thoughtful questions!  This novel is definitely in its baby stages (the first week since the plunny hit me!) so I hadn't considered quite a few of them :) 

11 hours ago, MuggleMaybe said:
  1. How did Zach die?
  2. How will you use the omniscient narration? 
  3. What compels the group to reunite in Washington now that they are estranged?
  4. Where is Marianna's spouse while she's in Washington? Is (s)he in the story?
  5. What part of the story are you most excited to write?
  1. A bicycle accident. Joni and Zach (and probably the others) were out together and Joni was supposed to be his ride home.  Either they are at a bar and she has too much to drink and has to call a cab, or she gets called away for something.  They live in the Pacific Northwest so of course it's pelting rain, and Zach promises that he will take public transit or a cab home--but he's a bit over-confident in his prowess and bikes home after she leaves, and that's when the accident happens.
     
  2. This is certainly one that I want to be careful with.  Right now, I see it as every few chapters or so, it has its own standalone chapter that will probably be shorter than the rest.  The narration style will be less colloquial and more poetic, and even the formatting will look different.  If there is a conversation that Joni isn't privy to, but is important to the plot, it would be "overheard" this way (and written in script format) by this presence.  It's like a being is looking down on the house, and describing what's happening in all of the different rooms, but definitely not so on-the-nose as a spirit or deity.
     
  3. They all went to college together at a small private university in Oregon or Washington (I can't decide yet) and Zach and Luke grew up together.  The group is fairly well-off, other than Joni (she's the only one without a stable job, nice apartment, money, etc.)  Washington is where Zach's family house is, and the group visited once in college and remember having a nice time, though it's since fallen into disrepair and they have all become quite non-outdoorsy people in those years.  Max is quite rude and unaware of imposing on others and, in the wake of his fling's funeral, actually calls Zach's parents and says "Hey I know you're not using that cabin can we have it for a few weeks?" which is horrifyingly rude to the others, but they feel that if they don't support him he might overdose or commit suicide and they don't want another death on their hands, particularly Joni.
     
  4. Marianna has moved to Asheville, NC (they have all since left Washington after Zach's death) and started a business--restaurant, farm, pottery I can't decide--with her husband.  He stayed behind to run the business.  He'll be present through conversation and flashbacks, and they all have a general good feeling towards him, but it was important that Luke's girlfriend be the only person in the house that doesn't go back to college or earlier.
     
  5. Honestly Max, and few spoilers-filled cruxes in the story.  I love the idea that he is rude and callous and kind of a playboy, and that he's seemingly devastated over Jade's death but is mostly lamenting the loss of her body and physical appearance.  They're all kind of afraid to point out that he probably doesn't even know her middle name.  Also he paid for an open bar at her funeral--which is hilarious to me.  He's very LA.  And he's into the party scene, and works in the music or film industry, and is quite selfish but also has a couple funny one-liners.  I also love Avery, who was once Joni's best friend, who is another sassy character and quite rude herself, and gets along with Max.  Basically learning these characters inside and out is the most compelling!

 

Thank you so much!  I have to leave for work now (eek!) but will answer esmeraude's questions in a few hours :)  This is seriously so helpful, I can't say thank you enough!

Edited by firewhiskey

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13 hours ago, esmeraude said:

Hello there! Here to spam you with questions!

And I'm so happy that you are!!! Thank you, these really got me thinking about some aspects of the story I hadn't considered yet!

1.       Why is Max so determined to have the whole group attend Jade's funeral? I get why he'd want/need to, but why the others?

Max is a very self-absorbed character who requires constant attention.  He also has a flair for the dramatic, so he is treating the death of this girl he slept with a few times—however tragic—as if his wife of 30 years had died.  For anyone invited to the funeral not to attend would be an affront in his eyes, let alone plant the seeds of self-deprecation.  Because his friends know how volatile he can be, and secretly all fearing that this “curse” will rear its head again, they arrive to the funeral.  (More than likely, Luke won’t be able to make the funeral so that his and Joni’s reunion at the home in Washington will have more buildup.)

 

2.       How/why are the group at Zach's home in Washington? Who is letting them stay there, and why isn't the owner there too?

They all went to college in Washington at a small private university, and Zach and Luke grew up in  Washington together. Zach’s parents still own the house as a second home.  It’s been in their family for ages and his family doesn’t particularly want to visit in in the wake of his death, because it’s tied up in so many memories for them.  The house has fallen into a bit of disrepair and has been vacant for quite some time when the main characters arrive.

 

3.       Why does everyone blame Joni for Zach's death?

I touched on this in my last response, but basically, she was supposed to drive him home from some sort of social event and failed to (the reasoning has yet to be worked out because I don’t know if I want it to be something as simple as she drank too much and had to call a cab, or she was called away for something more dramatic like to go spend the night with her boss’s husband.)  

 

4.       I love morally grey characters. How do you plan on having the questionable actions of the others manifest in a way that Joni, as narrator, is aware of those actions?

For the most part, their lack of morality be transparent.  Clearly Avery and Max are taking drugs while they’re together, and Luke not-exactly-flirting-but-making-his-intentions-apparent while his girlfriend is in the same house—even the same room—will be apparent to Joni.  There is also the possibility to explore this issue through flashbacks, which will be frequent, with Zach being a major character but one who is no longer alive.  

 

5.       Do the group find out about the affair with Joni's boss' husband? Does this put Luke off at all?

They do; Joni confides in Marianna about it, because she’s such a nurturing person, and Marianna accidentally lets it slip to Max, who then tells everyone in a pretty rude way.  I would think that it would put Luke off slightly, but he isn’t exactly the pinnacle of fidelity.  He and his girlfriend have been dating for over a year and he’s already feeling uncertain about their future, after seeing someone he had a crush on years ago.

 

6.       Is Joni's hermit lifestyle in Chicago a consequence of the affair or is it one of the reasons that her boss' husband is pursuing an affair with her? (e.g. she doesn't go out drinking with her workmates so she's unlikely to drunkenly spill the beans to her boss)

This!  Yes, that would be the perfect motivation for him to have an affair with her.  It isn’t one of those TV-drama affairs, it isn’t glamorous, nor do they have any feelings for each other.  It’s cringe-worthy and Joni can tell that he’s attracted to her, so she takes advantage of it, and it’s nothing more than a sexual relationship.

 

7.       How did Joni meet her boss' husband and start up an affair if she leads a hermit lifestyle?

She works for an eccentric woman who owns either an art gallery, or an expensive clothing store.  Joni wants to work in publishing and the woman really over-sold how relevant the job was to the publishing world, and so here she is.  Joni met the husband when he stopped by the store/gallery to see his wife.  She is the primary overseer but I would imagine that he is in frequently to see his wife, drop things off, etc.

 

8.       Have you decided which of the group will die at the end, or are you setting up a lot of possibilities and leaving your characters/the curse to decide?

I do indeed have the ending picked out, but I’ll keep it a secret for now 
😉

Edited by firewhiskey

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UPDATES

Well guys, I am lagging in my word count because I was out of town until yesterday--but still hand-wrote 1200+ words, yeah!  And I feel like I have a much clearer view of my characters and plot.  Namely:

  • The 5 friends are no longer estranged from one another; it's Joni who estranged herself after the death of Zach.  While in town for the funeral and at the house in Washington, she's struggling to fit in with the others, whose relationships have grown without her over the last three years.
     
  • Also, the house!  Max, being his typical impulsive self, buys Zach's family home in Washington.  He is supposedly giving up his LA lifestyle (also impulsively buys a lot of expensive hiking gear, down jackets, etc.--is clearly having a quarter-life crisis.)  Max tells his friends he needs them to come help him spruce the place up, as Zach's parents have been trying to sell it for years.  So now the novel can reach its full length, and the characters have more time to spend together while fixing up the house.  Also I'm really excited to write about a bunch of city people dealing with the trappings of an old af log cabin ;)

`o6YsX1.jpg
image by me

 

CAST
(some character names are placeholders)

JONI — Narrator.  Aspires to work in the field of publishing, but is actually a personal assistant to an eccentric (read: insane) gallery owner/author/stylist.  Hiding in Chicago, far away from Washington, friendless and loveless.  Also she’s having an affair with her boss’s husband, which gives her the perfect excuse to come stay in Washington for a few weeks.

ZACH — Deceased.  Once an outdoor enthusiast and bicycling fiend with a gift for photography.  He and Joni were on the verge of dating when he died in a bicycle accident.

LUKE — Best friends with Zach since childhood; arguably the most affected by his death.  Another outdoor enthusiast, he has moved to Boulder to become a graphic designer where he met his current girlfriend, Laura (name to change.)  Quiet and genuine, and not without the occasional sassy remark, throughout the novel it becomes clearer that he is unhappier than he appears.

LAURA — Luke's girlfriend; an outsider to the group.  Though they have been dating for a year, she hasn't met his old friends (at least not for any substantial time) as she is preoccupied with med school in Boulder.  Logical, quick-thinking, and quiet--and quietly thinking that all of Luke's friends are complete narcissists, not to mention insane.

MAX — A total LA playboy working in the film industry (he and aspiring model Jade had been dating for two weeks when she died, and he is mostly lamenting the loss of her perfect body.)  Drug abuser and alcoholic, but “everyone in this business does a little coke here and there.”  Total attention-seeker, drama-queen, and the kind of person who is always looking over your shoulder for something more interesting.

AVERY — Joni’s former best friend.  Doing very well as a makeup and hair artist in Seattle, but has also gotten into a drug habit, which she enables Max with.  Honest and blunt, and doesn’t smile or laugh unless she means it.  Gay as heck.

MARIANNA — The only “normal” one of the group.  Living in Asheville, NC, where she and her husband have started a farm-to-table business together.  Mother of a two-year-old.  Nurturing and level-headed, she is “the glue” during their group’s stay in Washington, though questions of why she left her husband and child to fix up a cabin are raised.

That's it for now!  More face claims and moodboards to come, now that I have access to Photoshop ;)

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omg okay i absolutely LOVE this. such a cool idea, i wish you all the success with it! i'm even more excited to be your penpal now bc this sounds freakin' awesome. also please tell me the ending omg i'm burning with curiosity

can i ask, where did you get the inspiration for this story? :wub:

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@poppunkpadfoot 

Hello, you!!  Thanks for stopping by my nest.

Inspiration came from my own experiences (what a shock!), specifically a trip my high school friends who I hadn't seen in years took to Scotland together.  We're all in our mid-to-late twenties now so it was weird seeing everyone, but we all traveled from the US to the Isle of Skye for our friend, L.'s elopement.  (There's no way they'd ever find this but I'll still stick to initials ^_^)  My now-fiancee and I were traveling together, where he met all of these people for the first time.  And there was just a lot of history with the group that we never addressed over the years.  For example, L. used to have unrequited feelings for me for close to 10 years; the person my fiancee and I shared a house rental with was N., my first boyfriend who I dated for 5+ years; and K. was there with his new wife, and K. and I definitely had feelings for each other that we never pursued. 

SO BASICALLY a whole bunch of high school drama that I realized was way too annoying to turn into a story--but that definitely inspired it!  The cast has completely changed from these characters though :P

Oh, and I'll totally tell you the ending sometime!  Let's Skype soon!

Thank you, lovely!

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