I, I Beautiful Books: Let’s talk plot

The indomitable Sky, Cait & Co have come up with a new blog meme perfect for pre-NaNo preparation, and I’m excited to give you a deeper look into my 2014 novel, Acceso.


1. What came first: characters or plot idea? Are you a plotter or a pantser? Most of my novels begin with a character. I think, ‘you. I want to write you,’ and build a plot around them. Acceso happened because of a Thai shampoo commercial, a Skillet song, and a Japanese rock band. I like to use the Frankenstein method (my term, thankyouverymuch) – plot the bones, and then create the flesh around the bones as I go until I have something living and breathing to work with.
2. Do you have a title and/or a “back-cover-blurb”? I’m not good at ‘back-cover blurbs’ or elevator pitches, but I had to write one for NaNo, and so yes. I have one.

Leila Dayton’s musical genius was the key to unlock any door she wanted, until a near-drowning accident stole her ability to hear. Now, desperate to win a musical competition that could get her a scholarship into Juilliard, she has all the eagerness to learn – but no one to help her. Enter Hyde, a gaze rocker at a nightbar, and the only person who seems to take an interest in Leila and her music. When an unlikely friendship becomes something more, will two broken people heal – or will they shatter beyond repair?

Would you like some noodles with that cheese?

3. What wordcount are you aiming for when your novel is finished? Well, at least 50K – but I like to wrap up my novels during November. I like to be able to write ‘The End’ and feel I’ve really completed the book, so maybe as much as 70K. We shall see.

4. Sum up your novel in 3 sentences. Can I use 3 juxtapositions instead? Darkness/Light. Hurting/Healing. Acceptance/Surprises.

5. Sum up your characters in one word each. Leila: Hopeful. Hyde: Drowning. Kayla: Devious. Grayson: Jerk.

6. Which character are you most excited to write? Tell us about them! The story revolves around Hyde and Leila, so I can safely say I’m most excited to write them (again, as this is a rewrite/finally finishing it up). Their dynamics are so opposite; surprisingly violent, surprisingly tender. The story has a gritty bittersweetness that I love.

7. What about your villain? Who is he, what is his goal? There are a couple highly unlikable people in Acceso, but no real ‘villain.’ They’re more like variables. The real villains of the story are personal demons.

8. What is your protagonist’s goal? And what stands in the way? Leila’s goal is to gain a scholarship to Juilliard through a high-end musical competition, but she moves her wants aside in order to help Hyde. Hyde moves his own life aside to help Leila win the competition.

9. What inciting incident begins your protagonist’s journey? You could say Leila’s journey begins with her near-drowning accident at age 13, but you could say that Hyde’s journey begins when he meets Leila almost seven years later.

10. Where is your novel set? It’s set in a city I made up, somewhere in the Northwest, with a lot of snow. As for the time period, I’m thinking maybe a few years from now; just far enough into the future that I can toy with a  few things.

11. What are three big scenes in your novel that change the game completely? One of them would be Leila’s drowning accident, because that changed her life. The next would be when Leila and Hyde first meet, and the third would be when everything falls apart and life doesn’t know when to stop punching.

12. What is the most dynamic relationship your character has? Who else do they come in contact with or become close to during the story? Obviously, the most dynamic relationship is Leila/Hyde.  Hyde isn’t close to anyone except his little sister, who currently lives in a foster home. Leila has her older sister, although Kayla is hardly exemplary,  and both daughters have a distant relationship with their parents, who are gone most of the time. Ingrid Dayton is the editor of a fashion magazine, and Gerard Dayton is a company analyst. There’s also Grayson  Kinger, a childhood ‘friend’ of Leila’s (it’s practically an arranged match between their parents).

13. How does your protagonist change by the end of the novel? Some of Leila’s sweetness is replaced by tough determination, but also many of Hyde’s sharp edges are softened. In a way, this novel is about choosing life, and seeing the beauty in even the worst places.

14. Do you have an ending in mind, or do you plan to see what happens? Oh, I have an ending in mind. I’m a fan if bittersweet endings, but I won’t say anything else about it. Spoilers, sweetie.

15. What are your hopes and dreams for your book? What impressions are you hoping this novel will leave on your readers and yourself? (This is your mission statement, one you can look back on when the road gets tough.) Acceso is written for the people who can’t seem to find a way out, who look up and see nothing but black. I want to show them the stars.

It’s my prayer that Acceso will touch hearts and give hurting souls a hand up, something to pull them to their feet and give them a bit of hope; that no matter how hopeless things get, hope never disappears entirely.

What about you? What are you plotting? Tell me in the comments, or even better, tell us all by participating in Beautiful Books! Let’s Party!

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