Thursday, March 2, 2017

Public Brainstorm #1

TITLE: The Disappearance of Audrey Thorpe
GENRE: Adult women's fiction/ book club

Laurel is a middle-aged, down-on-her-luck woman who takes a job as a caretaker to 90-year-old Audrey. This is Laurel's chance to prove her worth. For the hours her son is in school, she helps Audrey around the house. Things are going well until one day Audrey disappears.

Issue: I need Laurel to leave town to search for Audrey. Problem: I don't want her to look like a bad mother to her 10-yr-old-son, Oliver, or to assume her husband will take care of everything. Even though Laurel has failed at prior jobs and despite other faults, she is a good mother. She can't take Oliver with her b/c he would miss school. A school break is too coincidental. Laurel could ask her mother to watch Oliver. She would feel uncomfortable doing so b/c her mother is judgmental and hasn't been supportive of Laurel's new job. I can't think of how else to handle this. There's no friend/neighbor to step in. Oliver does want Laurel to find Audrey; he has met the older woman and likes her. How do I make sure the reader is rooting for Laurel and believes leaving her family to search for Audrey is a good and wise decision?

19 comments:

  1. Hi, I love this premise, and I think you could really up the tension if the whole family relies on her getting Audrey back. If you make Audrey the husband's boss's mother, then stakes will be really high. The boss went out on a limb to help this family and trusted a woman who has trouble trusting herself. The internal tension and external tension in this situation will be really high. They'll have to keep her disappearance a secret or both husband and wife will suffer consequences. I hope that helps!

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    1. Thank you Maggie! You are so creative.

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  2. I like Maggie's ideas!

    My initial reaction is that I don't think it's an issue at all for Laurel to leave for a few days. People take business trips all the time for less pressing reasons. She should ABSOLUTELY be able to trust her husband to watch a 10-year-old for a few days. He's the boy's FATHER!!! (Sorry, single foster parent ranting here.) At first, she might think she'd only be gone for a day or two and then the search is extended. I think that would create an inner conflict in Laurel as her trip continues to extend for whatever reason. But, bottom line, I don't think anyone would think she was a bad mother for leaving her son for a little while to find a missing senior citizen.

    Other thoughts:
    You could age Oliver up a few years to make him a bit more independent. By 11, most kids can stay at home alone for extended periods without arousing any suspicion.
    If Audrey has no other family, then it would seem very urgent that someone should be looking for her. Why aren't the police involved? Why won't they issue a Silver Alert? If they brush off Laurel's concerns, that would ramp up the tension as well and make it even more obvious that she needs to search for the woman herself.

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    1. Good points and suggestions, I think! Although I also agree with Barbara below that there's an opportunity to add a layer of enrichment to the story to have the son with her. Kind of a 3-generational thing. A skeptical son, perhaps questioning the validity of the whole thing (she's an old lady, who cares, she's not related to us, etc.) gets to witness mom doing something heroic in saving this woman from whatever dangers she might be wandering into...

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  3. Brainstorming...

    - There could be a timely school trip/church outing/sleepover request that mom had said "no" to a dozen times (because of the cost/people) but changes her mind now that she needs Oliver to be elsewhere. And maybe Oliver doesn't even want to go, but he understands.

    - She could ask the guy (who's not a creep) that's been hitting on her for four months. She could say it's a test.

    - On the darker side, maybe Oliver is injured on the way to school but child services is called in. They want a reference from Laurel but who can she ask? She's not just finding Audrey to be nice -- she needs her kid back now too.

    - Perhaps one of her failed jobs was due to harassment. Perhaps she blackmails someone into help her.

    - Or perhaps Audrey has a limited mobility friend that Lauren convinces to help. "No one else cares about Aubrey like us." kind of thing.

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    1. These are great ideas. Thank you!

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  4. An easy way out - get rid of Oliver. Is he integral to the plot? If not, she could simply be childless.

    Or you could go with a big complication. He has to come with her. But that would mean adding a whole new subplot to the story. On the other hand, it would add lots of extra tension because it could mean Oliver could end up in danger.

    Or perhaps add a scene before Audrey disappears which shows them all bonding, and afterward, when she does disappear, perhaps Oliver could be the one to suggest she look for Audrey. He can tell her he'll be fine with Dad, or whoever she decides to leave him with.

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    1. These comments are all so awesome and helpful! Since according to the rules we're allowed to respond to specific questions, I will chime in here to answer the question "Is He [Oliver] integral to the plot?" -- Yes, he is (for some reasons I didn't explain above.)

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  5. I agree with Barbara that if Oliver isn't integral to the plot, take him out of the story. Problem solved. However, if he really is important, why not have him disappear at the same time Audrey does? This adds a layer of complexity to your storyline, however I don't know the outcome of your story so this may not work. But if you want to make Laurel likable, and a loving mother as well as a conscientious caregiver, a search for both her son and Audrey could be the way to do it. Good luck!

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  6. I agree with Barbara. However, if Oliver is important, you could have him be with his Dad (I don't think that is a big deal at all) and then, as a complication, he has to join her half-way through her hunt for Audrey. That makes everything so much more messy and you would have some really good opportunities to explore the dynamics between Mom and Oliver, Mom's views on parenting (and perhaps explore why she felt so guilty leaving him), or the way she deals with the judgement of others. Also, would it be so bad if other people in the story judged her for leaving oliver at home? that would also add complications. I think I said this in another comment for another entry, but making your characters hurt usually ends up making the story more interesting and more complex. Good luck!

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    1. Awesome advice - thank you, Alexandra!

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  7. If it happens on a Friday you could have Oliver going from school to a play-date/overnight with a friend.

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  8. You said you don't want her to *assume* her husband will take care of everything at home, but what if he offers? She's trying to prove her worth, and him believing in her enough to offer to help might be a nice bit of growth.

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  9. I had a similar thought as someone else--a school trip or an overnight with a friend would work.

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