What a brainstorming session looks like.
April 14, 2007, I was trying to wrap up the ending to Shades of Milk and Honey and totally stalling. Totally. I’d written myself into a corner and couldn’t find my way out, but I have this friend who is really good at action scenes, Michael Livingston. He is also the namesake of Captain Livingston.
So, I pinged him in chat and we brainstormed through the scene until we came up with an sequence that worked. I have it for you but I am not kidding when I say that it is full of spoilers. I mean FULL of spoilers.
Giant, massive, spoilery, spoilers that give away all of the plot details in one giant lump of text.
But, I also think it is useful to see how an idea evolves and the things that go into shaping the ending. You’ll also note that there were things that I was planning to have happen, which didn’t actually make it into the final.
So if you are curious, click away to see the brainstorming session as it was recorded in chat six years ago.
But there are spoilers.
I mean it.
1:11 PM me: Okay, Captain Livingston. I’ve written myself into a corner. Want to help get me out, since it’s your namesake’s fault?
1:12 PM Michael: Um, sure?
1:13 PM So, all the participants are on their way to Bath. Jane has heard and recorded Captain Livingston’s proposal to her sister. She’s also heard him propose to Beth Dunkirk. AND he’s engaged to Livia FitzCameron, his cousin.
Michael: I rock.
1:14 PM me: You do. She tells Mr. Dunkirk that his sister is making an unwise attachment. Beth hears this; feels betrayed and rides off to catch up with Captain Livingston. Dunkirk chases after her, with dueling pistols, to confront Livingston.
1:15 PM Jane chases, on a slower horse, and is stopped on the road by Buffington, Livingston’s friend. When she finally gets away from him and catches up with Dunkirk, he has already challenged Livingston to a duel.
1:16 PM Mr. Vincent is holding Beth by the side of the road, to keep her from interfering. Lady FitzCameron’s carriage is there as well, with her ladyship. Dunkirk and Livingston are counting out the paces. Jane rides between them, begs them to stop.
Michael: Type faster! I must know how it ends!
1:17 PM me: Buffington arrives, and is asked to restrain her. She weaves a bubble of invisibility (better name in story) to hide from him, and then makes a big ole bubble of darkness so the participants can’t see each other while she tries to stop the duel.
1:18 PM Michael: Kickass.
me: During the conversation that follows, insults are shouted. Captain Livingston attempts to discredit Jane by pointing out that no one has seen this recording. He also claims that she has concocted the whole thing out of jealousy.
Meanwhile, by listening to the sound of Jane’s voice, he feels his way forward and grabs her.
1:19 PM Michael: Kinky.
Got that bitch right where I want her now.
me: Threatening her with his pistol, he tells her that she has to recant and admit that it was all a fabrication.
Michael: Go me.
1:20 PM me: Suddenly, the darkness, which has been total, lifts and everyone is momentarily blinded by light. Jane tries to get away, and in the scuffle the pistol goes off.
1:21 PM So. Where we are now, is that Mr. Vincent is on his knees by the side of the road. Jane thinks he was shot. She and the Captain are in the original bubble of invisibilty she made, so the other participants can’t see them.
1:22 PM (In reality, Mr. Vincent had released the darkness, because he knew something was wrong but he is still so weak from his earlier ordeal that even that little bit causes him to collapse. The bullet didn’t actually hit anyone, but we don’t find that out until later.)
1:23 PM Where I need to get is for Mr. Dunkirk to subdue Livingston but that he’s only able to do so because of Jane’s aid.
Michael: Better if someone gets shot.
me: Who should it be?
Michael: I dunno. But it loses a lot of power as a “cliffhanger” device if it had no actual effect.
1:24 PM It has a virtual one, but it’d be stronger for actual.
But that’s not the main issue.
me: In this era, a gunshot wound would likely be fatal due to septic issues.
1:25 PM Opens up a can of worms I don’t want to deal with.
Michael: Depends on where the shot hits.
me: Also, the pistol is single shot.
Michael: Even gutshots were survivable.
1:26 PM Still. Don’t want to deal with it, unless necessary.
I’m going to need to sketch this out.
Going to take some time.
me: I just don’t know what he’d do at this point.
Michael: Action scenes like this (for me) are accompanied by sketches.
1:27 PM me: He’s got gambling debts and his only chance of repaying them is to marry a wealthy girl. He’s recently learned that his aunt is destitute, so his engagement to her daughter will not help him.
1:28 PM I also have Jane’s family in a carraige and her father on horseback who can arrive at any time during this
Captain Livingston can also have a knife, if need be.
1:30 PM Hm… actually, I wonder what would happen if he accidentally shot his aunt…
Michael: Just Jane and the cap’n are in the bubble?
1:31 PM Michael: If Buff in on the scheme?
1:32 PM And how close is this to the end? I mean, is this climactic?
me: Yes, he’s the one Livingston owes the most money too, so he’s willing to lie for him.
This should be the climax.
Michael: The bubble doesn’t effect bullets?
me: I should have one chapter after this, which is the happily ever after one.
It does not. Purely illusion.
Michael: I shoot Buff.
1:33 PM This is Iago time.
me: On purpose?
Or just winging him?
1:34 PM Michael: If it can be managed, on purpose.
me: I can do that.
Michael: I mean, if what you’re telling me is that the whole scheme is about to come apart, the ONLY chance he has is to knock off Jane or the other person in on the scheme: Buff.
1:35 PM Jane has been threatened. And, besides, she’s a girl.
me: Although… wait. He doesn’t realize they are in the invisibiltiy bubble until after the gun goes off. And Jane needs to think that Vincent is shot.
Michael: How does he not know he’s in the bubble?
One cannot tell from inside?
1:36 PM me: Exactly.
Michael: He cannot tell she cast it?
In their exchange of insults he cannot tell that folks can’t see them?
me: He only realizes its still existing when no one else can see them.
She cast it a good twenty minutes before this point.
1:37 PM Michael: Yeah, but why would he assume it was gone?
1:38 PM me: He wouldn’t necessarily assume that it was gone, but he has no reason to think that she stayed inside it when she made the darkness. Also, he’s almost totally untrained in glamour; it’s considered a womanly art with no useful wartime applications.
The invisibility bubble is a fairly new invention of Mr. Vincent’s.
1:40 PM Michael: You probably can’t go this way, but it’d be cool if she wrested the gun from him, tried to shoot him, but he moved out of the way — and Buff was right behind him. That’s what he’d WANT to happen.
Kills two birds with one stone.
me: Vincent. Must think Vincent is shot.
1:41 PM Michael: Is there a “disguise” glamour?
me: Not really.
Michael: Damn. That would have been perfect.
1:42 PM me: I’ve established that it’s very difficult to create a glamour that is changes locations. Also, boys don’t tend to use glamour; it’s girly.
Michael: Vince does, though.
1:43 PM me: Yes, but he’s a glamourist, like the Regency muralists or like Mozart. Music and art was a girl’s province in terms of upper class training.
1:44 PM Michael: Is Livia present or just her mom?
me: Livia and mom are both there. Livia is something of a lapdog.
1:45 PM Michael: a minute.
1:48 PM Can Dunkirk die?
me: I was planning on marrying him off to Melody.
1:49 PM If we can come up with another way for Jane to think that Vincent is dead… I guess I could have her realize what has really happened to him.
Also, wanted him to propose to Jane first and have her turn him down. It’s important to me that she chooses Vincent not out of desperation, but out of true love. So she has to turn down the “better ” option.
1:50 PM Michael: Vincent’s could be dying without the gunshot?
1:51 PM me: I think so… Yeah, if I have her look up after the gun goes off and see him; think he’s been shot. Then realize that it’s Buffington… Icould swing that.
1:52 PM Sorry, it’s just that its a really important moment, plot wise. It’s what catalizes her realization that she’s in love with Vincent.
Michael: I understand that.
But you want to hit all the motives/notes.
1:53 PM Okay, let’s step this through.
Darkness. L is threatening J.
With the gun.
1:54 PM Michael: She takes him on, they fight over the gun.
me: Still dark?
1:55 PM Michael: Light. She’s blinded. Gun goes off. She’s holding it.
I was having trouble believing that she could wrest it away. He’s big; she’s tiny and exhausted.
1:56 PM Michael: Wait… sure, that’d work. He WANTS her to have it in the end.
me: BUT he could press it into her hand — jinx
Michael: So the light’s up, he’s just gut-plugged Buff.
She’s got the gun.
(I mean, “they” have just plugged him, but clearly L had control.)
1:57 PM me: Lights up and then he plugs, yes? Otherwise, shooting in the dark.
So L at this point thinks he’s rid himself of Buff and blamed it on Jane.
1:58 PM Bing, bang, boom.
Michael: Jane is still trying to figure out what happened. She had pulled the trigger after all,
or not. Whatever.
The guilt regardless.
And the shock.
me: Okay. Right.
1:59 PM Michael: And then seeing V-man crumpled up.
Does Buff have anyone who’d be screaming after him when he went down?
Michael: Poor bastard.
Hopefully at least someone will give a shit, adding to the chaos of the situation.
me: I guess I could make Livia secretly in love with him.
2:00 PM It seems like an contrivance at this point though.
Michael: Doesn’t even have to be love. Just “Holy frijoles! That guy just took one to the stomach!”
me: OH! Livingston will do that. Because he’s acting.
me: “My god! Miss Wentworth, what hav eyou done?!”
2:01 PM Michael: Beth’ll be screaming freaked out because she was next to poor Buffy (he was holding her back, no?).
me: Vincent was.
But Vincent is down at this point, so Beth can still be screaming.
2:02 PM She’s pretty unhinged at this point.
Michael: Cool. You just want to have some screaming for sure.
Is Mr. D capable of cold-blooded action?
me: Oh yes. Very much so.
2:03 PM Michael: Can the captain die?
me: Last year, in the story, Beth had run away with her tutor and married him. Mr. D. challenged him and shot him.
2:04 PM Tough call. For the plot, no problem. For the tone of the story, a bit much, plus Jane will feel like a total failure, since she’s spent two chapters trying to stop the killing.
Michael: You can’t stop the killing.
I mean, the duel.
2:05 PM What were you thinking?
Michael: Bear with me.
2:06 PM Buff, Beth, and Vince were close to one another. Say, put them on one side of the paceground. Liv and mom on the other.
me: (So far you’ve been giving me gold; I’m inclined to be patient at this point.)
2:07 PM But I can do that.
Michael: Buff and Vince have both gone down. Beth is going apeshit between them.
me: Okay. Blood spattered girl. Screaming.
Michael: Cap’n runs for Buff.
2:08 PM me: (There are also servants, but we haven’t mentioned them at all)
Michael: Jane recovers her wits, starts in toward the group.
Dunkirk, too, approaches.
me: (They’d be with Livia and mom)
2:09 PM Michael: Jane will drop the gun (useless and a disgusting thing), is unsure who to help, what to do.
But she gets close.
Beth’s scream goes up a notch.
She’s seen the knife that the captain has produced.
2:10 PM The sound stirs something in Jane, who looks down to see the knife.
For her? To finish the job on Buff?
Dunkirk, seeing Jane’s gaze, sees it, too.
2:11 PM Enter man on a shining horseback.
Though, I had an idea.
Michael: Don’t let her dad save it, if that’s your thought.
2:12 PM Michael: They can be showing up, but it needs to be background.
Though that would be good.
me: In earlier chapters there are several references to their childhood when Jane would rap Livingston on the head with her thimble for being obnoxious.
2:13 PM If she DOESN’T drop the gun, but brings the butt of it down on the top of his head, like the thimble of old, but with the more satisfying result of making him crumple.
Or at least distracting him enough for Dunkirk to overwhelm him.
Michael: Not where I was going, but it sounds like it works character-wise.
me: Where were you going?
2:14 PM Michael: And between the choices there, go with her knocking the SOB out.
Dunkirk will KILL him if given the chance.
Michael: I was going to have Jane get shot.
me: I’ve thought about that!
Michael: Winged, knocking Livingston out of the way.
me: Oooo… nice.
2:15 PM Michael: The shock of it sends her unconscious, but before she goes she hears her father’s voice.
A heap o’ bodies!
2:16 PM Hurrah!
me: Yeah. I came up with a lot of solutions that resolved things while she was unconcious, but was really trying to avoid that.
This is a pretty good line up though. Thank god, I can consult the real, and much nicer, Captain Livingston.
2:17 PM Michael: Don’t ruin my rep.
me: I won’t.
Michael: I don’t think you’re having much solved while she’s “out” at this point.
Just the cap’n getting tied up, basically.
Otherwise, the scene is over.
me: True. That’s what’s lovely about it.
On the other hand, in the knocks the SOB out scenario, how does this sound?
2:18 PM Beth screams something about how Livingston must have been telling the truth, because Jane is obviously on a vengeful rampage.
2:19 PM To her it looks like Jane has shot Buff and knocked out L, both of whom have wronged J.
Michael: Jane taking that kind of action is pretty non-Austen. But go on.
me: Buffington coughs on the ground, “Livingston shot me, I’ll wager. He owes me money.”
2:20 PM I think we got out of Austen territory a chapter or so ago.
2:21 PM me: And then the whole plot is revealed, ala Scooby-Doo.
Next Chapter the marrying starts up.
2:22 PM Michael: That’ll do.
That feels very clear. I am going to go write it now.
Thanks, I’ve been stalled here for a day or two.
Michael: Give ’em hell, darlin.
Glad I could help.
2:23 PM me: I was doing fine until I found out dueling pistols are single shots. Then I was screwed.
They are indeed.
me: Such a pain.
2:24 PM All praise indeed. Let the word go forth.