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Know the Novel ’23

We’re already halfway through November, y’all, and Thanksgiving is NEXT WEEK! My family doesn’t usually do any big or fancy get-togethers, but I’m still excited for it because I missed the holiday last year on account of illness (I spent the day napping and watching K-dramas), so the prospect of spending time with my loved ones and celebrating God’s blessings and provision is a joyful one.

The fact that it’s November also means that it’s the season for Know the Novel, a blogging series about writing from our very own Christine Smith, and while I usually look forward to this prompt, I totally forgot about it this year and am so late it’s almost not funny. The introduction section is supposed to be in October, but life being what it is and my control over it not as great as one would hope, here we are.

I’ve spent all of these KtNs over the last couple of years on my (still) current WIP, but today I want to share about a new plot bunny that’s come up recently. 1) Because it’s new, shiny, and different. 2) I don’t want to bore y’all with the same content as usual. 3) This introductory post will help me develop the story more clearly—which gives all of you a kind of real-time backstage pass into the process, too! Yay.

As of yet I don’t have a title for this little story. Alas. Such is the way of things. If you come up with any ideas after reading through whatever mess may ensue below, let me know in the comments! I just might take you up on it.

What first sparked the idea for this novel?

It was a dark and rainy night . . .

Okay, so, while it wasn’t especially dark at the time and I can’t remember if it was actually raining or not, I was in the car with a friend and we were listening to an eclectic station on Pandora when a particular sea shanty came on.

It’s a rather dark and gloomy song, actually; pretty sad. But it’s got a beautiful sound to it and before I knew what happened I started getting images and ideas for a story about a drowned sailor. Welcome to my brain.

Share a blurb (or just an overall summary)!

I wish I could say it’s far too early in the development stages for a blurb, but the more I learn about writing craft, I’ve come to understand the merit in an early-stage logline and synopsis. So let’s try making one up right now!

Charlie Mops was the son of a sailor with salt in his blood and a song never far from his lips. A crewman aboard the infamous Molly Malone, adventure seemed always close at hand. But where there’s adventure, there’s also danger, and tales of glory are always shadowed by tales of tragedy. . .

Aisling was cursed from the day she was born, marked by the Night Queen with unnatural powers that instill fear and hatred from the oppressed people of Knolldun. Rescued from an attempted drowning by a poor fisherman’s family, Aisling hides her curse and listens to the tales of her adopted grandfather about a time before the Night Queen’s rule. About cursed sailors and a relic powerful enough to end the witch’s dark magic.

When the Night Queen tightens her hold on Aisling’s home, sucking the life out of the land and people, Aisling decides to find the ancient relic in order to save the family who once saved her. But to do that, she’ll need to use her curse instead of reject it and risk being found out by the Queen’s Watchers. She’ll need to go to the one place she fears more than the Night Queen’s castle: underwater.

That’s pretty long-winded, but I came up with most of that as I went, and as far as notes go, that’s the cleanest three paragraphs of brainstorming I’ve ever done. Now that the juices are flowing, I need scrap paper to jot down the rest . . .

But that’s the general idea of where we’re going right now!

Where does the story take place? What are some of your favorite aspects of the setting?

Uhhh, at the moment the story is set on the Irish coast somewhere, at some point. Not entirely sure yet when, or if it’ll stay Ireland or move to a fictitious, Ireland-like place.

Tell us about your protagonist(s).

Charlie Mops (working name, though I think I’ll stick with the Charlie part). According to the blurb above, he is the son of a sailor with salt in his blood and a song never far from his lips. The politeness of that song, however, depends on who’s listening. Ma always taught him to use ‘clean words’ around girls . . . at least until they spoke first. He was born at sea and has a roguish spirit that fit in well among the king’s crew aboard the Molly, and when the Night Queen began wreaking her havoc, he was all for the adventure of finding the relic (still need a name for it) that would put a stop to her. But on the way back they were attacked by the Queen’s Watchers and sunk. Cursed, Charlie and his fellow crewmen(?) guard the relic at the bottom of the sea.

Aisling is a young lady marked by the Night Queen. Not sure yet exactly how that works, but the curse gives her the ability to see in the dark? (maybe a common ability? Because she’s not the only one who’s been marked) and breathe underwater. Which is why the attempted drowning by her parents didn’t work. She’s quiet and timid but also kind and earnest. She fears the water (having been tossed to the bottom of a river at a young age) and is terrified of the Night Queen and her Watchers, always worried that they’ll find her and take her away from her family, but it would seem that her courage is greater still, when it comes down to it. I think she likes to sing, too. And may be good at knitting.

Who (or what) is the antagonist?

The Night Queen, it would seem. Who is apparently a witch out of nightmares and legends. I think she may have been trapped in a well for a while and either escaped or was unwittingly released (which kinda fits into the escaped category, now that I think about it). She is a bad egg bent on villainous things like power, revenge, and subjugation.

What excites you the most about this novel?

Oh, probably its newness and the clarity of how the bones are coming together. Also how small it feels compared to the gargantuan, twisty plots of certain . . . other . . . projects. It’s also different from what I’m used to, probably influenced by the influx of YA with de girl and de guy? 🤷‍♀️

I don’t want to hurt FalBa’s feelings, but yeah . . . it’s a different, fresh idea and that’s exciting.

Is this going to be a series? Standalone? Something else?


I don’t want to make a liar out of me.

Are you plotting? Pantsing? Plansting?

As of this very moment? Like, during the development stage? Pantsing. Totally flying by the seat of these frayed khaki pants.

Name a few unique elements in this story.

How about instead of trying to figure out ‘unique elements’, why don’t we go with a bit of an aesthetic board type thing?

Evil, scary witches | stormy seas | curses | special abilities (from said curses) | Irish coast | fear vs courage | sea shanties | home | lost at sea | folktales | ancient relics | old magic | salt air | warm sweaters | adopted family | rescue | hope | song | protective brothers | creeping nightmares | shipwreck | new beginnings

Share some fun “extras” of the story (a song or full playlist, some aesthetics, a collage, a Pinterest board, a map you’ve made, a special theme you’re going to incorporate, ANYTHING you want to share!)

Seeing as we’ve only just begun, I don’t have anything in the way of ‘extras’, fun or otherwise. Except for the fact that all these thoughts of cold ocean water is making me want a fire in the hearth and a blanket on my lap.😂

On the other hand, special or no, I think one theme I want to work off of is this idea of lost/abandoned things being found. Like, Aisling was abandoned at the bottom of the river and was then found by the fishing family. Charlie was lost at sea, and (spoiler alert) is found while Aisling is searching for the relic that fell with him, and she saves him like she herself was saved. That sort of thing.

But now I want to make a Pinterest board. . .

And that’s where we are, friends! Now I need to go write down all the ideas for this story that’re bouncing around in my brain from this little exercise. Thank you so much for joining me for this process! I hope you found it interesting to get a bit of insight in how some stories come to be—a spark of inspiration and some brainstorming.

I still haven’t thought of a decent title, though, so if you have any ideas, I’m open to suggestions!

Have you ever heard a song or piece of music and got an idea for a story from it?

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