Crazy Train/Soul Mates – The “Fat Outline”

What I call a fat outline is basically the bullet points of the story (a regular outline) with some details added on. (See me concoct this insane awesome idea HERE and HERE and oh yeah HERE)

The story I have in mind for our “Soul Mates” project is similar to James Michener’s Centennial in that it covers a few stories back to back.

While everyone is welcome to help write this, we’ll need to “bid” – put your name forward, not offer money – on what pieces of the story we each want to write. More than one person can and should throw their name in the ring for each story segment, because while only one will be selected per piece, we want everyone to help – and to be acknowledged in the book credits on Ammy for doing so. Your role may be on a smaller segment. That doesn’t mean it’s not important. And obviously, if five people all ask to write the same chapter, they aren’t all going to be able to write it!

I also don’t want three people all starting to write the same story chapter before they know what they’re writing, so that’s a factor, too. Schedules and pace will prevent some writers from participating, as will other issues we can’t foresee.

But here’s how I see it playing out right now:

  • First, have a look at the fat outline that follows.
  • Next, send me a message – either in the comments or via the Contact Me button – as to what part you might want to take on.
  • IF you have a sample of your writing that’s close to this in any way, send it to me. That will help determine between authors looking to write the same section. Any sample will do, though, romance or whatever. Send me something. Anything.
  • If I’m familiar with your stuff, and I’m familiar with a lot of you, just mention what I’ve read of yours. Yes, it helps if I know you. No, that doesn’t mean my friends will get to write the best part. I get to write the best part.
  • I see room for ten to twelve writers, new and established, published and non-published, etc.; at least a dozen proofreaders and critique-ers, and a few editors – before rolling it out to your and my many beta readers. (Yes, you can just beta read, too.)
  • Don’t let a lack of experience keep you from trying. It’s important to me to help new talent get discovered. You know that. This can be your chance. 

It’ll be a team effort. Everyone can play a role, and everyone can be listed for helping.

I’ll help write any segment with any writer who asks.

I’ll edit (with at least one other writer) all the stories for cohesion and uniformity of voice.

Here’s the fat outline, followed by the female character’s life chart:

An old woman wrecks her car and nearly dies after dropping her granddaughter off at kindergarten. She is in a coma and then comes out but cannot speak. Her family puts her in a home, fearing the onset of dementia.

Workers at the nursing home are less than helpful and the state-paid doctors visit and say the woman has early Alzheimer’s but since she can’t speak, as part of her various therapies the nurses need to assist with speech therapy. The nurses who’ve been there a while aren’t interested so they assign a new nurse to the old woman. The new nurse is taking psychology courses in an attempt to start a new career; her daughter has gone off to college and her husband left her. She’s lonely and is eager to have a way to fill the time. After a few sessions the old woman says, “I can talk.” But she does it with tears in her eyes.

Feeling like she helped, the new nurse slowly gets the old woman to talk. The old woman rambles on about stories – either movies or old books, possibly stories she wrote. The psychologist says it’s all helpful and for now any talking is beneficial, so the new nurse spends time listening to the old woman’s stories.

Now it’s a bit like Fried Green Tomatoes. We alternate between hearing a story and modern times where the new nurse and the old woman chat.

One of her stories takes place in colonial times. Young lovers wish to be together but the girl’s father wants her to marry a much older, wealthy man, and they cannot be together.

Another story tells of a 1950s grade school girl who had to go to the funeral of a classmate, Chris, when she was about ten years old. Her friend was killed when the hood of a passing car came off and went through the windshield of the car he was riding in. He was in the passenger seat and died instantly. His mother had to buy a suit to bury him in. It was sad because the girl had a crush on Chris and now was suddenly without him, but for all her life she carried him in her heart.

Another story takes place around the California gold rush. A young woman’s family is moving to San Francisco from Maryland by way of St. Louis. She meets a young man while waiting for her father to get over an illness. His father is a merchant and trader so the boy can see her almost every day –  obviously love struck – but they both know she will be leaving soon. After a few weeks, her fathers health improves enough to continue the journey westward and the family leaves. Now the trips to town are torture for the boy. Everything reminds him of her. One day after dinner he asks his mother if he can join up with a friend of the family who needs hands, a trapper. The mother knows trapping will take him away for a year at a time, maybe two. She wants to counsel against it but she sees her son’s broken heart. The father says an adventure my be what the boy needs to distract him and says he can go. He does. Soon after, the girl arrives back in town. Her father became sick again with dysentery and died. She seeks out the boy in town but learns he has left.

The old woman’s stories are of great interest to the nurse, who comes every chance she gets to listen. The nurse doesn’t know the source of the stories, whether they are made up or whatever. One day, the old woman’s daughter comes to the nursing home to resolve a bill and they meet. The nurse discovers they are estranged and have been for many years.

Slowly she learns the old woman has been keeping a secret. The morning of the wreck, the police said there were no skid marks or swerves. She drove her car straight into a tree and was accelerating at the time. It seems the old woman may have been trying to commit suicide and that’s all the daughter needed. What if she had done that a few minutes earlier when the child was in the car?

When the nurse tries to ask about that, the old woman clams up. The psychologist can’t get anything out of her during his weekly visits. Back to square one.

The nurse apologizes and asks the old woman to tell her another story. The old woman refuses.

Eventually the old woman relents and they become friendly again, with the old woman learning about the nurse as they talk.

The next stories are about a WW I era man who dies on the battlefield, a woman who seeks marriage counseling in the 1700s, a college professor and student in 1920.

Another involves a man from Georgia or Kentucky and a Native American woman (Cherokee). That story will revolve around racism and other challenges of that time. I thought since I possibly know a family who actually has that lineage, it would be interesting to learn that story from a historical perspective. Many of my books contain pieces of real life. I think stories are more interesting when real history is the backdrop. (I’ll help with procuring some additional details for that one)

The story of the old woman goes on to reveal she did try to kill herself. The stories she tells the nurse are all stories she believes happened to her in past lives. She was embarrassed to have attempted suicide in a moment of weakness triggered by seeing a car with its hood strapped down which reminded her of Chris, the boy she loved in grade school – who she never forgot.

The nurse is sympathetic and admits she, too, may have missed her chance. A boy in school with an amazing smile and a laugh that went straight to her core. She ran into him again after college but he was married. She quickly says everything turned out okay though and soon after the encounter she met her husband. (Of course they are now divorced.) The old woman says it may not be too late.

We realize that in fact, if all the stories are true, then the lovers in each of the old woman’s stories are the same. The same souls, destined to meet again and again until they get it right and can be together. The old woman tried to “rush” things by attempting suicide and now understands she can’t. It doesn’t work that way.

She counsels the nurse to take advantage of the life and love still before her, and as she dies the nurse feels she understands the old woman may be about to get it right in her next life. And the nurse leaves work that night determined to find the man with the great laugh that she never forgot.

Life Chart for the female character (dates are approximate, names are just placeholders for now)

LIFE ONE Colonial times 1776

Annie Adams 16 in 1776 = born in 1760; can live to be 45-50 = die around 1810

 

LIFE TWO Misc life 1810 – 1831

 

LIFE THREE 1849

Beatrice Bea Finan. To be 18 in 1849 = born in 1831 can die at any age. If she lives to be 69 she dies in 1900, dies of old age

 

LIFE FOUR WWI (dates of WW I July 28, 1914 – November 11, 1918)

Cecilia Rush. To be 18 in 1918 = born in 1900; can die at age 23 in 1923 * if we don’t use WWII she can die at any age, therefore she can die in 1931 at age 31, car wreck

 

LIFE FIVE 1970s, 1980s, and 2016

Erin Wiley Brown, 85 years old in 2016 (2017); 2016 – 85 = born in 1931, dies in 2016 (2017)

Story Lines

  1. Old woman and new nurse. There will be at least one of these between each other story, so theoretically this could accommodate 7-10 writers on its own. (I did a little of this one HERE)
  2. Colonial times story. Young lovers wish to be together but the girl’s father wants her to marry a much older, wealthy man, and they cannot be together.
  3. 1950s grade school girl who had to go to the funeral of a classmate, Chris (I did a little of this one HERE at the bottom of the post, but it’s written in the wrong person)
  4. California gold rush story, Nathan and Abigail. (I did a little of this one HERE)
  5. WW I era story (get an idea of this one HERE)
  6. Story of a woman who seeks marriage counseling in the 1700s, a
  7. Story of a male, possibly gay, college professor and male student in 1920.
  8. Native American woman (Cherokee) story

 

So? Anything grab ya?

If we get a lot of great stories that don’t fit the time line (like two stories set in WWII; they can’t both be the character if they’re all supposed to be the same character) we’ll create an anthology companion novel. See? Everybody wins!

Oh, and we have a cool idea for a cover, too, in case you missed it.

SOUL MATES B

Let me know what story interests you!

31 thoughts on “Crazy Train/Soul Mates – The “Fat Outline”

  1. Since I’m a nurse can I write something from the nurse’s point of view. Maybe a little of her background and how she deals with the old woman? Ending with how she finds out the woman can really speak. That sounds like a good chapter ending.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Dan. I have experience similar to the 1950’s school girl that loses her friend and could bring passion and empathy to the story. You can see something similar in Chapter 8 of my book Nu Book 1 – The Esss Advance. The chapter is called The Recurring Dream. If you need me to send a copy, let me know.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I like the Cherokee one and the gay professor one – but can he be an army chaplain? That lends itself really easily to WW1…

    I guess I’ll go with the Cherokee one since I should probably only pick one. If no one wants the other I’ll take that too.

    I had a thought about the marriage counselor in the 1700s. I don’t think that was a thing then. Men were the heads of the house, no questions asked. That storyline would have to take place later, or perhaps the “counselor” is a different mentor figure, like a pastor.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Right. I was using marriage counselor as the equivalent of what it would be in modern times. Depending on when that story takes place, we would find the relevant authority figure for that time period.

      In the post I mentioned people should bid for as many as they are interested in because there will be overlap and there may end up being stories that are orphans – no one wants to write them. So someone might not get their first choice; it would be helpful to know what their second choice is. And some people may be able to write several. Some might be able to work with a newer writer. So put your name in for as many as interest you.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Let me know what story you want me to try to write. It’s all love so the actual players don’t make any difference to me as the feelings will be the same.
    Thanks for the opportunity.
    E6

    Liked by 1 person

  5. This sounds so good now. I really like that ending, uplifting despite her death, I really like that :). As for writing anything I’d be as much use as a chocolate teapot, I don’t know anything about American history either so useless in the ‘checking dates/facts department’. But good luck to all those who will be writing, I hope it all goes well.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Wow sorry, that ‘chocolate teapot’ statement sounds pretty negative now I read it back! I’d love to help our any way, I’d love to get back into writing too (my low self confidence in my writing is responsible for that teapot remark! lol) so maybe I’ll just write something for myself and see how I go too :).

        As for beta reading, I’ve never officially done it before but I’d love to help, what exactly is involved with the beta read though? Apart from the comments I make in reviewing I’ve had only one experience of advising an author (on their request) that one of their characters acted a certain way in a scene that didn’t fit with their overall character and I got burned quite badly for my remark. It was a pretty bad experience with that person that I won’t go into details of but it made me pretty nervous to ever give any advice again! :/

        Oh yes and failing all else I can always review, I do like reviewing. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Dan .. your vision is impressive, one I can relate to, but not readily write to as an Englishman … except … and this an instinctive thing … Story line 1 ‘Old woman/New nurse’ … Life five …

    Why … the life five timeline almost the same as my late father (1930 – 2012) … I have a sense of what it was to be a teen/ twenty something in the post war years, albeit in the UK … more broadly I guess ‘Europe’ could feature at any time within the life five span?

    My mid’/late 30’s daughters are both nurses, one has a senior role in mental health, the other worked for years with the elderly, held their hand as the were dying. They don’t betray confidences, though to a Dad, sometimes tuned in, do show how they feel and deal with the life they see.

    And perhaps the most instinctive of all, an ‘Erin’ is at the core of my own romantic fiction writing, ‘she’ at the heart of everything I write it seems.

    You maybe recall the way I write from your past flash fiction challenges, just let me know if you need me to send the links as you may not feel my style fits?

    Eric

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The thing that jumped out at me was the estranged daughter, yet the old woman was taking her grandchild to kindergarten. If I was estranged from my mother, she wouldn’t be taking my child anywhere! Just a thought.

    I’ve had a look through the stories, but being historical settings, I’m not sure I would be any good 😦

    Liked by 1 person

    • I know on the surface that seems inconsistent, but there are many families who have strained relationships who allow a degree of cordiality or Who can somehow seem to be less strained when something pops up and grandma is needed.

      Like

  8. Dan, do you have any idea what the timeline is set for having first drafts ready by?
    Also, I was wondering if you had 7 writers writing the scenes between old lady and nurse, are you concerned about voice sounding different in each conversation?
    How long would you like the dialogue scenes with the nurse and old woman? Just trying to get a scope of what’s involved.
    This would be the part I’d be most interested in writing. Unfortunately, I’ve had a lot of experience with death of loved ones and spent too many days in hospitals. Although, I’m not a nurse, lol. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • You have touched on some of the key challenges in coordinating this project.

      I would say each story is going to take a different amount of time depending on how big of a story it is. Some of these will be relatively small it might be between 3000 words and 10,000 words. For 3000 words I would think most writers could get that done in a week or two once they start. 10,000 will obviously take more.

      I see the story arc of the old wotman being a very big portion of the story. Just throwing out numbers, if the entire book is 100,000 words, then her story is probably 50,000 words.

      If different writers take different segments of that, they can get their portion done in a fairly short amount of time as long as the overall project is steered by one person – me. Then the editing would have to assimilate all the different writing styles to be uniform, I think.

      As for dialogue and things like that, maybe I’m naïve but I think once we have something to work with, we can collaborate and say okay let’s put some dialogue here or let’s scale back a description there. I think that will work.

      Some of this we will learn as we go!

      Liked by 2 people

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