A Sneak Peek at the Ardor Point #2 Outline

I’ve been working on-and-off on this outline for over a year and a half now. I could go down the list of excuses and reasons why it took so long. – And it’s still not “finished” yet, but I can’t stand it anymore, so I’ve started on the “zero-draft.”

I’d like to share with you my outline for the novel, and some stories around it, how I’m using my process on this novel. I’m hoping this will give you some ideas or inspirations for the story you’re working on.

The Summary

The process I follow starts with a one-sentence summary of the story, as many writers do. My original sentence went like this:

A newlywed bride, at a romantic, seaside cottage on her first wedding anniversary, as the onset of economic depression threatens to tear her marriage apart, finds joy.

I didn’t really like that. Too vague. Too blasé. Too blech. But it was enough to keep me focused on what I wanted the story to be about.

However, I revamped the sentence when I started the zero-draft. Here’s how it stands now:

A devoted newlywed wife struggles with her marriage when a recession threatens her husband’s career, and finds an unexpected source of strength.

Better, eh? Partially because I’ve better defined the characters and focus of the story, partially because of changes in the way I formulate my one-sentence summaries since a year and a half ago. I didn’t mention the setting, although it’s a key part of the story, but instead alluded to the story’s message of hope. The main character now is “devoted [to her husband]”— Please don’t judge her; she doesn’t know what she’s doing (yet). And when a recession threatens her husband’s life and identity, it affects their marriage, throwing her own life into turmoil.

The Characters

I started with bulleted lists of notes on the characters. For Devon, the main character, I added more details in paragraph form. But her husband David, I didn’t feel I needed to flesh him out any more. Why not? Because he’s going through a deep depression, and depressed characters are incredibly one-dimensional and full of surprises (because of common myths people hold regarding depression). Don’t get me wrong; he has a past, and his past will come into play in the story, but I think I can make it up as I go along. I’ll probably end up going back to his character and fleshing it out more, as I draft his part of the story.

David Richardson

  • Nickname: Skeeter (or “Skeet” for short). Wants to be called “David.”
  • Associates his nickname with the factors that caused him lose his job. (He got laid off, but he still blames himself for not being “indispensable” to his employer.)
  • Needs to feel secure, and he depends on the perception of a firm financial footing to meet that need.
  • Needs to feel useful, and he depends on having a regular job to meet that need.
  • 23 years old
  • His previous employer handled the layoffs poorly, announcing them at a company meeting. Some of the employees started shouting back during the meeting. Memories of the hurtful shouts haunt him.
  • He runs into an old girlfriend at the mall, begins talking to her.
  • They have negative value in their home, and they have a mortgage and expenses.
  • Everything reminds him of his situation, pulling him deeper into depression, because of the perspective he puts on everything he perceives.

Devon Richardson

  • 21 years old
  • thinks poorly of her own value
  • afraid that her husband might leave her
  • wants to talk to her husband about all that they are facing (but he doesn’t want to)
  • avoids talking about her marriage with friends (Why?)
  • has always been “good” (but at root—unknown to her—not for religious reason; rather, because she has been afraid of taking risks in her relationships), and feels God “owes” her
  • has a spiritual awakening, which begins when she admits that she’s afraid of losing the things that money can buy — a divine revelation? through an experience that she attributes to God?
  • begins to act out because of the stress
  • abuses her checkbook, going antiquing etc., when she feels her husband isn’t connecting with her
  • wants to tell her husband what’s on her mind, because she needs that connection
  • Devon’s sister is critically injured in a car accident. She’s worried, but David doesn’t even want to hear about it.
  • [Someone] looks at her, touches her arm, hugs her, in a way that makes her feel uncomfortable.

Devon seeks stability and trust in relationships, because it boosts her self-esteem. So she needs self-esteem, and she pursues it by seeking signals of esteem from others. She invests her self-esteem in the esteem of others, which she perceives in the stability of her relationships. This is why, for example, she fears that her husband may leave her, if things between them get bad enough.

She also enjoys collecting antiques and restoring her old house, because the oldness she associates with stability. Devon first developed an interest in antiques when her grandmother gave her an old knickknack, which reminded her of her grandmother.

She finds self-esteem in possessing old things, and when she perceives her relationships shaking, she goes antiquing. This is especially true when circumstances make her feel she’s losing control, because shopping gives her a way to assert control over those needs.

Devon’s father threatened to withhold his love from her, unless she was “good.” But in reality, it was his perception of her that was “good” or “bad,” and she perceived this as closeness between them. This set up a pattern, that she perceived love and self-worth when things were going well in her relationships, especially with the opposite sex. (This has not made her a wuss, because she learned to put on airs of confidence in order to gain her parents’ approval; but she does tend to adopt views that she thinks will increase the closeness she perceives.)

She frequently second-guesses (and cares about) others’ impressions of her. Devon also assumes that if someone doesn’t respond positively to her, that it’s her fault (even though most people respond to circumstances, not to those around them).

She works at a Build-a-Bear Workshop retail location.

Devon loves kids and is good with them. She treats them differently than her parents treated her and promises to raise her kids with different values (even though she and her husband have no immediate plans to start a family).

The Plot

When plotting, I start by defining a number of story threads, each of which thickens as the story progresses, each of which interacts with the others in various scenes.

Then I number out the scenes and describe them each briefly. This is a short novel, so I only have 40-50 scenes, each of which will average 1000-1250 words (4-5 manuscript pages) in the final rendition of the story. As you can see, I haven’t really thought through every scene yet, so I’ll need to go back to this summary and expand it as the shape of the plot becomes clearer. I’m also not too happy with some of these scenes, as they currently stand, so I’ll no doubt be modifying them as I write up the zero-draft (which contains 100-200 words per scene, or 4K-10K words—just enough detail to tell me whether I’m on the right track or not).

Story Threads

  • (a) Devon wrestles with her need for self-esteem, finally finding it in a belief that God loves her unconditionally.
    • (1) Devon grew up learning to find her value in the things she possesses, including the people in her life (as possessions).
  • (b) David wrestles with depression following the loss of his job.
    • (1) David has always tended to respond negatively when things don’t go well for him.
  • (c) Devon and David wrestle with their marriage: Devon fears David will leave her, acts out by antiquing, which angers David, because she is wasting money they don’t have.
  • (d) Devon and David wrestle with making ends meet financially.

Scene Summaries

Note: Present-time scenes are written in third-person omniscient (but only WRT David’s & Devon’s thoughts), while past-time scenes are written in first-person subjective from the perspective of a given character (David or Devon).

Each scene is identified by the story threads it affects. Scenes marked with ✮ are major plot points.

  1. (a) (b) (d) David, laid off and suffering from depression, arrives at an Ardor Point cottage with his wife Devon, on their one-year wedding anniversary, a trip they had booked before he had lost his job.

  2. (a) (c) David wants to lay on the couch and watch DVDs, but Devon badgers him into a romantic walk with her to the beach.

  3. (b)(1) (POV David) A go-get-’em up-and-comer, he lost his job as the result of a bitter political split within the company.

  4. (b) (c) Mistakenly leading him the wrong way (away from the beach), they come to the playground, kids playing, mothers gabbing, and Devon immediately joins in, while David stands by and stews at the inane conversation, itching to escape, finally walking off and leaving her there.

  5. (a) Devon chats with the others about antique shops, hears that there are some great “bargains” available in such-and-such a store.

  6. (a)(1) (POV Devon) [a memory about her grandmother & their antiques, contrast the connection Devon had with her grandmother against her relationships with others, including her husband]

  7. (c) David begins to watch a movie and falls asleep on the couch. [The movie he chooses and his interpretation of it reflects his perceptions of their marriage.]

  8. (b)(1) (POV David) David and Devon meet, and David flaunts his family background and education, and Devon swoons.

  9. (b) David wakes up, alone with his thoughts. Can’t do anything right. Even the DVD fails to play correctly, and he can’t fix it, and can’t handle it, and takes it personally.

  10. ✮ (a) (b) (c) Devon tries to seduce David, but in his depressed state, David is not interested, which Devon interprets as a message that he’s getting fed up with her and their relationship. She mentions the last time they had sex, weeks ago. (“What an awful thing to say!” moment, but it should be clear that David is acting out and blaming himself, and that Devon’s perception is colored by her own needs.)

  11. (a) David and Devon spend a rainy afternoon at Mr. and Mrs. Potter’s. Mrs. Potter, like a mind-reader, begins to hit on issues that have been bothering Devon, which wigs her out. (Mr. & Mrs. Potter also mention in passing the church they attend while they’re staying at the point, St. Matthew’s, in town.)

  12. (a)(1) (POV Devon) []

  13. (b) David begins to open up to Mr. Potter about how he feels. Devon walks in and redirects the conversation, embarrassed that David is sharing their personal business with strangers.

  14. (d) Devon suspects that she might be pregnant, when she starts experiencing headaches, nausea, and other symptoms. But she’s afraid to tell her husband about her pregnancy, because she’s afraid of his wildly shifting moods.

  15. (b)(1) (POV David) [something about his old girlfriend]

  16. (a) While in town at Walmart with Devon, David runs into an old girlfriend, who moved to the Brunswick area. (Devon also notices a pregnancy test while shopping there.) David’s ex is touchy-feely with him, and David seems happier chewing over old times with her than he does with Devon.

  17. ✮ (b) (c) David’s thoughts advise him to leave Devon. “She’s not good for you.” List all the reasons why. (“She’s out of control. She’s always trying to manipulate you. She’s not interested in you, just in your money. She has emotional problems, over-controlling, over-demanding. You can never satisfy her. It would be better if you had never gotten married, better for her, better for both of you. It would be better if you were not there to make her life miserable.” He even blames himself for her now constant nausea.)

  18. (c) (d) Devon makes some excuse, escapes to the store to buy a pregnancy test. Ends up passing an antique place, stops in and ends up buying an item.

  19. (c) David just frowns, that angry scowl, when he discovers Devon’s antique purchase. She wants to talk to him about the pregnancy test, but she doesn’t, because of his mood. (David watches TV all the time.)

  20. (a) (d) As Devon waits for the test, she considers the option of abortion, to ease the pressure on David, but she doesn’t feel very good about that possibility, because she likes kids and wants to have a family. The test comes out positive.

  21. (a)(1) (POV Devon) []

  22. (b) Devon receives a phone call telling her that her sister was critically injured in a car accident. David doesn’t even want to hear about it (because he’s already overloaded with his own worries, but that’s not how Devon takes his reaction).

  23. (a) Devon comes out to her hubby, admitting her fear that he might leave her, telling him that she no longer cares, because she has “something better now.” [Talking about the baby.] David is annoyed that she would think he would leave her. Doesn’t she know she’s not the only person on the planet!?

  24. (a)(1) (POV David) []

  25. (c) David loses his temper when Devon calls him “Skeet” once too often. Pained, she relents, carefully.

  26. (a) (c) Devon talks to her newfound friends at the point about her marriage. They theorize that David may be suffering a delayed reaction from a concussion. [source? college sports?]

  27. ✮ (a) (b) (c) After Devon macho-flashes the idea to David, they decide to separate. (black moment) [breakfast scene]

  28. (a) Devon stops at a coffee shop in a book store and encounters numerous young women with small children, talking about their kids, comparing names, ages, developmental milestones, schools & preschools, daily routines, &c. She blames herself for not being more patient with David; after all, it’s “not his fault.”

  29. (b) David walks out to the dock, and he thinks about jumping in and swimming out into the abyss, like Esther Greenwood. Except that he’d actually succeed in not coming back. [Reasons why ending his life would be a solution to his perceived problems.]

  30. (a) Devon stops alongside the road, trying to find St. Matthew’s on her GPS. Someone asks her for money. She forgets (then later remembers) that she had shoved some cash into her pocket. Then he asks if she has a phone he could borrow to call. In the grips of sudden fear, she lies and says, “No.”

  31. (b) David visits Mr. Potter, who tells stories of similar situations in his life. [Family?]

  32. (a) (b) David figures out that Devon is pregnant, and his mood brightens.

  33. (a) Devon finds herself at St. Matthew’s, talking to Father Reilly.

  34. (b) David’s depression lifts, as he awakens with a new hope and vigor, seeing all kinds of possibilities in his future.

  35. ✮ (a) (b) (c) [turn the corner: David begins to woo Devon, who is still reeling from the fight and still pondering Father Reilly’s words]

  36. [Devon’s sister]

  37. []

  38. [how are they going to afford a family?]

  39. []

  40. []

  41. [finale]

Yeah, I know. Info-dumps suck.

But I’m actually looking forward to how this story is coming along.

For one of the story’s themes, I started with a quote attributed to Jim Laffoon: “If you have been reduced to God being your only hope, you are in a good place.” Hope stands as the important word in that sentence, for this story, because hope is what pushes us forward, even when all around our lives seem to be lost. And I wanted to push my characters to the point where their entire world seemed to be falling apart, each in her own way.

But I couldn’t figure out what that quote really means. How is that “a good place”? I’m still not certain of the answer. But I’m hoping I’ll discover it as I finish this story.

Keep writing!




One response to “A Sneak Peek at the Ardor Point #2 Outline”

  1. Mayumi-san Avatar

    I know you’ve written this more than a year ago, so I don’t know if you’ve found the answer to your question on the quote:

    “If you have been reduced to God being your only hope, you are in a good place.”

    Here’s my take on it. You are in a good place when God is your only hope, because in that place, when everything you have is taken away, then you begin to realize what’s really important. It’s not your skills, or your money, or whatever else you may be holding onto that gives meaning to your life. For most people, it is also when they are put in this seemingly hopeless place when they incline their ear and actually hear the comforting voice of God calling out to them in love. It is in this place of despair that they learn to let go and surrender. They don’t need to try so hard to fix their broken lives, because it is only God who can do that. After all, it is His specialty. And it is with this hope that they then find the courage to face the problems that they have been running away from.

    I hope that helps.

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