National Novel Writing Month 2018: Three days until doom (?), plus an unexpected outline

As referenced in this post, I did in fact spend some time mulling over version #3 of Weirdsmith and came up with enough to think it might work with a little more fleshing out. I chatted with Nic because it’s always helpful to bounce ideas off someone else and came away with what is an actual outline. I just have to move it from my head to somewhere that I (and others) can read it.

Here it is in broad strokes:

  • William Smith has a decent but not great job. He yearns to become a successful writer but is plagued by writer’s block and lots of self-doubt
  • He is also single and working to rectify this, too
  • He meets a guy through a dating app and they begin dating
  • Eventually they begin a committed relationship, though William is still frustrated with his writing and not thrilled with work
  • William gets into a head-on collision that leaves him badly injured and in a coma for several weeks; the occupant of the other vehicle is killed
  • During the coma William has a lot of weird dreams and also sees things that he later feels are more like premonitions than dreams, though he can’t say why. These largely revolve around a book of some kind.
  • William faces a long period of recovery, with a lot of physical therapy, plus survivor guilt to work through. His partner provides support, reminding him he was not at fault in the accident.
  • After he has mostly recovered, William finds his writing is no better off. “So much for the artist having to suffer,” he muses.
  • A woman comes to him one day with a book in hand. She introduces herself as the sister of the other driver killed in the car accident. The book is an unwritten journal. She explain that her brother, like William, was also a writer, and also struggled to get the words down. He had purchased the journal to help record his thoughts, his inspiration and the sister believes that by passing it to William it will help keep her brother’s spirit and his work alive.
  • William thinks this is a little creepy and weird, but takes the journal. He tucks it away in a drawer, never intending to use it.
  • He continues to be plagued by nightmares and is frustrated by his ongoing inability to write. He takes out the journal, thinks about writing in it, then decides instead to throw it away, thinking it bad luck.
  • The next day the book is back on the nightstand. His partner denies any knowledge of it. William leaves it in the drawer again.
  • Eventually William feels a strange tug toward the journal and writes in it for the first time. He isn’t writing fiction, just his thoughts, so it comes easier.
  • A day or so after writing in the journal, he picks it up again only to find a few cryptic words have been added after his entry. He ponders asking his partner, but ultimately rules him out, as the words are essentially meaningless.
  • William continues to write in the journal and after each entry, more writing appears. He eventually shows his partner, who offers no explanation. They check the security of their condo and there are some tense nights as William–already plagued by bad dreams–believes he hears an intruder entering their home.
  • The entries in the journal become more coherent and William realizes someone–or something–is trying to communicate with him. He attempts to reply back.
  • The communication begins in earnest. It seems the person or entity wants to help William with his writing and offers him advice and tips, some of which seem rather dubious or even ill-advised.
  • As this happens, William begins to see what are at first subtle changes in his personality. His partner picks up on this but at first says nothing, thinking he is suffering mental (or physical) trauma from the accident.
  • Eventually this change in behavior begins to generate friction in the relationship.
  • His partner puts together some clues that lead him to believe that somehow the man killed in the car accident is somehow communicating with William through the journal. He takes this to William, who finds the idea ludicrous, something “I wouldn’t put in a novel because no one would find it believable.” The tension in the relationship grows.
  • Putting together more clues, the partner comes to the conclusion that the sister of the brother has given the journal to William in the hope that her dead brother’s spirit can be transferred from the journal into William, allowing him to live again. The partner, without William’s knowledge, confronts the sister. Rather than denying it, the sister admits to it, says it was wrong and agrees to stop. The partner leaves, thinking it all went a little too easily. This is accurate as she was lying all over the place about stopping.
  • A short time later, the partner is nearly run down by a car. A coincidence or something more?
  • The partner takes what he has done to William, but William, already acting increasingly belligerent and odd, rejects the whole thing as absurd. The partner is torn. On the one hand, he wants desperately to help William, but also feels very much that he is getting pushed away hard. He decides to give it a little more time.
  • They end up in an argument, with William saying and doing things so strange that his partner gives him an ultimatum to either work with him to do something or he’s leaving. William tells him to leave.
  • The partner goes back to the sister, who claims again that she hasn’t done anything and has no idea what could be happening. He tells her it doesn’t matter, they’ve split up, anyway, and that William is now on his own. She barely suppresses her glee at this news.
  • The partner goes back to William to try again to convince him to get rid of the journal before it’s too late. To his surprise, William agrees. He gets a large butcher knife, which strikes the partner as rather odd, but watches as William tries to stab the journal. The knife keeps deflecting. The partner asks if he can try and the same thing happens, the blade keeps skating off the cover. William tries tearing out the pages, but they remain firmly attached. He then gets a lighter and tries to burn one of the pages, but it fails to ignite.
  • The partner wonders if it’s already too late, but he still sees enough of William to think it isn’t, and that the efforts to destroy the journal were genuine. He attempts a reconciliation and William tells him that they can no longer be a couple, he’s no longer attracted to him. The partner retreats, hurt and unsure how to continue.
  • At this point the communication from the dead writer is nearly complete. He tells William to finish writing in the journal, to complete the task and let him fully assume control. William balks and tries to get rid of the journal again, tossing it off a bridge into a rapidly flowing river.
  • The next day the journal is back, good as new. William fears he is losing his mind as his personality continues to change. He calls his partner for help and he returns, albeit with some hesitation as he is unsure how much William is in control at this point.
  • They agree that the best and perhaps only way William can defeat the dead writer is by not destroying the journal, but rather by tapping into his own writing skills to effectively pen a different ending.
  • William and his partner sit at the kitchen table with the journal. William fights hard against the dead writer assuming control, but he begins to write in the journal. At first his words have no effect. His partner offers to try writing instead and is violently repelled, but unhurt.
  • William tries again and suddenly grips the arm of his partner. His partner feels not only uneasy, but also not quite right–the dead writer is trying to transfer from William to him. With his free hand, William continues to write and his other hand eventually loosens its grip.
  • William seems more himself and the two tentatively believe that it is over, they have pushed back against the dead writer. They agree that rather than destroying the journal, it is actually safer to keep it. William puts it away in a drawer again.
  • They both go to work the next day, but when they get home, the journal is gone from the drawer. The partner suspects the sister has taken it and says they should go to her. William is reluctant and the partner pretends to relent, fully intending to confront her on his own.
  • He does this and she doesn’t deny that she took it, then says they can have it back if they wish. She promises not to take it again or interfere in any way with them again. The partner smells a trap, but there is little he can do but take the journal and leave.
  • Upon bringing the journal back, it becomes apparent that the sister has somehow infused it with more dark magic and William is drawn to write again in response to the pleading of the now-fading dead writer. His partner tries to pull him away, but William fends him off. William begins to write a scene and suddenly the book is blasted off the table, flying against a wall and sliding to the floor. He seems wholly himself now.
  • They worry that the sister may try again and debate on trying to destroy the journal. for now, they decide to keep it, thinking the window for the dead writer to transfer has either run out or is very close to doing so.
  • The End!

I’m not sure if I’ve captured everything from the discussion we had, but it’s certainly enough to start with, and it has a middle and and end and all the things you expect in a story. I’m not sure how exciting writing in a journal will be, but hey, you never know.

I’ll find out in three days. Well, I guess I’ll really find out in 33 days.

Also, I know this version won’t be called Weirdsmith, but on other title immediately occurs to me. Titles are easy, though. Writing is hard.

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