Subplots

Sherry here — it’s obviously spring in Virginia. We’re having light jacket, parka, no jacket weather. And the National Park Service announced that peak cherry blossom blooms would be April 3 to 6.

Last week I got a lovely email from a reader saying how much she liked a subplot in The Gun Also Rises. The main plot has Sarah looking for the Hemingway manuscripts she found in Miss Belle’s attic. One of the subplots has Sarah doing a fundraiser for an active duty Air Force man with PTSD who misses a street dog he adopted while serving in Afghanistan. Sarah is raising money so the dog can be flown to Massachusetts.

This particular subplot came out of a conversation with freelance editor Barb Goffman. I wanted to add a subplot with more depth because the main subplot in I Know What You Bid Last Summer was fun but very light. Lasagna anyone? I like to mix things up from book to book. Another subplot I wanted to explore was about a military spouse who has her own struggles with depression. The two combined when I made the military spouse, Tracy, the wife of the man with PTSD.

The reader also said she didn’t know anything about the military or military life and she enjoyed reading about it in my books. Being a military spouse isn’t easy. You get stuck between the needs of the active duty member which takes precedent over everything and the needs of your children. Your needs are often way down in the list of priorities.

And there is still a certain attitude that you must keep a stiff upper lip. It always seems that everything goes wrong the minute the spouse leaves. The kids get sick, the garage door breaks, the hurricane comes, the earthquake occurs, etc. (Oh, subplots – they aren’t nearly as much fun when you are in the middle of them!)

My husband traveled a lot. So much so that when we lived in Ohio a neighbor asked me if I really had a husband or if I’d just sneaked into base housing. (Trust me if you saw that housing you would know no one would sneak in to it!) Writing is one way I learned to cope with everything. It started as writing long letters to everyone I knew. Then I saw an ad for a short story contest and tried writing fiction for the first time in a long time. The short story grew too long and I realized I was writing my first (still unsold) novel.

Tracy, in The Gun Also Rises, is reluctant to get help. She’s busy with four kids, her husband’s issues seem more urgent. But Sarah gently persists – maybe she should have suggested writing. I reached out to one of my former neighbor’s whose husband is still active duty to find out where Tracy could get help. I hope it reminds people that we don’t have to shoulder everything on our own. I was lucky because no matter where we were stationed I always found a wonderful group of supportive friends. They became my family and helped me through rough times.

The email buoyed me on a particularly bad day. It made me realize again how important every aspect of a book is. It energized my writing on my current manuscript. It’s amazing what a note can do for a person and I thanked her for taking the time to reach out.

Readers: How has a note changed your day?

20 Thoughts

  1. What a wonderful note to receive and what a perceptive reader. It’s always special when readers take the time to send an email or a note. Makes the entire day brighter.

  2. So many notes have helped me on so many days. Because it’s always the little things, isn’t it?

    Just feeling someone reach out to make a connection instantly grounds me and reminds me that no matter what is happening, it’s temporary, and that the real things in life, the ones that matter, are the people we meet and allow into our lives.

  3. While being confined to the house when we were full-time caregivers for Mom with Alzheimer, it was emails from friends that kept me going and my only link to the outside world. Two people in particular could change my mood instantly. They seem to know what I needed whether it was a shoulder to cry on or a good belly laugh. I learned from them how important it is to reach out to others – even if just in the form of an email.
    2clowns at arkansas dot net

  4. I’ve gotten several nice notes over the years, and they buoy me in uncertain times. (A recent one from Robin Templeton comes to mind.)

    As to subplots, it always helps to add a dog. Or lasagna!

  5. I love really well done subplots, and, Sherry, you are a master. I’ve gotten unexpected notes and emails when I’ve needed them most. In turn, I try to send emails to people I haven’t heard from in a while just to let them know they aren’t forgotten. I usually get back such warm responses. If we are all here for each other, no one needs to feel alone.

  6. I also really enjoyed that sub-plot for the exact same reasons. For those of us who have never served or been close to someone who has, it’s a very good reminder of what those who have sacrificed, but at home and by serving, deal with.

  7. Back in 1983-1990, I was a teacher in Germany for DoDDS. No email of course but my letters from my mother were a lifeline to my large family. When going to continuing courses with a friend, she always wanted me to read them out loud. I think she enjoyed them even more, not having a big family.

  8. Every note I get from a reader changes my day. And sometimes my writing! I got a note from a reader who said she loved my first book but I I took the Lord’ name in vain too often. I had NO idea what she was talking about because I’d policed the book very carefully. I literally did a “God” search and found that my protag, like me, said “Oh my God” a lot as an exclamation. I wrote the reader, thanked her, and said I’d be more careful in the future. She was stunned to hear from me, LOL. Never expected it. But I saw that as a writing challenge. How to communicate what I needed to without relying on a fallback expression? I love stuff like that. Thanks, readers!

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