Longtime readers know that every November I take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), a monthlong writing extravaganza that started in 2003 and has spread from San Francisco to the entire world. The first time I participated was in 2011 and I actually made it to the goal of 50k words by November 30th. I haven’t won since This year, I will make it.
I’ve been planning it out for the last week or so and finally got a synopsis together yesterday:
Allegheny “Allie” Jones left home as soon as she hit 18 and was able to go away to college. Life in the small town of Bella Lago, NY was complete torture and she knew she had to get out before she went insane. In the past 10 years, she hasn’t looked back. Now, she has no choice. As an agent in the Paranormal Investigative Unit of the FBI, she’s sent back home to investigate the death of her former friend, Laura Brown. Normally, she’d go in under the radar, but this time it is different. She has to go back as herself–the version of herself that they knew back then because no one can know her true purpose.
Danny Rawling has lived in Bella Lago his entire life and has never felt the need to leave. This is where his family and friends are after all. A couple of years ago, Danny left his high-paying Wall Street job to open up The Danger Room, an MMA style gym, right on Main Street. Most people thought he was insane, but he knew that even if he failed, he would fail at doing what he loved. After two years of being open, he’s even happier about his decision than he was when he first made it.
He remembers Allie from high school, but they never spent any time together back then–he was a year older and the captain of the football team; he couldn’t be seen with the weird girl, who claimed she could see ghosts, even if there was something about her that made him think that she could. Now, that she’s back in town, the need to truly know her is like a physical pull. She isn’t at all his type. For starters, she dresses like someone ashamed of her body, which despite of her extremely baggy clothes, he can tell is outstanding. Bodies were his job, after all. When he realizes that she’s looking into Laura’s disappearance, he sees his chance as he’s the only one in Bella Lago that believes something happened to her.
Together, they take on an entire town’s superstitions, the mafia, a deranged serial killer, and scariest of all–love.
This story has taken several forms over the years and was originally my take on Cinderella meets James Bond. Back then, the characters were Ella and David. I was not a big fan of where that one was going, but I liked the idea of setting a novel in a town based on where I lived and the people I knew while I was there. Bella Lago is my (highly) fictionalized version of Howard Beach, which is where I lived for about half of my life. Allie, however, is not me. She shares some of my experiences, but she most definitely is not me. I did know a guy named Danny when I was in high school, but as far as I know he did not open up an MMA gym anywhere. He also was not the captain of the football team–not that it would have been much of an honor as our football team sucked.
The part of the prep that I like the most involved creating the town and figuring out names for the different stores and schools. The public school is called P.S. 217, which is a reference to my dad’s address from when he was a kid. The Catholic School is called St. Anne’s named after the psychotic nun, who ran the CCD program at the actual Catholic school in Howard Beach a few years back.
I like to develop complete histories of my characters, although most of it doesn’t even end up in the finished product. For instance, I know that Allie’s favorite song is Creep by Radiohead and that Danny’s is Another Brick in the Wall Part II by Pink Floyd. I also know that the former pastor of St. Anne’s Catholic Church and the ex-principal of St. Anne’s Catholic School embezzled money from the school and ran off together, Thornbirds style. Then, there is the high school principal, who grew up at the knee of her Neo-Nazi grandfather, which is why she treats the students at the JR/SR High School so abysmally. Last, there is the fact that Allie’s mother and aunt both have the word Bella (Isabella and Arabella) in their names because they’re descended from the town founders, but that no one knows that.
I still don’t have a title for the book, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m open to them. Just post them in the comments. If you’re also taking part in NaNo, feel free to post about your novel and what you like about taking part.