Brainstorming Anna’s Sprained Plot

Bob and I are both hitting plot snags.  Mine is coming down to no cohesion in the plot and subplots; I need to pull them together thematically or they’re just going to be all over the place. Since my main theme seems to be something to do with living inauthentic lives (“seems” being the key word) . . . well, here’s the chat about that.  (Names of the possible antagonists have been changed to Xs to protect from spoilers.)

Bob Mayer  5:02 PM


jenny  5:02 PM

Hey you.

Bob Mayer  5:02 PM

I actually took a shower today. Got to do a video interview at eight. Which I hate, but . . .

jenny  5:03 PM

Oh, good, it’s not just me wondering when the last time I showered was.

Bob Mayer  5:03 PM

Haven’t had a haircut this year.

jenny  5:04 PM

The last time I had a haircut was for RWA NYC.  Four years ago?

Bob Mayer  5:04 PM

No idea. I feel like we’re living in an alternate universe.

Feel like the characters in the book should be wearing masks and social distancing

jenny  5:05 PM

It’s just bizarre

Bob Mayer  5:06 PM

Anyway– where stands your book. Do you have a title yet?

jenny  5:06 PM

Title.  I think Arresting Anna.  There are two other linked books, Stealing Nadine and Haunting Alice.

Bob Mayer  5:06 PM

I like that.

jenny  5:06 PM

Except I’m stumped on plot.


Bob Mayer  5:07 PM

Kill someone

jenny  5:07 PM

I did.  Well, somebody died.

You were right when you said to concentrate on the romance since that’s the plot.

Bob Mayer  5:07 PM

Yeah. Today I was thinking the opposite. I’ve got no romance

jenny  5:07 PM

But the subplots went wonky, and they’re what’s forcing Nate and Anna together.

Bob Mayer  5:08 PM

You need one Big Bad to tie subplots together.

jenny  5:08 PM

i don’t think money laundering is going to work, thematically.

I think you’re right on the Big Bad.

Either X1 or X2.

Romance.  That’s your subplot, right?  The bride and the person she loves to be named later?


Bob Mayer  5:09 PM

No– she really loves the groom. I guess that’s the romance. They were childhood sweethearts who were forced apart. So I guess I do have romance. In fact, just wrote a scene between the Duchess and LL where she admits she really loves the Duke.


jenny  5:10 PM

So what’s the problem?


Bob Mayer  5:10 PM

You’re right. I do have the romance. The key is to layer that for Shane and LL

jenny  5:10 PM


What do Shane and LL have to do with that?

Bob Mayer  5:11 PM

Not between the two of them. Shane and Agnes, and LL and Carpenter.


jenny  5:11 PM

Right.  So you’re looking for an echo/parallel among the three couples?

Bob Mayer  5:12 PM

Except why would X2 send a team to Vegas to investigate something they’re behind?

jenny  5:12 PM

I kind of like X1 and X2 at each other’s throats while Anna and Nate function at the lower level, trying to figure out what’s going on.

Listen, this plot is so screwed up, I don’t even know why they went to Vegas now.

Bob Mayer  5:13 PM

X1 might have double-crossed X2; but again, it would be dumb to bring any attention to X’s own op.


The initiating plot event is Anna delivering something to somebody in Vegas

Where she runs into Nate who is investigating something in Vegas

jenny  5:13 PM

I mean, I can figure something out, but what I’m looking at is that this a book about people leading inauthentic lives.  So it seems like the whole fake/forgery thing is a lot more apropos than money laundering.

Bob Mayer  5:14 PM

Vegas is the perfect setting for fake

jenny  5:14 PM

Yep.  Originally, they went because the museum director was dabbling in money laundering.  But there’s no thematic echo in that.


Selling fakes, stealing art and replacing with fakes seems tidier.

But more difficult to do for the people in the story.

Easy to money launder with art.


Enough about me.  So you have these three relationships.

Bob Mayer  5:15 PM

Not much different than the money laundering though in terms of operation.

Let’s fix your plot first.

jenny  5:16 PM

Well, that’s gonna take a while.

Bob Mayer  5:16 PM

Not really since it’s the subplot. I don’t think it can be X2 since they send Nate there.

jenny  5:17 PM

X2 is the one sending Fairfax and Sabrina after Grandpa’s stolen painting.

Bob Mayer  5:17 PM

What you set up was X1 running an op to Vegas.

jenny  5:17 PM

Might be fun if they find it and it’s a fake.

Bob Mayer  5:17 PM

Okay– I think Grandpa’s painting is complicating things a lot.

jenny  5:18 PM

Nope, Mikkelson is running the op in Vegas.

X1 is annoyed because they had the big efficient op and M was screwing it up by sending Anna to Vegas.

Bob Mayer  5:18 PM

You had X1 doing it and then Mikkelson trying it himself and drawing attention to it

jenny  5:18 PM

Right.  X1 wouldn’t have messed with Vegas.

But I’m really hating the money laundering thing.

Bob Mayer  5:18 PM

So X1 is running an op going somewhere else or doing something else.

jenny  5:18 PM

For one thing, I don’t think the art crimes unit would handle that.

As I mentioned, the plot is fucked.

Bob Mayer  5:19 PM

Because of the lack of knowing exactly who the Big Bad is and what they’re doing. Easily fixed.

jenny  5:20 PM

I think it’s X1.

But I’m open.

Bob Mayer  5:21 PM

All right. So X1 is passing fakes. Maybe one or two a year. Nothing major, but enough to sustain the lifestyle to which X1 has become accustomed. No one gets hurt. X1 makes money

jenny  5:21 PM

I know one of the crimes is somebody at the museum faking Russian icons.  X1 is doing something bigger.

Bob Mayer  5:22 PM

Does it have to be art? Because of the museum? What does she do outside of the museum?

jenny  5:22 PM

And then there’s the painting that grandpa stashed.  Maybe he had copies made.  And left clues to screw with Uncle Al.


I think it has to be art.

Bob Mayer  5:23 PM

Again– that painting has to be tied in to the other subplot or else things will continue to unravel

jenny  5:23 PM

Can’t tell you why exactly.  It has to be art for Carter (supporting character) and it’s part of where this all started.

Bob Mayer  5:24 PM

Okay. Let’s try this to pull all the pieces together.

jenny  5:24 PM

Yes, you’re right about tying Grandpa’s painting to the rest.  If he had copies made . . . maybe by the same person who copies for X1?

Bob Mayer  5:24 PM

Years ago Grandpa pulled an art heist. Like the one you researched. Never solves. X number of pieces have never been recovered.

jenny  5:25 PM

My story was different, but go on.

Bob Mayer  5:25 PM

None of the art ever surfaced


At least on the open market


Grandpa kept some. The other guys kept some.


They found X1.


X1 has the connections to the not open market.


Over the years they’ve been selling one or two pieces at a time.


To buyers who understand they’re getting something very special


M has no clue what they’re doing. Just that it’s very hush hush.


X2 has always been bothered by this case


Initiating event is that M thinks its something else and he tries something. Sends Anna to Vegas with something.


X2 has been keeping tabs on X1 ever since the robbery


X2 doesn’t think X1 was behind it but suspects X1 has sold some pieces on the black market


But no proof.


As soon as M does dumb thing, X2 sends the team to Vegas. It’s a dead end actually, except Nate hooks up with Anna


Now they’re in the deep end of something they don’t even understand. And X2 isn’t sure what it is, but it’s a possible lead


Uncle Al gets nervous because he sold a few pieces through X1


That’s where your first shooter comes from


X1 is in over her head but she’s a smooth operator.

jenny  5:30 PM

Okay, stop for a minute.

Bob Mayer  5:31 PM

But now Anna/Nate and Uncle Al over-reacting is causing problems and X2 thinks they’re on to something

jenny  5:31 PM

The first part isn’t right, but I wanted to see where you were going with it, and I think I can use the end of this.


The stuff you’re writing now.

Bob Mayer  5:31 PM

Kill three more people and book is over.



jenny  5:31 PM

Oh, the good old days.

Bob Mayer  5:32 PM

This way the plot doesn’t overwhelm the romance. Except for the dead people.


Big thing is that if you want Grandpa’s painting, it has to be connected to the Big Bad

jenny  5:34 PM

Okay, thirty years ago, Uncle Al read about the Gardner heist and decided he could do that, too.  Got a crew together, but the driver dropped out at the last minute, so he reeled in his brother-in-law, Grandpa, as the new driver.  They pull off the heist, grab a small portrait of an ugly guy on the way out and toss it at Grandpa, saying, “This looks like you.”  Laugh uproariously, they escape.  All of them are arrested within a week except for Gpa.  All art recovered except for the pntg they threw at Gpa.


Uncle Al and his crew go to prison and then find out that the painting they threw at Gpa was a Durer and worth more than the rest of the loot combined.


Gpa knows enough to sit on the painting, but he also knows Al is going to demand it when he gets out of prison, so he has it copied several times.  Then he gets arrested and dies in prison.

Bob Mayer  5:36 PM


jenny  5:36 PM

So now there’s a real Durer self-portrait somewhere and two or three copies.  

So how about if the guy doing the fake icons for Mikkelson is also the guy who did the fakes for Gpa?

Paul, the exhibits guy at the museum.

Bob Mayer  5:37 PM

okay– did X1 connect them?

jenny  5:37 PM

No.  X1 has no idea any of this is going on.  I thought X was money laundering, but argh I do not know.

X2 has people in Vegas for some reason, so maybe it’s for that?

Bob Mayer  5:38 PM

So Paul would be the big bad then. making fakes.

jenny  5:38 PM

Paul has this one copy of the Durer he didn’t give to Gpa, and he and Mikkelson decide to sell it to the casino guy?


Bob Mayer  5:39 PM

That works

jenny  5:39 PM

I think Paul is just a hapless artist.

I kind of like the gang that couldn’t shoot straight here.

Romantic comedy.

Bob Mayer  5:39 PM

Okay. So everyone is kind of confused and just reacting. There actually isn’t a Big Bad

jenny  5:39 PM

So Anna delivers a fake to Barrett, they bust Barrett, then track Anna down?

Bob Mayer  5:40 PM

She delivers fake and runs into Nate like you have it. That’s the part that throws everything askew

jenny  5:40 PM

There has to be a big bad.  I just wanted Mikkelson to be a fuck-up who wanders in between X1 and X2.

But I see your point.

X1 and X2 have to be behind the beginning; they’re the fuel.

So maybe X1 and X2 are well aware of each other.

Bob Mayer  5:41 PM

Yeah but if X1 did nothing wrong  . . .   I think X1 sold the fake paintings for Gpa.  Has Paul do them. Then Mikkelson has him do the icons

jenny  5:41 PM

They’ve been playing chess like this for years; X2 wins some, X1 wins some, but neither delivers a knock-out blow.

They’re both pretending to be respectable experts in their fields, but really they’re dirty street fighters.

Bob Mayer  5:42 PM

X2 has caught a couple of the buyers of the fakes. But never the person behind them, but suspects its X1

I envision some good scenes between the two

they have a history

jenny  5:42 PM

I don’t think Grandpa sold anything, I think that’s what’s screwing up X1 and X2.  They know the Durer is out there and can’t find it.

So while they’re doing Godzilla vs. the Thing, Nate and Anna are trying to find out what the fuck is going on so they don’t get shot.

Bob Mayer  5:43 PM

Okay. Could X1 have Paul make fakes of the Durer without the original?

That would be brilliant on her part

jenny  5:43 PM

Probably not.  He’d have to at least go see it in the museum.

Depending on how good the fake is, of course.

There are other ways around that.  He could paint a very small oil sketch and try to sell it as a sketch Durer did for his large self-portrait, which is hella important in art history.

Bob Mayer  5:44 PM

Maybe he did. In art school. It was long ago. And he made a copy as his dissertation or something. Vera sees it and the lightbulb goes on after the original is stolen and never surfaced

jenny  5:44 PM


I like the idea of Gpa making fakes to fuck with Al.

Bob Mayer  5:45 PM

I like X1 selling fakes of a painting that’s disappeared, telling people it’s an original

I think Gpa just had the original and no clue someone is selling fakes

jenny  5:46 PM

Like off-the-wall sales.  Which is when somebody steals an important painting, makes copies, and then sells the copies telling each buyer he’s getting the original but he can’t tell anybody because it’s stolen.

Bob Mayer  5:46 PM

Gpa wouldn’t fuck with Al. But he thinks he left a valuable thing with his family

jenny  5:46 PM

Gpa wouldn’t rat on Al but he’d drive him crazy.

Bob Mayer  5:46 PM

Right. I love that Gpa doesn’t know about X1 and she doesn’t know about him. And poor Anna is in the middle

jenny  5:46 PM

They don’t like each other.

Bob Mayer  5:47 PM

True. But Gpa dies in prison. When did Al get out?

jenny  5:47 PM

I think very recently.

Bob Mayer  5:47 PM

Could that be the initiating event?

jenny  5:48 PM

Also Al’s grandkids, Lara and Antony, are Anna’s age, so they’re doing the most active stuff for Al, who’s in his eighties now.

Let me think.

Bob Mayer  5:48 PM

There’s no thinking in baseball

jenny  5:48 PM

I thought that was crying.

I think the initiating event has to be Anna and Nate hooking up and then him moving in with her.


Bob Mayer  5:48 PM

for the romance, yes

jenny  5:48 PM

There’s a lot of crying in fiction writing.

Bob Mayer  5:50 PM

But for the plot– why are Anna and Nate in Vegas?

jenny  5:50 PM

No for everything.  Al finds out from Lara that Anna has the FBI living in the place Gpa probably stashed the real Durer.  X1 sees Nate investigating the museum.  X2 sees Anna as the granddaughter of the guy who drove the getaway car (although X can’t prove it and Gpa’s dead anyway).

Bob Mayer  5:50 PM


jenny  5:50 PM

Meanwhile Mikkelson and Paul are faking Russian icons and they’re gonna get caught . . . ARGH.

Now I kind of want Al finding Durers over the years that Gpa stashed in obvious places and getting busted for trying to sell fakes.  Or something.

While the real Durer is hidden in the Venus de Milo in Agnes’s kitchen.

Bob Mayer  5:52 PM

Okay. The problem is why is Anna and Nate in Vegas and end up hooking up. You know, Anna could just fly to Vegas for revenge sex

jenny  5:53 PM

Anna could get revenge sex at the corner bar.  Why go to Vegas?

Bob Mayer  5:53 PM

You know, the Venus actually served a purpose. You pushed on her breasts to open the secret door to the bomb shelter.

jenny  5:54 PM

I know, but then she hung around in the kitchen, a naked Macguffin.  People were waiting to see that the millions were stuffed up her . . . toga.

Bob Mayer  5:55 PM

We’re back to who exactly your Big Bad is. Several possibilities.

jenny  5:55 PM

I kind of like Anna carrying a fake Durer to Vegas.  But it does have to be tied to X1.

I need a new conflict box.  A subplot conflict box.

Bob Mayer  5:55 PM

I covered that. Maybe forget Mikkelson. X1 always uses a cutout to deliver the fake.

jenny  5:56 PM

Well, Mikkelson’s my dead body.

Bob Mayer  5:56 PM

Over the years, X2 has caught a couple

Maybe Mikkelson learns about X1’s activities and wants to go the FBI?

jenny  5:56 PM

Why would he go to the FBI?

Bob Mayer  5:57 PM

No idea. To save himself?

jenny  5:58 PM

He’s an idiot.  I can see him trying to blackmail X1 and saying he’d go to the FBI, but I think he’s more likely to fuck things up enough that X1 has to come in and slap him around.

Bob Mayer  5:58 PM


jenny  5:58 PM

As you have pointed out, however.  This subplot has to be X1 vs Anna.

Well, X1 vs. Anna/Nate.

Bob Mayer  5:59 PM

If the core of the plot is X1 vs X2 then Anna and Nate are bouncing in between

jenny  5:59 PM

Yeah, but it has to be X1 vs. Anna, too, doesn’t it?

Bob Mayer  5:59 PM

Yes, because Anna is with Nate

jenny  5:59 PM

X1 is fighting on two fronts, Anna and X2.

Bob Mayer  6:00 PM

Anna/Nate become a team to resolve the plot

jenny  6:00 PM

Maybe X1’s decided to frame Anna, knowing Nate will try to save her, which kneecaps X2 

Bob Mayer  6:00 PM

That’s good

jenny  6:00 PM

Yeah, the Anna/Nate relationship arc is that building a team thing.


Then everybody else is just collateral damage.  Actually, if X1 is planting clues that Anna has the Durer, that brings the Uncle Al contingent into play, and Antony hacks up the pool house because of that.


So X1 is definitely staking Anna out like a goat.

Bob Mayer  6:02 PM

Okay– that works.  Al doesn’t want to go back to jail

jenny  6:03 PM

I think Al is stupid enough to still want to score with the Durer.

Bob Mayer  6:03 PM

That too

jenny  6:03 PM

If he could just let the whole thing drop, he wouldn’t go back to jail.

But he’s breaking the law trying to find the Durer.  Not to mention annoying the hell out of Lucianna, which is never a good thing.

Bob Mayer  6:03 PM

Good– more conflict

jenny  6:04 PM

I kind of like it that it’s the older generation screwing everything up through greed, while the people in their thirties are trying to be sensible and save the day.  That should resonate.


So you want to do your triple romance parallels now?

All of which are being screwed with by your big bad?

Although maybe not.

Bob Mayer  6:06 PM

Nah– I’ve got to rewrite the LL/Duchess scene and break it up with a Phoebe walking into the militia compound scene. Next week. I’ll send you some stuff this weekend so you know where I’m coming from on that. Because the mirror thing just occurred to me.


Plus I’ve got to eat and get ready for this interview which I hate.

jenny  6:06 PM

Great.  Anything I can do now?

Unlax, Mayer.

You give good interview.


Bob Mayer  6:07 PM

Already did– I had to realize I already had the romance. Right in front of me

jenny  6:07 PM

Men.  Always the last to know.

Bob Mayer  6:07 PM

True. Which is Shane and Carpenter’s problem


Because LL is flirting with Eduard, the head of security, who is former French Foreign Legion and a champion fencer

jenny  6:08 PM


Good thing Carpenter is laid back.

Possibly too laid back.

Can Carpenter fence?

Bob Mayer  6:08 PM

Carpenter is too laid back

So is Shane. In terms of the women in their life

jenny  6:08 PM

Of course, Carpenter can fence.

I love this.

Bob Mayer  6:09 PM

So that’s their arc.  But I get to write Phoebe killing white supremist militia next so I’m good

jenny  6:10 PM

Satisfying fantasies of all kinds.

Bob Mayer  6:10 PM

That’s another storyline


I think you’ve got a lot to mine here– something will jump out

jenny  6:11 PM

Yep.  I just need to think this through, but this has helped a lot.


Next Tuesday or Thursday?  5PM?

Or should we go wild and make it Wednesday?

Bob Mayer  6:11 PM

Tuesday works. See you then. Take care.

jenny  6:11 PM

Tuesday it is.  Good luck with the interview.   

Then the next day I got a long document from Bob laying out the subplots for my book, which I annotated and sent back which he annotated and sent back.  2500 words of plot brainstorming.

Also I did two plot maps, one for plot/subplot . . .

, and one for back story/plot.

And then we e-mailed about where the Durer was hidden and Bob had a great idea which gave me a better idea, so now I’ve got that.  My plot is still not solid, but it’s SO much better.  Moral: Get yourself a critique partner, two or three if possible.  Explaining your plot to somebody else is VERY helpful.

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