Today is release day for Addie: To Wager on Her Future, so I thought it might be fun to look at a couple of quotes from a book on the craft of writing which I read recently and take a peek at how these words of advice show up in Addie and Robert’s story.
Let me start us off with this quote:
To uncover the plot of your story, don’t ask what should happen, but what should go wrong. To uncover the meaning of your story, don’t ask what the theme is, but rather, what is discovered. Characters making choices to resolve tension— that’s your plot.
James, Steven. Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules
Then, let me toss in this quote:
The crisis that tips the world of your character upside down must be one that cannot be immediately solved. It’s an unavoidable challenge that sets the rest of the story in motion. If your protagonist can solve a problem right away, it’s only an event that might lead to a story, not the story itself. His life needs to be disrupted in a way that he can’t immediately overcome or step away from.
James, Steven. Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules
Here’s the set up for the story:
Adela Atwood loves horses in general and her horse, Damon, in particular. She also loves her father and her brother — even if she is completely put out with him at the beginning of the book. Her father has had a series of strokes that have rendered him incapacitated. Her brother has been at school where his association with his friends has changed how he treats his sister. Addie is not your typical sit in the sitting room and stitch a sampler sort of lady. Her father has never wished for her to be such a lady. He has instead allowed her to follow her love of horses and learn all she can about them. (He’s betting that such knowledge will stand her in good stead when it comes to finding a husband.)
So, at the start, her life’s kind of not great. We might think that these things – an ill father and a ninny of a brother – might be the crisis that sets the rest of the story into motion, and perhaps it is, in a way, because those things either lead to the monumental shift in her existence or add to the difficulty of the situation. However, I am going to pose the following excerpt as the real crisis moment when Addie’s world is turned on end and what sets the rest of the story into motion.
To sum up: Addie’s brother has gambled away her precious horse, and her father, whom she loves and thought understood her, is refusing to stop her brother from selling Damon.
“Let me tell you again,” Addie said to her father twenty minutes later. He did not seem shocked by her revelation. Perhaps he had not understood what she had said.
“James has a gentleman at the stables and is –” She stopped when her father tapped the table behind which he sat.
“I… know… My mind… works.”
So he knew? And he did nothing to stop James? Her heart sank and threatened to crumble. “But Father, Damon is mine. You gave him to me.”
The left side of her father’s mouth twitched, and his eyes grew sad. “It is…” She could see that he was attempting to search his mind for a word and make his mouth form it.
Do not say necessary, she begged silently. Do not say necessary. Her heartbeat drummed in her ears as she waited.
“Necess… necessary,” he finally finished his thought just as she dreaded he would.
“Why? What has James done?” She shook her head. That was a foolish question with an obvious answer. “He owes that man something, doesn’t he?”
Her father’s head nodded awkwardly. “He is… dangerous.” His hand reached out for her. “You… will… marry and then… you will not need…” Again, his lips twisted as he fought to form the word. “Damon.”
She would always need Damon for she had no intention of marrying a gentleman who would not allow her to ride. Therefore, Damon would be needed. He was her horse, and a precious gift from a beloved father, whom she had always thought had understood her. But perhaps he did not.
Addie is stuck in a bad situation. There is really no way out. To save her brother, she’s going to have to give up her horse. She has no choice.
This is the crisis that sets Addie on her journey of discovery. There are a few things she will learn along the way such as her brother is not lost forever, some things are more valuable than horses (even horses that are precious gifts), and that her father understood her quite well.
So now that we know what the crisis is and we can see that it is not something easily fixed, what happens after that?
That’s not the right question.
According to the second quote I shared, the question should be, what goes wrong after that?
The short answer — several things.
“What was that about?” Robert was standing at the foot of the stairs down which the surgeon, who had been calling on Sir Thomas, had raced.
“It seems Mr. Atwood is in need of urgent attention.” Tom shook his head and looked up the stairs he had just descended. “I cannot imagine how Addie is handling all of this. I am struggling with my father being incapacitated, but I have Mother and Faith as well as Susan, you, and Edmund and Fanny. Miss Atwood has no one. Her brother is still at school.” Tom shook his head once again. “I cannot fathom having to face this and care for a sister.” He clapped Robert on the shoulder. “You have not done things perfectly, but you have done well.”
“Faith has done well,” Robert replied. “I would have been a far greater mess without her to badger me into doing what needed doing.”
Or there is this…
Robert shook his head. “I do not have a thousand pounds to wager on a race.”
“But you do have a horse. A very fine horse.”
“With which I have no desire to part.” Though the man before him was standing still, Robert had the distinct impression that he was being circled by a ravenous wolf.
“Then, prove your value by riding Damon for me, and if he wins, I will know you were being honest and will give you a hundred pounds for your effort. However, if he loses, I will require your horse or a thousand pounds.”
“No, I am not being a part of any game you are playing.”
“I am not playing a game.” The man’s grin stood in opposition to his claim. “You realize, of course, that should you refuse my offer to ride Damon and decide, instead, to ride in a race against him and win, I will count you as a cheat.” His features grew hard. “And you know how I loathe a cheat.”“You wish for Mr. Eldridge to throw a race?” Miss Atwood asked incredulously.“Or never to enter,” Mr. Camden.
“Ever? Any race?” Miss Atwood looked positively horrified.
“But if he rides Damon and wins, then, he can ride against Damon in the future?” Miss Atwood shook her head as if comprehending Camden was no easy task — which to anyone with even a partially working moral compass, it was not.
“Only if Damon wins.”
“Damon is the best horse in our stables,” James said. “I have told you that time and again.”
“Yes, but you are attempting to save your neck. You would say anything,” Camden said dismissively.
“But it is true!” Miss Atwood cried. “Damon is the fastest horse we have, and I am not eager to part with him. Therefore, you can believe me.”
“I prefer to believe Mr. Eldridge. His name means something in the racing world.”
“As does Silverthorne,” Miss Atwood retorted.
“Perhaps,” Camden said with a shrug. “So, what is it to be, Eldridge?”
“This is ridiculous!” Robert cried. “I was here to purchase a horse, and now, somehow, I am the one responsible for the quality of another gentleman’s horse?”
“A terrible shame it is, is it not?” Camden flicked something off the shoulder of his coat. “You should have lost that race last year. Bertram, at least, had the good grace to disqualify himself.”
Robert drew in a deep breath and steadied his nerves, reigning in the anger he felt. Causing a person to fly into the rafters was another thing Camden enjoyed. “He fell taking a gate and nearly died. I am not sure that is the same as disqualifying himself.”
“However, you wish to see it. I will be at the Red Lion when you have come to a decision.” He stepped closer to Robert. “I am not a patient man, Eldridge, so do not dawdle.” He turned back to James. “I will take Damon with me. I am sure you can afford to stable him at the inn until Mr. Eldridge makes up his mind.”
Robert took three deep breaths. There was no choice to be made. Camden had left him with only one option. “I will do it.”
“What?” Miss Atwood cried. “You cannot.”
“No, I must,” he assured her. He could not allow Camden to ban him from every race, nor could he have Camden pursuing him as he did someone who had cheated him. Those fellows rarely survived the encounter.
“I will ride Damon in the next race at Newmarket,” he said to Camden, “but he stays at Silverthorne while I am at Mansfield and then accompanies me to my estate when I leave. It is the only way I can prepare him as he needs to be prepared to win a race.”
“I will not pay for lodging or feed.”
“We will provide all that is needed,” James offered. “Is my debt settled?”
Camden nodded. “And it is settled in a more favourable fashion than I had expected, for I lost a good deal on that race last year.” He nodded to Robert. “I intend to do better this time.” And with that, he called for his own horse and left.
To sum up: Things have gone from bad to worse. Addie’s father has had another stroke, likely his final one, and Robert, while attempting to help Addie and her brother, has met his own crisis moment. His world has been turned upside down. You see, Mr. Camden, who is rotten to the core, has just put our hero in a no-choice situation. He has to win. If Camden labels him a cheat, there will be some thugs coming to rough him up or worse. (Camden is that kind of rotten.) And let’s not forget, Robert will also lose his horse.
While these crisis moments have tilted both Robert and Addie’s worlds, it is not all bad because they will be forced together, and this time together will be just what is needed to lead to an eventual happily ever after, though not until some more trouble is tossed their way. (I took that advice to ask what can go wrong very seriously when writing this story 😉 )
As of today, you can join Addie and Robert as they work together to eventually succeed in un-tipping their worlds and finding themselves at the beginning of a very happy future.
Addie: To Wager on Her Future is available for purchase in the Kindle store and to read as part of your Kindle Unlimited subscription.
To mark this special day in the life of this story, I am giving away one ebook copy of Addie: To Wager on Her Future. To be entered to win, just leave a comment below.
Contest closes at 11:59 PM EDT on October 29, 2019.