Brainstorming: The Dangers of Story Plotting in a Restaurant


So there we sat, two innocent but extremely vocal writers, brainstorming how to plot Romance novels in a restaurant.  We’ll call this eatery “Benny’s.”

On this particular day, Patty had graciously agreed to reschedule her afternoon's itinerary of laundry-folding and sock-matching to act as my brainstorming buddy.   

When I get stuck and can’t make sense of the convoluted story plot for my new series, I bribe Patty with lunch. Patty is a Romance novelist, who is well read in every genre.   

As a published novelist (and brainstorming professional), Patty understands how the rusty wheels turn in the minds of New York editors.  This is an important trait in a story plot consultant.  

But Patty’s most important credential as a romance-novel plotting consultant is her sense of humor.   To put it mildly, Patty is a hoot!

Picture the scene as my story plotting accomplice and I prepared for our brainstorming mission:

Patty and I drove to the restaurant in separate cars.   We arrived incognito (no pens, no notebooks).  We were seated at a central table, in the busiest section of the eatery.  We decided to pig out on hot fudge brownie sundaes to improve our facility for plotting Romance novels.

It was approximately 1:00 p.m. on a weekday, during the latter half of Lunch Rush.  Fellow Austinites were crammed into booths and tables that were roughly 12 inches from my elbow.  Servers were squeezing by with humongous trays loaded with BLT's, chicken salad, and the daily soup special.  

During the following Romance plotting incident, I’d like to note (in my defense) that I was guzzling my third cola. The sugar-loaded, caffeinated kind.  My conversation with Patty went something like this:

A:  I need to get rid of (S).

P:  Who’s this guy again?

A:  You know.  The one who slept with (J).

P:  Oh yeah.  Now I remember.

A:  I hate him!  I need him to die!

P:  As long as there's plenty of motivation . . .

A:  Oh, there's motivation, all right.  I'm sick of him.

P:  You thinking about bullets?  

A:  Naw.  Something slow and torturous.

P:  How ‘bout putting a box of scorpions under the sheets? 

A:  Eew!

P:  Suffocation by pillow?

A:  Risky.   He'd be a flailer.  

P:  Worried about phlegm on the Egyptian cotton?

A:  Get serious!

P:  Uh . . . right.   How 'bout death cap?  

A:  I don't have time to research fatal mushrooms.  'Sides.  Poison's much too tidy. 

P:  No guts, no gory, right?

A:  (Laughs)  

P:  Well, if you want to kill him in a grisly way, make it big and splashy.  Like a grenade down his pants.

A:  That’s it!  Exploding body parts.  No traceable corpse . . .  I like the way you think!   He’ll go out with a bang!  Thanks, Patty!  An explosion would be a great way to kill him. I can’t wait to get home!

At this precise moment, the restaurant hushed.  At least forty pairs of eyes drilled into me. Mouths were gaping. Forks were hovering. Chocolate syrup was dripping from the dirty dishes that our server was balancing above my shoulder.

Patty never missed a beat.  As cool as the proverbial cuke, Patty looked up at our distraught server and drawled, “Check please. My friend has a busy day ahead.”

Now you can appreciate why I call Patty when I need to brainstorm how to plot my Romance novel. Patty's the perfect partner for making a scene – and writing one.