I just crossed the 22,000 word count on The Year of Gwendolyn Presley Flowers. Not at all where it should be, but that’s only because there were a few months I took off to write some short stories. I also spent that time outlining, writing the first story synopsis and building a website for my next project, Gramercy Gates, tales of modern women finding love and independence in a Manhattan boarding house throughout the 20th century. (I have promised myself not to touch that any further until I finish this book; it’s just nice to know exactly what I’m starting afterwards.)
Story wise, I’ve just entered act two, which is always the most difficult, but also the most interesting to write. Act two is where you peel back much more of the characters and their motivation. While act one always fun to write, introducing the characters and having one or two secrets come out, the second act takes more thought – slowly revealing the “why’s” instead of just the “what”. I’m happy to have a decent outline that will carry me through this part.
The opportunity to cross the country with someone who doesn’t know all your baggage is appealing; a chance to recreate your life without the past bearing down so heavily. At first glance, Oliver appears to be concentrating solely on his future, shying away from any type of conflict or disorder. Gwen, however, runs as fast as she can away from what’s expected of her and dares anyone suggest she does otherwise. He physically recoils when she laughingly tells him “things are going to get messy,” and he can’t understand why Gwen chose to leave school after what seems to him a simple setback. But the road is an empty canvas, and the strokes are just beginning to be laid upon the canvas during act one. Oliver shows surprising strength during an unsettling situation, and Gwen comes face-to-face with her past. It’s not an easy choice for either of them to leave the first stop where they’ve each found jobs, made friends, but hey – we’re just getting started!
Oliver and Gwen were strangers when they started out on their journey, so in act two they are really still getting to know each other. They’ve arrived in Colorado Springs now, a long way from home, and it’s Oliver’s turn to start questioning whether or not he can accomplish what he started out to do. Unlike his friend Tuan, who taught him Vietnamese cuisine back in Missouri, the pastry chef he’s working for in Colorado Springs pushes him to learn techniques he’s just not sure he’ll ever master. He begins to think he doesn’t have what it takes to realize his dream.
Gwen takes a job that pours salt in what is still a fresh wound. Oliver worries she’s not strong enough for the daily fight, and that becomes a literal turn of events when she suffers a slight injury during a protest at the Planned Parenthood facility she’s working at. In act two, both characters experience victories and failures. Their friendship strengthens as they lean on each other for support, and when Gwen’s brother shows up to deliver her father’s request for her to return home, Oliver has to wonder if his feelings are becoming deeper for her than he’d realized. (Red herring? A careful reader will remember Oliver’s first line in the single paragraph prologue!)
Now I must get back to the actual writing, because they’re just about to meet the bakery owner in Colorado Springs, and I want to see what happens next!