Plot Help


If you are looking for writing advice, might I point you here? I’m getting a ton of hits from tumblr on this post right now, so hey, how’s it going?


I am about to do something that is probably very unprofessional, but I’m not getting paid for this so I will take my chances. Please don’t think less of me. I need to ask for help.

I am at a point in my novel that is key to the whole plot of the work. If I screw this up, there is no going back. 48,000 words will be wasted.

My plot involves a 23 something guy who visits his parents looking for one of his favorite books of his childhood. He doesn’t find the one he is looking for, but does find one that looks interesting that he didn’t remember. As he opens the front cover he sees something written inside. It is a note to himself he wrote when he was eight years old urging him to do or remember something.

Here is my problem: what does the message say? What is it urging him? I have an idea for what the message might say, but I’m not 100% happy with it. Does anyone have any ideas? Any help would be greatly appreciated and could earn you an appearance in the book as a main character (if you would like).

22 thoughts on “Plot Help

  1. Ooh, intriguing.

    Here are my off the top of my head ideas. DO or REMEMBER something?

    REMEMBER: One of his parents is having an affair but he can’t quite put it together. I don’t think 8 year olds are into writing long narratives, so it would just be a few hints. “Mr. Hinchley and Mom (or dad?!) in the garage looking for orange soda/lawn mower/yellow paint.” Something that bugged him that he didn’t quite understand.

    DO: Dig up Fluffy’s body when you are a grownup and have your own house. (his childhood pet that he doesn’t ever want to leave behind)

    Never, ever… (whatever his parents do that upset/bug/anger him) dye your hair/make your kid go to bed when it is still light out/serve brussels sprouts.


    FUN exercise!

  2. I enjoy reading and writing thrillers so let’s see…

    He tries to remind himself of something tragic or catastrophic he witnessed. He only uses very few words and most of them are in code. This sends him into a search of his past to identify the meaning of the message, and this includes visiting and seeing people he hasn’t seen in a long time.
    Maybe he saw someone get murdered? Or saw some sort of evil transaction and decided to keep it a secret? The memory is now blocked from his mind, and maybe the notebook is not the only clue. Perhaps the code words is a clue to the next clue, as he goes along trying to fit together the truth. In the end, once he figures it out, he flashbacks and we get to see the memory…

    Wow, ran quite a bit with it. Sorry!
    Hope this helps!

  3. There is a great story by Robert Heinlein called “Them” where the protagonist is in an asylum because he insists that the entire world and everything/everyone in it is organized solely to prevent him from remembering who he is and assuming his rightful place in the universe as the . . . at this point it becomes unclear. This is, in fact, the actual situation in the story. It is organized that way. He figured it out one day because he was leaving on a trip on a rainy day and went back upstairs to get something he had forgot and sees that out of the back window it is not rainy but a sunny day. As a child, he tells the psychologist, he often heard adults talking when they assumed he wasn’t listening and when he made his appearance known they changed the topic of conversation. So I guess I’m thinking this kid wrote down something that seemed to make absolutely no sense at all to see if he actually would understand it when he got older, as they always promised him. But it still makes little sense to him until he starts searching for the phrases on the internet. They point him to a secret society, or to the family’s connections in organized crime, or to a newspaper article outlining a mysterious death of a family member.

    Well, I always hid old pennies at my grandma’s house hoping to go back when I was older and reap the rare coin harvest. But that was just stupid.

  4. Susan, I am glad you like my post. Thanks for the suggestions.

    Leo,thanks for the suggestions. I may well go with a single clue that leads to the next clue angle. I just need to think of the first clue.

    caveblogem , that penny thing is a story all of it’s own. That isn’t stupid. It’s brilliant!

  5. I like everybody’s suggestions, especially what Leo said, and I want to read the Robert Heinlein story that Caveblogem mentions.

    I like the idea that the letter will lead the main character to the next clue, like a treasure hunt. Perhaps the letter could be saying something along the lines of: “Don’t whatever you do, dig up that old biscuit tin that’s buried near the shed.” The character is so curious he can’t help but do exactly what the note tells him not to do, and mayhem is unleashed…

  6. “MC – whatever you do, don’t reveal the truth about (insert another characters name here)”

    I used to write notes to myself just like this, on inside covers of my favorite childhood books. Usually i kept them cryptic – or at least a cryptic as an eight year old thought they could be. Usually they involved “secrets” I had about the other people in my life AND often I gave those people secret nicknames so if anyone did read my note – they wouldn’t know who snicklefritz was….. only I knew that was my mother.

    Good luck with this. I love the intrigue this post has created!!

  7. Okay, not trying to be preachy or anything like that–it’s just the way I tend to approach similar situations. First I remind myself that when working on any creative piece, nothing is wasted–even though it may feel that way at the time. My mantra is: “Every word I write brings me a step closer to the heart of my story.”

    Secondly–again, this is just *my* habit: if I have a question (especially one that’s essential to character/plot/theme/anythiing in that vein), I write my way out of it NaNo is about accumulating words…okay, so take a side trip and have a conversation with your character; ask him what HE thinks he wrote in that book and don’t stop until he tells you. Or, ask a different question–maybe of a different character. Did his mother or father come across the book during the intervening years? (Again, this might seem like a waste of time, energy, and words–and if it’s not the technique for you, ignore everything I’m writing. The way I figure, NaNo doesn’t have any rule(s) besides accumulate 50,000 words during thirty consecutive days–so I just kept solving any problems I ran into the same way I usually did/do).

    That’s all I have to say…you’ve probably worked it all out by now, but maybe this comment will be helpful to another reader. 🙂

  8. wow….I cant resist a chance to be in a book. ^ ^
    well I would suggest (being a writer myself) that you make it urging him to rmrmmber his entire childhood. like a journey. a self discovery journey. heh.

  9. Well, for starters, I like the concept that you’re going with. You could go many places with that type of beginning. The idea of the note to himself in the future is quite ingenious. What the note says? Well first is first, where do YOU want the note to take the story. It seems to me that the note is going to be the thing that changes the plot drastically. An Idea that came to mind when I read what your story was about is below:

    The man finds a note from his eight year old self explaining about how he witnessed his father (rape??) and kill a women. His father made him promise not to tell anyone one because it was a ‘grown up’ thing. And as an obedient son he didn’t, but he wrote it on a note for himself in the future, having a feeling that something didn’t add up. The women who was killed ended up as a cold case, and it hasn’t been brought up for fifteen years. But now them man realizes he needs to bring justice to the women who was killed, and now he’s on the hunt to finds out more evidence to convict his father of the crime. He teams up with a long lost friend to help bring his father down, but before long, his dad is on his trail. Realizing his son is on to him, he hires men to ‘take out’ his son. Father vs. Son. Who will win?? It’s up to you.

    That’s my ‘help’ for your story but it’s up to you on what you want to do.

  10. I like the initial idea – it has a lot of opportunities in a lot of different genres, but everyone he is very dark – i do agree that the best way to approach it would to be quite an internal and physcological story, and not necessarily a treasure hunt or adventure and not something as cliche or dark as murder or rape thats supressed cos thats been done before im sure;

    what came into my head straight away was the impression that the child him had wrote the note to himself knowing that he would read it at a certain time and age. i had a supernatural feeling here – as if there is something that he was able to do or did once, something possibly that couldnt be understood or he feared as akid, some kind of event caused by the child; and now this event or power or skill was what helped him to create the message knowing that the older him would need to use it now.

  11. Okay, I didnt read what others wrote so I would give what I would do.
    (I know where your comming from- with as far as you have written and not wanting to mess it up! so I wish you lots of luck!)

    I think that the only two ways to go with this is 1. to have forgotten something because it was tramitic. Maybe the kid was adopted after growing up in an abusive home but he still had a stong conection with one parent so he didnt want to fully forget the one who tryed to take care of him? Something of that nature. It usally would be a very large thing that your brain would push out.
    Or 2. That he has time travled in to the time when he was eight and left a message for himself. Seeing that it has not happioned yet he would not remember it. It could have been written like a child so that the adult him wouldnt have taken the message as a prank. The message coule be something as simple as “dont gpo out with this girl” because she trys to kill him lator or as complex as “Go to ‘x’ place to find something and save the world by….” ect. (Ya, I dont know. Im sleepy, but you get the idea.)
    I really hope this helped. I know it can be hard because others do not know what sort of feeling yolur book has so trying to help you can just be frustrating.

    I know its a little lame to say this, but be sure to be true to what you want to write. Writing something just because it sounds good is just as easy to mess up all your work with. Stick to what sounds fun to write about, not what sounds like it would just work well.

    again, good luck!!!!

  12. dont care how old this is.
    have it tell him not to stop being a kid. by that i mean, like stay young, dont grow up, something along those lines. 🙂

  13. Sorry this is 5 years late, but…

    What if the note says, “Don’t go with the red lady.”

    Perhaps he begins to remember an incident when he was young. A red-headed girl in her mid-twenties had been around the house and his parents had kept him away from her and told him to not go near her. And perhaps now he realizes that he has dated or is with that same girl, who doesn’t seem to age. Now what she is and what she does, that’d be up to you. If I go much longer, I might just write this story myself 🙂

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