We are back to Erin’s NanoWrimo. Much thanks to Mod R for chatting a bit more with Erin to gather background info.
Erin’s world is a place where magic is relatively mundane. Some people have the ability to sense the energy or the patterns within the world and can manipulate it in minor ways, but nobody summons fiery tornadoes or conjures up a Thanksgiving feast by winking. A chef might have a minor magic talent, though, that helps them make better food. You might find a magic vet, magic landscaper, and so on.
Erin’s character is a therapist.
I asked about licensing. Therapists in our world have a number of specialties.
Magic therapists in Erin’s world would be licensed and have their own certification.
Like how I don’t have the ability to prescribe medication so I just don’t, and instead I do other forms of therapy and refer my clients to psychiatrists for their meds. This would be like a psychiatrist. They have an extra skill that the therapist doesn’t have, but the con is that a lot of the work they do is narrowly focused on leveraging that skill so their sessions are more focused on that one thing whereas mine can wander wherever the client wants, and though we have a treatment plan and goals, we have no pressure. Whereas going to the witch, she will listen to what you’re going through and be explorative, but part of her is always thinking “okay what do I DO about this”
Neat idea, right?
There is no extreme hared toward magic users, there is no great divide between them and normal people, there are no demonic magics, etc. There are no scary magical creatures or inhuman races. It’s a cozy world.
This is where things get fuzzy.
There’s a slight romantic interest with her office neighbor who is a detective. He talks to her about one of his cases, because people will share and ask her for advice in her off time and she’ll try to give him some minor witchy help. Over the course of this book, both the reader and the protagonist start to suspect that one of her clients is involved in the crime the detective is talking about. This client suspect won’t end up being the perpetrator, but will be involved in a different way which will lead them to the solution (the how and why is hazy here).
Okay, so we have the therapist-witch. We have the detective. I’m assuming this is a police detective. We have some sort of crime being committed. We need to tie this all together with a pretty bow.
I understand that this is a cozy world, but high stakes are always good. Some wrong must be committed. Some injustice has occurred. The writer starts with this injustice and then spends the novel using the protagonist to fix it.
There are levels of crime we can play with here. The scale goes somewhat like this: vandalism, theft, fraud, assault, sexual assault, kidnapping, and murder. Most female audience actually rearrange it like so: vandalism, theft, fraud, assault, murder, kidnapping, sexual assault. Murder in fiction is easier to deal with than sexual assault. There are all sorts of cultural reasons for that and we won’t go into them.
So something bad happened. It’s obvious why a detective would be involved. He is investigating the bad thing that occurred. But how are we going to plug the therapist in?
Erin above mentioned that one of clients might be a suspect. If the detective comes to our therapist from the start and tells her that one of her clients is a suspect, the entire novel will consist of the therapist wrestling with ethical dilemma it raises and trying to either remain impartial or steer the therapy sessions toward those topics. (Most detectives would not do this. Police procedure prevents police personnel from discussing ongoing investigations and a PI would take their client’s confidentiality very seriously, so we will need to give the detective a very good reason to share that information.)
We are now locked into the setting of the therapist’s office. The reader – and probably the writer – will get bored unless we really crank up tension during these sessions, and this is not that kind of world. Nobody is going to be asking people about their lambs. We need to look for the alternative way to insert our therapist into the investigation.
There are three most common ways a civilian becomes involved in a criminal investigation: they are a victim, a witness, or an expert. We are going to be taking two possible scenarios, one with more severe crime and the other with less severe. We don’t know what crime has been committed yet.
I am now going to spin off several plotlines. You are free to use them, change them, or discard them. These are just examples for educational purposes.
Severe crime: the witch witnesses an assault on another witch therapist. She sees the face of the perpetrator and she is now in danger. The detective urges her to lay low, but she has patients who depend on her.
Minor crime: the witch witnesses a kidnapping of another witch’s pet. This is the kind of world where there might be familiars, pets that form a deeper bond with magical owners. Bonus points if the familiar is an especially trained therapy animal, highly trained and expensive, which makes this matter a grand theft. The witch is outraged and pressures the detective neighbor to help her and take this case seriously.
This is a little trickier because we will need to give our witch some sort of magical talent that lets her become someone useful to the investigation. But people like competence, so this would also be a lot of fun.
Severe crime: witch therapists are being murdered and the perpetrator is leaving a particular arrangement of crystals at the scene. Our therapist had studied crystal usage in the course of her degree and she is especially attuned to that particular type of crystal so her former professor, who sometimes consults on police matters, recommends her to the police detective.
Minor crime: the offices of witch therapists are being vandalized with a colorful magic graffiti that form a specific pattern. Our witch specialist is an expert in color and pattern meditation and is called in to decipher the drawings and try to figure out what the vandal was hoping to accomplish.
This is the most personal way to involve someone in the investigation.
Severe crime: our witch therapist is walking home and someone attempts to pull her into the car. She fights off her attacker and when she files the police report, the detective tells her that she is the latest in the series of assaults on witch therapist and that the perpetrator will likely return to finish what he started.
Minor crime: our therapist borrows a very important magical doohickey – crystal, artifact, painting, etc – to treat a particular patient. It’s stolen and she must get it back at all costs. She files a police report, but police are giving it very low priority, so she asks the detective for help.
Where we go from here comes down to personal preference. For example, Witness, Severe Crime scenario can be written as a tense police drama while Victim, Minor Crime can be a comedy with hijinks and amateur detecting.
If I were writing this, I would probably tie up all three. Suppose our witch has the power of insight. It’s a kind of subtle but oddly useful power and it would fit in with low magic worldbuilding. She can feel an imprint left on the environment by strong emotions. In addition, she has a kind of magic instinct that steers her toward the right path. It’s nothing dramatic, but if she is dropped off in an unfamiliar part of the city, she can easily find her way home because it simply feels right.
Suppose our witch has a best friend, another witch therapist with a slightly different specialization. They were due to have lunch, but the friend doesn’t show up. Our witch becomes concerned and goes to her friend’s office. That immediately tells us that she is a likeable, loyal, and sympathetic person.
The witch gets to the friend’s office and finds it empty. There is an odd arrangement of crystals on the table and a shockingly powerful emotional imprint of rage and anguish. Her friend’s purse and phone are in the office but she is nowhere to be seen. The witch becomes very alarmed and heads straight to the police station. She is placed into a room and is very surprised when her neighbor comes in. She always low key suspected that he was something like MMA fighter or perhaps some kind of criminal because she kept seeing him with a sour expression and bruises on his face.
The neighbor detective asks her some questions and she tries her best to explain why she is concerned.
Severe crime: At the end, the detective explains that therapist witches have been disappearing and he needs her help to make sense of it. With this storyline, I would probably have someone kidnapping witches because the perpetrator became convinced that he can somehow do high magic through this ritual that requires witches. I would let our witch and detective thwart the perpetrator’s efforts, but leave the outcome slightly ambiguous. Like you wouldn’t know if the ritual would have worked or if it wouldn’t have.
Less severe crime: the detective tells our therapist that her friend had called earlier and wanted to come in and talk to someone about a crime. As the two of them do more research, they discover that the witch’s friend has discovered one of the leading witch therapists is guilty of financial fraud. He kidnapped her and stashed her in his cabin, where she is trapped by a crystal and herb arrangement into a kind of magical coma until he figured out how to solve this problem.
A lot of this hinges on the detective. Is our detective a police detective or a PI? Is he grumpy and reluctant or is he a boy scout ready to help? In Gordon’s version, our witch’s neighbor was a retired detective who worked as a PI and he has been killed. His partner, a younger detective whom he trained before retiring from the force, takes the case.
So, Erin, your homework assignment now is to write back to me and tell me what kind of crime has been committed and what role will your therapist play.
Wow. No wonder you are writers. Is this how a mind works? Just, wow.
“Just, wow” is right!
My mind certainly doesn’t work like this and that’s why I’m not a writer!
Erin E. Durst says
My mind doesn’t either and I’m not either but I’m learning from them and giving it a shot! JOIN US
+1 These insights are really fun to read.
I don’t know how you made that so interesting but that was fascinating. With such a clear process it’s no wonder your books are so well written!
If it was me, I would go with the currently employed by the police detective, wanting to investigate the murder of his mentor, the retired cop, but is forbidden to do so by his superiors. Conflict of interest, “You’re a good cop, McGee, but you’re too close to this thing. Back off, that’s an order!” Yeah, I watch way too many cop movies. Anyway, so he still works with the therapist but it’s on the DL and at some point, he has to choose between his career and justice. Prologue: he’s fired but inherited the P.I business from his friend and now, he’s her detective neighbor and possible hunny bunny.
Patricia Schlorke says
This is interesting since I am reading Naked In Death by J.D. Robb (aka Nora Roberts). I just read the part where Eve Dallas was telling her commander about the case when the subject of Roarke came up. Remember, Eve and Roarke are not married yet, and he’s on the short list of suspects. She keeps her badge, but it’s close since the chief of police at the time is butting heads with her.
For those who have not read this book, I am not going to say too much more about it since I don’t want to spoil the plot and other things from the story. 😀
First in a long line of In Death books by J.D. Robb. All of them good.
Love the In Death series! Eve kicks butt and Roarke is drool worthy- a bit of good cop and bad boy as a side to the murder mystery
I love seeing your versions and Ilona’s versions and the different ways the story can play out! ????
Erin D says
::scribbles notes furiously::
But knowing your writing, it wouldn’t be as stereotypical as a cop movie ????. I like a little rule-breaking in my heros but have a definite preference for strong heroines.
I’ve been reading Amanda Quick’s (Jayne Ann Krentz) “Close Up” with a PI of sorts and I like a mystery with a little romantic interest. I think the romantic scenes between the action scenes help with the story pace. And every good cop needs a hunny bunny ???? Oh, Julie Garwood usually does a good FBI (cop-ish) with a female lead and a murderer/mystery. Sadly, no magic though.
Merry Marcellino says
Oh nice story so far! Is the detective magical or mundane?
Erin D. says
I think probably mundane.
In this world about 20% of the population has “magic,” which really an extra sense that allows them to sense fields/vibrations/patterns. This is based on a lot of research I did between the first blog post and now; apparently, there is a rudimentary ability that humans have maintained to sense magnetic fields (this ability shows up in other animal species to a greater degree). Research is also narrowing into the idea that all matter and all things, including consciousness itself, is vibrations in fields. These fields are interconnected. Here’s an excerpt from the research I’ve been doing to form this world:
“Hunt and Schooler suspect that every physical object, including you, is vibrating and oscillating. The more synchronized these vibes are, the more complex our connection with the world around us, and the more sophisticated our consciousness. The “resonance theory of consciousness” they present posits that synchronized vibrations are central not only to human consciousness but to all of physical reality.
“All things in our universe are constantly in motion, vibrating,” Hunt writes. “Even objects that appear to be stationary are in fact vibrating, oscillating, resonating, at various frequencies. Resonance is a type of motion, characterized by oscillation between two states. And ultimately all matter is just vibrations of various underlying fields.” When different oscillating things are close together for a time, they begin to vibrate in sync. That applies to neurons in brains, fireflies gathering, the Moon and Earth, and much more. This phenomenon is called “spontaneous self-organization.” The synchronization is a kind of physical communication between entities.”*
So in my world, “witches” are just people who a) have the ability to sense these fields/vibrations and connections, and b) have trained to learn ways to manipulate them.
I love the idea of one in five having this extra sense! I want to read your book when it’s done 🙂
Erin D says
I’ll be happy to let you do so, but I am not joking when I say I’m not a writer. I haven’t written a thing in my life! The result of this exercise will NOT be Ilona Andrews quality to say the least. Maybe some fanfic writers will be able to take my story and do something great with it?!
Erin, the idea of the book is fascinating!
And it’s your idea – so, please go further and write, learning and polishing, step by step.
Keep us informed, if possible and not too much pressure – sending good vibes (yes!) your way.
Fascinating – but better you than I.
Alas, I would plot in clichés. It is not that I prefer that kind of story, though I do have a high tolerance for it. When the story takes a twist as I read, I am usually surprised, but always pleased. (I never expect the “usual” story from House Andrews. Thank you.)
One of my favorite cosy mysteries has the amateur detective / heroine trying to exonerate the actual criminal for 90% of the book. I really did *not* see that one coming the first time I read it. Since I reread the series to visit with old friends, I did eventually figure out that the author gave us the clues all along. I was just following the expected plot line and missed them.
(If any one cares, the author is Donna Andrews and I am not telling which one of her soon-to-be 30 mysteries this is the plot of. Enjoy, if you try her books out.)
Ditto: wow! How much time was spent putting together the different plot lines, please?
I am only allowing 1 hour of work per blog post because we are trying ot go full speed on Ruby Fever so about 30 minutes this morning writing it, and another 30 minutes on proofreading and then talking to Gordon about it.
You are very generous with your time for the blog, and all of us fans, and I really appreciate all you put into it! Thank you! ????
+1 to above! And it’s so neat to see more of the process you all use to brain storm!
Erin D. says
So generous. I’m struggling to be able to express how grateful I am, but I’ll do my best to pay it forward.
I love all your blog posts, no matter what the topic, as I’m often not only entertained but educated.
I enjoy all your blog posts, whether entertaining or educational.
Thank you for your generosity!
Wow, expert level! I was riveted and was interested in most of those scenarios (had to go back and read the first post because I’m behind but am intrigued about a month of word vomit), especially the way you laid it out. I don’t think my brain organizes that way but it loves reading it! Thank you for taking the time to break down all the possibilities.
Patricia Schlorke says
It’s amazing to take a peek behind the writing curtain to see what goes into creating a book. Thank you!
Bliss Crimson the Mooncatx says
My brain kind of spaced out midway of the exercise description. For me, the meat and drink of a fiction I read for enjoyment is the characterization, the voice of the protagonist as the meet and deal with whatever the plot is.
For me this is too dry because I get nothing of the personality of who we are supposed to be following. I’m willing to read almost anything, from doing laundry to walking the dog, so long as the character doing the actions is interesting to me 🙂
But it was kind of neat to see your story construction process, and the reasoning behind it all. Thank you for taking the time and the effort to share this with us!
Moderator R says
This is a worldbuild and plot tutorial ????. Character development is a different exercise.
Linzi Day says
I was just about to say exactly that ModR – but I’m really looking forward to the character and particularly side character bits for my own nanowrimo – for some reason naming is a stupidly HUGE thing for me. I’m mentioning it in case anyone has any insights when we get to the character bits :begging face:
Erin D. says
Linzi, you should add me as a buddy on nanowrimo’s website so we can support each other when writing starts! My name on there is therawitch
I think this is one of the most fascinating threads you have posted not only because it is a tiny glimpse into how your stories come together but it makes it so so obvious that you have been writing stories for a long time. I often think of authors in terms of the books they have published, rather than writers who could use their expertise to literally crank out a proper story about anything.
Oh wow. I love this! My mind kept going wild for each different scenario. Love it.
Lol…my mind spun in a different direction, therapist is maybe empathy, with a twist…client earlier victim with info unreported, detective upset, therapist has to get the upset detective to talk and with what the client knows… squirrel, what book had an empathic…oh not a book Dina Troy, Star Trek…hmm space haven’t reread sweep the blade or kinsmen in awhile..so going to relisten to Hugh books instead
I also gonne imediatly into empath in my head when I started reading lol
this is really useful and fascinating to see how the planning stages/different methods/elements of a story come together. It’s also adding a realistic element – there really are only three ways a person becomes involved in a crime if they’re a lay person and not law enforcement [I was going to say you should add attorney/legal person in there as well, but we rarely come into an investigation at the beginning, only the ‘we’ve found our guy’ stage. unless they get the wrong guy, but that’s a whole different story then].
I like the cozy magical world building. It’s hard to find those, but they can be really enjoyable.
Cozy and low-stakes is hard to make interesting. I’ve seen it done well (e.g. Amberleaf Fair, The Sword Smith, Engine Summer) – but in those cases the milieu is generally more important than the plot.
Wow your writer brains leave me in awe. This is the kind of thinking I would love to develop! It’s clear HA have been working at their craft for years.
Polina Makeeva says
I liked most the variant where she is surprised to see the detective and thought he was a criminal, so avoided him.
He could then ask her insight on this case. If it’s a fraud/theft then he probably has other cases he can ask help with.
How does the witch kidnapper knows the person is a real witch? After all the magic is subtle, so many people would claim to be one.
Erin E. Durst says
I think it’s going to be something like that. He relates to her a troubling issue with the case which he’s challenged by–without giving away too much–and she says, “Well, you can hire a witch. Some of us work in forensics.” He says, “Hey, you should come take a look at it.” “Oh, no, that’s not really what I do….” Etc
Iris Johansen’s Eve Duncan series and spin offs involve police, agents, PI, forensics that call upon characters who have talents and abilities that go beyond the usual or norm and become involved with the different crimes, criminals, investigations, etc. It is good reading and may also inspire ideas, though not a magical world.
I really wish the writing challenge was not in November… that is the busiest time at my job. Summer’s are much better… though our summer is another’s winter depending on location.
Lynn Thompson says
Hmm, thank you, Ilona Andrews for the thoughtful and thought provoking post.
I hope you realize that my fellow BDH will want a novella before long. Or more likely a short story in an anthology. ????. I know you are just helping out a fellow human. ????
Reminds me of Eric Flint compilation of James H Schmitz ecology stories. I still ponder them from time to time with what if. And it’s been over a decade since I read them.
May I ask what was the title of this compilation? Thank you to the others who mentioned the other book titles. I am enjoying your recommendations.
I have always loved being walked through one’s thinking process. It’s what I try to get my English composition students to consciously do. Thank you for the insightful trip.
Erin D says
Wow. I don’t even know what to say except to echo the amazement and fascination from the above. I’ve been doing a lot of research into possible ways the witch’s magic could work since the last post and now this really helps me torn my mind to plot. You’ve given me SO MUCH to think about that i wouldn’t have and I’m so excited and grateful. Will write back to you and Mod R as soon as I can! For everyone out there following, i am not a writer by nature, so if i can do it, you can too. The NaNoWriMo site has resources and a feature where you can add friends, so if anyone wants to join for your own project or to follow along, let’s be “friends”
I would be super interested. I’m not sure I’d do the writing, but I would love to read about what you’re about to write.
Though I have thought about doing it… So we’ll see. I can word vomit, but I vary between trashy romance and fantasy.
Sounds like fun! I’m going to check it out and see if I can word vomit on a regular schedule for a month lol. I better practice. I have done the 750 words in the past but this is double that challenge. Thanks for putting your idea in a fishbowl for us to look at!
Linzi Day says
Don’t forget to let us all know your nanowrimo name Erin so we can add you
Erin D. says
Therawitch! Please do add me!
That thud you heard was my jaw hitting the floor. #mindblown
Thank you so much for taking the time to share, educate and amaze!
The breakdown of the building blocks of a story is fascinating.
Love you guys!!
Wow! Just wow.
Another interesting blog! Hoping there’s a part three.
RT Boyce says
I am thinking the therapist arrives at her office one morning to find her door busted open and the detective wrestling someone to the ground, right in her office’s magic circle, so she gets a high-intensity “read” of both of them before the person breaks free and runs away. And the detective’s office was being burgled for an Important Thing, there was a chase into her office, and now she’s involved. And might have crucial info for the detectives case, if she can puzzle through the mixed impressions she got. And therefore she might also be at risk…
Hm, that might be way too noir. But I was enjoying the reverso idea of the detective being in the dame’s office
Thank you for letting us come along on this writing journey – its so fun to watch!!
WOW – this was fun! It’s hard enough to focus on the accounts this morning but now my mind has gone into space orbit, not coming back down for anyone taxes! So many possibilities and tangents.
Thank you for the journey.
Inga Abel says
I don`t even write, I just love to read – and now I am terrified of getting homework!!!
Good luck to Erin!
Greets from Switzerland!
***possible spoiler for blood heir? I seems to recall guidance saying one should ask a question on any blog post even if it isn’t related. Please let me know if I’m wrong. In the meantime is there a snippet somewhere that is concurrent with Blood Heir of Kate kind of indicating that she realizes Julie is nearby but respects Julie’s choice not to come home? If so, I’d love to have the link. If I hallucinated it, let me know that too ????
Moderator R says
You did not hallucinate, here is Sandra 🙂 https://ilona-andrews.com/2021/sandra/
Fascinating to read and ponder over. There are interesting alleys to explore for each option.
This seems as if it could make one heck of a party game.
Omg, go Erin for being brave enough to ask you guys. HA is so engaging and encouraging but I could never in a million years put forth my writing ideas to you. HA are experts and I cringe looking at my own thoughts written down sometimes. This is like having to sing in front of a successful singer or speak a foreign language in front of a native speaker.
Good luck, Erin!
Erin D. says
I wasn’t!! I wrote a comment that I had thought about asking them but then realized that first of all, they would never have time to help, and secondly wouldn’t be interested in helping some random reader, and thirdly I am not a writer anyway so probably a lost cause. Ilona saw the comment and volunteered. It seems that other readers are enjoying me as a case study, so it all worked out. I never should have underestimated the kindness of HA!
I love this world, character concept of a witch therapist, (as a therapist myself would love to gain some magic to help in a different way 🙂 great idea Erin!
Wonderful to see an author’s thought process on this, so creative.
Erin D. says
Thank you! I’m a therapist too, and “write what you know” was chiefly responsible for making that choice. I also use tarot cards in session, NOT as magic (I personally don’t believe in that element of them) but as a brainstorming stimulation device, so not afraid to be a little witchy. (my clients love this technique btw, it always elicits an interpretation that reveals what they were secretly or subconsciously feeling anyway)
Hi Erin! I was thinking about your research about frequencies and vibrations and the word, Resonance, came to me. Perhaps as a title or name of series or what the ability does or is, but the idea of being able to tune into different frequencies or vibrations has a lot of potential and what a person can pick up is where their talent and ability lies, also where and what it could possibly grow and develop into. Could possibly affect relationships also if you want some good or bad ones developed in the story… perhaps between the therapist and the detective in a really nice way? Wink wink!
Iris Johansen has some elements in her Eve Duncan series and spin offs of that series that often has detectives, police, FBI, agents, etc., being helped by people with abilities and talents beyond the norm, though not magical, but more developed, psychic or intuitive in nature. It does take place here which leads me to the question: would this be here or on another planet? In the present or future? Any romance?
I wish November, December also, was not the busiest time at my job, this sounds like so much fun! I googled how many pages are 50,000 words to just get an idea, and understand font, size and other things can affect it, but the answer was approximately 165 pages.
Erin D. says
To be honest, that word had jumped out at me too, in the research I did. I was a little afraid to use it because of the “post-shift resonance” term that IA use. But then Mod R. reminded me that it’s not like I’m publishing this, so I shouldn’t worry about being a little copy-cattish.
This is in an alternate version of our world. It will be quite familiar, but with some tweaks. For example, courtroom bailiffs would have to be witches, because part of their duty would be monitoring the courtroom for energetic interference with the jurors, judges, witnesses etc. Otherwise, witches could really mess with some shit.
I believe the detective–I’ve decided actually he’s going to be an FBI agent assigned to RICO cases–will be a romantic interest for our MC.
I haven’t read the Eve Duncan books, but I appreciate the referral! I will check it out.
Taylor H says
Super interesting and educational! Thank you for the insight 🙂
Wishing you so much fun Emily & all the NaNoWriMo participants!
Really loving this series of posts, thank you so much for taking the time and sharing! Just fascinating.
Would not be mad if this became an annual project, each NaNoWriMo is a different trope/story type… ????
My witch therapist would witness something on the way home from work. Maybe they are feeling self-doubt or regret because after consulting with some colleagues ( hello coven that meets at Panera) they realize that a particular client will be better served by a different therapist and they are struggling with letting go as well as knowing it is better for the client though there will be initial resistance. Then they get a text saying their teen ‘borrowed’ something from the office but don’t worry everything is fine! The client is involved in something bigger than the therapist and co. realize and it starts a hero’s journey for meaning, forgiveness, and a better coffee machine for the office. Also, wands and kabooms.
Erin D. says
I feel like you must be a therapist yourself ????
I am! 🙂 I hope you enjoy the process of writing and have fun. I love your concept and there is so much fantastic potential. Sneak a Kaboom in for me? 😀
Melisa M. says
I love these first two posts so much. This is fascinating and so generous of you guys.