Please Unstick My NaNovel for a Good Cause

Ok, folks, I could use your help:

Fact 1: My NaNovel is only 3725 words long at the moment.  Problem?  I’m plotless!

Fact 2: I should have 15000 words by the end of today to be on track.

Fact 3: If between your ideas and my frenetic typing, I manage to make it to 50K words by midnight on November 3oth, I’ll make a $10 donation to Heifer International.  If I make it, I’ll even come back here and take a vote as to what kind of critter (or trees) we should donate.

So, help me get my novel moving forward, and we’ll celebrate by helping families feed and support themselves!  Heifer is my favorite charity, so I’m hoping that pledging to make a donation will give me a kick in the rear I’m rather desperately needing.

Want to help me make this happen?  Give me some plot ideas for my NaNovel, The Down-To-Earth Adventures of an Intergalactic Girl.  Here’s what I have so far:

Back in the 19th century, aliens rescued a bunch of Welsh coal miners from a cave in, and an equal bunch of single mothers from their completely unsupportive society.  The Triplixians wisked these humans away to another galaxy, hoping to gain some real understanding of or species before we took to the stars.  Fast forward 150 years: there is a delegation of human Triplixians at the UN, albeit in secret, and the Welsh government is granting duel citizenship, along with coverstories for human Triplixians returning home.

Ciara (MC) is five Earth years old, but she’s only been on Earth for two days when our story opens.  She and her parents have moved into an urban apartment, and she’s starting at an American kindergarten.  Her mother is part of the UN delegation, and her father (her primary caregiver) is an anthropologist studying xenophobia in species about to leave their home solar systems for the first time.  Also in their family is a pilot/techhead/spy/resource trader who isn’t very well defined yet.

Ciara is a highly intelligent little girl, dealing with both an entirely new culture and her giftedness, which, as we know, isn’t always such a gift!  Her kindergarten teacher is brand new (and full of idealism), and there are two kids in her class that I’m imagining she gets particularly friendly with:

  • José: only child whose mom is an American citizen, but whose Dad had to leave the US and hasn’t been able to return. José is bilingual, and really into explorers and maps.
  • Meredith: third of four children, loves computers, writes music, and has CP that impacts speech and legs, so she’s in Speech Therapy and uses leg braces and crutches.

And that’s pretty much it.  I’m aiming for a middle grades audience, but with adult appeal.  I am open to corny ideas and fantastic ones, based mostly around her unique experience as a kindergarten kid who happens to be new to Earth, and Gifted.  Being alien is my metaphor for her giftedness; there is something about her, but it takes most of the story to figure out WHAT!  I do want both her intergalactic origin and her giftedness to be revealed in the course of the story (hopefully in dramatic ways) but have NO idea how.

So – tell me – what should happen?  What issues should she deal with?  Whom else should she meet?  Are there bad guys?  What are her crises?  I’ll try out ALL ideas given in the comments for at least 250 words each.  That might not sound like much to you, but I’m crawling here, so it helps, believe me!  If you have no ideas at all, you can still comment and say hi – support helps!  Thank you!

 

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23 Responses to Please Unstick My NaNovel for a Good Cause

  1. Greg Strong says:

    I think a great way to start the exploration of her “alien heritage” would be to try and see some of the things we call “normal” through alien eyes. Kind of like in stranger in a strange land when Valentine Micheal Smith meets girls for the first time, or when he went swimming.

    What things do the Triplexians have that earth doesn’t? What constitutes a family in triplexian society? Dies she have knowledge of things that earth children don’t, for instance was she given instruction in stellar sciences.

    Also what if she has a weird pet. Something that looks like a cat for instance, but is really something from another planet that can communicate through telepathy, or is 600 years old, etc.

    As for interesting plot throw aways, maybe on triplexia people’s DNA can be altered so that no one has to have major medical issues like CP, and its her time ever meeting someone who isn’t 100% mobile/normal/etc? (not that people with medical issues are abnormal in any real sense except the physical sense.)

    Just some stuff off the top of my head. Maybe a kernel or two will jive with you and spark an idea or two. 🙂

    • Siggi says:

      See, you and I think alike, Greg. I’ve been wondering if the other adult is a third parent! A pet is interesting… I already have some ideas for tech she knows/doesn’t know, which should be interesting. Thanks Greg!

  2. Carolyn 'n Murph says:

    Murphy read through your story and she feels like Ciara would be sad after leaving all her friends behind and relocating to a strange, new world. She thinks that she’d be feeling lonely. Murph also wanted to add that she’d probably be really excited to discover the joys of hot dogs (dd’s favorite food). 🙂

    From a slightly more adult perspective, I’m thinking that it’s just a matter of time before Ciara encounters your standard Earth-bound bully. Anyone who’s different and doesn’t fit inside the box of typicality is a magnet for those who are low in tolerance, limited in understanding, and oblivious to the joys of being unique. It might be nice if Ciara had a gift or ability that helped those clueless souls to see “the light” when it comes to embracing those who are different vs. shunning them. The bully doesn’t necessarily have to be an agemate to Ciara; I’ve known more than one adult education professional who’s less than tolerant of a child who doesn’t stick to the developmental yardstick.

    Perhaps one of her talents could be the ability to tap into a bully’s mind, forcing them to literally view things from the perspective of their victim? Maybe a less conventional approach would be to allow Ciara to see inside the bully’s mind and she’s able to understand “why” they feel compelled to pick on her for being different…she can then target that specific motivator? Or maybe Ciara could tap into her peace-keeping DNA and use that to teach others who are being bullied how to make it stop? A bit of empowerment for the wee folk.

    Much luck to Ciara & her creator!

    • Siggi says:

      No wild powers other than those of a gifted human, although I have a subplot of dealing with bullies/bigots in her classroom planned. Great minds think alike! 😉

      She’s already discovered gum, but not hot dogs – yet! I’ll obviously have to fix that! Leaving friends behind is a good subject too. Maybe she’ll send some messages home…

      Thanks for the great ideas, ladies! 🙂

  3. dwees says:

    Can I also suggest posting portions of your novel to the http://ficly.com/ service? It’s a site where people can either borrow a portion of your story to make their own (with your permission, of course) or at the very least offer feedback on it. They seem to be pretty encouraging to first time users of the site.

  4. Douglas Hainline says:

    Perhaps, to reveal Ciara’s giftedness, you could have her casually solving maths puzzles, of the type that the late Martin Gardner collected in his various Aha! books. For instance, you could have Ciara repeating (on a cut-down scale) the experience of the young Gauss: a second or third-grade teacher, to keep her class occupied during an arithmetic lesson, gives them the assignment “add all the numbers from 1 to 24 … 1 + 2 + 3 + 4 ….+ 22 + 23 + 24.” with a prize for whoever get s the right answer first. Instead of starting to plod away at this boring task, Ciara thinks for a minute, puts her hand up, and says, “The answer is 300.” The teacher is astounded…. how did she get it so quickly? “Easy,” says Ciara: “1 and 24 make 25. 2 and 23 make 25. 3 and 22 make 25, and so on to 12 and 13. That’s 12 25s, or 3 x 4 x 25 … 4 x 25 is a hundred … three of them are three hundred.”

    There are lots of little tricks like this, to make seemingly-hard problems easy. A good educational system would teach them to kids … to encourage them to see problems in new ways, to think creatively, etc … something which the Triplexians obviously already do.

    • Greg Strong says:

      I think that’s a wonderful idea. An early education in how to see things from various perspectives would indeed be perceived as a gift in later life.

    • Siggi says:

      LOL. I think I was the first to get the 99+1 version of that problem right in about second grade myself. 😉

      Great idea – thank you!

      (I’ll leave out the rant about how some parents deride such things as ‘tricks’ instead of the tools that create the habits of mind of creative problem solving that they are!)

  5. Greg Strong says:

    Also, it might be kind of fun to create a mini language resource and have your main character and her friends use it so they can communicate between each other without the adults knowing what they’re saying.

    • Douglas Hainline says:

      Check out the artificial language created by an anthropologist in the 1950s — phonics from the eight major world languages, and a grammar which is basicallly speakable predicate calculus. It was called “Loglan” (logical language) for a long time. From the Wiki article on it:

      “Loglan is a constructed language originally designed for linguistic research, particularly for investigating the Sapir–Whorf Hypothesis. The language was developed beginning in 1955 by Dr James Cooke Brown with the goal of making a language so different from natural languages that people learning it would think in a different way if the hypothesis were true …

      …Brown intended Loglan to be as culturally neutral as possible, and metaphysically parsimonious, which means that obligatory categories are kept to a minimum. An example of an obligatory category in English is the time-tense of verbs, as it is impossible to express a finite verb without also expressing a tense.
      Also, Brown intended the language to be totally regular and unambiguous. In particular, phonemes that could be confused with each other were to be avoided.
      The language’s grammar is based on predicate logic, which is why it was named Loglan, an abbreviation for “logical language”. This has been thought to make it suitable for human–computer communication, which led Robert A. Heinlein to mention the language in his science fiction novel The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress (1966), and as a fully-fledged computer language in The Number of the Beast (1980).
      Loglan has no distinction between nouns and verbs. The predicate words can serve as verbs, nouns, adjectives or adverbs depending on where they occur in a sentence. Each predicate has its argument structure with places for arguments, which may be variables. For example: vedma, “X sells Y to P for price Q”. Prefixes allow one to reorder the argument structure of predicates, to emphasize one of the variables by putting it first. For example, to make price the first variable, use ju vedma (with the “little word” ju). Similarly, the sentence can be reordered to speak about seller, ware, or buyer. Modifications for time, location, actor, type of action, and others are provided by “little words” which are optional. Predicates can be compounded: a predicate can act as an argument of another predicate, when the former is prefixed by a “little word”.
      The language is designed so that the patterns of phonemes always parse into words uniquely. Even when run together, the words can be separated in only one way. In Loglan, one can directly and precisely say any of the different meanings of the English phrase “a pretty little girls’ school.” This feature is so pronounced that people fluent in Loglan say impossible things as a sort of joke—a type of humor not supported by the linguistic machinery of other languages. For example, in Loglan it is possible to say that John, a person, is literally a short word.
      Loglan has a wide range of words used for expressing emotions and attitudes about what one is saying, but unlike natural languages, these are kept clearly distinct from the actual statements being made. This may be surprising to people who assume that a language based on logic would be computer-like, and devoid of human emotion.”

      • Siggi says:

        This is absolutely fascinating. Thank you!

        Have you read Donna Tartt’s (sp?) book about students of Greek (language of verbs) who murder someone, then start talking about it in English (advectives and nouns) and realize they had other options? Language as paradigm – great stuff!

    • Siggi says:

      Ooh, fun! Although Welsh is pretty much a secret code anyway! >;) She’s already trilingual – Welsh, English and Triplixian. Teaching her friends some Welsh sounds like a fun idea – but I’d have to learn some myself, or save it for December!

  6. Greg Strong says:

    Another idea might be to have family rules, things that are OK to do in the house but not OK to do in normal society. Things that might have been accepted back on Triplixia but are looked down upon on Earth. For instance, maybe her family eats everything with their hands, including spaghetti, but on earth she needs to learn how to use utensils. Any number of interesting things like that.

    Also what was humor like on the home planet? Maybe what she considers funny isn’t the same thing we would. Slap stick might be horrifying for her, while watching someone use a fork makes her giggle. 🙂

    Homesickness.

    How does she understand her family makeup? I can see a chapter where she is asked to draw a picture of her family and its not quite what the teacher was hoping for.

    Festivals. Maybe one of her favorite festivals is taking place in a week or two and she really wants to share it with her friends and classmates, but because she’s trying to pass as an earthling, she can’t.

    Television. I can see her trying to figure out earth society by watching some television and getting some things wrong.

    • Siggi says:

      They’ve been watching LOTS of TV; stuff like she knows what a pencil is, and how to use, it, but not how to sharpen it!

      Humor is a GREAT idea. Lots of GT kids have a wacky sense anyway – this would be a perfect element to add in. Thanks!

      Her family is just that – no suprises there. Festivals are a cool idea. Hm… I’m having a CT scan down in an hour – that will be something fun to think about while I try to ignore how loud the machines are! Thank you!

  7. Douglas Hainline says:

    I think the Triplexians would have great difficulty in distinguishing various sorts of public performances from each other …. for example, slapstick comedy performed in an open-air venue, Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar performed in a theatre, and a session of the US Congress.

    They might not be able to distinguish, except for their ages, say, prisoners wearing orange jump suits on a chain gang mending roads, and schoolchildren in school uniform being herded across the street by a teacher on the way to visit a museum.

  8. Greg Strong says:

    I like the idea of the not being able to distinguish between certain groups. It would make for an interesting chapter whereby the main character was on her way home or something and saw prisoners cleaning the streets or something and went up and start asking questions about schools and education in later life. It could be comical or very tense depending on the situation and people involved.

  9. Greg Strong says:

    It might also be interesting to say that the off-worlders make certain relationships, such as friendships, eternal or are of extra importance to them. And it might make an interesting chapter to have your main character make friends with one of the children and follow that guideline, and later have the secondary character do something wrong that threatens the friendship. Maybe s/he sides with other children in the class who pick on the main character as a way to “fit in” and the MC has to try to figure out the human condition and come to terms with what she grew up in is different from what Earth children have to go through.

    We all know that the first 5 years of your life are the foundation of your being, so she would potentially be very different from earth children. If she is even slightly different someone will be picking on her. Maybe the off-worlders really like to mix and match fashions, so the MC likes to wear plaid socks and paisley dresses with checked sweaters, and on Triplix its the height of fashion, but here its atrocity (unless of course your scottish.) 🙂

    • Siggi says:

      Hey, I resemble that remark, in both heritage and fashion sense! 😉

      Great points – thank you! Gotta dash – be back to digest these more later. Thank you, Gentlemen!

  10. Greg Strong says:

    Another idea I had, if it isn’t too early to introduce to children, is gender identity. I believe, if I recall correctly, that Tech was a Triplixian. As a member of an alien race, maybe s/he looks for all intent and purposes human, but either has no definable gender or is a third gender. So it would be kind of interesting to try and explain his/her identity within the family environment. Also to expound on the earlier idea about plural parenting, what is his/her relationship to Mom and Dad? A fully functioning adult relationship, ie. sexual and romantic, or some type of live in Godparent.

    • Greg Strong says:

      Ohh, once you define the role, what would happen if you took the character away? Maybe, Tech gets called back to the home world for some reason,or can’t live within Earths’ atmosphere and must leave or s/he’ll die. Another story element that would introduce the possibility of loss of a major parent and how a child could or would deal with that. And to add another really interesting layer to it, she still had two parents, but no one realizes how attached she was to her third parent.

  11. Greg Strong says:

    For the translation aspects, if you wanted to get some ideas for different languages without actually learning said languages, google has a great translation program that will translate entire paragraphs for you. translate.google.com Also, if you’d like to use the phonetic spelling you can hear quite a few words actually spoken by native speakers on forvo.com. Unfortunately, you’d have to go word by word on forvo though and it doesn’t really help with sentence structure.

  12. Greg Strong says:

    A couple of homages to geek would kind of fun too. Like I can picture her watching Star Trek and then going to use a computer, picking up the mouse and saying ” Computer, show me .. . . . . ” and trying to figure out why it wasn’t working.

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