Another “What If” Session: The Haunted Library

Since I like to talk about all points in the writing process, today will be another brainstorming session for a new project.  I have to keep my hands and brain busy while my devoted friends are hammering my novel to bits!

So I’ve decided to build on the Gothic Library post I mentioned last week.  I don’t know that I’m going to end up incorporating any of these prompts/suggestions directly.  But I’ve been reading a lot of fantastical stuff lately (I’m just about to start the third book in Deborah Harkness’ All Souls Trilogy, so I’m up to my ears in vampires and witches) and I’ve become attached to the idea of setting a romance (duh, it’s what I do) in a haunted or otherwise mystical-magical library.

So, let’s try to construct some logical questions and see how the answers go.

  1. Who are my main characters?  I feel like I want the bulk of the story to take place within the library, so it makes sense for at least one, if not both, of my romantic leads to be librarians.  If only one, I imagine the other would start out as a new patron and transition to becoming a regular (and the love interest) as the story progresses.  So I already have two ways to go; right now I’ll focus on having them both work at the library.  I can always come back to the librarian/patron combo later if this doesn’t pan out.
  2. So they’re both librarians.  How do they meet?  This one’s easy.  One has worked there for years and the other one just got hired to replace a retiring colleague.  Or possibly a deceased one, whose ghost still lingers.  Yeah, I like that.
  3. If the library is haunted, how can anyone tolerate working there?  Because everyone who works there has some sort of supernatural ability–the library itself rejects candidates who are mundane.  Or the ghosts do.  I’m not leaning towards making my characters into magic-users to the degree of formal witchcraftmore of psychic quirks and limited powers.
  4. Such as? I got caught up in the idea of telepathic touch.  One of my librarians can read minds, but only with skin-to-skin contact.  Which makes her (or him, I haven’t decided which of them to give it to) take precautions to avoid touching people, like wearing long sleeves no matter what the weather is, and wearing gloves at all times.  Which she could pass off as protecting the books, or lie about, saying she’s covering up scars.  As for other quirks…telekinesis would be handy to reshelve books quickly.  I’m sure I’ll think of more.
  5. What are the obstacles to this romance?  Well, one partner’s reluctance to touch would certainly be a start.  On top of that…the new librarian, living in a new and strange town, feels off-balance about everything in his life as he tries to settle in, and his sudden, somewhat inexplicable feelings towards his strange coworker don’t reassure him that starting over will be easy.
  6. Starting over?  Why’s he starting over?  His power got him into trouble in his old life.  Since I haven’t assigned who has what power quite yet, this one will have to stay vague, but I’m sure it will be a snap to flesh out once I’ve settled everyone’s quirks.
  7. So how does the romance begin? The library decides they’re perfect for each other!  They’re both reshelving books on a quiet night and the shelves themselves move, boxing them together in the romance section.  Hmmm.  That might be too heavy-handed.  Maybe the ghosts steal things from her desk and hide them in his, so that he has to keep bringing them back to her.  Or they lock him in the book sale room near closing time one night, so that he has to call her to let him out.  Oh, those wacky ghosts!

There’s still plenty of work to do–names and character histories, putting together their personalities and families; grounding this odd library in an equally odd town, where things are out of the ordinary but no one ever raises much of a fuss about it; and coming up with some sort of extra-romantic conflict as well, something about the library itself (since it’s so important to the story) to drive the plot forward in addition to the romance.  That, I haven’t worked out yet, but most of the bones of the story are there.

I like this.  I think I’ll keep working on it for a while.

3 thoughts on “Another “What If” Session: The Haunted Library

    1. It’s funny you should say that, because I consider myself a pantser. But I’m making an effort to be more organized! Beginning with one obvious question and letting the answer lead to the next one is a method I’ve only just started using, but it feels more natural to me than heavily-structured approaches like the Snowflake method.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I looked at the snowflake method once and said, “Nope!” Just the idea of that method (or any heavily structured method) makes me feel like I’m about to break out in hives.

        Liked by 1 person

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