The making of a novel, part 3—puzzle pieces

Before I put pen to paper, I like to 1) know the characters well and 2) have a decent idea of the major plot points of the story. I don’t need all the specifics, but I want to know the landmarks to be on the lookout for. I knew this book would open sometime before the anniversary of Rae’s father’s death, and I knew the actual anniversary would be the turning point as far as kindness. What I needed to figure out was 1) what she does on that day and 2) what act of kindness someone performs to inspire her to embark on her own crusade of kindness.

The simple act of changing the title from GNR to Bon Jovi answered both of those questions and more. Because I, too, am a fan of Bon Jovi, I knew they were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2018. If Rae’s dad loved 80s rock and loved Bon Jovi in particular, surely he would have wanted to see their exhibit in the Hall of Fame, especially given that Cleveland is only a couple of hours away from Columbus, where my story is set (write what you know). But maybe he died before he got the chance.

So on the anniversary of his death, Rae skips school to go to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and see the Bon Jovi memorabilia in her father’s honor. When she arrives, the exhibit is closed. Despite all her pleading, the person at the ticket counter refuses to let her in. Enter the kind stranger—an employee who sees her huddled on the floor, despondent, and sneaks her in.

The Bon Jovi change also gave me an idea for the opening of the book. Previously, I’d had the idea to use an 80s rock song title to open each chapter. With the Bon Jovi connection, it seemed obvious that the first chapter has to be a Bon Jovi song. And while I’m still not sure about the whole opening scene, I think it makes sense to open with Rae’s musing on the connection between Bon Jovi and her dad. Here’s what I’ve got:

I like to pretend my father’s mortician was Jon Bon Jovi’s grandfather. Granted, we didn’t go to Bongiovi Funeral Home because we don’t live in Raritan, New Jersey, and Bon Jovi’s grandpop is probably dead too, but if somehow Mr. Bongiovi had buried my dad, it would have made him happy.

Now I just need the right song title….

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