Writing Romance: The Danger of Plotting in Restaurants

(Author’s Note: In this humorous True Tale from my Writer’s Life, all names were changed.)


So there we sat, two innocent but extremely vocal writers, brainstorming the plot for my Romantic Suspense. We were meeting for brunch at a restaurant — we’ll call this eatery, “Benny’s.”

On this particular day, Patty had graciously agreed to reschedule her morning itinerary of laundry-folding and sock-matching to act as my brainstorming buddy.   

The Power of Patty

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When I get stuck and can’t make sense of the convoluted plot for my new series, I bribe Patty with free meals. Patty is a published Romance novelist, who’s well-read in every genre. That means Patty understands how the rusty cogs turn in the minds of New York editors. This is an important trait in a brainstorming buddy. 

But Patty’s most important credential as a plotting consultant is her sense of humor. To put it mildly, Patty is a hoot!

The Caper Begins

Picture the scene as my accomplice and I prepared for our brainstorming mission…

Patty and I drove to the restaurant in separate cars. We arrived incognito (no pens, no notebooks). We were seated at a central table, in the busiest section of the eatery. We decided to pig-out on mega-mounds of pancakes (laden with whipped cream.) We figured this healthy meal would improve our abilities to brainstorm.

It was approximately 10 a.m. on a weekday, during the latter half of Breakfast Rush. Fellow Austinites were crammed into booths and tables that were roughly 13 inches from my elbow. Servers were squeezing by with humongous trays loaded with waffles, sausage, and every conceivable variety of cooked eggs.

Don’t Try This at Home

During the following incident, I’d like to note (in my defense) that I was guzzling my third coffee (the sugar-loaded, caffeinated kind.)  My conversation with Patty went something like this:

A:  I need to get rid of (S).

P:  Who’s this guy again?

A:  You know. The one who slept with (J).

P:  Oh yeah. Now I remember.

A:  I hate him! I need him to die!

P:  As long as there’s plenty of motivation . . .

A:  Oh, there’s motivation, all right. I’m sick of him.

P:  You thinking about bullets?  

A:  Naw. Something slow and torturous.

P:  How ‘bout putting a box of scorpions under the sheets? 

A:  Eew!

P:  Suffocation by pillow?

A:  Risky.  He’d be a flailer.  

P:  Worried about phlegm on the Egyptian cotton?

A:  Get serious!

P:  Uh . . . right.  How ’bout death cap?  

A:  I don’t have time to research fatal mushrooms. ‘Sides. Poison’s much too tidy. 

P:  No guts, no gory, right?

A:  (Laughs)  

P:  Well, if you want to kill him in a grisly way, make it big and splashy. Like a grenade down his pants.

A:  That’s it! Exploding body parts. No traceable corpse . . .  I like the way you think!  He’ll go out with a bang! Thanks, Patty!  An explosion would be a great way to kill him. I can’t wait to get home!

At this precise moment, the restaurant hushed. At least forty pairs of eyes drilled into me. Mouths were gaping. Forks were hovering. Pancake syrup was dripping from the dirty dishes that our server was balancing above my shoulder.

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Patty never missed a beat. As cool as the proverbial cuke, Patty looked up at our distraught server and drawled, “Check please. My friend has a busy day ahead.”

Now you can appreciate why I call Patty when I need to brainstorm. Patty’s the perfect partner for making a scene – and writing one. 😉 


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