Novel writing obsession: Part 2

If you remember last year, both my Bride and I sign up for (inter)National Novel Writing Month or NaNoWriMo for short.

One of us won. One of us didn't. And for the last nine months, my Bride has taken every opportunity to remind me of my trouncing. Seriously. Any reminder of novels, or writing, or months, and she works it into the conversation:

Me: Hey - what do you want to eat for dinner tonight?
Bride: Hmm. I think I'm in the mood for Chinese.
Me: Do you want me to cook? Or would you like me to pick it up on the way home?
Bride: Why don't you just pick it up on the way? And be sure to order a side of I kicked your ass in NaNoWriMo while you're at it!

This year, I'm determined to win. Now all I need is a really good idea for a novel. Or a really bad idea that uses a lot of words. (Remember, it's quantity, not quality).

After months where I couldn't bear to look at what I had written in my first entry, I have finally gone back and looked at what I banged out last November. I think it was a fairly decent core idea - my Bride and I were both writing the same story, from different first person perspectives. Loosely based on people and places we know, it was the story of a young family who moved from California to a small town in Appalachia after the death of the husband's grandmother. Basing on characters and areas we were familiar with gave us plenty of fodder for writing (at times, I didn't even bother changing the names of the participants. My mother, for example. I ask you: how the heck are you going to come up with a better name than Patsy Lavelle?)

I share with you an excerpt of the story below. The first 20,000 words or so takes place in or around the funeral home, as Granny Louise had recently died:

"Here, Daddy. I got this for Matthew." Bernie appeared at my side, stick in one hand, and something dark in the other. She pushed whatever it was into the stroller's tray next to the her sleeping brother's bottle of juice, and stood proudly, confident that she was the most generous big sister in the world.

Florizel took one look at it and turned green. She jerked the stroller back fast and the lump of whatever it was fell off with a thud. "Bernie! That's not for playing with!"

I looked down at the black bundle at my feet. Apparently Bernadette had been playing with a dead bird for the last twenty minutes or so. Kids are great.

Florizel had already dug into the apparently bottomless bag of kid-gear we carried everywhere with us. I was confident that she could de-tox anything up to and including a Chernobyl-level even if called upon to do so. I grabbed Bernadette by the stick hand. "Let's leave the dead bird alone and go wash your hands, kiddo." I toed the bird to one side and out of the immediate child-arm-reach area. "I've got this one, Bing - I'll be back in a bit."

My wife hardly glanced up, except to see that I had removed the carcass from the danger zone. She had a forest of handi-wipes and a spray bottle I hadn't known was in the bag out and was dousing the stroller, the tray, and probably would start soon on our son, lest he have inadvertently touched the air around the carcass in his sleep. "Throw this out." She handed me the juice bottle as I walked away.

Bernadette looked at the bottle as we walked back towards the funeral home entrance. "Why does Mommy want you to throw that out, Daddy?"

"Because it's dirty now, honey."

"Because the bird got on it?"

"Yes honey. Dead things are dirty."

"Oh." She trailed her stick through the gravel. "Is Granny Louise dirty, Daddy?"

"Hmm? Oh! No, honey. Granny Louise isn't dirty. She took a bath, special."

"Oh. Ok."

So now I have three months to start thinking through this year's challenge. I'm willing to take a leap away from subjects and characters so close to home, but I'm stumped for ideas so far. If anyone out there has any notion, and isn't signing up for NaNoWriMo themselves (and I urge you to - what the heck? What have you got to lose, except a month of your time and a little bit of sanity?) - then write me and pass on your plot ideas, or a really good title, or something.

But please don't tell my Bride. She's insufferable enough in her victory as it is.