Posted in books, creative writing, writing, writing advice, writing thoughts, writing tips

Setting: Elements of Setting

Setting has several major components, most of which are at least somewhat interconnected.

It’s important to consider all aspects of setting and how each element will impact the story or characters.

Many aspects of setting have the potential to affect character and story.

Social environment

The social environment a character inhabits affects their place in society, how she view herself and how others view her. It can impact confidence and expectations the character holds for himself or that others hold for him. A social environment can be encouraging and supportive or destructive and hindering.

It’s also important to consider the stability or chaotic nature of a social environment. Instability may breed disillusionment and rebellion while stability encourages things to stay as they are and may either be peaceful or boring.

Place/Location

Where a character lives or was raised will impact how she thinks and what she values. Consider how the land and nature has impacted her life, or how a lack of either may create a sense of fear or longing.

Location also helps determines what hobbies, skills, or habits a character might develop. City dwelling requires different survival skills than country living and classical ballet may not have been an option in a small, rural town.

Place is also important in determining what a character has learned to value. Aspects to consider include, family bonds, responsibility or duty to the community, obedience to elders or leaders, respect for other cultures, etc. Think about what experiences a particular place would have available that will influence developing values.

Time

Time period plays an integral part in creating an accurate and believable setting. This is easier when dealing with the modern world, or a time period you personally experienced.

When writing in a time period not modern or not personally experienced, it is important to thoroughly research the technology, politics, fashion, slang and speech styles, important historical events, differences in geography or town/city structures, etc.

Every time period develops its own social and political culture that is created by a variety of factors. Become familiar with those factors in order to accurately portray a specific time period.

This type of research is also important to know because it will impact the character. Certain concepts and ideas were not widespread or commonly understood in one period versus another. Some ideas, freedoms, or information were simply unavailable in certain time periods and will affect how a character views his or her self or the world.

Mood/Atmosphere

Whether mimicking a real setting or creating a fictional one, mood and atmosphere need to be considered in order for a scene to connect with the reader in the way you want it to.

Determine what type of mood and atmosphere will best serve the scene, then break down what will help create the right mood and atmosphere. Factors may include, weather, decor, time of day/night, sounds, lighting, colors, formal or informal environment, other people in the scene, topic of conversation, and more.

Climate/geography

Weather and geography can influence both the storyline and a character’s thoughts or actions. When writing a scene, consider whether the climate and geography will help, hinder, or remain neutral.

A neutral climate or geography will have little to no impact on the events or actions of the scene. In this case, neither is usually mentioned more than in passing.

A helping climate or geography will provide support to the purpose of the scene, whether that be physical, emotional, or mental. Good weather and a pleasant geographical area can further deep thinking, romantic opportunity, or clam reflection. Bad weather or rough geography can also be a help if it pushes the story in the desired direction (seeking shelter together or providing strenuous activity to clear the mind).

A hindering climate or geography will frustrate a goal or action, through ultimately continue to advance the storyline. A storm might knock out power when it’s needed most or a swampy landscape might make tracking a suspect slow or impossible. While actions or goals might be temporarily hindered, they should also provide opportunities for progression and growth for the character, such as overcoming a fear or physical limitation.

Politics/culture

A character’s political views and cultural background greatly impact how he sees himself or the larger world. It is important to consider how a town’s or region’s politics and culture intersect with a character’s goals, decisions, relationships, career choices, etc. Some areas have strong and specific cultures, which are often intertwined with political ideals. Other areas have more general cultures and political ideals, so individual family culture and politics may play a bigger role in a character’s development.

Young minds are highly influenced and the political and culture environments a person grows up in helps to shape their personality and worldview. A major point of conflict in a story may revolve around overcoming closely held views as a person grows older, experiences a new culture of political view, or faces a personal crisis.

Fully exploring these aspects of personality and character development can help you create a deeper character that connects with readers on a more profound level.

History

History should be considered on a personal, local, and macro level when developing setting.

A character’s personal history with a setting can deeply effect how they view that location and may change some aspect about their personality when they are in that location, such as going how to an abusive environment.

Towns or neighborhoods have specific histories as well. How a neighborhood developed within a larger city might have to do with its ethnic or racial background, or may be more closely linked to career or trade. Natural disasters or community tragedies will also affect the culture and atmosphere of a place.

On a larger scale, major events within a society should be considered when developing setting. What changed about New York post-911 or in elementary schools during the COVID-19 pandemic? What are the lingering effects still seen in New Orleans form Hurricane Katrina? Has the BLM movement changed the way some town and neighborhoods interact with police or racial groups? Some authors choose not to address such issues in order to avoid dating a story, but that often proves impossible. If an large-scale issue impacts setting, thoroughly research the issue in order to portray its effects realistically.

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Setting: Types of Settings

There are two main types of setting: backdrop and integral.

Backdrop Settings

Backdrop settings are not terribly important to the story. The scene utilizing a backdrop setting could take place almost anywhere without changing the general dynamic or meaning. They are often transition scenes where minimal information is exchange or some detail or piece of information is revealed to the reader.

These are settings like hallways, cafes, sidewalks, etc. The allow for quick entry and exit and are often familiar settings to the reader, so they need minimal description or attention. Not having to spend page space on setting description or explanation allows the focus to stay on the content of the scene.

Integral Settings

Integral settings are settings where time and place influence the theme, character, and action of a story in some way. Animal Farm wouldn’t be the same if set in a shoe store. The way the setting influences a scene should be somewhat obvious, in the sense that the characters being in the scene feels right to the reader and the details of the setting help the reader more fully experience whatever is happening.

These types of settings need more in-depth description and development. Take the time to point out important details that bring the scene to life, such as the cleanliness of the room, how dim or bright it is, does it feel oppressive or free, colors that reflect personality, etc. Don’t describe every detail, but do point out those that help the reader get to know the character better or interpret what is happening or what information is being given more fully.

Integral settings are usually recurring settings or settings used for important scenes in the story. When these settings are first introduced there will often be more detail and focus on how the setting affects the character or mood. This type of detail isn’t necessary every time the characters visit the setting, however. In repeat scenes, only mention details that have changed, ones you think the reader may need a reminder of because they will play an important role in some way, or those that a character may have missed or missed the significance of before.

Description of settings should most often be kept at a minimum. Give enough detail that you feel confident that reader can form a basic mental image and let them fill in the blanks based on their own experiences. Trying to hard to force the reader to create an exact mental picture of a setting is exhausting for the reader.

Remember to evaluate what type of scene you’re working with before adding description and details.

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Setting: Why Setting Matters

Setting is not just a location for characters to interact.

Setting is critical to a story’s success for several reasons:

Setting affects how a story progresses. Location can be a hindrance to or facilitate story progression. If a character is taking a physical journey, setting can be used to created physical obstacles, such as a hot desert with a long stretch of no services or fellow travelers when a vehicle breaks down. It can also provide an environment for success, such as a calm and peaceful park where a character can collect her thoughts after a stressful or traumatic moment.

Setting can also affect a character’s worldview and mindset. When, where, and how we grow up shapes us. Consider the differences in how two characters may think and act when one grew up on an organic farm and volunteered at a no-kill pet shelter and another character grew up on a ranch where animals provided food and income and nature was often seen as a enemy to survival.

Setting also helps to establish the atmosphere of scenes and affects reader perception of events. Picture a character walking down the aisles of a bookstore. How does the experience differ when the shelves and books are nicely arranged, there is plenty of light, and cheery music is playing in the background, compared to if the store is dark and musty with scattered stacks of book, the only sound the character’s footsteps and those of someone following him just out of sight? Details of the setting can make all the difference in how an experience will be perceived, both by the character and the reader.

Setting also affects the characters’ choices and actions, depending on how it impacts the scene or story. If a character has a clear view of escape from a dangerous situation, she will most likely take it. If, however, her view is blocked by other people or objects in the way, the decision will take longer to make because she has to consider multiple options. The possibility of a wrong decision or inaction increases. Also consider how a room filled with people all staring, waiting for an answer will provide more pressure to give in or lie as opposed to a one-on-one meeting in a welcoming and bright office.

Lastly, setting can also act as a character, either as an antagonist, such as in a survival situation, or as a protagonist, such as a garden that provides solace and comfort to an introverted person who fears the unknown.

Carefully consider the details of setting and how it will impact all elements of a story.

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Story Structure: Linking Beginnings and Endings

As you near the end of your project, it’s important to consider the link between the beginning and the end.

Linking the Beginning to the Ending

The beginning and ending of a story should not only be strong, but they should be related in some way.

This may be through reiterating the stated or implied theme at the beginning again at the end of the story, referring back to the symbolism used throughout the story, using situation to mirror or contrast the beginning, coming back to a specific action or piece of information, or other similar methods of tying the two scenes together.

The ending will have more meaning to the reader if the beginning and the end tie together in a meaningful way. To be meaningful, the final scene should relate to the overall concept of the story, which should have been layout or hinted at in the early chapters.

Look back at the beginning scene and consider what message it communicated to the reader, particularly what promises it made, what theme(s) it introduced, what changes the character needed to make in order to find purpose or happiness, etc.

Once you isolate that message, look at your ending scene and make sure that you are fulfilling reader expectations. This may mean fulfilling a promise, completing a character or story arc, or coming back to a theme or concept important to the story or character.

The ending scene should fulfill reader expectations set in the early chapters so they put down the book feeling satisfied.

Final Scene Crafting Detail to Consider

When reviewing scenes, there are a few important factors to consider:

  • Make sure scenes have the right balance of details to create a full scene without bogging it down.
  • Descriptive details should be pertinent to the action, help create mood and tone, or accentuate the dialogue.
  • Details should use all relevant senses to create a full picture of the setting, the characters, and the emotion.
  • Details should reveal something relevant to the character or story and not be superfluous. A clenched fist shows anger, fidgeting conveys unease, food and clothing choices set the stage and reveal preferences, etc.

The structure of a story determines how well it will be told. Poorly thought out or constructed stories frustrate readers and confuse the purpose of the story.

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Story Structure: Crafting the High Moment and Using Conflict

A strong high moment and relevant conflict are important components of effective scene crafting.

Crafting the High Moment

Scenes within a story should mimic the overall story structure, meaning it should have a beginning, middle, climax/high moment, and an ending.

The high moment of a scene uses elevated emotion, action, or revelation to impact the character(s) in some way. This does not have to be a major event or action scene, but it should be noticeable to the reader and stand out in some way.

The high moment typically comes at or near the end of the scene, with the previous parts of the scene building or leading up to the high moment. It should be something that produces a reaction in the character(s) involved in the scene. The more important the scene is, the more important the reaction should be. Reactions might include, fear or happiness, making a decision or increasing uncertainty, hiding or running, pulling away or moving forward, etc.

The high moment reveals the purpose of the scene. The character should learn something, either about his or her self or the other characters, which then affects their perceptions or choices. It should also lead the reader into the next scene by setting up the next step the character(s) will take after the revelation in the current scene.

Emphasizing Conflict

Every scene needs some form of conflict: internal, external, or both.

The conflict in a scene needs to have meaning, not be pointless arguing or endless internal lamenting. Have a clear reason for the conflict and consider how it will eventually be resolved, even if the resolution won’t take place until later in the story. Focus the conflict no the purpose of the scene to keep it from meandering.

Conflict, in general, should get progressively worse throughout the story. This increases the stakes for the character(s). Keep this in mind while planning individual scenes and make sure there is an overall progression throughout the story. When considering the main conflict, break it down into smaller pieces or steps and plan its progression with particular scenes.

It’s also important to vary the type of conflict in subsequent scenes. Too many action scenes or scenes with external conflict in a row can be exhausting for the reader and not provide enough time to take in information or impacts of the action. Internal conflict slows down the action and gives the reader a chance to process the conflict and information along with the reader. Scenes with mostly internal conflict won’t be as explosive, but should increase the overall tension.

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Story Structure: Scene Position, Purpose, and POV

Where a scene is located in the story structure, what role it plays, and whos tells that section of the story are important elements in deciding how to craft a particular scene.

Positioning

Opening scenes should introduce characters, set up the story premise, and give hints at backstory. Don’t go overboard on any of these elements. Orient the reader, and fill in the details later in order to avoid overwhelming the reader with too much information or names to remember.

Middle scenes should continue to introduce and work through complications, provide twists, and increase the stakes. These scenes contain the bulk of the story. They should build on each other and provide story progression. Scenes that lag or lack clear purpose should be eliminated or revised to prevent the reader getting bored.

Climactic scenes will build to a climax, and are typically toward the last third of the book. They are often shorter and use high levels or emotion and action. Be careful not to string too many climactic scenes together. This can overwhelm the reader. Give the reader a break every so often with scenes more focused on recovery, discovery, or introspection.

The tone, feel, and purpose of a scene should correspond to its place in the story.

Purpose

Every scene must have a purpose. That doesn’t mean that every scene needs action. Purposes might include advancing the plot, revealing something about the character or world, or providing information about the overall plot, highlighting change, etc.

For writers who outline, it is usually easier to make sure each scene will have a purpose before it is written. For pansters, this may be more challenging, because you don’t always know where a scene is going when you start writing it. Pansters need to revise critically to make sure there are not superfluous or meandering scenes.

The purpose should be able to be condensed into a one sentence summary. For example, This scene will show David blowing up and scaring Emily away by proving to her that he can’t control himself. If a scene doesn’t have a purpose, it likely doesn’t need to be there or need to be revised with a stronger focus on accomplishing something relevant to the story.

Point of View

It is important that a scene be told from the most impactful point of view.

This is usually the character who is most impacted by the events of the scene. If you find that emotion isn’t coming through in the scene like you wanted it to, reevaluate whose POV it’s being told from. Think about what the stakes are for each character involved and who has the most to gain or lose by the outcome of the scene.

POV is often tied to the purpose of the scene. Make sure you have a firm purpose and then evaluate who will learn the most, change the most, react more strongly, risk the most, etc.

There are exceptions, of course, often stylistic ones. If the emotional elements are so strong they may impact the reader in a negative way or be overwhelming, writing the scene from a peripheral viewpoint might be a better option. This may be the case with traumatic experiences or a particularly gruesome encounter.

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Story Structure: Chronological and Non-chronological

How you tell a story in time can make a big difference in its effectiveness. Chronological timelines are the the most common, but non-chronological structures can also work very well when done with careful planning and attention to detail.

Chronological Structure

The story is told largely in chronological order, meaning events are told in the order they occur. Brief flashbacks or flashforwards may be included, but they are not the main storytelling device.

This is the most common story structure used and the easiest for readers to understand. It is important to make sure the order of events and passage of time is clear to the reader. You can achieve this by establish the setting/time in the first few chapters to orient the reader, and then staying consistent throughout the book. This is especially important in anything not set in a current time period. If there is a flash forward or backward, give clear indication of the time change, either through exposition or noting the time change.

During editing, check for inconsistencies, such as injuries, broken items, or people coming or leaving and ensure there are proper healing time, things broken stay broken or get fixed, the people involved doesn’t change without being mentioned to the reader, etc. It’s easy to forget little details and have someone using a whole item that was broken in an earlier chapter, or forgetting an injury should hinder movement or ability, or forgetting about a character who existed in the background of a scene.

Non-Chronological Structures

Past prologue: This type of structure details an important event that happened in the past and has effected the current situation. This is commonly used when there is too much backstory detail to work into a present conversation without info dumping. The reader is given all the pertinent information in a past prologue to orient them in the current time when the story begins.

Future prologue: This type of structure details a tension-filled or dramatic future event meant to capture readers’ attention. It is most commonly used to show an unlikely or startling endpoint of a character or story, then reverts back to the present to show what led to the unexpected event. This should not be used simply for shock value to attract a reader’s attention. It should be important and relevant information the reader needs to know when beginning the story.

Alternating timelines: With this structure, past/present or present/future timelines alternate between different characters or the same character in different time periods. This is often used to show a comparison of experiences or times, or to brings two timelines to an eventual intersection.

Circular timelines: In this type of structure, the story ends where it began. It is used to create a sense of departure from and return to the original structure. Characters still undergo transformation and are affected by events.

Flashbacks: A flashback breaks from the current story to tell of an event that happened in the past, as a complete scene. It can be located anywhere in the story. It is used when more details are needed than what can be conveyed through a recap or explanation, or when the reader needs to “experience” the moment to full understand it. Flashbacks should be used minimally to avoid distraction and breaking the story flow.

Parallel timelines: This is used to tell two stories chronologically in different time periods. Both move forward together and inform the other. This is often used to compare two periods of time and how characters experience those time periods. There should be a link between them that sheds light on one or both storylines.

Time jumping: This is when a character moves through time, either forward or backward, or a combination of both. Scenes are connected in some way and inform the other scenes. Outside of an actual time-traveling storyline, this can be used to show changes in a character, situation, place, etc. in different time periods.

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Story Structure: 3-Act Structure

One of the most commonly taught and used story structures in the 3-Act Structure. In this post I’ll break down each act and what should be in it.

Act 1 – The Beginning

Act one compromises about the first 25% of the story and has three main parts.

  • Introduction: The introduction should establish who the main characters are and what their “normal” life looks like at that point in time.
  • Inciting Incident: The inciting incident presents a situation that will prove to be a catalyst for change and which will set the story in motion. In a romance novel, this is usually the meet-cute.
  • Plot Point 1: This first major plot point will introduce the central conflict and present a call to action for the character. The character(s) then react to the inciting incident and call to action, usually accepting the call and setting themselves on the path of the story and character arcs.

Act 2: The Middle

Act two compromises about the middle 50% of the story and contains the bulk of the plot.

  • Confrontation: During the confrontation, the main character faces the first obstacle to achieving his or her desire or goal. In a romance novel this is often something that will prevent a real relationship or keep the main character’s apart, either physically or emotionally.
  • The midpoint: At the midpoint, the main character faces the central conflict in some way. The realization causes a change in the character. This is often a revelation about the self, information about another character, shocking news, reflection on the main conflict, etc.
  • Rising action: During the rising action, the stakes must rise for the main character, building up to the central conflict he or she must face. This is usually achieved through subplots and new information about the central conflict.
  • The second plot point: This is the highest point of tension. It is a crisis that makes the desired ending seem impossible. This should use high emotion to engage the reader and make them concerned for the character. This MUST be believable enough to make the reader think a happy ending may not be possible. This should be big enough that it can’t be resolved easily.

Act 3: The End

Act three compromises the last 25% of the story and contains the worst moment for the characters as well as the resolution or climax and the final ending.

  • Pre-climax/darkest night: In this blackest moment, the character faces the possibly of not achieving their goal during a final clash with the antagonist and deals with the fallout of the crisis The character may realize a new goal that will help them move past the crisis (often alone).
  • Resolution/Climax: This is the final moments of the main conflict where it is resolved by providing an answer to the main problem/conflict. This is normally a single scene, but may extend to several scenes if the resolution/climax is complicated or involves interactions with multiple characters.The main conflict’s resolution MUST be believable and not a simple misunderstanding. The solution should be real and still have an element of risk. The benefits of taking the risk should outweigh staying safe.
  • Denouement:This final ending fulfills all promises to the reader. Make sure to tie up loose ends, answer questions, underscore the theme, in order to leave the reader satisfied.

There is, of course, room to make changes or try new tactics within a 3-Act story structure, but it is still important to make sure you hit all the main elements in some fashion.

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Story Structure: Overview

This series will talk about how to structure a story that keeps the reader’s attention and tells a story in the best possible way.

The Basics of Story Structure

Exposition/Introduction

This is where you will introduce the characters, establish the setting, and present the primary conflict. All of this generally happens in the first few chapters or the first act. The goal is to orient the reader in the characters’ lives before you begin adding any major conflicts.

This helps the reader connect with the characters so they will be invested in the outcome of their story. If a reader can’t connect with the main character(s), there’s a good chance they will stop reading. The setting should also be relevant and interesting, so they character appears to be existing in a real world (whether realistic or fantastical).

It’s also important to give readers a good idea of what the main problem is that the characters(s) is dealing with so they know what type of story they are reading and what the character(s) must overcome. This sets up the reader’s expectations for the rest of the story.

Rising Action

This section is where you should introduce the primary conflict and set the main storyline in motion. This should follow with the expectations you set up for the reader during the introduction. Succeeding events become more complicated as the story proceeds, creating stumbling blocks, tension, interest, and excitement.

Rising action isn’t a straight line, however, so problems and complications should be interspersed with moments of calm, reflection, or positive movement. The action will continue to rise overall, but with dips along the way. This gives the reader a break and allows time for reflection and thought.

Climax

This is the major turning point of the story. All the problems and complications established during the rising action will come to a head. There is high tension and conflict, and stakes are at their highest. The risk that things might not turn out should feel real to the reader, even if they know deep down that everything will turn out the way they are hoping.

This is often a moment of crisis that leaves the reader wondering what will happen next. If you are writing a romance, the reader expects there will be a happily ever after ending. You likely won’t get the reader to really think a happy ending is out of the question, but the goal is to make them doubt the how of how that happy ending will be reached. This heightens a reader’s investment in the outcome and deepens the connection with the characters.

Falling Action

After the climax, the story begins to calm down and starts working toward a satisfying ending. Characters decide what action to take to resolve conflict. These decisions and actions should be realistic and somewhat surprising. Easy and predictable resolutions tend to fall flat and disappoint readers. Make sure all the loose ends are tied up, explanations are revealed, and the reader learns more about how the conflict is resolved.

Resolution

At this point, the main conflict is resolved and the book ends. The story, however, should have the illusion of continuing on beyond the page. This is true even if the book is a standalone and will not have a continuation. Give the reader a chance to imagine how the characters’ lives play out. This adds to the satisfying quality of the ending.

Posted in books, creative writing, memory's edge, new release, reading, romance, writing

Excerpt: Memory’s Edge Part 2

Before I move on to the next themed blog series, now that I’ve finished the Marketing Primer series, I thought I’d share an excerpt from Memory’s Edge: Part 2. This is the book I’m currently working on hoping to finish in the next month.

By the time lunch finally arrived, Gretchen was exhausted on every level. She only dragged herself out of her chair to lock the door. Before she could accomplish the task, she saw Desi sprinting down the hall and opened the door for her. Her friend crashed into her, throwing her arms around her and squeezing her hard enough to hurt.

“I am so mad at you! You know that, right?” Desi demanded when she finally pulled back. “I called and called and called!”

Yanking her friend into the classroom, Gretchen locked the door behind her and headed for her desk. Desi plopped down on top of a nearby student desk and glared at her friend. Gretchen collapsed in her seat. “I want to say I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t face talking to anyone.”

“I was so worried about you! John too! It was like I suddenly lost you both!” Her hands flew up dramatically. “How could you do that to me?”

Seeing the tears in her friend’s eyes broke Gretchen down. “I’m sorry, Desi. I know it wasn’t fair, but I just couldn’t. I still haven’t talked to my parents, either. I couldn’t even go home.”

Desi huffed. “Thank goodness Carl at least had sense enough to let everyone know you hadn’t gone off the deep end. I would have banged down your door if he hadn’t texted to say you were alive and as emotionally stable as could be expected.”

“If you had tried to bang down my door, you still wouldn’t have found me.”

Seeming a little surprised by that, Desi asked, “You’re still staying at Carl’s?”

Gretchen looked away from her friend. “Do you remember what the inside of my house looked like before we left for New York?”

Desi sighed as realization set in. “Oh, honey, I’m sorry. I hadn’t considered all the wedding prep scattered everywhere. Of course you didn’t want to go home to that.” She reached forward and squeezed Gretchen’s hand. “Have you heard from John yet?”

Looking up at her, Gretchen stared in confusion. “Why would I? He’s not coming back. He has his old life back now.”

“Yeah,” Desi said, “but what about all the wedding stuff, the catering business, his clothes and things, everything he left behind.”

Blinking away tears, Gretchen said, “It’s not like he needs any of it now, and I’ll deal with the wedding stuff eventually on my own. It’s not his problem anymore.”

Wincing, Desi asked, “So you looked him up too?”

She didn’t want to admit it, but Gretchen nodded. “I can’t even comprehend how much money he and Corey have. There’s nothing he left behind that he can’t buy again.”

“Except you.”

Gretchen glared at her friend. “It was the right choice.”

Propping her elbow on the desk, Desi dropped her chin into her palm. “I know, honey, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be hurt by his choice.”

“It was my choice as much as his. I’m the one who said goodbye and left the stage.”

“Because you knew what choice he had to make and did it for him so he didn’t have to.”

“It was the right choice,” Gretchen whispered as tears spilled down her cheeks.

Practically laying herself out across the desk, Desi ignored the fact that she was wearing a skirt and hugged her friend fiercely. “Sometimes right choices hurt worse than wrong ones.”

Gretchen clung to her friend for several long minutes before finding enough strength to pull back. “Thank you.”

She smiled and sat back up. They were quiet for a long time before Desi spoke again. “It’s going to be so weird without him here. Jake was so upset when he realized John wasn’t coming back.”

Gretchen instantly felt bad for not considering the impact of John’s leaving on anyone else in their life. Desi had gone through several boyfriends while John lived with Gretchen, but he and Jake had become very close over the last several months. Desi cared about him like a brother as well. And her parents…despite Gretchen’s mother warning her about the potential heartbreak loving John would cause, they both adored him and loved him like a son. They must have been as heartbroken over losing him as they were knowing she was hurting over the loss.

“I need to call my parents when I get home,” Gretchen said tearfully.

Desi smiled sadly. “We’re all going to miss him. I know it’s not the same for us as it is for you, but we do understand some of what you’re going through. Stay with Carl as long as you need to, but know we’re all here for you, okay? Whatever help you need to sort things out, all you have to do is call.”

Gretchen reached over the desk and hugged her again. “Thank you.”

They pulled back from each other and Desi sighed. “I better get going. I have to prep for my next class. Pottery week…” She shook her head at the impending mess and stood. “Call me later, okay?”

Gretchen nodded and watched her walk out. Another half a day to go. Then two more days until the weekend. Then one more week until spring break. She could last that long. Maybe by then she’d be ready to start putting her life back together.