Here’s a book report I did for Before We Were Strangers by Brenda Novak, a romantic suspense.
I’m a longtime fan of Brenda Novak’s romantic suspense novels and enjoyed this one a great deal. I tried to avoid spoilers for anyone else who wants to read it. 🙂
Lesson 1 – The Back Story
Q: How much back story is revealed about the character in the first chapter?
The main character is Sloane McBride. We learn in the first chapter that she’s a former model who gave up her career to care for her ailing mentor/surrogate father who took her under his wing after she ran away from a painful childhood in Texas and was struggling to make a life for herself in New York City. We also learn that her mother disappeared when she was a child and that mystery has never been solved, and Sloane as a contentious relationship with her real father as a result because she’s always suspected he had something to do with the disappearance. Her father is a powerful man in their home town and doesn’t want her to return or to keep asking questions about her mother.
Lesson 2 – Continuing Back Story
Q: Look at what new information is revealed. How does it compare to what was revealed in the previous chapter? More information? Less? Or about the same?
How does the information revealed relate to the context of the scene or scenes in the chapter? Why do you think the author chose to reveal this information here and not in the opening chapter? How does the new information revealed advance the story?
We learn more about Sloane’s relationships with some people in her old home town. She recently reconnected with her former best friend, but her best friend married Sloane’s high school sweetheart (who she left without explanation when she ran away at age 18 from her manipulative father who she suspected of murder). So, the general gist of the new information in chapter 2 is about personal relationships centering on: Sloane’s feelings for her ex, feelings for her former best friend, and feelings about her family (father and an older brother). A lot of Sloane’s internal GMC is revealed here, while the external GMC was revealed in the first chapter.
The new information advances the story by introducing all the main players, going into more depth about what caused Sloane to run away to NYC, and her guilt about leaving the boyfriend, why the mystery of her mother matters so much to her, and how formidable an opponent her father is when it comes to getting at the truth.
Lesson 3 – External GMC
Fill out External GMC chart for the main character:
Character Name: Sloane McBride
GOAL – What is the character’s overall story goal? (What does she want to achieve?)
– Find out what really happened to her mother twenty years ago. Did her father kill her?
MOTIVATION – Why does she want it?
– It’s eaten at her her whole life and caused a huge rift between her and her father and her older brother.
Her elderly mentor has passed away and she’s retired from her modeling career (she’s well off financially now) and she finally feels emotionally able to handle what she’ll learn.
CONFLICT – What stands in the way?
Her father is doing everything within his power to keep her away from town (such as interfering in her attempts to rent or buy property in town) and discouraging her from talking to people about her mother.
People in town are afraid of her father (he’s the mayor) and don’t want to talk to her about her mother.
Those who do know something are keeping mum to protect themselves.
Lesson 4 – Internal GMC
Q: See if you can pinpoint the Internal GMC of the main character.
How does it intertwine with the external GMC you identified in the previous assignment?
What appears to be the main character’s overall internal or emotional issue that needs addressing in the story?
Sloane’s internal dilemma revolves around her horrible relationship with her father. He’s considered such an upstanding respected citizen and never abused her, yet she suspects him of murder, so she’s having a hard time resolving the love a child has for a parent with her feelings that he’s not telling her the truth and could be capable of something so awful.
Her internal GMC intertwines with the external in that it affects her ability to solve the mystery. She still doesn’t trust her father, but she wants to believe he’s innocent. It’s like she wants the truth, but she’s afraid of the truth at the same time.
She is also struggling with a lot of guilt over the ex-boyfriend who she abandoned at 18. He now shares a child with her former best friend, and the fact that she still has feelings for him and will hurt her friend if she acts on them, is troubling her.
Lesson 5 – Inciting Incident
Q: Look at the book you’ve been reading during the workshop and identify the inciting incident. Note where it occurs in the story.
The inciting incident happens in the first chapter, first page–a little “off screen” technically since the first scene is the funeral. The “incident” is the death of Sloane’s surrogate father/mentor. He was a wealthy older man who took her under his wing after she ran away from a troubling childhood and upon his death, his adult children pretty much kick her to the curb. So she returns to her hometown to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance.
Catherine Chant, http://www.catherinechant.com/
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