Hello! I researched If I Never Met You by Mhairi McFarlane. Here’s what I’ve got:
Lesson One: Backstory
“Too much” and “too little” backstory seem like subjective terms to me. As long as I’m not bored, I don’t care how much backstory there is or how directly it’s presented. That’s one of my problems – other people seem to mind that, and I just don’t. One thing I’m trying to figure out is what people in the profession like and how that fits in with what I like.
In Ch 1 you find out –
- That she had a single-parent mother, grew up poor, and felt isolated at school – she thinks it directly.
- That she met her boyfriend at university and has been going out with him since she was 18 and that he was her first boyfriend. — dialogue
- That he was her first lover. – dialogue
- That she’s from Yorkshire – dialogue.
- That people often assume she’s from somewhere outside of England because she’s black. – She thinks it in response to dialogue.
- That Jamie often dates beautiful young women and that women find him irresistible. He has a reputation for sleeping with lots of women. – Says it directly.
- That Laurie and Jamie don’t know each other well. – Mentions it in her mental responses to observing Jamie.
- That Jamie had always been a fascinating subject for office gossip, being young, hot, and single. — Mentions it in her mental responses to observing Jamie.
- That his casual dating has always been carefully orchestrated to cause no difficulties in future. — Mentions it in her mental responses to observing Jamie.
While chapter 1 didn’t blow my mind with it’s super-interestingness, it didn’t bother me, so I would call it perfectly fine but not gripping. I kept reading, certainly. It advances the story in establishing Laurie’s starting point and
Lesson Two: New Information
- That she and Emily have always been fascinated with each other despite their differences – she think-tells us this and all the rest.
- That Emily’s physical beauty has always astonished Laurie and that men have always fallen for her.
- That Dan often tells Laurie to go out more. That it is unusual for him to be giving her signals to not be home too late.
- That they have developed a LTR code they both understand.
- That Emily’s utilitarian approach to sex (no real connection needed, just having sex with whomever she feels like having it with) has always confused Laurie.
- That she met Dan in a bar.
Less information is revealed than in chapter 1. The information relates directly to her relationship with her best friend and serves to show her approach to sex and relationships, as well as establishing Emily’s role in her life. She has her first interaction with Jamie in this chapter. He lies to her about being on a date with an intern, and she knows he is lying. That’s the only real story advance. Most of the chapter is just sort of establishing who Laurie is and how she thinks. It also sets her against a backdrop of shallow, annoying professional women – she stands out by contrast.
Lesson Three: GMC
Laurie’s external goal: To create a new, healthy future for herself in the wake of her ex-BF’s betrayal.
Her motivation: She is devastated by (a) Dan’s loss and his willingness to live the life she wanted with the woman with whom he cheated on her and (b) discovering that Dan wasn’t who she thought he was, and their relationship wasn’t what she thought it was. She wants to emerge from this process having healed and grown and not being in pain anymore.
(1) Dan– she has to stop being in love with him, and she can’t get away from him because they work together. Later, because he won’t let her be bc he’s jealous.
(2) Their workplace culture – people at work are interested in gossip, judge one another, etc., and this means that nobody will let it go – she has to keep responding to it instead of moving on with her own interests. This makes her unhappy.
(3) Misogyny — Men at her work (including Dan, eventually) who she thought respected her get angry at the choices she makes once she doesn’t “belong” to one of them and once she starts acting in ways they don’t approve of/refuses to belong to them. When she decides to partner with a guy she decides she wants (Jamie), they disapprove. Then they interfere, to the point of involving her career “for her own good.” So she faces heavy resistance to moving on with her life.
Laurie’s internal Goal: To be recognized and respected, most importantly by herself, but also by others, as an individual outside the context of men who want to define/use/own her to serve their own purposes.
Motivation: She realizes after Dan leaves her (a) that he was discontent because the relationship, which she saw as about both of them, wasn’t focused on her adoring him and (b) that when she is viewed outside of a partnership with a man at her work, men who seemed to respect her do the following:
- Question her judgment
- Treat dating her as something they’ve earned by waiting for/liking/pseudo respecting her
- Use her as a tool to attack a man they dislike
- Try to protect her from herself, potentially damaging her career in the process
- Threaten her for not acceding to their idea of the right thing to do
This all angers her, makes her aware of problems she had only half-recognized before, and motivates her to make changes.
- She has to recognize the problem, which she doesn’t entirely at first. She has to see her relationship with Dan and her situation at work for what they are.
- She has absorbed more of this lack of respect than she realizes, and she has to build up self-respect in order to resist it. She has to recognize her own high levels of awesome.
- Her relationship with both her parents has unresolved issues that feed her inability to recognize the lack of self-respect/defining herself by men problem. She has to resolve those issues before she can achieve her goal.
- She has to realize that just because people are in particular relationships with you (partner, parent, etc.) doesn’t mean that you owe them limitless chances to hurt you. People matter because of loving bonds, not because of societal bonds.
Lesson Four: Inciting Incident: Dan’s leaving Laurie, which comes out of nowhere as far as Laurie is concerned, and which therefore requires her to explore Dan’s character and her relationship with him for what it was. It also precipitates being treated differently at work, which requires her to see the problems there. (Ch. 2. Chapter one is about establishing her situation in the world, giving backstory.) Laurie doesn’t actually choose Dan’s leaving her, but it’s clearly the inciting incident. His leaving forces her to re-examine everything.