Of Umbrellas, Great Aunts, and Parrots {camp nano 2o21}

Hullo all and welcome to what will most likely be a sprawling post with plenty of pictures and vague ideas to go around. Prepare yourselves properly.

With a bit more time in my schedule due to the end of Mock Trial season, I have grand plans and grand schemes including a hope to return to writing again. I’ve been listening to a lot of my old cinematic playlists these days and have found myself overcome with nostalgia for my first full-length novel I wrote ages ago when I was thirteen. So I got distracted and went back and read some of that this week and it was great. I’ve definitely gotten over the cringe stage for that one. πŸ˜†

Anyways, this post isn’t about an old novel, but a new one! I’ve mentioned recently in passing in a post that I came up with a new idea so this is my introduction to it as I prepare to write 20,000 words in April for Camp NaNoWriMo (which, starting in two days, ends up being an attainable goal of about 667 words a day if I consistently write a little every night or every morning).

I thought about making a goal for the timebus story originally (the project which I was consistently writing on the weekends this semester), but decided to take a break from that thing and try something fresh and different. And whimsical.

Plus pLoTbUnNiEs

(And I also told my friend that I calculated the story would be done in 1,234 days and 72 hours and 38 minutes. Which (at the time) she figured out to be June 22, 2024 at 11:13 a.m. Which she put on her calendar. Which now I have to stick to. Which means I have a deadline to keep.)

What project is this?

(drum roll please, my friends)

The Rain Falls Up Beneath the Bridge

(no i did not draw those houses *sadness* but i want to try. this would be a good moment to mention that all pictures in today’s post here-on-out are from Pinterest)

| the summary |

Effy’s family has lived in Underbridge Villa for centuries, and that’s no exaggeration. Not only that, but to say that her family is no ordinary one would be a major understatement. With uncles, aunts, great aunts, and a second cousin, including a world-traveling mystery novelist, a painter, an aeronaut, a hedge sculptor, and even an ex pirate all living beneath the same roof, life can sometimes be chaotic… and embarrassing. Not to mention the pandemonium of parrots living in the shower! But even out of such a large family, Effy is the only child.

With her ceremonious tenth birthday on the horizon in which she is given her very first umbrella, she is determined to grow up most properly.
Everyone else seems to know their place and part and how it all works together. Can it be so hard?

Things I love about this story:

  1. rain is a good thing (the entire society adores it. heaven forbid you be found dead without an umbrella)
  2. the eccentric characters (don’t worry, more on them later)
  3. the house (it’s Victorian. it’s huge. it’s filled with plants and paintings and old furniture. it has a large garden with high stone walls, fountains, and sculptured hedges. it was also there before the town was, so they ended up building a bridge over it)
  4. the quirky big family vibes
  5. the fact everyone gets their first umbrella at their tenth birthday, and it’s picked up especially for them and is considered a momentous ceremony
  6. it’s almost magical realism?

(and I would say plot too but I don’t really have a formal plot yet shhhh)

| the characters |

First we have Effy, our dear main character and narrator. Her full name is actually Zephyrine Clove. (“west wind” + “i have loved you and you have not known it”). Her father, an aeronaut, gave her first name, and her mother, a botanist, gave her the middle name. They are also very found of Ancient Literature which is also the inspiration behind Zephyrine.

She’s a very curious soul, and takes everything very seriously and always wants to know the truth.

She is schooled at home, primarily by Great Aunt Francis…

Great Aunt Francis is probably the only person in Baccaburry who hates rain. She owns only one umbrella. It is black and she has it reserved for practical reasons only which means if the sun is shining she leaves it at home. Utterly scandalous, but then again Great Aunt Francis only owns practical things. All her clothes are long straight and black and she only owns a small collection of books in her room, which is mostly a set of cookbooks and herb medicine.

Effy is both terrified of and frustrated with this relative because she is convinced that Great Aunt Francis hates her (she must with all the chores she makes Effy do and the way she’s always grunting and frowning at her!).

bUt tHaT cHaNgEs in the book?? Eyy?

Great Aunt Jada is the complete opposite of her sister, Great Aunt Francis, a bit of a wild spirit, and has hundreds of stories to tell about her travels when she was younger. She owns some parrots who live in her shower, named Frederick, Pepper, and Taffy, and she owns a cabinet of strange objects (though she’s given away a lot over the years and never was a hoarder). She has met princesses and danced with princes in her youth, dined at great dinners and attended balls in foreign lands, she’s trekked through jungles and crossed deserts (and everything else strange and wild that you can imagine… I won’t list them all out here). She still possesses a style of elegance and show.

These days even though Jada is happy to settle with family, she gets tired of everyday life and longs for adventures she can no longer take. To keep busy her idle mind she studies and researches strange topics, like poison, frogs, unsolved crimes, or the various effects of eating various mushrooms. Every Monday she goes to the library and checks out a stack of books then goes to the cafΓ© and reads there, greeting friends, acquaintances, and strangers with the fascinating facts she is at the moment discovering. Everyone knows her around town, and there are rumors she is writing a mystery novel placed in India. Jada wears all black but she has a bright magenta umbrella, or one with some exotic print she bought in some foreign land.

Jada’s husband Herbert Olson is an ex-pirate. Need we say more?*

*It is also rumored that the crew of his ship was battling a sea monster when he met his future wife. Jada was riding the sea monster. The accuracy of this story is not confirmed.

Claudia is a young cousin of Effy’s mother and an artist taking a gap year before going to college. She eats a lot of crepes and left over stir fry, and fuels herself with coffee. She also locks herself up in her room for hours painting and repainting and trying to get things right. Other times she goes on walks, rants late at night at whoever is around. Her walls are covered with random art, and she’s always going through things. She wears a red beret any time she leaves the house. She also knows a lot of random words in seemingly random languages. She’s never travelled very far, and reads a lot of poetry. Her umbrella is red.

Timothy is Claudia’s friend. He wears scarves and is always very well presented. Everything he wears is neutral colored and generally classy. He’s a photographer of birds (cranes are his favorite) and spends a lot of time outside or at the law office where he works as a clerk for an attorney. His umbrella is a warm brown. He’s a bit goofy and sometimes quiet, but gets along well with a lot of people. He takes Claudia to movies or makes her pancakes. And he tries to always listen (which isn’t too hard because he likes Claudia a lot.) 

His apartment is across town above a pastry shop and he has a bike, though most of the time he walks. His apartment itself is fairly plain, with a couple random paintings he’s had forever, lamps, and books about birds and law. He likes to tease Effy and greatly respects her parents, the main couple of Underbridge Villa. Timothy is very organized and leads a generally scheduled life.

Annie is the heart of the family, and Effy’s mother. She’s very compassionate and wise, and very much a peacemaker. Because of her, most of the sinks and bathtubs and sills in the house are filled with pots and pots of plants with neat little labels. She writes essays for elite scientific journals and is illustrating a field guide.

I think I already mentioned this but also Effy’s father, Rueben, is an aeronaut who dreams of taking an expedition into the sky in a hot air balloon, and during the book is raising funds and trying to find a sponsor. Effy tries to help him with that.

Among others (though this is subject to change), there’s also Uncle Geoffrey, Uncle Bertie, and Aunt Fiona. For quick random facts: Uncle Geoffrey is a professor who wears a different tie every day, Uncle Bertie likes to pick up random hobbies like the summer he sculptured all the hedges and bushes (they’ve never recovered), and Aunt Fiona likes to bake and is a teacher at a local school.

There’s also the family who move in the house next door at the beginning of the book and have a baby girl and a son about Effy’s age who ends up being a major character.

But I haven’t met that kid yet personally so ahem. I don’t know what he’s like yet, except he likes to wear bright stripy sweaters.

And maybe that’s what Effy notices first?

I also think they team up to try to raise funds for Effy’s father’s expedition.

So there you go. Some of the lovely characters of The Rain Falls Up Beneath the Bridge. And that’s about what I have so far since I don’t have a overarching set-in-stone plot per say yet…

Just vague ideas such as Effy learning it’s okay to be a kid sometimes and overtime learning about her Great Aunt Francis’s past. But beyond that I think a lot of it will be small every day bric-a-brac in the context of forming friendships and relationships (like a Gary Schmidt novel?). For random example – inspired by the noise of people banging on my family’s roof (or lack of it) for a day – the roof leaking. It is an old house after all and when was the last time its roof was replaced?

Which is a kind of story I’ve never tried to write before, so I have no idea what I’m doing. Isn’t this fun?

I hope you’ve enjoyed an exclusive look into my process of story ideas. And how 90% of the brainstorming process before I leap off a cliff into the writing stage is just me coming up with characters and settings I adore. And that’s about it.

Yes, so this will be interesting to say the least. I will be back with battle scars at the end of April and perhaps show up somewhere in between.

Have you written any story in which you had very little idea of the components of the plot? A very character driven story? What are you writing these days?

i have no idea what i’m doing ahaha. anyone else feel like starting nanowrimo is ever a train wreck? *raises hand* this is one train wreck of a both nanowrimo and post lol

36 thoughts on “Of Umbrellas, Great Aunts, and Parrots {camp nano 2o21}”

  1. I agree, this was very chaotic, BUT IT WORKS. FANTASTICALLY. LIKE…HOW DO YOU COME UP WITH SUCH AWESOME IDEAS?? I seriously love these characters so much already, in all of their eccentric, whimsical, loveable-ness. How can I resist a story with umbrellas and parrots? And so much color and…aaaahh I adore this aesthetic. Much admiration for tackling this in such a character-driven fashion. I’ve wanted to do one like that myself, inspired by a sort of L. M. Montgomery, every-day life style, but stories usually come to me in the form of characters carrying plots on their shoulders, so…I’m too scared to embark on a story without the faintest idea of a plot. XD (I mean, yes, there is that one story with a plot currently thinner than rice paper, but we don’t talk about that.)

    ANYWAYS. Thou must finish this story so I can read it, understand? *proceeds to mark date on my own calendar*

    (also, how do you find such amazing, fitting pictures for your characters?? I can never seem to find any that remotely work for mine.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I don’t know?? I just give characters weird things??

      Also I relate to that feeling of terror, because all my story ideas have always come in form of plot premises. Such as “what if time travelling was real, how would it affect a person’s mental health” or “what if people were always born with wings but then one person wasn’t… but what the society do with this wingless outcast?” etc.
      Not “here this person exists ta-daaaa”
      Which is how this story feels at the moment πŸ˜†

      “thinner than rice paper” that is brilliant lol
      mind if I ever steal that? πŸ˜‰

      Oh dear. I did share that date didn’t I. Whoops. *laughs nervously*

      (RIGHT. I usually have the same problem lol, but I had very specific ideas of what they looked like for this one which helped? and I somehow stumbled upon the perfect pictures? though you’ll notice I only have pictures for some of them… other characters I have not been so lucky with yet.)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds LOVELY. This family sounds wonderful, and I love the emphasis on umbrellas ❀ And that there are parrots living in the shower. And that one uncle is casually an ex-pirate–and the unconfirmed facts of how he met his wife??? XD
    Also, the fact that your friend has the deadline on her calendar is fantastic. πŸ™‚
    YES, like a Gary Schmidt novel!
    For a while, I wrote mostly super character-driven stories with…less on the plot side. But recently I've been coming up with more plot-driven, complicated stories I want to write and…I am confused about why this is happening and what to do about it.
    Best of luck with Camp Nano!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you!! That’s very encouraging. I love umbrellas. Did you know that the word “umbrella” is literally “little shadow” in Latin?? *melts*

      Indeed, you’ll never know how he actually met her. (muhahaha)

      Ah! See and I’m the opposite. Usually I’m entirely plot driven. Or at least the idea when I first have it is a plot premise and the characters follow. Now? What am I doing?? Does anyone know?

      I hope your plot-driven complicated stories work out for you! They can be very fun, and I would love to hear more about them sometime. *coughs* πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I want to do NaNo but im so busy and I have no story idea at the moment *is in pain* I want to write more soon though, I miss it alot.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. 1. this sounds amazing and i am instantly in love with every single character and their umbrellas
    2. how do you have everything put together it’s insane
    3. do you have a cabin,,,potentially,,,

    Liked by 1 person

  5. If I’d been drinking tea while I read that sentence in the summary about the pandemonious (I’m going to pretend that’s a word) parrots living in the shower I would’ve choked on it. (Actually, I probably would’ve choked a dozen times while reading this post. Good thing I wasn’t drinking tea…πŸ˜‚)
    Eeeep I’m in love though! All the whimsy and the quirky characters makes me happy. And the whole umbrella concept is so different and cool. And Great Aunt Jada’s birds are so cute. (Can I steal them??)
    Have I ever written a story in which I had very little idea of the components of the plot? Well… *coughs* yes… maybe… *coughs* all of them?? 🀨 I’m such an obsessive planner with everything else but with writing I’m an incurable diehard pantser. I can definitely empathize with the chaos. The characters just do whatever they want. XD

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Tea choking inducing. That will be how I market this book. It’s so perfect that it’s beautiful. *wipes away tear*

      oKaY though I looked up what you call a group of parrots and pandemonium(!!) is one of the official titles?? That and flock? So obviously I went with a “pandemonium of parrots.” πŸ˜†

      Can you steal Jada’s birds? Well uh sure if you can get through the house without anyone in the family noticing and then convince them to come without a peep. Or screeching. πŸ˜†
      Hmm. Just you watch I might add you to the story if I run out of plots. πŸ˜‰
      And then we will see how you fair hehehe.

      YES. Same. I have to plan everything but that never means I try to stick to the plan. And for writing I am a proud pantser. XD

      My life is confusing. Who knew lol.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I can just see it being one of those professional reviews on the sleeve. “A whimsy tale with characters so quirky you’ll choke on your tea.”

        Woah that’s actually what they’re called? That’s as good as a murder of crows or parliament of owls. xD

        Oh my woooord. Please do have someone come in and try to steal the birds. That would be hilarious. *dies*

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Good, I’m glad we’ve practiced so when I publish it you can give me an official quote. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‰

          Isn’t it fantastic?? Haha yes.

          Okay. Will do. πŸ˜† I will keep you updated.

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Well well well
          Someone named Oliver (with the dreaded nickname Liv πŸ˜‰) has just tried to kidnap the birds. He was smacked on the head with an umbrella multiple times, forced into an interrogation, and even referred to as a crusty shower curtain rod. All by Great Aunt Jada. Of course. πŸ˜‚

          Liked by 1 person

        3. *chokes on tea*
          A crusty shower curtain rod??
          That’s so hilarious I’m not even offended. XD
          I hope Oliver *coughs* Liv has not suffered a concussion from being whacked by the umbrella. I wouldn’t want to be sued if he ever figures out the idea came from me…

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Character driven story with quirky characters! Like a Gary D. Schmidt novel! I LOVE IT ALREADY.
    Great Aunt Jada riding the sea monster though.
    Uncle Bertie and the (never recovered) sculpted hedges.
    Annie with her labeled plants.
    I love it all, it’s so pleasing. πŸ™‚
    Best of luck on this venture!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was smiling the whole way through this post because it’s so beautiful and wholesome and HaPpYyyyyyyyy. 😭❀️❀️❀️
    It sounds like a book that would remind you it’s a lovely thing to be alive…and it would inspire you to love your family with all your heart and eat more yummy food and dance in the rain and wear red berets.

    [Thank you for including a big family in your story. That makes me happy. We need more representation of large families, especially ones that mostly like each other and aren’t completely dysfunctional.]

    I love all the characters. It sounds like chaos but beautiful chaos. They all seem so alive and vibrant and PURE and I haven’t even met them yet. ❀️


    (oh and i ship claudia and timothy already because HOW CUTE but i also think it would be amazing if they stayed single but were life long friends and drank tea together and laughed at old, inside jokes when they are eighty.)

    This is all so beautiful and I could scream for a long time about this but the question is, when do the sad masses get to read this piece of chaotic happiness???

    Just askin’…

    (however as a fellow writer I understand the pain of the above question and you are under no obligation to answer it, however it wouldn’t hurt to consider it…πŸ€·πŸ˜‰πŸ˜„)

    I love all everything about this post, Evelyn. 😍

    Liked by 1 person

    1. eden YOU ARE TOO KIND …your comment is too sweet and it made my week ❀
      That is exactly what I want to the book to remind people of!! I hope it succeeds. (: (: (:

      [ah yes of course my friend, it has been a pleasure to do so, and! most of the extended family is based of my siblings or people I know so that has made it especially fun πŸ™‚ ]

      Eden – seriously your comment has me grinning from ear to ear. Yes you're 100% right, even if Claudia and Timothy don't end up together they would still be super great friends at least by the time they are 80 and would probably meet up for tea every week and pester each other for updates about each other's creative projects or give hysterical commentary about the conversations of everyone else in the coffee shop.

      I DON'T KNOW
      I have so many sad masses lining up for it now (my whole family is in on this one and asks me about it like clockwork lol)

      But don't worry, once it is done, I will drive to your door and shove the entire manuscript in your face and demand you read it or I'll kidnap you and then force feed you tea and scones until you do. πŸ˜‰ ❀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Ahhh, this was so pleasing to read. I am already in love with the characters. They sounds so fascinating and weird, it’s great. Claudia may be my favourite character and the whole ex-pirate uncle reminded me of a story idea I forgot about a bit there… Should write that down… Here is a random piece of comment you didn’t need to read. XD
    Anyway, I’m just love this whole concept. It feels so cozy and magical and simple. Beautiful. ❀ ❀ ❀
    Well, my brain plans in advance before I write so I do have at least an idea what to write. If that plan falls through, that's another story and one that is happening to me a lot lately. *sighs*

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You have a story idea about an ex-pirate?? I WANT
      gimme (please) πŸ˜‰
      Aw thanks Ribbon. I’m glad you like the story and like Claudia in particular. She’s pretty cool, in my opinion, and heavily inspired by a friend (though my sister says she seems more like me? haha who knows)
      Interesting, who do you do when your plan isn’t working with the story, does that ever happen for you?

      Liked by 1 person

        1. OOOh very very cool. I’m intrigued now! πŸ˜€
          And oh dear my bad. It was a confusing question and I just realized the presence of a pesky typo. XD
          I meant to ask “/what/ do you do when your plan [the idea for what you are going to write] isn’t working out well? Does that happen to you?”
          If that makes sense now….

          Liked by 1 person

        2. Thanks!
          Oh, right. I roll with it basically, since usually it’s more fun and better when the story and characters take over. As long as they don’t, like, lead me into a plot hole or writer’s block or something like that. So far, I just feel more inspired most of the time. So while my plans are not working well, my story is working just fine. I’m learning that plans aren’t always the best for the story. Yeah, it happens with every scene I write for my stories at the moment. It’s weird since my first complete novel was so much more tamed than these stories now. XD

          Liked by 1 person

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