a garden in riotous bloom
Beautiful. Damn hard. Increasingly useful.
"Time to roll up my sleeves and get to work" 
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
Remember how I started writing a novel and then the whole pregnancy thing happened and I kind of dropped it for a while? I'd like to get back to it, but it's hard to regain my momentum.

A technique I've seen for getting past a writing block is to write fanfic of your own characters--it feels less serious, and you can play around and get to know them a bit without being constrained by your plot outline.

To that end, I would really appreciate it if you could toss a fanfic prompt or two my way. Obviously you haven't read the canon, because it doesn't exist yet. :) And I'm not quite certain enough of my outline to share it. But here's jacket copy of a sort:

Nathaniel Axton is in a bit of a bind. The printing shop he works for, Carroll & Co., is losing money hand over fist. Everyone expects him to marry the shop's owner, Eliza Carroll, but he's mostly interested in men, and she's mostly interested in printing salacious Sapphist poems to sell to her bluestocking friends. Cautious Nathaniel isn't sure the potential profits are worth the risk to the shop's reputation--or the chance that someone will discover that he too was once a bluestocking.

Sir Algernon Smythe enjoyed his years in Canada, hiking through the woods by day and fooling around with his fellow explorers by night. Then his father summons him back to London to start building the family fortune. Algernon hopes to marry Sarah Silverthorne, the daughter of a well-known and wealthy adventurer. But she's looking for someone to build a home with, not another man who will abandon her for years at a time. And Algernon soon realizes a wife isn't what he wants at all.

When Algernon strolls into Carroll & Co. and locks eyes with Nathaniel, both men are smitten. When Sarah approaches Eliza about publishing a book of poetry, sparks fly. Can the four lovebirds find a way to make all their dreams come true?

And here's the backstory of the protagonists:

Nathaniel's story

It's been just a few months since George Carroll died and left his printing company to his 27-year-old spinster granddaughter, Eliza. This puts George's 25-year-old apprentice, Nathaniel Axton, in an awkward position. Everyone expects him to marry Eliza and attain master printer status, but she's a Sapphist and he only likes her as a friend. However, many people who previously did business with George--particularly his fellow older gay men--have no interest in working with a woman. So as the business's copyrights begin to expire, Eliza and Nathaniel are scrambling to find and publish new writers before their income ebbs away.

While Nathaniel and Eliza figure out what to do about this, they also continue running the business, which includes a small bookshop. Nathaniel handles most of the artistry while Eliza does the accounting. Their other employee is Matthias, an experienced bookbinder who escaped Belgium shortly after Napoleon invaded; he has bad arthritis in his hands and can't work long hours, but he's pleasant to work with, and more importantly, his wages are low. Eliza has a large social circle of lesbians, bluestockings, and other outrageous women, and she wants to start printing sapphic poetry, but Nathaniel is wary of being outed and would prefer to continue in their usual line of advice manuals and lighthearted, slightly moralistic novels, many of which contained stealth queer content.

Nathaniel was raised a strict Methodist in a small town about 140 miles north of London. His mother is the daugher of a minister. His father, a surgeon, abandoned the privileges of the landed gentry to study medicine and marry for love. He has two younger brothers. Sensitive Peter wants to follow in his father's footsteps; tough Mark is a builder. Nathaniel's mother has been flirting with joining the Primitive Methodists and becoming a preacher, a prospect that Peter and Nathaniel both find quite alarming.

Nathaniel was comfortable with a female identity in childhood, to the extent that he thought about it. He was also always drawn to the idea of asceticism and transcending the body. When he decided to journey to London and seek work in the book business, he dressed in male clothes for safety and found that being Nathaniel suited him better than being Mary ever had. Eliza saw through his disguise, mostly because he wasn't very good at it at first, but no one else knows. He's relatively tall and eats barely enough to live on--in part to keep himself from developing curves--so he easily passes for male. He regularly attends a Methodist church (where he sings badly but enthusiastically in the choir), donates more to charity than he can really afford, and lives in a threadbare rented room with his elderly terrier, Lord Wuffington (known to all as Wuffles). He had been living over the shop but had to move out once George died, as it would have been too scandalous for him and Eliza to live together alone while unmarried.

Eliza, who still thinks of Nathaniel as a "mannish woman" rather than a man, keeps trying to set Nathaniel up with her lady friends. Nathaniel keeps trying to tell her that he's a) a man and b) not interested in sex or romance. The truth is that he finds some men very attractive, but he has no idea what to make of that--does it mean he's really a woman after all? and how could he ever marry a man if it would mean leaving the job he loves and going back to being Mary?--so he keeps it to himself.

Algernon's story

25-year-old Algernon Smythe is the oldest son of Sir Francis Smythe, a second-generation baronet. Sir Francis is extremely proud of his title and determined that his son should be upwardly mobile, especially as the Smythes are well-off but not wealthy. Algernon has no interest in obligations of any kind, and has spent the past five years exploring the Canadian wilderness with renowned explorer Capt. Lord Thomas Silverthorne, a retired Naval officer who thinks this is an excellent way to spend his family funds. While off in Canada, there were some occasions when men bundled together in tents found that sex was a nice way to share warmth and pass the time, but Algernon assumes he'll leave all of that behind when he goes home. Since he enjoys it a lot, that's an additional incentive to stay in Canada.

Finally, having grown up a bit and started to feel rather guilty, Algernon leaves the expedition a bit early, comes home, and is promptly sent to London to be knighted (his due as a baronet's oldest son), which should have happened on his 21st birthday. The Prince Regent graciously makes an exception for him.

Coming off the ship, Algernon stumbles and wrenches his right leg. The knighthood ceremony involves a lot of standing and kneeling, and by the time it's done he's in a great deal of pain. Unable to travel, he takes quarters in London and begins a program of daily walks, firmly believing in the power of clean air, exercise, and good food to cure nearly any ailment.

Algernon's father has been pressuring him to get married, and finally cuts off his funds until he finds a wife. He decides to look for some nice wealthy biddable young woman who's willing to keep the home fires burning while he goes off around the world. However, not being able to dance makes social events rather awkward, and he doesn't have any real connections in the upper echelons of society. His best prospect is Sarah Silverthorne, Tom's daughter, but he feels he ought to wait for Tom to return to London so they can be properly introduced.

And to refresh your memories, a bit of Nathaniel and Eliza at work and Algernon's grand entrance.

Is that enough to inspire a prompt or two? Perhaps? Help me out here, folks; I'm really struggling to get anything like back in the groove.

EDIT: No AUs, please, but I'm willing to introduce speculative elements.
9 August 2015 04:43
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
I really enjoyed the bits you posted earlier.

Is Nathaniel and Algernon engaging in banter with innuendo (which perhaps Nathaniel doesn't get until too late) a specific enough prompt, or do you need more details like situation and location?
9 August 2015 04:45
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
I have a couple of scenes in mind where that could happen, but if you want to suggest situations and locations that's great too. :) Thank you!
10 August 2015 14:07
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
I'm not attached to any particular scenery, and would love to see whatever you come up with.
14 August 2015 06:21
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Just wanted to make sure you saw this:

14 August 2015 12:23
ironed_orchid: pin up girl reading kant (Default)
Thanks for link. I don't think I'm on your access list.
14 August 2015 17:54
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Oh, that was silly of me! Fixed.
9 August 2015 04:43
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From [twitter.com profile] thelionmachine: "fanfic wherein they are strapped for cash and agree to publish a Book of Necromancy and summon something during printing."
9 August 2015 04:44
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From [twitter.com profile] leonicka: "Nathaniel organizing a surprise birthday party for Eliza"
9 August 2015 06:37
rosefox: In 1813, a lending library clerk discusses books with a customer. (valour advances)
There wasn't much room under the sloped roof for pacing, but Nathaniel did his best. The pacing helped him think. "Moving about will animate your brains," his father had told him once, while relating the story of a poor greensick girl who'd taken to her bed in despondence and soon lost all capability of speech. "Too much huddling in a darkened room and your thoughts will wither like so much uprooted..." He paused, casting about for an appropriate vegetable.

"Cabbage?" his mother had suggested.

"Cabbage, yes, precisely, thank you, Mrs. Axton." And they'd gazed at each other in that tender way that made Peter sigh, Mark gag, and Nathaniel want to flee the room.

He shook his head, dispelling the image. This was no time to be mooning over childhood memories. He had a celebration to plan.

He reached the bed, paused to give Wuffles a scratch behind the ear, and turned to pace back the way he'd come, carefully avoiding a particularly splintery patch of floor; this was his last intact pair of stockings.

"We'll hire the Stationers' Hall," he muttered. "No, too dear. The gardens, then. A picnic of sorts, perhaps."

He reached the window. A steady breeze flowed through the gaps around the single pane of thick glass. Outside the sky was clouding over, threatening rain. London's allotted week of summer had come and gone, and now the city was poised at the top of the long chilly slide into autumn.

"Or perhaps not a picnic." He sighed. "Why did I agree to do this? Eliza plans. I... decorate."

He turned away from the window and yelped as his stocking snagged on a nail jutting out from the floorboards. Wuffles whined inquisitively. "All's well, boy," Nathaniel said absently, carefully unsnagging himself. "It merely caught me unawares." The fabric appeared undamaged, and he spared a moment for a silent prayer of thanks.

Three strides brought him back to the bed. He sat down heavily, the wooden bedstead creaking slightly under his weight. Wuffles inched over in the peculiar way he had, as though coming properly to his feet would require an unbearable degree of effort, and wedged his head against Nathaniel's thigh. Nathaniel patted him absently, still mulling over his options. Invite friends to the shop for an evening of drinking and reading terrible books aloud? No, he shuddered to think of someone spilling brandy on a rare edition. A dinner party in the flat abovestairs? But they hadn't yet finished clearing out Mr. Carroll's belongings. His own lodgings could barely contain a small man and a smaller dog, and Mrs. Arlesbury set a decent table but he couldn't see asking her to host a crowd of poets and other reprobates.

Perhaps an outing of some kind? A show? But he'd never heard Eliza speak of seeing one or wishing to.

"Bother this," he finally said, and went to get his hat.

* * *

"You're in early," Eliza said by way of greeting when he ducked through the shop door just ahead of the rain.

"Slept poorly." He went into the back to hang up his coat and hat. When he emerged, he glanced at her and then away again. Perhaps a shelf on the far wall needed to be tidied. Yes, he'd better go see to that.

"Clearly the fault of a guilty conscience, if you won't look me in the eye." He winced but still couldn't bring himself to turn around. "Well, what's the matter, then?"

"I. Er." He put the last book on the shelf and took a deep breath. "Well. You asked me to plan a surprise for your birthday and I'm sorry but I just cannot do it, I did try, and I'm wretched at planning and I wouldn't be able to hide a surprise from you and I am truly very sorry but I just don't see how I can do it and I'm sorry."

"Oh, is that all?" She laughed and he unbent a little, glad to hear neither hurt nor disappointment in the sound. "My dear, I thought you'd spilled tea on the account books or offended a customer."

He glanced over his shoulder and offered her a sheepish grin. "Nothing so permanent," he said.

"Then no harm done." She beckoned him over, got a bit of scrap paper, and dipped the pen in the inkwell. "I'll simply have to teach you how to plan a social event. Perhaps next year you'll be ready to have a go. Now, the first question is scale: small and intimate or something grand?"
9 August 2015 06:55
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
(Birthday parties weren't really a thing for the working class in Regency England, and I've not found any mentions of surprise parties of any kind, but I'm willing to bend reality a little bit in this case. :) It was too much fun to pass up.)
9 August 2015 04:45
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From [twitter.com profile] leonicka: "Algernon attends one of his explorer tent buddies' bachelor party"
9 August 2015 04:54
zandperl: We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours (We Can Do It Sinfest - Up Yours)
I'm totally into fandom on Tumblr, and people there love taking superheroes (like the Avengers) and putting them into every day AUs (alternate universes), such as a coffeeshop AU, or knitting shop AU, or bookstore AU. Since you have bookstore people already, you could do a superhero AU.

And if you want a plethora of prompts, here's a bunch of shipping prompts, or you can just troll through all of the prompts I've reblagged.

Edit: Either I missed the "no AUs" on my first reading, or else you just added it. So my bad. But some of the other prompts linked could still work.
9 August 2015 04:59
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Sorry, I just added it! But thanks for the list of other prompts. :)
9 August 2015 05:01
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From [twitter.com profile] thealexknapp: "Chandler's advice for writer's block was to have someone enter the room with a gun.

So.... "Eliza entered the room, pistol drawn." "
9 August 2015 05:37
novalis: (Default)
Algernon meets some First Nations people while in Canada.

Nathaniel thinks about what it means to be a Methodist.
9 August 2015 16:27
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Ooh, these are thinky and great, thank you!
9 August 2015 06:47
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From [twitter.com profile] jennykayNZ: "read about UK Edward Carpenter gay poet & biography by Sheila Rowbotham. Classes for poor cd be project in bk. in historicals MCs can help those in lower class to gain skills, Carpenter = educator for poor. Poor learning to read w cheap printed stories & poems. Hook = Methodists, Nat's mom or Matthias &. http://www.theguardian.com/books/2009/jan/18/edward-carpenter-sheila-rowbotham https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Carpenter "
9 August 2015 06:48
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From anon: "One of Algernon Smythe's flings in Canada comes back, and turns out he's a Napoleonic spy with an agenda"
9 August 2015 15:30
likeaduck: Yellow text on green background: Do gay people sleep in bunk beds? (twitch city: bunk beds)
Ahahaha can I upvote this one?
9 August 2015 16:27
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Sure. :)
9 August 2015 06:48
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From anon: "A mysterious investor offers to give tons of money to Carroll & Co, but further uncovering of his background reveals something disturbing"
9 August 2015 06:48
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From anon: "Eliza freaks out when she finds out a rival print shop is also planning on printing something akin to Sapphist poems"
9 August 2015 11:36
mrissa: (Default)
Sarah shows Nathaniel (or someone else, but I kind of like the cross-pairing element) her father's travel treasures.

Eliza talks to the minister about her grandfather's funeral service. Business concerns may or may not interrupt.

Eliza's friends must cover for Nathaniel when his mother sends a church friend looking for her lost child.

Not sure any of these fit, but I will be unoffended if they don't.
9 August 2015 16:33
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Cross-pairing is important!

I haven't yet figured out whether Nathaniel is out to his mother, but he does keep in touch with her; I'm just not sure what name he puts on his letters to her. And I'm trying very hard to avoid scenarios where he's outed or threatened with being outed, because that's the Traditional Trans Narrative and I'm really tired of it. But let me see if I can work with the idea of "sends a friend to check up on her kid who's living far away".
9 August 2015 15:24
forthwritten: stained glass spiral (Default)
Wuffles in the bookshop (is he supposed to be there? is he temporarily/permanently banned? does he cause chaos? is he a ratter? is he well-behaved?)

Eliza discovers her first book of Sapphist poetry

Nathaniel's first day as an apprentice
9 August 2015 16:33
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Ooh, lovely, thank you!
10 August 2015 21:38
sterlinglikesilver: (Default)
Eliza and Algnernon have a chance meeting way before the events of the story and don't know quite what to make of each other.
10 August 2015 21:40
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Hm, I'm not sure that's possible! He's only been in town a week or two when he goes into the shop. Maybe as kids...
10 August 2015 21:43
sterlinglikesilver: (Default)

Maybe they meet on the train platform before he ever goes into the shop.

Or the meeting as kids -- reminds me of the prologue to Pirates of the Caribbean! In a good way!
10 August 2015 21:44
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
1810 is a bit before trains. :) But I'll see what I can do!
10 August 2015 21:46
sterlinglikesilver: (Default)
Clearly I am in over my head!

But I am cheering you on regardless.
9 August 2015 06:06

I am sorry, my fanfic tastes run to porn. I want Sarah murmuring poetry between Ellen's thighs or Algernon showing Nathaniel the wonders of nature and romping during a trip to the countryside.
9 August 2015 16:22
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
By "Ellen" I assume you mean "Eliza". These things can be arranged. :)
9 August 2015 13:46
The easiest fic prompts I've seen involve trapping potential couples in a dire situation, or a new situation, to see what happens--your two males, your two females. Or, if the normative engagements happen, how about putting Algernon and Eliza, say, trapped in an overturned coach? And Nathaniel and Sarah in some similar situation?

Another writer's block buster is to interview your characters--or even go right ahead and do a full on Mary Sue, and insert yourself into the story (as you) to find your way among them.

Good luck--I hope the juices flow again!
9 August 2015 16:22
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Thank you! These look very useful.
9 August 2015 13:59
hey! First off, I wanted to say that the last time you posted some of this stuff, I was in a life-moment where I wasn't really reading longer stuff on LJ, so I knew you were working on a book and the basic outline, but not too many of the details. So much of this is new to me - and it is so delightful! So much spark between all of these rather likeable characters. I'm really looking forward to reading more.

At the moment, I'd like to read about Sarah's friendships when she was a younger lass. Did she keep to herself, mostly, or was there a someone or someones particularly special to her?
9 August 2015 16:22
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Aw, thank you!

That's a great prompt.
9 August 2015 14:01
Algernon's first experience with a man - his inner voice, how he justifies (or fails to justify) its reality. Porny or not (not is more of a challenge, as I see it.)
9 August 2015 16:27
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Ooh, fun!
9 August 2015 16:25
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
From a comment I accidentally deleted:

"a madcap dash through a garden chasing Wuffles. a friendly exlover being charmed and affectionately mocking of someone's smitten-ness with someone else. Wuffles, older gay werewolf, falls for Tom."

10 August 2015 00:01
MOAR Canadian wilderness! Um, I mean, it would be lovely to see some of Algernon's adventures in that setting, sexual or romantic or even neither. Sometimes competence porn is nice if its underlying assumptions aren't too awful.

10 August 2015 02:07
rosefox: Green books on library shelves. (Default)
Lots of people are asking for this! I had no idea anyone would even want that. :)
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