Structure of Plot: How Lisa Unger does it

We’re doing the Outer Journey this week, and today we’re looking at the Outer Journey of Ian Paine, the main character in Lisa Unger’s Crazy Love You.  (We did Ian’s inner journey last week.)

Spoiler Alert

And a note:  Half the story is told in flashbacks.  While flashbacks support the front story and inform the journey, they aren’t part of its structure.  So the flashbacks are not included here.


Opening Image/HookCrazy Love You opens with a prologue, which seems to be pulled from the events of the climax.  Ian is driving to his childhood home, which is on fire, and he’s greeted by an unknown person with a “Welcome home, Asshole.”

PART 1: Character is an Orphan, just trying to survive the day.

Setup:  Ian is a 30yo successful graphic novelist who writes Fatboy and Priss, heavily based on his younger, fat, ugly, and cowardly self, Fatboy, and his trouble-making childhood, now uber-hot, friend, Priss.  Ian’s not Fatboy anymore, but there’s some “loser” still left in him.  He’s into mind-altering substances and often can’t remember what happened while he was high.

Inciting Incident: Ian meets Megan, a positive-thinking light in the world and the complete opposite of Priss.  (pg 11)

Part 1 Events:  Ian dates Megan and cheats on her with Priss, who burns Ian’s drawings of Megan; Megan wants to meet Priss, but Ian has no intentions of them ever meeting; Ian meets Megan’s parents and asks her dad if he can marry her.

Plot Point 1:  PP1 is subtle and comes in the form of a written representation of Ian’s last Fatboy and Priss graphic novel.  Ian’s editor has told him to end the series by having Fatboy nix Priss from his life.  Fatboy [Ian’s avatar] tells Priss:

“We’re done, Priss. I’m sorry, but we are. … I’m a man, not a little boy anymore. I need to stand on my own now.”

He [Fatboy] knows it’s not the end. But it’s the beginning of the end. And things are going to get ugly.”

(pg 81-82 in a 336 pg book, 24.4%)

PART 2: Character is a Wanderer with a Purpose.

Part 2A Events:  Ian takes Megan home to meet his mom; Priss mocks Ian’s new life with Megan; Ian proposes to Megan, who still wants to meet Priss; Ian arranges for his childhood home to be demolished, pissing off Priss.

Pinch Point:  Someone, we’re led to believe Priss, has set Ian’s phone to not ring when Megan or his editor calls, so he misses important meetings with each of them.  He also misses calls from his Mom’s institution, trying to tell him his Mom is missing, presumably lured away by Priss. (pg 127-129)

Part 2B Events:  Ian goes home to find his Mom; Megan follows him; they discuss how Megan understands depression, cause she’s had it; Megan is pushed onto the subway tracks by an unknown attacker; Ian and Megan retreat to her parents’ house.

Midpoint:  Ian’s greatest fear is that Priss and his new life will intermingle.  That happens at the midpoint, while they’re at Megan’s parents’ house:

I kept my eyes on that person walking up the beach; I stood to get a better look. The shape was familiar to me.  The most familiar shape in the world. Oh God, how did she find us here? (pg 166, 49.4%)

PART 3: Character is a Warrior, on the Attack.

Part 3A Events:  Ian’s not welcome at Megan’s parents’ anymore, since he hit Megan’s dad and won’t call the cops on Priss for pushing Megan; Ian tells Megan about Priss, that she’s dangerous and that he’s never been able to prove that Priss is real; Ian gets home to see that he’s had some blackouts that are now coming back to haunt him: he’s being evicted, his bank accounts are empty, and his graphic novel contract has been cancelled; he and Megan set up a meeting with Priss, to tell her to back off, but Priss doesn’t show; Megan tells Ian, maybe they should take some time off.

Pinch Point:  A detective comes to show Ian a surveillance tape of Megan being pushed onto the subway tracks.  Ian recognizes Megan’s attacker. (I think we’re supposed to be led to believe that Ian recognizes himself as the attacker, but I read it as the attacker being a person, too big to be Priss, in a Fatboy mask, presumably Ian.  This is probably a distinction without a difference, but Ian does later realize it is someone in a Fatboy mask, and he’s let off the hook.)  Also, at the same time, we’re led to believe that Priss hits the detective over the head, probably killing him. Ian knows he’ll get blamed for it. (pg 211, 62.7%)

Part 3B Events:  Megan’s pregnant; Ian tries to get Megan to run away from Priss with him, but she won’t, so he gets angry, blacks out, and says something that frightens her, though he doesn’t know what; he later wakes up in his car with his essentials in the backseat; his apartment is on fire; he decides to go home.

Plot Point 2:  Ian goes to visit his mom in the mental hospital, to find out who Priss is and what she wants, what it is that he needs to do to resolve his problem, to get Priss to leave him and Megan alone.

[Ian says to his Mom,] “What did you mean that you knew what she was?  What is she?”

“She’s anger, Ian,” my mother said. “She’s misery. She’s revenge. She’s a deep, abysmal loneliness.”

“Mom?” I said. I couldn’t leave without asking. “What does she want?”

She whispered fiercely in my ear:  “Sweetheart, why don’t you just ask her.”

(pg 246-249, 74.1%)

PART 4: Character is a Martyr, willing to die to resolve his problem.

Part 4A Events:  Ian doesn’t know how to find Priss, she always comes to him, so Ian meets up with his hometown’s psychic to get some guidance on dealing with Priss.  Ian then goes to the library to read some 100-year-old documents on Priss. Meanwhile, the cops are looking for him, because they think he pushed Megan and because he burnt down his apartment, and because….

Climax:  Megan is missing, presumably taken by Priss. (pg 277)  Dealing with this last crisis takes 38 pages, including intermittent flashbacks.  Ian checks for Megan at his childhood home, where he is finally discovered by the cops.  He talks one into letting him go to Priss to see if he can convince her to release Megan.  Priss has set fire to Ian’s childhood home, and Ian rushes in to save Megan.  Only after promising Priss that he’ll move back home to be near her does Priss let Megan go.  With Priss’s help, Ian and Megan escape the fire.

Aftermath/Part 4B Events:  Ian successfully completes a rehab program (he was addicted to angry Priss). He and Megan are building a new home where his childhood home used to be, and they are expecting a baby.  Priss is still around, but in a much more contented form.


Well, that’s it for me.


We’ll see if we can beat out the major plot points in the one-liners we’re working on.  See you then!

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