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Plot - The McManara Emporium

Updated: 1 day ago

Close-up of the stars and stripes US flag.

Historical; epic | Briston, California - 1845

Main characters.

Jack, Tom, Luise, Mary, Carl, belong to the McManara family who settle in California in 1845 at the beginning of the gold hunt. It all begins with old Jack, the emigrant progenitor, opening a general store in Briston with the family savings. He is followed by his son Tom, a wise and well-adjusted boy, very different from his brother Alan. He will be followed by grandson Carl, and great-granddaughter Mary. But the real star of this novel is the emporium itself and the world around it.

The call to adventure

The McManara emporium will remain in the family-run business to this day, seeing alternating children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren behind the counter, each with their own character, conflicts, ideas and limitations that distinguish human beings. The characters that follow one another will each have a different calling, often related to historical moments in American land.

Jack will face the greed of the gold diggers, Tom will see the disasters of World War I, and the Great Depression, Carl will go through World War II, Vietnam, and the American dream, and Mary will lead the emporium into the age of technology.


Each event, each historical phase will take its toll on the McManara family, sometimes in terms of lives. Jack will witness injustices perpetrated against his black friends. Tom will lose two sons during the world conflicts and see friends take their own lives during the Great Depression.

Carl will learn about the horrors of Vietnam and distrust of the political system. There will also be fierce arguments among family members, separations, misunderstandings, but in the end the McManara family will always find a way to stay together under one roof at the big emporium.

The Key

The characters in the epic experience loves and fears, and ambitions, and disappointments, and successes. The story of the McManaras is the story of the United States: racism, the Civil War, Prohibition, the Great Depression... It all flows before the counter of the big emporium.

Plot alternatives

Great epics have two basic ingredients: the characters in the story and the historical moment in the setting. It could be an Italian family, or German, or English, it matters little. The emporium is the place around which to develop the narrative, but it could be a clothing factory or a restaurant or a hotel.

What matters is to also be very knowledgeable about the historical period and the events that happened. My advice is to structure the outline well. List the important dates, then juxtapose the characters with this, paying attention to the age of the characters to avoid time holes.

Now that the characters' ages and historical events are aligned study a way that they should stay involved so that the scenes are created. An example: Prohibition is a period between '20 and '33 during which alcohol was banned. Now imagine that our character at the time needed money and wanted to get around the rule. So he starts making liquor in the back and selling it on the side.

What risks would he take? What about his family? And would anyone object? And so on and so forth. There is much to have fun writing about. It is an exercise that can be accomplished by changing state or period and can develop thousands of alternatives.


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