Sunday, September 7, 2008

Chapter One

Is it possible to take a character from birth to 18 years of age in the first chapter without it turning into one massive information dump? I like to think so, but it takes a considerable amount of finesse. I've been hard at work, and three weeks and several hundred google searches later, I've got a single chapter from David's perspective.

In chapter one we travel with David from elementary school to the campus of Yale in four short years. And here's the shocking part, the chapter is only 2,212 words! I had projected 3,000 at least. But then again, I've gone in and tightened a lot of the narrative already. Oh, and here's another shocker: David speaks a grand total of only seven lines of dialog! It's perfect. He's just as reticent as I'd imagined him. He just never needs to say anything. And I was very careful not to have him feel anything, either. He isn't annoyed or confused or least he doesn't name any of these emotions. He simply shows us how he's feeling by what he does. It's fantastic. I was really doubtful that I'd get this comfortable writing David, but in the last two sessions, I've made a real connection with him. Though, I have to admit, the last two sessions have only yielded a grand total of four paragraphs and a sweeping edit. At least they were critical paragraphs! But honestly, I should keep track of the time I spend writing, because I did nothing today but write and research and spent several hours last night writing and I've only got FOUR stinking paragraphs to show for it? That seems like poor output to me. But at least it's output that isn't going anywhere. I'd rather have four polished, critical paragraphs than two pages of discard-able drivel.

I'm really flying high. I just got done reading the chapter aloud to myself several times, and it's sounding really good. David sounds appropriately young, and yet appropriately brilliant. He's sufficiently unemotional and taciturn. In terms of style, I think I've gotten the tone right.

Now I'm struggling with the question of whether I should extend the chapter or not. I don't want to jump directly into Claire's head yet. I think I should stick with David and make the jump from Yale to IU with him. We're going to be skipping his entire undergraduate career. He'll go from 14 to 18 instantly, which might or might not work. I haven't written it yet, so I can't tell for sure. I have come up with a really ingenious transition, though, so I'm hopeful. The plan is to have the tail end of David's introductory chapter overlap Claire's introductory chapter, perhaps by only two to four paragraphs. I don't want the reader to have to relive the entire scene. I just want to get David and Claire's contradictory first impressions of each other in right at the onset because they're so wildly divergent from the truth that it's humorous.

But I'm not ready for IU yet. I've got a lot of research to do before I am comfortable with the IU campus. I have to figure out where David's house/apartment is, where the deli is, where the Cog Sci dept is, and the relationship between all of these locations before I can place my characters there with any confidence.

So that's the plan for tomorrow: to form a mental map of my little world at IU so I can write the tail end of David's chapter and start in on Claire's. I'd hoped to have two chapters done by this time, but if I'm very, very diligent tomorrow, perhaps I can still meet my goal and be sending out first reader invitations this week after all. But then again, it's NFL week one, and I'm not sure how well listening to the game and writing will co-exist in my brain. I can't really listen to music and write like most people can. It interrupts my flow and keeps me from finding the right word.

I'm having major dental surgery next Friday, so I don't know how much writing I'll be able to get done next weekend. Maybe I'll find the pain to be a motivator. Maybe I'll find the Vicodin to be a motivator. Who knows?

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