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Sunday, April 11, 2010

First Chapter of Your Novel Part 4: Grounding

One of the problems writers often have in their first pages is allowing the MC to drift into his/her mind and dwell on problems, ideas, the weather, etc. without bringing us directly into a scene. We have no idea where the MC is or what he/she is doing. That's where grounding comes in...letting the reader know where they are in space instead of floating around inside the MC's head.

Instead of pulling examples from books, I decided to do something different. This week, I'll be experimenting with my own work to see how it turns out. This excerpt is from my next work in progress. Keep in mind, I have only just begun the character profiles. There is no outline or manuscript yet. The first page is just something I jotted down to keep it fresh in my mind until I had the chance to get to it.

Version #1

I remember the day I was born, the squishy way my head felt, the strange ladies poking and pricking me, the fuzzy outline around everything.

My mom says it’s just my imagination. She says, “If your memory is that good, Bea, why aren’t you doing better in school?”

I say, “Because my head is too full for school.”

She shakes her head and says, “I swear you’re going to end up a writer, just like my mother.”

I say, “I don’t want to be a writer. I want to fly airplanes.”

She says, “Then, you’d better get your grades up.” Because everything always comes back to school.

The truth is I remember a lot of things I’m not “supposed” to. I remember the tingles in my fingers and my heart when I fly a plane. Not the kind you take on vacation to Disney World. The kind like Amelia Earhart flew, with the tiny bodies and propellers. I remember getting married in a long white wedding dress with a high itchy collar. I remember escaping from a mansion with fat columns in front and scorching flames bursting from the windows. I remember living on a farm, and the smell of cows and hay that stuck in my clothes. All of those things float through my mind from the moment I flop out of bed til the moment I flop back in it.

I like them for the most part. I’m never bored, that’s for sure. But there is one memory I try not to ever think about, the one that only pops up when the nightmares come, and makes me shiver underneath my covers until the sunlight burns it away.

I remember being murdered.

Version #2 - essentially the same scene, but I added a location and tension.

I remember the day I was born, the squishy way my head felt, the strange ladies poking and pricking me, the fuzzy outline around everything.

So when my mom tried to tell me the story of my birth in her fifth “re-bonding” attempt of our road trip, I finally broke.

“I remember, okay?” I said, digging my ipod out of my backpack so I could drown her out. “Can we just not talk for a while?”

“Well,” she said with a pinched face while staring out the front window of our PT Cruiser. “If your memory is that good, why aren’t you doing better in school?”

I twisted sideways in the passenger seat, and leaned my forehead against the window. I should have known better than to say anything. She never believed me. “Because my head is too full for school.”

She sighed, the same way she had been sighing at me for the past two days, ever since the two of us had packed all of our belongings into the little Uhaul trailer, attached it to the back of our car, and drove away from Dad. “I swear you’re going to end up a writer, just like your father.”

I plugged my ear buds into my ears, hit shuffle, and tilted my head to the sky. “I don’t want to be a writer,” I said quietly. “I want to fly airplanes.”

“Then, you’d better get your grades up,” she said, because everything always came back to school.

The truth is I remember a lot of things I’m not “supposed” to. I remember the tingles in my fingers and my heart when I fly a plane. Not the kind you take on vacation to Disney World. The kind like Amelia Earhart flew, with the tiny bodies and propellers. I remember getting married in a long white wedding dress with a high itchy collar. I remember escaping from a mansion with fat columns in front and scorching flames bursting from the windows. I remember living on a farm, and the smell of cows and hay that stuck in my clothes. All of those things float through my mind from the moment I flop out of bed til the moment I flop back in it.

I like them for the most part. I’m never bored, that’s for sure. But there is one memory I try not to ever think about, the one that only pops up when the nightmares come, and makes me shiver underneath my covers until the sunlight burns it away.

I remember being murdered.


Let me know what you think.

4 comments:

blueeyedadri said...

Version 2 is my choice, although the last 2 paragraphs are what hooked me. Great Premise.

Crystal Cook said...

That is a great premise! The last 2 paragraphs are what hooked me too. And I see what you mean, version 2 I think is the stronger opening. I know I'm just agreeing with the first comment but it's true :)

Tahereh said...

wowww... i loved this!! i prefer version #1 -- because it's cleaner and shows more without telling as much.

but very cool concept! great writing!!

Lola Sharp said...

Very interesting story premise.

Thanks for finding me in the blogosphere. What a treat to follow it back to your bloggy world. :o)

~Lola

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