Alma on Chapter 1 and the commentary so far…

So, before I launch into the editorial process itself, now that my Advisory Committee has weighed in, here’s a few words of my own on Chapter 1.

If my commentary posts are going to have a sort of themed approach, this first one would have been a toss-up between “world-building” and “point of view” – and since we’re going to be doing more world-building down the line, let me go with the latter for now.

Many of the problems which were pin-pointed by the team – principally centered on Rainald – draw roots from this particular issue. Put simply, I had trouble with POV in the dawn of my writing career – and poor Rainald bore the brunt of that in this particular chapter.

To give me a little bit of credit, when I started out writing this story I had a fairly clear idea of what the story was and who the characters were about whom I would write it. But when I actually put pen to paper, I found myself in a wholly unexpected place (that wretched and probably utterly generic inn) and with a character who was a complete stranger to me. I actually stopped and thought, “Okay, who are you and what are you doing here?” – but he seemed to be intent on his eavesdropping so I decided to go with it for a little while, and see if I couldn’t find out stuff about him as we went along (this has always been the way I wrote, after all. Put a story seed into a pot and watch… something… grow. I never know in advance if it will be a head of lettuce or a redwood…)

So – I was finding things out about Rainald pretty much as the reader did. His father’s dying was something of a surprise to me, frankly, because since I had given no thought to the character himself I had certainly paid no attention to his forebears. You might say I didn’t know Rainald Avigor HAD a father, so to speak, until the old man keeled over. He never had a name, unless it was Plot MacGuffin – something I needed, or needed to get out of the way, to clear the path for Rainald to be where I needed him to be for the story to move forward. In one sense this death was very much the author waving a metaphorical hand in the unnamed father’s direction and going, yes, yes, yes, get out of the WAY already, I don’t have time for you right now. Hence the fairly… COLD… scenes concerning poor fatherless Rainald’s reaction to said father’s demise. I was shoving at the story for all I was worth, and Papa was collateral damage. And in being collateral damage, he damaged Rainald, too. This needs to be fixed and addressed in the rewrite, and it shall be, indeed.

The other things that Rainald was prey to was, oh, stopping to randomly admire the architecture of the castle when he crept in at the astonishingly late hour of “after midnight” (what? I was fourteen years old. Midnight was LATE.) And also having thoughts about “Castala’s uniquely powerful magnetic fields”. And thinking in terms of “wavelength”. Oh dear, oh my. This was a culture very medievaloid in nature; they MAY or MAY NOT have once been something else, the reader has no way of knowing that right now and certainly I present the society as being high-end middle ages with no hint to anything else at all, but if they ever had been that is now deeply buried in the past, and any high-tech ideas have been long lost or buried into verbiage which has degenerated into legends, or into mythology. For the Rainald of whom I am writing the concept of a magnet would have been deeply foreign, and as for the concept of a world having a magnetic field, that wouldn’t even be something that would occur to him. And “wavelength” is such a deeply modern phrase and concept that it throws ME out of the story now when I re-read the chapter and I can only imagine what it does to anyone else. There was a comment from the Teen Quartet that the slang used in the first chapter is an uneasy mix of the ancient and the modern – well, the “wavelength” thing is part of that, very much so, and I need to correct the manner and the context in which Rainald thinks about his world.

I fear I may also be using the poor sap as the bearer of a fairly large burden of infodumpery – I was not confident enough to allow the world to develop at its own pace and let the reader discover it as they went along, no, I had to use Rainald to “explain” things, stuff that he and anyone around him knew well enough for explanations not to be necessary at all or at the very least for those explanations to be delivered in the narrative in terms of building up the backdrop to the story rather than having Rainald thinking or ruminating on it all. Another thing that needs to be fixed.

I’ll kill the seven incarnations of “one” in the first paragraph, Loki [grin] I promise.

I think I have work to do now.

Chapter 2 – to keep my Council in the swim of things – will follow reasonably shortly, within a week or so, to give folks something to chew over and think about while I’m working on #1 – but I’ll probably be posting a few more thoughts on that #1 as I work on it, just to let you all in on the process, and then, of course, I’ll be posting the New! Improved! Chapter 1 at the end of it all, for the Teen Council’s verdict… and yours.

I would like to invite anyone out there reading this with an interest in the craft of writing – particularly if you are a young writer yourself – to join in, to share your impressions and ideas. Comments are open and waiting for you – but if you would like to comment on a particular Advisory Committee member’s specific post on something, do it here on the main blog appended to the post in question so we can keep them threaded.

I think we’re off to a great start, off and running, and I very much look forward to the next round!


One Comment to “Alma on Chapter 1 and the commentary so far…”

  1. This is a good post and may be one to be followed up to see how things go

    A neighbor e mailed this link the other day and I’m desperately anticipating your next post. Proceed on the wonderful work.

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