Apparently this is about writing now!

Apparently this is about writing now!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The First Chapter Blues

As I re-write the first chapter of my very first novel, I find myself faced with a huge amount of nostalgia. I'm sure you've heard of murdering your darlings--it means that to write a good story sometimes you have to cut out the things dearest to you.
Now there is a good reason I'm cutting this first chapter--it doesn't fit the book. My POV switches constantly, the tone is airy and light rather than dark and slightly menacing. And, most importantly, it does not set up for the story I want to tell. A first chapter has a huge responsibility to the story it starts. IT has to lure in the audience, and prepare them for the tone of the story ahead of them.
Therein comes the problem. When I was writing this first chapter the first time, I had no idea what story I wanted to tell. I thought, maybe, a fun YA novel about magic and monsters--something that had been done, but could be done differently. But the truth was I didn't know what my plot would be, or how the story would go. So I just started writing a first chapter, throwing a bunch of characters I had designed years ago with my best friend (now girlfriend) and knew pretty well.
But now, that first chapter is going away--it is history--it should never be read.

But I just caaaaaan't. I shouldn't share it, or show it, or anything of the like, but it is so strange and quirky, and I am going to miss it. I want to know it's somewhere I can find it again--somewhere safe and sound and (hopefully) somewhere where it can be a little loved.
So guess what all of you get!

(On a side note, this is not going to be published, but it is still mine. Please don't use it without my permission. If you want to borrow part of it, just ask. I'll probably say yes. If you want to share it, just share the link to the post, please! Miranka, Erin, and Lee are all characters in my Bones like Birds series, which is still ongoing and unpublished. To read the original first chapter, click the jump link!)

The Nesting Ground

Chapter One (only not anymore...)

When the man of her dreams finally appeared, Erin had already come out to her parents and fallen in love with Lee, the stoic young girl who had somehow ended up in all of her classes for the past five years. It wasn't that the dream-man was late. She had only just turned sixteen, which was a perfect age for adventure and romance, and in fact she had intended to wait for someone to come and sweep her off her feet, but it just hadn't worked out for her. Lee had been there, and beautiful, and had done all the foot sweeping she needed to send Erin tumbling head over heels. Granted she'd done it when they got into a fist fight in the middle of algebra, but love strikes at the strangest moments.
She was waiting for her sweetheart in quote their spot unquote (also known as the school yard behind the art building) with a book bag that ought to have been full of homework and instead was stuffed with notebook after notebook, each one home to ten different stories and three different role plays. Both she and Lee were convinced that one day The Idea would come to them and lead them to infamy. When they started dating, it felt like things were starting to fall into place; that despite the fact that neither one was riding a white horse or wearing silver armor, they had found someone to share an adventure with. They both stopped waiting for their heroes to arrive.
So when a handsome, flawless, pale man with dark hair drifted from the sky down to the girl who he had long been told would love him, she looked up at him with true awe, her eyes following him down to earth in a way that any young heroine's should. Unfortunately for him, then she opened her mouth.
“Well damn.” Erin said absently to the world, “You're a little late.” From that moment on, he never quite regained his equilibrium.
“What?” the angelic voice he had assumed for his role queried. Erin tilted her head slowly to the side and tucked her badly-dyed hair behind one ear. They stood in a confused face off for solid minutes, neither sure how to respond to the other. Erin was not the pure, innocent appearing girl the dark man had been warned of. He studied her pierced lip and gaudy makeup with vague horror. She was gazing behind his head at a pair of perfect wings arching from his back.
“Uh...” She said articulately, pointing behind him, “wings.”
“Um,” he glanced behind himself, equally bewildered, “yes.”
“Oh,” was her response. Silence descended again between them as the birds prattled on and the sun shone down on the girl who ought to have been utterly  smitten. The handsome man shifted uncomfortably and cleared his throat. When he decided that the silence had continued long enough, he opened his mouth to begin his well prepared speech regarding his role in her destiny only to be halted by a hand extended towards him. He gazed at it as if it were a snake.
“I'm Erin,” she said with a decidedly firm look on her face,  “and you really ought to have disappeared by now.” It took him thirty solid seconds to realize she wanted to shake hands with him and grasped his fingers around hers as though he was certain his hand would be ripped off.
“Miranka,” He replied, “and I can't.”
In the still air around them, as they studied each other warily, the fabric of the world was being rewritten. Physics was in a screaming fight with reality, protesting the ethereal creature hovering inches above the ground and touching a good, gravity-obeying citizen. Reality was shrugging in response, and helplessly indicating to physics that while the man did, indeed, appear to be floating, this was no fault of reality's. After all, reality never made anything happen. Things just happened to reality. Currently, it had a lot in common with Erin, who was having a difficult time comprehending that Miranka was touching her, hand solid, if limp, in her grip, while his feet disdained to touch the ground. His skin was smooth, and not notably hot or cold, but she could feel it, intimately, under her fingertips, sliding over tendons like any human hand's. She had forgotten to actually shake the appendage at all, in fact, and was standing stock still staring at the porcelain skin in her grasp with all the grace and poise of a landed fish. Miranka, to his credit, didn't call her attention to the fact. His reality was having a difficult time catching up as well.
“So,” Erin finally muttered, looking up at him with bemused eyes, “what are you? Guardian angel? The classic tempting devil? Bizarro harpy? Miranka's perfect brows furrowed.
“No,” he said, “I'm a...” he paused, gaze flicking to the side. Nothing happened.
“You're a...?” Erin prompted, looking a him in utter confusion mixed now with wariness, releasing her grip on his hand to let it flop to its owner's side. He was looking towards the path around the empty house with distant consternation, but turned his gaze back to the young punk when she spoke, looking somewhat frustrated.
“Usually someone interrupts the first time I try to tell someone,” he muttered in annoyance. Erin nodded slowly, her brain at once keeping abreast the conversation and attempting to re-write the world as she knew it.
“Lee's always late,” she said, placatingly “please just tell me.” Miranka appeared to droop slightly at the words, and sagged in the air till his toes touched earth. He looked downright crestfallen, wings drooping behind him and a pout crossing his bowed lips. The effervescent, draping clothes drooped around him, the invisible wind that had held them  aloft about his frame dying out. Erin was seized with a sudden urge to draw him into a hug. He was starting to look less like a young god and more like one of the school's many starved emo kids.
“Um,” his pearly fingers wrapped around one of the drapes curled lovingly around his torso, “I'm a Watcher.” Erin blinked at him mildly.
“Like in Buffy?” she queried skeptically. Miranka scowled at her.
“No. Not that kind,” a pleading look crossed his face briefly, “please don't call me Giles.” Erin nodded carefully, wary of annoying him. Miranka took the nod at face value and floated a little higher, cloth picking up again to dance around his lithe form. “I'm sent to watch over those whose lives will affect the future.” His chest swelled very slightly. Erin felt vaguely impressed. She hadn't thought there was enough of a chest there to swell. Then his words caught up with her.
“Uh, 'change the future' how exactly?” she took a half step backwards, glancing behind her at the forest of empty half-rotten picnic tables that populated he once-grassy slope. Living in her small town had taught her to be wary of strange people who thought too much of her. She'd spent a month being followed by a man convinced that she was an angel destined to save him. Miranka drooped again.
“The exposition really shouldn't come first,” he grumbled. “First we should have an adventure together, where we do battle together against some evil force and must come to rely upon one another in the course of one battle, thereby forming an unbreakable trust.” Erin raised her eyebrows at him, one hand sneaking up to rest on her hip in disbelief.
“Are you quoting a manual or something?”
“Yes,” the miserable watcher answered, kicking lightly at a rock resting atop the red clay of the ground and sending it skittering away. He raised dark, unfathomable, and vaguely bashful eyes to meet her gaze. “It's my first time doing a job as big as this.”
Lee strode into view from behind the cafeteria corner, like Telemachus descending the stairs each morning, looking like a young god. Short-cut, straight hair framed her face severely, barely moving despite the speed of her approach. Erin looked up to her with exasperation clear on her face only to freeze upon realizing that the moment she removed her gaze from Miranka he was gone. It was not that he moved, or disappeared into a puff of smoke, he simply was no longer there. She looked down to the ground, where the small rock had been to see the puff of estranged dust lying from where the ethereal boy had kicked at it.
“Hello to you too,” Lee purred in her ear, resting her chin on Erin's shoulder to look down at what she was gazing at. Erin shook herself out of her daze and turned to face her sweetheart, a faint, distracted smile on her face.
“Sorry. Hi, hon.” she murmured, pecking her lips lightly and leaving a faint stain of lip gloss. Lee immediately licked her lips, the corners of her mouth turning upwards ever so slightly in a pleased smile.
“Daydreaming again? What did you find this time?” She knelt by Erin's feet, finger tracing through the red dust. Erin whacked her lightly on the shoulder, but to no effect. The other girl was intent on having a good tease. She rose to her feet slowly, gazing fiercely at the russet stain left on her finger.
“Ahh, the infamous Bleeding Earth of Georgia.” She purred, rubbing the dust between her forefinger and thumb, eyes narrowed in thought. “A worthy cause for concern, my lady.” Erin's punch to her sweetheart's shoulder was not so restrained this time.  Lee only rose eyes full of gravitas to study her and the smile fell from her face at the troubled look Erin could feel on her face. Lee immediately wiped the dirtied hand off on her pants and tugged a lock of once-electric and now dull-blue hair affectionately.
“Erin, I'm sorry I'm late. Don't be mad,” the lock of hair was carefully tucked behind Erin's ear.
“I'm not, Lee,” she huffed, batting the hand away, “you're always late. It's endearing. It's just...” She looked behind her girlfriend and up to the sky, watching for the strange man to reappear, “been a strange day.” Lee looked behind herself to the perfect, deep blue autumn sky and hummed a note of agreement.
“Yeah,” she muttered, turning back to her sweetheart and studying her distant expression, “I guess it has been. Are we still going to the movies tonight?” Erin hummed agreement to the question, still glancing around the yard cautiously, waiting for the “watcher” to reappear while she least expected it. Lee took her by the hand and led her away decisively, pulling her back into the cramped halls of the building and towards the parking lot, pulling her keys out with her unoccupied hand, key rings jingling together. Every one of of them was a gift from Erin. Lee herself only had one key, to her car, but she now had ten key rings attached to it, each with a different inappropriate sarcastic comment emblazoned on it in varying colors. No one of them was actually something the young woman would say.
(She had once been instructed to carry a house key with her as well, since she got out of school before her parents came home, and had to let herself in, but had demonstrated to her parents that she was not only capable of scailing the fencing under her unlocked bedroom window and letting herself in that way, but actually prefered it to something as normal as being a latchkey child. Surprisingly, her parents agreed, though first they warned their neighbors on every side not to panic if they saw someone sneaking into their house.)
The boxy Honda Civic trembled under Erin all the way to the theater, and she spent the whole trip looking out the window, vaguely hearing the radio screaming out German pop songs at the two of them. It was one of Lee's favorite hobbies to attempt to learn languages through music alone. She had a very specific vocabulary in a lot of languages now, and Erin tried to keep up with her as well as she could. It made the girl easier to understand if you could follow her through language switches.
She stayed silent aside from the occasional muttered translation during the ride to the movie theater, and Erin could feel the grey-eyed girl's gaze resting on her at every stop light. Even though she ought to have reassured her girlfriend that she was alright, her brain had hit a snag. She glanced down at the clock, took note of the time, and made a mental note to write in her journal that at six thirty on November second, she talked to a crazy man with wings.
They went to see Paranormal Activity and Lee sat silently at her side, completely ignoring the apparently terrifying film to watch the emptiness in Erin's eyes, wondering what could have shaken her so badly that taking her to the scariest  movie of all time hadn't phased her. Usually she either overreacted in fear at horror movies or spent the whole time complaining to her lover about the implausibility of the scenario. Now she sat blankly staring at the screen, seeing every horrifying visual, and registering the terror of the people around her, and finding that she couldn't bring herself to care. All she could remember was the feel of living skin under her fingers and the sight of toes just brushing the ground.
Half way through the movie, Erin gave up and turned to Lee, startled to find her storm cloud eyes already fixed on her intensely. Before she could apologize, Erin felt her hand grasped firmly and allowed the other girl to tow her from the theater, accompanied by horrified screams. She allowed herself to be towed through the all but empty lobby, hearing the men behind the snack counter snicker at them, obviously mistaking Lee's worry for fear. Erin suddenly felt guilty for making the other girl embarrass herself out of worry. Once they were outside, Lee dropped her grip. Erin turned her head and mumbled an apology only to find her chin caught in a gentle hold and lifted, bringing her into eye contact with the stoic woman.
“What's wrong?” Lee demanded, a faint, worried scowl crossing her lips, “did someone at school say something to you?” Erin started laughing, and was horrified to find that she couldn't stop. Oh yes, she thought, someone at school said something to me, but he must have been my imagination, because most of the bigots in the south don't come winged.
She didn't say a word, only laughed until she was breathless and let Lee lead her away into the evening, pulling her gently through the parked cars. She didn't unlock the Honda when they reached the door, instead seating herself on the bumper and pulling Erin down beside her.
“You've been talking nonsense since this afternoon,” she muttered, turning away to look into the oncoming twilight, passive expression masking the worry clearly audible in her throaty voice. Erin found her gaze drawn to the sun-darkened skin of her throat, and the play of shadows against it. The tendons were tense beneath the soft skin, and she could see the muscles working in tension. It reminded her of when they first started together—when she had dragged Lee kicking and screaming out of her self-imposed exile and started piecing her together. She'd been worried and broken then too. Suddenly, winged men didn't seem like such a big deal. Not in comparison with the heavy sorrow shrouding her partner. She wrapped an arm around the older girls shoulders and scooted closer on the bumper, tilting her head to knock against the other's and watching her feathered blue hair twist over the tanned shoulder at her side. Her hair really was a mess...
Lee thumped her knee lightly and knocked their heads together again, with slightly more force, eliciting an indignant yelp from her lover. Erin lifted the hand she'd had around Lee's shoulders to rub her throbbing head.
“Not cool, Le-le,” she groused, turning away. Lee only took the opportunity to sneak both arms around her waist and kiss the nape of her neck softly, a clear message of forgiveness between the two girls. They sat in silence for a while, the chill of the evening pressing inward, but reveling in the privacy it afforded them. Georgia was not always a friendly place to snuggle with your girlfriend on the hood of a car.

(That's all I'm giving you all for now--I'm not sure now much of the rest I'm using. I hope you enjoyed a little glimpse into the rejected chapter of The Nesting Grounds, book one of the Birds of Bones trilogy! Mucho love from me to all of you who read this far!)

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