I need to get the first ten pages of my work in progress all polished and shined up by February 7th so they can be sent to the editor who is comin g to the Advanced Writing Workshop I'm attending up north in March. It's being put on by Amy Finnigan and Carol Lych Williams, both of whom are super cute chickadees. Ann Dee Ellis will also be speaking at it.
Excuse me for a mo'.
(ACK! That's in only one week!!! goodNESS! Why do I always put things off to the last minute??!!!)
Okay. Yeah, I'm fine. Yep, yep. Totally. Now where was I... So, anyhoodles I've been thinking about that first chapter and how to make it better. Some thoughts have been percolating in my head. One is about character arc. My friend, Lana Jordan has recently mentioned the last few times during Pub Club that however your character starts the story, they need to be the opposite by the end. Or vice versa.
I reread Fairest by Gail Carson Levine last week. I love that book. At the beginning Aza has a pretty low opinion of herself. She feels her whole worth is completly wrapped up in her appearance. By the end then she needs to see her own value, find a backbone and be at peace with how she looks. And, of course, this is what happens.
Now what does this have to do with my book? Alright, here we go. At the end of the story, my MC, Jasper will have found his place and purpose, he'll know the truth of who he is and be surrounded by people that care for him. Can you see what that means for my first chapter? Jasper can't have any friends! Nope. Nadda. Zilch.
Also, he needs to be lost, confused and totally in the dark as to what is happening around him. I got that stuff covered, but the friends bit. Well, at this point, he has a wee glimmer of friendship. Woops. Gotta squelch that.
Now, of course, there aren't any Novel Police who will throw me into a jail cell with walls covered in sentences like "Your the best." (really people. It's You're. You don't own "the best". Sorry to break it to you. It's not yours.) if I don't make my MC the complete opposite of who he'll be at the end. But I've been trying to find ways to make that first chapter more interesting and get my audience more invested in his future and I think this will do it. Because not only will he not have a friend...but, well, let's just say there's going to be a pretty sad scene in the beginning as he tries to find a friend.
Ahhhh, so sad. I know. But that's what we writers do. We make our beloved characters suffer so that when they finally win the battle it is Oh So Much Sweeter!
The other random thought rumbling around in my fairly random head, is the idea of magic. And how soon to introduce it. I went to a workshop last summer with Mette Ivie Harrison. I took the first few pages of a different middle grade novel(I've been working on Jasper's book for soooo long. I think it was a test for me. To see if I could even come up with another good idea. And I did! Well, I think so anyways). She had nice things to say about it. She thought I got the middle grade voice spot-on (yay!) but one thing she mentioned was the fact that in middle grades, if there is magic or cool creatures or gadgest or whatever the Super Neat thing is that makes your novel, well, Super Neat, you need to get it as close to the beginning as possible. The magic, the gadgets, the Glow-in-the-Dark Unicorns...they are the reason the middle grader picked up your book. So, you have to deliver this item to them. On the first page if possible! (No. There aren't any Glow-in-the-Dark Unicorns in my novel. I wish.)
I like this advice. It totally rings true for me. So, now....hmmmm, how to get my magic on the first few pages? I'm not sure about this. I've thought about a prologue (No! Evil! Death to Prologues! Or so says the publishing industry. Whatever. They really have it out for Prologues. Maybe there needs to be a rally. With signs like "Heck No! Prologues Won't Go!"). Mmmmm, probably not.
I've thought about having a bit of a narrator's voice telling about what's going on behind the scenes...
"Jasper didn't know it but at that very moment Glow-in-the-Dark Unicorns were congretating outside his window with a bag of cheetos, two toilet brushes and a bottle of ranch dressing. That's right. They were planning to invade."
Hmmm, maybe not...
I don't know. Apparently it's going to have to percolate a bit more.