Renovating Chapter 1 + Character Connectivity?

I don’t see why I say I’ll do one project. I’m not very good at sticking to one at a time; my mind blooms with so many more than the simplest… We are at the end of July, though, so my promise to my sequel no longer has as much hold over me. Besides, the first book ought to take precedence over the sequel, hehe.

Where were we?  "Space radiation is equal to the frequency of the amplitude squared."
Where were we?
“Space radiation is equal to the frequency of the amplitude squared.”

I’ve decided to rewrite chapter 1 of my main novel again. In terms of When the Clock Broke, it is my arch-nemesis, the antagonist of this personal story, if you will.

Thoughts haunt me regularly, even through the better times of the novel-and-story. Am I starting in the right place? In media rerum indeed? Further back, and I’d have the same clog as chapter one, as well as an additional, arbitrary character and a new scene from which to build. And, at 80K, I’m in a comfortable place with wordcount.

Further forward, and readers might not ‘get’ the character motivations and set up in chapter 1.

But is it worth the risk of changing? I still believe that Aidelle being introduced to the house marks the more important part of her life – literally and symbolically – than the reader being introduced to both sides of the couple in the house already.

On the other hand, I have already moved the clock (hints at the inciting incident) and the master bedroom (symbolism and possible foreshadowing) into chapter 2 to help trim the fat off the 1 as it was (over 5.5K before my last edit!). Conversely, I don’t want to bulk up that chapter. My word!

So, you see how the argument is panning out in my head.

The second question is of my ability to work without the first chapter. It’s not something I want to do, but it’s something I maybe could. I could probably create the tension from Phillip’s family by including that into his conversion/discussion with Rion, as I have done for some other pieces – but can do the same for Aidelle’s troubles?

Her internal conflict is greater and I don’t think I could show it adequately through Phillip’s eyes. Besides, half a chapter is not enough for Aidelle at the beginning.

Losing chapter 1 puts me down to 75K as well, something which I am not so comfortable about.

I know I probably don’t need so much world-building, but I need to make the events of 3 as believable as possible. Why do Aidelle and Phillip fight? These pressures acting on them – pressa omnes partes, Propertius might say* – are shown in part through chapters 1 and 2.

Of course, I want the best for the book and readers.

Thirdly, I’ve had a couple of Beta readers say that they find it hard to connect with my protagonist of the first chapter, Aidelle. Okay, yes, this is a weakness of mine. I can do characterisation – but getting inside the skin of a character is more complicated than one’d think.

Help! How can improve on this?

Aidelle is waiting...
Aidelle is waiting…

And then there’s the elaborate prose that I have to deal with. Eep.

Anyways, I’ll put that on the ‘summer goals’ list. 😉

*Taken from memory of Propertius’ Elegies Book III. I’ve forgotten in which exact poem he uses the expression roughly translated as ‘[love] presses [on me] from all sides’ – where ‘omnes partes’ (all parts) is used more frequently than the English term from all sides. Used in this post, it provides an apt sidebar that, unlike Propertius’ experiences, it is not love that is pressing against the lovers, but the consequences of their undying faith to each other.

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12 thoughts on “Renovating Chapter 1 + Character Connectivity?

  1. You’re going to know what’s best for your book and story in the end. But I will say, never be afraid to kill your darlings. And create an “extra” file where you throw the major chunks you cut into so they’re not actually lost. You might try it without Chapter 1 and see how you feel about it. See how it reads among CPs who are fresh to the story. Especially see what questions they have, if they feel they are missing anything.

    I had a beginning I was advised to cut and I tried it and suddenly things didn’t make sense with readers. But I didn’t just put it back as normal, I reworked the most important elements and, I feel, came up with an even stronger beginning. I can also remember old drafts that have been completely tossed in the garbage because they just don’t work anymore. You feel a little sorrow for them, but at the end of the day a good story is what matters most.

    So two bits of advice in that: don’t be afraid to kill your darlings and don’t be afraid to trust your gut. 🙂

    1. Actually, I do have one of the documents, back when I was ridding the novel of the random view points. And of my original chapter one. I have 2K from an entirely different brother’s perspective when he goes to look after their mother. It provided some nice back-story stuff and emotional drama (“oh, why has my family been so divided?” lament lament) – but who really cares if his wife is jealous of their mother?? How is that relevant?? xD *yells at fifteen-year-old self* Look at me, I’m mocking my own prose!

      1. Just wait until that prose is 10 years old. You’ll cringe and squirm. I’ve read stuff I wrote from way back when and I’m tempted to set fire to it all, but I think it’s good to go back and see how far I’ve progressed. It always makes me feel better. 🙂

        1. Hehe, I guess that’s a plus. When I was in primary school, I wrote a couple of stageplays (one long one, one Doctor Who fanfic of about 20-mins performing time), but I daren’t even read them through they are that horrific. It’s another of those ‘why?’ moments. 😛

            1. I dunno yet. I’ll have to see in which direction he takes the character. Yeah, great actor, but.. *shrugs* I honestly won’t know until I see his Doctor, rather than man-who-will-play-Doctor.

  2. Jae seems to have given you some excellent advice, there, but I just want to offer to look at Chapter One the same as I did for Two. If you send it to me in its latest entirety, I’ll read the lot and give some general comments, maybe make a list of what I think your main goals are for the chapter.
    I quite see the weighty advantages in keeping it, symbolically as much as anything, so I don’t propose to cull it unless you have a really good idea for an alternative scene, and I agree Two wouldn’t adequately set up Aidelle’s conflict, unless you cut it in two and expanded each ‘half’. Not sure how viable that is.
    Anyway, the offer’s there, if you think it might be helpful 🙂

    1. I certainly shall sometime next week. I’ll do an edit of it myself, going on similar things to your exempla gratia “Even when his brother had not met her, Rion’s irksome[…] A sensitive red hiss clouded over Phillip’s eyes;[…]It was only Rion’s game.” You know, I printed that email out and annotated it 😉 Umm, I still have to finish emailing you, as well. I believe we are still in conversation about 2. My latest feeback is that 2 is better than 1 – BUT, of course, I still appreciate your eye for the tiny details whilst I vroom from A to B.
      Hmm, I could always ‘dumb it down’ in another doc. I think my main worry is that, without the twiddles, my prose is actually incredibly dry. Think bad writing day at G+M.
      Actually, that’s a question: regardless of characters or writing, how would you, personally, visualise that strongest of anger/fury?
      I enjoy your lists. They are succinct and erudite. I suspect (or should that be ‘expect’? xD 😉 ) you’ll make one of the perceived character motivations and reader-character relations. ie. “I like Phillip best, feel sorry for Aidelle most, and enjoy reading Rion the most’. On that note, I enjoy reading/writing Rion the most, because he says what’s on his mind, and his mind is cold and scientific. In fact, it’s the whole non-contractions thing I love about some of my characters. Contractions are too modern an invention 😉
      And no, I don’t have ideas for an alternate scene. I’m not keen on scratching the surface up again.

      1. Woop! I am useful ^.^
        Or does that depends on your definition of ‘dry’? I don’t know; try it a bit and see.
        How do I visualise anger? Um…well, personally, it possesses me. Iron grips and evil spirits. My mind completely detaches and my body becomes an unconscious vehicle for expression of passion. But how to ‘imagerise’ that…
        Well, ‘clouded his vision works’; it’s just the ‘sensitive red hiss’ that puts me off.
        ‘succinct and erudite’ 😀
        Love a good seemingly heartless antagonist.
        I write first drafts with no contractions, because that’s the way I hear my characters speak when I’m really into a scene.
        Good!

        1. Oh, it does. Reading is subjective, remember. Perhaps I am simply very sensitive because of all the extravagent Latin I have read in my years.
          Mmm. Maybe ‘sensitive redness’ or ‘red haze’. I agree that hiss is rather audible rather than visual. In fact, I used it just last night to describe the sound coming from a broken piece of machinery.
          Well, Phillip sees red when he is at the apex of his once-volatile fury, so I wanted to encorporate that.
          Erudite may well be my word of the week 😉
          Ah, ‘seemingly’. But yeah, I love his efficiency and order (I may have said that in the previous comment. I can’t see it here)
          Yay!

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