Monday, 23 April 2007

Elements of the Page-Turner

Here's where I am with my new opening chapter to Tethered Light.
In breaking the scene down, I hope to clarify my thoughts and share my connection-making process.

Penpa and Blinky away from lighthouse. Penpa watching nomads (forged from thick, black worms) through spyglass. She has read about nomads in journals (found in lighthouse): Should one gaze into their eyes, one's soul will be sucked out. She can't make their eyes out.
Here, I'm introducing the world, the style and mood, the genre and the conventions it will adhere to (reader's expectations) and my two main characters. Penpa's primary motivation is introduced - to explore beyond the lighthouse; to be freed from the lighthouse's leash and her responsibilities to a faceless planet. Her character is revealed: she is naive, flaunting the warning about gazing into the nomads' eyes. This naivety will be reversed by the ending, and Penpa will have learned to control her curiosity and to accept her responsibilities (which will have magnified immeasurably by the conclusion). We begin with characters in peril (McKee suggests that character is revealed through meaningful choices made under pressure). Also, we have questions: Who wrote the journals? What will happen if Penpa gazes into the nomads' eyes? What is the significance of this lighthouse? What is Penpa's role?

Blinky nudges Penpa. Penpa is irritated: she knows she must get back to turn the beacon on before twilight settles, yet still she wants to see the nomads' eyes.
Blinky is given the parental role. Penpa is shown as immature, neglecting her responsibilities. Like a stroppy teenager, she wants things her way and is fed up of years of imposition and expectations of her.
Now we enter a string of perilous situations. In and out of frying pans and fires. These perils occur within a countdown: Penpa must return to the lighthouse to light the beacon. Whilst it would be a pace-drainer to explain the lighthouse's importance here, the reader will already understand the general importance of a lighthouse's beacon. I can also play with Blinky's agitation to reinforce this idea.

Nomads turn and point at Penpa. Their breasts unravel, twisting into two winged beasts.
The beasts fly towards Penpa and Blinky who turn to run.
The trees appear to be walking, but actually the snow is giving way, falling into a deep crevasse.
Penpa and Blinky fall. Aggggh.
They are snatched from the air by the beasts and carried into the sky.
Incensed by the impertinence of these beasts (yet still terrified), Penpa lashes out at her beast and is dropped. She falls again. Aggggh.
Penpa is separated from aid (Blinky). Her character is reinforced: stubborn, blind to danger, naive, no thought beyond present. She calls after Blinky: even though she might find him a bore sometimes, she loves him unconditionally.
Penpa lands in the deep snow, unharmed. She sits up, brushing herself down. She is surrounded by nomads.
Penpa is isolated (cut off from aid) and trapped.
A nomad approaches her, bending to put its eyes level with Penpa's.
Its eyes slide open revealing a tiny king and a tiny queen.
(N400. N.B. The reader will quickly come to learn that a pattern of unexpected twists weaves through the narrative. To this end, whilst a dangerous persistence of N400s are revealed, the reader should not be shaken by them once the pattern is recognized. Furthermore, the genre conventions should indicate that a high density of N400s are not out of place. When I pitched this proposal three years or so back, I failed to immerse the reader in my world. I am now much more confident with my understanding of expectations, preconceptions and reality anchors.)
The king beckons Penpa to stare at the glowing gem in his staff.
The queen stops him. 'Do you not know who this is?'
The king is aghast and both he and the queen apologize.
What's this? Why do a king and a queen revere Penpa?
Penpa is puzzled, yet commands the king and queen to return Blinky.
Blinky is returned. Night has settled and they are late turning on the beacon.
Penpa rides on Blinky's back. The darker the sky becomes, the weaker and sicker she turns.
The effects of light withdrawal are shown, and warn of things to come (through a show - a demonstration akin to the Star Trek redshirt. I double up on this in the next chapter by showing, through Penpa's dream/prophesy, how the world would shrivel and die without the light from the lighthouse).

So my new opening is punchy, driven by action and mysteries. It introduces my main characters and their relationship and desires, and the portions of their characters that will change.
There are enough urgent questions unanswered that will encourage the reader to go into chapter two (where I have to do all this again :o)

Afterthought: This has proved to be a very useful exercise; I'd recommend trying to deconstruct any given chapter in this way. I am now inspired to find even more perils to throw into the mix as I prepare for the second pass.

1 comment:

R1X said...

Indeedy. I've been promising myself I need to do this too - given more time... perhaps I shall... er, will... or is it shall?