Friday, November 28, 2008

MISSING: Ideal First Sentence... have you seen it?

Friday, September 19, 2008

Well, I finally sat down and started writing the opening scene for my book. The description I have in my notes for it is:

"Opening Scene:
Waking up from a horrible nightmare, sweating, shaking, gasping for breath she looks at the alarm clock and realizes that she is going to be late. She rushes to get ready and runs out the door and receives a phone call from Heather."

I want to open the story describing the horrible dream that she is having and then transition into the rest of the story. Unfortunately I can't get past the dream sequence. I started typing my thoughts today and after I began typing the same tedious, boring monologue again I decided to do a little writing exercise. Once I recognized the same words coming out again I stopped and started a stream-of-consciousness narrative of what I am feeling about this scene and where I'm having my difficulty. I figured I could read over this later and be able to see clearly where my mistakes are so next time I attempt this it will go a lot smoother.

As this dream idea is fairly cliche and I don't give away much about the story's plot in my narrative I figured I would post it and see if anyone comments on it.


"Oh god, what did I do? Why won't they leave me alone?" she thinks to herself as she runs haphazardly through the dark woods….


This is really annoying, I have never had this much trouble describing scenes in stories I've wrote. To be fair I've never had a story play so vividly in my mind before, but what is wrong with me? I really think this could be an amazing story if I could translate it from the visual scenes in my head into words on the computer. I can see the opening dream scene perfectly in my head:

"A dark, windy night, the wind gusting through the trees and causing leaves to fall precariously onto her running form. Who is she? What is she running from? She is dressed casually in a pair of dark blue jeans and a maroon sweater with a pair of maroon running shoes on. Well at least it's not a typical horror story set up with the damsel in distress fleeing for her life in 6 inch stilettos. Her long hair whips behind her as she tears through the trees and shrubs frantically, desperate to get away from her pursuers. The occasional leaf falls into her sweaty, tear-strewn face only to be ripped away and thrown without a second thought onto the hard ground. The dark-haired woman ventures a quick glance behind her, hoping that she has gotten away only to catch her foot on a tree root and fall. She attempts to stand, only to fall back down, grabbing her twisted ankle when she hears it - the footsteps of her pursuers. She desperately looks around her, silently begging for some sort of hiding place and quickly crawls into a nearby bush. She looks out through the branches and leaves and watches their legs rush past her; all the while holding her breath to keep from hyperventilating and willing her heart to beat quieter. She can't gasp for breath like her lungs are pleading her to do, why won't her heart slow down; it's beating so loud they must be able to hear it too. She sits and listens until everything grows quiet around her, no more rustling pant legs or feet crunching leaves and twigs as they run through, no more shouting. The smell of burning wood from their torches lingers everywhere, tainting the once peaceful woods with their evil ways. She lets out a deep breath, and starts to assess her injuries when several sets of hands thrust through the bush and grab her...

Casey sits straight up and screams and struggles with her captors only to realize that hands aren't holding her down, just her tangled, sweaty sheets…"

Now that is no where near the finished scene. I'd like to describe the woods better, how the moon is filtering through the treetops giving her just enough light to navigate. How this light also causes shadows to appear everywhere, enhancing her fear. I'd like to spend more time describing the sounds of them chasing her to build up the terror so that the reader can truly understand how scared Casey is. I know this dream is stereotypical, but a lot of nightmares are; this is just how her subconscious is dealing with the memories of her troubled past. No, she was never actually chased through the woods at night by a torch-wielding mob, but dreams aren't always literal assessments of our thoughts. They have to be interpreted to know what they really mean. As the story continues and the reader gets to know Casey Parker better and learns more about her past, the dream will make more sense. It will be less bad horror movie chase scene and more of a symbolic representation of her damaged psyche and how fears from her childhood still haunt her.

The hardest part is that I want to write this story in the first-person perspective because I think that is the only way I can tell the story correctly, and I have no idea how to write this dream sequence in the first person. I guess I could have it be one of those dreams where you are floating above the scene, watching yourself go through everything. I just don't want it to be confusing if I went from this third-person perspective in the dream to only Casey's point-of-view for the rest of the story. The problem with the third-person perspective is that she wouldn't wake up the way she did if she was just watching a mob grab a girl in the woods; she has to be the one experiencing it in the dream. Every time I try to write the dream from her perspective it sounds so… well lame. It always ends up being just a long, drawn-out monologue of her thoughts. I can't seem to find a good balance of her thoughts and the descriptions of what's going on around her.

I really want to touch on as many of the senses as possible in my description of this scene to really make it seem real and to make it "come alive" for the reader. "The sound of the pants rustling, the leaves and twigs snapping… the sight of the moonlight shining through the thick canopy of trees… the smell of the torches burning… the taste of her own sweat mixed with blood from a gash on her lip from falling… the feel of the wind on her face as she's running and then again as it cools her when she's hiding… " I'm struggling to find a way to have all of that come out of an endless monologue of "who are they? Why are they after me?...blah blah blah".

The trouble I am already having with this scene is enough to make me start questioning and second guessing my decision to make this a first-person story, rather than a third-person perspective. Maybe I should just start writing the rest of the scene after she wakes up and see how that goes. Maybe once I get some momentum with this writing style I can come back and try to re-write this dream sequence. Until I sat down to write this out completely I never realized how important the elements of this dream are to the story. How much they describe who Casey is and why she is the way she is… if that makes any sense at all…

Oh, and I'm still searching for the ideal opening sentence…


Am I probably over thinking this whole thing and putting too much pressure on myself... probably. Do I need to just relax and let the words come to me like I always do... probably. Will I probably be awake all night with my little writing gremlin annoying me because I have to leave this unfinished today as my son woke up from his nap... prob...well you get the idea.


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