If I have a claim to fame, it would be that I write really good first chapters. Sometimes the second chapters too. By the time I get to a third, fourth, or even, by a stretch, a fifth, I peter out. I know, good writers recommend an outline and fleshing out your story before you even start writing. But for me, that sort of gets in the way of the story.
I used to dream my stories and couldn’t wait to put them down on the computer, on paper, whatever was handy. Then I’d get caught up in life and when I returned to the story, it just wasn’t there any more.
Tonight I thought I’d browse through some of the things I’d started, and I have to admit I was kind of blown away. I mean they were good enough to make me want more. If they belonged to someone else, someone who’d actually finished and published them, I’d want to keep reading.
From nowhere, my mouth said, “Wow, these are good! You should finish these.” My mind pictured my mother saying this and I promptly burst into tears. My mom died a year ago and was probably my number one cheerleader, besides my sister.
I always thought I’d wait until I had time to devote to this story writing of mine, but now that I actually have time…nothing. In rereading these first chapters, I realized that I still knew these characters. In fact, they’d been vacationing in my head since I put them there.
There’s the fifth grader who realizes he’s socially conscious when he puts his lunch money change in a can to help a fellow student who’s sick. There’s the 13 year-old boy caught up in Concord in the early days of the American Revolution and the 13 year-old girl who not only shares his birthday but lives in the same house 225 years later. There’s Christy, a young widow with two young sons who reunites with her college sweetheart, Ian. And then there’s Jem Dimond, the star member of a boy band, and his friendship with Lucy, a girl he rescued from an abusive household when she was just 12.
What do I do with them all? I still invite them out to play every so often and think of things they would do. The trouble is, those things would generally happen in chapter nine or thirteen.
I recently watched a video by author Luanne Rice, who said she really gets to know her characters. She thinks about them endlessly and allows them to rent space in her mind so that by the time she starts writing, it is her characters who are really telling the story.
Maybe I’ll invite my characters to dinner and let them wine and dine me. Just so I can see what they are up to…and what their five-year plans are.