Author Topic: First chapter of a novel "Kate" - 1900 words  (Read 195 times)

Offline radekkc

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First chapter of a novel "Kate" - 1900 words
« on: September 18, 2018, 08:27:48 AM »
What to begin with?

Many events that seemed insignificant to me at that time in retrospect require being put in this story. Many events loosely scattered across the years that preceded the beginning of my narrative provided me later with valuable context, and up to this day I cannot offer a precise filter over which of them were causes, which were effects of those causes, and which can be counted as coincidences or meaningless details. I'll offer you my best selection, not only to help you understand, but also to once again reassure myself I got the whole picture right.

The beginning is also arbitrary. I might have jumped in with my narrative a month earlier, I might have shocked you with the hardest blow the same way it stunned and paralyzed me. Instead, I pick the time and place when the tension inside and around me started growing to levels I hadn’t known before and my life was jerked from its routine.

My name is Kate.

There was an office party, an 'end year get together' as the management want us to call it to avoid any association with Christmas or religion. It always wondered me that the people who are most offended by Christianity’s persisting influence on our contemporary culture are not people of other religions, but that extensive and ever growing group of Christians themselves who have already realized they are in fact atheists, but can still feel the burden of their traditional upbringing and rebel against it - although it would be utterly sufficient just to ignore it.

I came to the party with a three-layer attitude, each layer detached from the other and unaware of what was going on underneath. The most superficial part of my personality, my social face, was full of excitement and eager for some fun. The lower, conscious layer was actively protesting against dull and predictable job-related events. In fact, I was continuous thinking about my son and my husband, who could of course take care of themselves with mummy out, but would be better off (I had no doubt) with me serving dinner and putting Joel to bed.

I felt tempted to feel special in my rebellious, passive resistance, but the truth is, if you pry open the head of any corporate employee - you will find just those two layers residing on top of each other.

Then there was my id, Freud’s 'unconscious mind', which craved for some time off from responsibilities, some binge drinking, some personality stripping. I had let this side of my nature have its way already a few times before during office events. I was sure our HR department was keeping mental snapshots of all my offenses in the drawers of the brains.

This time the levee did not break. The consumed amounts were just about enough to let me join the merry choir of loud chatting, laughter and dancing thoughts.

I was wearing a casual, light dress, blue with orange flowers on it, absolutely not matching the season. But I liked the feeling of its cool, velvety material on my back and my hips, and when a strange hand ventured into those areas, I could tell it shared the sensation. I turned my head with no indignation, just as if it was still high school and I were allowed to accept or reject such gestures according to my mood, not dictated by to the social frames I was living in.

- Care for a dance? - it was Derek who asked, and his warm hand wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.
- No one is dancing. Yet, I guess - I smiled. Why did I smile, instead of protesting?
- Balcony then? This floor has a nice view… - he proposed and interrupted, seeing the look in my eyes. It was neither reluctant nor hostile, just condescending and amused, as if he was a young adorer and me - a beauty out of his league. What it actually was that my eyes expressed, I don’t know, but probably an unpleasant realization of how banal and hackneyed his remark was, and anger directed at myself how little it bothered me.
- Thanks for liking my photos on Facebook. I think they are far from pretty, so if you liked them, I should’ve suspected it meant something. - I remarked boldly.
- Was it a bait?
- Let’s go to the balcony. Not this floor, however. The one on fourth.

I might have said it carelessly, but my heart rate was around 180 at that time and my throat - tight. Not because of sexual arousal, but because of excitement about the step I took, the fear of consequences, the guilt and the need. My id was having its way.

To be fair, I need to put Derek’s behaviour is some broader context, for his seemingly bold move was not as unexpected as it may seem.. A few months back, during a lonely evening on some business trip I was tempted to create an account on a dating site, something I wouldn’t have risked on a home computer. It was totally anonymous of course, and I wasn’t so stupid as to upload a real profile picture, but Derek’s profile was not so mysterious. By some silly coincidence among tens of messages I got from random guys, there was a message from him. He didn’t know who I was, so I treated it more like a game. Perhaps I was even going to reveal my identity at the end and make jokes about it in the office. He’s user name was so silly - ‘takemeout80’, that it would have been real fun to see his face when I mocked his fruitless flirting efforts. But it surprised me how well we got on. Exchanging messages with him on the portal and seeing him in the office gave me a dual view of his person - a subtle, tactful guy, genuinely interested in me. I had the advantage of observing his behaviours both in person, and as an anonymous online user, and as it rarely happens, the two personalities didn’t differ much. It wondered me how sincere and open he could be, how little pretending he put in communication, how his glances bestowed upon me in the office were growing more and more intense with every week. That night it seemed we independently decided it was time for the accumulated curiosity to be released.

What was she thinking? - are the usual comments from society, family and friends when such wrongdoings are revealed. What about her husband? She has a son, for God’s sake! But alcohol is a powerful stimulant, and egocentrism is a universal excuse. My husband Pete had gotten used to my velvety dresses, our days were mundane, and our arguments obviously meaningless, to a point where we both felt there were larger issues underneath. I was not neglected, but I was not being courted any more. I did get flowers, but they always arrived on dates easy to predict. Besides, it gets less romantic when they’re bought from the home budget and put on a family expense Excel sheet.

And my son was getting all the love from that he’ll ever need. This had nothing to do with him.

- Running from the speech? Harrison will be boasting about sales figures and tell us who’s paying for all this booze! - it was Emily, my peer project manager who passed Derek and me as we walked hastily towards the elevator.
- Need to check my email. Clap for me, if you please. - if I had simply ignored her remarks and answered with a grin, our walking out would probably remain unnoticed. But guilty people make excuses, and mine was so obviously fake that Emily immediately shifted her eyes to Derek, then down to my hand unnaturally clutching my dress (it had been clutching Derek’s palm seconds earlier), and I had no doubt she immediately knew. Fortunately, Emily was a real friend, and not one who enjoyed office rumours. The secret of the mistake I was about to make was safe. The worse for me.
- She won’t tell. - I surprised myself and Derek with my matter-of-fact tone. It was as if I was doing everything to get it over with. I was going to do this for pleasure, but as the same time there was this urge to skip the pleasant part and move right to the phase of guilt and self-loathing, which was inevitably waiting a few hours ahead.

The air outside was very cold, but in a pleasant way. Each objective fact has it’s inherent meaning, but is enriched with our memories and associations. Frost pinching my skin, the warmth from inside and the gale from the sea that stroked my neck remind me of the last seconds when I could have - never knowing about this - turned things around. But my common sense was given little time as Derek grabbed me, half gently, half fiercely - I could no longer tell. Perhaps it is this specific, seemingly contradictory combination of delicacy and force that they call passion. The passion was there in me as well, but it quickly gave way to me feeling filthy, and then - numb.

We didn’t take time to enjoy the view of the city skyline afterwards. Obviously. I don’t even think we took the elevator back together - as far as I recall, I went first, he must have stayed at the balcony. It wasn’t anger between us, it wasn’t even shame. It was more deep self-reflection, a time for analysis, time to clean up the mess.

Back on the top floor, nothing had changed - or rather, things were moving ahead along a predictable curve. Moods and tempers soared higher and higher - not by degrees, but following a continuum. The picture was becoming oversaturated and dizzy, eyes were getting hazy and unfocused. One or two couples were getting ready to follow the same path which Derek and I had descended three quarters earlier. And although I don’t know their stories, I know mine and I think it’s safe to say in none of these people’s biographies was this evening as seminal as in mine.

I stood there a little while, Emily came up, cast me a glance full of gentle curiosity and care, but not judgemental or scornful in any way, which I was thankful for to her.

- There’s a 1.2 multiplier on the Christmas bonus this year, thanks to good sales results. That’s what Harrison said in his speech. I guess that’s also why they’ve decided to keep the open bar until 2.00 AM. - Emily reported on what I’ve missed.
- It was a safe bluff, nobody will last that long. - in spite of all, I always found it pleasant to exchange ironic remarks with her.
- You look sober.
- Yep. And that makes me sleepy. I’m going home now… - I almost felt embarrassed making reference to my family, being aware of what Emily saw.
And I’m going to earn some points with the senior management - having said that, she swiftly marched towards a group of roaring middle-aged guys by the window.

Emily did me a great favour ending the night with such careless chit-chat. It was a first step in a long effort of erasing the memory.

A taxi, which the company paid for on such occasions, arrived soon after and took me home.

Offline Mark T

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Re: First chapter of a novel "Kate" - 1900 words
« Reply #1 on: September 18, 2018, 04:17:58 PM »

Nice writing. Please take a moment to stop by the Welcome Board to introduce yourself. 

Offline Thair

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Re: First chapter of a novel "Kate" - 1900 words
« Reply #2 on: September 21, 2018, 11:42:27 AM »
The beginning needs to be worked on. Up until “My name is Kate.” I wasn't sure if you were talking or Kate. I had to read the entire story to understand that the story had begun right away.

All after, My name is Kate, made sense. The dialogue need works and using quotation marks instead of dashes is best.
Elaborating more on Kate's routine life sooner allows me to get to know Kate.

You simply shared, in fact, I was continuous thinking about my son and my husband, who could of course taken care of themselves with mummy out, but would be better off (I had no doubt) with me serving dinner and putting Joel to bed.”
It's not enough. Since Kate is the main character, work on developing her as a real person.

If Kate's character was developed it would be natural for me to know how a certain situation made her feel. Developing her character would eliminate your need to explain what should come natural to a reader.

Thanks for sharing.


Offline hillwalker3000

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Re: First chapter of a novel "Kate" - 1900 words
« Reply #3 on: September 21, 2018, 12:55:53 PM »
Beginnings are important and this is demonstrated clearly in your opening. I read the first 163 words and was tempted to give up without venturing further. It's a ramble at best.

Your story starts here:

Quote
My name is Kate.

But then your narrative goes off the rails again shortly after. Why should we care about Kate's opinion on Christmas and religion? It's much too soon in the novel to dump this on the reader when they don't yet know anything else about your main character? Does it make me want to spend more time getting to know her on the basis of this rant? No.

There are also several grammatical slip ups that might prove too distracting for some readers to continue investing their time in your work.

It always wondered me makes no sense - I always wondered? that the people who are most offended by Christianity’s persisting persistent? influence on our contemporary culture are not people of other religions, but that extensive and ever growing group is this a fact? of Christians themselves who have already realized they are in fact atheists, but can still feel the burden of their traditional upbringing and rebel against it - although it would be utterly sufficient just to ignore it.

That's also a very long-winded sentence. Almost 70 words! Kate's still not growing on me, I'm afraid.

There are signs you can write well enough, but the lacklustre subject matter (based on the first few paragraphs - as far as I got) and your MC's rather self-obsessed behaviour make the thought of an entire novel filled with her reflections and experiences too much for me to stomach.


As I said earlier, beginnings are important. If you don't hook the reader on page 1 the chances are they'll put the book back on the shelf and find something else more rewarding to read.

Just one opinion - use or lose.

H3K

Offline JWHMarshall

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Re: First chapter of a novel "Kate" - 1900 words
« Reply #4 on: September 24, 2018, 08:08:09 PM »
Hey Radekkc - this piece is coming together - it'll only take a little bit more work to bang it into a good piece of fiction. I agree with those who have suggested pruning the first few paragraphs and paying close attention to grammar.

Your piece highlights that writing good fiction really is about structure at multiple levels. At a lower level, we need to be careful about how we include content depicting the character's opinions and feelings about something. It's fine to do this - it can really enrich a piece and tell us a lot about a character if he or she has a unique voice - but it works best if it's done in the right order and directly linked to the narrative.

The principle 'motivation-reaction units' is very useful (at least, I found it very useful) in structuring how a narrative should include this type of content.

A good overview of this is here: https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/motivation-reaction-units/#.

Another one is here: https://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/writing-the-perfect-scene/

My recommendation would be to read those, then edit your piece to align with this convention. It sounds formulaic but there's still tons of room to manoeuvre.

Stick with it and you'll be churning out quality fiction in no time. Reply back and let me know what you think!

Cheers

Offline Jennie

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Re: First chapter of a novel "Kate" - 1900 words
« Reply #5 on: October 04, 2018, 11:18:12 AM »
You are doing too much telling and not enough showing.

In my opinion, the story begins with the warm hand on the back. Take it or leave it.