Wednesday, July 8, 2009

WiP Wednesday; The Evolution of a First Chapter


It's time again for WiP Wednesday. I know you're all thinking, ooh, lovely, something else from your deliciously scary new ghost story. Nope. Sorry. Maybe next week.

Today's post is more about change than progress. I'm about 6500 words into the new story right now, but not all are consecutive scenes, since I keep cheating and writing later ones while they're still clear in my head. Maybe they'll change later, but for now, I just have to get it out of my brain or it'll consume me! Anyway, while most of the story reads as a VERY rough draft (think sandpaper-rough, no, think dry, splintery board-rough), I have made some progress on the plot, as I mentioned last WiP Wednesday, and have therefore had to adapt the first chapter to reflect these changes.

Here's how my first chapter is evolving. It's quite a bit different than the first one I posted, so I'm wondering if that's a good thing, lol.

Mostly I'm posting this for posterity's sake. My first chapters usually wind up in the circular file once I've completed the ms and done a full second draft. Maybe this one is here to stay... Nah, probably not. ;)


Chapter 1
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Blinding smoke chokes our tiny caravan. Its wooden walls haven’t caught yet, but they will, sending my home to the hereafter with Papa. I can live with losing my sweet Papa and our home in the same week, but not her, too. Not my violin.

Orange light flickers off her smooth surface, right where I left her on my little bunk, the bow nearby. You should have loosened the bow when you were done playing, Mara, comes Alex's voice in my head. A fine time for such a warning, when I'm risking my skin.

The blanket is still unburned. I snatch it from the soft mattress, holding my violin tight to my chest and wrapping the blanket close. I stumble sightless toward the door I'd left open while the flames eat away our beloved vardo. They'll eat me next if I don't get out of here.


My mother shouts outside, "Sweet Mother Mary, save my baby girl!” and
I imagine her and my sisters grieving for me. There'll be nothing left of my possessions to burn. Nothing left of me to be remembered. Nothing but my restless mulo to haunt them.

I'd laugh at myself if it wouldn't mean sucking in smoke. Me, just another mulo like old Kira and the Tinker. Wouldn't they love to see me so? I grit my teeth. I'm determined to live, if only to keep from spending the afterlife with those two chattering in my dead ear.


Clutching my violin tight, I tuck my face under the blanket and make myself walk toward the painted door I know so well quick as a match is struck.
I trip down the three steps and suck fresh air in, nearly collapsing.

Mother runs to my side and clutches at the sooty blanket. She babbles at me through a mess of tears. I push her away. Not that I'm not glad to see her, but I see another face in the gathering crowd. The cold, manipulative face of Lucia Saray.
Old Kira smiles unseen next to her, rubbing her bloodless hands and speaking threats that I alone can hear. Only Lucia could have convinced Mother to send our vardo up in flames after Papa died inside. But Mother didn't have to worry about Papa's mulo. He was gone. I should have told her so before she burned our home. Before she let Lucia take it from me. My punishment for chasing Alex away.

I thrust my violin and bow at Mother and drop the blanket to the ground. The wind whips it into the wheel of the closest vardo where it flaps like a dying bird.


“Mara, what were you thinking?” my mother cries, cradling my tiny violin. “Holy Mother, you’re lucky to be alive.”


“No thanks to that old hag,” I spit, stepping closer to Lucia. The woman’s needle-like eyes narrow even further.

My sister Jeanette steps in between us. “Behave yourself, Mara,” she chides. “Have some respect for your elders if you’ve none for the dead.” Her grim-faced husband watches the fire from behind her for any signs it might spread to the other wagons.


Holding my chin up, as if that could make me any taller, I spin on my heel away from the judgment in their eyes. Away from the cunning frozen smiles of the Tinker and Kira.


Fire licks at the painted sides of the bowtop wagon. Flame manes crown Papa’s painted mares, one each for me and my two sisters. The little birds Mother kept bright with oil and wax have curled and warped under the heat. For sixteen years I’d called the vardo home and in less time than it would take to play an Irish jig, it was gone. And soon Jeannette would take Mother away from me, too.


They all knew I was unlucky. Cursed. I couldn’t cook or sew. I had no husband. The only thing I was good at, aside from seeing people who weren't there, was playing the child-size violin I never outgrew.


“Mara,” Mother says when I walk back over to her, “Jeanette and her husband will take me in.”
I wrench the violin from her hands, barely listening to her. I already know what she is about to say. I've lost her. “Mara, my lovely, I…”

I set bow to strings and play for my papa, for my home and for everything else I’ve lost, a song that has been welling up inside me for the past seven days. Though my mother and sisters have heard me burst into bouts of unexpected bowing, they’ve surely never witnessed anything as richly miserable as this lament.
Somewhere in the middle of my dirge I realize that though I began playing for myself as much as for my papa, I'm now playing for Alex.

The crowd slowly, solemnly thins, until it is only the mulo, who have nothing better to do than watch my life continue down the road as embers.
When I stop playing, I sense three pairs of eyes on me.

I turn to face Lucia Saray, the woman who’d convinced Mother to burn our home.
The woman who accuses me of driving her son Alex away eight months ago.

Lucia was right. I did drive him away.


But I’ll be damned if I'll admit that to her.

3 comments:

Abby said...

Posterity's sake--Too funny! I have a circular file full of discarded first chapters too. :)

Great job on the rewrite. Even if you don't keep it. ;)

TereLiz said...

Thanks! Trying to keep the momentum going on this one, which is hard since I'm so busy at work lately, I just feel brain-dead when I get home.

Sarah said...

This is an interesting post. I feel yah on the very rough draft. My WIP is in shambles cause I keep writing the scenes that are in my head instead of going chronologically.