The Novel: first hesitant steps

So… I’ve had this idea for a novel for, well, years. I still have a lot of research to do to actually make the thing work the way I want it to, but I figured that if I don’t actually get on and write something it’s all a bit of a pipe dream. I follow ‘A Writer’s Path’ blog by Ryan Lanz and one of my favourite features is ‘Under The Microscope’ which takes the first 350 or so words from a manuscript and has a good hard look at this key part of a story. “Is it engaging? Do you want to read more? Is it incomprehensible? Or just plain terrible?”

I had thought that my first chapter would be someone barging into somebody else’s bedroom but realised that it would probably work better to avoid the predictable chronological sequencing of chapters and throw the turning point in at the beginning. So, here’s my first draft of the first part of my story. If anything seems wrong, unclear or just stupid, please chuck your comments into the usual boxes. Ta.

The Re-Beginning

And then there was no room, no walls or floor, just an intense bright light and painful pressure squeezing every part of her. Emma just had time to notice the lack of gravity before it reasserted itself with the even more alarming sensation of falling. She struggled to see what was happening as she floundered in the air, groping for something to hold onto, something to break her descent.

The pressure in her head increased and she blacked out, her body going limp as it fell through the trees, snapping twigs and shearing leaves from branches. The others plummeted helplessly groundwards too, surrounded by speeding chunks of desk, floorboards and concrete that broke up as they fell, crashing into wood and foliage. The generator and assorted electronic equipment that were at the centre of the debris shower flicked off trees on the way down, spinning and tumbling until they hit the soil and mulch beneath.

The people were not faring much better. All five were unconscious and so were spared the full terror of anticipated impact. Human limbs rushed past, and into, their arboreal counterparts; ribs were thumped by outstretched branches. Their bruised, limp bodies finally crumpled into the ground; a few small items of debris, held up by the journey through the canopy, pittered and thwacked into the earth and foliage around them.

Some birds, alarmed by the sudden appearance and thirty-foot death-dive of half a university laboratory, continued their shrill calls as they flew away to safety, but all else was still.

Four seconds had elapsed from materialisation to muddy and bloody motionlessness.

It was a further fifty minutes before John felt awareness returning. Into the comfortable darkness came an insistent clamour of pain, jolting him awake. He opened his eyes and tried to focus on the green and brown shapes in front of his face.

“Unghh”, he exhaled. His head buzzed, his teeth hurt and his right arm was tucked uncomfortably underneath his body. He used his left hand to lever himself up and over and onto his back. He stared up at the trees, watching the dappled sunlight dance and flicker in the faint breeze. This was not right. In fact, he began to suspect that ‘not right’ was a very long way from accurately describing his situation.

7 thoughts on “The Novel: first hesitant steps

  1. Gripping! I would definitely read more. Great visuals that give just enough info but also convey the chaos of the scene. Phew! I am curious about your plans for pov. This little scene has 3. First Emma, then narrator, then John. Be a little careful about jumping around. (I was expecting a return back to Emma and was popped out briefly by the introduction of John.) Not a big deal at the start, and this is only a snippet so what do I know…it may be the perfect opening! It’s just something to think about. Can’t wait to read more!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the positive comments – much appreciated! Good point about the POV, well spotted. The entire story will have a minimum of three and a maximum of five 3rd-person points of view plus some a-personal narration. The main reason for this is that the story will follow a group of five fairly different people, each with their own perspectives, and they will at times be separated. This opening deliberately mashes them together so that the reader gets a feel for being involved with more than just 1 person – other chapters will focus on specific individuals to avoid confusion. It’s one of the things that I didn’t fully appreciate until I started writing it and the fear of cocking it up is a bit daunting!


  2. I’m not sure WHY this craziness is happening, but I have a clear enough picture of the chaos. You kept my attention the whole way down, so I’d keep reading. I want to find out more of who these people are and why and how this happened to them.

    There are two things that you might consider:
    1. The third paragraph seems repetitious. You don’t need to go back and forth with the details. Instead, you can add those extra details (about the people/survivors) into the second paragraph and split that paragraph into two. That way, you can describe how four other people are falling too, how the debris and equipment are slamming into the people’s bodies, how the people and the debris are smacking into trees, and finally how everyone and everything hit the ground.

    2. Specific numbers related to time. Is there a purpose for that?

    3. The multiple POVs within one scene. While I’m more a fan of sticking to one POV type in a scene, I found it interesting how you transitioned from Emma’s third-limited POV to a third-omniscient POV to John’s third-limited POV. It’s something done in TV shows and films more so than books, but it didn’t jar me out of your story. Have you thought about sticking with third-omniscient?

    In the end, these are just opinions from one person. Take what helps, ignore the rest. ^_^ Thanks for the entertaining read (and entertainment is the most important thing, to me)!


  3. Thanks Izzy, some good points there. I think the reason why I had paras 2 & 3 the way I did was that I didn’t want that paragraph to be too big; I could edit it down but kind of liked some of the descriptive fun to be had. The mentioning of time was just a ‘time passed’ comment and counterpointing again the action with non-action.
    I like the fact that you’re picking up on it as more of a visual medium than traditional novel POV as I think that’s what I’m subconsciously aiming for! For various reasons to do with the unfolding of the story (and fundamental uncertainties) I can’t go 3rd-omniscient. I just have to be very careful about the multi POV!
    Thanks for your comments and I’m glad you enjoyed it. I need to start fleshing out more of the rest of it!


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