Friday, May 15, 2015

Writing Excuses Master Class - How Much of the Beginning Needs to Come First?

Two posts in one week?  Look out - I'm on a roll!  (Of course, now that I've said that...)  The writing prompt this time:

Start writing your story! Write 500 words, focusing on just one of the promises you've identified for your story. Then stop, and start writing another 500 words with a different promise. Aaaand then do it a third time.

For the sake of brevity here, I'm going to aim for 250 words each instead of 500, and working on two promises for now.  So, looking at the promises I outlined last time, here we go:

Promise: I want the reader to be uncertain of what exactly happens in the main character's mind.

Julia found herself in a dark hallway, with doors on either side.  The doors looked vaguely like the ones that had been in the house where she grew up, painted wood with silver handles, but only the doors closest to her had any kind of detail.  She decided to pick a door at random and see if she could get in - she didn't see any locks on the doors, but she had no idea if they would open or not.

The door on the left opened easily, swinging inward to a brightly lit room.  Squinting, Julia walked forward, though she stayed on the other side of the threshold.  She wasn't entirely sure what would happen when she left the relative safety of the hallway, but she wasn't willing to test it just yet.

After a moment, Julia's eyes grew accustomed to the bright light, and she realized it was the sun.  The door appeared to open to the outside world, showing a park with several trees and some small children running around them.  Not what I was expecting, Julia thought to herself as she stuck her head through the open door.  The closer she looked, the more she realized that she recognized the park - she'd spent many of her summer days here when she was a child, playing tag around the trees like the children on the other side of the door were doing now.  Without thinking, she crossed the threshold and stood fully on the other side of the door.  It swung shut behind her.

Promise:  I want the reader to fear for the main character's sanity.

Julia tried not to panic when she realized the door was closed, but she could still see it in the middle of the park.  Strangely, none of the children around were reacting to a freestanding wooden door in the middle of the grass - they just ran around it without truly acknowledging either it or Julia.  She found herself drawn to the biggest of the trees, where most of the children seemed to be gathering to listen to an adult.

Julia realized that things were coming into clearer focus when she walked towards them, almost like a camera lens that is focusing on the subject of a photo.  From a distance, she could hardly tell if the children were boys or girls; now that she was standing amongst them, she could see the freckles on their faces and the fly-away hairs escaping from different braids.  Looking up, Julia recognized the adult under the tree.  "Ms. Harris!" she called, waving to the older woman.  Even though Julia had been in Ms. Harris' day camp every summer for ten years, the woman looked right through her with no sense of recognition.

Julia dropped her arm, moving to the side so she wouldn't be in the children's way as they sat down in the grass around Ms. Harris' feet.  Not that they would notice if I was in the way, she thought, grumbling as she took her own seat on the outside of the circle of children.

Sitting where she was, a bit further away from the teacher, she realized that the woman didn't quite look like Ms. Harris after all.  The hair style and color was the same, but Julia couldn't quite make out the features of her face.  When she spoke to the children, Julia was shocked to realize that she couldn't understand what the older woman was saying.  Julia shook her head a few times, trying to clear her head, but still, everything sounded just...wrong.