Finding Your Way Into First Night

When I’m putting together a scene I usually spend a lot of time figuring things out, looking at locations, getting a feel for the environment and characters.  Sometimes it takes days; sometimes weeks.

For the scene I started last night, I think I’ve spent maybe eight hours.

As I was writing about putting Kerry in the hospital, and the scene that comes after–which I’m not talking about, nuh, huh–I began feeling that something was missing.  What was missing was the sense that the way Annie left Kerry in his hospital bed, which right for that time, didn’t mesh with what came later.  So–how to fix that?

Easy:  add another scene.

Even though this story is plotted out to the max, that doesn’t mean things won’t pop up from time to time that either don’t make much sense and should be removed, or at the least, moved, or that something more is required.  In this case more was needed, and I obliged.  Because novels are a living work in progress, and sometimes you gotta fill in that work just a little more than it already is.

This is how we start.

 

(All excerpts, this page, from The Foundation Chronicles, Book One: A For Advanced, copyright 2013, 2014, by Cassidy Frazee)

Kerry was alone in the ward bay, the curtain cutting off Beds #1 and #2 from the ward corridor pulled three-quarter closed and open only near the wall on the other side of Bed #1. He sat quietly in his bed, his back and head raised so he could read—or, in his case, attempt to read. He’d spent the last twenty-five minutes since Annie’s departure trying to read, but he found it difficult. It wasn’t that he was dealing with distractions: rather, he found it difficult to concentrate due to his aching head.

The medication he was given was doing wonders to keep the pain at bay, but there were still small things that refused to leave him alone. If he turned his head too fast, it would start to spin. His right ankle was starting to itch constantly. And he found it bothersome to sit in the same position with his lightly wrapped knee locked in the same position, unable to move centimeter in any direction. It drove Kerry a little nuts to have to leave his left leg like that all day, through dinner, and now into the night before heading into lights out.

 

I have been in a similar situation, though not with broken limbs and a torn up knee.  I once damaged my neck in an accident and ended up in constant traction for two weeks, after which I needed to wear a neck brace for nine months.  I know all about lying there and being unable to do anything for hours on end–in fact, I couldn’t use the bathroom for the first two days, and couldn’t shower for the first week.  And when I was allowed to do either, I had a nurse standing right next to me the whole time.  Not a lot of fun, let me tell you.

But that situation changes quickly.

 

“Hi.”

Kerry looked up from his tablet: Annie was standing in the space between the curtain and the wall, dressed in her light blue flannel pajamas and her light robe. Her hands were at her side, and for the first time since he’d been admitted to the ward, she was smiling. “Hi.”

Annie walked in and pointed at the tablet. “What are you doing?”

He started the power down sequence and laid it across his lap. “I was reading.”

She chuckled softly. “What are you reading?”

Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman. I’ve had it for a while, but . . .” He shrugged. “Just never found the time to start. Though I might try tonight.” Seeing that the tablet was off, Kerry slipped it into a holder on the right side of the bed. “I didn’t get very far.”

Annie stood close to him on his right, examining his bandaged head. “Concussion bothering you?”

“A little, yeah.” He didn’t want to mention that he’d thought about their time together only a few moments earlier. “It’s, um, past visiting hours.”

 

Of course it’s past visiting hours:  do you think a little think like rules bothers Annie?

I’ve run though this scene many times on my walk back and forth from work, which is really a good time to be alone with my thoughts and work out what’s going on with my characters.  I know why Annie’s there, I know what she’s going to say, and I’ve already had her say some of it.  I know how Kerry will respond, and how he’ll confide in Annie with something.

And I know how the scene ends, which is going to lay some heavy moves upon my red haired boy, because Annie’s gonna say something that’ll likely rock him to the core–no, not that.  Get your minds out of the gutter.

It’s First Night for them both.  That means something to me, something the reader will find out in time.  And second night is set up as well.  Just look below:

Over by der by da tower, in da garden.  You know?

Over by der by da tower, in da garden. You know?  That’s how we’d say it in Chicago.

And the Third Night is quickly approaching as well.  It’s in Part Seven.

That’s coming soon enough.