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Is this what a first draft character should look like?
Sketching out the opening scene of my first-ever full-length fiction
Today, we dive into my first attempt at full-length fiction. The working title currently is Strangers, though I expect that will change. The section I'm sharing today is the first draft of the introductory scene. I'll post the remaining bits I have planned for this chapter over the next two days.
As I mentioned in my last post, Braving the unknown, the longest thing I've ever written, aside from technical documentation, was a 5,000-word creative non-fiction piece I had to write during college. Everything else has been short stories and essays.
Typically, when writing in short bursts of creativity, I have mentally worked out the entire plot before I start writing. However, this project's process has been different than expected, even though I'm only getting started.
Instead of knowing the whole story, which I still have to figure out, I've begun envisioning individual characters, motivations, and scenes to put them in. Then, a link between the characters will pop into my mind during the day, and I'll jot it down in my still nascent outline. I may not use all the details my creations have invented for themselves as I go about my day, but each fragment provides depth for me to draw from as I'm writing the characters, which I hope to transfer onto the page.
I already know where I want to end up with this story, which is a good start, but I need to figure out how to get there. So many holes!
I assume we've all had enough of my musings at this point, so let's jump into the initial scene of Strangers.
Strangers: chapter one, scene one
“It’ll work this time, Chess,” Alex muttered, opening the door. “The Nguyen kid was just bad timing.”
Alex leaned into the back of the vehicle, unlatched the two locking mechanisms of a heavy-duty dog crate, and creaked the metal door open with a tug.
A Calico kitten with a black-orange checkered face mewled to its feet and then yawned, poking its tail stiffly into the air. Alex lifted the kitten from the fuzzy, sun-colored cushion at the bottom of the cage and scanned the street, stroking the kitten’s head.
“Come on, Chess. Let’s get this over with,” Alex said as Chess nuzzled its face closer and started to purr.
Alex tugged on the crate to ensure the come-a-longs binding it to the floor were secure, then closed the vehicle. Then, after glancing around again, Alex headed down a narrow alleyway between two houses that connected the back corner of Washington Elementary School’s playground to the street.
As it had when Alex scoped out the area earlier in the week, the Doberman Pinscher in the yard to the east of the alley started running along the fence, barking and growling. The dog had worn the grass to bare dirt on its side of the chain link running this patrol.
Alex fished a spicey Slim Jim from a jacket pocket, gnawed the packaging open, and stabbed the peppered meat through the fence. The Doberman barked several times and then sniffed at the beef stick. Finally, satisfied with the scent, the dog tugged the treat through the chain link with its teeth and wandered further into the yard to enjoy its prize.
“I hope you get the squirts, damned dog.”
After silencing the dog, Alex walked to the end of the alley and leaned on the galvanized railing that prevented people from riding motorcycles through the passage. The playground was still empty. Alex checked the time and figured the school would ring the bell to release its students in a minute.
Alex walked back a few steps, even with the windowless side of the house to the east, where no one could see. The Doberman had inhaled the Slim Jim but sat quietly in the yard, still tonguing the corners of its mouth.
Alex moved to the other side of the alley and dropped Chess in the narrow bed of spurge and goosegrass that had grown between the chain link fence inside the student passage and the red, sun-peeled wooden privacy fence enclosing the yard to the west. Chess twisted both ends of his body awkwardly against each other on the way down and landed on his feet in the strip of fall-dried weeds with a distressed meow.
“Sorry, buddy. It’s just for a sec.”
Alex rechecked the time, zipped the jacket to block the Halloween breeze, and began pacing.
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