Revising Leah

May 30, 2008

Introducing David Parks

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:14 pm
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I’ve reached chapter nine in my revising. This chapter represents a turning point in the story. During the opening chapters the narrative is focused on Leah Nells and her initial experiences while starting high school. We’ve seen glimpses of Leah’s classmates, but we haven’t really gotten to know any of them. The middle portion of the novel, though, introduces us to a number of other characters, the most important of which is David Parks, for whom Leah quickly develops a crush. Leah’s crush might not have gone anywhere except that chance (a.k.a. The Author) manages to drive the two of them together, at least for a few weeks. As David gains prominence in the story, his subplot becomes, in a sense, the main plot of the novel for the next several chapters.

When I was in high school, I was aware, as I suppose we all were, of the different social strata into which the entire population of a class is divided. To a large extent, which society you belong to depends a lot upon who your friends were in the past. If you are lucky enough to join the right clique at the right time, you might find yourself among the most popular students for most of your life in school. Movement between these strata is possible, of course. I remember one boy in middle school who seemed determined to break into the most popular clique in the school. He’d hang around those kids and generally kiss their butts. Eventually, by the time we got to high school, he had pretty much succeeded in this goal. He wasn’t exactly one of the elites, but he was allowed to hang around them.

This elite class is often vilified in pop culture. In books and in movies, the “cool kids” are usually portrayed as self-centered, snobby, and quick to abuse their power (“mean girls,” for example). In real life, though, the situation is much more complex. Yes, I remember that some members of the elite class in my high school were a-holes, but not all of them were. There were some who appeared to be decent, level-headed people; they were approachable, and if you didn’t antagonize them, then they didn’t give you any grief either. Some of them even denied their elite status. I recall one girl who absolutely recoiled at the suggestion that she was one of the “coolest” girls in the class. She really was, but she flatly denied that accusation and even got a little angry about it.

David Parks finds himself among the elites of his ninth grade class, but he hasn’t been corrupted by that power. Instead, the character is motivated by a sense of justice and common sense. That is what compels him to act in chapter nine, when another one of the elites starts picking on Leah and tries to humiliate her. David sees a girl who is incapable of defending herself, so he decides to stand up for her. He’s acting out of a personal sense of right and wrong, but Leah begins to wonder if there is something else motivating him.

I try not to rely on stereotypes when I create characters, or if I do make use of stereotypes, I try to turn the stereotype on its head somehow. David Parks is one of the most popular boys in ninth grade, but as Leah gradually discovers, he’s got a lot in common with her as well.

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