Revising Leah

June 10, 2008

The Big Picture

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 11:20 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

As I said in the previous post, a lot of the work that I’ve done in this revising process has been to delete material from the text, but I am adding some material to the text, too. One example is the full text of Leah’s speech about the Egyptian pharaohs that Leah presents to her class later in the novel. Another example comes at the very beginning of chapter fourteen. There, I’ve inserted this short exchange of dialogue between Heather and her friend Melanie:

“Hey, you know that girl named Stacey — you know, from English class?” Heather asked Melanie the following Monday. Once again, the two girls, David, Alex, and Leah were sitting in the back of history class, spending the last ten minutes of the school day meeting to discuss their presentation.

“Yeah, why?”

“You didn’t hear?!” Heather asked. “Emily told me all about it at lunch.”

“Told you what?”

“You’ll never believe this . . .” Heather said with a giggle, but as the two girls gossiped, Leah tried not to pay any attention. She and Alex had just handed their notes over to David, and she was much more interested in hearing what he had to say.

On the surface this may not seem like a very significant exchange, and the reader might be inclined to join Leah in ignoring it and getting back to the real story between Leah and David. The conversation between Heather and Melanie doesn’t seem to offer much more than another not-so-flattering glimpse into Heather’s character.

But there is a lot more going on here than two girls gossiping about another. I’ve included this short passage in order to expand the fictional universe in which the novel is set. The girl named Stacey that Heather and Melanie are talking about is one of the main characters from The Spring, and the event they are talking about is alluded to in that other novel. Obviously, this connection between the two novels will fly over the heads of those readers of Leah who haven’t read The Spring, but it also serves a little reward for those who have read both books.

Both Leah and The Spring are components in a larger series of three novels. The three novels are connected in terms of setting (the high school that Leah Nells attends is the same school the characters from The Spring attend) and thematically. All of the books in the series attempt to answer the same basic question that is at the center of most teenagers’ lives: “Who am I and what is my place in the world?” Each story offers different solutions to those questions. Here is a schema that outlines the basic plan for the novels:

Book

General Theme

Time Frame

Leah

The individual

Fall, 9th grade

Juvenilia

Family

Summer, following 10th grade

The Spring

Friendship

Spring, 12th grade

One doesn’t have to read the novels in the order that I’ve outlined above — one doesn’t even have to read all of them. Each novel is a complete, self-contained story featuring a different set of main characters and its own unique plot (think Thomas Hardy rather than William Faulkner). In fact, The Spring is set some three years after the story of Leah, and while Leah Nells doesn’t appear as a character in The Spring, one might imagine that she is still there, in school, somewhere.

But while each novel stands on its own, I like the idea of inserting little references to the other stories in the series. The second book in the series is still very much a work in progress, but I’m planning to include a brief appearance (sort of) from Leah in that novel. Again, it will be a situation where if you haven’t read Leah, you won’t catch the reference, but if you have read it, you should be able to recognize her when she appears, even if she isn’t mentioned by name.

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