Revising Leah

August 5, 2008

I’m a Poet

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 12:08 pm
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Reading the story out loud makes me aware of little quirks in the text, such as unintentional rhyming:

She could smell the exhaust of the school buses lined up in the bus depot just a few yards away. She could feel a light breeze on her skin and the warm morning sun, rising in the east, ready to begin this late August day.

But so far, the biggest surprise has been chapter 2. I start the novel, in chapter 1, by jumping right into the action, following Leah and her mother as they shop at garage sales. In chapter 2, though, I violate one of the cardinal rules of storytelling by slowing the story down with narrative exposition that fleshes out Leah’s character a bit more. It isn’t all narrative in chapter 2, though. The last few pages of the chapter find Leah eavesdropping on a conversation between her parents. Their conversation offers a little more exposition, but it’s not so bad because exposition through characters’ dialogue is almost always a better option than exposition through narration. Leah is a difficult character to write about, though, because although the narrative follows her throughout every chapter of the book (possible exception: chapter 17 at David’s house) she rarely speaks, so I can’t use her dialogue with other characters as the vehicle to deliver exposition, especially in the beginning, because the character doesn’t even speak at all until chapter 3 (page 20, to be precise) — and even then she only utters six words.

With Leah, I’m forced to construct her character and her story through narrative exposition and description. Dialogue just isn’t an option most of the time. So as I started re-reading chapter 2, I was worried that it wasn’t going to be very good — that there would be too much exposition, but I was very surprised by how well it sounded as I read the chapter out loud. I’ve done a lot of revising work with that chapter in the first two cycles, and that work seems to have paid off. I even thought that some of the narrative sounded vaguely poetic in places (in a good way). Here’s an example:

Her books were like her friends. She always had a book with her when at home or at school. Whenever she had a free moment, she would read. When she was finished with her homework, or didn’t have any chores to complete, she would read. During lunch at school, while her classmates talked and socialized, Leah would sit by herself and read. Like a young child clutching a favorite doll, Leah always made sure to have a book with her.

Overall, I’m happy with how the chapter has turned out. When I read through it, I made hardly any changes to the text, which means that it’s a little further along than even chapter 1 which I’ve been working on quite a lot lately.


1 Comment »

  1. […] 1. The novel’s pace was too slow and I sometimes relied on too much “telling” and not enough “showing.” In the words of Marie H: “Leah is a slowly-paced novel, and readers should not approach it expecting action and adventure. It does, however, feature a few haphazardly-inserted introspective passages which drew my attention, and which were not as laboured as the info-dumping that plagued the beginning of the novel.” This was probably the single biggest worry that I had about the story, and it was one of those things that I just couldn’t avoid. The pace of the novel IS slow, and at times I do have to resort to telling rather than showing. The second chapter, in particular, has a lot of exposition. I recognized these problems as I revised the story, but to me they were unavoidable because of the nature of the main character. Since Leah Nells hardly ever speaks in the novel, and since the POV follows her, I couldn’t rely on dialogue to enliven and speed up the story, as I do in The Spring and in my first draft of Juvenilia. It’s a very difficult thing to tell a story with hardly any dialogue at all. [Relevant blog posts here and here.] […]

    Pingback by A Review of My Reviews — July 26, 2009 @ 1:51 pm

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