Three Days in the Life of Chapter 24

Friday:  Chapter 24 seems like a good name for a creation that follows on from Chapter 23, so I write that as a heading and then I have a lovely blank page to fill. There are only two characters in this chapter, both bad guys, and I decide to write it from the point of view of one of them. He’s called Donnelly. In the first novel, he didn’t have a first name. I decide to call him Dwight. I write Dwight Donnelly on the page and then urge the man to do something. He fails to respond. Dammit. I get up and walk around, but when I get back to the page, he’s still just sitting there. Correction, standing there. Well, that’s a start, I guess. These guys are holed up in a big old baronial mansion, so I write:

Dwight Donnelly paused in the doorway, dwarfed by its pretentiousness.

It feels like crap, but maybe I can improve it once I’ve written a bit more. Dwight has paused because he’s about to meet with his deranged boss, following recent events which didn’t go as planned. He refuses to move for me, so I decide on a change of writing scene and drive to the local library. After a strong coffee, I write the next bit:

Dwight Donnelly paused in the doorway, dwarfed by its pretentiousness. The last group of men had echoed raucously across the terrazzo floor and vanished into the rear of the building. A comforting thrum told him that the generator was back on. A single light bulb shone from the top of the staircase, intimidated by the dimensions of the huge hall.

After half-an-hour of gazing round at the comings and goings in the library, I add:

He breathed in the reek of gunfire, kicked at an empty shell case. It tinkled musically on the hard floor. He turned to his right and walked to the oak-panelled wall on the north side of the space, to the doorway that led into the rooms beyond. The heavy door was open, though he knew he had earlier locked it himself. On the far side of the doorway, a moth-eaten carpet was stained with blood. He pursed his lips and then turned and crossed to the staircase, its mahogany handrail and balusters bullet-splintered.

That’s it for the library stint. Later in the day, I add some more, but it’s not any better and I give up.

Saturday: Spend the day’s writing time staring at what I’ve written and changing words. “Pretentiousness” becomes “ostentation”, for example. By the end of the day, I decide that I’ll give up writing and take up macramé.

Sunday: Start the day by highlighting everything I’ve written, cutting it and pasting into a separate document called “Parking Page” which holds sections I dislike but don’t want to throw away. Over the next few hours, I write:

Dwight Donnelly was a dark shape in a landscape devoid of light. Then, like a firefly in momentary flight, the glowing end of his cigarette described a truncated arc. For several heartbeats, it lit up a fleshy face. Small eyes glistened damply under folded lids, the nub of a nose dwarfed by bulging cheeks. Smoke trickled from his lips and he exhaled. Smoke and mist. The best thing about his day so far. When the smoke was done, he was going to have to meet with Farrell and it would be mostly downhill from there. Behind him, the old house was deaf and blind to the machinations of people. The last of his men had already clattered raucously across its terrazzo floor, heading for the back of the building, companionship and a stiff drink or two.

Adrenalin, pumped up by anticipation, tension and things gone wrong, was dribbling away. He felt tired and depressed. Farrell, he knew, would be taking a dump: an unfailing habit after any excitement. Between times, the man suffered the agonies of chronic constipation and the martyrdom of piles. Donnelly took a last, decadent drag, flicked the stub into the night, turned and marched back into the building.

I take it from there and finish the chapter. I imagine that my editor will have things to say about it, but the important thing is that I like it. For now.


Filed under Writing

7 responses to “Three Days in the Life of Chapter 24

  1. The power of sticking with it triumphs! Great visual with the cigarette.

  2. Absolutely. I honestly never become despondent. I have unrealistic levels of optimism about my ability to always come up with something that satisfies!

  3. Stu, as someone who has only written memoir, where the characters play out their scenes for me, and I only have to decide how to describe what I’m seeing, thanks for giving me some insight into what a novel writer’s process looks like. It appears liberating and frightening all at once.

    • Indeed so, Mitch. Though I’ve never found the process frightening, it does have a certain piquancy. The way in which characters come alive and start to take on (almost) a life of their own, is one of the most interesting and rewarding features of the writing process, I find.

  4. It’s always interesting to read your thoughts on the process of writing. I enjoy your info, your honesty, and your intermingled humor as well. I wish that I was as organized as you seem to be. But I’m working on that. Then again, if my character is as disorganized a buffoon as I am then maybe it won’t really matter. Show and tell, right?

    • Thanks, Rick.I really appreciate your positive feedback. Buffoon? I think not. You may be disorganized, my dear man, but you are very far from being a buffoon. The challenge, I guess, is to seek out those characters in your life who will populate your stories. Mine are almost always based on people I know, or have met. That way, I can get off to an easy start in terms of appearance and general characteristics. After that, characters tend to take on a life of their own. That’s one of the most rewarding parts of the writing process.

      • Thank you Stu for taking the time to reply to my reply. Your comments are always satisfying to me because you obviously know what you are talking about. And I feel that your thoughts are genuine. It’s good that you found your calling in the writing profession. It is much better with you as an intrigal part of it. I hope to see you soon at one of the meetings. ‘Til then, carry on my friend. – Rick Spiller

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