Here comes a second take on the opening chapter of Cherish Farrah.
Before we begin reading Cherish Farrah "for real," I wanted to spend another newsletter on the opening chapter.
I'm sure you've already noticed this, but it is brief. Only about 150 words.
One thing that struck me is the way that twice the narrator "hides" important information in a sentence. This gives us, I think, a feeling of mystery, suspicion, unreliability. This storyteller has a plan for us but they are hazy about how they are sharing their secrets.
Look at this sentence, below, and see Morrow places a key piece of information in a subordinate position:
"I’m sitting in a bedroom with the kind of vaulted ceiling I wanted in my own, in a house much larger and more extravagant than the one I can’t go back to, and the fact that I can’t enjoy it upsets me."
This key bit of drama, "the [home] I can’t go back to," is delivered mid-sentence, deep in the turns of a grammatically intricate set of phrases. The story could have begun with the narrator saying, "We had been evicted," or "Our house had been condemned due to a radon leak." Instead, she shares that information in a way that seems maybe reticent, maybe calculated.
A similar "hiding" occurs later in the chapter:
"Like an ordinary teenage girl, when all I’m ever doing is pretending to be one."
This strange statement about the narrator's pretence is buried within a sentence fragment.
My prompt for today is: what information could your protagonist / narrator share in a similarly reticent way? How would the reader's view of them change if they just stated it outright.
A second craft point: the power of repetition
The previous craft tip suggested that the opening chapter of CF is challenging to read. But notice how much repetition there is in these short opening paragraphs.
The repetition helps us focus on the story.
"I feel fickle. Angsty. Defensive. Like an ordinary teenage girl..."
This idea about the character is stated four times, each in a slightly different formulation (fickle, angsty etc).
And we are told to pay attention to the narrator's house because it is also mentioned twice in the opening 150 words:
"the one I can’t go back to"
"The house where I used to live"
Often the trick, when friends / workshop partners / beta readers say a chapter or scene is hard to follow, is simply to add more repetition. Say the thing you meant to say twice.
When the repetition is immediate, the second instance following right after the first, I call it "doubling up." It's a very useful skill to learn.