A Lot of Thoughts on a Little Chapter: Writing Chapter 3

Chapter 3 is a short, sweet little segment. Short, but nonetheless important. On my various attempts to start Capacitance, it was always a downfall of mine to try and insert too much world building right away; I wanted to open by describing the University campus, I wanted to describe Mara inch by detailed inch, etc. However, this is not what readers need–while some appreciate exposition, most do not want to be overloaded with information. They want action and discovery of the character through that action and carefully placed morsels of exposition. Enter Chapter 3; finally writing Capacitance in a sustainable manner, here in Chapter 3 we finally see some of these details come out.The first paragraph gives readers a sense of place as not only the time of year is set, but also the campus itself is fleshed out. This paragraph becomes necessary as this chapter is the segue into the world of the characters on the University–thus, the reader now knows the lay of the land they’ll be navigating. The architecture of the campus buildings is meant to be accessible; although the story is set in the future, I am not going for a spacey, hard sci-fi feel. Throughout the series, I am for a marriage of the familiar and the new.

This hits home even more in the description of Mara’s apartment. The panorama described in the first paragraph was brought into view by a polarized glass which shifts from opaque to clear depending on the time of day–this is obviously an example of speculative technology that most don’t have in their homes today. However, many people (albeit those wealthier than I!) have satin sheets and the luxurious fittings as seen in Mara’s bedroom.

With Mara herself, we don’t see anything too futuristic. I took the morning routine in Chapter 3 as an opportunity to describe her a bit more, and through this description to highlight some of her character attributes. You see that she is very fastidious about her personal appearance as well as being a bit of a wardrobe junkie! This attribute sets her apart from the stereotype–so often we think of the stereotypical female “nerd” with the terrible hairstyle and disheveled appearance, and Mara is breaking this stereotype. Her clothes in specific are another way I am keeping the tone of the story familiar and not too futuristic; the outfit I describe her putting on is vague yet specific, thus it’s a style that anyone could imagine, and it is certainly not outlandish. By playing down the futuristic element, my hope is to bring readers closer to the characters, and, later in the story, perhaps make them feel uncomfortably close to home as events play out.

I am explicating all these things here this morning in great detail, but I will admit something to you all–at the time I was writing Chapter 3, I thought of NONE of these things. They were, of course, abstractions in my mind of the overall theme of the work, but I did not agonize over each sentence, thinking to myself “Ok, I have to have the perfect blend of future and present.” I just wrote. And things flow very naturally when you are confident and know what you’re doing overall. For example, the character Langdon was someone I had never envisioned until the very moment I was writing Chapter 3 and he showed up walking down the hill to catch up with Mara. Who he was and his relationship with Mara just flowed very naturally out of my mind. The day after I had written Chapter 3, I thought to myself, “Wow that was a really stupid choice, Elise, it’s probably terrible.” So I fired up my computer and re-read Chapter 3, and to my surprise it just worked so well. Langdon was completely necessary and I appreciate my writer-instincts for telling me so. He adds another dimension to the world, as well as to Mara’s character–plus, he becomes more important later on…hint, hint! 😉

Isn’t it funny how many thoughts one very short chapter can bring up? I think the main theme–as it usually is–is to be confident in your craft and skill as a writer and let the rest take care of itself. Coming up tomorrow: another post on a book that has inspired me! Cheers! 🙂

Capacitance: Chapter 3

Hi everyone, hope you all had a good weekend! Mine was laid back weekend spent in the sunshine; now it is raining, so I am back indoors again writing happily. I am pretty sure I have a good frame for ending out the last portion of Inductance, so I’m excited to see those words hit the page. For the mean time, to brighten up everyone’s Monday, here is Chapter 3 of Capacitance! I will post my thoughts on writing this chapter tomorrow. Enjoy!

Chapter 3

 

The next day dawned with the crisp clarity so common to late September mornings. Through the expansive plate glass windows of Mara’s penthouse apartment, the whole University could be seen, gilded by the fresh sunlight. Situated as it was on its hilltop promontory, the Science compound afforded a magnificent view of the sprawling colored glass and light brick Design compound, the classic pillared architectural style of the Politics compound and the utilitarian concrete sparseness of the Technology compound. These three other college units ringed the Campus Green—a lush, natural park area interspersed with walkways, benches and cleverly landscaped nooks. It was not a place Science students frequented. The stately glass and richly veined granite of the Science buildings up on their hill were confines its students did not venture out of often, as their research and deadlines kept them “labbed down,” as many Science students affectionately termed the amount of time they had to devote to their own independent research.

There was nothing Mara wished for more than to be labbed down for the rest of the day; when her alarm went off, the panoramic glass of her bedroom window filtered from the overnight opaque setting to crystal clear, spilling light across the deep ivory mohair rug, over the pearl gray satin bedclothes, and onto Mara’s prostrate form. As she opened her pale green eyes to the new morning sun, she felt all her frustrations from the previous day come flooding back to her. A whole day wasted, she thought, No one realizes there is going to be a very serious problem very soon and I am trying to find a solution to it. Shaking her head, she twitched on a jade green silk robe which matched her eyes, and headed to the bathroom. One of Mara’s guilty pleasures—easily indulged as a Science student—was her personal appearance. She took consolation for her botched day as she combed through her shining jet hair and then wound it perfectly into an elegant top knot. She then applied just the right touch of makeup to her smooth, ivory complexion; winged eyeliner and mascara made her light green eyes stand out like jewels. Donning a dusty blue flowing tunic of watered silk, matching leggings of soft leather, and knee high suede boots with a low heel, Mara felt much more prepared to take on the days’ novel plans.

On her way out of SciSky, Mara felt a fresh surge of annoyance as she walked straight down the hill rather than turning in the usual direction of the labs. Instead of descending the stairs to their underground private lab spaces, all the Science students were now milling down the hill. To Mara’s shock, some were even assuming a holiday air about the whole business. Then again, she thought with no trace of humility, I doubt any of them are researching anything near the scope of what I am endeavoring to do. Her train of thought, which was rapidly turning toward the pessimistic, was interrupted by the appearance of a truly Adonis-like male figure. It was Langdon, the top student in the third year class, who lived in one of the penthouse apartments, like Mara. He gave good justification to the saying that the best looking people were in the field of Science—standing six feet, six inches tall, blonde and muscular, he looked like he should have been an athlete, not a scientist, but in truth he was making great advances in the field of biochemistry. Mara respected him as a colleague and neighbor, but right now she was not in the mood to chat, and her gray suede boots clicked faster down the hill as she sped up in hopes of avoiding Langdon.

“Mara, hi…hey, wait!” Langdon broke into a near jog as he struggled to catch up to her.

Reluctantly, Mara slowed down, “Good morning, Langdon,” she greeted flatly.

In return, Langdon flashed a brilliant display of dental advancement as he smiled at Mara amusedly, “Let me guess, you’re ticked off because this meeting thing is interrupting your top secret lab work. You heard Beliz, it’s all about togetherness today, so why don’t you finally tell me what you’re working on? It’s got to be good if it’s so important you can’t even miss one day of work!”

Mara sighed inwardly; Langdon was always trying to uncover the nature of her work, and she found the third year’s persistence unsettling. “I told you no; my work is my business,” Mara snapped at him, “Plus, how do you know it’s only one day they are putting us out of? Beliz made it sound like it was a long-term thing. Surely you, mister top of your class, biochem genius, third year would have worked that out.”

“I don’t know anything for sure—I just assumed it would only be one day…” Langdon trailed off, a concerned look developing on his face.

“See, now you’re starting to worry too!” Mara rounded on Langdon, allowing herself a small smile.

“Well, as you so kindly pointed out, I am a third year—time is of the essence for me! But you…you have years to go, no reason to cram now. At least that’s what I assume, considering I have no idea what it is you’re working on,” Langdon prodded.

“I’ve said no to you before, and I’ll tirelessly say it to you however many times it takes to get you to stop asking!” Mara countered, giving him a pointed look and an arch raise of her eyebrows.

“Well that’s not the first time I’ve heard ‘no’ from you. One of these days, that will change,” Langdon said with his own returning lift of eyebrows and a knowing smile. And, with that, he spotted one of his third year colleagues and abruptly walked off to join him. A slight blush crept into Mara’s cheeks. The reference Langdon made was not lost on her; as well as being tenaciously persistent on uncovering the nature of her work, Langdon was also very interested in Mara herself and made no secret of the fact. Last week, he had propositioned her very bluntly while they were in the private penthouse elevator, riding up to their apartments together. Mara was ambivalent to his advances; she simply had no time for the type of distraction Langdon would bring to her life. Especially now that this forced gathering with the other colleges had limited her time even further. As Mara advanced down the hill, into the tree-lined Oak’s March—the main thoroughfare of the Campus Green—she could see the mass of students gathering, milling about, shaking hands…wasting time, Mara thought.