Balancing Act: Writing With Two Main Characters

I always knew Capacitance would center around two main characters–from the very first image of inspiration, I knew that the story would involve a romance, and I also knew that I wanted to explore both aspects of that love story, namely both the male and female perspective. By default, the more characters introduced into a story, the more complex it gets, especially if point of view jumps between more than one main character. I have spoke of J.K. Rowling’s masterful handling of this multi-main character challenge in The Casual Vacancy. My story is not as challenging as that since it only concerns two main characters, however, the balance is important to keep readers invested in each of the characters in their own right. 

While writing Capacitance, I more or less stuck to a basic formula of alternating chapters; I would have a Mara chapter then a Runey chapter. These chapters would compliment each other because they would build on the action, but not rehash it. If the narrator never follwed Runey’s tale, the reader would be confused as to Runey’s motives for pursuing Mara, and the love story would not be as fleshed out. By allowing readers to see both sides of the story, they are given more insight and validation for what is happening between Mara and Runey. 

The male protagonist is something that is not always commonly seen in novels. By and large, the majority of today’s readers are women, thus selling to that market is most profitable in the way of book sale numbers. Even in many of today’s bestsellers, the male co-leads are somewhat shallow; you know they are the love interest, and the female lead is beyond dedicated to them, but the story doesn’t really flesh out their characteristics or qualities which make them so compelling. I wanted to create a complicated male co-lead for this series; one that the readers would come to know as innately as Mara. Thus the chapters from Runey’s world show insight into his emotions and way of thought. Writing from the male point of view is a challenge, but I really enjoyed writing Runey’s segment of the story. He has flaws and he makes big mistakes, but ultimately, he becomes a better man for it. 

While writing, I sometimes found myself enjoying Runey’s segments even more than I enjoyed writing Mara. In Chapter 4 we see the first really emotional, inward action on a character’s part, and that is Runey laying in bed with the realization of his loss of Juleia trickling back to him. I related to this scene so deeply and with Runey himself that at first he seemed to almost be taking over as the main character. However, as the story progresses, as you will hopefully someday see, the two really come to balance out and the storylines become equally as compelling, even though I stress out a lot over one not being as exciting as the other. As is so often the answer, the characters will work and speak for themselves and make the story flow as it should. 

One final thing worth mentioning about maintaining this balancing act between two main characters is the use of third person point of view. Since the reader is not being forced to bounce back between two narrative voices, the book has more flow and continuity. The third person narrator bridges the gap between Mara’s chapters and Runey’s chapters creating a cohesion which guides the readers along in a much less disjointed manner. This also makes things less confusing in segments where the two are physically together when a first person voice narrator could get a little tricky. 

Today may be the day I start the final book of the trilogy, so hopefully I can keep my character balance going strong through the final act! I will be posting more on my current writing progress and the in-between books process tomorrow, so stay tuned! 🙂

Capacitance: Chapter 4 & 5

I apologize for the lack of posts this week! My desktop Internet is back up and running now, so things can get back to normal. To make up for the delay on Capacitance chapters this week AND to celebrate my finally finishing Inductance I am posting both Chapter 4 and Chapter 5! Enjoy!!

Chapter 4

The morning of the meeting of all the students on the Campus Green, consciousness gradually trickled through the cells of Runey’s brain, and with this he became increasingly aware of a sense of something missing. Slowly, then all at once, the loss of Juleia bore down on him; the immediacy he missed her with was a physical pain as he remembered how most mornings she was there with him, wedged into his narrow dorm bed, encircled by his arms. This morning there was an uncomfortable space in his bed which his limbs were not used to stretching out into. After a few drinks with the Professor last night, his evening had been therapeutically fogged, but this morning he missed Juleia—and he had a headache. At the exact moment of the latter discovery, the sun pierced through the window which was divided into several randomly placed rectangular panes of colored and clear glass, sending rainbows of painful light into Runey’s deep blue—and right now rather bloodshot—eyes. Sighing, he dragged himself to a sitting position on the edge of the bed and once again became lost in thoughts of Juleia.

They had met during understudy school. Both were talented artists and were thus preparing for their eventual entry into the University College of Design. He had first encountered her at a party one Friday night and was intrigued by her witty, sarcastic humor and his ability to see through the hard exterior she presented when he looked into her soft brown eyes. Drunk and uninhibited, the pair had ended up in bed together that night. The next morning, Runey was already preparing several excuses and ways to avoid future encounters with her, but then she rolled toward him, the sunlight playing on her messy chocolate hair and tiny gold lip ring, and somehow she was suddenly a visceral part of his life from that moment on. Runey meshed with Juleia effortlessly; his innate sense of perceiving moods and feelings in other people was the perfect implementation for the deep moods of Juleia. She was prone to jealousy, sadness and irritability, but Runey knew how to navigate those deep waters and just how to temper her worst spells and tease out the elements he loved—her immense capacity to love, her devoted loyalty, and her wild imagination.

However, as a perceiver of people, Runey was also quite aware that he was less invested in Juleia than she was in him; he could truly see that she would find it hard to live a fulfilled life without him, as he provided a weight to her lofty dreamer’s character. Runey subconsciously knew, and was finding out in that present moment, that life without Juleia would leave a part of him injured, but would not render all of him broken. This realization had always set him a bit on edge about the relationship as a whole, but it was a train of thought that he stowed away in his ever-processing mind. There were too many exciting things happening being a student at the University, and he loved sharing them with Juleia—it was easy and comfortable to banter back and forth about new project ideas, what professors they liked and which they didn’t, anything and everything else. They always laughed together and dreamed together, and that was what he loved about her, so he locked away the chiding voice of criticism in his mind and took no notice of it day by day.

He wished the voice was there now; a sprig of doubt in his mind could blossom into a full state of acceptance of his new situation—helping him prepare mentally for this assignment he had been given. Runey knew why the Professor and other in the Restorationists had chosen him for this task. It was for the very reasons that he had such a successful relationship with Juleia; Runey was very perceptive of people—he always had been. He barely had to be in a room with a person for a minute before he could tell more about them than they ever would have guessed. Body language and an inexplicable intuitiveness could tell him if a person was stressed or sad, happy or distracted; it was a very useful tool in building relationships, but it could also be used for manipulation. Runey could not see this falling in love business as anything but a manipulation, but that didn’t soften his resolve that he could accomplish it. His determination in the face of a challenge was the second factor that had landed him the assignment. Fiercely competitive and extremely motivated, Runey was more likely to put his full effort behind something that was labeled “a challenge.” This was why he was so successful with Juleia—she was a complicated puzzle of a person, and Runey enjoyed finding out how the myriad pieces fit together.

Finally, there was the fact that he was very personable. He had been courted extensively by the College of Politics as he had a way of getting people to like him (mostly due to his great ability to read people). However, he had eschewed that idea firmly to stick with his passion for art—and to stick with Juleia. Yes, Runey thought as he finally got off the bed and made his way into his bathroom, it is pretty obvious why they chose me…people skills, dedication, determination. He understood the why, but he still did not like the implementation which required the severance of his tie with Juleia; frustrated and wanting to clear his mind, he stuck his head under the faucet of cold running water. Coming up for air, he grabbed a towel and examined in the mirror one last reason he had most likely been chosen; a strong, chiseled jaw line gave a masculine authority to his fine featured, handsome face—Juleia had often likened it to the faces seen on ancient statuary, such as Michelangelo’s David, a comparison which Runey felt was quite excessive. However, surmounted by a messy crop of auburn hair and deep, brooding blue eyes, Runey’s face was admittedly one that would make many girls fall in love with him on its own merits. Runey was sure Mara from Science would not be so easily swayed, but nonetheless he was certain the Professor and others had taken his looks into consideration when choosing their man for the assignment.

For the first time that morning, he thought not about Juleia but about Mara from Science—the girl he was supposed to fall in love with. It sounded absurd in Runey’s mind, like some sort of twisted fairytale, or archaic arranged marriage. However, he could definitely see the benefit; day after day he walked through campus and looked up on the tall hill at the imposing Science building and wondered just what it was that they were all doing up there. The other members of the Restorationists maintained a fairly good idea of what went on, but they could never be entirely sure. Whatever this Mara from Science was working on, it must be something with a potentially sinister bent, or the assignment would not be such a high priority. It was a challenge, and Runey felt the tentacles of curiosity weave through his mind and latch on to the cause—he wanted to find out, he would make it his life to find out since he didn’t have Juleia to ride comfortably through the motions with anymore.

The thoughts continued to ebb and flow through his mind as he walked out of the Design compound, its arched entry tunnel of the same rectangular colored glass as his dorm room windows swirling above him like a flurry of butterflies. He was the only one walking out; he had intentionally left late so that he would run no chance of meeting Juleia. He had sent a message to some of their mutual girl friends late last night telling them they needed to make sure she got to the meeting on time this morning—he knew Juleia well enough to know that the events of last night were enough to send her spiraling into a period of despondency that could see her not leave her room for days, regardless of her other obligations. Thus, he strolled out of Design and over the path towards Campus Green a mere five minutes before the meeting was scheduled to begin, the curiosity and thrill of the challenge thrumming through his efficient brain and beginning to drown out the low resonant ache of losing Juleia. He once again considered Mara from Science, but found all the as-yet unknowns too overwhelming for him to process. At least he knew one thing, and he was grateful for it—when they gave him this assignment to fall in love with a stranger, at least the stranger was remarkably good looking. Chuckling and smiling his rueful crooked smile to himself, Runey slid on his sunglasses and continued on to the Campus Green, and his next love, Mara from Science.


 

Chapter 5

Campus Green was a sprawl of human movement as all the students from all the different colleges milled about and crammed into the common quadrangle. Although unintentional, the colleges had inadvertently separated themselves into their four respective groups as friends and classmates mingled amongst one another, making small talk under the ease of familiarity. So far, the assimilation of all the groups was not coming naturally. None of it was coming naturally for Mara as she stood under the dappled shade of an enormous oak, out of the way of the early fall sun which was gradually becoming too hot. It was ten past nine (she kept sliding her slim silver phone in and out of her pocket, compulsively checking the time), and as the remainder of the students packed onto the green, the noise level spiked with jocularity. In the center of the crush was a platform; the crowd suddenly parted way and a group of professors took this makeshift stage and stood above the large group. Mara saw Beliz and four other professors she did not know, and assumed they were from other colleges. She was delighted to see her favorite professor, Professor Travers, on the stage as well; a gentleman of indistinguishable age, his face was only slightly lined in a way that did not mar but rather enhanced its strong features—best of all were his warm brown eyes which would light up with interest and pride whenever Mara spoke of new ideas with him. They had spent many long hours together in her lab or in his faculty suite of lab and office; Mara allowed him a rare sentiment that was more than that of a professional colleague—she thought of him as the father she had never truly known.

Many students in the College of Science, unlike the rest of the students and population in general, were selected at a young age upon showing exceptional promise in the field of Science and then removed to live amongst one another and assume a life entirely devoted to training—Mara was one of these students. Now, seeing Travers on the stage, Mara had a brief flash of a vague and fuzzy memory, frayed around the edges, flit through her mind. She remembered the warm cinnamon smell of cookies baking, and a strong voice reading to her from a story book. The memory was gone as soon as it came, and left Mara with no feeling; she had long since accepted that she had once had a family, but they were no longer important. Her work was all she needed; any sentimentality she attributed to Travers was a topic she considered superfluous and vaguely embarrassing. However, it was still nice to see him up on the stage today. He would understand her annoyance at this interruption to work—especially once she told him the newest and most pressing of her discoveries. For the past week, she had been trying to arrange a private meeting with him, but he had been busy and rather obscure as to what was occupying his time. As recently as last night she had tried to set up a meeting and her message had been bluntly ignored. She felt slightly mollified seeing him on stage now—he must have been too busy to reply due to business with this meeting today.

One of the professors began to speak—a woman Mara did not know. She was very tall with a figure that could best be described as sharp. Her black hair was cut short and this added to the overall severe impression she made as she began in a loud voice with a razor’s edge, “Hello everyone, thank you for being here today. For those of you who don’t know me, I am Miranda Hall—head of the University Board of Directors. Today is a milestone in the history of the University, and I, as well as the rest of the faculty, board and surely you students, am very excited to see what this collaboration will bring. I will keep this short as it will take quite some time to gather into your new groups. In a few minutes, you will be receiving a message on your phones with the names of the other three members of your group as well as a location somewhere on campus. Once you receive the message, go to the location you have been sent. This is where you will meet your fellow group members. More information about the project will be messaged to you once everyone has dispersed.” With a brisk nod, Miranda Hall turned and gave the floor over to a professor from Design who began to speak of his excitement for the collaboration and to give an overview of the aims and philosophy of the College of Design.

Mara could see that the remainder of the speakers’ words on stage were going to be wasted on their intended recipients, as students all around whipped out their phones almost in unison and were trained to the messages application in high anticipation of finding out their new assignment. Mara got out her phone as well and covertly accessed some of her research files and did some remote checks of some lab tests she was running back in the Science compound. Time passed quickly as she scrolled through her personal files; out of the corner of her eye she caught a glimpse of Beliz gesticulating colorfully on the stage and speaking fervently about her passion for the new project. Mara chuckled to herself as she noticed some of the students from other colleges had been distracted from their phones by the shocking neon orange pantsuit Beliz had chosen to wear for the occasion. Soon, she noticed around her students were starting to slowly thin off the green. Then Mara’s messages made an almost inaudible ping and buzz. She flipped through to messages, and touched to open the new arrival which read:

Group 407: Vance, 674309, Politics

Elba, 554981, Technology

Runey, 912768, Design

Report to Studio 76, Design Block A

The location assignment was linked in the message, so when Mara tapped the words on the display, a map of the University appeared complete with a glowing green marker denoting her current location. The way to Studio 76, Design Block A was highlighted on the map. Mara began to follow the route assigned, realizing this would be the first time she had ever ventured to the Design compound. She wondered if other groups got to meet in Science, and suffered an absurd qualm that someone might be assigned to her lab. You’re the only one who knows the lock code, Mara, don’t be ridiculous…she thought, flicking the errant thought out of her mind. The highlighted route on her phone screen led her diagonally across the Campus Green towards the Design compound. Whereas the Science building was up on a high precipice, the Design compound was recessed, and the area was entered by walking through a sloping half tunnel with rainbow blocks of glass on one side that seemed to be suspended in mid-air instead of continuing down to the other side of the walkway. At the bottom of the hill was a large glittering lake, surrounded by a lush green on which Mara could see several student groups of four were already gathered, meeting for the first time.

Design Block A, as the name would suggest, turned out to be the first of four multi-level buildings which were flowing constructions of pale red brick and more of the multi-colored glass like in the entrance tunnel. Mara approached Block A and pushed open the heavy glass door, checking her phone as she entered; as expected the screen on the phone automatically zoomed in and switched from a map of the entire campus to a detailed map of just Design Block A, and the highlighted route now traversed through hallways and floors, showing Mara where to go. As far as Mara could tell, the room numbering system in the building made no logical sense as room 76 appeared to be in the basement of the building; instead of leading her up the inviting spiral staircase of thick sheets of colored glass suspended in the foyer, the route suggested she needed to go down the hall and then descend a flight of much less fanciful stairs with utilitarian well-used rubber treads and a metal handrail which felt disturbingly sticky to the touch.

Wiping her hand disgustedly on the new blue silk of her tunic, Mara felt a fresh wave of annoyance as she arrived in front of Room 76; pushing open the door, she entered a very cluttered, very dirty space. Well worn hardwood and a distinct layer of dust covered the floor; shelves along the wall were absolutely crammed with papers, pencils and various other drawing supplies; easels stood at arbitrary positions throughout the room, sheathed in paint-stained sheets; light wooden chairs and tables were arranged at haphazard angles to one another. Despite all this clutter of stuff, the room was devoid of the key elements Mara expected to find in it—namely Vance from Politics, Elba from Tech, and Runey from Design. She tapped back through the messages on her phone to double check her location, and rolled her eyes when she saw that she was indeed in the right place, yet she was expected to work with idiots who couldn’t even get to a meeting expeditiously and on time.

Bestowed with the professional habit of being habitually early, Mara selected a moderately clean rag from the wide assortment splayed on the floor and tables, and gingerly brushed off one of the wooden chairs. Sitting down, she deposited her leather briefcase on the dirty floor—cringing internally—and once again pulled up her lab files on her phone to pass the time waiting for her already most unimpressive group partners. She did not have to wait overly long; five minutes of work on her phone had not elapsed before the creaky, dark wood door opened slowly and ushered a very small girl into the room. Standing at a height that would rival the brevity of even Professor Beliz’s form, Elba from Technology entered the room timidly. Her pale skin and eyes made her seem smaller than she already was; her hair hung down nearly to her hips in a long, neat, white-blond braid and the worn gray satchel she carried over her shoulder was nearly as large as she was. “Hi,” she ventured timidly, in a voice that was just as small and pure as her physical appearance, “You must be Mara. I’m Elba, first year Technology.” Jostling the immense bag to her other shoulder, she held out her hand and Mara slipped her phone away to a pocket and returned the gesture of greeting with a guarded smile.

“Nice to meet you, Elba. Do you have any idea how long this is supposed to take today?” Mara asked, not caring if her question came off as rude—she had seen something in her mobile lab results that warranted immediate looking into; labbing down late into the night looked like all-too-likely possibility.

With effort, Elba heaved her gray satchel onto one of the long wooden tables where it landed with a heavy thud. Mara supposed it was full of computer equipment, and began to muse briefly on how lucky it was that Technology students could carry their computers—essentially the equivalent of her lab—around with them everywhere. Her straying thoughts were interrupted by Elba’s answering her question, “Well, there was a command on the server last night prompting pre-generated emails to be sent out to all students at two different times. I’m assuming the first email was the one with directions to here, and the second is scheduled to arrive in…” she trailed off as she checked the time on her phone, “Five minutes. I don’t have a clue what the second message is about; my friends and I couldn’t get that far into the system…although we tried,” she said, raising her light eyebrows conspiratorially at the last, and then developing a rosy blush on her pale face when Mara simply eyed her dismissively, not eager to take part in the gossip of the computer hacking world.

“Well hopefully our partners make it here soon, then, so we can make quick progress once we get the next message,” Mara clipped, glancing again at the door. Elba only nodded back, still blushing from Mara’s none-too-warm reception.

At that moment, the door burst open and the increasingly awkward silence was filled with a loud, rich voice, “Hello, hello! I am so sorry for being late; I should have been here much sooner, but I got caught up talking to so many people on the way over,” his straight white teeth glowed against his dark warm skin with a smile that reached his almost black eyes. “However, I must be ok, because I see I’m not the last one to arrive. That makes me feel a little bit better, at least! Let me introduce myself, then. I’m Vance; and as you probably already know, I am representing the Politics portion of our little group. It’s so exciting to finally get to meet you, what a great opportunity!” He held out his hand first towards Mara.

“Mara, Science, first year,” she said with a genuine smile; not immune to the charm of Politics students, she found Vance instantly compelling and likeable.

“Mara, very nice to meet you; I don’t know much about what we will be working on as a team, but I am sure you as a Science student will be a truly valuable asset,” he shook her hand with a firm, practiced grip and moved on to Elba.

While Vance was greeting Elba (and once again making her blush), the door creaked on its hinges to allow the final member of their group into the room. Vance and Elba had quickly lapsed into a conversation—carried on mostly by the former—so it was Mara who first noticed the very tall young man with a striking slim, yet muscular, figure saunter in through the door. Runey from Design had a golden olive complexion that was incongruous to his deep red hair which was straight, kept a bit longish towards the front and messy. Mara, being only human, could not help but note the strong jaw line and deep marine blue of his eyes. He carried himself with a comfortable assurance, and unabashedly met Mara’s stare, and—she could clearly tell—made his own visual appraisal of her. In the few seconds since his entry, Mara had decided she didn’t like him. She was one to take note of good looks, but not one to be swayed by them (otherwise her encounter with Langdon in the elevator would have gone quite differently), and Runey’s casual demeanor which he demonstrated by being quite late to this meeting coupled with his unapologetic manner upon finally showing up, did not sit well with Mara’s constant adherence to her tasks and overall professionalism.

Runey seemed to have garnered quite the opposite impression of Mara, because, after his unchecked visual sweep of her body, he grinned widely and stepped towards her, “Hey, you must be Mara; nice to meet you! I’m Runey.”

Noting the lack of apology for being late, Mara remained blank-faced and shook Runey’s hand without bothering to stand up from her chair. “How did you know my name already?” she asked him.

“Watered silk tunic perfectly matched to leather leggings—all custom tailored. Designer bag. Hair which I am sure feels just as much like silk to the touch as it looks to the eyes. All around flawless. The way you look has ‘Science Student’ written all over it,” Runey said, clearly enjoying Mara’s growing consternation. He then leaned towards her conspiratorially and whispered, “Plus the other guy is literally talking her ear off. Bet he hasn’t stopped talking since he came in, right? And the other girl is pale as the moon and is sitting right by a giant computer bag—a bag which is made out of canvas, not vachetta leather, see?” Runey’s face was now very close to Mara’s as he said this, and she got the vague impression he was trying to flirt with her, but moreover she noticed distinctly that Elba and Vance had stopped talking and were looking at Mara and Runey with curiosity.

“Do you guys know each other?” laughed Vance as he strode over to greet Runey, shaking his hand and adding in a back clap in an apparent gesture of masculine bonhomie.

“Well, we do now,” Runey said, flicking a sly half-smile at Mara (who just stared back inscrutably), and then turning to Vance and returning a back clap as if the two had known each other for ages rather than a few minutes. “And you must be Elba,” he said, giving the Technology student a very warm smile and shaking her hand quickly.

“You must be pretty familiar with our meeting place, Runey, since this is your college,” Vance said as the four assembled themselves in the light wooden chairs at one of the long tables (Runey did not sit beside Mara, which initially relieved her until it became apparent that his position directly across from her made looking at him unavoidable).

“Yeah, I’ve spent lots of time down here,” Runey replied, “A lot of time in this very room, actually. This is where general art classes are held. First year students, like me, have to take a bunch of general art classes—like sculpture, painting, drawing, drafting. Gets us a feel and a familiarity with all aspects of design. Next year we get to start specializing more. I want to do drafting; it’s more like technical drawing than, say, doing a painting. Now my…uh, friend, she,” Runey tripped up awkwardly, then quickly said, “Well I am getting off topic. Not to mention stealing the spotlight. We haven’t gotten any further instructions on what we are supposed to do today, have we?”

Elba piped up, “No, but we are supposed to get some literally any minute now,” as she once again referred to the clock on her phone.

“Excellent,” Vance said, “I am very curious as to what the purpose of this all is. However, it is great just getting to mee—” he was cut off by the eerily simultaneous buzzing and dinging of all four of their phones.

“Guess we are about to find out,” Runey said, with an easy half-smile on which Mara found herself spending entirely too much time trying to decide if she found it charming or nauseating.


Progress on Book 2–Inductance 

What a week it has been for Inductance! It’s hard to believe that just one week ago I was writing about summer slumps and the struggle to stay positive. I suppose some of that positive thought must have made its way into my mind because I came out this week with major progress and am now 2 mere chapters away from finishing my first draft of the novel! 

I suppose the slump of last week arose from the fact that I was getting so close to the end—I knew I wanted the ending to crackle with suspense and get readers excited for the final book in the trilogy. Like always, I doubted myself and my ability to create a sparkling finish, and these doubts held me back. I think it is an important lesson for me to take to heart as a writer that I will have these weeks where I need to spend more time in my head than in front of a computer screen. I can’t expect the plots to always come spilling off my fingertips almost of their own volition. Sometimes the story takes time to develop just right in my mind, and I need to stop letting that frustrate me and accept that part of the process

The main problem I have had is the fact that Inductance has two major plot lines running through it. In my opinion (and I will try not to give any spoilers), one of these storylines has been more exciting than the other. Thus I speed through the exciting storyline with ease, but then when it comes time to turn my attention to the other side of the plot I get discouraged and frustrated wishing it could come as easily as the other. I think is one of those issues like I have talked about in the past where I need to trust my ability as an author; even though the plot seems like it is dragging and not engaging to me, this might not be the case for readers. Inductance is full of suspense, and people who have read from it have said it grips their attention; as an author, I cannot fully appreciate this addictive sense to find out what happens next—I already know! I suppose this is one reason why the plot might seem less exciting in my mind. However, during my slow week of thought, I was able to think of some interesting elements to tie the two storylines together and also inject the “weaker” storyline with some new twists of its own. 

It felt rather strange actually knowing the exact point in the plot where Inductance would end; it was very different than Capacitance. I had no idea when I would end my first novel; I remember one day riding in the car with my Dad (who had been reading as I wrote) and asking him, “I think it might be about done?’ He thought about it for a moment, and said, “Yeah, but give it one more big twist.” So I thought up the twist at the end of the process for Capacitance; with Inductance, I have known all along what the excitement at the end would be. The whole book was building towards it. Thus, I feel less energy and excitement going into my writing this time. Writing the end of Capacitance gave me that shaky adrenaline rush that one gets from doing an extemporaneous speech or improvisational acting—the thrill of the fresh products of your mind. However, the ending of Inductance has been percolating in my mind for quite some time now, so the feeling is very different—but no less awe inspiring being this close to the end of such a massive undertaking.

I say “end” in a very loose sense of the word; I certainly don’t want to say I am finished working on Inductance. Editing is another very real part of the process, but for me, to have the accomplishment of getting the story out on the page after my past struggles with writer’s block, is a cause for celebration. Right now I am working on Chapter 32 of the 33 planned chapters in Inductance. This week was an amazing feat of writing in which I accomplished as many as three chapters in a day—with a goal of writing five chapters this week, I wrote eight—more than making up for last week’s deficit. At 71,000 words currently (20,000 words more than this time last week), Inductance will be a shorter book than Capacitance, but I think this speaks to the tighter, more action packed, less descriptive style of this second installment. I hope everyone has a good weekend—I will post Chapter 4 of Capacitance on Monday, hopefully as celebration of my finishing Inductance!!

Exposition Explication 

Many of my followers’ comments on the chapters of Capacitance I have posted thus far have concerned the richness of the description of the setting and characters. Certainly exposition has been both a strength and a weakness for me as a writer. I’ve had the tendency to lean on it too heavily, but it has also enriched my storytelling ability (as some of you have pointed out).

There is a fine line between too much and too little exposition. I personally lean towards too much, simply because I enjoy the details. I love picturing a character’s outfit in my mind and describing it on the page. Filling and furnishing the place where a character lives is really fun for me as I was (for a brief semester) an interior design student. It’s just too much fun to give Mara’s penthouse black obsidian rock countertops when I don’t know if this is even possible or practical in real life (I certainly don’t have the budget to find out!). This is the magic of storytelling—as a writer, I have the ability to create whatever I want and place it on the page.

However, as a storyteller I hold a lot of power, and with that power comes responsibility. I have an obligation to the reader to give up some of that creative magic and leave some spaces free of description to allow their minds to fill in the gaps. This is one allure that draws readers to books; reading allows them to exercise their imagination and creativity. The story never looks the same in each individual reader’s mind. Hearkening back to Tolkien, for example, my dad was an avid reader of Lord of the Rings when he was in high school and college. Of course, we went to see the movies (maybe three or four times!) when they came out. My dad commented how different the settings were in the movie as opposed to what he had seen in his mind. He specifically mentioned Rivendell; while Peter Jackson styled the Elvish haven in a classic, fantasy style, Dad had always visualized the dwellings and structures as a more modern architectural style. I have always found this very interesting, and it is a phenomenon made possible by the fact that Tolkien simply did not go into detailed description of the architectural style of Rivendell. Thus, my dad, Peter Jackson, and each reader (whose original vision wasn’t skewed by the movies like mine was) is able to have their own, unique view of the setting.

Capacitance may have too much exposition at times, but I believe it is necessary. It helps draw readers into the world and helps them get closer to the characters. I do not have the enormous burden of a heavy fantasy to build as Tolkien did. Instead, I am attempting in this first installment of the trilogy, to draw readers closer to the characters themselves, to build a connection with them that will carry through in the events to come. Inductance does not have as much exposition. As I have mentioned in previous blog posts, the second installment of my trilogy is very action packed and quick paced. In Capacitance, I introduced readers to the characters and showed their potential; now, in Inductance, they are using that potential and events are happening rapidly. I wanted the plot to move fast, and exposition—by default—slows the plot down by forcing readers to take time to consider and visualize.

Tomorrow I will be posting more thoughts on Inductance. I have made a lot of progress this week, and I’m excited to share. Until then, have a wonderful Thursday!

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.


 

Capacitance: Chapter 2

Happy Monday! I’m so excited to post Chapter 2; it was one of my favorite chapters to write. Having two main characters is fun because it allows me to write–and readers to experience–the same world from two different perspectives. I will post more musings on Chapter 2 tomorrow, but for now, I hope you all enjoy!

Chapter 2

 

At the same moment, elsewhere on campus, two figures descended a narrow, winding flight of metal stairs. The stairwell was dimly lit and the irregularly placed lights cast shadows on the two figures; one was male—very tall and angular in build—the other was female and was much shorter but just as slender. In between, their hands were clasped in one another’s. The girl’s voice was nearly swallowed up by the close stairwell walls around her as she whispered, “But are you sure they didn’t say—“

”No, Jules, I told you already. All the Professor said was to meet him in the conference room tonight, and to bring you. That’s it. That’s all I know,” the man interrupted his companion’s query in a steady tone. The girl then remained silent as the two continued down the numerous flights of stairs. They were heading deep underground, even deeper than the Science students’ labs, and the air began to take on a distinct chill. Finally, the pair reached a primitive passageway of rough hewn stone which was marked by rows of blue floor lights on each side. Following these lights, they stopped in front of a gray metal door. The man placed his palm on the door and instantly the floor lights at their feet turned green as the door slid open with a soft whoosh. Once the two stepped over the threshold, the gray door immediately slid shut and they were enclosed in a cement floored hallway with gray walls and floodlights every few feet providing ample lighting to read the numbered metal doors which marched down either side of the hall. However, the couple walked forward past all the doors, hands still entwined, until they reached the end of the hallway where a pair of nondescript double doors faced them.

“Should I knock?” the tall man asked the girl, and the floodlights showed a warm, joking smile on his face.

“Like you said, they will be expecting us,” the girl returned, giving him a familiarly playful nudge as she moved forward to open the doors. The room they entered—the Conference Room—was in stark contrast to the well-lit corridor; with the exception of a lone lamp on the long metal table, and the dim blue-black glow of a large computer projection screen on the wall, the room was thick with darkness,.

“Runey, Juleia, sit down,” a disembodied voice from the darkness instructed them as they moved towards the table. For the first time, the two broke hands as they pulled out metal folding chairs. As they sat down to the table, the speaker in the room came into view by the light of the one lamp. He was a man of about 60 years old with tanned skin, salt and pepper hair and a scruffy goatee; he wore round rimless glasses and a tweed suit complete with leather elbow patches.

The young man, Runey, broke into a smile and reached across the table to shake his hand, “How are ya, Prof?”

“I am well. Quite well, thank you, Runey. And I think you will be pleased also once you hear this truly exciting assignment I have for you,” the Professor said as he watched the pair’s reaction across the table. Runey, at first glance, seemed utterly at ease—the cheerful greeting, the casual running of his hand through his short shag of auburn hair—but upon closer inspection he was clearly the picture of professionalism—his upright posture and the alertness in his eyes cued into a keen sense of curiosity and energy. He also seemed to put the girl beside him, Juleia, at ease; her deep brown eyes had cleared considerably since the two sat down at the table and now the mischievous confidence the Professor knew in her was starting to show again through the playful turn of her lips as she watched the two men greet each other. “I suppose you are wondering why I have brought you all the way down here tonight. It is, after all, not a scheduled meeting night,” the Professor began. Runey and Juleia nodded back, but said nothing, urging him to continue his explication.

“At the risk of being repetitive, you two know that you belong to a group that is unlike any other in this University—indeed this nation! At this institution of learning and throughout the country and the world, you are constantly told that things are the way they should be; that life as we know it is utopia in all but name. When one hears that they are living in perfection, they become numb to curiosity, dull to different thoughts. As you well know, the purpose of our organization is to question ‘perfection,’ and this has led us to look to the past. Our world has been flawed for quite some time, but we believe that change comes not only through new ideas, but from past examples! That is, as you know, why we are called Restorationists—just as a museum curator restores a great masterpiece, we wish to restore this nation to its former equality and greatness. I do apologize…I digress. I am waxing poetic due to this extremely promising mission my colleagues and I have planned for you, Runey. If this mission succeeds, it could be the turning point for us,” the Professor finished earnestly. The three sat in silence for a moment, Runey and Juleia looking back at the Professor expectantly as his dark eyes quietly surveyed the pair in return, his hands steepled under his chin.

Finally, he continued, “It is all catalyzed by the University initiative for students from all the colleges to come together. My colleagues and I in the Association of Professors have been pushing for a project such as this for years. We pushed for it so hard and argued so persuasively, that when the University Board of Directors finally approved it, they had forgotten it wasn’t their idea in the first place. We wanted an opportunity to mix and infiltrate into the Science students. Science is where the big government machinations really happen—not in Politics—without Science, the government wouldn’t have the heavy weight on their side as they do now. Anyway, the infiltration will begin tomorrow, several hundred feet above where we sit right now, on the Campus Green.”

“You make this sound like such an important deal, but the thing is, we can go up the hill to Science and talk to them any time we want—it’s not like a restricted sector or anything. What is so important about this meeting tomorrow?” Juleia suddenly asked.

“Because, Juleia, this makes the mixing officially sanctioned. You know the government watches everything that goes in and out of SciSky and the Science compound—as well as most everything that goes on within. With the University-wide community project, sanctioned by the Board of Directors, we are essentially free to infiltrate Science with the permission of the government!” the Professor answered and leaned back in his chair contentedly.

“What specific role do we play in this? Why did you call us down here?” Runey asked, his deep blue eyes narrowing with interest. Juleia nodded in agreement with his question.

A look of trepidation flickered briefly across the Professor’s face as he straightened in his chair and said, “Well, let’s get into the heart of the matter then, shall we…” He powered on a slender silver computer tablet on the table, and the projection screen on the wall lit up. At first the screen was a stock image of the Restorationist’s symbol, but then that faded away as the Professor tapped on the tablet screen and was replaced with a photo. It was a University ID badge photo; each student in the University had an ID badge which they used to gain access to areas of their college which were restricted to others, their dormitories, or to scan their attendance at class or other mandatory events. This ID photo displayed a young woman with long, shiny black hair framing a beautiful face whose fine features and high cheekbones created a perfect setting for unusually striking pale green eyes. Runey and Juleia studied the picture interestedly, but the confusion still had not cleared from their faces.

Once the photo was loaded, the Professor continued speaking, “This is Mara. First year Science student. Top of her class. Identification number 8946320. She is, my sources and colleagues confirm, working on a project which is highly government sensitive. She is the key to our infiltration being successful. Bring her alone over to the Restorationists and you’ve as good as brought over all the knowledge of Science, and potentially brought the government to its knees!”

“Yes, but how are Runey and I supposed to do that?” Juleia piped up once again as Runey sat quietly in thought, studying the picture of Mara.

The Professor sighed almost inaudibly, his former excitement deflated instantly at Juleia’s question, “Juleia, I know that you and Runey were a couple long before you joined the organization; however, you knew upon joining that there would be sacrifices to be made for the advancement of our cause,” the Professor said gently, and Juleia crossed her arms in front of her as if bracing for what he would say next. “My colleagues in the Science department have monitored Mara extensively; as surely as they are convinced she is our key to success, they are equally sure that she will not be won over easily. From what they tell me, the girl is a hard worker to the point of mania—nothing gets her out of her lab, her work is her life. Thus, we have come to the conclusion that she can’t be reached through blunt means. This will require a sweeping and deep effort to win her over truly and fully to our side.”

At this point Juleia sighed loudly at the long-winded and hazy explanation; Runey took her hand reassuringly and said, “Get to the point, Prof.”

The Professor shook his head, “As hard as it is for me to say it, the point is that my colleagues and I have come to the conclusion that our best chance to get Mara on our side is to make her fall in love with a young man in our organization, and, Runey, you were the one we decided on. I know this is an immense sacrifice for you and Juleia, but it will also yield great rewards if successful—you, Runey, are the most deserving of our young members for these honors, this coupled with our faith in you are the reasons we chose you for this assignment.” The Professor’s final words fell heavily on the dense silence in the room.

Suddenly the silence was interrupted by the metal shriek and clang as Juleia violently got up, overturning her folding chair to the ground, “I can’t believe this! Runey and I have been together for FOUR YEARS! You can’t just take him away over some stupid little girl from Science—you need to find someone else! Find someone else! Find someone else!” Juleia screamed, her brown eyes blazing with hot fury and tears as she rounded on the Professor.

“It’s already been decided, Juleia,” the Professor said solemnly, still seated at the table.

“Find…someone…else,” Juleia hissed menacingly, leaning across the table towards the Professor. At that, Runey stepped up and put a hand on her shoulder, drawing her back to their side of the table. At his touch, Juleia started shaking and collapsed back into another folding chair, head bowed, her waist length chestnut hair falling forward making a curtain around her face as the tears fell. Runey drug his chair over closer to Juleia who looked up at him with eyes whose fury had been quenched by pooling tears as she whispered, “Rune, you’re not really going to do this, are you? It’s just you and me, remember?”

Runey grabbed both her hands tight between his and hung his head so their foreheads were nearly touching, “Jules, baby, I have to…” he whispered sadly but firmly. He held her close silently for a few precious seconds which weighed on him like small eternities, then straightened up and looked at the Professor, “How does this begin?”

“Right…” the Professor smoothed the front of his coat and fixed his gaze on Runey, “First, you must say goodbye to Juleia. She will still be one of your student colleagues in the school of Design, but in order for your mission to succeed, you must truly end your relationship with her for the moment,” the Professor pressed some buttons on his tablet, and the conference room door opened, allowing a shaft of light into the darkness. A young man appeared in the doorway. “Thomas will take you back to your dormitory, Juleia, and I will fully brief Runey after your departure,” the Professor said as the young man in the doorway moved across the room to Juleia’s side.

Slowly, Juleia stood up from her chair. First, she turned to Runey, “Runey, I understand why you are doing this, but I will never understand how you could do this to us. I love you, I will always love you—please don’t forget the love I know you have for me.” The young man, Thomas, put a hand on her arm to move her towards the door, but she shook it off and turned towards the Professor with an expression that was a pure marriage of malice and pain, “And you…I will never forgive you for this.”

With that, Thomas led Juleia out of the room, and as the door closed behind them, the Professor—apparently unruffled—turned back to face Runey, “Now, as you well know, the meeting is tomorrow on the Campus Green. My colleagues and I have arranged that you and Mara will be in the same group—“

“They’re putting us in groups?” Runey interjected.

“Oh yes, I forgot to tell you completely. They are starting the ‘experiment’ out by forming groups of four; one student from each of the colleges in each group. I think they will have you all work on a project together over the course of the year, but that doesn’t matter. What really matters is your developing relationship with Mara; because tomorrow is when it needs to start developing. I know I can count on you, Runey. You’ve shown great dedication to our program, and not just tonight. So tomorrow, your challenge begins!” The Professor finished exultantly.

“Prof, aren’t there anymore steps or points you need to brief me on before tomorrow? Am I just supposed to go into the thing blind?” Runey asked, “Honestly, I’ve been blindsided by this whole night, and now tomorrow I’m just supposed to go fall in love with some girl?” Runey laughed half-heartedly and crossed his muscular arms.

The Professor smiled, “There is no instruction manual to love, nor was love gained in one day. Tomorrow is a beginning, and while we will be checking in together frequently, this is an act you are going to play unscripted. I can offer this advice, however, get to know her work; it’s helpful to us, and from the sounds of it, could be the wellspring of her passion.”

“Got it. Mind if I go now? Been rather a long night with you down here,” Runey said, struggling to maintain an amiable, light tone, but the Professor could see the emotional strain starting to wear at the young man, and his frequent glances toward the door were a very telling sign that he would be instantly on his way to find Juleia if released now.

“Just a moment, Runey. Enough talking shop, let’s you and I have a drink—I think we both need one,” the Professor said, producing two glasses and a decanter out of the shadows.

“I think you are right,” Runey said, accepting his full glass and raising it, “Cheers, Prof,” he said with a tight smile.

“To tomorrow morning—the beginning of their end,” the Professor toasted, and the two drank deeply, the amber liquid in their glasses illuminated by the projection screen where Mara’s ID badge shot was still displayed above them.