Monday, March 7, 2011

W.I.P: In Preacher's Creek

This opening chapter introduces the town of Preacher's Creek and its history.  The real main characters tell the stories of this small rural town, based on its long history.  In the 2nd chapter, the narrator (Ellen Jo) and her brother Kent are part of the 1950s, and the ties to the past are always present and part of their lives, as their interact with the 627 descendants of the Johnson family and their fellow travelers.  This chapter establishes the voice and atmosphere of the setting.

            The lands east of the ocean were once dense forests, where a squirrel taking off in Virginia could make all the way to the Mississippi River without every touching down on earth.  But that all changed, for better or worse.
            In 1822, people were heading west, with the promise of farm land and a bright future for their families.  Among those trekking along in creaking wagons pulled by solid oxen was the Ezekiel and Annabel Lister Johnson family.    He wasn’t happy about this, but then Ezekiel did not have much about which to rejoice.  The only things he had going for him were exceptionally beautiful blue eyes and the fact that he kept his mouth shut.  This led those around him to think that he possessed wisdom. 
            Ezekiel Johnson married Annabel Lister over her father’s objections, but the blue eyes won out.  It was only a short time before Annabel discovered how dim the light in her husband’s brain shone.  By then Annabel was expecting, and wouldn’t let her father, Jesse Lister, take Zeke out and shoot him.  When a group from Virginia came by, Annabel signed up for the great push to the West.
            The trip had been cursed from the beginning.  When they loaded the wagon and hitched up the oxen, Jesse Lister fixed Ezekiel with a hard stare and then spit on the wagon.  “You always been a fool, Zeke, and a lazy one.   What my Annie saw in you, I’ll never know.  But, you hear me now,” and Lister paused here, for effect, the way fathers do when they want to make a statement of great importance.  “You listen to my girl, here.  She got more sense in a single eyelash than you have in your whole good-fer-nuthin body.  When Annie says to do somethin’, by heavens, do it.”  And then he took out a handkerchief and blew his nose loud and long. 
            “I’ll never see you again, Annabel, so you ‘member what you were taught, and take care of your babies,” he blinked once or twice.  “God go with you, girl.”  Annabel sat up straight, and watched her pa’s back as he walked slowly to the barely thawed field to start the spring plowing.
            The miles from Kentucky to the unsettled land of Illinois were seemingly endless. 
            Ezekiel halted their journey at a gentle creek when a rear wheel axle broke, and the back of the wagon drooped down in exhaustion.  The oxen had had enough; they began to graze happily. The whole train came to a muddy stop, glaring at Zeke with disgust, as this breakdown was not the first.
            With some difficulty, Annabel jumped down, and scurried to the back to assess the situation.  Ezekiel heard her tsk-tsk all the way at the front of the wagon, where he slumped over and hung his head down.  ‘What now?’ he wondered. ‘What now indeed?’
This was fun!  Thank you for hosting it, Kristina!
            Annabel marched up the slope, and observed the tall trees swaying in invitation, as if longing to be made into a nice snug little cabin.  Then she looked at the creek, hearing its clear water bubbling over smooth stones, disappearing around a bend.  Annabel rubbed her rounded belly, and told the unborn baby, “This is where you’ll grow up.”

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  1. I like historicals! You have a good start, but it tells a little too much. How about starting with the fifth paragraph and put a bit of the background in here and there. We need to discover that Annabel has more sense in one eyelash than Zeke does in his whole body. That'a a great line, BTW. ; )

    I'm following you now. come on over to my blog and visit.

  2. This is interesting. Careful with switching points of view back and forth.
    Thanks for sharing.

  3. I agree with both of the comments above. Watch how much you tell instead of show. BUT, you have amazing dialogue. I can hear the accents wonderfully. It comes across as omniscient at times--not sure if that is good or bad, I just know it's difficult to pull off or allow readers to get inside the head and connect with a character. I do like the flow and fell.

    Thanks for letting me read :)

  4. I would rather see the backstory than be told it, but if you're going to narrate it, I don't want to hear it all at once. Especially not at the beginning, when I need to be "caught." I personally would write the scene without any backstory or flashbacks, then open the next scene with "His father didn't approve," etc.

    I adore your first paragraph, by the way, though it doesn't fit with the rest of the text and I wonder why it's there.

  5. There's way too much telling upfront here. Rather than setting the scene first, I'd start with the first line of dialogue and let the rest get shown as the story unfolds.

    As a rule, it's always better to start with action and build the world later.

  6. The dialogue is short and sweet, saying a lot about the characters in few words. You have a lyrical voice.

  7. I think you could weave the first two paragraphs into the rest of the writing, and then this piece would start with the characters doing something.

    I liked the faith that her dad had in her. I think that helped more to build her character than annything she might have said.

  8. I love the dialogue here! It's very authentic.

    I'm very intrigued to see how things are going to turn out for Annabel and Zeke. But I really agree with what the others have said. Be careful with all that telling in the opening. Try sprinkling the backstory in later.

    I'd love to keep reading! Thanks for sharing :)

  9. Thank you all for your comments! They are true, and I will be adjusting the writing as I go. I did add a preface just now, explaining that this beginning is to establish the town and its founding fathers. I hope that isn't too confusing! Thank you!

  10. I am not one for the 'tell' you are a good writer, and can drop back story in later. Give me the show, or just dump me into dialogue any day. The dialogue is wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing.


  11. This paints a very vivid picture. I love it ;)

  12. I really enjoyed reading the posts on your blog. I would like to invite you to come on over to my blog and check it out. God bless, Lloyd

  13. I had to come to this page again :) I LOVED your last post and can't wait 'til this is available to buy. :)


Go won' t hurt...I'd love to hear what you think!