Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My Experiment

I've rewritten the first few paragraphs of my first scene, varying the narrative modes. Any thoughts?

Mode 1 - Dialogue

"Are we going to walk with her today?" Rob asked.
"Sure, if your hurry up," Margaret said. "We have to leave exactly when she leaves."
Rob dragged the last bite of bacon through the pile of ketchup on his plate and crammed it into his mouth. "Okay, I'm ready."
"Ready for what?" Margaret's mother appeared in the kitchen carrying a stack of folded towels.
"To walk with Lily," Rob said.
"No, you are not walking with that colored girl, so just sit back down and finish your breakfast."
Margaret plopped down in her chair. "What do you think's going to happen? It's not like her skin will rub off on us."
"Margaret Jean, don't talk back to me. Now go brush your teeth."
"I did already," Margaret said.
"Well, go brush them again. Your mouth needs a little washing out anyway."

Mode 2 - Description

The giant oak stretched high above the roof of Charlotte's house, except it wasn't Charlotte's house any more. It was Lily's house, Margaret reminded herself. The tree stood like a guardian looking down on the postage stamp yards of Brick Street. The old oak was Margaret's favorite thing about the street where she grew up. Once playing Red Rover underneath the tree, Margaret fell so hard on her back she saw stars flickering in the leaves. That tree knew everything that happened on Brick Street. It was tall enough to see Meyers Market three streets over where the neighborhood changed, where the yards became cluttered with old cars and broken tricycles. When her mother called them shameful, Margaret winced. She couldn't believe the tree would see them that way. The oak didn't seem to care that there were lines that couldn't be crossed. It poked leafy fingers across the boundary between Margaret's yard and Lily's, a boundary Margaret's mother no longer let her cross.

Mode 3 - Action

Margaret lifted the edge of the curtain and peeked out the window. Lily was still there, leaning against the trunk of the giant oak. Margaret let the curtain fall. She hurried back to the table and stacked the empty bowls together. She grabbed her plate and scraped the remaining clump of grits into the trash. She popped her little brother Rob in the back of the head. "Hurry up, so we can walk with her."

Mode 4 - Thoughts

How could Lily just sit there in the grass, leaning against that tree, while eyes from every house on Brick Street peered out at her? Maybe she didn't care. May it didn't matter to her what all those people hiding behind their Venetian blinds thought. It must be a good feeling, not to care like that. Well, today Margaret wouldn't care either. She'd ignore her Mother's ridiculous restrictions. She'd slam the door behind her, march right up beside Lily and walk to school with her, whether Lily wanted her there or not. She would. Maybe.

Mode 5 - Exposition

The summer before school started in 1971, the Supreme Court decided that forced busing was the only way to ensure desegregation in public schools. It wasn't a popular decision in Riverton. In early August, a crowd of angry citizens constructced a dummy, pinned the school superintendant's name on it, and burned it in front of his office. It didn't change anything. The schools were rezoned, buses rerouted, and Margaret Jean Crawford's life would never be the same.


  1. Having read the story, I like the "Exposition" as the first scene. I think I would very much be drawn further in if your "conversation" were the second scene. I really did like how you wrote it originally, but now it's all muddled in my mind and I can't remember how you began the story!

  2. My favorite is Description. I like how the exposition gives a historical context, but it seems so impersonal.

  3. This is for kids, right? ACTION all the way!!

  4. Thanks to each of you for your thoughts. This was an excellent experiment. I learned a lot from it. I realized that there were things in each one that I hadn't actually written out in the original first scene. I'm still debating how my rewrite is going to look, but I'm betting I will use a bit from all of them.