Before I get into reviewing Chapter Two of my novel, I wanted to make note of something: my total word count on this blog, prior to this post, is 114,000-something words.
I knew it was getting pretty bulky, text-wise, but jeez.
For reference, my 204-page novel (as estimated here on the Amazon page for it) is a little over 79,000 words.
Re the word count of this blog, I recently started getting what I can only describe as “targeted” spam comments on certain articles. Whereas most spam comments don’t usually have anything whatsoever to do with the article they’re posted on, and don’t generally make a lick of sense, I got a couple that seemed like maybe a real person wrote them.
Maybe I am just being paranoid.
At any rate, I copy/pasted all of the text from all of my blog posts into an offline document, just in case this blog page should be hacked or otherwise compromised. And that document is over 200 pages long.
Anyways, I have written a lot of stuff here, I guess.
Chapter Two of my novel is sort of a “make-or-break” chapter. I think that if a person reads this chapter and likes it, that person will probably continue reading the novel.
On the other hand, if they read it and don’t like it — or are offended by it — they’re probably not going to keep reading.
This chapter introduces three key characters, and it also begins the ancillary storyline involving the protagonist’s personal life. I am not sure “ancillary” is the right word, not only because the Google-derived definition doesn’t say anything about stories or narratives but also because this story is not subordinate to the main one, the one about the young physics prodigy and his teleportation device. The two storylines intertwine with each other and depend on each other, and one’s not much good without the other, to be frank.
I mean, what’s the use of writing a story about going to the afterlife and back if you don’t have a protagonist going there and talking to people he knew who died? I guess you could have him/her go there and try to find answers to “the big questions” about the meaning of life, what’s it all for and so on, but without a personal connection between the protagonist and the afterlife, I didn’t see much point in it. And besides, there’s no reason those “big questions” can’t be asked after the protagonist goes to visit deceased loved ones.
At any rate, I guess if you’re going to attempt to create a personal connection between your protagonist and the afterlife, and you want people to read your book and enjoy it, your protagonist needs to be someone they sympathize with and identify with. And herein lies the “make or break” aspect of this chapter:
To repeat, in case you missed this post, the genesis of this novel came from an older relative mentioning the concept of the “unreliable narrator” to me in an online conversation.
It may have very well been the biggest mistake I have ever made in my creative pursuits, but I didn’t want F. Darryl Mullin to be a universally-liked character. I wanted readers to have good reason to dislike him, in fact.
Without going into a whole thing about it, I wanted him to be the type of character that is begrudgingly liked, if he was liked at all. I didn’t want him to be some goody-two-shoes paragon of virtue “hero” type, but at the same time I didn’t want him to be some evil bastard who screwed everybody around and only thought of his own personal gain all the time.
But at the same time, I wanted him to have shades of both of those extremes. I wanted him to be someone that the reader found repugnant at certain times, but also someone the reader admired at certain times. Or maybe not “admired,” maybe just “didn’t despise” or “found humorous” or whatever.
I mentioned in part one of this series that the protagonist of this novel is not me, but honestly there are shades of me in him. I at least like to think that most people at least begrudgingly tolerate me on a personal level, that many people actually enjoy my company, and that while a few people do indeed have good reason to dislike me, those same people (if pressed) would begrudgingly tell you that I do have my good points.
At any rate, I don’t actually know for sure if any of that stuff about how others see me is accurate, any more than I can know for sure if I “succeeded” in creating a morally ambiguous character. I mean as far as I am concerned, I think I did a fair enough job of it, but if readers don’t agree, well, I can’t honestly say that I did.
At any rate, this chapter opens with a quote from UPWARD founder Rex Van de Camp, and is then followed by this as the opening sentence:
My bitch ex-wife says I’m a piece of shit. And she may be right. She’s a pretty smart chick.
That right there, friends, may very well cause a great many people to stop reading. And with good reason: the narrator uses not one but two sexist terms for women, as well as a four-letter term for excrement.
But the people who keep on reading discover that the narrator not only thinks very highly of his “bitch ex-wife,” but also that she and he are still friends, and if I did my job as an author at all, that he still has very strong and genuine feelings of affection and love for her. He stops calling her his “bitch ex-wife” midway through the chapter, opting instead to call her by the pseudonym “Doris.”
The novel is of course totally fictional (for the record I don’t call women bitches, never will, but I do say “chick” to mean “woman” just like I say “dude” to mean “man” sometimes; I am mentally about 16, sue me), but it is written from the point of view of a journalist reporting on something that is real in his fictional world. And he doesn’t want what he’s writing to negatively affect “Doris” or anyone else that he cares about in his personal life.
But at the same time, for his experiences in the afterlife to have any meaning to the reader, he has to give some back story about the person he goes to visit in the afterlife: Doris’ deceased father, “Pops.”
“Pops” is what Doris called her father, and that’s what Floyd calls him in the novel.
And you really ought to read it. At least through chapter 2.
If you don’t like it after that, fair enough.
Thanks for reading.