Physical description: We start off with Enrik, the trader. I’ve never been able to follow detailed physical descriptions in a book, e.g., “He had a wide forehead, aquiline nose, cheeks wrinkled from the wind, a mouth made for pursing, a shovel for a chin...” I can’t visualize all that. The face described seems surreal, cubist. As a reader, I prefer one or two distinguishing physical features or a general overall impression. Also, I find it more important for minor characters than main characters. A reader knows the main character by what they do, not how they look. It's a minor character who doesn't do enough to stay in the reader's mind who needs more physical description.
Length: A very short chapter! The first chapter was so important to me, I wanted to end it just right. This is a bridge chapter, and as a reader I often feel like short chapters are a kind of reward, a promise that the plot is moving forward.
So let’s move onto...
Chapter 3 (long chapter!)
The song: Some have thought that “Tomorrow’s a black BUSH in the middle night” but it’s actually HUSH. Darn that italic script!
Opening: Miri waking to trumpeting this time, instead of to goats, as she did in the first chapter. A little parallel construction to denote change.
Large cast: We have a village full of people. If I tried to describe them all, no reader could keep track. I generally only name the characters who will be of the most significance to the story--that is, to Miri herself. The named characters are given almost all of the action. On page 31 we meet Os, Gerti’s father and head of the village council, one of only three village adults who get names (I think).
Miri’s pa: The scene on page 33 is important to me. The relationship between Miri and her father was a subplot that I discovered in later drafts. Now it feels essential. It takes me many drafts to find all the layers of a story. I can't imagine this book now without that subplot. I love hearing of a father who has read this book to his daughter. (Even cooler: to his daughter AND son.)
The tutor: Trivia! Originally there were two tutors. I looked up the first draft to remember her name--Ingir. Here was her description:
“The second woman was the only person Miri had ever met who looked to have eaten more than she needed. She had large, dark eyes and long lashes, and Miri thought that perhaps some boys might think her pretty. She hoped Pider never met her.”
Peder was Pider at first, apparently. I think it was my editor’s suggestion to cut Ingir. At first I couldn’t imagine losing her, then once I cut her, I could see she was entirely unnecessary and in fact Olana worked much better as a character alone. Upped the tension and the stakes, I think.
Favorite line: The very last one. “Her pulse clicked in her jaw, and she held onto that noise, tried to take comfort from it, as if the quarry and home were as near as her heart.”
I skipped over a ton! Any questions? Here are a few from last post.
Ali: "When you were editing, would you stay on one chapter until you thought it was right, or go back later on as you edited the whole book?" Both. I mostly wrote the book from beginning to end, trying not to edit as I go. During rewrites, I might work over a chapter 2-3 times in one draft, 1 time in the next draft, 2 times in the next, etc.
Heather: "I was wondering how you came up with the names of the characters." Stole them from lists of Scandanavian names, except for Miri. Miri was the first name to pop into my head as I wrote. I knew a Miri when I was little.
Calliope1of9: "My question actually stems not from the first chapter, but from what you wrote on the title page of my copy: "You got to miss algebra for this" (meaning the book signing). Question: Why are you so awesome?" I remember that! Wow, that was at least 5 years ago, right? I was doing a stock signing during the day. Your mom is the awesome one for springing you from school to come to the bookstore. What a way to show-don't-tell a child that books matter!
As far as doing this again, next year The Goose Girl turns 10. I'm planning on diving into that book for the summer book club 2013. Besides that I don't know. Maybe. This takes a lot of time!