We gathered for our third session and settled to wait for our instructor, Kate. When she walked in we all perked up in anticipation. Our homework was to describe something we had never seen. This required research and the ability to construct a vision even though we had never personally seen it.
The classmate sitting next to me, who had in the past published short stories, read his description. It was amazing! Again I remained quiet and did not volunteer to reveal mine. One other classmate read theirs and then we moved on to the topics of the day.
To give you some insight into my novel I will recount my “researched” description here. To set up the scene, my character Elizabeth Crane, the female navy seal, is in a cab on her way to Logan International Airport where she will catch a plane to Minneapolis, Minnesota for work. My research discovered that there is a 911 Memorial at Logan. This structure was created to honor those who perished in the two planes that flew from Logan on that day. Here is the unedited description of this Memorial. Something I have never seen but hope to in the future:
“As her cab approached Logan she glanced to her left to catch a glimpse of the 9/11 Memorial. A beautiful remembrance.
A month after its dedication, due to a flight delay, she had the opportunity to spend time on the 2.5 acre elongated oval park containing the memorial. The entrance was in the middle and each side stretched equal distance from this point. This configuration accommodated the two winding walkways that began at the entrance and meandered through the park either to the right or left. The walkways then converged at a circle directly across from the entrance, but on the opposite side.
As Elizabeth entered, she had the choice of taking one of these two winding walkways. She decided to go to the right, but paused as she caught, in the distance, a glimpse of the glass sculpture directly across from where she stood. A grove of Ginkgo trees surrounded it.
Before she began her stroll, she looked at the brochure she was given. She discovered that the walkways represented the flight paths of the two planes which both originated from Logan. The first was American Airlines Flight 11, which imploded into the North Tower of the World Trade Center in New York at 8:46 that morning. The other walkway represented United Airlines Flight 175, which seventeen minutes later disintegrated into the South Tower.
As she proceeded down the walkway, her eyes continued to drift toward the glass sculpture. The Gingko trees began to appear on either side of the path and became a grove when she reached it. She felt as if these trees were gathering there to give her support. Looking up at it, she inwardly gasped as her breath was taken away. It was a large glass cube located within a circle. It floated above the surface on stainless steel supports. One corner was open, drawing her into the cube. As she walked in, her eyes immediately went skyward toward the azure blue sky. She remembered that on 9/11 the sky was also clear, bright, and blue. She then noticed two floating glass panels with the names of the 147 passengers and crew who perished on these two flights. She was immediately overcome with emotion as tears formed and trickled down her face. The events of that day, like many of her generation, was one of the reasons she chose to serve.”
Now back to our classroom. One classmate asked Kate to describe the differences between telling a story in first, second, or third person. Kate stated this involved the voice of your novel. Briefly, first person is from one character’s point of view. It is very intimate. Using second person, the reader and narrator join together in telling the story. Finally, third person has an overall narrative voice.
We then discussed plot. Kate used the phrase “changeable map” to define plot. It involves what the characters are doing plus moving toward an objective. A novel is about the most important thing happening in the character’s life. An author needs to determine a starting point for the character and then how he or she changes and grows by the end of the story. The characters and plot are intertwined since events moving the plot forward also change the characters.
We then moved on to discuss the Arc of a novel. It traditionally involves three stages, which can be adjusted or modified. Usually the story begins and moves to point A, an event that impacts the character. The character then struggles to cope with this event and moves toward point B. This involves another life changing event, which either sidetracks the character or causes them to fail to reach their goal. Then the character overcomes the event at point B and finally succeeds upon reaching point C.
Kate then gave the class an example of a story line. It involved a soldier who struggled with being brave since his father was a coward. As a group we worked on the events of this story line that would move the soldier through the three stages.
Class ended with an assignment to create a tentative outline for our novel. We were also encouraged to read a short story “Sonny’s Blues” by James Baldwin.
In retrospect, the discussions and information I received in this class gave me the necessary beginning structure to move forward with my story. I often refer back to my notes from that day to remind myself of all the excellent points Kate made.