Wednesday, September 3, 2014

So close and yet so far away.

Holy cow, how did September jump onto the docket? Here in Northern Wisconsin, I am still waiting for summer to start. I think I will be waiting for a lonnngg time.

Labor Day, with only the living room to clean and some laundry to wash, along with the usual crummy weather, I was fired up to finish my novel. Just two last chapters, I’ve been telling myself now for months. But this is why I am not a plotter. I wrote what I had hoped would be my second to the last chapter, and my darn main character went crazy again and off on some tangent and then God sent her a premonition, which is a good lead-in to the next chapter, but that means the next chapter is still not going to be the last chapter. I just don’t get how other novelists do it. Maybe I need to take a class. Or just get a handle on my characters!

Here is part of that scene. I know I haven’t shared anything about the story, coz there are some big twists and turns, and hopefully surprises which I don’t want to ruin. The premise of this scene is simple though. The main character Jenny and her husband are staying in a church in Nairobi, Kenya. They have embarked on their first ever mission trip and have spent two days visiting a slum and an orphanage. In the morning they are leaving for the Bush. This scene takes place on August 6, 1998. I don’t want to ruin it for everyone, but if that date means something to you – shh, keep it a secret.

“Do you think we are doing the right thing?”
            “What do you mean by that?”
“I don’t know. I know we prayed about this, but do you think this is where God wants us to be? Do you think He really wanted us to drag these other people here?”
            Paul raised himself up on his elbow and studied her face. “What are you talking about?”
“I don’t know. I’m just suddenly scared. I feel like we shouldn’t have come, like we aren’t safe anymore.”
            “Is it all of John’s talk about crime in the slums? Or hearing all the sad stories from the orphans?”
She shook her head, staring up at the ceiling. Water stains darkened the patched drywall. The room was adequate, though it was small, musty and lacked a window. But there was something outside the walls of this building, something beyond this Christian compound. As if an insignificant virus had started to march down the street of the neighborhood outside, a disease that wormed its way into the lives of those who were not aware.
She studied the water spots on the ceiling. Before her very eyes, she thought she could see them spread.
Mathare Slum, Nairobi, Kenya, when I was there in 2006.


  1. What a moving excerpt, Chris, especially when paired with your experience in Kenya. How sharp the contrast between how we live here in the states and how others struggle day-to-day. Re the writing process, despite all I've read and thought about and listened to what other writers do, for me, writing is an organic process. The deeper we are in the story, the more it takes on a life of its own. Hope it doesn't snow too soon for you there and that your writing goes well.

    1. Thanks, Beth, for the comment. As you know, some scenes we write we are all excited about, and other scenes feel like a chore to write. I guess the key is just so readers don't feel any scenes are a chore to read! Right?

      I miss Kenya every day. We hope to go back in the fall of 2015, but there's alot that could happen between now and then. We will just have to wait and see I guess.

  2. I can feel the gathering of something big here...

    I've become more of a plotter, but I still keep things open-ended, because my characters definitely have lives of their own, and minds of their own to go with them!

    Recently, a character's circumstances changed literally in the middle of a sentence I was sure was going in another direction! I don't know whether she or I was more surprised...

    When a scene is a chore for me to write, I take that as a signal to look for ways to increase tension and/or excitement.

    May you find your ending soon!

    1. This is the best part of being in a network of writers. I tell my family and friends something that one of my characters did which blew me out of the water, and they are like, "do we need to get you counseling? You do know your characters are really you, don't you?" And all of us writers are like, "no, our characters are not us. They are their own people."

      Thanks, Shan, for reminding me that I'm not crazy. That none of us writers are.