What’s for Breakfast

I think I must have been hungry when I wrote the opening scene of Chapter 2. My usual writing routine began very early each morning, so it was most likely getting close to breakfast time when I wrote about Ed and Polly going to Ledbetter’s Corner Café.

It was fun to “see” Polly snatching the menu from Ed’s hands — acting a bit like she owned him — and then rattling off exactly what he would have for breakfast.

And what would he have?

I didn’t have to think too long about it. I just served up my favorite breakfast — two poached eggs, hash browns, and toast. I enjoy mine with a glass of cold orange juice, but I gave Ed a cup of hot, black coffee instead.

And now, I’m getting hungry again. It’s breakfast time here.

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“On the Way Home” – Writing the Scene

Putting a Scene Together

It all starts with conflict. That’s the key element in every scene. It’s the reason the scene exists in the first place, so for me, it makes sense to build scenes around it. Whenever I sit down and plan a scene, I start by identifying the central conflict that’s going to occur.

In this scene, Linn has arrived in town only a short time before. She intends to conduct a bit of business and return to San Francisco as soon as possible. In this scene — as with others in the story — Linn believes she is far superior to the “simple folks” in Brookfield.

As the scene begins, she’s already rented a wagon and is driving toward her parents’ farm. There was no real conflict involved in renting the wagon, therefore no need to show that happening.

In developing this scene, I looked first at the conflict that would happen. Linn is going to have a somewhat unpleasant encounter with a former friend, Polly Washburn.

Here’s the moment at which that happens:

“Why, Linnie Mae Sparks! Is that really you?”

This is the central conflict, a sudden change that disrupts Linn’s intentions. It’s a single line of dialogue that upsets Linn for a lot of reasons, although I don’t spell them all out.

In this scene, Polly’s appearance takes Linn by surprise. To keep her off-guard, I made sure she was busy tending to another problem — an argument with a stubborn mule.

“Now, listen, you stubborn old thing, I’ve got a notion to send you to the glue pits if you—”

Once I’d identified the central conflict of the scene, I considered Linn’s immediate reaction. I used a negative word to describe Polly’s voice, and showed Linn’s surprise.

At the sound of the squealing voice, Linn let go of the mule and whirled around.

Basically, what I did was to write the middle of the scene first. I don’t like to get too far ahead of myself, though, so next I thought about when, where, and how the scene would begin.

I used a quick summary to reveal that information:

A short time later, she climbed aboard a rented wagon, lifted the reins in her hands, and slapped them over the mule’s broad back.

That’s the beginning. What about the ending? Just when and how should a scene end? Scenes come to an end when they’ve served their purpose. I had several reasons for writing this particular scene. I needed to introduce Polly to the story, continue building on Linn’s negative attitude toward the people of Brookfield, and, in general, make Linn as uncomfortable as I could. Once I’d accomplished those goals, it was time to end the scene with Linn driving away:

Looking straight ahead, she took hold of the thick leather reins. The old mule must have sensed Linn’s desire to move on. The wagon lurched forward.

In between the beginning and the end, a lot of things can happen within a scene — in addition to the central conflict in the middle. Usually, there’s a specific action — often a line of dialogue — that “brings the scene to life”. I think of it as the point where a director might yell, “Action!” while making a film.

The scene with Linn begins with her slapping the reins over the mule’s back. To bring it more fully to life, I also gave her a few words to speak:

“Go on, there! Get up!”

I added that stubborn mule to make Linn a little frustrated, and to further play up her dislike for the little town, I worked in a little backstory information about her and her glamorous life in San Francisco.

Had she forgotten how to handle a buckboard? She hadn’t driven one in years. In San Francisco, she paid a kindly older gentleman to transport her about town in a fine, open carriage.

Of course, I also had to give some thought to how I would describe Polly — from Linn’s point of view. This meant putting myself in Linn’s head, imagining what her thoughts would be.

Like Brookfield itself, Polly had not changed an iota. Well, maybe she looked a trifle older, and maybe she’d added a few pounds to her skinny frame, but she still wore her mousy-brown hair in that loose bun at the back of her neck, and she still dressed in those simple shirt-waisted frocks. Although she and Polly had once been the best of friends, with one look, Linn knew the two of them no longer had anything in common. No doubt Polly was married now, probably had a houseful of noisy children, and spent her days cooking, cleaning and tending to farm chores.

Scenes serve many different purposes in fiction-writing, not the least of which is moving the story forward. What would happen after this unexpected encounter between two former friends? Again, my main goal here was to show Linn’s bad attitude, her unwillingness to accept the people of Brookfield, and her inability to relate to this simple way of life. Linn’s intention here is in keeping with her original plan to get away from Brookfield as quickly as possible.

“Sorry, but I’m in a bit of a rush right now.” She gave Polly a little wave, waggling her fingers in that affected manner she’d adopted since being on stage. With a swish of her long skirts, Linn climbed aboard the wagon again.

I also used this scene as an opportunity to once again hint at a little backstory information.

Who was it Polly had mooned over back in high school? Billy McGregor? One of the Loonsfoot boys? It didn’t matter, and Linn didn’t care to waste any time finding out.

Did you catch that reference to the Loonsfoot family? Maybe. Maybe not. I included the information here in a very innocuous way, and quickly dismissed any thoughts. As Linn herself quickly tells the reader, it didn’t matter.

Oh, but maybe it will.

I hope you’re enjoying the story. I hope, too, you enjoy looking behind the scenes a bit and learning more about how I write my stories.

Loonsfoot’s Seed and Feed

The first mention I give of the Loonsfoot family comes in Chapter One. When Linn meets Joe Trumbull he quickly tells her he’s on his way to Loonsfoot’s. That’s all that’s said then and there. Linn isn’t interested in what the young fellow plans to do, and as readers soon learn, she doesn’t want to think too much about the Loonsfoot family.

As the chapter continues, I revealed a little more information. Not much, but just enough to hopefully whet the reader’s appetite for more.

Here’s a little bit of foreshadowing. Does it arouse your curiosity?

“Listen, Joe, you look like a strong fellow. Why don’t you carry my bags to the livery for me, and then you can go on to…” Linn had to stop and swallow before she could get the name out. “To Loonsfoot’s.”

How was James Loonsfoot doing these days? Her mother never mentioned him in her letters. The man no longer ran his seed and feed business himself, Linn knew. He’d turned that responsibility over to his sons years before, right after the accident.

After this rather awkward moment for Linn, I wanted to end the chapter on a lighter note. Most of all, I wanted to show that underneath Linn’s  stage-star persona, she was still a bit of a country girl at heart.

These closing lines of the chapter are, in fact, among my favorite lines in the story:

“Buy some good shit, Joe,” she called out as he headed in the direction of the seed and feed store. “And good luck with the squash.”

Introducing Joe Trumbull

Of all the characters I’ve created over the years, Joe Trumbull is surely one of my favorites. I suppose I’ve known a lot of fellows like him — good-hearted, somewhat simple-minded, always friendly — but Joe wasn’t based on any particular person. In fact, when I began the story, Joe Trumbull wasn’t on my list of characters. He didn’t exist yet in my mind.

As I wrote the opening scene with Linn arriving in Brookfield only to have her “snub” the driver and be left standing alone with a wagonload of luggage, I realized I needed someone who’d be willing to help her out — for a price.

Because my first objective in the story was to introduce Linn and show her disdain for her humble, rural roots, what better character for her to meet than someone who epitomized all those things she disliked?

And so, Joe Trumbull was born.

In this opening chapter, as the first resident from Brookfield that the reader meets, Joe comes to represent the town itself.  Like Joe, the town is slow-paced, easy-going, and not too concerned about appearances. Joe is very down-to-earth, not one to really be all that impressed by fame and fortune.

Creating the scene with Linn and Joe, letting them engage in a bit of dialogue, and imagining Linn’s reactions to this talkative, denim-clad farm boy was wonderful fun. I liked Joe Trumbull, and once he’d come into the story, he wasn’t going away any time soon. Joe’s youth and his discoveries about life — and love — were a perfect parallel for much of Linn’s backstory.

I hope you like Joe, or “Joe-Joe” as his mother usually calls him, unless, of course, she’s mad at him. You’ll be seeing more of Joseph Alphonse Trumbull as the story continues.

Thoughts on Linn’s Arrival

Readers aren’t expected to like Miss Linn Sparks when she first arrives “home” to Brookfield, Kansas. In fact, quite the opposite. I expect readers to dislike Linn and her “better-than-everyone-else” attitude.

CLICK HERE TO READ LINN’S ARRIVAL FROM CHAPTER ONE

Isn’t that against the rules, though? Aren’t authors supposed to create sympathetic characters that readers will adore? Yep, so I knew from the start that I’d have a challenge ahead of me.

In writing the opening scene of the story, I wanted to highlight the vast differences between Linn’s present life as the glamourous star from San Francisco and her prior experience growing up in a small rural community. This, I hoped, would provide a bit of background for Linn’s “uppity” attitude.

By putting her back in her old home setting — sort of a “fish out of water” approach — I planned to appease readers a bit by making Linn miserable. After all, it’s always fun to see someone “get what’s coming” when we don’t like them very well.

Overall, my hope was that readers would enjoy seeing Linn struggle through a few predicaments and would keep reading long enough to understand more about her childhood and the reasons behind her self-centered approach to life.

In reality, Linn Sparks isn’t really as awful as she seems. But at the beginning, yes, she’s very disagreeable and unpleasant. Feel free to dislike her.

What is Summertime?

Summertime was originally published by Secret Cravings Publishing. As the author, I now hold all rights to this story and the other historical romances written under the name of Christina Cole.

Many readers have expressed an interest in this story. At this time, however, I have no plans to republish my earlier novels — either independently or with other publishing companies.

But why not share this story online?

In addition to the story itself, I’ll also be sharing background information, thoughts about the story and its characters, and insights into the writing process.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to share them. You may also contact me personally by visiting the “Questions for Christina?” page.

I’m delighted that you’re here, and I hope you’ll enjoy reading Summertime. I’ve included a short “blurb” about the story here: The Story of Summertime.