I don’t know if anyone other than my wife and I would find this interesting but every time I read fiction I find myself wondering where ideas and inspiration comes from. I’ll read a sentence or some clever line and find myself curious of its origins. So with that said I thought I would share a few thoughts about the writing of this chapter and some of the things behind it.
As I mentioned in my brief introduction to chapter one, and if you haven’t read that chapter I would say do so now, the genesis of this story was a desire to write a love story for my wife Heather. This desire was in place from the moment we met, but every attempt to do so fell short, until we were on our way home from our honeymoon driving down a back road in the Virginia countryside. it was there we discovered a farmhouse for rent on the edge of an orchard and decided to extend our honeymoon a couple extra days. Once there, ideas were already falling into place and i believe i jotted a few notes down at the breakfast nook. Before we left I had already fashioned some of the basic ideas we will see unfold in the chapters ahead. But again all these things were shelved as we got on with our new wonderful life together. A year later we returned to the farmhouse for a few days and the story called to me once more so I hashed out more ideas that would become scenes in this growing tale in my head. I’ll talk about some of these scenes as we get to them.
The opening paragraphs of this first chapter were not so well planned. I may have had a story idea but I didn’t know where to start telling it until listening to the local rock station and hearing an old song from the 70’s, “Running On Empty” by Jackson Browne. A great road song, the opening lines go something like “Looking out at the road rushing under my wheels”. This musical image of a guy driving down the road not sure where he’s going gave me my opening, and when it came time to figure out why my character was driving down the road in the first place another 70’s tune came to mind almost instantly: “Can’t You See” by Marshall Tucker. In that song the singer relates the feelings of being mistreated by a cruel hearted woman and just feels like escaping to anywhere. It seemed to fit the character that was taking shape in my mind. This would not be the last time music loomed large in the creation of this story. A lot of key scenes ended up being constructed around a song in an attempt to lend even more character to the people within the story. In this way I hope to illustrate how music does shape our lives and how we connect with songs that speak to us. We’ll just have to see if i actually achieve that or not.
In another music related note another song I was listening to as I put this chapter together was an 80’s southern rock tune called “Living On A Dream” by Arc Angels. Even though the song didn’t really inspire me directly the band would show up mentioned as the main character Matthew Dean muses how he could do without the memory of his ex in his old Arc Angels t-shirt. They aren’t so well known today and so I thought the reference would go unnoticed, so there you go, notice it 😉
In trying to keep the first chapter basic and the focus on the protagonist I only introduced two additional characters (unless you count the mentioning of the dog Jackson) the young lemonade seller Twyla and her grandmother. At first these characters weren’t intended to play much of a part, only to get my main character to the farmhouse at the heart of the story, but they ended up getting fleshed out more further down the road, so to speak.
First chapters should be designed to get the reader’s curiosity and as such this one is set up pretty simple. I knew I didn’t want to divulge too much and so I just threw little tidbits of information in there to be fleshed out later. This is a writing habit of mine, as it gives me more to work on as I move on to other chapters. What may seem like just a descriptive line of text in many cases is something for me to return to later when i start to lose focus. I also knew I wanted an “every man” type of story where just about anyone could relate or follow, and so first person narrative seemed the way to go. I hope you will stay on the journey with me as we join Matthew Dean and his time at Orchard House. After all the best road trips are taken with friends.