Second chapters always seem to be one of the most difficult to write. In most cases you have established the main character and set up the basic plot or action, so we ask ourselves what’s next. First chapters usually come pretty quickly but second ones can stump us in some cases. So for the second chapter of Orchard House, and if you haven’t read it yet please do so now or this won’t make much sense, there were a few things I wanted to accomplish or establish. First was to establish the female lead character. It’s key to not just introduce her but to show a few things about her. In the scene in which she is first introduced I use a music reference to tell us a little about her. Her singing “Call Me The Breeze” by Lynyrd Skynyrd as she comes into the house lets us know she is free spirited and independent without actually coming out and saying so. The scene is also played lightly and with a touch of humor as the two characters come face to face in an awkward sort of way. I did it this way so we wouldn’t be super serious about things right off the bat. There will be time for emotional drama later but for now to bring likability to the characters I felt it was essential to have their meeting occur in a way which the characters, and the readers, would remember.
Later, as the two decide on their road trip to Wal Mart again I used music references to set the scene, particularly the emotions and character of my two lead players. I realize that the references may seem like too many all crammed together – we find three song references in a very short span of time – but my idea was to help put the forth the idea that at one time Matthew had wanted to be or had been a music critic. So beginning with a reference to an obscure one hit wonder of the late 80’s, early 90’s – “Power Windows” by Billy Falcon – I attempt to let the reader know that Matthew initially sees Summer as a simple, love-is-all-that’s-important kind of girl. If one doesn’t know the song, and I don’t expect many readers to, my hope is maybe they’ll look into it. By the next line it seems Matthew’s assessment is wrong as another song reference comes: “Life Is A Highway” by Tom Cochrane. Again, and this song is more popular so maybe the point will be taken, I try to show the carefree, everyday-is-an-adventure spirit of my female character. I was going to end the references there, but I wanted the scene to reflect that they were clicking thanks to music on the radio and so I added yet one more music reference: “I’m On Fire” by The Dwight Twilley Band. I realize music references can be lost on the reader if they don’t know the song, but here I was writing more for myself to help me get into the fun mindset of these characters together. I could imagine them hanging their heads out the window and shouting the line “You aint, you aint, you aint got no lover” from this early power pop classic. I’m not sure it’s a good idea to use obscure references that the reader may not get, but in this case I’m trying to show the reader that Matthew has extensive music knowledge and it’s obviously something he loves and can relate to. On a personal level I feel we do shape our lives around music we listen to or enjoy, and in this story in particular i wanted to explore that with a character.
Finally, in notating things about this chapter I want to point out that only one character was introduced in this chapter. That was intentional. My idea was to show the importance of this character to the story. In chapter one we met the narrator and two other minor characters, but here it all centers around Summer and her arrival on the scene. This is designed to let the reader know she is possibly the most important character in not only the author’s eye but the narrator as well.
Like I said in my previous notes I don’t know if any of this will be of interest to anyone, but I thought I would share a little about the writing process and what goes inside this writer’s head as he is crafting a story. Hope to see you soon with Chapter three.