Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Emotional Topographies - Part 1

It's been suggested that as my mind has a tendency to jump from one act to another like a gazelle fleeing a cheetah, and since that doesn't bode well for the emotionality and reader hooking, I should look at the emotional topography of other writers' first chapters and see what they're doing.

So, let's do that by starting with an old fave of ours - Michelle Paver's Wolf Brother - but before we do so, let's pay attention to the fact the story opens in third-person-limited to Torak's pov. So the emotional topography relates to him:

Wolf Brother - Page 1
  • Tense fear at waking
  • Empty, afraid but loyal to his father
  • Why us?
Wolf Brother - Page 2
  • Horror at the abnormal bear, on edge, it could be anywhere
  • Sad desperation about his father
  • Distracted by his fear and shaking, then sick
  • Out of his depth, the world on its head
  • Attempt to be an adult by fighting his fear
Wolf Brother - Page 3
  • Attempt to be an adult by fighting his fear
  • Confronting the imminent death of his father and denying it
  • Choosing physical pain to take away the inner
  • Fear of surviving alone
  • Forced against his will to leave
Wolf Brother - Page 4
  • Shock at his father's request to swap knives
  • Ignore the imminent death
  • Tense surprise at movement in the forest
  • Expectation that the bear returns
  • Avoid the goodbye - he can't deal with it
  • Fight the fear and sadness
  • Breakdown
Wolf Brother - Page 5
  • Holding his breath
  • Supernatural fear
  • The hush
  • Disbelief
Wolf Brother - Page 6
  • Denial and misunderstanding
  • Feeling the burden
  • Unexpected reveal
  • Holding on to the last moments
  • Afraid but doing what is asked of him
Wolf Brother - Page 7
  • Bitter sadness and resignation
  • Acting on impulse alone
  • Another denial
  • Care over the final rites
  • Overwhelming sadness at meeting death head on
  • A final denial
Wolf Brother - Page 8
  • Keeping from tears
  • An attempt at smiling
  • Horror at spotting the pawprint, searching for the cause
  • Jumpy
Wolf Brother - Page 9
  • Realisation of his precarious position
  • Trying to hold it together
  • Keeping quiet to save himself
  • Labelling himself a coward
  • Rationalisation
  • Denouement - fight or flight - he stalls
  • The height of fear and fleeing
I'd like to note the word SHIT at this juncture. Not Ms Paver's writing, but at just how much emotional movement she packs into 9 pages. Dare I look at my own?

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