A4 Commentary: The First Chapter

Now that we’ve finished Chapter A with A4: The Little Blue Bird, (which you should read before this), let’s look it over. These first four sections establish the conflicts we’ll be seeing for the whole novel even while offering a self-contained story which holds up in its own right.

We established two major settings, the monastery and the Mountain in a desert. By surprising the reader with the transition we built a sense of mystery into the setting itself. Did Dan die? Is the Mountain in the afterlife? What happened here? These questions aren’t answered, so the reader must continue.

We introduced four characters: Dan, Virgil Blue, Faith Featherway, and Anihilato. For each pair of characters we presented the relationship between them, and those relationships provided conflict. Dan and VB have an obvious student/master relationship; it’s the first relationship the readers see so I want it to be easily understood. Dan and Faith are friends but their friendship presents another mystery: why do these two know each other? Dan tests their friendship by seeking out Anihilato, who has their own beef with everyone involved. These relationships are not terribly complicated, but that’s a good thing: as the novel goes on, readers will come to understand the characters and their interactions more fully.

Dan alluded to two more characters, Beatrice and Jay, in section A4. I think it’s a good idea to mention characters before they appear so you avoid introducing everyone’s best friend that everyone knows in, like, Chapter Eight. When I rewrite these early sections I might mention Beatrice and Jay in A1. Jay is in the title, after all.

Finally, even while setting up the pieces for the rest of the novel, we tell a story. In the first section the conflicts are set up as Dan and VB discuss Dan’s journey to the Mountain. Dan’s immolation in a furnace is the inciting event which sets off the rest of the chapter, the threshold crossing. In the second section Dan meets Faith, a helper for his journey, but tensions are still high because he is in a strange environment and only digging deeper. In the third section we meet antagonist Anihilato, who presents an obstacle to be overcome. All hope is lost as Faith is annihilated and Dan is left alone. In the fourth section Dan triumphs over adversity to save his friend—but then throws away his victory to challenge Anihilato again, an act of hubris which acts as another inciting event setting off the rest of the book.

We’ve also set up the makings of an allegory: there’s a character nicknamed Dainty who travels across the afterlife; a character named Beatrice; a character named Virgil Blue; and a character named Faith. Maybe in Chapter B’s commentary we’ll talk about my plans for this allegory.

I’ll have Section B1 up next Friday, the 5th of May. Until then, eat your worms!

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