In B3: The Art Museum I use birth/death imagery to skip most of the school year. It ties the section to the ever-present idea of reincarnation, but more importantly it keeps the plot moving. “Don’t worry,” it says, “this isn’t a high-school slice-of-life.” When my mom read the rough drafts of the early chapters (hi, Mom) she said B was the boring one; I’ve rewritten it entirely. The draft of B3 I posted today is more interesting and efficient.
In the first three paragraphs we know the setting and which characters are involved. Dan and Jillian remind readers who they are by contributing potent images. Dan brings up the Harrowing of Hell, which parallels his eventual descent to the underworld. Jillian talks about two mirrored pillars housed in different countries, echoing her own separation from her past life Dan. We even meet Princess Lucy, a title star of LuLu’s Space-Time Acceleration, on Dan’s shirt. I’ve introduced LLSTA slowly over B2 and B3 to acclimatize the reader for B4, when we finally watch an episode.
The next paragraphs create tension: Dan is caught between a painting he’s too scared to look at and the girl he’s too scared to talk to. Jillian builds the tension by encouraging Dan, but the situation is deflated when the reader sees Faith and Beatrice are together. There will be no romantic confrontation today. Nevertheless even this threat of a conflict encourages the reader to continue, contributing to the momentum of the story by exploring the relationships between our established characters.
I did the same thing last section. In section B2 Jillian was worried about finding friends in a new school. Then she met Dan and Faith and Beatrice. That was the book’s last heartbeat—our hearts go lub-dub, lub-dub, but a book’s heart goes tension-resolution, tension-resolution.
As a bonus we’ve increased the tension between Dan and Beatrice. This section avoids one conflict but adds to an overarching conflict, Dan’s unrequited love for Beatrice. Over the course of the novel the tension will rise until the conflict finally comes to a head.
By this point Dan’s self-destructive tendencies are well-established. He confronts the painting he doesn’t want to look at, a Bosch rendering of Hell, and describes images he is clearly uncomfortable witnessing. Kick your characters while they’re down. Give them lose-lose situations. Make them prove they can take it, especially if they get themselves into the mess in the first place. Dan’s conflicts were internal.
Besides, you didn’t think I would introduce a Bosch and then never come back to it, right? Use every part of the antelope. If you set up a domino, knock it down. And other metaphors.
Over the Summer, Faith and Jillian smoke a cricket while watching LuLu’s Space-Time Acceleration. I’m considering making this into it’s own section because a lot of things happen in B3, but since I want to leave the high-school setting ASAP this scene can stay here for now.
Before the penultimate episode of LLSTA Jillian reveals they remember being Dan in Chapter A. She comes out as trans and asks Faith to call him Jay. DanJay. This integrates their gender identity into the story and setting (and title), which may make it easier for some readers to swallow. After all, readers already accepted Dan turning into Jillian. They’re used to name changes by now.
After another time skip (which readers should also be familiar with by now) Jay will have fully transitioned and he’ll be ready for an adventure. We’ll keep the story moving and I don’t have to embarrass myself by getting basic facts about transitioning wrong. Not all trans people want to have any kind of surgery or hormones, but it would be nice if Jay happened to look a bit like Dan. I hope all this comes off as respectful, because I’m trying my best; let me know if anything is off.
Faith and Beatrice aren’t dating because I had a lesbian quota, and Jay isn’t trans just to be inclusive (though I am happy it’s come out this way). The relationships between characters fell naturally out of the story I wanted to tell. Jay being trans gives readers insight into the nature of the afterlife. We’re reading DanJay’s two lives simultaneously, and the more we read the more the pieces fall into place.
In the next section we’ll meet Professor Akayama. See you there!