It’s just my luck that my best ideas hit hardest right when I’m about to doze off. Bam! Like lightning right through my skull, blazing hot in the darkness.
I reach blindly for the iPad on the nightstand. I knock over a book. I forgot the cord was still plugged in, charging from the day’s note-taking (and playing Dragonvale or Butterfly Farm or whatever), so it makes an awful sound. Ryan is asleep, and mutters something.
Finally I have it in my hands. When I press the home button, the screen glows like a sunspot. I double-click and drag the brightness down as far as it’ll go. Then I write down a few sentences:
“Like a creaky old wheel or the rusty hinge on a doorframe.”
I fractured my L1 vertebrae at the beginning of September. I fell about twelve feet while rock climbing at the local bouldering gym. Since then, I’ve spent most of my time lying flat on my back, and a good portion of that lying-flat time doped up on dilotid/morphine/oxycodone to manage the pain. Once I was able to get up and move around, I was extremely limited in what I could do.
“You have a certain number of points you can spend each day. At the beginning of the recovery cycle, you have very few points to spend. Going to the grocery store is the only thing you can do that day. It completely wears you out. As recovery continues, you can do more than one activity—maybe go to the grocery store in the morning and go to a friend’s house in the evening.”
Suddenly I knew what my grandmother feels like every day of her life. Instead of receiving more points each day (as I have), she gets less and less.
I spent the next ten minutes plodding on the iPad, writing, “At her present age, even playing a game of cards is a task. Medications have strange side effects, and she takes other medications to combat those, too. I took pain medication that caused nausea and dizziness [oxycodone], and took an anti-nausea that caused drowsiness. At the end of it all, I was in pain, dizzy, puking, and too sleepy to do anything useful.”
That’s not all. Once I finish jotting all this down in Pages, I put the iPad back to sleep and set it on the nightstand. I try once more to sleep.
Yeah, right. Another idea stings me. It burns and aches inside me until I give in.
“First line of ND: [This stands for Nicholas Dark, the book series I'm planning that revolves around a young pirate.] It was sometime in March when fever hit the Iron Maiden.”
The Iron Maiden is the tentative name of Nicholas’s ship. When I first began planning Nicholas Dark, I drafted three or four of the initial pages with a “dark and stormy night”-type feel. It was very regal, and introduced Nicholas’s nemesis La Fantasma right away.
Books, especially middle-grade or young adult books, must start with a hook. If you don’t know what I mean by “a hook,” go read this post.
So, somewhere in the recesses of my trauma-addled brain, I stumbled across the notion of starting out Nicholas Dark with a plague.
Diseases were common among ocean travelers in the 17th century, where they festered in the moist wood and cramped quarters. Beginning the story with a spreading sickness allows Nicholas to embark upon his first quest alone, without his first mate (who has fallen prey to the fever, nicknamed “purple fever” at this point). This early plot device launches the reader directly into the story, without any prologue or lead-up.
I’m not sure if I’ll stick with it, but at least it got me thinking.