Monday, November 05, 2012

NaNoMo Day 5: The Past is Prologue

Day 5 of the National November Writing Month challenge and I'm running close to par (7,746 words as of this morning). With a 30-day deadline for 50,000 words, making changes can feel like trying to change a tire while your car's hurtling down the highway.

I've already adjusted the plot, and today I surprised myself by writing a prologue. According to my outline (Writing off in All Directions at Once), the story was supposed to start here:

Chapter 1
A private detective is following a group of men to a clandestine meeting. He’s discovered, and chased by the group. He’s cornered in a desperate gunfight, and takes a moment to write out something on a piece of paper and hide it. The gang closes in the detective is killed.

Instead, I wrote the following:

Prologue – A Gathering Storm
The noonday sun had just broken through the clouds when the battleship Portsmouth sank. A blurred whitish streak lanced through the sky.  It was accompanied by a shrill whistle that pierced the air. The streak curved downwards and something struck the battleship right behind the bridge. The projectile, still trailing white smoke crashed through three decks of steel as if they were paper. A loud explosion rumbled from the center of the ship, sending vibrations coursing through the hull. 

Smoke and debris pushed upwards, blasting out through the hole punched in the superstructure. Chunks of metal flew into the air and spiraled down into the ocean as a second streak arced towards the doomed vessel. The new projectile followed the path of the first, burrowing even deeper into the bowels of the ship before detonating. 

This second explosion rolled like thunder through the lower decks, and the hull bulged outwards amidships. With a groan, twisted metal plates, already stressed from the first blast, gave way. Rivets popped, letting the warped hull plates fall away like scales. The exposed beams of the hull were also bent by the explosions, and without the stabilization of the hull plates, buckled under the strain.

With a grinding crash, the battle ship split in two. The bow and the stern lifted upwards as the exposed mid-sections of each half of the ship took on water. Oily steam from the destroyed engine room roiled out over the water, briefly obscuring the two halves of the battleship.

The metallic groan grew in volume, as overstressed bulkheads slowly twisted and tore apart. The creaking of collapsing decks and clatter of falling masts became a death rattle as the remains of the Portsmouth slipped beneath the waves. Within minutes, all that remained of the battleship was a dark stain on the water, sprinkled with floating debris.

[Don't worry -- no one was hurt. This was a decommissioned battleship being used for target practice, as I explain in the rest of the prologue.]

As for chapter one, it turned out all right. Here's the first paragraph:

Chapter 1 - Trouble
A bullet splanged against the brick, dusting Lorton with rust-red flakes. The private detective hunkered down behind an ashcan in the alley. He knew he had been discovered almost immediately, but hoped he could put enough distance between himself and his pursuers to escape to safety. Another shot ricocheted off the brick building behind him, this one lower.
That's one of the things I like about NaNoWriMo. The only way to make the deadline is for me to bypass my internal editor and just get the words written. And sometimes I surprise myself.

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