Confessions of a SuperFake (5-page snippet)

[Hello Humans! Below is the beginning of Confessions of a SuperFake, a sci-fi novel with superheroes. Enjoy! -ARG]

Chapter 1: The Northern University Bus Incident

I stood over a stranger.

Barely conscious of my bloody knuckles, I watched instead of running. The unknown student splayed before me, legs on the bus, most of his torso on the frozen sidewalk. If I stuck around I’d go to prison. But the question kept my feet planted- was he alive?

I’m not saying I don’t deserve to go to prison. I probably do. I shouldn’t have fought a stranger, not on the first day of classes, and not on a crowded campus bus. His cough snapped me out of my trance, cuing me to run. Shouts followed me out the exit doors. Thank god I was nobody- anonymity allowed me to get away.

I cut through a parking lot, my feet ploughed through iced-over dew. The unreasonable cold bit at exposed skin on my neck, my fingers, my ankles. I’d intended to get to classes early enough to slip in unnoticed, just like high school.

Today I’d need extra time to wash off the blood.

I hardly paid attention during the first lecture. Northern University in Winthrop, Washington, had given me a full ride in engineering, but I desperately missed Georgia. Last week, I’d been in a balmy summer with my siblings, excitedly discussing the cool things I’d build in college. Building had been my passion all my life. This was my chance.

I’d almost blown it.

 

 

*

It was snowing by the time my classes were over.

I hadn’t expected snow, even flurries, in September. My second-hand tennis shoes soaked up cold slush water, unavoidable on the sidewalk. I needed weather-appropriate clothing- a protective jacket, boots.

To escape the frigid weather, I stopped at a small coffee shop midway between engineering campus and my dorm. I welcomed the painful tingling in my face from the sudden warmth. I pulled out my sketchbook.

Still empty.

Since leaving my family, I hadn’t designed anything. In Georgia, I’d been able to fashion fantastic devices out of materials available in my neighbor’s garage. He had so many incredible tools. I had a small collection of hand tools that I’d brought with me, but it didn’t compare to my neighbor’s acetylene torch. No materials, No Tools, No Inspiration? No designs.

My pencil sat welded to the page, waiting, trying not to think about snapping at the random student this morning. My knuckles served as a reminder that I’d sucker punched him, and not for any reason that would get an approving nod from my older brother. Not that I’d tell him; Lou would put two and two together and realize that it had something to do with his phone call this morning. If Lou decided that my parents were right, that I should be kept ignorant about our sister’s relapse, he might never tell me anything. Then that jerk student had been running his mouth about the financial burdens of federally funded healthcare, like my sister needed.

I’d just lost it.

I didn’t know if my sister would even be alive when I got back home. If I could give Leccie a kidney, I would.

I’m so damn helpless here.

I switched to my less-bruised hand, to mentally regroup. The sketchbook’s gridlines rippled, mocking me, laughing at my lack of inspiration. I leaned back in the booth and refused to look at anything. A sting on the back of my head reminded me that guy had ripped out some of my hair during the fight. I still wasn’t going to get a haircut, no matter what Mom said.

It was minutes before I noticed someone had come to sit next to me.

“What am I, invisible?” The flawlessly dark-skinned intruder had a green coat, black hair in dozens of dreadlocks, and a hand extended to me. “I’m Jordan.”

I looked at the hand, offered like a secret. After a short handshake, I put away my sketchbook.

“This is where you tell me your name.” Jordan smiled.

“Uhh… Lex.”

“Alex? Is that short for something?”

“No. Just Lex. My parents are big on L’s.”

“Can I call you Lexy?” Jordan asked. I shook my head.

“No. Definitely not. Who are you?”

“Jordan Moore. Your new best friend.” I stared at the newcomer, my supposed new friend.

“What makes you think… I don’t understand… what?” What was Jordan doing, in my booth, talking to me. People don’t talk to me. Especially not attractive, well-dressed extroverts with stunning smiles.

“You’re new here. I figure you don’t have a best friend yet.”

“Why do you think I’m new?”

“Got a loner vibe.” Jordan shrugged. “And no wind breaker. Also, sneakers. Seriously? Not a veteran of NU.” The barista brought coffee and a smile for Jordan. Heavenly steam poured over the lip.

“You want some?”

I did.

“No. No I’m good.” I looked at my hands, tucked in my lap. Jordan sipped, chatting for some time about the area and classes to take. I didn’t mind listening. Very little input was required until Jordan asked if I’d go bowling.

“I really can’t…” I couldn’t pay for bowling, or any activities.

“C’mon… My treat.” Jordan insisted.

I did need something to distract me. My normal building-based methods weren’t working.

“Ok.”

“You free Thursdays?” Jordan asked.

“Sure.” I shrugged. “Wait, Thursdays?”

Jordan started to get up.

“Best friends hang out at least weekly.” Jordan said, returning the mug to a dish bin. Jordan couldn’t leave yet- I needed more logistics from this strange, friendly person.

“Where?” I asked.

“Meet me here Thursday, Seven-ish.”

Jordan waved from the door.

Apparently, I had a new best friend.

 

*

Post coffee-shop, in the warmth of my dorm lobby, I browsed bus routes. If I didn’t want to have to walk four miles to the engineering campus, I needed a route where I hadn’t committed felony assault. Avoid recognition. Avoid arrest.

In my hour-long search, I came across a brochure on plain paper. The route inside–  labeled Northern University CHA transport–  had a 6:30am stop a few blocks west, and would let off on a side road on the southern edge of campus.

I reread to make sure I hadn’t imagined it. From other maps, the stop would only be a half mile from the engineering campus, if I cut through the woods. A woodsy morning walk? Sounded almost pleasant.

My roommate hated my extra-early alarm, and I hated the pervasive cold that followed me onto CHA bus. I had my flimsy hood up and my nose tucked awkwardly under my collar. Warm face coverings seemed common on the route.

No one spoke. I preferred the silence to another fight.

The silent students trotted off northward while I lagged in confusion. I’d intended to walk through woods, not several stories of unlabeled box-building surrounded by tall pines. The black rectangular building and massive adjacent greenhouse hadn’t been on any map I’d seen.

Hoping for central heating, I followed the students inside. They must be students, to meet on a college campus and take a school-affiliated bus to a building on school property.

Inside, the crowd dispersed, leaving me to explore the unknown building. The floor shone with fresh wax, next to faded wall paint. Why wasn’t the old, well-maintained building on my maps? The question compelled me forward.

I found a large, single-stall restroom, an odd dispenser next to the hand dryer.

The unhelpful label read: You only get one. Keep it safe.

I pressed the button. A small black mask dropped down the slot.

I studied the paper mask. Leccie, my comic-loving little sister would appreciate the of eccentricity. She would have insisted I wear it. I pulled the surprisingly comfortable cord around the back of my head.

Lou hadn’t called with any hospital updates today.

I peered into rooms along the hallway, keeping a mental track of the variety- classrooms, empty rooms, small gyms.

Around seven, one of the classrooms had bodies. The instructor looked over at me, as if I’d interrupted.

“Are you going to take a seat?”

I considered. This was clearly a lecture, and but on what? I filed in and sat in the only empty seat. Front row.

“Welcome to your first class in the College for Heroic Aptitude at Northern University.”

 

 

[END SNIPPET]

[If you’re interested in reading more after that, the full first chapter is available at https://alpingeist.com/works/superfake. Readers welcome. -ARG]

 

News & Chapter Titles

Hello Humans! Anybody feel a draft in here?

IT’S ME! I just finished the first draft of a new novel. This WIP came in just over 100,000 words, and 253 pages. The draft is loosely a YA comic fantasy, which I worked on for Camp Nanowrimo.

So, for this first post after Uncanny Valley, I’m talking about “Ahead of Fate” (the working title). Since I already have a synopsis and world information up on my still-in-progress website, I’ll be sharing the chapter titles that have been making me snicker for the better part of 3 non-consecutive months.

(I have a serious affection for puns.)

Table of Contents

  • Chapter 1: Demon, Deserter, Shifter, Slayer
  • Chapter 2: Sakura Nova
  • Chapter 3: A Brief Chase
  • Chapter 4: A Doggone Shame
  • Chapter 5: Orange You Glad?
  • Chapter 6: Pray It Forward
  • Chapter 7: Seven Minutes in Heaven
  • Chapter 8: Maid in the North
  • Chapter 9: A Whirlwind Bromance
  • Chapter 10: Six Ways to Sunday
  • Chapter 11: Net Prophet
  • Chapter 12: Conversion Therapy
  • Chapter 13: Reckless Abandonment
  • Chapter 14: The Prodigal Child
  • Chapter 15: The Last Peace
  • Chapter 16: The Human Race
  • Chapter 17: Ragnarok
  • Chapter 18: Pyramid Scheme
  • Epilogue: Kale Smoothie

 

I’m really looking forward to getting feedback from alpha readers on this piece.

In general, I don’t see many authors using chapter titles. Anybody know why? I love them.

-ARG

Writing Chapters

Determining what is and isn’t a chapter can be a challenging thing. I’ve been writing novel-length prose for a long time, and I’ve really only come across a few truths. So what is a chapter?

Answer: It depends.

It really does! I’m not just copping out of a blog post! These are my three requirements when I’m writing chapters. I don’t use page lengths or have a rigid list of must-haves.

  1. A chapter should tell a mini story. I think this is absolutely necessary to breaking up a longer work into shorter works. If your novel is a house, then the chapters would be your rooms. A room is hard to consider a room without a few walls, a floor, and a ceiling, and maybe a bit of furniture or art. Not every chapter is going to be the same length, or style, or have the same characters, but it needs to tell a small story. This small story could be in the form of a common theme or chronologically connected narrative, but if your chapter doesn’t tell a story, then chances are it’s a hodgepodge of scenes rather than a coherent chapter. Try this: Boil your chapter down into a sentence of what happens, e.g. “The MC gets into an argument, loses his glasses, and falls into a stupidly placed well.”
  2. A chapter should add to the overall narrative. The scenes contained within the chapter should move the story forward in some way. Whether that’s major character development, an important discovery, or a big battle sequence, a contribution to the main plot is necessary to lump the scenes into a chapter.  A chapter is a main division of your story, a puzzle piece, and if it could go missing without changing the outcome, then it’s not really a puzzle piece. Inconsequential clumps of scenes serve more as an intermission than a chapter.
  3. A chapter should feel complete.  Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether a chapter is too long or too short or too rambling or too terse. Going to one extreme or another can happen with little warning, but there is a sense of wholeness about a complete chapter. When I write, I try to put a piece of most subplots and plots into the scenes, which serve as a reminder as to the story’s stakes and don’t allow a reader to let an important subplot drop off the radar. (Wow, do humans still use radar? Legit EM waves bouncing off of stuff? Ew.) In any case, this feeling is personal to the writer, and comes with time, practice, and a lot of reading.

In any case, don’t be afraid to experiment with your chapters! I’d still stick to these suggestions, but I made them, so take that with a grain of 1:1 ratio sodium chloride. Long, short, etc- the important part is that they work for you and your story.

Happy Writing!

-ARG

(Happy Birthday to MSB!!)

First, Write Three Chapters

This is a method that I’ve started implementing in the past year.

Before I’ll commit to any story, I write the first three chapters. Why? Why do this before you outline, before you know how the story’s going to play? This sounds a lot like pantsing. I swear, why did you write a post on outlining if you were just gonna write a bunch of chapters without it?

OK OK OK, devil’s advo-alpin. Time to chill. Lemme ‘splain.

Writing the first three (or so) chapters helps me in a number of ways.

  1. You can get feedback from critique partners, or alpha readers. If you’re bouncing ideas off of people, it helps to have these chapters as a basis to start off. Sure, this could be done with an outline or discussion, but I find that my outlines are messy, and my discussions are messier.
  2. You find the voice for the story. In a recent horror story, I started writing it in first person. After the first 20 or so pages, I realized that third person limited would allow a reader some emotional distance as these horrific (horror-fic!) things occurred. If you’re writing with the wrong perspective, these chapters can help you figure that out earlier rather than later.
  3. You get to know the characters. Sometimes, the way you expect your characters to be can be a little different from how you end up writing them in practice. If you have to make changes to your plot due to character manifestation, catching it before the first draft is hella nice.
  4. You find out if you straight-up hate actually writing the story. It’s one thing if there’s a routine that you’re forcing yourself into, but if you hate what you’re writing that’s a great reason to move on. If you don’t enjoy writing the three chapters, I sure as hell don’t recommend continuing on that story.

If this doesn’t work for you, that’s fine. Every human is different! But always give yourself permission to write, even if it’s not perfect, or won’t make it into the final draft. Perfection is one of those myths, like the holy grail or polite martians. They’re all jerks.

Happy Drafting!

-ARG