Warming Up for NaNoWriMo

I have my characters, I have my outline, and I have a stash of Halloween candy for fuel. I think I’m mostly ready to hit the ground running this November!

I spent this afternoon working on some warm-up exercises to try to decide whether I want to write in first or third person point of view this year. I’m still not sure – argh! I’ll put my practice attempts below. These are both scenes from the POV of my main character, Julia, but they take place a couple of years before the novel starts. (No cheating here! ;))

First:
I sat in the uncomfortable, moulded plastic chair closest to the gate and felt the persistent prick of choked-down tears. I had been okay on the way to the airport, other than double- and triple-checking the pockets of my scuffed-up backpack to make sure my boarding pass was still safely folded inside. Clara had claimed shotgun. By now, she and Mom were probably back on the highway headed home. Without me. Okay, deep breath. It wasn’t like I was never going to see them again. I’d be home for Christmas, and they were planning on coming out before then with the rest of the boxes and to see Dylan’s apartment – no, our apartment, now. In the car, Clara ignored me; I could hear the faint, tinny sound of pop music which escaped her headphones. Mom had turned the radio to news, and only broke the near-silence a few times to ask me if I’d remembered to pack this or that. I hadn’t forgotten anything. My packing checklist had been thorough.

I made it to the sidewalk before breaking down. Clara refused to get out of the car, just gave me an ironic wave. She’d said she was already used to me being gone at college, so what difference did it make? But this time I was moving away for good. I had a job, a full-time, grown-up job with health insurance. I was going to have my own apartment with Dylan. We were even talking about getting married. I felt miles away from her 16 years, even though I was only 22 myself. My mom got out of the car, hauled my suitcase out of the trunk, and gave me a hug. “Be good, Julia,” she said. She was crying, although she tried to cover it up with with a swallowed, snuffling sound. If she hadn’t cried, I would have been fine. But as soon as I saw the tears in her eyes, my own eyes welled up in answer, and we were both crying and hugging next to the passenger drop-off lane.

I came through security with watery eyes and a red nose, and my voice squeaked when I gave my name at check-in. I had been up half the night worrying about what I needed to do when I got to the airport, since I’d never flown by myself before. But it was easy. Before I knew it, I found myself sitting at the right gate. I held my boarding pass in one sweaty hand and hugged my backpack to my chest like armor. I sat up straight, knees together, and stared at the flight information board. I felt like a kid waiting outside the principal’s office, nervous, controlled.

In just three hours, I would be walking out into another airport, in a new city, and Dylan would be there with open arms. Something like excitement broke open in my chest. It was finally happening; we didn’t need to wait to be together anymore. This was the future we’d talked about for years, and it was coming at me so suddenly now. When the gate attendant gave the announcement to board, I stood up, shouldered my bag, and stepped forward into the future with dry eyes and hopeful smile.

Third:

“Here we are!” Dylan said.

Julia looked out the window of Dylan’s truck at a scruffy, unassuming townhouse. The hedges had been trimmed so aggressively that only one or two patchy green portions still grew haphazardly from a vast tangle of ugly brown twigs. A chip from the corner of one of the front steps descended as crumbling concrete. She looked at Dylan again, and for a moment, her mind couldn’t interpret his features as those of a living man, instead of pixels in a video chat sent from hundreds of miles away. But no, he was really here. Close enough to touch.

“I know it’s not much, but it’s nice inside, and it’s one of the only pet friendly places in the area. I know how much you want a dog, babe.”

“It’s wonderful,” Julia said. “I can’t wait to see the inside.”

She reached across the gearshift, grabbed his hand and squeezed. He slid his fingers between hers and raised their joined hands so he could kiss the back of hers.

“How about I show you the bedroom first?”

Julia laughed, and felt an unexpected lightness in her chest. She loved him and they were going to live here together. The moldy wooden fence that they walked beside, ramshackle though it was, took on a kind of romance for her. She imagined scrubbing it and painting it with weatherproof white paint, shiny and clean, she and Dylan dressed in old clothes and flicking paint on each others’ tee shirts as they laughed in the sun. The hedges would grow. She could line the concrete steps with planters overflowing with flowers.

Dylan opened the front door for her and opened his arms wide to show off the beige carpet and white walls inside. She could already see the warm coziness of a life shared layered over the institutional flatness of each surface. Playful, now, she hopped on his back and let him carry her up the stairs to the bedroom. There would be time to see the rest of the apartment later.

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