The Great NaNo Adventure: Chapter One

Many of us are dedicating their life and sanity to writing a novel this November, and I am one of them. I’ve done it four times before: The first two times I sailed through it and loved (almost) every minute of it. Then I failed epically twice in a row (managing 300 and 3500 words respectively). This year is the decider, and I’ve got a vague idea for a future Booker Prize winner. It just needs to be written. Easy peasy.

Because I’m not all talk, I’m actually gonna publish a few chapters of the masterpiece here, exactly as written and completely unedited. Feel free to tell me I’m wasting my time, or edit the thing for me. I’m rubbish at editing, so I’ll probably never get that far anyway. Here’s Chapter One of the story of Mary, who’ll spend 50,000 words looking for the meaning of life.

Here’s Mary, getting it all wrong again. Not that anything could go wrong: There is Thai food, with extra overpriced papaya salad, but hey, what do we work for if we can’t have good food every now and then. There is wine, a good one, even. There is a movie that they both agreed on, with generous helpings of terror and destruction for every scene that involved emotions. Emotions: Mary has them aplenty. They might be hidden somewhere Steve can’t easily reach or will try to, but they come out as soon as a movie character moves their eyes a certain way and the music turns softer. Mary’s heart swells, oh, for such emotions to be all hers one day! But look, here they come. Not from a direction she would have wished for, but we know you’ve got to be careful with that.

“Can you put that phone down, please! I’m sure whatever it is can wait.” She doesn’t mean for it to come out quite so harshly. Mary quickly attempts a disarming smile.

“They’re just talking. I’m not missing anything”, Steve retorts.

“But you’re distracting me. I thought we were watching this together?” Nicest possible way. Smile.

“We are. OK. Phone put down.” If that’s his disarming smile, hers can only have been better.
Silence. This movie is really quite boring, Mary realises. She obviously can’t tell Steve now. There are certain principles.

“Well, the news are probably more important than this.” That’s much more disarming. Good old words.

Steve grunts in a manly way.

“The usual. Terror and destruction. It’s all going downhill.”

Something in the way he says that makes Mary sigh inwardly. Or possibly outwardly as well; he looks irritated. For all the emotions Mary experiences during a movie, there is very little going on in the way of reading her own boyfriend. Does he have emotions? He’s probably just not showing them. And the soundtrack is missing. Life’s not a movie. Steve explains about the terrorism, the dozens of dead people here and the scores of corrupt politicians there. It’s all old news, Mary thinks. Those “news” are always the same story, played out in different places, and luckily never too close to her own life. She sighs, maybe a bit too dramatically.

“Sorry if I bored you.” Despite the food and the wine, they both are a bit edgy today. Mary takes too long to phrase another disarming reply and then just gives up. Silence is golden, and even her own thoughts seem increasingly bland. But look, Steve’s even edgier than she thought!

“Oh, what’s wrong, Mary?!” The exclamation mark in this question is clearly visible to the naked eye. They both know what’s coming.


Steve follows the script by rolling his eyes and making frustrated sounds.

“That doesn’t help! I have nothing to go on here! Just tell me what I’ve done and I’ll think of an actual reply. Just goes to show that expensive food and wine doesn’t guarantee a peaceful night in…”

That last bit cuts deep, but still Mary doesn’t know what to say. It’s all somehow her fault for criticizing him earlier, and the movie wasn’t even exciting, so he’s right for wanting to spend his time with the actual news, things that matter, but. But. There is nothing to say. She has to try anyway.

“Oh, I don’t know. This movie is rubbish, so we should probably just watch the news. Together. Whatever we do, let’s just do it together.” Desperate? He should know her by now, anyway.

So the news come on. Blown-up cars, dead women, sick babies, extinct frogs, the whole lot. Steve makes little happy sounds. They masquerade as something between pity and outrage, but Mary knows they’re really happy sounds. She can’t change him, so she has to accept that, too. Mary’s concentrating on finding her happy place in-between all this, but all that springs to mind are places from movies and people who aren’t real.

And then, somewhere between a rocket attack and a currency devaluation, she starts shrieking and throws Steve out of her flat. Neither of them did expect that.

Exciting, huh? I’m especially proud of my lame-ass name choices.

Now tell me about your NaNo experience! How’s it going? Do you hate your characters yet? Let’s make our mediocre way through this together, unicorns!

By Karo

Schnazzy East German translator and cricket obsessive residing in England. I have other qualities, too.

3 replies on “The Great NaNo Adventure: Chapter One”

Leave a Reply