NP1 – A Wing and a Prayer, Chapter One

Well, here it is at long last.  Wow, this is only the rough draft of the first chapter and already it feels a bit weird to post it online; almost like I’m putting a piece of myself out for everyone to see.  I know, I know, I’ve been doing it all year, but this is different…somehow…

I know you all know this, but…um, this is a rough draft.  Obviously.  I don’t even quite have 1000 words, though I tried.  After I got to 993 I felt like adding any more would actually be subtracting from the first chapter, plus it seemed like a natural place to pause before chapter two.  Also, this is a bit of a new style for me…I think it fits me better than the more epic style that I’ve been trying to struggle along with for about five years…anyway, please let me know what you think.  I don’t really like criticism any more than the next girl, but I’m not afraid of honesty.  Ok, well, maybe a little bit, but I appreciate it also.  So tell me what you think of my first step towards my first novel.  Honestly.

Chapter One

A soft autumn wind played tag with the vibrant leaves mounded on the sidewalks, carrying just enough chill to make Elinor button her jacket more securely.  Thrusting her hands into her pockets, Elinor breathed deeply as if by doing so she could inhale some of the rosy-hued sky.  After a long day in the dusty school-room, the colors and scents of fall seemed so fresh and wonderful.  She stopped at the little white gate and closed her eyes to enjoy the sun’s last goodbyes on her face and the wind’s caress on her hair.  She could almost forget.

Almost forget the war…almost forget that all-encompassing entity that had the power to tear people apart…almost forget that cold, stinging moment in time.  It seemed so long ago.  Had it really only been three days?  Standing there in the red-tinted light it all seemed so far away…so distant from the song of the birds and the smell of wood smoke and the taste of salt on the wind.  She could almost forget.

“Mummy, Mummy, Elinor’s home!  Look what I found for you, Elinor…isn’t he a whopper?”

“Elinor, Elinor, come inside!  I baked you a gingerbread man!”

Her reverie was cut short by two five-year-old voices which came tumbling out of the little cottage with their bright-eyed owners.

“Hello Jack, Polly!” smiled Elinor, trying to be enthusiastic as she accepted the present of a toad from one twin and a rather floury hug from the other.  “Mmm, Polly, you have been baking with Mum, haven’t you?  I hope it’s something good…well, that is a whopper, Jack!  Where did you find him?  Hello, Mum…”  She gently disengaged herself from her siblings’ exuberant greetings to make her way up the walk to where a tall woman appeared smiling in the doorway, graceful and faded like a rose at summer’s end.

Elinor lingered in her embrace a moment to confide in her mother’s ear: “I’m all right, Mum…I’m just so afraid …”

“An hour has not gone by that I have not prayed for you, Elinor.” whispered Rosamund, pressing her daughter close.  “Come in and lay off your things…supper is just on the table.  Polly, get your sister a plate from the cupboard and take the rolls off the warmer…Jack Poole, take that dog out of the kitchen this minute…are you hungry, dear?”

“A little,” Elinor replied, pulling off her gloves and hat as she followed her mother into the warm little kitchen.  “I am sorry I am so late…one of the Thatcher girls didn’t learn her grammar lesson and we had to work on it after school.  Is Derek home yet?”

“Behind you, Elinor…”  A tall boy of about seventeen came in with an armload of kindling and deposited it in the woodbox before turning to give his sister a hug and a bright smile.  “How was it at the school, Elinor…oh, hot rolls!  Jack, pass the butter.”

“About as usual,” Elinor began, her mouth full of the bobby pins she was removing from her dark hair.  It took twenty-three pins to tame her mane into the soft French twist she preferred for teaching, and by evening it felt like every one stuck in her brain.  “I had to stay after hours with Emma Thatcher; grammar, again.”  Derek grimaced across the table at her and seemed about to speak, but a hush fell over the table when Rosamund sat down.

“Derek, will you?” the mother asked, nodding towards her eldest son.  They bowed their heads as the youth led his family in prayer preparatory to the simple meal.  It still seemed so strange to Elinor, even after seven years, to hear her younger brother’s buoyant, slightly hesitant voice.  Strange not to hear her father’s rich, rolling, fervent tones; stranger still to find herself half-expecting Ethan’s voice, low and smooth and full of passion.  Oh, God, keep him safe…keep my Ethan safe…according to Your will.

“Hear from Ethan today, Elinor?” asked Derek, helping himself to the carrots.  Elinor could feel a flicker of her internal turmoil escape her tight grasp and cross her face as she shook her head slightly.

“No…I…we…can’t expect a letter yet.  He left on Tuesday and this is only Friday evening…”  She concealed her tears in her teacup and no one but her mother knew the still-raw emotion that rose in her heart.

Derek went on enthusiastically, not sensing how much pain each word inflicted on his sister.  “Did he tell you that when the war is over, he’s going to help me get a commission in the Winchelsea police force?  He said he’s got an uncle or somebody in London who’s a D. C. S. — that means Detective Chief Superintendent, Jack — and…”


“Stay strong in the Lord, Elinor.  He will never let you go…and neither will I.”

“But it’s so hard…sometimes…I can’t hear Him, Ethan, and I’m so scared.”

He had taken her face in his hands and she had looked straight into those clear blue eyes that spoke more than his words.  Somehow they reminded her of the leaping waves, bright with the reflected light of the sun and too deep to penetrate fully.   “So am I, Elinor…But no matter what happens, I will see you again…no matter what happens…whether here or in His presence…”  The bell had rung for the last time and still he had lingered.  “God bless you, my…”

And the rest was lost in the wind.


“…but if the war is over by Christmas like everyone says, Ethan may have to wait on the commission until I’m old enough since they don’t take anyone under twenty-one,” finished Derek.  “Pass the potatoes, Elinor.”

She handed them across the table silently, conscious only of one great, unspoken cry rising from her heart to her Master. A hand rested on her knee, a hand worn as smooth as its plain gold band by years of loving toil.  Elinor looked up at her mother gratefully and whispered a broken thank you. 

Honestly…it seems just a tad too romantic to me.  I was trying to introduce the conflict and at the same time I think Elinor would naturally be more upset right after Ethan left than after a few months, so it won’t be this mushy in later chapters.  But still.

*NOTE: I’ve just updated this, “just” meaning 10:16 p. m. on March 11th…a tiny bit less romance and a tiny bit more homeyness, but essentially it’s the same.

~c. a.


4 thoughts on “NP1 – A Wing and a Prayer, Chapter One

  1. Carreen–congrats on posting your first chapter! *claps* I agree that it seems kind of strange to share our works-in-progress, but I certainly cannot think of a nicer group of people to do it with.

    As for what you said on my NP1…I’m flattered, but I disagree that you “need to learn to write”. =) It’s just a matter of different styles. Your novel so far is reminding me of some fantastic stories I’ve enjoyed over the years, like “The Railway Children” (great book).

    But now, on to specifics:

    Great job! I think this first chapter is a fantastic start. I normally get bored of descriptions in stories, but yours always keep me interested. I love how you mixed external description and internal conflict in the first two paragraphs. Especially the repeated “She could almost forget”. I also love the line at the end of the flashback: “And the rest was lost in the wind”. Your characters seem vibrant and easy to like. The mom especially reminds me of “Little Women” (which is a good thing. Have you considered calling her “mum” or something instead of her first name? Just an idea.). And you did a great job of subtly introducing the setting, the time period, the character’s relationships, and details of the characters (like that Elinor is a school teacher). All that to say, great job.

    As far as feedback…well, there’s really not much. I don’t think that it is too romantic/mushy as long as we are able to move on in later chapters. One technical thing that I found distracting was that first Elinor told her mother that she had to stay late after school because “one of the Thatcher girls did not learn her grammar lesson”. A few minutes later she tells her brother that “I had to stay after hours with Emma Thatcher; arithmetic, again.” Since it sounds like you are talking about the same student, it seems like maybe it ought to be either grammar or arithmetic both times.

    If you wanted to make this first chapter a little less single-minded or even expand it somewhat (although its shortness and simplicity are a positive thing; I’m just saying this because you said these were things you wanted to do), you could maybe start hinting at some of the minor conflicts as well. Maybe have Elinor clash slightly with Derek over something? Or they hear the distant sound of bombs? Nothing big, just some hints. I know your main conflict/theme is Elinor learning to trust God. It just seems poured on a little heavily in this chapter. Like every time a character talks they say something about trusting God. I’m definitely not saying to “hide” the Christian aspect of it at all; I think your faith shining through the characters adds some fantastic depth and meaning. I’m just wondering if you use it all up now, you won’t have any of it left for later chapters. You have kind of laid it all out there already and there doesn’t seem to be anything left to discover. So maybe pulling back on that theme and mixing in a few more would add some variety to the chapter? Just a thought.

    Wow…I hate how my suggestions always look longer than my praise. It’s not because there are lots of suggestions; it’s just that they take longer to describe. I honestly think this is great. Your style engages me even though it’s not normally the kind of thing I would read. And I already really care about the characters. The suggestions are, honestly, not that big and you could do fine by ignoring them completely, I’m sure. =)

  2. Carreen you got me! i cant wait to hear the next chapter, there are a few awkward phrases, but that is easy to edit out later, absolutely adore the flashback.
    i dont know if you meant to do it, but i thought that the conflict was a bit vague, but again its a good thing; your reader gets a feeling of agony and crisis simply through your word choice but not threshing it out immediately makes me want to read more and find out exactly what’s going on.
    i really love all the personification, and strong word pictures we get because it really brings the reading to life.

  3. Carreen–I only just yesterday noticed your note that you had revised the chapter. Good for you. Without the original, it’s hard for me to see everything you changed. But from what I could find, I think it was definitely improved. It just flows better and seems less repetitive of certain ideas, in my mind. Great job!

    By the way, I thought you might find it amusing to know that your very kind words on my NP1 have totally thrown me for a loop. I was working on my NP2 and I was halfway through when I was like “Oh no! It’s not poetic enough! Carreen said I was poetic and now I can’t let down my reputation!” So I have been agonizing over every sentence trying to make it poetic! =)

    1. Oh, no, I’m sorry! Well, I don’t know if this will make it worse or not, but I think the more you agonize, the less poetic it will be. Just write it without taking me or my comments into account and I’m sure it will turn out lovely. =)

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