Monday, April 9, 2012

First Chapters

First Chapters
By Roy Hayward

I like first chapters.  I have to confess that I have read many more first chapters than I have last chapters.  Many many more.  As an aspiring writer, I also write first chapters.  Again, I write many more first chapters than last chapters.  This is because I often end up re-writing first chapters after I get to the last chapter, and because I have started more stories than I have finished.

A first chapter is just like the opening line, it needs to capture the reader and make him or her want to read more, want to read the second chapter, and hopefully the last.

This is something to think about if you are writing.  Recently, I wrote a first chapter.  Here it is, please tell me if it makes you want to read more.


"What is she doing here?"  Asked Bent.
"She is with me."  Replied Travis evenly.
"Well, you can't go through with it."  Said Bent.
"I already have."  Replied Travis.
"I'll find a way to stop you."  Argued Bent.
"No, you won't."  Said Travis.
"Maybe I already have."  Said Bent, and then he laughed in a half crazed way that made me want to wipe the smile off of his face.  The fact that he shared the same face as Travis made the feeling even stronger.  You never think about these kinds of things unless you meet twins who have led very different lives.  You never realize how much of what makes you look the way you look is not your features, but the person behind your features.  These two men presented an even greater example of how true this really is.

Both men are know as Travis Bent.  In time traveling circles, Travis is know, both as one of the greatest heroes, and most notorious criminals of all times.  I had been learning from him, and for several personal years been trying to capture him.  As my teacher, he had first recruited me into the subculture of time travelers.  I had been a physics student majoring in engineering when Travis had asked me to come meet some people.
After that night, that lasted several personal months, I was part of the society of time travelers.  

"Personal time" in this case, is a time traveler concept.  Every traveler carries some kind of time keeping device.  This device both facilitates time travel, and keeps track of the actual passage of time for the traveler.
That first night that I met with Travis was the first time I traveled in time.  When I returned to that place in time, only seconds had passed.  Yet I had been traveling for months.  Those months were personal months of time that passed for me, but not for non-time travelers.

Keeping track of personal time passage is an important thing for a traveler.  
The traveler society wasn't a formal society like the Girl Scouts or Free Masons.  It was more like a Sorority/Fraternity relationships after graduation.  Time travelers recognize each other, and lend a hand to keep each other's secrets.  Except for the Travis I call Bent.

I use the surname Bent to provide some context.  Like many things, context is the only way to truly communicate when dealing with time travel.  There are basically two Travis Bent travelers.  Something has or will happen that is a kind of breaking point.  And the two versions, Travis and Bent, were the outcome.
The way Travis explained it to me was that he had fallen in love with a woman.  But he didn't bring her into the society.  Then while he was traveling, another traveler took her away.  The details here are sketchy.  Something about the "truth" being largely a mater of perspective.  I know, it sounds like nonsense.  Well, the Travis that we are trying to catch, killed the other traveler and the woman.  He claims it was an accident.

Killing other travelers is not tolerated.  The classic prohibition of a man killing himself or progenitor in the past, and thus create a paradox is a real and present danger.  So all killing is forbidden of travelers and those around them.  

This makes Bent a wanted man.  Except that there is also a Travis Bent that never met the woman.  It looks like Bent, changed the past of the woman so that they would never meet.  He figured that this would keep him from ever falling in love, and thus never killing the other traveler.

But something both expected and unexpected happened.  It didn't change his past, but it did spawn an alternate outcome.  So at the point where Travis met the woman there emerge two time-lines.  It is a time trap.  No one on this side of the trap can travel farther back than that time.  As far as we know, no one from before, can travel into this side of the trap.

Travis recruited me to come up with a solution to this problem.  And I did.  The solution requires both versions of the Travis Bents to travel back to before the trap at the same time.  I call it a "merge" of time-selves. 
Unfortunately Bent has his own plan.  He is convinced that the problem is the other Travis.  He believes that if one of them is killed.  The timeline will heal itself.  Which is why he is holding a gun on my Travis at the current moment.  But he didn't immediately shoot him.  

This means he has doubts about his plan.  It means we have a chance to convince him.

Both Travises laughed.  It was kind of un-nerving. 

"We have to go back."  Continued Travis.
"How can you be sure?"  Questioned Bent.  "You really have a lot of faith in this girl if you are going to risk everything."
"The math works out, and we have both tried our own ways long enough.  It's time." 
"Well I haven't really 'tried' my plan yet."  Observed Bent, pressing the barrel of the gun into Travis' temple.
"Your plan is rather final."  Replied Travis.  "Its time to try this."
"I'm not ready."  Complained Bent.
"It's time." 
"I don't want to."
"It's time."
"Do you have to keep on saying 'It's time' in response to everything I say?"
"Yes."  Travis said, and with a smile.  "It's time."

Most time travelers where not physicists, they are more hobby travelers.  And they specialize in an area of time.  Some become so intertwined into their favorite time, that they almost never come back to their original time-line.  Other travelers are sight see'er  travelers.  They travel to famous times and collect souvenirs.  Most of them stay out of trouble. But some times there are issues when they go back to the same time more than once or end up messing with their own time-line.   

They tell me this is uncomfortable enough that people seldom make that mistake twice.  And they tell me our time keeping and traveling devices normally warn us if that is a danger.
Travelers like Travis and me study time travel itself.  We travel short and long distances in time to see how it works.  And there are some experiments that would normally take too long to conduct if you couldn't time travel.
The results of these studies are difficult to share or publish outside of the community of time travelers.
Bent lowered his gun, and Travis brought them both over to where I was sitting.  "How far back do we need to go?"  They both asked.
"Not far."  I answered.  "I am calculating that if we just take both of you back to just before the trap was created, that two things will happen.  First, you will merge back into one person.  And two, that the trap will dissolve."
"I have to merge with him?"  Bent said indicating Travis.
"Don't make it sound like such a sacrifice."  Travis replied.
They both seemed to be getting a perverse kick out of talking to each other.  Or themselves.
"Lets get this over with."  I stood between them and reached out and touched each one lightly on the elbow.  A second later, the timer hooked to my belt chimed and we entered the field.
Time travel doesn't require a vehicle.  There is no dust or debris to get in your eyes.  And it doesn't require other shielding.  There is no radiation or other dangers.  The dangers are all in the act itself.

A moment later we were there.  Or I guess 'then' would be more appropriate.  And at first I didn't understand what had happened. 

There was only one Travis Bent.  So the theory had been proven.  Re-integration was possible.  It wasn't fatal.  And we had traveled through the trap, so it should be gone.
But there seemed to be a side effect.  Travis looked at me.  He smiled for a second.  Then he looked at the other me.  This was not going to go well.

"We have to go farther back."  I said.
"I'm not ready."  The other me replied.
"Not this again."  Sighed Travis.
"This is your fault of course."  I told him.  The other me just hit his shoulder.
"The theory worked, but we didn't go back far enough."  I told the other me.
The other me was backing away from both of us.  "I think this needs a bit more work."
"More work?"  I asked.  "Don't you remember the personal years of study that we have committed to this already?"
"Of course I do."  The other me replied tossing her hair.  "But there are other factors that we now have to calculate in.  And data to be analyzed and factored in."
As she said this, the other me reached down to her belt, and touched a button on the timer.  Instantly the field enveloped her and she disappeared.
"We have to follow her."  I insisted to Travis.  "She has to listen to reason."
"If there is one thing that both of us should know by now, its that she will."  He replied.  "Given enough time, she will."

So there it is.  A very short story/first chapter about time travel.  (one of my favorite topics.)  Besides exploring time travel, I hope that you want to find out what happens next in the story, and find out more about the people that you have met.  Does it?  Please help a writer out and let me know.

Roy thank you so much for guest posting. It takes a lot of courage to put your work out there to be critiqued. I applaud your desire to be better and to learn and grow. It's those writers that are in it for the long term. So what say ya'll. Roy needs some advice so let's hear it.


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  2. While I like the tone and your voice is great Roy. I really got comfused with the characters and the dialogue. You have a gem though here don't stop.