Fiction Fragment Friday
This week’s Fiction Fragment Friday is actually a fragment. Most of my Friday posts end up being flash fiction and tell the complete story. This week however is going to be just a fragment. In fact it is going to be the start of a new project done in multiple different styles.
I was inspired to start a new writing project that will be at very least a short story possibly a novella. Many times when I start a new project I will write the first paragraph or two in different tenses to see which one feels right for the particular work. That is what I did with this project.
First I wrote an opening paragraph in three different tenses. This helped me narrow down and develop my starting perspective. Next I rewrote a longer version of the opening in two different perspectives further developing it. Then I finally decided which direction to go an started the work in earnest. This week will be a bit of a walk through the process.
First Person Past Tense:
I gathered all the strength I had to try and open my eyes, but barely managed to do it. My whole body felt weak and like it wanted to stay in place instead of respond to my thoughts. The light burned I felt like I was taking a step backwards by closing my eyes again. I could hear rhythmic beeping and my nose was accosted by smells I couldn’t quite place. Every sense was overwhelmed and if I wasn’t so exhausted I’m sure I would have been panicking.
Second Person Present Tense:
You struggle with all your might just to open your eyes. Exhaustion is overwhelming and you think about just going back to sleep for a while. The annoying beeping fuels your frustration though and makes you determined to get up even if just to break whatever is causing it. As your eyes crack open the light burns like staring at the sun. You try to gasp but your throat feels like it’s on fire. Nothing feels right the feeling of disorientation is the worst part.
Third Person Present Tense:
The patient struggles to open eyes that want to stay closed. His body is weak from lack of use and won’t respond. The smell of the medical equipment assault his nose while the beeping of the monitors fill his ears. The eyes so long unused are not used to the light and he winces in pain after they finally crack open. There is a feeding tube run down his nose, an IV in his arm, and sensors run all over his body. He feels miserable, but at least he finally feels something.
After writing the first paragraph in three different forms I examined what I liked about each. The first version did a good job of bringing you into the story, but I find I struggle with present tense. The second version I just can’t see myself doing second person perspective for anything longer than a flash fiction. Finally the third version I thought gave far more clues than the first version to what was going on and it didn’t quite capture me like I wanted. It was clear to me this story was calling for a first person perspective, but I was still debating on the tense. With this examination I took what I liked from all three and created two more expanded versions.
First Person Present:
I gather all my strength and focus on opening my eyes, but they are barely able to crack. My whole body is weak and just wants to stay stuck in place. The light coming through the cracks in my open eyes burns like I’m staring into the sun. I want to move my hands to cover them, but I can’t get them to do more than hover above the bed. I can feel something on the top of my right hand taped to it. As much as it feels like taking a step backwards I can’t help but close my eyes to shield them from the harsh florescent light.
I take in every sense trying to figure out what is going on. There is a harsh rhythmic beeping that is driving me crazy. I just want to get up and break it, but don’t have the energy. My nose has something running into it, but I can still make out a few scents. I smell rubber, electronics, and alcohol. Not the drinking kind, but the kind you use to disinfect. I can also feel wires running all over my body. I finally notice that my throat is sore as well.
All the clues point to an obvious conclusion. I’m in a hospital and as weak as I am I’ve either been here a long time or been through something fairly serious. Probably both since you don’t spend a long time in a hospital bed for something minor. I have so many questions, but I’m not sure if I could speak even if someone was here to talk to. I’m just going to have to rest a bit more. I know what my first question will be though. As much as I want to know what happened I would like to know my name even more.
First Person Past:
I gathered all the strength I could manage and focused on opening my eyes, but was barely able to make them open just a crack. I was immediately assaulted by a florescent light that felt like it was as bright as staring at the sun. My first instinct was to raise my hands up to cover my eyes, but my body just did not have the strength yet to respond. My right hand barely hovered above the bed, but it was enough to realize it had something taped to it. I just wanted to go back to sleep, but there was a harsh rhythmic beeping sound that was starting to give me a headache.
Since I couldn’t move yet I decided to just relax and try to see what else I could sense. I took a deep sniff and realized that there was a tube running down my nose, but I could still take in a few scents around it. I could smell rubber, linens, and the kind of antiseptic alcohol they use to clean wounds. When I tried to gasp in shock I realized that my throat was extremely sore. I should have been able to figure it out, but in my defense I was still really groggy and not thinking straight yet.
I was lying in a hospital bed hooked up to health monitors with a feeding tube running down my nose. The beeping was my pulse and probably other vital stats and the thing taped to my hand was an IV. The room was empty, but I couldn’t have spoken even if someone would have been in the room. All I knew was that I had either been in the bed a long time or I had been through something fairly severe. Of course they don’t keep you in a hospital bed for a long time if it is something minor.
My mind raced through all the questions I would ask when I could. What had happened to me? How long had I been in there? Was I going to make a full recovery? I wanted to know everything about my condition and prognosis. I knew what my first question would be though. As much as I wanted to know what happened I wanted to know my name even more.
After exploring both tenses and developing the opening a bit more I found that first person past allowed me to give more information because of hindsight. I could share things that I would have given in third person or leave them out. Not only did the story flow better for me, it gave me more opportunity. I then copied those paragraphs and gave them a final rewrite to start the project.