This Present Darkness: Chapter 1

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So before I get officially started, I want to let you all know/warn you of a few things. The first thing is just that these are long. This is definitely the shortest of them, so I guess it will ease you into it (although I’m pretty sure it is also the clumsiest and I think they get a little better). As we go, I will get more annoyed and go on more tangents and add more levels of irritation. That’s not an apology, but it seems like something people should be aware of.

The second thing is just a quick touch on what these are. Recaps can be done a number of different ways but these have been done as my immediate thoughts while I was reading through the material. So sometimes I may ask a question that is answered a few sentences later (if we’re very lucky), for example. You are getting my experience as I had it, more or less. The more or less is that there were a number of typos in the originals, due to my typing and reading, so I’ll be cleaning them up a bit (if you notice any I missed, let me know). And I may occasionally add a few notes to clarify things that David has pointed out to me are unclear as he’s read them. I will try to remember to make note of any actual changes that I make.

Finally, I’ve marked the changes in character perspective with

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to attempt to keep confusion down. This does not always work, as switching between humans and angels/demons will sometimes happen within the same section of the chapter (due to Peretti’s phenomenal writing skills) but it will at least let you know where the author intended you to switch to a new section in the book.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy. Or… whatever you do with this book.

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I would like to say that on the very first page This Present Darkness rubs me wrong. I may just be looking for issues, that’s possible. But I don’t know. These two angels wander into town and the town’s annual farewell to college students festival is described as “It was a wild time, a chance to get drunk, pregnant, beat up, ripped off, and sick, all in the same night.” See, like immediately he is doing one of the worst things about Christian fiction – it’s so fucking smug.

“On this warm summer night the roaming, cotton-candied masses were out to enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.” Like… I don’t know. There are some crazy festivals that go on in college towns. Donald Miller talks about one in Blue Like Jazz. But I feel like he had a lot more grace and empathy for what was going on. An acknowledgement that enjoyment wasn’t necessarily the ultimate evil? Who knows. I must now move past the first few paragraphs or we will never get anywhere!

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Okay. So they go to the church and they see a demon that is described as all gross and crawly and the demon tries to get into the church but can’t and they talk about how the town is crawling with them, and they wonder why because God is not chatty about his plans. And then they come in and the pastor is sobbing and praying and they fondly sit gazing at the little man, the “little warrior” talking about how he’s here every night, “fighting for the town.” Except… he’s not. Look, prayer is fine, if you believe in prayer that’s lovely. Except they just described borderline anarchy going on down below. People being hurt, all kinds of craziness at this festival, cops who can’t possibly keep up with everything. This has been going on for several days. So what is he doing here? If he really wants to help the town, why isn’t he down with everyone practically offering help? Because I suspect that a lot is needed. Not that it’s not lovely to pray but maybe he could do that while volunteering for emergency hydration care or who knows what else? I’m sure there are ways he could practically help. Are we really supposed to believe this is the best place he can be? But you know. The angels stand over him and make him feel peaceful after conversing about how he’s TOTALLY going to get hurt but it’s cool because they’re gonna fight. So I guess that’s nice.

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So now we meet the newspaper staff. They are, I guess, about what you’d expect newspaper staff to be. Marshall Hogan is the editor, a big man who had a glassed in office built because he came from the city and a glassed in editor’s desk had always been one of his dreams. I get the weird feeling this is almost supposed to be obnoxious in an endearing way but it is not. His staff “affectionately” call him Attila the Hogan. He is upset about the fact that a newspaper that goes out twice a week doesn’t work like a city newspaper.

Also there is Edie, “a tough little woman of forty, with just the right personality to stand up to Marshall’s brusqueness.” So you know, whatever. She’s that character. Tom is a paste-up man (what does that mean NOW, I wonder? Is it just something you do on a computer?). George is a small, retired typesetter who still works for fun and apparently Bernie is their reporter who was at the festival last night. Our angels directed her towards someplace to take pictures and now she’s in jail. Having angels on your side seems less awesome than you’d think.

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2 thoughts on “This Present Darkness: Chapter 1

  1. I am struggling to read this as an opening chapter. It feels like a long winded, probably unnecessary introduction of who the characters are and what they are doing. I think you should lose this. Keep it for yourself but get rid from the story. In my experience the best way to start is straight in to the action. I.E. “Remember, your mum said don’t be late!”
    This draws you straight in. The rest will unfold through the plot. “Show don’t tell” I know its cliché and you may think I am bring patronising, I’m not. The best writers in the world need fresh perspective from time to time. What I read in chp 5 was a thousand times better than this opening chapter.
    I hope you don’t think I am being too harsh, just offering my opinion and trying to help you. Please feel free to do the same with my works.

  2. I completely agree that this first one was rough, as I noted at the beginning. 🙂 I struggled with finding my footing in HOW I wanted to make this work for a little while. I appreciate that you think they improve.

    I have to say however that I don’t think there’s a way… like I’m not telling my story. By doing a recap I am, by definition telling someone else’s story and my response to it. While I agree that I didn’t open at all as strongly as I could have here, I don’t think I could really cut it because I don’t cut ANY chapters. The chapter itself is boring. The pacing is bad, the material is terrible. That doesn’t excuse my mistakes in writing and it’s something I work on as I go on, but part of the recapping is going through all the good and the bad (and in these books, it is pretty much entirely bad).

    Part of the important thing to me in utilizing this material is that, while I may be at times compressing the material some where it’s particularly overly written, I don’t skip any story points, for better or worse. That said, I would open this differently were I writing it again. My opening for the second book looks a lot different and, I hope, better.

    Thank you for reading! 🙂

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