Is this a good beginning to my story?
I’ve been thinking about and writing this novel for two years, and I’ve already gone through two drafts of the first few chapters. In short, it’s about an inherently obediant high school valedictorian who longs to be spontaneous and who goes on a whirlwind trip thoruh Europe with a young man who perfectly fits who she wants to be. But then she must settle back into the life that she has to have because of her personality: college student, wife, mother, unextraordinary, while attempting to maintain nothing more than a friendship with the man of her dreams. Anyway, I’ve started re-writing and this is what I’ve come up with:
If the end justifies the means, I will never understand why people go to such lengths for family. If you ask me, families are more trouble than they’re worth, and I’m sure Machiavelli would have agreed with me. All expectation, imagination, and pretention. A group of people who continually hurt each other, while still dutifully sending birthday cards and putting up with each other’s company. Like estranged friends or divorced couples forced into the same room, who truly have nothing in common but continue with the niceties for tradition’s sake, or for the sake of the children. But children grow up quickly and are more observant than they are given credit for. It does not take long for them to understand that family is nothing more than a charade, no more real than Santa Claus, and they begin to play along like the best of them. A viscious cycle of broken hearts and poker faces through the generations of nostalgic people who hope that if they act well enough, the facade will become real. Far more trouble than it’s worth in this short life, yet every fictional character’s problem, from Jane Eyre to Harry Potter, seems to be their lack of a family, and their ultimate quest is either to find one or make one. It makes me wonder if this is more wishful thinking on the part of the authors, or if some families are really that desirable.
I suppose the shells of my family look happy enough: two parents with steady jobs who have been married to each other for twenty years, their one almost-grown up daughter who gets straight A’s, a pale green house in a quiet suburban neighborhood in Virginia, a family pew at the church we’ve been attending since I was born, a row of family portraits on the wall showing the three of us in sweaters, our faces and bodies bearing the weight of additional years from frame to frame. Although these seemed to be the prerequisties for a perfectly happy domestic environment, I found my family life incredibly hollow, like a brightly colored plastic egg that a child eagerly picks up on an Easter egg hunt and opens, expecting a coin or jelly bean, only to find it completely and distrubingly empty.
Families are always made out to be such strong entities, but truly they are quite fragile, like a spider web, easily torn apart by a careless swipe of the hand. The part that my parents could never quite understand is how easily the web of precarious connections could be repaired with the thin, fleeting, strong fiber of natural love. They don’t understand that an apology or an affectionate look can completely re-weave the family. If the structure itself is inherently weak, the builders are only made stronger in their determination to keep it intact. Neither of my parents were willing to take on that labor of love, that constant balancing that goes along with being a family, and so we remained a trio of strangers living under the same roof, each attempting to create our own support systems within ourselves, and never truly succeeding. As any student of biology will tell you, a group of organisms living in the same ecosystem can either cooperate or destroy each other. There is no way for living things to have absolutely no relationship with each other, given their proximity. No matter how hard my parents tried to remain distant, we constantly affected each other, and because they were unwilling to support me, I always knew that our only option was destruction.