March 19, 2008

Drafting Out and Editing the Beginning ©

I've been reading a lot about the short story. Fellow blogger SWUBIRD also gave me a little direction that I needed more character development. Taking all things into consideration, I'm going to take the beginning drafts from my exercise experiment and fine tune over the next few Workshop Wednesday posts.

The Writer's Digest has a couple of Handbooks of Short Story Writing out. Each handbook is broken into chapters, actually articles that could stand on their own, written by individual authors. I've found some great information in these that I want to incorporate and try to apply.

In "How to Start Smart," a chapter under Craft and Technique, by Roy Sorrels, the beginning is everything. There must be character and setting definition that grabs a reader and compels them to move forward.

Sorrels goes on to say that you must tell the reader who the story is about. This must be done in a way that cues an image of the character in the reader's mind.

In draft one I chose to write in the first person. Sorrels says that developing character images from that narrative is difficult.

In another chapter, "What to Leave Out and What to Put In" by Kit Reed, cutting the fat and getting to the meat of the story is desirable. Reed says that you should think your reader knows what you know coming in, so going over on too much detail is not necessary.

Taking this to heart, what if I maintain my first person account through Jess, cut the fat, and make Pam and Jess my protagonists? Maura will be secondary, almost an afterthought.

Original First Draft:

"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the silence of the moonlit room. I closed the door behind me and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on." I threw my keys onto the sofa table,

"Pam, you're awake?"I could see her huddled on the couch. The room reeked of smoke. I sat down across from her. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see her more clearly.

"You've been with her for two long years."She took a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. Her eyes were red, almost glowing. I waited to speak. She reached for the ashtray and piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table. "You know..." She slapped the pack against her palm. "I've known all along." Slowly she unwrapped the clear cellophane from the pack. The crackling noise echoed throughout the room.

Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."

Revision:

"Two years!" A familiar voice broke the dark silence. I threw my keys onto the sofa table, "Pam, you're awake?" I closed the door and reached for the light switch. "Don't turn them on!" Her voice startled me.

I could see her huddled on the couch. The room reeked of smoke. As my eyes adjusted to the darkness, I could see her pale face, her green eyes were red--almost glowing.

"You've been with her for two long years." I watched her take a long drag off her cigarette. The cherry lit up her face. She looked young for her 45 years. Reaching for the ashtray a piece of her long bleach blond hair fell from behind her ear. She smashed the butt into the tray.

"You know..." She grabbed a cigarette pack from the side table and began slapping it against her palm. "I've known all along." As she unwrapped the cellophane from the pack, crackling echoed throughout the room.

Pam looked strait at me. One eyebrow shot up, "You thought the two of you were so smart--hiding the truck, meeting at bars, going to hotels--you must of thought I was stupid."

I waited to speak. A lump formed in my throat. I had to say something to sate her, to make things right, but what? She knows about Maura.

She lit a cigarette. I cleared my throat, "Pam. I--I just don't know what to say." I stood up and moved toward her. She put up her hand. I turned on the light.

Pictures of us lay smashed on the floor near her. Blood pooled on the sofa beneath her feet. "Pam, you're hurt!"







I think from my revisions and additions you can tell that Pam is a 45 year old, green eyed blond, who is angry, depressed, and a chain smoker. Can you picture her? Is there enough detail so far? I'll keep working on it...


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4 comments:

  1. Muse:

    Yes, I think it's coming along nicely. I did, however, have to read it twice to make sure that the characters were both women. But that's not really a criticism, it's just me.

    On the issue of cutting and editing. It's very difficult to cut out sections of a story that you really love. I guess the rule is: don't love it. I recently had to cut an entire piece out of one of my stories because it really didn't contribute to moving the story forward. I had to be objective and honest with myself. However, I loved that section. That's just the way it goes. The reader must be kept moving in the forward direction, otherwise, magazines, radio, television, or conversations with others will steal their attention away from your story.

    Well done, Muse. Good advice. I look forward to reading how this story unfolds.

    Have a nice day.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Swubird's comment was very incisive, especially about the cutting. I have to walk away from a draft and fall out of love before I can even think about editing.

    You have smell, sight and sound well represented here, Muse--what about how stale tobacco smoke tastes? The more senses, the more engaging the writing.

    This is good work, post more.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Hi! Quite a sad story really. As you asked whether there is enough detail, that's a hard one seeing you're writing the story.

    But here's my two cents worth and remember I am not a pro writer.

    I'd like a bit more detail of the room she is in. Sounds like it would be littered with full ash trays, grog bottles and very untidy looking.

    Perhaps a more detailed description of her would help to give a better picture of a long suffering partner.

    I think I've said quite enough really.

    To finish off, have a Happy Easter to you and your family.

    Take Care,
    Peter

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks everyone! Okay, I'm going to work on the details more for Wed.

    Swu, I'm going to have to really work on the character gender identification. It is supposed to be a husband and a wife. The husband is having an affair with another woman.

    I'll get everything right, eventually. This is why I'm doing the exercises.

    Take care all!!!

    ReplyDelete

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