Thursday, December 8, 2016


Yesterday I was working on draft one of the new novel.  The scene revolved around a small dinner with two couples---old friends whose lots in life took different paths (one couple lives paycheck to paycheck in a rundown apartment; the other couple has money and a nice house, the wife currently running for State Senator).  In the scene, one of the four—KERRY—is dealing with a recent bad experience.  She was intended to be aloof, quiet, not actively involved with the dinner conversation.  Except that, as I wrote the scene, she became combative when engaged in the discussion, leading to her storming out of the room when an offhand remark by her husband—TOMMY—strikes her the wrong way.  Tommy follows her to the kitchen, where Kerry is rifling through the cupboards: 

“What are you looking for?” Tommy said, irritation chafing his voice.

Kerry didn’t turn.  “The whiskey you hid away.”

Tommy let out a long breath.  “Do you really need that?”

A harsh laugh escaped Kerry’s mouth, she whirled on her husband.  “What are you, my overseer?”  She was yelling now.  “I don’t need your permission if I want to get drunk.  This is my house.  These are my cupboards.  And it’s my whiskey.”  She opened another cupboard, slammed it shut (as hard as she could) without looking. 

Tommy’s remark, which set this whole thing off, was directed at the wife of the other couple, an old friend of his from grade school.  He was offering financial assistance, if they ever needed it.  This enraged Kerry because, a) she is the one who inherited the money that has allowed them to live so well and b) she also knows that Tommy is having an affair with this woman, Nikki. 
As the conversation in the kitchen concludes, Kerry wants to get across that Tommy, like the house and the cupboards, also belongs to her. 
My initial attempt at conveying this, which is not unusual with my first drafts, has Kerry overtly stating this idea.  Here’s the first try:

Kerry’s voice was a low, sharp hiss, as she turned and marched on Tommy.  “And you are my husband.  Not my lover.  Not my best friend.  Not any of those foolish platitudes people share online.  My.  Husband.”

She didn’t wait for a response, stormed out of the kitchen. 

I continued on, from here, to finish the scene, but I wasn’t happy with it.  Which isn’t a problem.  I know I’m coming back to this, after I complete a draft, to revise and refine the text, and having a character’s feelings be overt, in this first pass, allows me to whittle away at the scene and push the “text” below the surface, to become subtext. 
But, when I finish writing for the day, that doesn’t mean I stop thinking about the story—whether it’s what I will be writing next or what I’ve just written—and an hour or so later, I re-opened the document and refined that part.  Here’s the second try:

Kerry’s face became all sharp angles, her eyes glared through Tommy’s center.  “And you are my husband.”

She didn’t wait for a response, stormed out of the kitchen. 

Better, more concise.  But still, Kerry’s feelings are sitting on the surface in big, bright letters, like an irritating neon sign blinking outside your hotel room window.  At this point, I figured I was done…but my mind kept rolling it over and over, working to fix it.  And finally, I came away with this, the third (and final) try

Kerry’s face became all sharp angles, her eyes glared through Tommy’s center.  “Everything in this house is mine.”

She did not wait for a response, stormed out of the kitchen.

It still gets the point across, but it’s not as on the nose as it was.  I like it.  Not perfect, but it’s pretty good, for now.  Maybe it will go through some more refinement when I open it up for revisions late next year, and maybe it won’t.  Either way, I think I’m ready to move on to the next scene and the next chapter. 



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