Clarion Write-a-Thon 2012: Day 3

A little bit late. I’m already behind, mostly due to worrying about work. I need to learn to not hate my job. There are things to like about it—I’ll probably never like it overall, but there are things I can pick out, both inside my current role and outside of it.

But enough of that.

So I was going to just polish up the scenes I mentioned previously, but I discovered that, lo and behold, they weren’t enough for scenes. Enough for flash of 500 words, but not for scenes of upwards 1.5k. I have a problem with writing too short, which is fine for flash, but not for longer works.

Taking a second look at the third draft of these little things, I thought more about them. There’s a lot of tell, instead of show. They read more like crib notes than like scenes (which is what they really are). And so, taking a page out of the book of Writing Non-Fiction From Notes, I applied similar principles.

Here’s the third draft of the first paragraph:

Every day begins with a nightmare: Psann hangs from his fingers—sometimes his real fingers, sometimes the biomechanical prosthesis that Kinaktak bestowed upon him—from the edge of the highest cliff in the Land of Birds. The anger of the Master of Storms darkens the sky and whips his hair, long and bedraggled in the driving rain, into his face; beneath him, the fury of the Terrible Old Woman Down There churns the seas into gray froth. There, too, is the Master of Orcas, inescapable jaws open, the terrible void of a mouth, waiting for him to fall. Fear ices over his heart, and above him the man known as Wind appears with Storms’ Gift, his knife, in his hands.

Here’s the fourth draft of the equivalent (tense changed to past as well):

Though he dangled from his fingers, Psann thought it impolite to mention to the Master of Killer Whales that his breath stank of fermenting sewage, even from ten thousand feet above the shining maws.

The thin air scraped at Psann’s lungs, and gripping the cliff edge felt like trying to hold onto a stone knife edge. He had been in this very place in another time in his life, and that time was supposed to be over. His fingers, he noticed, were not right. There was something wrong with them. They were whole. They existed.

And then the Wind appeared over him, the old man glaring and huffing, and then there was the knife. The gift of Storms, in Wind’s wizened hands, larger than life and shaped like the silver sillhouette of a fulmar’s beak, sliced through Psann’s fingers. The digits tumbled over and over, in slow motion, bouncing off his face and leaving smears of black, slick oil across his cheeks.

Which isn’t the way, he mused as the long fall towards death commenced, that you’re supposed to bleed.

There are elements I need to incorporate from the third draft into the fourth draft, but the fourth draft has a lot more personality to it, mostly because the POV has moved closer to Psann rather than staying distant, which also puts a different spin on certain events (like the detail of the bleeding, which wasn’t mentioned before—it’s amazing what you can discover on redrafts). There are other things wrong—“musing” is probably the wrong reaction to his situation, but then again, Psann has laughed in the face of danger before and been sarcastic to a man about to kick him in the face, so it might not be too far out of league.

I continue to bang away at this piece. I hope to have it ready by the end of tonight, given that I’m awake enough to engage in writing on the ferry (and waiting for the ferry…).