Before posting the next “also ran,” I want to show you how I edited the opening paragraph of my earlier effort, as recommended by Ms. Alice, my blogging, writing friend. She said,
The way it begins, I assumed it was Cookie’s story, but then it switched to Azalea’s inner thoughts. Would a slight adjustment of the beginning make a difference, so that we know immediately this is Cookie’s story?
The original draft reads –
Cookie decided she better answer him even though the history teacher looked past her to me. My friend’s voice skipped an octave. “Uh, because women didn’t have the same opportunities to explore the world?”
“Possibly, Miss Abbott,” Mr. Theobold said, and then he turned and planted his size fifteen wingtips close to my desk. “Can you add any insights, Azalea Jones?”
I flinched when a bit of spittle squirted from his mouth to my forehead. Glaring at this pathetic excuse for an educator, I pulled a Kleenex from my backpack, blotted away the saliva, and then jammed the tissue into my pocket.
“No, not really, Mr. Theobold. But I’m pretty sure I know what mighty revelation you’re ready to share, thus confounding the simplicity of our feminine minds.”
Here’s the revision:
Mr. Theobold planted his size fifteen wingtips within inches of my desk and his bloodshot eyes burrowed into mine, but his question was directed to my friend Cookie, not me.
I listened to her shaky voice attempt to answer, “Uh, because women didn’t have the same opportunities to explore the world?”
obnoxiousteacher didn’t turn away from the stare-down. “Possibly, Cookie Abbott. Can you add any insights, Azalea Jones.” (Theobold always called us by our first and last names, as if the class was filled with numerous “Cookies” and “Azaleas.” Behind his back, we called him Mr. TheoBALD.)
I flinched as a bit of spittle squirted from his mouth to my forehead. “No, not really, Mr. Theobold. But I’m pretty sure you’re ready to share a mighty revelation that will confound the simplicity of our feminine minds.”
Then I pulled a Kleenex I had jammed into my backpack to wipe away all traces of his DNA.
Now for the question: Whose story is this?
a. Cookie Abbott’s
b. Azalea Jones’
c. None of the above
May 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM
To me–clearly–this is the story of all women at some point in their lives anyway, but told in Azalea’s point of view. In a way I never imagined, I think it’s even more poignant than before. I’ll bet most women can remember a similar event in their lives. Sometime I may write my scene in Wintersong–when my father’s mother was widowed and the nine surviving sons wanted to take over her decision making because she was such “a simple woman–like a child”. Even at the time that indicated my place in the world according to men.
(I think taking “obnoxious” out of the stare-down would be fine, too, because the tone of the POV conveys his obnoxiousness very well without it. Try it mentally and I think you’ll see.) I love playing around like this with words. Their power and weight is amazing when you think about it. In that vein, perhaps you might rethink the ending. “I pulled a Kleenex from my backpack, blotted away the saliva, and then jammed the tissue into my pocket.” is much more effective (for me) than
“to wipe all traces of his DNA from”. Since it’s your story, it’s your decision ultimately. Believe me, you can edit a piece to death if you’re not careful. I’ve done it many times, so take anything I say with a grain of salt. The best advice I can give is listen to your own instincts.
May 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM
Have to agree with deleting “obnoxious” – that was a decision I toyed with before. You confirmed that the adjective needed to go!
I kind of like the DNA reference as that topic is in the news, on the telly, etc. and this is a dystopian novel. But you’ll notice I pared down the wording. I get very wordy when I write.
I so appreciate your input!
May 10, 2012 at 10:14 AM
P.S. I’ll be interested in what others have to say.
May 10, 2012 at 11:47 AM
I couldn’t wait for your response because I value it so very much. Don’t hold your breath for input from anyone else. People drop by my site, but very few make comments. My little site is NOT “Wintersong!”
Thanks for your help!