First drafts are always a little messy. The words spill out onto the page, and it’s rare that any or all of them are perfect. Sometimes you get lucky, but most of the time you don’t.
That’s why there’s revision, or by the more dreaded name, editing.
Editing conjures up a lot of different images in my mind, from completely re-writing, to cutting the mss down in size. Or where you discover the main character’s name has changed from Bill to Fred after a bad night.
Usually, though, as stories progress, they go through a number of rewrites, and sometimes because of what follows. It depends on how long a period the story is written. Some of mine take days, others quite a lot longer.
This is the rewrite of the first section of the short story I’m undertaking, adding some new details:
Jack was staring down the barrel of a gun.
He had gone down to the corner shop to get a pack of cigarettes.
He had to hustle because he knew the shopkeeper, Alphonse, liked to close at 11:00 pm sharp. His momentum propelled him through the door, causing the customer warning bell to ring loudly as the door bashed into it, and before the sound had died away, he knew he was in trouble.
It took a second, perhaps three, to sum up the situation.
Young girl, about 16 or 17, scared, looking sideways at a man on the ground, then Alphonse, and then Jack. He recognized the gun, a Luger, German, relic of WW2, perhaps her father’s souvenir, now pointing at him then Alphonse, then back to him.
Jack to another second or two to consider if he could disarm her. No, the distance was too great. He put his hands out where she could see them. No sudden movements, try to remain calm, his heart rate up to the point of cardiac arrest.
Pointing with the gun, she said, “Come in, close the door, and move towards the counter.”
Everything but her hand steady as a rock. The only telltale sign of stress, the beads of perspiration on her brow. It was 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the shop.
Jack shivered, and then did as he was told. She was in the unpredictable category.
“What’s wrong with your friend?” Jack tried the friendly approach, as he took several slow steps sideways towards the counter.
The shopkeeper, Alphonse, seemed calmer than usual, or the exact opposite spoke instead, “I suspect he’s an addict, looking for a score. At the end of his tether, my guess, and came to the wrong place.”
Wrong time, wrong place, in more ways than one Jack thought, now realizing he had walked into a very dangerous situation. She didn’t look like a user. The boy on the ground, he did, and he looked like he was going through the beginnings of withdrawal.
“Simmo said you sell shit. You wanna live, ante up.” She was glaring at Alphonse.
The language, Jack thought, was not her own, she had been to a better class of school, a good girl going through a bad boy phase. Caught in a situation she was not equipped to deal with.
© Charles Heath 2016-2020