Thursday, September 3, 2009

What's the Matter With This Scene? (No, Seriously)

by Gigi

I'm a big fan of writing very messy first drafts. The kind that digress and excite and bore -- and eventually gets at the heart of the story you never knew you had until it appears in all its sloppy glory.

Yes, this approach also means lots of deleted scenes.

Most of the time I'm 100% okay with this. But sometimes... Sometimes I don't get it. There's a scene that I just LOVE, but nobody else gets it. Below is the original opening scene from my first mystery novel. Every single person who read it told me to ditch it, because the book got better right afterwards.

Huh? Really? But I loved that opening! I finally took their advice, and that next version is what got me a writers grant and then an agent. Apparently those wonderful critique readers were onto something...


The last thing Rupert Chadwick had said to me was: "Our paths will cross again someday."

Clich├ęd. Sentimental drivel. Whatever you’d like to call it, you'd be right.

Normally I'd be the one leading the charge to declare succumbing to such romantic drivel beneath a woman. But at the time, those words he uttered had exactly the effect on me he'd intended. They struck me as the most romantic parting words conceivable at the end of an affair.

The problem was that he lied.

I sat down on my couch, inadvertently dropping the rest of my mail and knocking over a potted plant, unable to notice anything besides the newspaper clipping still clasped in my hand – an obituary telling of the premature death by automobile accident of Rupert Chadwick, age 28.


Is it too heavy on the romance for a mystery novel? But the dead body of the story is right there, people!

I've learned to deal with deleting that opening (okay, I mean I've mostly learned to deal with it -- I saved one line from that scene for Chapter 2).

Besides my beloved deleted intro, there are a few other things I've deemed worthy of saving in my SAVE FOR LATER file.

I have a habit of informally addressing the reader. It's a style I love in novels -- when it's successfully pulled off. It's a tough thing to do, I realize. In those first drafts of mine, I can be a bit heavy-handed in speaking directly to the reader.

I love some of those lines, though, so they go in that SAVE FOR LATER file. I'm hopeful that they'll miraculously fit in perfectly in some later book where I haven't sprinkled in too many asides to the reader.

It could happen, right?

Well, I can dream.


Unknown said...

glad to hear i'm not the only Pens with ugly first drafts. :) :) it's not the first one that matters it's the last.

Unknown said...

Hey Gigi!

Yah, I have the same experience, "what do you mean you don't UNDERSTAND why she ate the raw mahi mahi?"

I think your intro is full of verve and reveals the tone & "feel" of your main character, which is so important, but yah, it does read a *little* bit romancy. More than that though, the narrator is doing all the work for the reader. It's as if we a scene as rich as that to be a scene, not summary, or left out entirely. I'm not sure *why* in this case it feels that way. I think asides are best at the very end of a scene (not a cap on summary), but as with the pirate's code, it's guidelines really, not rules :)

Can't wait to read more of your writing! If that's what you left out, what you left in must ROCK!

Sophie Littlefield said...

Call me a sentimental fool, but I loved that opening!

Christy Semsen said...

well I liked it....

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