Wednesday, April 2, 2014

On the Cutting Room Floor

Part of the reason this post is so late is that I really wasn't sure what to write about. Now I've got something.

I was once told that Mark Twain's wife use to edit his books for him. His biggest complaint was that she always made him take out his favorite parts. I don't know what was in those parts, but I can make some good guesses.

I had just such a moment myself recently while going over the sequel for Price of Vengeance, Promise of Mercy. Not to give too much away, but it takes place approximately 25 years after the events of Price of Vengeance. For those of you who may not have read the book, the hero, Liam, has married the girl he loved, Celinia. In the intervening years, they have had four children. The oldest are identical triplet girls, Deirdre, Aisling, and Bayvin. They also have a son named Aidan. The girls have just completed their advanced military training.

Okay, there's the background. The problem came up when one of the pivotal characters who was allied with the antagonist, was being uncooperative. He was basically threatened with castration. It was a great series of scenes that built one on top of the other. First, Deirdre's uncle hinted that she had made an enemy eat his own privates. (It was a bluff.) She later built on this to make him order his people to surrender. (She told him that if he did, he'd get to keep his lovely baritone voice.) There was one other part where this came into play, but I think that's enough.

Like Mark Twain, I have an editor. I call her Mom. She raised some objections to this sequence of scenes. Primarily, the first book was made to be readable by a younger crowd. I was stubborn. I put a lot of work into those scenes. I rationalized that kids no more about these things than adults want to believe. It shouldn't be a problem.

My warning signs should have been how much fun I had writing them. The person who taught me about plotting (see last blog) warned me that this could often be the case. He's also the one who told me about Mark Twain.

So what made me see the light? My brother gave a manuscript to my 11 year old niece. When she got to that part she went to her mother and said, "Should I be reading this?"

Don't you hate it when mom's right?

Moral of the story. There is no part of your prose that is so sacred that you might not have to sacrifice it. Remember (and I think I'm paraphrasing one of my teachers) you don't judge great writing by the quality of what you put in, but by the quality of what you take out. If great things have to go to make the story work as it should, then take it as a good sign.n

1 comment:

  1. Just an addendum. The middle school where my niece goest has been having recent problems with pseudo-gangs cropping up. Recently she was forced to confront a few would-be thugs who tried to pick on her and one of her friends. Not to give away too much, she stood up to them, using some tricks my brother and I learned in karate when we were young and my brother passed on to her. When she got home she was understandably upset.

    She state that she now understood the part that Uncle Kurt put in. My brother thought it might be wise to write a letter to the school telling them to put a stop to the bullying--for the bullies sake. Needless to say, my elder niece is livid. Those poor, poor would-be thugs.

    Please note, we aren't putting the questionable parts back in. We're just appreciating the irony.