Behind any work of art, you have the bloopers, the mistakes, the frayed edges that you try hard to erase before the final piece. You’re embarrassed; you shuffle the blunders into the dark corners, hoping that no one will notice.
The thing is, without the mistakes, the final piece would have less character. The mistakes color the final product so there’s life and vibrancy.
I love watching blooper reels. It’s fun to set the story aside for just a moment while I see the artist’s attempts to create the world that I’ve just lived in. Some of the old Jackie Chan movies are my favorites. Since the man insisted on doing all his own stunts, some of his blooper reels were reminiscent of the physical comedy of the old Laurel and Hardy episodes and Three Stooges.
(Excerpt): “Shooting a swift glance back at the house, I lean over and try to open the glove compartment. Locked. Of course. I snatch up Greg’s keys, inserting his ignition key into the lock, my shaking fingers making it difficult. I’m sure I won’t find anything, but I’m terrified lest I do.”
In the original draft, the glove compartment wasn’t even in the picture. Eden is upstairs in her house, finds a secret compartment in the floorboards of her house and in the compartment, something that will change her life forever.
That seemed too unrealistic, so I moved the “something that will change her life forever” into Greg’s jacket pocket, which he then leaves flung over the back of the rocking chair at her house.
But why in the world would Greg leave such an important “something that will change her life forever” in his jacket pocket? The “something that will change her life forever” is far too important to leave in such an insecure place.
At last, I settled on his glove compartment. By now, it’s the fourth draft. The glove compartment seemed like a relatively secure place to leave something important, but then a test-reader reminded me that a lot of glove apartments actually lock.
Not mine, but whatever. I decided it made sense to lock it, so I added a lock, and keys, and trembling fingers that have a hard time finding the keyhole. Voila, five drafts later, we have the above excerpt. But I never would have gotten there without the first four drafts.
(Excerpt): “Another note of panic hits my brainwaves. Can he trace my phone? It’s not the most recent model, no internet access from it. Could there be a GPS on it? Probably not, but I don’t have anyone to ask, and if there is, I have a target on my back.”
What do you do when you have no clue about the answer to a question?
You have two options: a.) research, or b.) translate your own uncertainty to your character.
Take a wild guess what I did above.
Side note: the nice thing about writing is that you can generally proclaim “truth” with a few keystrokes. So, as a result, whether this is generally true or not, Eden has a phone that most likely doesn’t have a GPS on it, most likely doesn’t put her in danger, most likely is not a threat at all. However, because she’s unsure (because I’m unsure), she tosses it out the window of her truck as she makes her escape. BECAUSE AUTHOR SAYS SO. 😉
(Excerpt): “Count Tramp begins to pace, back and forth, back and forth across the opening of the cave. I sit as I wait, trying now and again to exit the cave, to run for help, but Count Tramp won’t let me. Every time, he snaps at me, refusing to let me move. He paces and paces, until at last the gray dawn coats the scenery. The clouds have moved in. I can’t see the mountains anymore.
“But Count Tramp lets me pass him now. We exit the cave.
“On the hill, in the grass, close by the trampled, crooked line I had created earlier as I trod my path downward, I see a set of footprints in the dew, matching my trail step for step.”
Going back to the first draft, this scene was much shorter. Eden has fled the house, desperate to think, needing to be alone. The dog, Count Tramp, accompanies her, and she seeks out the cave, sorting out her thoughts through the long, dark night. She finally finds peace, and decides to head back to the house, but according to my timeline…
It’s still 3 a.m. or thereabouts. Pitch black.
Those footprints in the dew are super important for her to see. She has to notice them to move the action along, to do what she does next, and even a silvery moon won’t show up dewy footprints.
So I had to return to the cave. Count Tramp has to pace. And pace and pace and pace. Time goes by, and poor Eden’s thought tumble longer and longer, until FINALLY…
Eden exits the cave, and… *sinking-feeling-rock-in-the-pit-of-her-stomach*… footprints not her own.
WHAT’S GONNA HAPPEN? 😉
Lest I run the risk of making this blog post too long, I’ll leave it with the three bloopers. There are many more, but maybe I don’t have to say what they are. Maybe I’ll let you find them for yourself.
Hey, here’s an idea! Soul Survivor is available for pre-order! Why don’t you get your bid in early; it’ll help me out in the rankings on Amazon, and YOU get first dibs on the book! And it’s only the price of a Starbucks cup of coffee (mmm, coffee). Here’s the link: http://booklaunch.io/route11publications/54f9939d66e3bff92b26b195