Ah, writing. For as long as I can remember, I’ve always loved the idea of creating whole worlds inhabited by amazing characters, all with stories, dreams, and desires of their own. Back then, the fervor was what drove me to create so, naturally, things like details, continuity, and other factors fell on the wayside. That’s one of the things I love about NaNo: it reminds me of what it’s like to write just to write.
At least until I look back at my older writings and cringe at how truly awful it is.
We’re all guilty of this; anyone who says otherwise is a liar. Learning to accept it as part of ourselves isn’t always easy. I know, for I have destroyed pieces from my high school days in an attempt to forget it existed. Lately, though, I am becoming more open to the idea of the ugly bits, as well as the good and bad, of my writing. It’s the best way to track your progression, and stands as a reminder of what not to do. Take this example from the 2005 version of Renegade (then titled Key of the Zabeldi) I am about to show you. It’s a scene between the two lead characters shortly after they meet:
“Who are you?” she asked. He slowly turned to look over at her, his features revealing nothing of what he thought of the question. After a moment he glanced away again. Autumn frowned.
“Hey, I asked you a question. Who are you?” she repeated. The stranger said nothing, seeming perfectly content to ignore her. This Autumn did not like so well. All the emotions she had regarding her situation bubbled to the surface, which echoed in her next words.
“All right, you’re going to answer my questions. Who the hell were those strange guys who wanted to kidnap me, and who the hell are you? It’s pretty obvious you don’t want to be here any more than I do, so why don’t we save ourselves a lot of frustration by going our separate ways. I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight and it certainly doesn’t include spending time on a rooftop,” she snapped irritably. Her outburst seemed to attract his attention, for he glanced over at her.
“How remarkably observant you are. Yes, I have no wish to be here with you, but unfortunately it looks like it’s going to be that way for a while. Before we can go our separate ways there’s still the Zabeldi to contend with.”
“Wait a minute- what are the Zabeldi?” Autumn asked, confused. The stranger heaved a sigh, looking none too pleased to be forced to explain himself.
“They’re an alien race who live in a parallel world alongside the human one,” he began. Autumn stared at him blankly. He spoke the phrase as if he were commenting on something entirely normal, like the weather! She knew she was not safe with this man.
“An alien race. Right,” she murmured, then attempted to run. His hand came out with inhuman speed, closing around her forearm and forcing her onto her backside. She struggled against him, but he ignored her attempts.
“An alien race that needs something you possess to carry out their plans,” he continued. Autumn glared at him.
“And what do you need of me?” she demanded. He jerked her forward so that his face was inches from hers. She gasped softly, for it looked as if his eyes were glowing brightly behind the sunglasses.
“Only your silence as I answer your questions,” he replied. Autumn gave a slow nod of understanding, indicating she would not interrupt him again. He released her with a curt gesture and leaned away. Autumn idly rubbed at her arm as she listened.
“As I said, those Zabeldi need you for something I’m not aware of, nor do I care to know what it is. My orders were to find you and bring you to the Nureni high council. Apparently, they need whatever it is you possess as well. Now that I found you, we have to leave this city immediately. Before we go, there are two things I want from you: silence, and your cooperation,” he finished, a note of command following his last words. Autumn gaped at him.
“You’ll find no such luck in keeping me quiet. As for cooperation, you have yet to prove to me that I’m safer with you than those Zabeldi guys,” she retorted. The stranger regarded her silently.
“I suppose the fact I saved your life wasn’t enough to convince you,” he said simply. Autumn shook her head.
“How do I know that wasn’t an act? You could be planning to do something to me the moment I trust you,” she reasoned. There was a tense moment before he reached up to remove his sunglasses. Autumn again was mesmerized by the brightness his eyes, yet she saw a coldness in them that made her wish he kept the glasses on.
“Do you remember how I dealt with those Zabeldi agents? Had I wanted to kill you, you’d already be dead,” he replied shortly.
Now I will share the same scene from Renegade:
She watched him touch a few keys. “Who are you?” Autumn asked warily.
He glanced over at for a moment, then went back to playing with the calculator.
“Hey, I’m talking to you!”
Out of patience, confused and, most of all, scared, Autumn blurted out, “Okay, it’s pretty obvious you don’t want to be here anymore than I do, so why don’t we just go our separate ways. I’ve got a lot of work to do tonight and it doesn’t include being with you.”
“You can think and see,” he drawled at last, still refusing to look at her. Before Autumn could do more than stare he shrugged. “You’re right, I don’t want to be here. It looks like it’s going to be that way for now. There’s still a lot of Xabeldi out there.”
“Wait a minute– what are the Xabeldi?” Autumn asked, her confusion replacing her anger.
The stranger scowled. “A lot of things,” he replied testily, his fingers flying across the glowing panels. “Aliens to you.”
Autumn stared. He said it as if he were talking about something entirely normal, like the weather! She knew she was not safe with this man.
“Aliens. Right,” she murmured, and attempted to run.
His hand came out swiftly, closing around her forearm and forced her onto her backside. She struggled against him, but his grip was like iron.
“They need your power,” he resumed, as if she hadn’t tried to run.
“What power? I don’t understand–”
Suddenly he jerked her toward him so that their faces were inches apart. She gasped softly, for it looked as if his eyes were glowing brightly behind the sunglasses.
“Shut. Up,” he hissed.
Frightened now by the intensity of his eyes, and the fact the weird calculator was now floating at his shoulder, Autumn gave a slow nod of understanding.
He released her with a curt gesture and took the item out of the air. “The Xabeldi want your power, too. I’m here to make sure they don’t get it.”
Autumn rubbed at her arm and shook her head. Nothing about him, or any of it, made sense. “How do I know I’m safer with you than those other guys?”
His fingers flew faster. “They’re dead, you’re alive,” he answered bluntly.
The casual way he spoke of death bothered her. “You could be planning to do the same thing to me.”
There was a tense moment before he removed the sunglasses. Autumn again was mesmerized by the brightness of his eyes, yet she saw such coldness in them it made her wish he kept the glasses on.
“If I was, you’d be dead already,” he stated.
Casual readers might not recognize it right away– hell, they might wonder why Simon isn’t as wordy in the second example. The answer to that is simple: I hadn’t quite mastered Simon’s character yet. He’s not very verbose. He was never meant to be verbose. The narrative, like him, is straight and to the point. He doesn’t have time for pretty words or observations. Simon sees in stark black and white. He’s also kind of a dick, to quote my friend. The truly sad thing is that it took someone else to point out how off his dialog was. But hey, if we didn’t make mistakes, we’d never learn from them, right?
Moral of the story here is to embrace your talent, from its rocky beginnings to the pinnacle of perfection it will/has become. As for me, I believe my writing evolves with each new idea. It becomes what it must in accordance with the story it is helping to build. So it shall for whatever it is you are working on.
Happy writing, all!