clues at the scene

clues at the scene

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Edit Me Baaaaaaa

  I am in editing mode. I've got a ton of work to go through and I'm feeling a bit like a sheep. I'm not sure if I'm one of the herd or a little lost lamb. All I can do is bleet "Baaaa" and go on my way.

Here's some of the garbage I'm editing. Pity me. Seriously. How the Hell am I going to get this as crisp and clean as Cormac McCarthy (my editing hero) would craft ? This will be a tough rewrite for me.

I have a sample of mine here followed by just a wee bit of The Road below for illustrative purposes. His surety of language is everything I want and mine is all over the bloody map. I'll fix it but I'll need a couple walks, a little snow, a pot of tea, and a decent cookie to get through it.

Kait’s leg hung over the arm of the office chair. Her jaws moved with full goat-motion. She despised the effect gum had on the appearance of girls her age.

She imagined the view from the front of a classroom with all those young faces chewing in unison. It must look from blank stares and involuntary jaw motion as if a particular class of zombie had enrolled in Ms. Sultey’s Composition section.

She’d borrowed Missy Abram’s last two pieces in seventh period. Kait received the notice at the start of class to appear here for a discussion with Mr. Jones, councilor. She’d thought of the interview to come. She took Missy’s gum.

She’d not met Mr. Jones. She’d not even seen him previously but then being new to the Excalibur school, there were clearly many strangers in administration. She was no stranger to the prep school elite routine, though. This was her fourth in eight years though it was unique in that this was not a boarding school. The students here lived with their families and that development was a bit new to Kait.

He had kept her waiting for twenty minutes when he finally walked past her.

She nudged a box of tissues on the side table and they fell to the thick carpet. She frowned a little more.

Mr. Jones eased into his desk chair. “And ?,” he asked.

“I didn’t say anything,” she said.

Mr. Jones was trim and severe and lightly scarred down his right jaw.

“Actions are more meaningful than speech. You just said something in the action language. I’m wondering if you’d care to elaborate verbally.”

Kait shrugged.

“Why are you here?,” he asked.

She met his stare. She thought he should have been accusative. She’d prepared for that. His stare was engaging and a few years on she might think this gentleman could offer to buy her a drink.

Kait answered in her best Hepburn. “Just lucky?”

Mr. Jones nodded. “Have you ever seen a school psychiatrist before ?”


“Did the office look like this ?,” he gestured.

The office - library really - had enough walnut cabinetry on the walls to make a fifth avenue lawyer jealous. Also, every volume on display was a jewel. She recognized titles. What psychiatrist had a gold embossed copy of _Actung Panzer_?

Mr. McCarthy's work now.

The weeds they forded fell to dust about them. They cross the broken asphalt apron and found the tank for the pumps. The cap was gone and the man dropped to smell the pipe but the odor of gas was only a rumor, faint and stale. He stood and looked over the building. The pumps standing with their hoses oddly in place.The windows intact. The door to the service bay was open and he went in. A standing metal toolbox against one wall. He went through the drawers but there was nothing there he could use.

I'm going to say the difference here which jumps right out is in the execution of the language. There isn't one pinch of surplus in McCarthy's work. He's decided what he's going to convey and he wrote a scene to illustrate that point. Then, he's gone with a chainsaw, a chef's knife and even a scalpel and removed every possible excess. 

The verb ? Not needed. They'll understand. Drop it. Were the weeds dry ? Don't say so. Show us their dismissal instead. 

What's happened here ? We were outside and walked through the weeds. We looked around and found the gas tanks and investigated the contents. We surveyed the scene carefully, went inside, searched a tool box. We did all this in just about as many words as I could summarize it.

Even if you don't know the story, you feel the scene. They're looking, salvaging. They need.  Who ? A man and someone else. At least one. They are not important here. The scene is important - the setting. It tells us the story. Something has happened, and now someone in need  is looking without finding. 

That's the story. Looking and not finding.

I've got some work to do. 

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