The draft on top is the original draft as it has been written. On the bottom is my edit draft with my handwritten comments.
One thing I want you to notice here is the questions: is this how long it will take to defeat them or how long they have to solve the situation? How is the dragon taking this? Is he moving? All those questions are designed to make me think, to push the story harder. I know that when I write down the questions, I’m letting the question into my brain to roll around. I don’t feel pressured to have an answer now. It’s merely a box I’m throwing into the room of my mind and closing the door on. When I come back later for the box, I trust that a lot of things will come out of it. I’ll then have to sort through the good, the bad, and the ugly. (grin!) You’ll be noticing a lot more of these questions in the pages to come.
Again, the page needs more details to help slow down the pace. I’ve become very aware of this as a natural tendency I have in my writing. I jump right into the story, so I’ve very conscious of it when I’m editing that I’m probably moving my story too fast. I see this in a lot of other manuscripts as well. But in writing the draft, I allow myself to write the dialog and action as it’s coming, knowing that I’ll have to slow the pace down later. Again, in writing the manuscript, it’s more important that I get the story out rather than it being perfect. You’ll see my comments of “slower,” “more,” “details,” in the pages coming.
Now, I did say that I would touch on point of view when I got to this page. Look at the 3rd paragraph where I have the comment, “This would be so much better in his pov.” We’re moving into action and there’s a lot of people moving around, namely the priest and this other man. It’s getting confusing as to who exactly is doing the action and how the response is coming. The priest and priestess are protecting the dragon from this man, but why? What’s going on in the man’s head? What’s he planning on doing and why? Do you see how much deeper we can go into the story just from these questions?
Okay, so if we stayed in the omnipotent point of view, we could go into all the character’s heads, but the reader will quickly get overwhelmed. Let me illustrate:
The priestess jumped to her feet and blocked the man entering the cave. She couldn’t let him near the dragon. She knew he would do whatever it took to insure the safety of the dragonborn, even if it meant harming the dragon. It went against her oaths as a priestess. “You can’t. She’s a Ch’bauldi and you are charged with protecting her.”
The priest moved up behind the priestess, standing as second ready to defend her if this gruff looking man dared to battle a woman. He didn’t want to do it, didn’t figure the man would strike a woman, but these days one could never be too certain. He just wasn’t sure that he wanted to stand against this dragonborn either. He had no weapon in which to defend himself, or the priestess if it came to blows.
The man looked them over, grimacing as he gave a little shake of his head. Who did they think they were to stand between him and the dragon mother? They could offer her no protection which her own tail, which she could easily swat him with if she really didn’t want him getting close, not to mention her claws and teeth. A dragon or a dragon weapon were the only things that could hurt him and the priest and priestess knew this. He was indestructible compared to them. “You have 30 seconds to help the dragon and her dragonborn or I will take care of the situation.”
Neither the priest or priestess moved, both frozen in fear. The man assessed them again. They carried no weapons. How would they be able to help? They all knew the priest and priestess couldn’t do a damn thing. It would have to be his knife to do the job.
So that might be a little extreme, but we’ve all seen passages just like that in today’s books. I’ve made it easy here where every paragraph is a jump to a new head: first the priestess, then the priest, then the man, then all of the above.
Putting the scene in one person’s point of view keeps the scene from getting confusing. The reader doesn’t have to work hard to remember whose head to be in. It also reads smoothly, allowing for action/reaction flows. I will discuss this in more depth later because it will need more time that I have here. But what I will do is a quick rewrite of the scene just in the man’s point of view. Oh, by the way, I didn’t know it when I was writing this scene originally, but the man’s name is Balthier, so I’m changing it because unless he has amnesia, he will know his own name.
The priestess jumped to her feet and tried to block Balthier from entering the cave. “You can’t. She’s a Ch’bauldi and you are charged with protecting her.”
The priest moved behind the priestess, standing as second ready to defend her. Balthier looked the scrawny man over. The priest had no weapon in which to defend himself, or the priestess if it came to blows, and Balthier suspected it would. They posed no real threat, especially to a dragonborn. “You have 30 seconds to help the dragon and her dragonborn or I will take care of the situation.”
Neither the priest or priestess moved. Balthier’s dagger would have to do the job.
Overall, it’s shorter and more concise, though not perfect. I wanted to add in what Balthier knew about the priest’s and priestess’ vows to protect the dragon, but it felt like I needed more of a build earlier for that, so I left it out.
I harp on point of view so I’m sure I’ll discuss it more often. To want to be in every character’s head all at once so that the writer can tell the reader what they are all thinking is lazy writing. There’s body language, there’s dialog, there’s narration — all those are better clues to how a character is. So, in the first example, you know what a wimp the priest is by his own thoughts, whereas in the second example it’s being filtered through Balthier’s perspective of “standing as a second ready to defend” and “suspected it would” (come to blows) that make the priest and priestess more of a threat to him. Because of this, there’s more tension in the second one. The priestess “tries” to block Balthier’s path; he knows she’s no match for him, but we see her ready to defend and that makes her a stronger character too. The first example is full of “telling a story” with “It went against her oaths as a priestess” and “He didn’t want to do it, didn’t figure the man would strike a woman, but these days one could never be too certain. He just wasn’t sure that he wanted to stand against this dragonborn either.” The second example has some “telling” still, but does “show” the story more because we have Balthier’s perception of what they are doing, whether they are really feeling the bravo they are showing or not. There’s also more going on between these characters than is being put on the page — they each seem to know something that the reader doesn’t, not yet at least. This is a good way to hook the reader into reading more because they want to know. However, be very careful about doing this technique when you’re writing in 1st person — more on that later.
I also want to point out my note on the left hand side: “Smells.” The sense of smell is one that is often overlooked, unless it’s blood and how many times have you seen blood described as: “the coppery scent of blood filled the air.” Even I’m guilty of this one. It’s always good to have a reminder about smell.
Go back through the page and read the proposed changes. How would you incorporate changes? What would you do? Do you see something I missed. Comment below. Then we can have fun and see how the page develops into the second draft together.