This morning I woke up, drank two cups of earl-gray tea, and read Mirriam Neal’s blog. And then I forced myself to get math out of the way–’tis a monstrous little blighter in my day, I tell you. I did this the entire time:
Anyways. Ahem. Aside from the tortuous hour and fifteen minutes that made up my math session, my brain was running at a hundred miles per hour. It was rather dreadful, because all of these ideas for plots, characters, and blog posts just swamped me, as I sat there with my pencil poised. It is very strange, for my mind can churn out billions of details and ideas and facts, I simply find it impossible to concentrate on math while my brain just . . . explodes with everything else. It’s bad. Very bad. It’s like a chronic illness (but it does make me happy, so that is a good thing, I suppose. *Cough* not really)
I few days ago I was looking at some of my old versions of Strong Hearts. I first began writing it in 2010, about three or four years past, and back then, it was FLUFF FICTION. Just that. Basically about my main character falling for an American hero of her time, and to defy the odds, she married him! My sister and brother-in-law bound it for me:
Intertwined Destinies. It was an amazing birthday gift which they gave me for my sixteenth birthday. I love having it as a record of progress, and sometimes I pick it up for perusal, smiling at my flowery passages, and enjoying the romanticism with which I smothered this story. I am so proud of it, this first milestone for Strong Hearts. But I was fourteen when I wrote it, just fourteen. And now I am seventeen. Yes, maybe I am just seventeen, but I’ve gained new perspectives, and I have woven a new plot, a plot that makes it a novel, and not a fluffy-clouds-and-rainbows novella. If you are a writer, then you would know exactly what I’m talking about. Perhaps you have this old story that you wrote a few years ago, and poured your heart out into, and then finished it, setting it aside to dust off for later enjoyment (or criticism). But you feel like it could be something more. It keeps coming back to you, even after you try setting it aside once and for all. That is what I am dealing with. For a little while after I finished the novella, I began considering other novels, and ideas for different stories have been dashed down since, waiting to be molded and built upon. But Intertwined Destinies resurrected itself. It came back to life.
Just so that you can see the difference, here are some snip-whippets from Intertwined Destinies, and the revamped version, Strong Hearts:
Intertwined Destinies (page 46)~
“Is he not a dashing, handsome man?” insisted her uncle pettishly, with a jolly wave of his hand.
Quite upturned, Diana murmured almost shyly, “I s’pose.”
“Has not every man and woman in the country heard his name? Has it not been repeated in France and England? Oh yes, Diana! My Diana, I am an old man—I have never married, but I know fondness when I see it. The man is fond of you, dear girl!”
Diana was silent, wistful, and amazed. Uncle Matt stroked her dark, wavy hair. “There now, don’t look so. I saw it the first night. I hinted at it rather, in fact. It is quite amusing, and quite romantic, don’t you think?”
“Oh Uncle Matthew!” Diana said with veritable anger. “You are so cruel!”
“There now, I will stop. I just tease to have fun, but it is not kind. Governor Lewis is taken with you, but no more shall be said about it—yes dear, yes. Don’t be vexed with me,” and Mr. Young touched her chin, which she lifted, to reveal her bright, burning dusky eyes.
Ah, yes. The descriptive words. I was on a roll, methinks. “Bright, burning dusky eyes”. I used every antiquated word that I stumbled across in early 20th century books like The Rose of Old St. Louis, and all of these dizzying words that I collected from my vocabulary words in school, and historical biographies. I had too much fun with them. That’s not to say that there is wrong with description, but lately I’ve simplified my writing so that it flows, and does not bog the reader down in a mire of verbosity. No doubt, the majority of modern readers would feel as if they had just swallowed a mouthful of unpolished Dickensian prose. Here’s another passage from Intertwined Destinies to better illustrate my meaning of dizzying prose:
Diana hadn’t time to dismount, for her mare bolted, her ears laid back, her head tossing madly, in freakish dread. Neither did the young woman have the time to think, for she only knew she had to stay on, lest be killed in a hard fall, and with her arms she clung on tightly. She did not feel real, extreme fear, only slight apprehension that she would slip off, and be injured badly. Up the forest road she went, past colonial windmills and past the wintery scope of frost and ice-covered bluffs, till she came to part of the wood, some distance from the main road of St. Louis. The great River did not flow such a distance away and Diana recognized a formation of cedars and cottonwoods, which grew near Choteau’s Pond of Monsieur Pierre Choteau. Once she had been here at a little gathering, before the ice had come, with a group of young ladies and gentlemen, hosted by Mademoiselle Choteau. A splendid autumn picnic that had been, small, but merry, with a French servant playing his violin, and another blowing his narrow, wooden flute, as they sat upon the grass, bonfires lit upon these banks, and under the bare trees they sat at the water’s edge, Diana with the other young maidens, smiling upon the clear, frosty water, with the bright blue sky overhead. Today it was gray and murky, not at all like a brilliant azure. These things she only realized momentarily—the picnic, the clear sky, and now an icy pond, a cloudy sky, rime upon the ground. Droplets flew behind her as she rode along, divested of control, and breathless. Her face was a scarlet rose almost, her hands gripping the neck of Hortense. She desperately tried to calm her mare, then she heard a voice; a loud, commanding voice that pierced the air. And looking up she saw a single rider come towards her from the forest, from the dusky, silent forest of bare trees and scarce greenery. Upon a horse, a horse that seemed to be of an immortal breed, so fleet and stunning, sat a man, a man leaning forward with an air of domination about him, as he neared Diana. In a moment’s flash he was alongside her, his horse’s rearing head flanking Hortense’s shuddering one, and his hand came out, and rested upon the reins, very close to Diana’s own trembling one. And tightly he jerked, with force, so that a startled mare reeled away an instant, and came back, ears pricked at the sound of his sharp, daunting tone.
Just look at that massive paragraph! I have ions of those spread liberally across the pages of Intertwined Destinies. It does not have as much dialogue as it should, and as I’ve heard, dialogue is one thing that readers like best. So, as of late, this story has undergone many improvements and changes. I hope that I have improved, at least. See what you think about it . . .
Now, here are some recent excerpts from Strong Hearts, the revamped version!
Diana looked up to see Julian step in through the doorway, his dark-brown hair clinging damply about his forehead and temples.
“I thought I would find you here,” he said in a low voice. “Reading a book.”
“You know me too well,” she returned, with a smile. They were both silent for a moment, the quiet house filled only with distant bird-song. Diana, sensing the sudden strain in the moment, turned back to the book shelf, running her fingers along the spines. “Is there something that you need?”
“No—I mean, yes. I—sought you out for a question . . .” Julian’s voice faded off and he chuckled slightly.
“What sort of question?”
Julian cleared his throat. “It pertains mainly to a . . . my desiring your opinion. Do you believe . . . ought I go to Edinburgh, to finish up my training?”
“Edinburgh?” Diana’s finger stopped in their tracing line, and she turned to stare at him, her lips parting with surprise. “Are you really going?”
Diana managed to compose herself quickly, and gave a slow, almost hesitant smile. She was almost terrified by the searching gleam in Julian’s eyes, as he gazed at her.
“It would hardly be my place,” Diana at last murmured, raising her eyebrows, and turning away. “Why don’t you ask Gwen? I am sure she would be enormously pleased to give her opinion and—”
“Diana, I want to know what you would say.”
“I don’t know!” Diana cried, exasperated. “Why would I know what you would want to do?”
“I’m sorry . . . I . . .”
“No . . .” Diana’s face burnt, and she stared down at the ground, unable to speak anymore. She wished Julian would leave. She did not want to look into his dark, limpid eyes, so filled with feeling, windows to his feelings.
Lots of dialogue. Good. Less description. Pared down adjectives. More action. Check, check and check! This is a nicely therapeutic blog post, let me tell you.
“And who is that fair one, standing at the window?” Alexander Mason asked, as he sidled up to Julian.
“That is my betrothed,” The corner of Julian’s mouth twitched for but a moment, as he regarded Diana Wayland. And then he effected an indolent smile. “My bride-to-be.”
“Is that so, old boy?”
“Of course not!” Julian toyed with the end of his silk cravat, pursing his lips. “But how could you expect me to say that she is the sister of my old friend, and nothing more? I could not help myself.”
“She would make a fine conquest. A man would be proud to claim her, I daresay.”
“You dare indecently,” Julian said in a stiff tone.
“Ah-haha . . . just the sister of your friend? I have the audacity to question that.” Mason sniffed, placing his hand inside his coat lapel, a common stance of their day.
Julian remained silent for the next moments, evidently lost in his own thoughts. He became wistful often nowadays, and his gaze traveled over to Diana, who had again left the main party to stand a silent, almost forlorn little figure by the window.
Julian muttered, “Excuse me . . .” and he stepped away from Mason, walking with great purpose towards the young woman. Mason watched him depart, shaking his head.
“Ah, everybody sees beyond your guise of fraternal interest,” he chuckled.
So, what of you? What story have you written that you decided to revive? How does it go for you? Hope you enjoyed my snippets (my new ones, that is! XD)
Thank you for reading . . .