Schemes and Scenes – Part One


Schemes and Scenes – Part One

This is the first article in an occasional series on scene development.  Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, Chapter One, focuses on  converting “tell” into “show”, with three exercises.

crossed 1First Exercise


“Mortimer?  Mortimer?  Simon Hedges said.

“Where are you?”

“Look up, you ninny.  I’m on the roof.”

“What in blazes are you doing perched up there?”

Mortimer Twill explained to Simon how his long-awaited cupola and weather vane had finally arrived.  He just couldn’t wait for Simon to install the gadgets, so Mortimer had decided to climb up to the roof and complete the installation himself.  He was still sorting through the instructions.

“Come on down before you kill yourself, Simon said.  I swear I’ll put them up for you this afternoon.

Edit  (Additions in BOLD;  Deletions not shown)

“Mortimer?  Mortimer?  Simon Hedges asked.  He looked around for his uncle, wondering where he had gotten to.  “Where are you?”

“Look up, you ninny.  I’m on the roof.”  Hearing the voice, he looked up, finally spotting his uncle near the front gable.  “What is blazes are you doing perched up there?”

“What do you think I’m doing?  I getting ready to put up this here weather vane, and this cupola thing.”  Holding up a large piece of paper, he waved in the general direction of boxes and wrapping material scattered on the shingles.  “Remember?  Called you last night.  You promised to come over.”

“I know I did.  And here I am.  Why didn’t you wait for me?”  Peering up at his uncle,  Simon could see the font was small, and dense.  It was probably printed in sixteen different languages.  Maybe English wasn’t the first choice. “You could fall and hurt yourself.”

“Well, it’s nearly eleven o’clock, and I kinda figured you forgot or somethin.”  Mortimer glanced down at the paper he was holding, and shook his head.  “Can’t seem to make heads or tails outta this.  Why does it have to be so hard?”

“Come on down before you kill yourself,” Simon said.  “I swear I’ll put them up for you this afternoon.”

Second Exercise


I’d know Uncle Zeb for years, of course, but I didn’t feel like I really knew him until that first time I walked into his shop.  All that time I’d thought he was just some kind of handyman, but looking at his tools–hundreds of them–and what they were and the way they were organized, well, I could see he was a craftsman.

Edit  (Additions in BOLD;  Deletions not shown)

I got to Uncle Zeb’s place before noon.  The drive up to Riverton had been quiet.  Crossing the empty prairie took me back to my childhood, reminding me I’d known Uncle Zeb for years.  He lived alone, now that Aunt June had died.

 I’d called ahead, to make sure he was there.  He said he’d be out in his workshop, to just come on back.  I knocked on the front door but, of course, he wasn’t there.  So, I walked into his shop.  I realized I hadn’t been in it since I was a small girl.

 He looked up, and smiled.  “Well, now, isn’t this just the nicest thing.  Come here, girl.  I need a hug.”

 Grinning, I let him pull me tight.  He smelled of cigarette smoke and hadn’t showered since yesterday, but I didn’t mind.  “Oh.  That feels so good.”  I looked down, at what he was working on.  I’d thought he was kind of handy man.  Instead of some simple project, pieces of clock lay on his bench.  A beautiful mantel clock casing, ornately carved, sat to one side, ready to take the clock works.

 “Look at all these tools.  There must be hundreds.”

“Well, yes.  Expect there are.”  He laughed.  “Didn’t start out to have this many.  But, you know how it is.  Pick up one here, another there.  Pretty soon…well, you can see for yourself.”  He waved his arm, with a proud smile.  “Each one in its place.  That way, I can find ’em when I need ’em.”

I laughed, and said, “I guess the organized gene missed me.  But, not you.  You should be on one of those How-To shows.  You’re quiet the craftsman, almost an artist.”

Third Exercise


Once you got off Route 9W, though, you were in another world, a world where two streets never met at a right angle, where streets, in fact, didn’t exist.  Instead, you had “courts”, “terraces”, “ways”, a landing or two.  And lining these street-like things were row on row of little houses that could be distinguished, it seemed, only by the lawn ornaments.  Travelers who disappeared into the developments had been known to call taxis just to lead them out again.

Edit  (Additions in BOLD;  Deletions not shown)

Ted slowed down and looked at Sandy.  He asked, “Is this the turn?”

She nodded.  “They said turn off Route 9W at Labyrinth Way.  Then, just follow it on around to their house.  Said we couldn’t miss it.”

Ted glanced at her as he turned into another world.  “Need some directions, here.  What does your phone say?”

Sandy muttered something and tapped her phone.  “Why isn’t this thing working?  I don’t understand.  Ted, look at it.”

She pushed the phone at him, but he ducked under it.  “Jeez, Sandy, I’m trying to drive here.  I could have hit that car.  Just figure it out, okay?”

“But…how can I…figure it out.  It isn’t working.  Since you’re so smart, you just do what you want.  You’ll do that anyway.”  With that, Sandy looked out the window.  She noticed that two streets met at a strange angle, not like the right-angled corners she was used to.  With all the twists and turns, not only did she have no idea where they were, she wasn’t sure of the way out.

“Come on Sandy, work with me here.  What’s the name of the street?”

“Tanglewood.  Can’t you remember anything?”  They came to a street crossing.  She pointed.  “Look.  It’s over there.  Tanglewood Court.  That must be it.  4554 Tanglewood.”

Ted turned down the street, noting row on row of little houses.  The only thing that distinguished them were the lawn ornaments.  Ted began to hum a tune.

Sandy laughed, and began to sing:

There’s a green one and a pink one
And a blue one and a yellow one,
And they’re all made out of ticky tacky
And they all look just the same.

They both chuckled.

Sandy began to read off the house numbers.  “4510.  4520.  4530.  Look another street.  Its…its..uh oh.”

“What?  I know what it means when I say ‘uh oh’.  What’s wrong?”

Her voice was small.  “It’s…Tanglewood Terrace.”  She tapped her phone again.  “It’s not my fault.  I charged the battery, and everything.  It’s like we’re in a different world or something.”

Ted rolled his eyes.  Not knowing what else to do, he drove on.

Sandy began calling out the numbers again.  “4540.  4550.”  They came to another street.  Tanglewood Way.  Crossing it, she read the next house number.  “4560.  I think we missed it.  I don’t…wait.  There’s another street sign up there.”

They drove on a little further.  “Tanglewood Landing.”

Ted stopped the car in the middle of the street and looked at her.

Before he could say anything, Sandy said, “Jeez. Ted.  Can’t you ever take responsibility for anything?  For once?  Would it have been so hard to write the entire address down?  And now I suppose you think it’s all my fault.”

He gripped the steering wheel, knuckles turning white.  Sarcasm dripped.  “Maybe we should call a taxi.  At least they could get us out of here.”

“Yes.  Why don’t…we just do that.”

Read the second article.


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