Schemes and Scenes – Part Eight

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Schemes and Scenes – Part Eight

This is the eighth article in an occasional series on scene development.  Self-Editing For Fiction Writers, Chapter Eight, focuses on beats, with two exercises. Read the seventh article.

crossed 1Edit the following exchanges.

A.

Original:

“You’re sure it runs?” Mr. Dietz said.

I leaned against the fender. “It did last time I tried it.”

“Yeah, well, when was that?” He peered through the back window.

I picked at some dirt under my fingernails. “Just last week. Here, listen.” I pulled out the key, hopped in the front seat, inserted the key, drew the choke, popped it into neutral, and hit the starter. The engine ground a few times, caught, and then sputtered and died. I pumped the gas once or twice more and tried again. this time it caught and began to purr.

“Well, I don’t know. It sounds all right, but I don’t like the looks of the body.” He kicked the tires.

“Look, for three hundred dollars, what do you want?” I pulled the hood release, stepped around to the front, and lifted the hood. “I mean, listen to this, it’s running like a baby. You should get twenty thousand miles out of this with no trouble. At least twenty.”

He peered into one of the wheel wells. “As long as one of the tires doesn’t fall off on me.”

I slammed the hood. “There’s a spare in the trunk. Now what do you say?”

 My Thoughts:

I highlighted the beats.  The exposition is too detailed in the fourth paragraph.  I missed it, but in paragraph six, the emphasis is wrong.  Wouldn’t it be more natural for the owner to just gun the engine that he finally go started.

My Revisions:

 “You’re sure it runs?” Mr. Dietz said.

 “It did last time I tried it,” I said.

 “Yeah, well, when was that?” He peered through the back window.

 “Just last week. Here, listen.” I hopped in the front seat, inserted the key and hit the starter. The engine sputtered and died. I pumped the gas and tried again. It caught and began to purr.

 “Well, I don’t know. It sounds all right, but I don’t like the looks of the body.” He kicked the tires and rust flaked off.

 “Look, for three hundred dollars, what do you want?” I gunned the engine. “Listen to her. She’s running like a baby. You should get twenty thousand miles out of this, easy. At least twenty.”

 He peered into one of the wheel wells. “As long as the tires doesn’t fall off.”

 “There’s a spare in the trunk. Now what do you say?”

B.

Original

“Do you really think this is a smart move?” she said. “I mean, you don’t know anyone in California.”

“I’m pretty sure,” he said. “After all, it’s not as if I have a choice. You’ve got to go where the jobs are.”

“What about the kids?”

“Honey, it’s not like I’m going to be gone forever. I’ll send for you as soon as I can.”

“Yeah, but when will that be? Where are you going to stay, what are you going to do, how are you going to live there?”

“I’m taking the tent, and I can sleep in the car if need be. Besides, I’ll find something with a week. I’ll bet you.”

“I…It’s just that I’m scared.”

“I know. So am I.”

My Thoughts

What a tragic situation.  A wife and her children are about to be abandoned.  Maybe they will all reunite.  Maybe they won’t.  With the dialog, the husband can be painted almost any way we chose.  The wife is about to lose it.

My Revisions

She turned and looked at him, as he leaned against the door frame. It was almost as if he were already gone.. “Do you really think this is a smart move?” she said. “I mean, you don’t know anyone in California.”

“I’m pretty sure,” he said. He shrugged, not meeting her gaze. “After all, it’s not as if I have a choice. You’ve got to go where the jobs are.”

“What about the kids?”

He tried to meet her gaze. “Honey, it’s not like I’m going to be gone forever. I’ll send for you as soon as I can.”

“Yeah, but when will that be?” She hugged herself. “Where are you going to stay, what are you going to do, how are you going to live there?”

“I’m taking the tent, and I can sleep in the car if need be. Besides, I’ll find something with a week.” He pulled her into his arms, hugging her. His voice was soft. “I’ll bet you.”

She buried her face in his shoulder, trying not to cry. “I…It’s just that I’m scared.” She lost the battle as the tears started to flow.

“I know. So am I.” He pulled her against him, holding her as she sobbed. He fought the catch in his own throat.

.


When I write a first draft, I haphazardly sprinkle beats into the dialog.  The key is, how much?  And where?  The ear can really give us a hint.  When I read it out loud, I can especially tell when to leave the dialog alone.

 

 Read Part Nine

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