Friday, August 22, 2008

The Do-Over

Ever have one of those moments where you think back to an encounter and wish you’d said something even remotely clever? Or done something differently, maybe behaved like a hero instead of standing like a puppy caught in the headlights of an oncoming semi while someone else saved a little old lady?

I long ago resigned myself to the fact that I am not superhero material. Words—especially clever comebacks—do not spring easily to my lips in stressful situations. I am one of the faces in the crowd when the photographer shows up to document the hero’s latest save.

But for the main characters in my books, life is a different story. For them, I can use the do-over.

Good thing, because my first drafts generally cause me to cringe in shame. An example might go something like this: The heroine—let’s call her Bethie—has an ex brother-in-law who is an attorney. This brother-in-law, Jack, is harassing Bethie’s sister. Bethie and Jack encounter each other in the hallway of the local courthouse where Bethie accidentally bumps into Jack and causes him to drop his briefcase.

“Get out of my way,” Jack says, eyeing her with disdain.

“I’m so sorry.” Bethie lowers her gaze. She picks up his briefcase and dusts it off before handing it back to him. Why is she always so clumsy?

“I hope you don’t think you can get away with following me.” Jack leans in so far she can smell his minty breath. “I’ll take out a restraining order before you can blink, you little twit.”

Bethie tries not to cry. She bites her lip and finally stammers, “I wasn’t following you. I just…I’m a citizen. I can come to the courthouse any time I want.” Darn. He wasn’t supposed to catch her.

Next day, I read this little gem and I have to apply an ice pack to my burning face. What was I thinking? Wait, no problem. I have the do-over.

The first revision:

“Get out of my way,” Bubba Ray growls.

He looks as if he’d like nothing better than to shove her down the nearest flight of stairs. Kate wishes he’d try. He bends, reaching for his briefcase, and she beats him to it, snatching it out of his grasp. She whips a tissue out of her purse, spits on it, and smears it across the expensive leather.

“There you go, good as new. Now you can get back to prancing around the courthouse like you think you’re somebody important.”

Bubba Ray’s beady eyes get smaller. “Bet you think you’re cute, don’t you? Well, I have two words for you if you don’t stop following me—restraining order.”

Kate snorts. She leans in so close she’s sure Bubba Ray can smell her breath. She hopes he likes the garlic and onions she had with her lunch as much as she does. “Following you? I suppose little green men landed in your yard last night, too. Guess what, dirtbag, I have two words for you. Good psychiatrist.”

Okay, it still needs work. But I can rewrite it as many times as I want. After all, I would not want Bethie—I mean, Kate—to wake up tomorrow morning saying, “Darn. I wish I'd handled that whole scene differently.”

L.C. Evans

No comments: