If you are new to this website, I have been writing a series of blog posts about the writing process. During one of those posts, I gave an example of a pre-draft using one of my earlier drafts of a short story called “The White Rider,” which will soon be featured in an urban fantasy anthology by Kerlak Publishing.
As a final wrap up to my “Writing Process Series,” I’m posting the final draft of the prologue, so you can see the changes I made after the pre-draft. Click here to read the original pre-draft to see how drastic the changes are. I will also be adding a few footnotes every now and then to explain why I made certain changes and what part of the process helped me.
Elysian Chronicles fans, take note: “The White Rider” is actually part of the Elysian Chronicles world, and it takes place between Out of the Shadows and Book III. In this short story, I give just a few clues about where the series is heading, and trust me, it’s nothing you are expecting.
I shoved a piece of bread speckled with mold into my mouth. I convulsed as I chewed and forced myself to swallow. I had not eaten in a week, and moldy bread was better than no bread. You’ve swallowed worse, I reminded myself (1). I shook the crumbs off my matted beard (2). Don’t start getting prissy again.
I crouched behind the dumpster near a restaurant door’s inviting glow. The patrons’ voices and the soft clinking of silverware (3) comforted me. Part of me cautioned myself to keep my distance, but I yearned for human interaction that I had not enjoyed in months.
You’re safe, another part of me said. No one will venture near this dumpster, and if they do, they’ll run away from your stench. I had not bathed in weeks, and my tattered clothes—once a dress-shirt and pants—reeked of perspiration and filth.(4)
I flexed my fingers, trying to keep circulation flowing. Though it was only late afternoon, the December air hovered near freezing (5). I leaned against the dumpster and listened, wishing I spoke Romanian (6).
Glass shattered at the end of the alley (7). I crouched behind a few stacked boxes and peeked out. My heart started to pound.
I inhaled for five seconds, counting each beat—the quickest way I knew to calm my fear.
They lost your trail in Italy, I reminded myself.
I exhaled for five seconds, again counting each beat.
Another part of me chimed in. They might have picked your trail up again.
Inhale. One, two, three, four, five (8). I focused on the alley, searching the trash, scraps of metal, and shadows for movement. My fingers combed the ground for a potential weapon (9). I found a metal pipe and pulled it to my chest(10) in silence. Only my breath turning to fog (11) betrayed (12) my existence behind the dumpster.
A shadow leapt across the walls twenty feet away.
My body tingled with adrenaline (13). I laced (14) my fingers around the pipe and crouched, ready to spring once whatever it was showed itself.
A tomcat emerged from the darkness and hobbled toward me. I released the pipe. My heart rate slowed as the old thing wound around my leg.
I offered it the last of my bread. After a few sniffs, the cat took the morsel and sat next to me as it ate. I ran my hand down its fur, ignoring the fleas and dirt (15). It curled up next to me and purred. I had to admit it was nice to have a temporary companion—especially a warm one.
I twirled my Princeton class ring around my finger, and again contemplated pawning it. I had already sold my prized gold cuff links. Keep the ring, I told myself. I needed something to remind me of my former life. The ring would also identify my body if I died (16), and my brother would finally know what happened to me. Though I had not seen him for six months, thoughts of Dean still made me grin. (17)
The street lights flickered. Night was approaching. I hid my thoughts of Dean away and grabbed the pipe. I needed all my senses alert to outsmart those who pursued me. Please understand, of all those who have been hunting (18) me, I fear the humans the least. (19)
- I want the reader to realize how dire Peter’s situation is.
- “Matted beard” tells the reader a bit of what Peter looks like, always difficult to do when writing in1st person, and it tells the reader Peter’s state of cleanliness. It’s also a good sensory detail.
- Sensory details: Close your eyes and picture yourself right outside a restaurant. What do you hear? Voices and silverware, so I added it in.
- Sensory details
- Sensory details
- Romanian is a specific language, and it indicates the country he is in.
- I changed “something crashed” to “glass shattered.” Glass shattered is more specific, and it creates a real sound in the reader’s head.
- I added the inhale, exhale parts for two reasons: 1) It shows Peter fears something and the extent to which he fears it, and 2) readers will get bored without a conversation or a break in long paragraphs. Because I open with Peter being alone, I decided to show his thoughts to break up the narrative.
- I wanted the reader to feel the ground and the dirt and grime without taking too much time. “Fingers combed the ground” seemed like a good way to indicate sensory details and also urgency.
- I don’t remember my original wording, but “pulled it to my chest” was suggested by an advance reader.
- Sensory detail, breath turning to fog is a visual image the reader can use.
- I used “betrayed” because the word has a negative connotation, and its shows forces acting against my character.
- Sensory details.
- “Laced” creates a better picture than “wrapped,” and I can thank my advance readers for this one.
- Sensory details added.
- I added this to show that Peter’s death could happen at any time. He is resigned to it, and it is almost academic for him. This should make the reader wonder about him.
- I added in Dean here, since he is a key character in the story.
- Note the use of “pursue” and “hunt”. You will see on my original draft that I used “hunt” twice. I needed to change it, and a thesaurus helped.
- This is my hook. I want to jolt the reader a bit here. I’m hoping for this series of emotional reaction to the story: “Oh, this poor person hiding in the street. -> Why is he there? -> Who is he afraid of? It must be really bad for him to be hiding out for this long. -> Wait. He went to Princeton? How did he end up here? -> What on earth is chasing him?” I hope it works.
I hope this series has helped a few of you with your writing. I will be continuing with writing posts after Labor Day, as soon as I return from DragonCon.
Fantasy novelist M. B. Weston is the author of The Elysian Chronicles, a fantasy series about guardian angel warfare and treason. Weston speaks to children, teens, and adults about writing and the process of getting published. For more information on M. B. Weston, visit www.mbweston.com. Find out more about The Elysian Chronicles at www.elysianchronicles.com.