Let's Talk About Drafts, Bay-bee
Do I need to go back to therapy? What the heck is this? While "plotting" (see: scribbling on a notecard "something happens and honestly it's not great for anyone involved") there were several times I considered I was taking this a little too far. But I pressed on.
It was a bit tough to get a first draft in this week as I am working on my novel right now as well. Even worse was trying to untangle voice from voice and world from world. I'm very much IN my novel right now. Maybe that's why this got so dark--revision is A PLACE with few windows and lots of coffee. It does something to a person. At the very least, it does something to this person.
Anyway, more to the point, I'm usually a Title Queen. I generally have a title before I start a story, my novel has had three and I've loved them all equally. I have NO clue what I'm going to call this story so I just went right for the obvious: it takes place in a tower. They don't pay me the big bucks for nothing -- I am the receiver of very small bucks.
So, without further ado, I present my first draft of the as of yet properly named "Towering".
The hearth lit with rollicking flame of its own volition. Save for the muted roar, Thea barely noticed it anymore. Each evening, as the sun kissed the snow capped mountains across the channel, her tower came to life with invisible servants making it a comfortable place to be held captive.
Her entire memory was of this place, it’s stone walls and rich furniture never changing, and her face in the mirror never appearing to age. She spent her time following paths of imagination through the pages of books and looking down on the village. The people below became her favorite characters. She watched through the glass as they fell in love, had children, and most enviable of all—they lived.
Tonight her neighbors busied themselves preparing for the full moon. The men boarded the windows, while the women and children set lanterns afloat along the shore to warn away passing vessels. An older boy with strong shoulders and a wicked grin danced along the bank, kicking up tiny waves and splashing girls who giggled in spite of themselves.
Soon, the ripened moon traded places with the sun and the village fell quiet. On the edge of the surrounding wood a thick fog crawled ever closer, as familiar and unexplainable as her tower. Thea shut the curtains as the screaming began, crossing to her bed where she pulled the covers over her head until the sound stopped in the late hours of darkness. The monsters never came for her high up in the tower, but nightmares don’t have to touch you to keep you up at night.
The morning was worse, after hours of silence a new sound settled over the village like a pit in Thea’s stomach—wailing. Villagers mourned their loved ones lost during the cursed night. Thea used to cry with them, feeling the loss as if it were her own. But after years of suffering it only thwarted her appetite.
The curtains had opened themselves, inviting her to rise from slumber as if she’d gotten any sleep. Though fear gripped her, she took up her perch, surveying the waking village. She focused on one house in particular, it’s thatch roof glittering in the sunlight. The door opened but she could not see inside. The black void seemed to grow darker as time stretched on.
“Please be ok,” she whispered into her fist.
A figure stumbled from the house, nearly hitting his knees before catching himself. Thea’s heart stuttered. He’d made it through the night.
The first time Thea saw Orion from her window perch, she named him after the hero from her favorite novel. He was strapping and handsome, with hair the color of sand. While she couldn’t see from up so high, she imagined his eyes were green as fresh grass and always alight with mischief. But even from her tower she could see today was different.
Orion wiped at his face with his sleeve, nose red and glaring. He staggered toward the wood, breaching the line of trees where he crumpled to the ground and clutched his chest. His grief seized Thea’s throat.
Back at his house, the village men carried out a wooden plank covered with a white sheet. Thea was too preoccupied to see where they took the body, instead watching the boy in the wood, taking out his pain with his fist on the dirt. She cried for him until the well in her chest was empty and the sun tumbled over the moon once again, the night quiet and uneventful.
Though the village moved forward as usual—tending gardens, fishing, letting go—Orion was not the same. After a week of missing him in the morning, Thea woke before the sun to see him stalking into the wood. He returned just before dark each time, his hair coated in mud and face stained. When he wasn’t hidden by the canopy of trees, he was inside his house. In the moments between, he never smiled or even looked up. The afternoon of the next full moon he did not board his windows.
When the sun set, Thea tugged at her curtains but something moved on the path below, catching her eye before they were shut. The moonlight cut his shadow out in the dark. Her heart crawled into her throat like a spider, followed by a chill up her spine. The fog drew closer and Orion meant to meet it.
As the fog creeped over the quiet village, he dipped a torch in fuel and lit it, a beacon in the night. The dense mist shied away from the flame, like a hand afraid of the heat. He swung the torch in wide arcs keeping it at bay, but it surrounded him. He would tire eventually. Or the flame would go out.
Thea slammed her fists against the glass, screaming the name that didn’t truly belong to him. The name of a beloved hero. But she didn’t want to see his heroism tonight.
She climbed onto the ledge, standing at her full height, hitting harder as if it made any difference. Her face was slick with tears and her hands throbbed from the onslaught.
Until the glass shattered.
From his place on the path, surrounded by fog, it sounded like the tinkling of bells to Jaime. It was a distraction, he thought. If he turned around the fog would swallow him whole. But instead, it began to retreat, slinking back through the trees.
In the morning, the sun rose over the tower, reflecting off the glossy stone roof. The broken window sat empty, no one looking on as Jaime was praised as the savior of the small, tormented village on the edge of the wood.
The fog never returned.
The Break Down (no, like, literally)
FIRST OF FREAKING ALL there was not supposed to be any sort of romance in this. BUT I have a brand and I am a garbage can. Also BUT: garbage cans are public servants doing a thankless job day in and day out. They deserve a little respect. Thank you for coming to my TED talk.
As of right now, the story doesn't feel quite solid under my feet--in fact I'm not even sure I have feet at this point--mostly because the ending changed drastically for logic's sake. I hate when I have to actually think through things. Obviously everything I say is always factual and possible and REAL. How dare anyone, including myself, question that.
I'm sure others have some BEAUTIFUL posts about their drafting process, but mine really isn't all that interesting. Mostly I just wrote a heading on a piece of notebook paper and then decided to use my computer instead because apparently I'm wasteful and hate the environment. This is also how I draft my books but with more screaming into jars and bathroom breaks...not in jars.
I'M A WRITER DAMN IT.
Anyway, I've already procrastinated too long and I need to get back to edits on TDK. Still haven't learned to type "lantern" instead of "latern" on the first try so this should be fun.
See you next week!
Natalie Lockett is a real estate agent, videographer, and unacclaimed one-on-one comedian you didn't invite to the party but she showed up anyway.
She's been featured in Bob Eckstein's LitHub piece about the Writer's Digest Conference and her personal essay Rural in the City can be found in Across the Margin.
Natalie is also the producer and host of the podcast Write Away with Natalie Lockett, on which she interviews writers and publishing professionals. When not writing, she can be found annoying her critique partners and trying to convince herself to switch to decaf.
Talents include being caught on film laughing in really unflattering ways.