An excerpt that reveals the creative and self-editing processes this week: under the blue pencil. Two earlier versions of a pivotal scene in the final book. Neither made it through... the blue pencil scored through them.
The two excerpts below, are Very Old, and Quite Old. Raw writing, no editing. I did correct the spelling and grammar, but they have not seen the eyes of an editor.
Both concern the moment my erstwhile main protagonist, is offered human blood to finish her transformation to vampire. Both contain a lot of ‘tell’ as opposed to ‘show’. First draft. But you may find the similarities, and the differences, between these earlier versions and the final version, interesting. What happens, how it happens, is roughly the same. Who she is offered, and how she reacts: different. Most writers have scenes that disappear, or change substantially. You might enjoy seeing the process...
It started as a dull ache in her jaw. Once, after she had had a wisdom tooth removed, she had developed a jaw infection. The pain was similar, like a throb that became so deep as to be painful. After a few hours, it spread round her whole mouth, the pain in her front teeth the worse, like the gums were being slashed with a razor. Another few hours and she was feverish, hot, sweaty and her spine ached. By the end of the second day, she was in a confusion of pain and fever. She had not slept. She could not eat. She could not drink. Water, when she sipped it, became like liquid glass in her throat, and she soon retched it up.
The pain in her mouth faded, to be replaced by a dryness, a parched agony that took over all her other senses. All she was became thirst, hunger. She watched television avidly, watching as the phosphor dot images of people, walking, living, breathing people tormented her. She held her face next to the screen, and threw herself away from it in disgust. As the third day dawned, she found herself flinching from the sun as it rose. She knew this aversion was psychological, but as she watched the golden rays warm the garden, her heart shrank, and she ran from the light. Stronger even than the pain, was the need in her for him.
When was he coming? Where was he? What was he doing?
Each noise she heard around her, each rustle and sigh from the old house, from the garden, from the birds and animals around her.
Was it him? Was that the door? Where was he? How could he leave her, to suffer like this?
She knew the answer to that, of course. How many times had he said it. That one day she would hunger, she would need, and only then, only when she was completely consumed, would he transform her.
On the fifth day, when she had fallen on the couch unable to move for the pain her mind was in, when her body had fallen away from her like a skin she had shed, he returned. she thought that it could not get worse, that it had finally become truly evil and no more could be done. But as before, so many times before, she was wrong. He was not alone, he brought with him a young child.
She seemed drugged, or sleeping, and he cradled her in his arms, bringing the offering directly to her. she could only lie there and stare.
‘I knew you would be hungry. You thought I would bring you my blood. But I have a trick for you little one, look what I have brought you.’ He bent his head and kissed the child on the cheek. A small red flower blossomed. Helene stared at the thin trickle. Her insides turned at the smell from the small cut: blood, fresh and young, drove her to sit, to move. she was so hungry. But a child...?
‘You don’t have to kill her, you don’t have to kill...remember?’
His voice, so smooth, so calm, so completely aware of her thoughts. So lucid. What harm could it do? Had she not watched him feed dozens of times, on many who had enjoyed his embrace and who had woken and left with no thought or memory of what had happened. What harm to this child? To take just a little? To end this awful hunger inside her. Just a drop... she faltered, looked up into his eyes, her own face betraying her.
‘Yes, when you have fed of her, I will change you, transform you. The time is now, my changeling, the time is now.’
She sensed the eagerness in his voice. Before, he had always sounded as if he was doing her the favour, by his goodwill he was to bestow a great gift. Now, with the life of the child beating between them, she sensed in him the need for what was about to happen. He needed this, he needed her. The thought blew into her mind like an open furnace.
Not her blood, or her body. Not her temper or her stubbornness. All these things he had claimed to want, and he had slowly swallowed them all. She had long given up fighting him and still he had kept her, petted her, used her. She had thought him mad, to continue the work, the beatings, the kindness, the constant confusion her life had become. But he wasn't mad. She realised she was very close to something, some truth. He had said many times that a master changed him. That it had taken nearly three years to do. Her own transformation had already been over two years. Why? Why spend all that time, all that energy? To have a mate, he said, worthy of him. But why wasn't he still with his own master then? Why wasn’t he with her, this phantom master that lay between them, that he had taunted her with? The clarity of the thought shocked her. She had thought herself at the end of the road. She realised that she was at the beginning. she dragged her eyes from the bloodied cheek, closed her body to the need that was raging within her. She faced him squarely, and the word was out before she knew it:
The silence was short, but seemed eternal. she watched the rage build within him, and part of her was still aware of her body enough to shrink against the thought of what he would do to her. the shriek that finally tore from his mouth became a shriek of laughter. She watched, her mind frozen into some time lapse that she recognised as shock, as he leant forward and dropped the child onto her lap. With one fluid action, he bent to the child and fed. Helene could only watch from what seemed a great distance as she felt the life drain from the child. He fed quickly, and lifted his face to hers.
‘She is not dead, you know, you could have had some.’
The snapping sound reached her as the same time as her knowledge of his intent. The weight of the child lay on her lap, as the neck rolled back. Helene stared at the broken body, part of her aware that a life had passed through her hands. She wanted to scream, cry, push the body away from her: she wouldn’t give him the pleasure. The lack of reaction enraged him. She didn’t feel the blow that drove her into oblivion, but she was grateful it had come.
Which was, as I said, the first version of the first feed... Something about making it a child, made it too obvious. Ignore the tell, not show, detail: that’s how I write. The ‘tell’ version is a notebook to myself. When I come back to it, I have to turn it into ‘show’. Also, putting ‘tell’ into stuff, means I can embed it in earlier sections, when I get to the stitching.
Or that’s the theory!
So a small child, was not the answer. Interestingly, I’ve remembered the above is not version one. It’s version two. Let me see if I can find version one... nope, the computer doesn’t have it. It will probably be in the type written files. How do I know this isn’t version one? Because it only mentions a child. In version one, she is lying on a couch, dying of blood hunger, and he brings her... a little girl, stolen from a wedding. The child was a flower girl, and is wearing a long pink dress with rosebuds woven into her hair. So the above is not versions one! If I ever find it, I’ll update.
So we have a progression, from perfect little pink bud flower girl at a wedding, to ‘a child’. And it didn’t work. It was too obvious, offering innocence to her.
So version three, below. A drunk off the streets. A sodden old man, broken and completely inconsequential. A life already thrown away, so where is the pain in taking it.... ?
Drink for me?
The anger had gone, there was only desperation. Silent, deathly desperation. His pupils dilated as he sought her gaze. The trembling slowed and he continued to plead with her.
Drink for me?
It was a pale whisper, a shade, a ghost of what once had been. The longing in his voice reached her, sunk talons in her flesh and raked through her. Drink for me...
His head turned to one side, his breath ragged, sparse. He was no longer talking to her. Drink for me... The pain in his voice severed the connection, brought her out of his reverie, him out of hers. She felt him recede, wane. Like a great tide called away, he retreated.
She lay on the shore of his need, exposed, shivering. The longing in her reached out, her hand feel on his shoulder, he continued on, away from her embrace.
He was leaving. He was leaving her, leaving her with the need, the dire emptiness inside her.
Panic tore her breath from her. She shrieked, the sound animal, base. ‘Nnoooooo.’
He was leaving, and she would be... alone. The waves of her own pain crashed in. She was a rock, battered and broken on the cliff edge, about to be hurled into the cauldron. She could not bear to see the fall, could not bear more pain, more anger, more emptiness. She reached for him, her hands clutching for something, anything to grab hold of. Something must keep her from this fall, must keep her safe, must keep her secure. Her hands convulsed on his shoulder.
His muscles tensed, he slowed, stopped. Head still bent away from her, breathing ragged, there was a moment, an infinite moment of pause... She could not think past that moment, he must turn to her, turn back to her, she could not be left alone, left with the pain. She held her breath.
His head turned slowly, His eyes were filled with tears, pink with blood. Almost black, his pupils stole the light from her, opened her heart. His entreaty was silent, needy, welcoming. His pain reached out to her, and she leant forward, pulling him into her arms. tears poured from both of them, deep sobbing breaths trying to draw air and life into their separate lungs, her saliva spilling out of her mouth and down his now sodden back. His sweat, her tears, mingled together, the smell of raw need almost overwhelming her sobs.
Her body fell slack under his embrace, there was nothing left to her, no fight, no pain. He had filled the hole, answered her need. he had not left her alone, again. His embrace held her upright, contained her. Her head slumped into his. His breath was warm and harsh against her ear. She shivered at its insistent call.
‘Drink for me.’
The words whispered over her. Her eyes opened, her gaze fixed upon the form on the floor. The roots of her teeth began their terrible ache. Her mouth convulsed, her throat once more dry. That great pain, the knife deep in her throat, reasserted itself. Slashed anew. She could not bear it, could bear it no longer. She would drink, end this pain, fill herself forever. Anything was better than being left alone. Death was beyond her, and she would play at life no more.
He let her drop gently to her hands. His hand stayed on her back, warm, encouraging. She slumped forward, crawling on her knees to her never-ending feast.
The stench of urine, alcohol and stale sweat washed over her: the man had been a long time without a bath. It mattered not. She leaned down, almost blindly snuffling along his neck, seeking the vein. Hard muscle formed along the palate of her mouth, she felt the sharp tear as ridges of cartelidge lifted and rent the flesh of her tongue, the tip hardening, elongating. Her own blood flooded her mouth, spilled out on one side. She paused.
‘Don’t worry about that.’ His voice was warm, gentle, insistent. ‘It will catch you unawares the first few times. Then, you will be able to control it.’ Her eyes sought his, a blind appeal for understanding, for love.
‘It will make sucking harder, this first time.’ He stroked her face, pushed back the sodden hair from her eyes. ‘Any wound will heal quickly. You must suckle fast, keeping mouthing the cut, to keep it flowing.’ The tenderness in his eyes was captivating. A tear slipped from his left eye, and moved slowly down his cheek. She leant forward and licked it up with the swollen hardness that was her own, alien, mouth.
His hands gently laced around her neck, entreating. Almost unaware of the movement, he pushed her down on the back of the neck, down, down towards the blood.
She swallowed, tasting the salt and pain of his tears. The first wave of the man’s blood hit her, rolled over her palate as she drew in a deep breath. The hunger roared within her, and her mouth opened. She pushed his chin away with her own, centring her mouth on his vein. The warmth coiled up through her, she felt her mouth contract in need, she clamped her teeth around the tender flesh. The tip of her tongue felt like a flower, petals opening, and
...that is where that version ended. Of course, there is only one way you’ll find out what was actually offered as her first feed. Or whom. And if she refuses, or goes for it. But I’ll give you a clue... it’s neither a child nor a tramp. Evil, ain’t I...?