Anatomy of an edit: Part 4

Capbreton. Photo courtesy of Makunin, @ Pixabay

It’s that time again.

Today’s prompt:

Capbreton. Photo courtesy of Makunin, @ Pixabay

Target Word Count : 200 (give or take 10)

I saw the picture at 02:00 this morning, and couldn’t really think of what do to with it.  The picture is of the seas bunkers that were built in Capbreton, France during WWII, but when I looked at it, it almost looked like a giant crate that had washed away.

This time the first thing that came to me was a title, so I started with that, and did something akin to free writing, hoping to catch enough character to pull a hero and a situation out of my hat.

Where the giant wrecks lie

I always thought of them as giants, a reminder of by-gone days:  the ruins that ruined the countryside: a reminder of things best left forgotten.  It has taken the ocean seventy years to wear away the ruins that were meant to withstand heavy bombardments a testament to the power that ruled over us.

They say that when the sea finally claims the ruins, that we will finally be free, but I don’t think we were ever meant to be free.  They were built as a watch point, and we should learn to be on guard.

It hinted at possibilities, and I liked the phrase ‘the ruins that ruined the country side.  I was still writing about them as bunkers, but even as I tried to build on what I’d written, I found myself wanting to edit it, so I started over.

In the Ruins of Giants  – One of the first things that changed was the title.  I was leaning more towards Ruins than wrecks by now.

I always thought of them as giants, a reminder of by-gone days:  the ruins that ruined the countryside: a reminder of things best left forgotten.  It has taken the ocean seventy years to wear away the ruins that were meant to withstand tide and time: a testament to the power of our overlords.  I cut out the part about them withstanding bombardments, realizing that that would only add to my word count, and I know how quickly 200 words can add up.

They say that when the sea finally claims the ruins, then we will finally be free, but I don’t think we were ever meant to be free.  The watch point of the enemy should always remind us to be on guard, lest they return and catch us unaware. Here I expanded on the feel of the fort.

It was there, in the ruins that I found the  Here I almost had the narrator find something that would help them defeat the enemy, or defeat them if they ever came back, but I also stopped since almost anything I had them find would take more than 200 words to explain, but  now, after floundering through two starts, I had an idea of what was to come.

So I started again, taking what was there and building on it.

In the Ruins of Giants

I always thought of them as giants, a reminder of by-gone days:  the ruins that ruined the countryside.  What they truly were was a reminder of things best not forgotten. Here I decided to change one word, and the whole thing, from best forgotten to best not forgotten.  ie things that should be remembered It has taken the earth generations to wear away the fortresses that were meant to withstand any enemy and serve as a testament to the power of our overlords.  And I changed it from the 70 odd years since the war to generations, making it more nebulous, this allowed me to let things become less fixed in time.

They say that when the sea finally claims the ruins, then we will truly be free, but I don’t think we were ever meant to be free.  We were meant to remember, to remember every horror heaped upon us and to fight in the name of that memory.  We are bound, not by the overlords’ might, but by the memory of those lost to the enemy’s rule.  This time I focused more on why the narrorator wanted to never forget the overlords and build on why they had to be fought (but again, with 200 words, I had to make it part of something that moved the story along which led to the next draft.)

So much was lost in those dark times.  Many of us served the overlords, in the hopes of being spared, but none were.  Kindness for others was never a part of their master plan.  No, kindness and generosity were only given to those who shared the same genetic stock, and no matter how hard we tried to look and act like them, they always held to the belief that we should be bound by their law. And I think it was at this point that I realized what I wanted the narrator to be… I just had to figure out how to explain it in the words left and build it back from there.  I also liked the fact that the narrator thought/spoke in a very exact English that wasn’t quite… right.  So, most likely not a native speaker.

It took me about 3 more tries to finally get it on target and finish the story.

In the Ruins of Giants

I always thought of the giant ruins that littered the countryside as a warning of days gone by: a reminder of things best not forgotten.  It has taken hundreds of years for the earth to lay waste to the fortresses of our overlords.  They had been built to withstand any attack but time and nature have done what we could not. So, I dropped the ‘ruins that ruined the countryside because it no longer fit exactly.  There were too many attachments to that first sentence.    I also made it hundreds of years instead of generations or the original 70, I was still tweaking it at this point.  I changed it from withstanding any enemy to any attack   

We have lost so much since they first came bringing their rule to us.  At first we fought, but in the end many of us served them, in the hopes of being spared, but none were.  Kindness for others was never a part of their master plan.  No, kindness and generosity were only given to those who shared the same genetic stock, and no matter how hard we tried to look and act like them, we would always be something to be loathed and feared.  I completely dropped the bit about the sea claiming the ruins because I’d found the path through the story.  The situation (contemplating the past and the ruins and using those to strengthen the narrator’s resolve).  I also dropped the bit about them believing that the narrator and their people were bound by the enemy’s law, opting rather for the fact that … since they surrendered, they were bound by it.

Their laws that made a sport of killing us, their laws that gave them the right to do with us as they pleased: we cannot let it happen again.  Going back to a growing sense of determination, and adding the ending to the story.  

Today they returned, thinking we were still their slaves, but I have crushed them in my talons, and I have learned to breathe fire.  The dragons have awakened, to rest no more.

So, it took me 5 drafts to get to this point, and while the story was now within the word count (207) it wasn’t smooth and it didn’t tell the story quite the way I wanted to tell it.

So, I went back and worked on bringing out the major points and telling a cohesive story.  I don’t usually tell stories in first person, but since I had no clue where the story was going at first, I put myself in the position of the narrator, and by the time I’d gotten to this point, it was a first person story.

In the Ruins of Giants

I always thought of the giant ruins that littered the countryside as a warning: a reminder of things best not forgotten. Here I cut out the ‘days gone by’ section since it was pretty much redundant.  It has taken hundreds of years for the earth to reclaim the fortresses of our overlords.  I changed ‘lay waste’ to reclaim it sounded better, and again: fewer words.They withstood everything we could throw at them, but time and nature have done what we could not. So… I added words here because any attack is generic and while ‘everything we could throw at them’ is also generic in form, it’s the narrator’s people trying to destroy the fortresses.

In the end we did not defeat the enemy, we outlasted them.   They left, but we have always known they would return. This little gem lets us know how the enemy was defeated, or more the point: wasn’t and adds the danger of their return.

When they first came, we tried to fight but there were too many of them.  Thousands fled, others stayed and tried to live among them.  Many of us died.  For the kindness and mercy they boasted of were only for  those who shared the same genetic stock, and no matter how hard we tried to look and act like them, we would always be something to be loathed and feared. I played around with the way they ruled, and the way the narrator’s people were subjugated, still trying to hone in on the actual solution.

We lived by their laws, but their laws gave them the right to do with us as they pleased and they made a sport of killing us.  We cannot let it happen again.

Today I saw their ships on the horizon, and I have called my brethren home.  When they try to reclaim what is ours, we shall crush them in our talons, for we have re-awakened, and I have learned to breathe fire  I liked ending this on the line ‘… and I have learned to breathe fire.’   It’s stronger, although it leaves what the narrator’s people are up to the reader.  The talons and breathing fire could be a metaphor, but sometimes a talon… is a talon, and breathing fire is just that.

At this point, the story was much better but it was also about 11-14 words over the limit, and remained so through the next ten revisions until I finally finished the final draft.

In the Ruins of Giants

I always thought of the piles of stone and metal that littered the countryside as a warning: a reminder of things best not forgotten.   I replaced ruins with stone and metal, because the ruins were already in the title, and piles stones and metal gave a better picture than just random ruins. The fortresses of our overlords withstood everything we could throw at them, but time and nature have done what we could not I took out the length of time it had taken thereby allowing the story a more timeless feel.

In the end we did not defeat the enemy, we outlasted them.   They left, but we have always known they would return. This section actually remained unchanged through out the next 10 edits, although at one point I did toy with the idea of the narrator being the lone watchman.

When they first came, we tried to fight but there were too many of them.  Thousands fled, others stayed accepting their rule.  Many of us died.  The kindness and mercy they promised was a lie, for it was only given to their people, and no matter how hard we tried to look and act like them, we would always be something less in their eyes.  I distilled this paragraph down into some of the key elements in the history.  Making it clear that those who did not flee accepted the invader’s rule.  I also took out the bit about same genetic stock and just made it ‘their people’  This left the story open to interpretation.  It could mean that the narrator is French, or Jewish, or as I’d decided in my mind a dragon (turning the tales of dragons hunting helpless humans on their ear)

We lived by their laws, but their laws gave them the right to do with us as they pleased and they made a sport of killing us. At this point I’d already mentioned remembering so leaving that it meant repetition and extra words in my word count.

Today I saw their ships on the horizon, and I have called my brethren home.  When they try to reclaim what is ours, we shall crush them in our talons, for we have re-awakened, and I have learned to breathe fire.  And I kept the ending here because I really, really liked that last bit.

And there you have it.  The anatomy of an edit: 16 drafts/edits and revisions.

And the final version (without comments) came in at 201 words.

In the Ruins of Giants

I always thought of the piles of stone and metal that littered the countryside as a warning: a reminder of things best not forgotten.  The fortresses of our overlords withstood everything we could throw at them, but time and nature have done what we could not

In the end we did not defeat the enemy, we outlasted them.   They left, but we have always known they would return.

When they first came, we tried to fight but there were too many of them.  Thousands fled, others stayed accepting their rule.  Many of us died.  The kindness and mercy they promised was a lie, for it was only given to their people, and no matter how hard we tried to look and act like them, we would always be something less in their eyes.

We lived by their laws, but their laws gave them the right to do with us as they pleased and they made a sport of killing us.

Today I saw their ships on the horizon, and I have called my brethren home.  When they try to reclaim what is ours, we shall crush them in our talons, for we have re-awakened, and I have learned to breathe fire.

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About mtdecker

Just your average writer- which is to say, I have a full-time job developing and testing software.
This entry was posted in Commentary, Editing, writing and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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