This time, I am going to break the scene in two, and go through the first half. We will stop at the part where she slams the knife through her hand. Next installment will cover everything afterwards. For review, here are the other installments in the “How I Edit” series:
And off we go:I will post the text for this pass as it is after the last markup. I will put comments in-line as I go. Please note that I can get pretty snarky about my own writing. I promise not to be this mean to any of my crit partners. :^)
Mirian stood in front of the altar in the temple’s worship hall, excitement causing her to bounce up and down slightly on the balls of her feet. How old is she, six? Good grief, act your age! Prophet Neijen stood on the opposite side holding a small knife out towards her, handle first. Behind her, Mirian listened I have been trying to make a point to eliminate the words listened, saw, heard, etc. Seems obvious that if I am in her POV and describing a sound, then she heard it. to the rustling of the crowd shifting impatiently in their seats.
The others had already cut their fingers and dripped a few droplets of blood into the bowl on the altar. With that small of a sacrifice, it was no wonder they weren’t better healers. I like these two sentences. Quite a bit, actually. I think it properly portrays Mirian’s general snobbiness about her piety versus that of the others. I want to use these two lines as my opening, in fact. The first sentence can be adjusted to be more opening-ish. But I want that direct thought right up front.
Mirian accepted the knife. The bone handle balanced the thin metal blade extending three inches from the end. The blade was more of a flattened needle than a knife, thin and narrow, having been designed to perform this one task only. Oh, if only you knew how many, many, many sentences of description of that knife have fallen to the delete key. I described that knife in exquisite detail in my very first draft. You could have made one yourself from what I had written. It had gems and bindings and what not. All of it had to go, and ruthlessly, too. The knife is *NOT* the focus of this story. Mirian held the blade in the flame of the Candle of Purity on the altar for a moment, letting it lick around the metal blade, heating it quickly. Pulling it back from the flame, she rested the tip against the palm of her right hand. Closing her eyes and tilting her head back slightly, she felt her exhilaration building. Ailiah’s power surged inside her, anticipating her next move. OK, we are starting to ramp up the tension here. We want to, because she’s about to stab herself! Mirian opened her eyes, gazing at the statue of Ailiah beside the altar. The thick smell of the incense created a buzzing in her head that drowned out the sounds of the crowd. Mirian inhaled deeply, then plunged the blade into the palm of her right hand. After that, she took out some nail polish and touched up a spot where it had become chipped. What the heck happened to building the tension? Long sentences make for slow action. This needs to be quickened. Short, staccato sentences will help ramp up the excitement. Sounds crazy, but it works.
So where does that leave us?
The current opening sucks, but we found something usable further down. Recall that I want to establish a father – daughter relationship between Mirian and Neijen. I think I can insert a quick sign of affection when he hands her the knife without being intrusive there. I believe that I have the description of the knife pared down (HA! get it? Knife? Pared? HA!) enough that it is not in the way. The build up to the sacrifice is complete crap and needs to be reworked.
Here then, is what I ended up with (note there is still some work that can be done, but isn’t there always?):
Mirian stepped up to the altar. The blood-spattered bowl in the center held barely a few fresh drops. Disappointing. With that small a sacrifice, it’s no wonder the others aren’t better healers. High Priest Vaktril’s brown eyes brooded at her from across the altar. Beside him, Prophet Neijen, his face solemn, held a small knife out to her. Without changing his expression, he winked.
A smile tugged at the corners of her mouth for an instant before she caught herself. Vaktril’s lips vanished as he pressed them together harder. Behind her the crowd of villagers and temple workers shifted in their seats, creating a constant murmur of creaking wood and muttering voices.
Mirian reached across the altar and accepted the knife. A bone handle balanced the thin metal blade extending three inches from the end. The blade more of a flattened needle than a knife, thin and narrow, designed to perform this one task only. Mirian held the blade in the flame of the Candle of Purity on the altar, letting it lick around the steel. With the knife purified, she rested the tip against the palm of her right hand. She closed her eyes and tilted her head back. Her stomach danced with exhilaration. A surge of energy coursed through her, the goddess blessing her. The pungent smell of incense filled her nose. Her pulse raced. Her grip tightened. A deep breath.
She plunged the knife through her hand.
And there it is. Some of you have already seen and critiqued this. For those that have, your suggestions have not been worked into this version yet, but some of them will still go in before the final.
Thanks for following along, and we will do the second half of the scene next time!