Friday, September 28, 2012

Hot Chips and Sand 1-5 First Draft Comparison

Hot Chips and Sand
Copyright © 2012 Mary Hughes 
All rights reserved 

Chapter 1

Vickie’s heart pounded as she racedpanted[MH1]  up the narrow stairs of the decrepit [MH2] Middle -Eastern boarding house. Hot dry air seared her lungs[MH3] . “I am not panicking,” she told herself firmly. The slam of a door behind her made her heart skip. She jumped, then started taking the stairs two at a time. Cracked plaster walls flew by.[MH4] 
“Not panicking,” she repeated. “. So what if those gruesome guys are chasing me? It’s no worse than Mel [MH5] Pinlow back at the office [MH6] hounding me for his TPS reports.” She reachedpaused on the second floor and paused, holding her cramped side and puffing air.  To tame her rising terror, Vickie pictured the gun-toting Arabs with Mel Pinlow’s mealy face. It worked: for a moment theThe incongruous picture of Mel, Pinlow’s mealy face topped with a keffiyeh, his spindly arms toting a gun Rambo-style and demanding his reports Rambo-style, distracted her from her terrorfor a moment.
Feet hit the stairs below. Vickie startled into motion.  She had to hide, but quick.  Gaining, all her muscles jerking tight. She shook it off as best she could and leaped up the next flight of stairs.
Only to find out they ended on the third floor landing, she. “Fry my motherboard. [MH7] I have to hide, but quick.” She threw open a the stairwell door.
A dank corridor stretched before her, low watt bulbs making the ratty red carpet look like a sluggish stream of blood. The hall was lined with narrow wooden doors. None of them shouted “Hide here”. Vickie paused, not sure what to do. [MH8] glanced between the corridor and the stairs, her mind clicking through and discarded possibilities fast as a dual core processor. Her escape from the Arab thugs had been luck; she was making things up as she went along.
This might be the firstFirst time in her life that reality was more exciting than a computer gamesgame.
ButOf course in a computer game she could pause computer gameshave paused to think, and . Not to mention  the major advantage that, if she were killed in one of them, she could restart.  In realityThe footsteps on the stairs pounded closer and her throat tightened. Why didn’t life have a restart button? Or at the very least a save game? With a deep breath for courage, she only had one chance.  She had to hide.  Pulling herself flat against scurried into the hallway. Running to the first door to her left, Vickieshe cranked on the yellowed glass knob.
The door was locked.

Vickie swore. “Smack me with a Dell.” Rattling the knob did no good, nor did kicking the door, which, since her feet were bare, had the effect of bringing reality into stinging focus.  Voiceshurt. She hopped around trying to bring the pain under control[MH9] , until she heard voices yelling in the stairwell confirmed: no. No time to think. for pain. Act.
VickieShe[MH10]  lunged across the narrow hallway, grabbed another door knob, turned and pushed. It gave. She half‑ran, half‑fell into the room and dragged the door closed behind her, her chest heaving with relief.
Hiding place. Vickie turned into the room—and froze.
She had not considered that the rooms might be occupied; this. This one certainly was.  TheThough the lighting was no better than the hall, butit [MH11] was enough to see that he was big, he was half‑naked, and he was staring at her with eyes of pure cobalt fire[MH12] .
Vickie felt like [MH13] afroze, the deer caught in a headlight.  This was one too many. in the headlights. How could this be happening to her? Except for her red‑gold hair, she considered herself average, for heaven’s sake. Dull and boring.  A, a mundane computer geek—well, geekette. . She tossed a quick glance at the door behind her, then again at the man in front, who had as yet done nothing but stare. Maybe she could still escape. Maybe she could…
AMen jabbered in the hallway. Shoes scuffled up to the door and the loud rattle fromof the door behind herdoorknob snapped Vickie’s head around. Vickie straight. Hope died as quickly as it had come. With her kidnappers behind her, this, this truck in front of her, wearing this useless bit of lace they had forced her into, she had no plansideas and no time left.
Then he moved.
The speed of his thought and action numbed her. Somehow he had deciphered what was going on, for in the instant before the door opened she was on the bed under him,  his body obscuringcovering [MH14] hers. With one hand he twisted her tell‑taletelltale strawberry hair into a knot hidden behind her neck, and when the door opened, he pressed his mouth against hers.
Vickie had never been one for mystical experiences. Programmers tendtended to be practical. But this man, in the brief seconds of his kiss, burned himself into her soul.
He lifted his head. “What the hell! Can’t a man have any privacy?” Since the man was still hiding her with his mass, Vickie felt his voice more than heard it.  What a voice.  Almost, as if someone had put the bass speakers from her nineteen‑year‑old brother’s boom box [MH15] on her chest.
Then Vickie heard shuffling. The footsteps shuffled a bit, apologetically[MH16] . In English, one of her captors said, “There is a criminal fugitive on the loose. We are seeking her.”
The man answered, impatience in his voice.  “Well, your criminal certainly isn’t here. Now get out, before I throw you out!”
There was a stream of Arabic. When the first voice answered, it was again in English. “Yes, of course. So sorry to have disturbed you.”  Vickie heard the shuffling of , sir.” Shuffling feet leavingleft the room.
As soon as the door closed, the man leaped off the bed and locked the door. Vickie felt a chill draft in his absence.  One glanceHe glanced at her and the man took something from , slash eyebrows drawn together in an assessing gaze. Then he was a whirlwind of action again, striding to a tilted chest of drawers, sliding a drawer open and pulling something out. “You’ll need something a bit more, ah, practical,” he said, holding out, to wear.”  He [MH17] held a huge black T‑shirt.
Vickie managed to sit up, but then started trembling uncontrollably. I can’t lose it yet, she thought furiously, but she was losing it, shivering, her eyes watering.
It had to be the man.  He moved nearer, his gaze piercing into her.  Hot, like herHer kidnappers had looked at her when they had forced her into this state of undress[MH19] .  They only thing that had saved her then was thathadn’t touched her because their boss Fahrrad wanted her in pristine condition.  But this man…she cringed from the expected pawingThis man didn’t have those constraints.
Instead,But he only sat down on the bed next to her, bringing their eyes more or less level.  He paused,His gaze had softened his gaze, thento warm azure. He crossed his leg toward her and casually cocked his head. “Black not your color?”
Vickie stared.  A joke?  Then she shook her head, disbelieving.  This was ridiculous. A joke? She snorted. If she hadn’t suffered through two days of forced plane rides and muzzle‑prompted hotel accommodations, culminating with her escape on the eve of her packaging and presentation to the dictator of this Middle East hell‑hole she was inhellhole, she would have thought she was in a computer game. “No, black goes very nicely with the mood. Then‑que.”, or dreaming.
“No,” Vickie retorted, “black goes very nicely with the mood.  Then‑que.”She plucked the shirt from his hand, trying to avoid touching his smooth bronzed skin, trying not to encourage whatever it. Her body was she had felt at already tight and tingly from his kiss. She certainly didn’t need any more of that feeling.
The big man went back to the chest of drawersstood as she tuggedslipped on the T‑shirt.  It The bed sprang up a good six inches. She stood too. The T-shirt fell, ungainly, halfway to her knees.
“That hair,” he mused. .” He considered her, tapping one long finger against the dent in his chin.[MH20]  He pulled another T‑shirt from the drawer. “Last one,” he noted, hefting.” He hefted it in his hand.  before throwing it to her. “Wrap it around your head.”
She caught it mid‑air.  midair and used it to turban her hair. “What are you going to wear?”
she asked pointedly, [MH21] turbaning her hair.  He didn’t answer her, but gatheredgathering a rope around his flat waist. As he tucked in the ends, she saw a flash at the waistband of his black silk pants. He turned briskly toward her. “Come on, they won’t stay fooled forever.” He picked her up with one arm and with the other swung them both out the window, into the night.

Vickie dangled from the man’s arm like a baby.  PastBelow her feet—far below—feeble lights illuminated a narrow cobbled courtyard far below.  Eyes widening, . Her eyes widened and she jerked her head quickly up.  Only one more up instead. That direction held better news. Gray against the indigo sky of the moonlit night was the roof’s ledge, only one story to the roof.  Keeping her eyes up, she feltup. She toed for the window ledge with her feet, but couldn’t quite reach it. “Could you lower me a…”  little…” She trailed off, perplexed, as she felt his muscles bunch.
Realization dawned too late and she lookedscanned frantically for a nearby platform or fire escape or stair landing or anything less than ten feet away.
Then they were insailing through the air, with a suddenness that made her clutch for a handful of brawn. They landed, with a jarring clang, on the fire escape across the courtyard.
She slipped down[MH22]  in his grasp, and began whispering fervent prayers that he would find a shirt, or grow chest hair, anything she could to hang onto, or at least put her down on something solid.
 Instead, he growled at her,[MH23]  “Stop squirming,” and.” He hoisted her up over his shoulder. Her teeth rattled together, biting off the choice names which raced to the tip of her tongue. She drew breath for the onslaughtto scream her frustration, only to have itthe air knocked from her as he jumped up the stairs.
Vickie tried to raiseraised her head, but her awkward position preventedturning it.  Then she saw her into more of a twist. Her captors inwere tumbling out into the spacecourtyard below. “It’s them,” she hissed.  HeThe man didn’t seem to hear her. , still springing up stairs. “Those menguys who captured me,” she said a little louder.  “They’re down there.” “Four of them, in the courtyard.” He still didn’t answer. The men were milling around, obviously still searching for her. “Look, you steroid Santa, we’re going to be seen!” She kicked at him a bit for emphasis.

 [MH1]Raced is a good strong verb. I think panted is better because it gets across that she's racing PLUS it shows her physical state.
 [MH2]Decrepit is a very cerebral descriptive to me. I think narrow punches old and un-modern.
 [MH3]Again, making it more show than tell. Also, matters more to POV character.
 [MH4]Personally, SLAM! Heart skip, then she jumps then finally starts running again seems a little stuttery. SLAM! skip run seems better. Cracked plaster walls is me sneaking in the second half of the description \of the deleted word decrepit.
 [MH5]So we know it's a person.
 [MH6]Unnecessary here. We'll get this later.
 [MH7]Swearing creates emphasis and heightened emotion. I consider it literary pepper. But repeated swearing is boring to me. So I spice it up a bit and get a little characterization in at the same time :)
 [MH8]My first drafts are full of places where I skip logical steps. Here, I go right from a hallway of doors to Vickie's uncertainty. Her conflict--which door does she choose--is totally skipped. Don't get me wrong--implied conflict can be awesome. But you have to make sure the reader is barreling toward the conflict so that it gapes in front of them at the last second and they have to jump the connection or fall. Sort of stirring a couple things together and expecting the reader to hunt for the conflict is muddled writing.
 [MH9]Wordy and distant versus short, to the point, and in her skin.
 [MH10]Here's a choice between hammering the character's name into the reader's head versus the reader being in the character's head. The deeper you want the reader to identify with the POV character, the more you should use the pronouns he/she rather than the names.
 [MH11]I'm in a "but this" "but that" rut. I'm working to use alternatives.
 [MH12]Half naked is good, but this makes the attraction hit harder.
 [MH13]Felt, saw, etc are FILTER words--used to established point of view. The closer the point of view, the more these filter should be cut.
 [MH14]If you've read Biting Nixie, you'll see here my natural mode of communication is more like Julian's than Nixie's :) I work hard to declutter my writing.
 [MH15]Aaaand here you can see just how old this novel is, lol.
 [MH16]Shuffling may imply apologetic but I like spelling it out. There's a school of thought that you can't attribute a person's attitudes to body parts, but I like clever hands and well-schooled mouths and apologetic feet.
 [MH17]One habit I mostly broke myself of along the way was overuse (and misuse) of split dialog.
 [MH18]Number one, she's not helpless. Number two, even if she were, the hero can't make her feel that way.
 [MH19]Again, the hero can't act like the douchbag kidnapers. Ew.
 [MH20]If you can blend description with characterization and/or action, it's a win.
 [MH21]Here's a good exercise. Go through a manuscript and find all the "she said/asked xxx-edly" passages. Ask youself if the dialog has already shown the xxx-edly. If not, come up with a way to show it.
 [MH22]Up, down, just, etc. are garbage words. When you see them, try the sentence without. See if they are truly necessary.
 [MH23]Oh, gee, I like heroes who growl. I had a zillion growls in Nixie before my editor kindly told me. To me, they were part of his character but to everyone else in the world so many came off as a tic.


  1. Thanks for posting this. It's really interesting seeing how an editor can improve your work. I love mine.

  2. Thanks Pepper! A great editor can open an author's eyes to amazing improvements. I think an editor is like a sculptor who chisels away the superfluous to let the story/art shine through :)

  3. Mary, this was fascinating to read!

  4. Edie, thanks for your kind words!