10 Paragraphs

A few years ago, I wrote a short story on a lark. It was not good but in my judgment it was not terrible. It was easy to write compared to serious non-fiction of comparable length so I figured I would do it again when I had some spare time. That may still happen sometime, but if it does, it will not have been easy. I have now gone through ten drafts (actually, eleven but one of the files is corrupted and I can’t look at it) and almost all of those drafts were pages and pages of writing.

You would think that if you already know what happens, figuring how to tell it should not be that hard particularly if you are not too concerned about quality. And it is not like I have been going though all these drafts because the events in question have been changing. ON the contrary, in all of the drafts, nothing about the basic facts of the story change. All that changes is how I try to tell those facts.

Even though it is my own writing, I actually found in interesting to go back and review the different ways I tried to accomplish this over the years. On the off chance that others might find it interesting as well, I have put the first paragraph (or the first and second if the first paragraph was really short) of each draft I have access to with some commentary below the jump.

First Fruit —- First Draft

Eliora loved all of the children of the immortals in whatever form they came in but she was getting tired of always being stuck with the odd ones out.

The proximate causes of her uncharacteristically grumpy thoughts were two chunky little boys with silver hair and dark gray skin who were walking ahead of her. Their short stubby legs protruding from their short wide bodies moved them forward in motion that was something between a waddle and a proper stride that they tried to assist by using their digging sticks as walking sticks. As a result of this very inefficient method of locomotion, they were falling further and further behind the rest of the group.

So this is obviously very crappy writing but in my defense I had not intended it to be good writing. I figured I would just write out what happened and then go back and edit it into something readable. The only problem is that after awhile it got so bad I just could not make myself go on. I was bored of my own writing.

First Fruit —-Second Draft

The kara is nearly insane. His golden feathers stand on end. He opens his toothy mouth and snaps it shut repeatedly. He throws up his tail and his tail feathers to explode out in a flashing gold fan shape. His clawed feat pivot in one direction and then another. He whips his long neck from side to side desperately peering down in the valley below.

If I remember correctly, I had the idea that I would just imagine how it would look if you had a God’s eye view and describe it to try to avoid excessive verbiage and intellectual fluff. This did not improve my writing any and I did not put much effort into it. I think this is the only draft that is only one page long.

First Fruit —– Second Draft A
A history by Elpidius

The events recounted in this history takes place about thirty one years after the first klived immortals came out of the Adelphos and Sorores Kliving Caves. The exact date depends on whether you are reckoning from the Adelphos side or the Sorores side but at this time nobody understood that there was a difference.

For some reason, this one was also labeled second draft with slightly different wording so it did not save over the first “second draft”. I think my idea for this one was that I did not really care about this stupid little story. I was only writing it because it covered the next big event in Basiano’s life even thought he is not in most of the story. So I figured since I was having trouble writing it out as a story, I would just write it out as a history and be done with it. But for some reason, I decided to write this history as if Elpidius was writing it and Elpidius was not really part of this story (although he was one of the pairs of grey legs mentioned in the first draft) even though he lived through it and much later became immortal. Now Elpidius does become a historian (among many other things) long after this story so maybe that is why I tried to tell it as he would write it. But he kept hijacking his history with his own concerns that have nothing to do with the story and when he stuck to the story he was boring because it does not really concern him.

First Fruit —–Third Draft
Prologue: The Desperate Kara

Dawn’s first light is flashing off of golden feathers belonging to a razor toothed lizard-bird. The creature caught by the unwelcome light is running back and forth along the ridgeline of the steeply rising hill. He is trying to stay in the shadows of the sparsely spaced wild olive and acacia trees but his rapid desperate movements negate any attempt at stealth. The frantic creature must watch the entire valley down below him even if it means abandoning his instinctual desire for stealth.

So we are back to trying to tell it from the perspective of a kara. I tried to tell the story from the perspective of the Omakara because as they were the only ones doing anything at the start of the expedition. If I wanted to start my story with action, instead of an info dump, I felt I had to start with them. The problem is that the story is not about the Omakara, it is about the people in the valley below. To make the transition required a huge info dump that just wrecked the flow of the story and ruined any point with starting out with the Omakara.

First Fruit —- Fourth Draft
Prologue: The narrator complains

It is difficult to describe a mundane trip undertaken by biologically absurd children. The fact that the aforementioned bizarrely colored humanoids are currently operating with a roughly Neolithic level of technology makes the challenge greater. From a narrator’s point of view, the sum total of a low tech society and the biologically impossible offspring of immortals is lots of explanation and very little getting around to the salient points.

So this is silly and a mark of how frustrated I was getting. Not withstanding the silly start, the writing that follows after this is some of the best of all the drafts if you are interested in Neolithic diggings sticks, Elpidius, and how his immortal father used his super power to make a really cool digging stick that Elpidius was really proud of. But in this format, I could not get the main story going.

First Fruit —- Fifth Draft

Thirty children of immortals are on an expedition to harvest the tubers of the dawn flowers. When they started out with the dawn’s first pale light on the horizon they were bunched all together as one large group. But now that the sun is climbing in the sky these biologically absurd humanoids are starting to scatter into widely separated groups. This is not good.

Another “just spit out the facts and edit it into something good later” attempt. I never could make that method work but I kept trying it.

First Fruit —- Sixth Draft
The Setting

The children of immortals are biologically absurd. They are doomed to be sterile as long as they remain mortal but their bodies don’t know this. As they grow into young adulthood they are griped by the same feverish lusts common to all humanoids but their lust is shorn of any possibility of fruit. It is these absurd desires that are pulling a procession of children towards disaster.

Still trying to just stick to the fact and spit this thing out. But it just devolved into a boring info dump.

First Fruit —-Seventh Draft

Only the weak can wage war. The strong must play games. The weak can expend all their might on their petty struggles without the stars altering their course one iota. But if the strong unleash their power in a conflict with no rules then everything ends. This is why the Six created the Game.

So with this draft, I got the idea that I had to go back before the expedition because I kept bogging down my descriptions of the expedition by trying to explain how it came about. So I figured I would start my story before the expedition. Not a bad idea except I went all the way back to the beginning of my in story universe. That was more of an info dump then a short story can take.

First Fruit —-Eighth Draft

Part 1: Her Traitorous Heart

Eliora’s heart was traitor to itself. The sacred and the carnal were at war within her and she was ashamed that it was even a contest. And shame made this war a secret burden that she could not share.

Her internal war had started when she discovered that she was ugly. That fact was plan to everyone but somehow it was not a thing that she was supposed to know. If she tried to talk to people about her ugliness they would tell her that being beautiful was a superficial thing that did not matter. Or they might try to lie to her by telling her that she was not ugly when the fact was plain for the whole world to see. In the end, it did not matter if they offered up dismissal or lies. Either way the message that Eliora heard was “Don’t talk about such things.” And so she was silent.

So this is the first draft where I seem to have reconciled myself to the fact that this story is largely about what happens in people’s heads. Up to this point, I was always trying to focus on what was happening in the world when really that is not where the story is. I think I kind of knew that at the beginning and that is why I started the first draft out by talking about how Eliora was grumpy. But I veered away from really trying to explain what was going on because it was all internal and I did not want to be telling a story about internal things. Sadly, I think I have pretty well proved to myself that is where the story is.

First Fruit —-Ninth Draft

This file was corrupted.

First Fruit —-Tenth Draft

Part 1: Her Traitorous Heart

Eliora’s heart was traitor to itself. The sacred and the carnal were at war within her and she was ashamed that it was even a contest. And shame made this war a secret burden that she could not share.

Her internal war had started when she discovered that she was ugly. That fact was plan to everyone but somehow it was not a thing that she was supposed to know. If she tried to talk to people about her ugliness they would tell her that being beautiful was a superficial thing that did not matter. Or they might try to lie to her by telling her that she was not ugly when the fact was plain for the whole world to see. In the end, it did not matter if they offered up dismissal or lies. Either way the message that Eliora heard was “Don’t talk about such things.” And so she was silent.

This is the draft I am currently working on and as you can see the way it starts out has not changed from the 8th draft. Maybe that means I have finally figure out how to start this story. We shall see I guess. The one other thing that stuck was the idea that I had to go back before the start of the expedition to start the story. I tried to avoid that for so long because everything prior to the start of the expedition was just social drama that I did not really want to cover. But I cannot seem to make what happens after make sense without covering that.  

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