out of the ashes

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Cathedral rewrite

In the first draft I rushed. After Isabella thrashes Matthew at chess, I rammed the request by Matthew for Isabella to help him write his book into the plot. She, of course, accepted. Mistake. The entire meeting and "falling" by the two of them was way rushed, and I sensed this long ago.
Now it's time to add chapters; extend Isabella's stay and her further shunning of his thinly-veiled overtures. Of course she will finally accept, but by that time they will have fallen quite hopelessly in love. Still, she will leave after reading his crappy first chapters, knowing she doesn't want to further complicate her already complicated life. Vis a vis Brad.
I rewrote the very first chapter which explains that she still DOES love Brad. Maybe. Sort of. Perhaps. She "buried' the letters, plural, she found several weeks ago.
Onward...From page 50 of the working draft...


“No, I’m serious. You hate my books, you’d be perfect!”
“I don’t think so. Thanks anyway. And I don’t hate them—just that one.”
“But you read a lot, right?” he asks with an excited edge to his voice. The faraway look that he had in his eyes a moment ago is gone. Matthew lifts the glass again and this time takes a healthy drink. Yes, he’s excited, but something tells me it’s not so much about my ability to help him as it is…
Still, the thought of participating in the writing of a book, of actually helping a famous author, is intriguing. I consider it, but only for the length of time it takes me to jump two moves ahead in my mind. He’s been writing for years. I’ve never written anything more profound than a grocery list. Checkmate, we both lose. Not only has he written another loser, he’ll probably stick my name on the acknowledgments page—or worse, alongside his on the cover.
“No…”
“Isabella, you’re the first person I’ve ever met who’s had the courage to tell me what I honestly thought myself about ‘Saving Isabelle’. I know you can do it! Help me!”
“Please don’t use my name and the title of your book in the same sentence…”
“Please! I’m stuck.”
We met less than an hour ago. I mean, really met.
He doesn’t move a muscle; he’s like a statue, or a photograph that’s come to life that I find myself studying. I’m wise enough to the world; I’ve heard them all, still…
“I don’t know the first thing about…”
“That’s precisely my point. You don’t have to, and in a way it’s even better that you don’t.”
“Don’t your editors advise you what to leave and what to cut out after they’ve read what you’ve written? They’re your best shot I should think.”
“I have to get them a manuscript first. Even so, they’re not concerned with literature so much as the house’s bottom line. ” Matthew laughs at that in a mocking way. “You’re an intelligent female reader—about mid-thirties? You’re my market. You can show me immediately—at least from where I am right now—where I’ve fallen down and…I think…how to change course and get back on track again. Whatd’ya say? Just your opinion, nothing technical.”
Put in those terms, I believe he’s right. At least I can tell him that his story sucks, which, judging from ‘Saving Isabelle’, I’m betting it does. And then I think, what if…what if my suggestions actually enable him to…?
“I have to leave next week. That doesn’t give me much time to even read what you have, let alone suggest ways to fix it. Like I could anyway.”
“That’s plenty of time.”
“I have no experience, no qualifications…”
“Yes you do. You’re a great chess player. That’s an analytical thing. You can do it, Isabella.”
I think, in a way, he’s right. I want to think he’s right, anyway. He has leaned forward, elbows resting firmly on his side of the board, chessmen scattered as though the cavalry arrived during our conversation and ripped through their flanks. His hands are folded, resting on my side of the board, the sides of them barely touching my Queen. His smile is soft and genuine and despite the misgivings I have, my ego tells me to go for it. I can always walk away.
And as I consider the look behind the look in his eyes, I decide.
“No.” His countenance plummets immediately. Defeat number two. I feign a certain sadness and touch his hand with my fingertips. “I’m sorry Mr. Ash. I’m flattered, but what might be bad in your current book right now would only get worse if I supposed I could help you. If I tried.”
“But Isabella, I’m serious. You could do it!”
Oh, that puppy-dog look in his eyes. That wolf in his head.
“I think not. But thanks again.” I rise, smooth my dress a bit, and then I walk away. I’ll bet he’s already plotting a new assault. I’ll be ready.

(c) Patrick Sean Lee, 2010

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