…that you just couldn’t shake? One that stuck with you, way past the point of where most people would just move on to another, more promising, effort?
I’ve got one of those. The first (and only) novel-length manuscript I’ve finished, it’s the story I’ve wanted to tell for literally decades. Beta readers, presenting pieces of it to positive review, never really hearing anything bad about it, but nonetheless having it languish in unappreciated misery, always in the back of my mind, scratching.
I simply can’t let it go, so I’ve decided to take a different tack with it; I’m going to start over, go back, re-work it, knowing what I know now, having worked with so many good writers, helping them craft their own novels into better versions of their visions. I’m going to try to do that to myself.
Most challengingly, I’m going to start with a complete change of POV: out with my default third-person, and in with a more engaging first-person.
As an experiment in this, I’ve re-written the first couple pages of it this way. I think it’s better–way better–than it was. Maybe this is what I need. Not only to change the way my characters look at their world, but forcing myself to look at their world differently, as well.
So, let me know what you think: good, bad, other?
My eyes darted around the small stone-walled room, before settling on the young man sitting on a low stool—perhaps a milking stool, thought why it would be here was beyond me—next to my supine form.
“This isn’t how my life was supposed to end.”
I could see from the look on the young man’s face he was trying hard to find the correct response. His lower jaw jerked slightly a couple of times before he finally found an answer.
“How do you mean? And what makes you think your life is over?”
I sighed, adjusting—or trying to—my body into a more comfortable position on the thin, straw filled mattress. Despite my best efforts, the brown, woolen blanket barely covered my lanky frame, and the pervasive winter cold pierced the threadbare cloth without effort. The mattress did little to insulate my back from the cold that leached through the stone floor, either.
What I wouldn’t give for a good horse blanket and camp fire.
Sighing, I gave up my struggle against the blanket and looked at him, feeling the full-body shiver about to begin.
“You don’t know who I am, do you, boy?”
“I know you were brought to the brothers here in bad shape. I know that you weren’t even conscious when you arrived. Isn’t that enough?”
I summoned a smile, though I knew that on my certainly wan and drawn face it would seem more a grimace. I was grateful for such unflinching kindness after the last few years of constant conflict and turmoil.
“What if I told you that I should never have been where I was, wearing that—” I motioned weakly at the mess of leather and steel piled in the corner of the cell in which I lay, “—or doing what I was doing?”
The young man was intrigued. His dark eyes lit like a boy’s who had just discovered a “hidden” cave to call his own, some secret place or thing to which only he was privy. His left hand reflexively rubbed his chin before pulling up the rough, brown hood to cover his tonsured head, shielding it from the cold I could not escape.
“What is your name, sir?” he asked, leaning slightly forward on the low stool.
“My name,” I said, almost regretfully, knowing I could never unsay the words, “is Blaen.”
His mouth gaped briefly before he snapped it closed again.
“I know you, sir. All of Britain knows you.”
“All of Britain knows what I am, but they do not know who I am.”
“And who are you, Sir Blaen, if not one of the High King’s most trusted knights? Are you not the knight who slew a wyrm? Did you not stand with the High King in his darkest hour? Are you not the Prefect of the Southern Kingdom?”
I held up my hand to stave off any more of the boy’s prattling. “Words. Stories. That’s all those things are. They are the what, not the who of the man who lays before you.” I dropped my hand to my lap with a soft thud.
“Then who are you?” he finally asked.
Unexpectedly, a swell of pride filled my chest, matching the tears that filled my eyes.
“I am a cooper’s son.”