Six impossible things

Revising long after part 3

This is the third part of Chapter 1 of Shadow Magic, as revised ten years later for Shadows Over Lyra, and the second of the posts that was supposed to come up while I was away, but didn’t because I am apparently incapable of properly using the scheduler. The final part will go up tomorrow. Plain text is the original version; strikethrough is what I deleted; boldface is what I added. Italics are my comments on why I did what I did.

A long whistle from Har brought Maurin’s eyes down, and he As they entered the courtyard, Maurin blinked in surprise. The Styr courtyard was full of activity a maze of benches, chairs, trunks, and other furnishings. Servants were bustling about with buckets, rods, wound among the furniture, carrying buckets and stacks of cloth, brooms and articles of furniture . Everywhere people were cleaning, polishing, and scrubbing; the atmosphere fairly air reeked of soap, and the strong scent of   Mindaran wood-wax was everywhere . Maurin’s foolish mental visions of dungeons and imprisonment fled, to be replaced by the alarmed thought that at any minute someone would demand help with the cleaning.

Here I was just tightening things up, making them more specific, and again adding in more of a tight-third-person viewpoint. Oh, and the paragraph break shifted between the old version and the new, which is why there’s a sentence overlap between this post and the last one.

 “Looks like we’ve arrived in time for spring cleaning,” Maurin observed as they threaded their way through the crowd.

A shout from the doorway ahead spared Har from responding to this obvious comment. A “Har!” someone shouted, and then a tall girl with pale gold braids hanging down nearly to her knees ran forward to throw her arms around the young noble. “Har, you’re back!” she exclaimed.

“Just barely,” laughed Har, swinging her off her feet in a wide circle. “We came straight here as soon as the caravan got in.” He set her gently back on her feet and turned. “Maurin, this is my sister, Alethia.”

“I am charmed,” Maurin said, bending low over Alethia’s hand. Privately he thought that the introduction was nearly unnecessary; there was no mistaking those tilted green eyes and straight black eyebrows. Alethia was clearly Har’s sister.

Alethia returned his courtesy absently, then and linked arms with her brother as they started again toward the house. “I’m so glad you got back in time for my party,” she said as they mounted the stairs.But you could have sent some kind of warning, couldn’t you?”

“Party?” Har said blankly with studied blankness.

Alethia laughed. “You don’t even remember! I’m twenty tomorrow; it today is my birth eve.”

 “Well, I didn’t forget entirely,” Har said. “I got something at our last stop in Karlen Gale. I’ll give it to you tonight, after I’ve unpacked.”

Maurin smothered a grin. When the caravan had stopped in Karlen Gale, Har had spent two precious hours of his free afternoon hunting for exactly the right gift for his sister’s birth eve party, and he had fretted ever since for fear they wouldn’t arrive in time.

 “Thank you in advance — I think!” Alethia replied.

The conversation about the birthday present is…flat. The revised version has a lot more characterization for Har, adds characterization for Maurin, and by giving Maurin’s reaction, makes it tight-third person viewpoint.

Then, turning Alethia turned to Maurin she and added,You will You’ll come to the party join us too, won’t you?”

Caught by surprise, Maurin hesitated. He hadn’t anticipated being asked to any formal feasts…

It won’t be more than dinner and songs, really; the Lords Armin and Gahlon are coming at the end of the week to talk to Father, and it would be hard to have two large feasts so close together.” ,” Alethia said, almost as if she could read his mind. “But if you’d rather not-“

“Of course he’ll come,” Har said. “He’s staying for a week, at least.”

Once again, I added Maurin’s reactions; I also trimmed Alethia’s dialog to make it sound more natural (“You’ll” instead of “You will,” for instance) and to take out the long and rather clumsy lead-in to the awkward and unnecessary conversation I deleted below.

“So that is why there is so much cleaning going on!” Har exclaimed. “What do Armin and Gahlon want to talk to Father for?”

His sister smiled mischievously. “I’m not supposed to know, so you’d better ask him. Something about the Lithmern raids, I think,” she added innocently.

“But the raids have practically stopped!” Har said.

“I know,” said Alethia, and grinned again. “You must tell me all about it after he explains to you.”

“What makes you think he will?” Har countered.

“Well, aside from being his son and heir, you’ve just come back from three months with the caravans, haven’t you? And your last stop was Karlen Gale, which is the only Free City anywhere near Lithra. So if Father wants to know about the Lithmern, who else would he talk to?”

 “Staying for a week?” Alethia frowned. “Then one of you will have to sleep in the south tower; Father will want the north one for the Lords Armin and Gahlon, and-“

“Lord Armin and First Lord Gahlon are coming here? Together?”

“At the end of the week,” Alethia said, nodding. “And I’m not supposed to know why Father asked them to come, so don’t bother quizzing me until after Father explains it to you.”

“Father asked them?” Har repeated. “Allie, you’re making that up!”

The original version of the conversation is a little stiff and moves the focus to the raids a little too fast; it also has more “as you know, Bob” dialog. The revised version sounds more like a conversation, nobody’s saying things anyone else knows, and it flows much better into the next bit.

 Who indeed?” Unfortunately, she is not,” said a deep voice behind them, and Alethia jumped. The three turned to find a tall, dark-haired man of about forty-five of middle years standing in a doorway and smiling at them looking at them with a smile. “Father!” said Alethia and Har together.

The man’s smile deepened. “Welcome home,” he said to his son, and there was no mistaking the deep affection in his tone. For a moment they stood silent, then Har shook himself and turned to introduce Maurin.

“I am honored; I have heard a good deal of you, Lord Bracor,” Maurin said when the formalities were finished.

“Nothing too intimidating dreadful, I hope,” Bracor responded. “Come into my study where we can talk.” “Har, I realize that you have only just arrived, but I have some questions for you and your friend. Would you join me in my study?”

“Questions?” Har said. “Why?”

“Honestly, Har, sometimes you are thicker than Ceron’s treacle sauce!” Alethia said. “You just got back from a caravan patrol that ran about as close to Lithra as you can get without being raided, and you can’t think why Father would want to ask you questions?”

“The Lithmern haven’t raided anyone in months,” Har said.

“That’s what you – “


The girl broke off, looking faintly guilty. He turned toward Alethia and studied her for a moment. Bracor studied his daughter for a moment, then shook his head ruefully.“I don’t suppose you would like to go on and tell your mother that Har has returned?

The new conversation above replaces the deleted one from before Bracor shows up. This flows more smoothly and the brother-and-sister back-and-forth covers the same ground more naturally. Moving the information from before-Bracor to after-Bracor also changes the focus just a bit – I don’t need to imply that Bracor is going to want to talk to Har about this, because he’s already said he wants to, which adds a smidgen more tension.

“Mother probably already knows,” Aletha said, and smiled.

“And you would rather join us,” Bracor finished with an answering smile . ” I don’t quite see why; you probably appear to know all about it everything I was going to say to Har already.”

“I know just enough to be interested, that’s all,” Alethia said. “Of course, I can find out from Har later, but it would be easier if you’d just let me stay. Har leaves things out sometimes.”

Har’s face reddened, and Bracor shook his head in mock resignation. “Very well, then, since you are so determined. Come.He stood aside and let the others walk past him into the room, then entered and closed the door behind him.

Most of the major block cuts, where I was deleting whole paragraphs or sections, are finished by this point, so I’m mostly revising for viewpoint, consistency, readability, characterization, and so on.

If I were revising it again now, I’d add some more of Maurin’s reactions to the last third or so of the page; he’s supposed to be the viewpoint, but he’s kind of gotten lost amid all the family bickering.

1 Comment
  1. love these stories

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