Previous Challenge Entry (Level 1 – Beginner)
Topic: The Editor (05/27/10)
TITLE: A Better Story
By Teri Burns
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“What’d you think?”
“It was good, but I think it could be better with some editing.”
“What do you suggest?”
“Let’s go through it, and I’ll show you.”
“It starts out well,” he said flipping through the first pages. The images you’ve used – the dark tunnel, the bright light at the end of the tunnel, total silence then great sound, the squeezing pain – are all good. The readers will connect with the character, Joe. This is good for getting them to read on.”
That’s promising. I nodded.
“I like your humor as you describe Joe’s successes and failures.”
“Thank you. I think readers need humor to escape the world’s sadness once in a while.”
He smiled then looked down at his hands. “You might not like what I’m going to say next.”
“While your story starts out well, it seems to get a little…er…boring.”
My stomach flipped. “Boring?”
“Not enough conflict.”
“Joe doesn’t seem very engaging. He’s rather dry, in fact.”
Dry. “What do you suggest?”
“Joe a sense a purpose. He needs to take a chance, to show his passion for something.”
“Passion.” He flipped to the middle of the manuscript. “Here, let me give you an example.”
I realized I was slouching in my chair. I sat up a little to note his suggestions.
“On page 157 Joe meets a homeless guy. Joe has a very short conversation with the guy – something about not having any change – then he walks off in a hurry to get away from the guy. This could have been a more engaging situation. Listen to this example.
‘Hey, Mister, can ya spare any change for someone who’s hungry?’ the dirty man called out.
‘Well, I don’t have any spare change; payday isn’t until Friday,’ Joe said uncomfortably.
‘Oh. Well, thanks anyway.’ The guy limped past, his odor wafting after him.
After Joe had walked a couple of steps, he turned around and watched the guy for a moment. Then he yelled, ‘Hey, wait a minute.’ He trotted over to the man. ‘I don’t have any spare change, but I have food. We’re not far from my house, so why don’t you walk home with me, and I’ll make you something to eat.’
‘You’d do that for me?’
He looked up at me. “Then you could go on with what happens when they get to Joe’s house. What do they eat? What do they talk about? How does the experience with the homeless guy change Joe’s life? See what I mean?”
“I think so.” I squinted, imagining how the scene could play out.
“Here’s another example on page 200. Joe overhears someone on the bus say that she was being evicted from her apartment. You wrote that he listens in on her conversation and then gets off the bus at his stop. You could develop it a little more.
Joe turns to the woman and says, ‘I couldn’t help overhearing that you are being evicted from your apartment. Do you have anywhere to stay?’
‘No. I’ll have to go downtown to the shelter.’
‘Maybe I can help. I have a friend who needs some help. She’s old and needs someone to live with her to keep her company. I could take you to meet her and see how it goes from there. What do you think?’
‘Well, I don’t know you and I don’t know this lady you’re talking about. What if you’re into taking advantage of people down on their luck? How do I know I can trust you?’
‘You don’t, but what do you have to lose? At least come and meet my friend, then you can decide what to do.’
See what new opportunities that opens up for Joe?”
“I get it.”
“Good. Now go back and see what you can do with it.”
I heard the droning beep change to a rhythmic beep-beep. Someone said, “He’s back. Good job, team.”
I felt weighted to the bed, unable to move. I knew it would take a while for my body to recover, but my spirit was ready to get out and live. St. Peter had shown me what I’ve been missing, and now I had a second chance to make a difference.
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