I got off to a good start with last week’s edit, which officially brought me into my third draft of The Storm. You can compare my new text with the second draft version here. And with that, let’s get right back into it!
Oscar sighed, then slowly began to turn the wheel. There was that brief moment of delay between cause and effect, that moment where he was still pointed toward the docks, but then his entire world shifted. Pier, berth, and the road up to Lenny’s Tavern slid away to the left, giving way to the long, low coast, the rising point of the cape, and finally the bleak, open sea stretching beyond.
Oscar corrected the turn, steadying himself towards the storm. Where before he had only given the mounting clouds a cursory glance, now he held them in serious scrutiny. It seemed to him that the muddled gray had grown suddenly much darker, and for the first time he noticed how the wind whistling around the wheelhouse made a constant, forbidding moan, and now that he was moving against the tide he felt it under his feet at double strength.
I’ve removed some of the more dramatic phrases in the previous paragraph, and the bit about Oscar considering turning around already. This is still too early in the story for such despair, and I believe the flow of the tale will be improved by this change.
“Turn a little back to the north,” he ordered himself. “Steady and brisk pace round the cape.” He turned the wheel until the cape came back to the forefront. Of course this made the oncoming waves buffet against the starboard side of his trawler, trying to push him homeward, but Oscar stubborned his hands against them. Never mind the discomfort, the fastest course was best. Sam had said Harry went around the cape, so that was where Oscar needed to get to.
Technically “stubborned” isn’t a real word. But it should be, so I’m leaving it in.
Once Oscar’s vessel had settled itself to the cadence of the waves he accelerated to full speed. He bounced vigorously up and down in the water, throwing up a high, white spray on the starboard side, and it wasn’t long before he closed upon his destination.
The Broken Horn it was called, and it rose very quickly from the otherwise flat coastline, outstripping the grass and the trees so that its promontory cliff was nothing but black and jagged rock, broken in a thousand places by the brunt of the sea.
I had the line “an ominous sigil to be sure” at the end of the last paragraph and I have removed it. I’ve actually been noticing a few times that I straight up tell the audience how to feel about the scene, rather than trusting my adjectives to convey that meaning to them.
Oscar worked the radio from time-to-time, trying to raise Harry, but to no avail. Clearly the man was still somewhere on the other side of the cape, and that meant something must have gone wrong indeed.
Of course, it wasn’t the first time things had gone wrong in a storm for Harry.
Oscar spun the wheel to the right. He didn’t dare draw any nearer to the cliffs of the Broken Horn. There were treacherous shoals at its feet, and if one of those snagged his boat he would be held like a fish on a spear until the endless flow of water overran his vessel. Or if the waves managed to dislodge him instead, they would push his boat past the shoals and pound it into the jagged edges of the cliff beyond, tearing everything to shreds in an instant! Had Harry run into trouble anywhere else, Oscar would have left him to run aground and wait out the storm on a rain-soaked beach. But here there was no “aground” to run into. Rescue was the only option.
So Oscar pointed his vessel due east, letting the cape slip by him on the left. Of course due east also meant that the he was pointed fully into the face of the storm, and here the water ran much deeper. Here the waves did not merely bounce Oscar’s boat on the surface, they were long and deep, miniature mountains and valleys, which his vessel had to scale and descend in turn. And the longer he stayed out here, the more steep and treacherous those mountains and valleys would become.
Holding the wheel steady in one hand Oscar grabbed the mic and called out through the storm.
“This is the Last Horizon. This is the Last Horizon. Does anybody read me?”
Nothing. Oscar kept calling, though, once every minute as his trawler extended itself past the point of the Broken Horn. Once he had enough distance he turned his vessel slightly back to the north, cutting across the front of the cape. As he went by he roved his eyes over its shoals and cliffs, searching for any sign of a freshly broken boat.
I’ve been cutting out sections here and there. I believe I had things overly verbose, making the audience wait too long for the story to break into the second act.
But again, nothing. Everywhere he looked there was only the black abyss of rock vaunting up into the sky and the black abyss of water spinning below, and his own vessel as the only white speck in between.
“Last Horizon calling Broken Wing. Broken Wing. Broken Wing are you there?”
A gust of wind picked up and Oscar let go of the mic as he used both hands to wrestle his boat back into line. As soon as he his vessel was stable again he roared his frustration into the mic.
“HARRY! DO YOU EVEN HEAR ME?!”
At long last the crackle of static gave way to a small voice, timid and broken.
“Yes, yes, this is Harry here! I see you Oscar, I see you! Starboard side.”
Oscar turned his head to the right. There, in even deeper waters, veiled by the mists of storm so that it appeared almost like a ghost, was the faint outline of a boat.