Last week I got through the first act of The Storm, which had only small tweaks here and there until I started the transition into the second act. Then came more substantial revisions, which were very satisfying, as it felt like I was carving away the cumbersome waste until the better story hidden underneath could shine through. It’s more difficult work making extensive alterations, but also more rewarding.
Today we’ll get through the end of the transition between acts, and I already know the number of substantial changes is going to pick up as we continue. So without further ado, let’s get to it.
Oscar edged his vessel along the narrow strip of water between cliffs on the left and storm-veil on the right. As he traced through that relatively calm water his eyes roved over the shoals and cliffs to the left, searching for any sign of a freshly broken boat. He saw none, only the black abyss of rock vaunting up into the sky and the black abyss of water spinning below. Oscar grabbed the mic and called through the storm.
“This is the Last Horizon. Repeat, this is the Last Horizon. Does anybody read me?”
So Oscar turned his attention to the starboard side. Thirty yards distant there rose the wide curtain that marked the true beginnings of the storm, and it was edging closer and closer to him with each passing moment. He tried to catch sight of a vessel through its thick, shifting forms, but the whole thing was too transient to make make sense of any of it.
“Last Horizon calling Broken Wing. Broken Wing are you there?”
Again, no response.
Then a sudden gust of wind broke through the storm’s perimeter wall and Oscar’s boat jerked erratically. He let go of the mic and used both hands to wrestle his boat back into line, then grabbed the mic again and roared his frustration into it.
“HARRY! DO YOU EVEN HEAR ME?!”
His hand pulled at the wheel, starting to turn the vessel around. It was time to call this operation off as a lost cause. He had come, he had looked, but if waited around any longer there would be two boats lost in the storm instead of just one. But right at that moment, 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! I’m on your starboard side.”
I made some modifications to the above sequence, adding in the visual of Oscar threading the gap between the Broken Horn and the storm-curtain. I also added the bit about Oscar preparing to give up the search and then Harry’s voice finally coming over the radio. That might be a bit cliché, but I think it’s an effective way to build catharsis, making the audience know he was moments away from being out of this whole mess and then got roped back in again.
Oscar squinted his eyes harder at the storm-curtain. He peered into it deeper than before…and at last, he saw it. Even further out than he’d expected, veiled by the mists of storm so that it appeared almost like a ghost, was the faint outline of a boat.
“I see you, Harry,” he said. “What’s your status?”
“Not good, Oscar. I got out a ways and then all-of-the-sudden I started having engine trouble. It just kept cutting out on me unless I left it at low throttle. So I tried to figure out what was going on with it, but then the storm came down and I had to make a run for it! But of course, I couldn’t run very fast and it caught me. Now I can’t get up enough speed to push through the eddies by the cape, and I can’t get up enough speed to push through the storm to go around the eddies! So, I’ve just been tryin’ to hold her steady and not get swamped! I don’t mind telling you I’ve been real scared, Oscar!”
I’ve added a bit to Harry’s story for how he got caught in this mess, which makes clear that it was his own lack of foresight led him here. I feel this makes for a much stronger character introduction than what I had before. I will now add more details to Oscar’s response as well, making the decision to press into the storm a much more momentous act.
“Yeah, well I still am, Harry!”
So, it was typical shortsightedness that had led Harry into this mess. He had been so focused on fixing his engine that he had forgotten about the active storm warning. Then he had been so focused on running away from the storm that he had failed to account for the eddies along the coast. Just a little bit of thinking ahead instead of plowing forward, and Oscar wouldn’t have to be out here risking bone and bow to rescue him right now.
But Oscar was here. This was what he had signed up for. And unlike Harry, he was taking the time to think things through. He would have to tow Harry, and that meant he would be weighed down and slow, just as Harry was. He would face the exact same problem going against the storm or through the eddies.
“First against the storm,” he decided. “Advance as far up as we can, then use its push to help force our way through the eddies.”
Of course, towing Harry meant getting up alongside of Harry. So, at long last, Oscar turned the wheel, bringing himself into alignment with the nearing storm-curtain. Once again, his boat groaned in protest.
“I know, I know,” he said softly. “I don’t want to either…but we have to.”
I’ve added in this detail of the eddies around the cape being a barrier that prevents small boats from escaping. I believe that will make clearer the reason why they need to push up into the storm at first, so that it can build up speed behind them as they try to push around the cape. Anyway, that will be the end of what I post for today, but I’m excited to share next week the next look at how things are coming along!