Last week I got started rewriting the middle section of The Storm, which I will be continuing with today. As a reminder, this is the outline of the segment I am working on.
- Slow accumulation of stress while moving against the waves
- Oscar and Harry tether the boats together
- NEW They move up one wave after another, showing the difficulty of climbing and falling while tethered
- NEW The rolling eddies are described as they grow nearer and nearer on the starboard side
I’m fleshing out the bit about them having a difficult time moving up and down the waves, and how that becomes a steady source of stress that weighs on the two sailors. I ended last week by starting the conversation of Harry’s boat not being able to sustain full throttle, and I’ll start this week by wrapping that up.
Up and Down the Waves)
“Is it steadier at lower levels?”
“Yes, if the throttle is less than a quarter of the way up.”
“Alright. You keep it there. I’ll tug.”
Oscar gritted his teeth as he brought his own throttle to just above Harry’s level. The line became steady between them, and Oscar very gradually ramped his acceleration up again, slowly pulling Harry’s trawler faster than it could go on its own. As a result, they settled at a speed that was less than half of what Oscar’s boat could have gone on its own, and against the push of the wave they barely maintained enough momentum to get over its crest.
But get over it Oscar did, and then he found himself barreling downward with the combined force of his churning engines and gravity.
“Bring it back, bring it back,” he muttered, intermittently pulsing the engines in reverse to keep from rushing too far ahead and putting undue strain on the line.
A moment Harry’s boat broke through the crest and the line went slack again as he came tumbling down as well.
“Easy, easy,” Oscar called into the mic. “Slow down, but gradual. Settle back into tension on the line as gently as possible.”
Harry pulsed his engines in reverse, trying to come to a stop before hitting the back of Oscar’s boat.
“Slower…slower…” Oscar’s eyes flitted from front to back, trying to navigate the downward ramp of the wave while also making sure that Harry didn’t do something stupid. “SLOWER, HARRY!”
Harry went full reverse and came to a sudden stop, the line snapped taut, and Oscar’s whole vessel jolt painfully.
“HARRY, WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry. I’m just trying to get the feel for this.”
“We’re well past that, Harry!”
“I’m sorry, Oscar.”
“Just get back up to throttle!”
Once again, the two vessels returned to their highest tethered speed and began the arduous climb up the next wave. Once again, they barely managed to clear its top, and down the back of the wave they came. Once again, Oscar tried to keep a steady speed for Harry to target, and Harry furiously pulsed his engines to try and match that speed, and still the boats shuddered when they hit tension, though not as terribly as before.
“Try to get down to speed as quickly as you can,” Oscar instructed. “The more of the wave we can roll down afterward and build up speed, the easier time we’ll have riding up the next one…. But don’t get down on speed so fast that the rope snaps, of course. Let’s try to work it together.”
And so, after they crested the next wave, Oscar started adjusting his own throttle to help ease things back into place. He slowed down a little as he came over wave but tried to anticipate what Harry’s speed would be and tried to match it. And he sped up and slowed down his own boat, even while shouting directions to Harry, so that each of them pulled out the slack in the rope more gradually.
But still it wasn’t perfect, and never was it easy. Every time they chugged up the rise of a wave there was still the fear that they wouldn’t clear it, and every time they rolled down the back of a wave there was still the fear that they would break the rope between them. Each ascent and descent were their own miniature terror. Each point of stress ended by leading directly into the next, and all of them were another toll on Oscar’s nerves.
And as they went Oscar also noted the swirling eddies looming nearer and nearer on the starboard side. They had been agitated by the wind from their usual steady roll into a churning staccato, overlapping and merging so that it became impossible to tell where one curl of the waves ended and the next began.
“Hit it fast enough, and hope to skate across the top,” he told himself. Then he picked up the mic and called instructions to Harry. “We’re going to make a pull into the eddies after this next wave. As soon as we crest the top, don’t slow down. We’ll get up all the speed we can, down into the trough, and then roll sideways with it into the eddies. Try to plow through before it has a chance to spin us round.”
There’s a fair bit of new material in today’s work. Here and there are individual sentences taken from the previous draft of the story but exploring the difficultly of climbing and descending the waves has resulted in new experiences and conversations for the characters.
I’m uncertain how all of this will feel when combined to the rest of the second act, and then when combined with the rest of the story. But I’m going to get it all done once, then refine as needed. At this point I’ve completed the first main subsection of the new second act and next week we’ll get started on the following sequence. Come back then to see how it goes.