Last week I brought the second section of this middle act nearly to conclusion. Thus, I am in the middle segment of the middle section of the middle act…right at the very heart of the story. And though I didn’t plan it this way, I think it very fitting that this is the point where Oscar stops trying to push deeper into the sea and instead starts the journey back to home.
From my earlier outline, this is the material that I intended for today’s session.
- Oscar tries to hold back his nervous breakdown
- NEW Oscar says they will need to turn around, but finds his nerve is so worn down he can barely do it
- Oscar stifles his nervous breakdown, forces composure long enough to make the turn
Now that I’m here I’m going to slightly modify those points. I want Oscar’s decision to turn around to be caused by his mounting breakdown, not in spite of it. The decision to turn back will be what finally unfreezes him.
Also, I expect to have a little time left after I complete the above points, in which case I’ll get a start on the final section of this act. Let’s get to it now and see how far we can make it!
“Are you alright there?” Harry’s voice was calling over the radio, though Oscar could barely hear it over the fuzzy ringing in his ears.
“Yeah, I’m here–” Oscar said dismissively. “I was–I just had–I’m alright now.”
But he wasn’t. As soon as he released the mic his whole body began shaking uncontrollably. His eyes welled up with tears, but he refused to let them run out. He had to suppress the emotional breakdown that was lurking in the periphery and keep pushing forward if he was going to survive. Get out of this storm first and then collapse in a heap on the floor!
“Turn more to port–” Oscar said numbly, and it sounded like a voice from another person. “Go up the next wave at an angle–to counter the wind–“
Though Oscar had raised a wall around his heart, the rush of emotions inside would not flow back where they came from. They continued to mount behind his barrier, turning it into a dam under pressure. His hands clenched until the bony knuckles seemed ready to pop out of his thin skin, his lips pursed together until they went white from loss of blood, his breath shot in and out of his nostrils in sharp, erratic bursts.
Trying to ready himself for another wave was its own trauma, another straw placed on his already buckling back. Every moment that he forced himself further into the storm darkened his very soul. Just in maintaining this line he had spent out the last of his nerve and was put into arrears.
“Harry, let’s–” Oscar’s voice stammered in the cold. “let’s g-get out of here.”
“What? You mean turn around?”
“Y-yes. I can’t keep up like this. Try and turn before this next wave hits. Go to starboard so that the wind helps us turn.”
Oscar rotated the wheel with a deep exhale. His steering was still sluggish, but with the helpful push of the raging gale he made it. Now the two sailors had their backs to the rolling tide and were pointed towards the coast.
Alright, almost all of this material was recycled from before. The context of this nervous breakdown was totally different before, but with some slight modifications I think it fit in really well here. I think it’s one of the better passages of the whole story, so I’m glad it was able to find a new home.
And that concludes the second section of this act, and now I’m moving into the third and final stretch. I’m going to spend the rest of today starting on that, and I will be describing how the boats pick up speed and have some fresh difficulties arise along the way.
Now they surged forward with the full fury of the sea behind them! Barely after settling into their line the next wave lifted them from behind and nearly doubled their speed!
Of course, the wave picked up Harry first, now accelerating him faster than Oscar. That made the rope between them go slack.
“Easy…” Oscar muttered. “Easy…”
Then the crest of the wave leveled out beneath them. As the water became flat Oscar’s faster engines pulled out the slack in the rope. Then the back of the wave fell out from under Harry’s boat, and he fell downward with it, giving a nasty jolt to the line.
Once again, the two men found themselves in the difficult situation of trying to manage their speed in anticipation to the shifting of the waves. Only it was made doubly hard now by the fact that while Oscar was leading the way forward, Harry’s boat was experiencing the changes of velocity first. That put the greater burden on Harry, and he was not nearly as cut out for navigating the quick, reactive maneuvers as Oscar had been.
“Sorry! Sorry! …. Sorry!” Harry rattled off as the rope jerked back and forth between them, alternately tugging Oscar back to the left then back to the right.
“LET GO OF THE RADIO AND USE BOTH HANDS!” Oscar roared back. “I DON’T WANT YOUR SORRIES!”
How was Oscar supposed to coordinate their charge into the eddies with an incompetent fool leading from the rear?
I like this new conundrum of trying to maintain speed together with the shifts in momentum occurring first around Harry. I already had this setup of Oscar leading them back to shore in my last drafts, but I never considered how that would affect the physics of their operation.
Which does bring up a question of research. The fact is I am not a sailor, and I’ve certainly never had to navigate a storm. I’ve been writing this story from my imagination, but if I truly want it to be the best that it can, I really ought to reach out and get some professional input.
I’ll go ahead and finish my draft as previously planned, but at some point, I really ought to take a look at that inside perspective. This will do for today in any case, and I look forward to taking it further next time.