Pay the Price

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Committed)

The 2006 film The Prestige is about 19th-century magical performers, Alfred Borden and Robert Angier, who will go to any lengths for their art. At the beginning of the story they are partners, but after a tragic accident they become rivals, trying to ruin one other by any means.

Their competition drives each of them to improve their craft. They each want to be seen as the better magician, and their shows become more and more impressive as a result. Each of them seeks to craft a trick that will completely baffle the other and receive the acclaim of the world, and eventually both of them accomplish just that.

Angier has woven a particularly vicious barb into his trick, though, as through it he fakes his own death and frames Borden for murder. Yet even after Borden is convicted and executed, he somehow shows up at Angier’s warehouse to confront him in the film’s final scene.

Or rather, half of Borden shows up at the warehouse. For as we now have revealed to us, Borden was a composite, a man that was played by two twin brothers. Since before the beginning of the film the two have kept this secret from everyone, even Borden’s own wife. Angier says his assistant had suspected it was two men all along, but Angier had rejected that as too simple, too easy.

“No,” Borden replies. “Simple, maybe, but not easy.”

His words are spoken over a flashback of the two brothers at an earlier point of the story, just after one of them lost two fingers in an accident. The one who did not lose his fingers takes a drink from a gin bottle, splays his hand out on a table, and the other twin chops off the good fingers so that they match his own wounded hand.

It’s a very shocking scene, but it works. If anyone had any doubts as to how committed these men were to their craft, they have none now. We then see how driven Angier was as well, risking his life every single time he did his own masterpiece trick, possibly having died and been resurrected as a clone each time.

It is a satisfyingly cathartic finale to the whole film, but it is also weighed by a depressing realization. For now that we understand the full depth of their commitment, we realize that there was never any chance of them quitting from this mutually destructive cycle before it was too late. Things were always going to end in tragedy.

Set Sail)

There is another example of being willing to pay a high price in The Truman Show. Truman Burbank is your average sort of guy who lives an idyllic life in American suburbia. He is absolutely comfortable in every imaginable way, with a nice home, a pretty wife, and a cozy job.

There is just one detail about his life that he is ignorant of, though, which is that the whole thing is a complete sham!

Since before he was born, Truman was selected to star in a long-running sitcom, which has followed his life through its every moment. But he has never been told any of this. He believes that all of this is real. He has no idea that his life is being used for the world to vicariously enjoy a world free from trouble or tragedy.

Well…almost free from tragedy. There is that one matter of his father dying in a boating accident, which was staged so that Truman would be deathly afraid of the open water that surrounds his island suburb. In fact any time Truman comes close to traveling outside the confines of the city-sized studio all manner of deterrents suddenly pop up in his way.

Slowly Truman starts seeing a connection in all of these strange events though. He’s not sure what it all means, but he can’t shake the sense that he is trapped. He keeps escalating his attempts to break free of whatever it is that’s restraining him, and though each effort ends in failure, he continues to persist at it.

But the audience needs to see more than just persistence from Truman. For his freedom to feel earned we have to see him being willing to pay any cost for it. And so the film’s finale sees him setting sail, right into the heart of his deepest fears! The producer of the show orders a storm to drive him back. Wind whips faster and faster, waves raise higher and higher, and lightning bolts strike the boat. Truman falls off the vessel, but manages to swim back to it. Rather than being deterred, though, Truman is emboldened.

“Is that the best you can do?!” he screams to the sky. “You’re gonna hafta kill me!”

The producer kicks the winds up even further, capsizing the boat and drowning Truman. Then he cuts off the storm, and everyone watches in horror as the boat rolls upright, with Truman’s lifeless body draped across it. For a moment it seems to be the end, but then Truman’s body flinches and he coughs.

He has survived. He may not have actually paid the ultimate price for his freedom, but clearly he was willing to if necessary. Now, at last, the audience is ready to accept his triumph. Truman goes back to sailing his boat, it pierces through the wall of the studio, and he finally finds the door to the outside world.

Make it Count)

It can be hard to find ways to make your audience feel the weight of your character’s loss, but it is imperative that they do. Nothing that your hero accomplishes will feel deserved if they don’t have to pay some ultimate price to secure that victory.

In my own story Nathan is trying to escape from the New Denver elders with his backpack. But he knows that to do so he is going to have to let them hurt him. In other words, they are the audience that he has to sell his story to, and only by seeing him pay a great price will they ever be satisfied. In my next post we will see what that cost is, and my hope is that by paying it his following victory will feel justified to the reader. Come back on Wednesday to see how it turns out.

Revising the Storm- Week 25

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Well, here we are at the end of the third draft. I’m anxious to wrap this iteration up and take the whole thing in from beginning to end.

I do think that this is a good story, and I even think there is a real gem inside of this work…but I haven’t been able to fully tease it out. I don’t know if I what need next is to go at it with a hammer or a file, but that’s what I’ll be figuring out when I read over the complete draft.

For now, though, here is the link to the second draft for comparison, and now let’s finish the third!

End)

Oscar clenched his fingertips and contracted his arms. By force of will he raised himself back to his feet, stood at the wheel, and dropped his gaze to the controls before him. There, on the left, was the button to release the line from his boom. He could press it now, and it would cut the cord that bound him to Harry.

As Harry had said, they couldn’t survive this together, so why shouldn’t Oscar save what he could: himself? No one would say that he hadn’t done his duty. No one would say that he hadn’t tried. He had! But there had to be a limit, didn’t there? There had to be a point where he had done all that he could, but it just didn’t work, so he could cut ties and be clear of any blame!

Reworked the above paragraph several times over. I’m just trying to find the wording that sits right with me, and I think I’m closer to it now, though I may alter it further in the future.

Oscar rested his palm on the control panel, fingers stretching for the button, but his arm refused to extend enough to let them reach it.

Because no matter how justified he might be on paper, there was no way for Oscar to press that button without a vengeful heart. There was no way to separate his emotions from the action, to be able to honestly say that it was a simple matter of procedure and nothing more. The truth is there would always be malice behind it. It could never be innocent.

Besides—Oscar sidestepped the controls, exited the wheelhouse, and looked out at the black horizon—what did it matter anymore? It was already too late. Whatever life had remained in him was now expired into the storm. This struggle had taken all that he had, and there was no more desire to find his way out of this place. Cutting Harry loose wouldn’t change that.

And as Oscar stared out into that void, welcoming oblivion, a strange discoloration appeared in the dark before him. A small patch of black grew lighter and lighter, yellower and warmer, larger and larger. Or rather its edges grew larger, but it center grew smaller and more focused. And then, all at once, it pierced through the storm and became a shining light. A light that was tearing through all the mist and dark, crossing the great void of night, and filling Oscar’s eye!

“Sam?” he croaked.

“Oscar?” Harry’s awed voice crackled over the radio. “Is that–is that the lighthouse?”

“Yes,” Oscar said to himself. “I do believe it is.”

And in the face of that light Oscar could no longer consign himself to the watery depths. Dark thoughts belonged to dark places, and now that the path was illuminated ahead all he could think to do was follow it. So he stepped back into his wheelhouse, placed his hands on wheel, and slowly raised the engine back to life.

I made a subtle change by having Oscar step out of his wheelhouse at his moment of deepest despair. It’s a small alteration, but I felt it helped to separate him from the confusion about what to do with Harry. It is him stepping into surrender, and then when he returns to the wheel he is returning to his duty.

I am removing the following paragraph, though, where Oscar muses that the waves have been sending them back home, not consigning them to oblivion. It was just too direct and I couldn’t think of a less clunky way to communicate the idea. So away it goes.

As the lighthouse beacon swung in its circle it briefly illuminated the sentinel figure of the Broken Horn. It was far to starboard and a little behind. Oscar wondered how long ago the two sailors had made it around the treacherous shoals and didn’t even know it!

But never mind that place. Never mind it ever again.

Now with the wind and the waves behind them and the lighthouse and the shore ahead, they pounded forward with all the power of the sea. The buffeting of the storm ushered them forward. As they came into the shallows the deep waves broke into a rapid chorus, giving them a lively rocking on their way.

When the two boats were within a thousand feet of the shore the lighthouse beacon stopped circling. Sam must have spotted their vessels, so now he kept the giant searchlight fixed on them, casting their path in permanent illumination.

Oscar didn’t even try to navigate a proper landing at the dock, though. Any other day it would have been the most routine of maneuvers, but today he had only enough nerve remaining for one unmissable target: the beach.

Closer and closer the shore loomed, and at last Oscar’s hull crunched across the sand and the boat keeled to its starboard side, and finally the whole thing came to a rest. Oscar tried to let go of the helm, but his clenched hands would not accept the order.

“Let go!” he cried, awkwardly wrenching them loose and immediately stumbling sideways, over the tilted deck, and into the railing! He tried to lower himself over the railing’s other side, but halfway across his arms gave out entirely and he flopped unceremoniously onto the wet sand below, coming to a sitting position with his back against the boat.

The breaking waves lapped against his feet, the wind roared in his ear, and the rain pelted at his face…but he didn’t register any of those things. Not a one of them mattered. He just sat in silence as Harry’s trawler rolled onto the sand twenty feet away.

“Oscar!” Harry’s voice called out from above. “Oscar, where are you?!”

Harry flung himself over his own railing and onto the sand, almost running straight into Oscar before he finally saw him sitting there.

So far I’ve only found minor changes here and there in this final segment. I am intending to make some more substantial changes to this final conversation, though. I’ve tried a couple times already to get it right, and still feel like it isn’t quite what I’m looking for. Perhaps this new take will suit the story better.

“Oscar, are you alright?”

Oscar just looked up and blinked silently at the other man.

“Oscar, I’m sorry,” Harry cried. “I know that doesn’t change anything, but I’m sorry. I am!”

“You killed my son,” Oscar mumbled brokenly.

“I–” Harry could think of nothing to say, so he clenched his mouth and nodded solemnly.

“I don’t know what to do, Harry,” Oscar said. “I just don’t know what to do. I’m too broken to feel or think anymore.”

“I know, Oscar.”

“I know I should hate you. I’m sure I will when I can feel things again. I’ll probably even want to kill you.”

“I know. It’s only natural that a man in your place would feel that way.”

There was a long silence, and the two men just stared at each other. The coast was dark and wet and cold, and the two men seemed all alone in each other’s eyes. And though they may have been ill companions, they were together in that dark and lonely place even so.

But then, after a few more moments, they were not alone. For now there came the sound of a voice calling out through the night. It was ringing down from the hill that sat at the back of the beach. That voice was accompanied by a lantern, too, bobbing through the darkness towards them. It was Sam was coming to find them.

“Oscar…” Harry slowly extended his hand. “Oscar, what do you say we go and see Sam?”

“What?”

“Let’s go meet Sam. He’s a good man, you know. He’ll get us warm clothes and food and rest. He’ll take care of us. Sam will know what to do. He’ll know what matters for right now.”

Oscar thought for a moment, then slowly reached out his hand and took Harry’s. Harry pulled Oscar up to his feet, then got his arm around his shoulder to support him. Together they turned their backs to the shrieking sea and hobbled away, making their way towards the solitary swinging light.

The Salt Worms: Part Eight

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Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six
Part Seven

Nathan made one more look up and down the table, but absolutely no one was willing to meet his gaze.

“Well…” he said softly. “Alright then. I guess there’s no further discussion to be had.”

He lifted the poison pellets off of the table and started to put them into his backpack.

“Uhh…” Samuel Iverson raised a finger. “What do you intend to do with those?”

“Find somewhere else that their purpose will be appreciated,” Nathan replied.

Samuel looked sideways to Doctor Hogue. Nathan, of course, knew exactly what was going through their minds. He had been in this exact situation several times already. On the surface he maintained a calm and nonchalant demeanor, but inside every muscle was tensing.

“We’ll put you up for the night,” Doctor Hogue offered. “I’m sure it’s been an age since you had a nice dinner and a bed.”

“Thank you for your hospitality,” Nathan said, fingers fumbling slightly as he closed the zipper, “but I won’t impose any further on you. Really, the sooner I get going the better.”

He stood up, and at the same time so did everyone else. Nathan, unfortunately, wasn’t the closest to the door. There were three people between him and the exit.

“Nathan–” Samuel Iverson said softly.

“No!” Nathan shot back. “You’re supposed to be a civilization! You’re supposed to be better than this! What’s the point of your fancy homes and walls if you’re no better than the nomads?!”

“Nathan, we are not trying to steal from you,” Doctor Hogue said forcefully. “Like we said, we have no use for your pellets and we wouldn’t try to profit from them, either.”

“What do you want, then?” Nathan demanded.

“Well…” Samuel took a step back from the table and came to a tool chest by the wall. He withdrew an everyday hammer and laid it on the table. “If you will kindly destroy those pellets, Nathan, then we’d be happy to let you along your way.”

“What?!”

“I’m sorry, Mister Prewitt,” Doctor Hogue added, “but we just can’t trust you. We think it far more likely that you’ll persist with your original plan just as soon as you leave.”

“Like I said, I’ll head somewhere else with them. I think this is the best place for it, but that’s alright. There’s plenty of other good that can be done elsewhere.”

Doctor Hogue and Samuel Iverson shook their heads. They didn’t believe him…which meant they weren’t fools.

“I’m sorry,” Doctor Hogue repeated, “but you didn’t come this far just to give up because we asked you to. So we’re going to need some assurance.” He tapped the hammer.

Nathan weighed things carefully. He could always just hand over the pellets, pretend to give up like he had with Red Stella…but no, he was sure they wouldn’t fall for that. Stella had been unhinged and ego-centric, but these people were more rational. They wouldn’t buy his façade unless they had to take the pellets away by force. They were going to have to see him hurt.

“And what if I refuse?” Nathan darted his eyes around the room. He unzipped the backpack and took the poison pellets back out, clenching them tightly in his fist.

“We simply can’t take the risk of you endangering us,” Samuel Iverson slowly started moving around the table. Everyone else in the room took a step nearer as well.

“So what if I refuse?” Nathan repeated, taking a step back.

“You said it yourself earlier,” Doctor Hogue picked up a chair and turned its legs towards Nathan like he was taming a wild animal, “we all have to make difficult choices in our line of duty. Leading a people means doing whatever it takes to protect them…no matter how unpleasant it may be.”

“That’s easy to say,” Nathan grinned darkly, “but have you actually had to kill someone who didn’t deserve it?” He retreated another step and his back hit a wall. He pressed his hand along it, feeling for something that he could use. His fingers closed around a stake being used to anchor the zinc walls to the ground.

“There’s no need for it to come to that,” Samuel said as he and the other elders advanced until they were just outside of Nathan’s reach.

“But have you ever done it?” Nathan made the quickest of glances upward, measuring the distance to the roof. He had to be careful to not actually kill anyone, or else there was no telling what they might do to him out of vengeance!

“All of us have had to do things we’d rather not.”

“And that includes me!” Nathan gave a sharp twist with his wrist and the rusted stake snapped off in the dirt. He lunged forward, swinging the weapon high over his head, angling it straight for Samuel Iverson! However he intentionally made his jump too high, thus carrying the weapon into the roof of the building, puncturing a hole in the corrugated metal and wedging itself inside of it.

“NO!” Nathan pretended to be surprised. Then he was swarmed by all of the elders rushing at once!

“HOLD HIM DOWN!” Samuel shouted. “HOLD HIM DOWN!”

Nathan took a sharp, bracing breath. He wasn’t sure what would happen next. Crowds of angry people were unpredictable. But if he had played his cards right, and if he continued to do so, then he might just get out of here with his life…and with the one item that actually mattered…his backpack.

The Shattered Protagonist

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Arabian Mishaps)

In the Disney animated film Aladdin, our protagonist is a lowly street thief who dreams of a better life. From the very beginning he speaks longingly of having enough wealth to live comfortably and not be pushed around by the palace guards.

When he is offered a job to retrieve a lamp for untold riches he jumps at the chance, but the operation doesn’t go as planned. By the end of the job Aladdin finds himself alone, buried in an underground cavern, with no way out. All he has to show for his efforts is that one, little lamp he was supposed to deliver to his employer.

But then, of course, he realizes that this is no ordinary lamp. It is actually the home of an all-powerful genie, who will grant Aladdin three wishes. Aladdin quickly uses the first of these to make himself into a prince, and then makes a dramatic entrance to the city, riding atop an elephant with a magically-generated entourage of a thousand servants!

At long last Aladdin seems to have come into life he always dreamed of. He has wealth, he has security, he has respect, and he is able to catch the attention of the woman he loves. Yet ye soon finds out that he has traded one set of troubles for others that is far more dangerous. The palace guards may not be a thorn in his side any longer, but now he’s in the sights of the royal vizier Jafar.

Jafar proves to be a much more capable foe, and soon he has stolen the magical lamp, taken over the kingdom by force, and blasted Aladdin into exile. For Aladdin, it would seem that getting everything he wanted didn’t actually actually get him everything he wanted!

Everything You Ever Wanted)

Compare that to the similar experience of Billy in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Billy has spent his whole life dreaming of joining the ranks of the most powerful supervillains in the world. At the start of the show his alter ego, Dr. Horrible, has finally caught the attention of Bad Horse, who is the leader of the prestigious Evil League of Evil. Billy might be allowed into the league himself, but only if he can prove his worth with a particularly dastardly deed.

At the same time Billy gains the notice of someone else he has been vying for the attention of: Penny, the pretty girl he sees every week at the laundromat. Penny is a completely selfless and giving soul, and the more Billy spends time with her the more her sunny disposition clashes with his lust for world domination.

This dilemma is all resolved, though, when Billy’s nemesis, Captain Hammer, start developing a romantic relationship with Penny. Billy is now doubly motivated to kill Captain Hammer; on the one hand so that he can enter the Evil League of Evil, and on the other so that he can pry Captain Hammer and Penny apart. He hatches a plan to assassinate Captain Hammer, which goes remarkably according to plan…until he gets cold feet at the moment of pulling the trigger.

His hesitation gives Captain Hammer a chance to retaliate, which indirectly results in an explosion going off. The blast cripples Captain Hammer, but also kills Penny, who was hiding nearby. The press interprets the event as an intentional and evil deed, and Dr. Horrible is immediately ushered into the ranks of the Evil League of Evil. In the show’s final musical number he sings that he has finally gained everything he ever wanted, but as his thoughts turn to Penny his expression becomes one of numb brokenness.

Need vs Want)

There are plenty of stories where the heroes knows exactly what they want, pursue it, and at the climax of the tale finally achieve it. But many other stories have learned to add a layer of nuance by making what the heroes want be different from what they actually need.

Aladdin wanted wealth, but he needed self-acceptance. Billy wanted the position in the Evil League of Evil, but he needed love. If the hero learns to give up what they want for what they need, then the story has a happy ending, such as with Aladdin. But if they don’t, then the story becomes a tragedy, such as with Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog.

Accepting Loss)

Of course there are other cases, too. Sometimes what the hero wants isn’t strictly opposed to what he needs, but he still don’t get it anyway. In these cases the story isn’t about how the main character learns to sort out his priorities or achieve success, it is about how he deals with failure.

This is the situation of Kunta Kinte in Roots. Kunta is a youth in Africa during the mid-18th century, but he is kidnapped and brought to America as a slave. He then proceeds to make one escape attempt after another, never losing his fire for freedom, even after the front of his foot is chopped off as punishment for trying to run away.

But as the years go by Kunta falls in love with another slave, marries her, and has a child. Now he is divided between his continuing desire for freedom, and his desire to be with his new family. For a time he wavers between the two, but ultimately chooses to remain with his wife and child.

The story isn’t trying to say that Kunta “wants” freedom but “needs” family, more like he needs both but can only have one. He must make a choice between them, and that’s just the way it is. No matter what his choice there is a significant loss, and he must make his peace with that.

Another story, Of Mice and Men, is also about characters who don’t get the things that they want or need. The story opens with George Milton and Lennie Small, traveling companions who forever dream of settling down on their own piece of land.

Unfortunately, they are in the thick of the Great Depression, a time that ate hopes and dreams for breakfast. For a little while it looks like they might actually realize their plans, but then tragedy arises, and Lennie dies at the hands of George, taking with him any hope for a brighter future.

How to Respond)

Failures are interesting in a story, because the way that a characters responds to them reveals the deepest layers of their personality. It is most often in their deepest disappointment that you learn who they really are.

In my own story I just had my protagonist meet a terrible setback. He has spent seven years bringing a prototype weapon to the westernmost province of the United States. All this time he has imagined being welcomed as a savior, but what he finds just the opposite. The people are afraid that his plan will backfire and they want nothing to do with it. Now he has to decide how he will react to this setback. Will he surrender his plan and find a new purpose…will he wander aimlessly away…or will he harden his heart and press on regardless? Well, if you’ve been paying attention to his character you already know that he’ll choose the latter. He is going to persist, even in the face of broken expectations, willingly shifting from an ally of the city to its foe.

Revising the Storm- Week 24

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I’ve been sharing my work on this story with a writer’s group and getting some feedback from them. They’ve helped me to see the need for more variety in my descriptions of the storm. I don’t mention temperature or smells at all, and I hardly include any sound. Instead I have a lot of very-similar visuals about the waves and the darkness. I use different adjectives each time, but it’s still a repeat of the same picture. I also revisit the same obstacle many times over and over, that of the boats trying to push up a wave and getting tipped to their sides.

Honestly it’s been a little discouraging, having put in this much time and still finding such fundamental shortcomings. However, seeing the problem is the first step to being able to correct them, too. At this point I’m nearly at the end of the third draft, so I’ll push through to that, and then I’ll look into replacing my repetitions with something more inventive.

For now, let’s move forward with today’s touch-ups. Here’s the link to the latest draft if you want to compare it to this new version.

The Climax)

The wave hit, and all the world became water. Its torrent poured into the wheelhouse and slammed against Oscar, knocking his feet out from under him. He tried to get his bearings, tried to make sense of the wind and the sea, tried to figure out what way to maneuver his vessel…but his mind refused to process these things anymore. The last drop of resolve had been wrung from his body, so that all he could think to do was surrender to oblivion.

Cut down on this moment of Oscar’s mental and emotional exhaustion. As I’ve stated several times in this act, I really feel like less is more, and the reader will better grasp what I’m saying if I don’t spell it all out.

“Oscar…” Harry’s voice came softly over the radio. “Let’s face it. We’re going to both die if we keep up like this. But I’ll bet you still have enough fuel to get around the cape…if you weren’t towing me anymore that is.”

“But I am towing you.”

“Oscar, I knew it would be you who came for me. I just knew it would be you. The sea knows I’ve done wrong by you…and it’s brought you here to make things right between us.”

“Harry, please stop. I don’t want—”

“I lied to you Oscar.”

The next wave stretched twice as high as any previous. Oscar let go of the mic, fastening both hands to the wheel and bracing for impact as Harry continued.

“I told you that when I took your son out sailing he forgot to tie down his safety line in the storm. But James was too bright for that. He secured one for himself and for me. He did it just as soon as we were in real trouble. Then we dashed around the boat like mad, trying to tie everything down. I went up to the stern and he went aft. The boat just kept reeling from side-to-side, and each time seemed like the one that would finally throw us in the drink.”

A mighty crack sounded as one of the lines on Oscar’s boat snapped.

“Each wave swamped us, half drowned us! I was praying and cursing with every breath I took. Some of the rigging was loose, so I made my way back to the mainmast and threw knots off and back on, pull them tight as I went.”

Oscar flung his arms our for balance as he slid down a water-hill sideways.

“Then the next wave fell on us, the biggest one yet. It was a froth! I couldn’t see. I couldn’t feel what was in my own hands. It seemed like an eternity, but finally it washed away. I was facing towards the rear of the boat and…and I saw nothing. James–he…he just wasn’t there anymore.”

A tide of water swept into Oscar’s cabin. He slipped and fell to his knees, head rolled back, fingertips gripping the wheel.

“I undid his safety line, Oscar. I–I don’t know how I could have…but I did. Somehow in all my blundering I pulled it up along with all the other knots and then that wave hit us and took him out to sea. I–I killed him!”

Oscar’s eyes flowed steady streams. His mouth was open but silent. His whole body heaved as it expelled the last of the air from his lungs. His hands twitched on the edge of the wheel handles.

“And I didn’t have the courage to tell you the truth, Oscar. I let you believe your son was lost because of his own mistake, because he forgot to tie his lifeline in the first place. But that was nothing but a pure lie.”

Oscar’s heart beat heavily inside him. Beat like it would tear him right in two. The pounding of his heart was matched only by the pounding of the waves against his boat. They buffeted his vessel where they would and he did nothing to stop them.

“I undid the wrong lifeline that day, Oscar, and for fifteen years later I’ve been waiting for someone else to untie my line because I’m too much of a coward to do it myself. So…so why don’t you go ahead and cut me loose now? Let me go and make for shore while you still have a chance.”

Little alterations here and there, some lines removed or moved around, reducing the flashes of Oscar being overwhelmed by the sea so that Harry’s confession feels more unbroken. Overall, though, I’ve considered this to be one of the stronger parts of my story and I still do.

There’s just over 1,000 words left in this draft, so I’ll finish that next week, then move on to my next iteration, in which I will primarily focus on restructuring that troublesome middle.

The Salt Worms: Part Seven

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Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five
Part Six

“Hey, come back here,” Manny had said.

“What?” Nathan asked.

“We need to talk.”

“Can it wait.”

A long pause.

“No.”

Samuel Iverson shifted in his chair, interrupting Nathan’s memory.

“So…” Samuel stroked his chin thoughtfully. “Anything else?”

“Not really,” Nathan shrugged. “There were more dangers and challenges, of course, but by that point I knew I had a system that worked. It brought me all the way to you on the fringe of civilization, and it will bring me through my next steps as well.”

“Which are what exactly? What is your plan to deal with the worm here?”

“It’s very simple…and it requires nothing from you. I will go out onto the salt flats on my own. I will find the sand striker worm’s nest and light it on fire. When the sand striker worm comes I will already have the poison pellets ready in hand.”

“What? And just throw them in?!”

“No,” Nathan shook his head. “That would leave too much to chance. What if I missed? What if it didn’t ingest them?”

“What then?”

Nathan simply stared back intensely.

“You don’t mean…”

Nathan nodded.

“You’ll let it eat you?!”

“At that point, face-to-face with a worm, there’d already be no way of getting out alive. You know that. And I am prepared to do what I must.”

Many of the people in the room shook their heads in disbelief.

“The rest of you will simply have to wait for the worm to die. Take whatever precautions you need to stay safe during its final days.”

“You won’t even survive long enough to find its nest!” the older lady down the table exclaimed.

“This won’t be the first worm field that I’ve had to cross! But in the event that the worm did find me prematurely, so what? I’ll still be prepared to meet it, and when it’s gone it’ll be a small thing for you to take care of the eggs.”

Samuel Iverson shifted around in his seat, trying to find the words to express his discomfort with the idea.

“It’s–it’s just too much,” he finally concluded. “This whole plan, coming out of the blue like this, with so much that could go wrong. You asking us to go along with it is just too much.”

“As I said, all the burden is on me. If I fail then I die and life continues the same as ever for you. Of course I do understand that this is a lot to digest, anyway. I’m sure you’ll need a day or two to think about it–“

“He doesn’t even know if those pellets work,” the elderly woman sided with Samuel. “They’ve never actually been tested.”

“What if the worm realizes its been attacked and decides to take us out?” another member of the council added.

“Besides,” Doctor Hogue chimed in, “even if it did succeed, what would we really gain? I mean of course I’d love to remove the threat of that monster breathing down our necks every day, but I don’t see how doing that is worth all of the associated risk.”

“You don’t see how it’s worth the risk?!” Nathan couldn’t believe what he was hearing. “Don’t you see, the reason why I’m doing this isn’t just so you can live here more comfortably, it’s so you can finally get away from here!”

Everyone in the room gave him a curious look, as if they hadn’t even considered that possibility.

“You mean you didn’t get that was the reason I came here specifically?! With the radiation zones pressing in from the north and the spawning grounds to the south, everyone in the nation is bottlenecked by this one Bonneville worm’s nest. If that one cork could be popped every surviving American might have a chance to make it to the coast!”

“Oh,” Samuel said softly. “So that’s the plan.”

“Well of course that’s the plan! You’re the remnants of the Coast-Seekers company, aren’t you?”

“Yes.”

“And your objective was to reach the California coast and set sail for New Zealand, correct?”

“Well, New Zealand or Hawai’i, but one of the two, anyway.”

“But you gave up on that dream when you got bottled in by this worm, so now I’m giving you a way out! A way to finish what you started.”

“Yes,” Iverson said after a pause. “That was the idea all those years ago, you are correct. Reach the coast and sail away…but, well, that was a long time ago. Back then we couldn’t even fathom scratching out our lives here…but now that’s become our reality.”

“You can’t be telling me that you actually like it here!”

“It’s life, isn’t it?!” Iverson shot back. “And let’s be realistic, that’s more than you could guarantee us if we made for the coast. Los Angeles, Portland, Seattle, San Diego, San Francisco…these were massive cities! They must have drawn in hundreds of worms, which broke them to the ground and are now sprawled everywhere along that border!”

“Not everywhere. There’s sure to be holes. I admit I don’t know where, but once you’re past this bottleneck you’ll have room to maneuver, to test for weak spots, to find a way through!”

“And how many surveying teams will have to be sacrificed to find out where they are?”

“Does it matter?! If all of us die except for one soul who gets through to freedom then that’s worth it, isn’t it?!”

Nathan looked demandingly around the room, but no one said a word. No one met his gaze. And in that moment Nathan knew. He had seen the same look of defeat in the eyes of countless wanderers during his journeys, but those had been the faces of people who truly had no hope left. He had always assumed that things would be different here. How could a community be trapped less than six hundred miles from total freedom, and be offered a second chance at life, and still turn it down cold?

“We’ve got to be thinking bigger than just ourselves,” Nathan tried one last time. “It wouldn’t just be you getting a shot at freedom, it would be everyone else trapped in this whole country. You can’t deny them their shot just because the cost might be high for you.”

“I’m sure that was the same sentiment they held when they dropped the nukes on us,” Iverson said bitterly.

“I’m sorry, Mister Prewitt,” Doctor Hogue said gently. “When we heard you had something to offer, we didn’t know what to expect. But this plan of yours…we’re just not interested. Better to preserve what little we have than to risk losing it all.”

Part Eight

Who Even Are You?

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The Mysterious Man)

The 1941 Alfred Hitchcock film Suspicion was a bit of a surprise to its audiences. Its main star, Cary Grant, was known for always playing a heroic or romantic lead, but the advertisements for the picture suggested that this might be his very first turn as a villain!

And though the film begins with Cary Grant’s character, Johnnie Aysgarth, being presented as a humorous, playful bachelor, there is also a sense of insincerity and foolishness about him. For example consider the very first scene, where he is called out for being in a first class train compartment with a third class ticket. He tries to laugh his way out of the situation, but eventually has to bum some extra change off of the lady he is sharing the compartment with. That may not seem like much of a concern at first, but awkward flubs with money become a defining characteristic of the man. After he wins the heart and hand of Lina McLaidlaw, she discovers that he has absolutely no money to his name, and is hoping to siphon money out of her rich parents instead!

But more surprising than Cary Grant playing such a shifty character is how natural a fit he is in the role! At this point Cary Grant had established a career defined by charisma, suaveness, and humor. In this film, though, he is outright immature and selfish, and he plays it very well, spending half the time with a stupid grin while everyone else is trying to have a serious conversation with him.

Worse than a freeloader, though, Lina starts to believe that her husband might actually be dangerous. As the burden of his debts continue to grow, he starts exhibiting some darker behaviors, which get her wondering if he wouldn’t kill her for the insurance money! Most concerning is a scene where he speaks with Lina’s friend, a murder mystery novelist, about whether there are any untraceable poisons.

The whole thing escalates to the climatic scene where the husband and wife are driving along a cliffside road. Lina’s door falls open and Johnnie reaches over. Lina recoils in horror, believing that he is trying to push her out. He sees this and breaks down in anger, asking if she is so repulsed by him that she would lunge away, even when all he is trying to do is pull her back to safety?

At last the truth comes out, about how he has been so ashamed of himself, so miserable that he has dragged not only himself, but also his wife, into financial ruin that he has been considering suicide. Yes, he has been a flawed and dishonest man, but he is not the remorseless killer that the advertisements would have had us believe. The couple drive for home together, resolved to face their challenges together.

Suspect Again)

Interestingly, Cary Grant would revisit the suspicious lead two decades later in 1963 with Charade. This was one of his very last films, and up to this point he still had never played a villain. Would this be his one take at being the bad guy?

This film opens with Regina “Reggie” Lampert discovering that her estranged husband, Charles, was murdered while on a train from Paris. This opens up a series of revelations to her, culminating with her learning that Charles was actually a spy, and that he had in his possession a considerable amount of wealth which several governments and his former colleagues have been trying to reclaim.

Coincidentally, Reggie makes a new acquaintance right before she hears of her husband’s death. Peter Joshua, played by Cary Grant, seems totally disconnected from the drama surrounding Reggie’s dead husband, but he soon becomes embroiled in her efforts to deter Charles’ former colleagues, who now suspect her of knowing where the missing money is.

Reggie is growing more and more emotionally attached to Joshua, her only friend in a quickly-shifting world. But then a great emotional blow comes when one of Charles’ former colleagues tells Reggie that Peter isn’t the man he is pretending to be. Joshua is trying to get the money from her, just the same as the rest of them.

Reggie confronts Peter and he admits that he lied about his identity. He now tells her his “true” identity: Alexander Dyle, whose brother had died on a former mission with Charles. But later in the movie that identity will be revealed to be a lie as well. Reggie had been falling in love with Peter/Alexander/whoever he is, but now she wonders if he won’t betray her as soon as it serves his interest to do so.

Everything culminates in a shootout between Cary Grant’s character and another man who may or may not be the actual murderer of Charles Lampert, the man who was presumed to have died in that former mission. Reggie is caught in between the two men, unsure of whom she should trust. Finally she follows her heart, joins sides with Cary Grant’s character, and this proves to be the correct choice. Together the two of them manage to overcome the would-be assassin, who was the last surviving agent who had intended Reggie any harm.

And then, in the film’s final scene, it is revealed that Cary Grant was a US government agent all along, who had been working undercover to solve this whole case. So once again Cary Grant’s halo remains intact, even if it came dangerously close to falling off!

The Pleasure of Being Unsure)

Of course, it is very unusual for the audience to not know whether a lead character is the hero or villain of the story. Virtually every story establishes these roles right from the beginning, making it clear who exactly you should be rooting for and who you should hate. Some stories might reveal a surprise betrayal later on, but typically those come from supporting characters, not the main protagonist.

Both Suspicion and Charade are unique in making the audience spend the entire film with a lead character that they still don’t know the loyalties of. Both of these films must walk the razor-thin line of giving their female leads more and more reasons to distrust Grant’s character, but not so much as to actually abandon him altogether. The tension can only continue if they stay both near to and fearful of him at the same time. It is truly remarkable how each of them manage to pull this off so well.

In my own story I introduced a main character that audiences will immediately assume is the hero. He is at the end of a great quest, has come to rid the land of a great monster, and will free the community that is living under its terror. He is like Saint George come to kill the dragon, clearly a heroic character.

But as the story goes along, the more suspect Nathan becomes. Bit-by-bit we have learned that he lies, that he steals, and most recently that he even kills! The three core qualities of a story villain.

My hope is that the audience will be conflicted and intrigued, wanting to finally get to the bottom of who this guy actually is. But unlike Cary Grant’s characters, the answer won’t be so black and white.

Revising the Storm- Week 23

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Not quite to the final act of the story, but getting very near. Today’s effort ought to bring us to the moment just before the story’s climax, and then we’ll be well on our way to having this draft finished.

I’ve been expressing a lot of concern about the story’s pacing, trying to tighten things up and wondering if it’s still too weighed down. There is a very tricky balance I’m trying to strike, where the journey needs to feel long and exhausting, but not become a slog to read through. This will definitely be my central focus in the next readthrough.

But for now, it’s time to finish applying this current layer of polish. Here’s the link to the latest draft if you want to see how it compares to this current version.

To the Limit)

“Whatever fuel you’ve got left, burn it now!” Oscar ordered, turning his own throttle up to maximum. With new life his vessel churned forward…then came a jerking halt as the line ran taut and Harry’s vessel dragged Oscar’s back.

“Harry?!”

“I’m trying, I’m trying!” Harry exclaimed. “There we go!” he crowed as his engines came back to life. “Oh wait, no!” they cut out again after just a few seconds, causing the rope to snap taut again.

I removed another iteration of Harry’s engines working and then not working. The point is already made so it was just taking up unnecessary space.

Oscar ground his teeth together. This constant relaxing and tightening of the line would snap it in two. Much as he wanted to surge on ahead, he would just have to pace himself off of what Harry’s boat could handle.

“Is it steadier at lower speeds?” Oscar asked.

“Yes, the engine holds if I don’t throttle over twenty percent.”

“Alright. You keep it there. I’ll tug.”

Oscar slowed his boat down until both he and Harry were travelling at the same, slow speed. Then he accelerated, but very gradually this time. The line eased back to full tension, and the two boats began gaining speed as one. Eventually Oscar was back to full throttle, dragging Harry’s waterlogged hull through the waves. It was working…but they were less than half the speed that Oscar’s boat could have gone on its own.

“Come on, Harry,” Oscar willed the other man’s boat to spring to life. But it didn’t. It just hung there as an anchor, constantly weighing him back into the storm. And he found that he despised Harry for that. “How many sailors have to die under your hand before you’re through?” he muttered darkly.

Oscar turned his attention back to the front, still watching for any sign of the cliff-face or, better yet, of the lighthouse. He saw neither, but by looking so earnestly his mind was starting to play tricks on him, making him think he had caught a glimpse of one or the other out of the corner of his eye.

Was that a moving light?! No, just a reflection of sheet lightning on the rolling wave. Did a rock just spring out of the dark in front of him?! No, just one cloud moving past another.

Once again, I’m keeping the same scene as before, with Oscar looking for shapes in the dark, but I’m cutting it down to about half of its original length.

“Turn deeper, Harry. “Let’s bring it to forty degrees!”

“Alright…if you’re sure…”

“I’m not sure of anything anymore.” Oscar replied, but only to himself. He was surprised that they still hadn’t seen either the saving light or the damning rock. Had he become more turned around than he realized? Were they actually headed away from the shoreline?

“Forty-five degrees, Harry! Make it forty-five!”

The next wave came rolling up from behind the trawlers and tilted them so far that Oscar had to plant his foot against the side of the wheelhouse to keep his balance. They seemed to hold in this position for an eternity, and Oscar’s hands twitched on the helm, ready to throw it to starboard at the first sign of the floor rolling out from under him.

But it wasn’t his boat that started to roll first. Suddenly there came a sharp tug from behind as Harry’s started to fall onto its side, reeling the line in as it went!

By pure instinct Oscar threw his wheel the rest pf the way to port, swiveling his boat to be fully parallel with the wave. The torrent of water slammed against the side of the wheelhouse, flooding over his vessel and threatening to swamp him at any moment! But all that force against the side of Oscar’s trawler made it pull back sharply on the rope, like a kite on the end of a string, hauling Harry’s boat out of its roll and back onto its hull!

I took the description of two waves passing over the sailors and combined them in one. There was a lot of good material here…but it was, in fact, too much. I’ve got to match the pacing in this sequence with the rest of the story. I’ll also be cutting down the following paragraphs by half.

Oscar had gotten them through the moment, but the entire situation was quickly getting out of hand. There were now too many competing forces for him to keep up with: the mad sloshing of water down in his hold, the erratic swaying of Harry’s boat at the end of the line, and the sporadic buffeting of the screeching wind.

“Come on!” Oscar snarled, desperately fighting to take control of the situation. But the more his hands fumbled back and forth over the controls, the more his boat fell into over-correction and only added to the rolling chaos.

The next wave was nearly upon them, and Oscar gave up trying to find a clever maneuver to get back stability. His nerves were too worn down, and he surrendered everything, reverting back to holding the helm for dear life!

Honestly it’s very cathartic to cut long passages down, combining and simplifying them into something leaner and more fluid. Next week the story will enter its climax, where I expect to have less changes to make. Then we’ll be off to the conclusion!

The Salt Worms: Part Six

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Part One
Part Two
Part Three
Part Four
Part Five

Nathan’s eyes darted down to the backpack he was clutching to his chest.

“Don’t do it!” Manny said hotly. “We always said we’d protect it, no matter the cost!”

“But what difference does it make?” Nathan shot back. “She gets it either way, better that we’re still alive after she does.”

Nathan!

“Would you just trust me, Manny?” Nathan gave his compatriot a meaningful look.

“Glad to see you can be sensible,” Stella smiled. “Now hand it over.”

With a deep sigh Nathan loosened his grip on the backpack and slowly undid the zipper over the top. He reached in and pulled out a large mechanical device. The body of it was flat and rectangular, with three buttons, a dial, and a switch along one side. On top of the box a small satellite dish was mounted, about the size of a hand.

“Explain to us how it works,” Stella commanded.

“It’s really quite simple. Hook the cord up to a power source, though it does need to be 220 volts, so you’ll probably need a converter. These three buttons toggle between sawtooth, sine, and square waveforms. The worms will eventually adapt to one type of signal, so once you see them coming out of their frenzy just change the waveform and they should go back to attacking themselves. The dial is to raise and lower the amplitude. Each worm will respond best to a slightly different signal strength, so you just have to experiment to see which level gets the most consistent reaction out of them. That’s it.”

“Alright,” Stella held out excited, trembling hands. “Give it to me!”

Nathan paused before handing it over, though. “Stella…” he said slowly, “you tell us that you’re no mercenary, that you’re not going to use this for profit, that we can trust you. But the problem is, can you say the same about your own men?”

And with that Nathan casually tossed the device through the air to the guard that was standing to Stella’s left. The man raised his arms in surprise and caught it, eyes flicking left and right as if unsure what he should do.

Stella’s own eyes went wide and without a word she reached her left hand up to right elbow, pulling out the blade sheathed on her upper arm.

“Hey!” the other guard shouted as he wrapped his hands around her arm, holding her back from stabbing out with the blade. “He hasn’t even done anything!”

But Stella reached her free hand and took the blade into it, then plunged it into the guard restraining her. The other guard cried out in rage and leaped at her, fumbling with the firearm on his side.

“COME ON!” Nathan roared, grabbing Manny under the arm and hauling him to his feet. Stella and the two men were two busy struggling to stop the two prisoners as they plowed their way out of the tent.

“Nathan, wait–” Manny tried to turn back but Nathan forcibly dragged him towards the trees, ducking low to avoid being seen by anyone else in the camp. “But Nathan!”

“Will you shut up?!”

There came the sounds of shots and shouting from the tent as Nathan finally wrested Manny into the tall, thin trees at the edge of camp.

“But the Wave Emitter!” Manny hissed. “You can’t just give that up! If we go back now we might be able to get it off of whoever’s left.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Nathan replied as he continued to lead Manny deeper into the trees. “It was a red herring all along.”

“What?!”

“It was just something I threw together from the scraps left at an old Best Buy. It doesn’t actually do anything.”

“But–but–you said–“

“Look, you’re absolutely right that we’ve got to protect the prototype at any cost. So of course I haven’t been showing anybody the actual thing!”

“But you always told me–“

“I’m sorry, Manny. When I first met you I couldn’t trust you with the truth either. I suppose I could have later, but it always seemed safer to keep the truth to as few people as possible. To myself.”

“What truth? Is there an actual prototype or isn’t there?”

Nathan looked over his shoulder and determined that they were far enough from the camp to pause and explain things.

“Shine this on me,” he handed Manny his flashlight and lowered the backpack from his shoulders. “We did make a prototype and it can kill the sand striker worms. I just lied about it being a wave frequency device that puts them into a frenzy.”

“But we’ve risked our lives for that device! Numerous times!”

“No. We risked our lives for the backpack. And the back still has everything that matters.” Nathan pulled sharply on a tab that hung from the inside of the backpack’s main compartment. A false bottom rolled to the side, revealing a rectangular package divided into ten compartments. “This is the actual prototype we made.”

“What is it?”

“It’s poison pellets. Ten poison pellets. This is the real hope of the future. This is what we have to get to your people in New Denver.”

Nathan’s senses were pulled back to the present moment as Samuel Iverson finished his hushed powwow with the messenger boy.

“…and if that doesn’t work, have Janice restart the generator entirely and hope for the best.”

“Okay.”

The youth nodded to everyone in the dimly lit room and shuffled out the way he had come.

“Now then,” Iverson rubbed the bridge of his nose, “where were we?”

“Manny agreed to accompany me out west,” Nathan reminded him. “He believed in my cause enough to risk everything.”

“And when exactly did you say Manny died?” Doctor Hogue asked.

“About a year ago, when we reached Old Denver.”

“Nomads?”

“Influenza.”

Samuel Iverson and Doctor Hogue frowned at that. Evidently it wasn’t important enough of a death for their friend.

“I’m sorry,” Nathan said. “I did everything I could for him before the end. Fortunately he did not die in vain. By that point I was near enough to Utah that the locals could point me from one landmark to another until I found you. And now here I am.”

Whatever Nathan expected at the end of his tale, it wasn’t total silence. A heavy weight pervaded in the room and Nathan didn’t like it. Perhaps he was being paranoid, but he couldn’t help but wonder if the leaders were thinking it suspicious for Manny to have died before he could confirm or deny the story that Nathan was telling. For all they knew, Nathan had forced their friend to assist him at gunpoint, then killed him as soon as he no longer of any use.

Of course, if they were thinking that, none of it was true. Except for that one part about Nathan having killed Manny.

Part Seven
Part Eight

Something Old, Something New

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A New Voice)

Romeo and Juliet has been a classic since its premier in 1597, and like many of Shakespeare’s works it has been reimagined countless different times. What if the story were set in a different timeline? What if the characters’ sexes were swapped? What if the ending was tweaked? But typically these reinterpretations remain closely tied to their original source, they feel like a branch off of its trunk.

Every now and then, though, a reimagining comes along that is notably different. And one such example occurred in 1957 with the release of the Broadway musical West Side Story. West Side Story is unmistakably based on Romeo and Juliet and shares many plot developments with it, but it really does feel like its own thing. There are two main reasons that I can identify for why this is the case.

The first is that the world of West Side Story is completely reimagined from the ground up. All of the dialogue is original, with even the most classic of lines (“Wherefore art thou Romeo?”) replaced by entirely new speech. New characters like Officer Krupke are incorporated, even though they don’t have any direct analogue in Romeo and Juliet. Also entirely new plot points are added, such as the council where the two gangs decide the terms of their rumble.

In short, nothing from the original story was deemed sacred, and none of it had to be adhered to if it didn’t fit West Side Story’s new setting. The feud in West Side Story is based on racism in New York, not on a royal family quarrel, and that fundamental change meant that many connecting elements of the story would also need to be altered to remain consistent. The writers of West Side Story made all those changes without reservation. In fact, when all is said and done, it hardly feels appropriate to call West Side Story an adaptation of Romeo and Juliet at all. It is its own thing, with the ties to Romeo and Juliet being little more than an homage.

The other reason why I believe West Side Story stands apart is because it is designed within a completely different genre. Romeo and Juliet was a classic tragedy, while West Side Story is a modern musical. The integration of big band music, dazzling dance choreography, and soulful lyrics take West Side Story beyond just looking and sounding different from Romeo and Juliet, now it feels different as well.

Unrecognizable Familiarity)

Perhaps an even more drastic reinterpretation of the Romeo and Juliet story was the 2013 film Warm Bodies. Like West Side Story, this film takes the tale into a totally new genre, this time zombie horror. And once again it throws out all of the dialogue and relationships and characters that don’t make sense in that world, and incorporates new ones that do. So dramatic of a shift was this film that I didn’t even realize it was a reimagining of Romeo and Juliet until it reproduced the famous balcony scene in its own amusing way.

The Lion is King is also a reinterpretation of a Shakespearean classic: Hamlet. It features the king-father who has been murdered by the evil uncle, a son whose duty is to right that wrong, and a long period of soul-searching before he is willing to face that calling. Virtually everything else, though, is dismissed for an original narrative, just like our other two examples.

When I try to think of what one should call stories like West Side Story, Warm Bodies, and The Lion King, I really don’t think terms like adaptation and re-imagining do justice to how distinct they are from the original material. I think a better term might be that they are a reincarnation. They have held on to a few key characteristics of the original, but everything else has been conceived as an entirely new body.

My Own Invention)

I’ve been trying to do something similar with my latest story: The Salt Worms. It’s a story that is molded after the traditional hero’s quest. Our main character, Nathan Prewitt, has traveled across the entire United States, bringing with him a weapon to destroy the giant sand striker worm that keeps the entire populace pinned down. This is his great calling and burden, much like Frodo carrying the one ring to Mount Doom.

In fact, Lord of the Rings is the story that I am most trying to “reincarnate” with The Salt Worms. Our main character carries an item of awesome power, he has a faithful companion, Manuel Castillo, and those that learn of his possession want to steal it from them.

But the differences between Lord of the Rings and my story are far more numerous than their similarities. Rather than trying to recreate that classic I am throwing out all the things that don’t fit, and adding things that do. I am also changing genres, trading out high fantasy for post-apocalyptic near-future. The changes are so vast that I doubt most people would pick up on the connection to Lord of the Rings without having me point it out to them.

Now my little story isn’t going to begin to make the same sort of waves as Romeo and Juliet or Hamlet, nor will it be as revolutionary a reincarnation as West Side Story or The Lion King, but it’s been a fun exercise in how to pay homage to a classic while still remaining a story that is entirely my own. Keep an eye out as I continue The Salt Worms, and see if you can pick out more ways that I reference the original while putting my own twist on it as well.