Flash Fiction:
a complete story in one thousand words
or fewer.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Example: Luz and Ludmilla

This is a disguised version of a novel excerpt that I got from a member of an online critique group. It's the end of chapter one and the beginning of chapter two.

My initial cut took this section from 1003 words to 677, for a 33% cut. Then I took more liberties with the text -- changing the grammar to reflect time differently, using slightly different punctuation, things like that -- and achieved a 603-word version, or a 40% cut.

After you read the original, see if you miss anything in the cut versions; also, see what you think about the pace and flow of the edits. If you have comments or additional suggestions, please post them!

Here's the original:

Finally alone, she paced the room, feeling the anxiety she had been fighting the last hours crawl around her body, making her utterly exhausted. In some ways she was relieved. The only witness of that dreadful night when her husband had died was gone; shot, and not by her hand. But, curse that miserable Officer Jimenez. Why did he not die before the Chief of Police got there, before he had a chance to mention her?

Stay with a friend. She almost laughed out loud. She had no friends. She needed no friends. She wanted no friends. There were plenty of associates, more pawns to her than friends. She could think of several men, Mares amongst them, who would be happy to have her stay with them for “a few days.” But the mere thought of their lustful looks was enough to make her sick. No, these men kept their distance, and she would do nothing that would change that.

She stopped by the window, parting the heavy drapes. Lightning colored the night. Luz. Luz Garcia, she thought suddenly. Luz fawned on her like a dog. She would be delighted to have Ludmilla Bustamante, owner of Plumeria Enterprises, stay in her house. It was perfect except for one thing; it was not Luz's house, but her son Gabriel's, and he would never let Ludmilla so much as set foot in his house. Gabriel hated her, and made no attempt to hide it. He was bitter and resentful. He was also, she remembered happily, supposed to be out of town for a couple of weeks.

Luz had mentioned to her how her son had been asked to be a guest speaker at some conference or other in Monterrey. She was so proud. You would think that Gabriel had just become the new President of Mexico. If Gabriel was not home, Ludmilla could stay with Luz; a real slumber party. The thought made her ill.

Chapter 2

Luz Garcia sat on the red leather sofa glancing nervously at the old grandfather clock. Time seemed to move faster than normal, daring her to speak to her son before the expected and dreaded figure appeared at the door. How would she convince Gabriel to let Ludmilla stay in his house? The problem was that Gabriel liked Ludmilla about as much as he liked a scorpion. He would never consent to having Ludmilla in his house. But Gabriel was supposed to be in Monterey, speaking in an important conference, in front of important business people, giving Luz something to talk about to her friends. This morning, he was supposed to be walking out the door, packed suitcase in hand, Luz bidding him farewell, and assuring him all would be well, and telling him that yes, of course it would be an added burden on her to have him gone for two weeks, but that’s what mothers are for. Instead, she saw her son going out to get the paper, no suitcase in his hand. Oh, he forgot to tell her, he is not going after all. Just like that, no consideration, no explanation, after all, she was only his mother. And now, Ludmilla would arrive any minute, and what was Luz supposed to do? She couldn’t call Ludmilla at home. Ludmilla did not give out her phone number, not even to good friends like Luz, with whom she felt comfortable enough to stay for a few days. Luz couldn’t very well call Ludmilla at her office on a Sunday. No, her only option was to talk some sense into her son.

Ludmilla had given her no explanation. She had simply told her that she needed to stay in Luz’s house for a short time. It made no sense to Luz. Ludmilla’s mansion on the outskirts of Juarez made Gabriel’s big and comfortable house look small and shabby. Truly, her reasons made no difference to Luz. The thought of having Ludmilla staying with her made her giddy, like a child on Christmas day. But first she had to deal with her son, and that, she dreaded. Gabriel Garcia was willful and stubborn, and when angered had a voice that could crumble the sturdiest of souls, though he presented no real threat. She knew he would not strike her or hurt her in any real way.

The clock moved on like the ticking of a bomb. It was twenty minutes before noon. Luz looked around the room and saw Gabriel in the same spot, reading the same book and sipping the same coffee from this morning. It always irritated her that he would drink his coffee cold and stale. Actually, there were a lot of things that irritated her about him, like his inability to reason with anyone who had a different opinion from his, and the way he bulldozed his way through any conversation.

Gabriel owed her. Hadn’t she come to stay when his wife, Isabella, had passed away over a year ago, leaving him and three little girls behind? The constant ache in her back was sign enough of all the work she did for him. She wasn’t a young woman anymore, and she easily could have refused to come to help him. Instead, she sold the house she had lived in for over thirty years, and traded her quiet and peaceful days with little work to do tending after only herself for a house full of noisy little girls and more work than should be required of a woman half her age. She had to look over the entire household, and keep control over the servants and the girls.

Of course, she would not have had it any other way. She would never suffer those little girls to be raised by anyone else. If Isabella was dead, bless her soul, then Luz was the next best choice. She could bring them up herself and teach them proper manners. She had her work cut out for her, though. These girls were too free willed and loud to be proper ladies.


My initial reaction to this text was that instead of the author showing or telling, she was showing and telling. So, for example, we know that Gabriel was loud and hated Ludmilla from Ludmilla's thoughts, and then from Luz's worry about talking to Gabriel about her; so it's not necessary for Luz to say "Gabriel liked Ludmilla about as much as he liked a scorpion." Most of my cuts are along those lines.

Here's the 677-word version:

Finally alone, she paced the room, feeling the anxiety she had been fighting crawl around her body, making her utterly exhausted. In some ways she was relieved. The only witness of that dreadful night was gone; shot, and not by her hand. But, curse that miserable Officer Jimenez. Why did he not die before the Chief of Police got there?[1]

Stay with a friend. [2] She almost laughed out loud. She had no friends. She wanted no friends. There were plenty of associates, more pawns than friends. She could think of several men, Mares amongst them, who would be happy to have her stay with them for “a few days.” But the thought of their lustful looks was enough to make her sick. No, these men kept their distance, and she would do nothing that would change that.

She stopped by the window, parting the heavy drapes. Lightning colored the night. Luz Garcia, she thought suddenly. Luz fawned on her like a dog. She would be delighted to have Ludmilla Bustamante, owner of Plumeria Enterprises, stay in her house. But it was not Luz's house, it was her son Gabriel's, and he would never let Ludmilla so much as set foot in his house. But Luz had mentioned how her son was a guest speaker at some conference or other in Monterrey. You would think that Gabriel had just become the new President of Mexico. If Gabriel was not home, Ludmilla could stay with Luz; a real slumber party. The thought made her ill.

Chapter 2

Luz Garcia sat on the red leather sofa glancing nervously at the old grandfather clock. This morning, Gabriel was supposed to walk out the door, suitcase in hand. Luz should have bid him farewell, assured him all would be well, and told him that yes, of course it would be an added burden on her to have him gone for two weeks, but that’s what mothers are for. Instead, her son went out to get the paper, no suitcase in his hand. Oh, he forgot to tell her, he is not going after all. Just like that, after all, she was only his mother. And now, Ludmilla would arrive any minute, and what was Luz supposed to do? Ludmilla did not give out her phone number, not even to good friends like Luz. She couldn’t very well call Ludmilla at her office on a Sunday. No, her only option was to talk some sense into her son.

Ludmilla had simply told her that she needed to stay in Luz’s house for a short time. It made no sense. Ludmilla’s mansion on the outskirts of Juarez made Gabriel’s big and comfortable house look small and shabby. Truly, her reasons made no difference to Luz. The thought of having Ludmilla staying with her made her giddy, like a child on Christmas day. But first she had to deal with her son. When Gabriel Garcia was angered, he had a voice that could crumble the sturdiest of souls, though she knew he would not strike her or hurt her in any real way.

The clock moved on like the ticking of a bomb. It was twenty minutes before noon.

Gabriel owed her. Hadn’t she come to stay when his wife, Isabella, had passed away over a year ago, leaving him and three little girls behind? She wasn’t a young woman anymore, and she easily could have refused to come to help him. Instead, she sold the house she had lived in for over thirty years, and traded her quiet and peaceful days with little work to do tending after only herself for a house full of noisy little girls and servants and more work than should be required of a woman half her age.

Of course, she would not have had it any other way. If Isabella was dead, bless her soul, then Luz would bring them up and teach them proper manners. She had her work cut out for her, though. These girls were too free willed and loud to be proper ladies.

[1] It had already been established that Jimenez had told the Chief of Police that Ludmilla had paid him off.
[2] Just previously, another character had suggested she stay with friends.


Finally, the 603-word version:

Finally alone, she paced the room. The anxiety she had fought crawled around her exhausted body. She was relieved that the only witness of that dreadful night was gone – shot, and not by her hand – but she cursed Officer Jimenez. Why didn’t he die before the Chief of Police got there? [1]

Stay with a friend.[2] She almost laughed out loud. She had no friends. She wanted none. She knew men, including Mares, who would happily have her stay with them for “a few days.” But the thought of their lustful looks made her sick. No, these men kept their distance, and she would do nothing to change that.

She stopped by the window, parting the heavy drapes. Lightning colored the night. Luz Garcia, she thought suddenly. Luz would be delighted to have Ludmilla Bustamante, owner of Plumeria Enterprises, stay in her house. But it was not Luz's house, she remembered, it was her son Gabriel's, and he would never let Ludmilla set foot in it.

But Luz had mentioned how her son was a guest speaker at a conference in Monterrey. You would think that Gabriel had just become the new President of Mexico. If Gabriel was not home, Ludmilla could stay with Luz; a real slumber party. The thought made her ill.

Chapter 2

Luz Garcia sat on the red leather sofa glancing nervously at the old grandfather clock. This morning, Gabriel should have walked out the door, suitcase in hand. Luz should have bid him farewell, assured him all would be well, and told him that yes, of course it would be an added burden on her to have him gone for two weeks, but that’s what mothers are for. Instead, her son went out to get the paper, no suitcase in his hand. Oh, he had forgotten to tell her, he is not going after all. Just like that. After all, she was only his mother. And now, Ludmilla would arrive any minute, and what was Luz supposed to do? Ludmilla did not give out her phone number, not even to good friends like Luz. She couldn’t very well call Ludmilla at her office on a Sunday. No, her only option was to talk sense into her son.

The visit made no sense anyway. Ludmilla’s mansion on the outskirts of Juarez made Gabriel’s big and comfortable house look small and shabby. She had given no reasons, although they would have made no difference to Luz anyway. She was giddy at the thought of Ludmilla staying with her, like a child on Christmas day. But first she had to deal with her son. When Gabriel Garcia was angered, he had a voice that could crumble the sturdiest of souls – though she knew he would not hurt her.

The clock moved on like the ticking of a bomb. It was twenty minutes before noon.

Gabriel owed her. Hadn’t she come to stay when his wife, Isabella, had passed away a year ago, leaving him and three little girls behind? She wasn’t young anymore, and she easily could have refused to come help him. Instead, she sold the her home of thirty years and traded her easy, solitary days for a house full of noisy little girls and servants and more work than should be required of a woman half her age.

Of course, she would not have had it any other way. If Isabella was dead, bless her soul, then Luz would bring the children up and teach them proper manners. She had her work cut out for her, though. These girls were too free willed and loud to be proper ladies.

[1] It had already been established that Jimenez had told the Chief of Police that Ludmilla had paid him off.

[2] Just previously, another character had suggested she stay with friends.


Tell me what you think!

Regards,
Jake

Labels: ,

0 Comments:

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home

Copyright (c) 2007-2009 Flash Fiction Online
and the authors of the individual stories and articles.
All Rights Reserved.
Email the Webmaster with questions or comments about this site.
For other contact information visit our contact page.

View My Stats