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

Friday, August 28, 2009

Crunching with Tony and Grouch

Here are 983 words from Don (Twitter, blog). My only change so far is the f-bomb going to "freak". (It's kind of a family-friendly-ish site, right?)
The next day, Grouch got Tony hired as a temporary doorman to work the door at Club D.E.M. after the girl with the Bettie Page haircut came down with some stomach-related thing. "The things you can do at the touch of a button," Grouch joked.

For the next week, from eleven at night to four in the morning, Tony manned the sensor at the front door with his lenses activated. He assumed Grouch was watching directly, or was at least recording the data somewhere. He assured Tony that it wouldn't take up space anywhere in his brain. Disk space wasn't included in the upgrade package.

Tony couldn't see the point of Bettie Page's job. The setup at the door was simple. All he had to do was listen for the sensors at the door to ping like in those old TV game shows when contestants gave the right answer to "What's the capital of Myanmar?" or buzz when someone gave a wrong answer or no answer to the question, "Are you old enough to be here?" And, when the buzzer did go off, all he had to do was point the underaged offenders to the door. Except the buzzer never went off. Tony knew he'd let some fourteen year-olds in, but as Grouch drilled into him, "The sensors can only read what their ID chips say."

The hardest part of Tony's job was the lack of sleep. He couldn't concentrate at the door enough to study, as he found when he brought his books and left them untouched for the first three days. The nervousness of not knowing exactly why Grouch wanted him there, of struggling with whether he even wanted to know, faded away with the deer-in-headlights state of mind he'd developed getting up close and personal looks at the club's clientele.

At least Maia was there with him. For two nights in a row, she came to the club as soon as it opened to score a corner table with a sack full of handhelds trying to figure out what Grouch's game was.

On a busier than usual Saturday night, Tony took a break because his head hurt mostly, he thought, from being forced to see blue all day between studying and working the door. He ordered himself a shot at the bar. Maia slid in next to him, cheerfully ordering "One for me, too! Just put it on his tab."

"You found something?" Tony said, rubbing his temples.

"Actually, I got nothing. But that's something!"

Tony gave her the What's the Punch Line? look.

"Whatever you're recording in full holo mode is getting saved somewhere. Not to your chip, though because, no offense, but your brain isn't big enough to store a door shift's worth of data. Neither is Grouch's. Which means he's sitting somewhere with something jammed up his port."

Tony beckoned the bartender for a refill. "I'd like to jam something up his port."

Maia shook her head.

"Dammit, he's watching right now isn't he? I didn't think...God, I'm just so tired."

"Don't whine, okay. I got it covered." Maia downed her second shot, looking pleased with herself. "I might not be able to touch his gear, but I can still touch yours. All he's seeing is me bitching about our parents. Your temples? That's me, sorry."

"So, we're back to square one?"

"Yup. He's tapped into you, obviously looking for something he can't get from the cameras, here. I'm thinking that could be all there is to it."

Tony thought twice about a third shot. "Then, maybe we should just leave well enough alone."

"I said that could be. Besides, you wanna be Grouch's bitch forever?" Maia watched her third shot being poured. "You take the path-of-least-resistance to a whole new level, you know that? That's your problem! We crack on Ernie, but at least he didn't just talk about doing it 'his way.'"

Tony turned over his plastic shot glass and let his fist fall on it, crushing it flat. "What's your point, again?"

Maia pounded her fist onto the flattened shot glass. "You always do this--you take a couple of baby steps to something you want, then life throws you a curve and you don't know what to do. So you're willing to get bent over and take it, thinking a way out is just gonna magically appear."

"Why risk making it worse, though?"

"Dammit, what about the principle? You scrape together all that money just to let yourself get turned into a tool. A literal tool! For once, freaking do something, man! Get angry! And if you do make it worse, freak it. Go down swinging. With your middle finger in the air, while you're doing it!"

Tony was too buzzed to be angry. "So, what do we do?"

"What I'm thinking? Scorched earth. I'm brainstorming, here. We fry his tech, or something. We'd need a lot of power--well, unless we get the right gear...."

"Sounds painful," Tony said. "If it's gonna hurt, why not just tell him to freak off and let him do his thing?"

"I thought of that," Maia said. "Who knows what he might be able to do to you. Best to just fry his stuff and be done." She ordered her brother another whiskey. "Just finish out your shift. I've got a couple of ideas. When do you guys go to church, nowadays?"

"Ten-thirty Mass, usually," Tony said.

"Good. Skip it and I'll come by the house then."

"Why the house?"

"It's gotta be there. Don't worry."

Tony tried to protest but Maia put her finger to her lips and held out her phone. "Gotta go." She hit the button. Tony felt his headache subside as the live feed resumed.

"And you can tell 'em I said this," Maia said as she put her middle finger right in Tony's face, he knew, as a message to Grouch.
I don't know these characters (this is the beginning of act three of a short story), and Don told me that this was a fairly rough draft.

Let's cut.

-----
The next day, Grouch got Tony hired as a temporary doorman to work the door at Club D.E.M. after the girl with the Bettie Page haircut came down with some stomach-related thing. "The things you can do at the touch of a button," Grouch joked.
Do I need to say that a doorman was hired "to work the door"? :) It also probably doesn't matter that he's temporary -- that kind of work tends by nature not career-oriented.

There are bits here that I might restructure, but I can see why they'd be the way they were, so I'll defer to Don. Cutting or restructuring too much can change the voice.
The next day, Grouch got Tony hired as a doorman at Club D.E.M. after the girl with the Bettie Page haircut came down with some stomach-related thing. "The things you can do at the touch of a button," Grouch joked.
45 words becomes 40: 11% cut.

-----
For the next week, from eleven at night to four in the morning, Tony manned the sensor at the front door with his lenses activated. He assumed Grouch was watching directly, or was at least recording the data somewhere. He assured Tony that it wouldn't take up space anywhere in his brain. Disk space wasn't included in the upgrade package.
Look at the number of forms of "to be" (primarly "was") and the number of prepositions in this paragraph. Both of those are strong indicators of cuttable material.

Also note that the last paragraph and this one start almost the same way: "The next day,..." and "For the next week,..." I'm going to change the second paragraph to eliminate that.

"eleven at night to four in the morning" could be a voice thing, but it's just not that important. I'd say Tony worked the eleven-to-four shift.

"the sensor at the front door" = "the front door sensor" (Could be "front-door sensor" if you consider "front-door" to be a compound adjective.)

"for the next week" may not matter, but since it lends a sense of time to the paragraph it might be nice to do that another way -- I changed "manned the front door sensor" to "started manning" to give that temporal motion.

The "wasn't" in the disk space sentence shows that we can restructure it by figuring out what's doing the work (or not): The upgrade package didn't include disk space.

I started to re-write this several times, but it might be easier if I try to determine what data we're getting across here first:
* Tony took the job on the 11-to-4 shift.
* The lenses stream data.
* The data's too large to fit in Tony's brain.
* Grouch must be recording it or watching the stream of lens data.
Tony started manning the front door sensor during the eleven-to-four shift. Grouch had assured him that the data streaming from his lenses wouldn't take up space in his brain -- his upgrade package didn't include disk space -- but he assumed that Grouch was watching or recording it somewhere.
49 words from 60: 18% cut.

-----
Tony couldn't see the point of Bettie Page's job. The setup at the door was simple. All he had to do was listen for the sensors at the door to ping like in those old TV game shows when contestants gave the right answer to "What's the capital of Myanmar?" or buzz when someone gave a wrong answer or no answer to the question, "Are you old enough to be here?" And, when the buzzer did go off, all he had to do was point the underaged offenders to the door. Except the buzzer never went off. Tony knew he'd let some fourteen year-olds in, but as Grouch drilled into him, "The sensors can only read what their ID chips say."
"The setup...was simple" "All he had to do was listen" "to be here" "all he had to do was point" -- lots of "to be" forms.

"The setup at the door was simple" isn't really needed, is it? It seems to serve as a contrast to "Except the buzzer never went off." If I can reduce the space between "Tony didn't see the point" and "Except the buzzer never went off", maybe I won't need it.

The stuff around the TV show contestant is funny in its way, but too much. In fact, it detracted from the story for me, because we went from a true answer to a game-show style question to a bad (or no) answer in "real life" without a transition. I knew what he meant, but it was clunky and pulled me out of the story.

"Bettie Page's job" is cute, but for a guy like me who has a hard time remembering names, it's One More Freaking Name. Even if you don't care about guys like me, it's certainly a candidate for cutting.

"gave a wrong answer or no answer" just seems long. I know why it's there: both options are technically possible. But so what? It's such a minor point that you can gloss over it very quickly. Maybe going to its opposite (correctly answer the question) and negating that would help.

Maybe we can combine the "listen" and "point" sentences.

Note the repetitions of "had to". A little clunky, aren't they? Since Tony's actually doing the job, we can show him actually doing his duties instead of talking about what they were. (If you think about it, that's a minor form of "show, don't tell".) That slightly changes things, though, since the description of "pointing the offenders to the door" doesn't really happen, so that has to be a conditional. To streamline the resulting sentences, I used an em dash -- I think it gives a greater sense of hesitation and consternation to the second half of the sentence -- but you could use a comma instead. You could even use a period if you like things choppy.

"underaged" goes without saying for the offenders, so let's not say it.
Tony couldn't see the point. He listened for the door sensors to buzz like in those old TV game shows when someone didn't correctly answer the question, "Are you old enough to be here?" Then he would have pointed the offenders to the door -- except the buzzer never went off. Tony knew he'd let some fourteen year-olds in, but as Grouch drilled into him, "The sensors can only read what their ID chips say."
121 words down to 75: a 38% cut.

-----
The hardest part of Tony's job was the lack of sleep. He couldn't concentrate at the door enough to study, as he found when he brought his books and left them untouched for the first three days. The nervousness of not knowing exactly why Grouch wanted him there, of struggling with whether he even wanted to know, faded away with the deer-in-headlights state of mind he'd developed getting up close and personal looks at the club's clientele.
Only one "was". That's good. But it's the first sentence in the paragraph, which stops the paragraph's momentum cold.

This is one of those times when looking at rhythm can be instructional. "the HARDest PART of TOny's JOB was the LACK of SLEEP" -- if you were writing poetry it might work, but in this context the sentence just sort of galumphs.

"state of mind" isn't vivid, even though "deer-in-the-headlights" is, so it takes the wind out of the metaphor.

I think the point of this paragraph is that (a) Tony is nervous so (b) he can't concentrate so (c) he can't study so (d) he loses sleep (studying after hours, I guess, though that's never stated). Maybe we make those points more directly.

After re-writing this multiple times, I'm wondering if we need the stuff about the club's clientele. Maybe it's important to Don's story somehow, but I think the plastic shot glasses and the 14-year-old clientele characterize the club pretty well. Maybe we can leave this out altogether.
Questions weighed on him at first: why did Grouch want him there? Should he care? His nervousness made it hard to study. After a few days he didn't bring his books anymore, relegating them to home hours clouded with NoDoz and coffee. Eventually, even his anxiety crumbled into bleary-eyed monotony.
With the caveat that Don might need stuff in there that I've taken out, this is 50 words where once there were 77: a 35% cut.

-----
At least Maia was there with him. For two nights in a row, she came to the club as soon as it opened to score a corner table with a sack full of handhelds trying to figure out what Grouch's game was.

On a busier than usual Saturday night, Tony took a break because his head hurt mostly, he thought, from being forced to see blue all day between studying and working the door. He ordered himself a shot at the bar. Maia slid in next to him, cheerfully ordering "One for me, too! Just put it on his tab."
Two things here seem to gain unneeded emphasis. He's only been working there for a short time, but for two nights "in a row" she came to the club. The Saturday night is "busier than usual" (and despite this, Tony is allowed to take a break).

"For two nights" could be just "twice", if it's needed at all.

"with him" is unnecessary. So is "full" in "sack full". Also, where else is she going to come to if not "to the club"? "He ordered himself" is just "He ordered".

"to the club as soon as it opened to score a corner table with a sack full of handhelds" just seems really long. I think it at least needs to be broken up a little bit. (Don could argue that this is the voice: breathless and a little run-on. I would understand that if he were consistent in the story; It's his call). Instead of "as soon as the club opened", why not "early"?

"trying to" could be eliminated if the phrasing were right: She's working on figuring out the game, so make the introduction to the sack full of handhelds a little more active and eliminate "trying to".

The "he thought" in the second paragraph is actually a slight point-of-view (POV) violation. It anticipates the revelation that Maia is causing his headache. Cut it.

Do we need an "even" to talk about Maia coming early? She "was there", which sounds consistent, but only twice did she come early.

I assume "seeing blue all day" has something to do with the sensors, so I'm leaving it in without modification.

If I want to pick out every word I can -- and why shouldn't I? -- "Just" can come out of "Just put it on his tab."
At least Maia was there. Twice she even came early, scoring a corner table, working with a sack of handhelds to figure out Grouch's game.

One Saturday night, as Tony's head throbbed from seeing blue all day, he took a break and ordered a shot at the bar. Maia slid in next to him, cheerfully ordering, "One for me, too! Put it on his tab."
One hundred words becomes sixty-five: a 35% cut.

-----
"You found something?" Tony said, rubbing his temples.

"Actually, I got nothing. But that's something!"

Tony gave her the What's the Punch Line? look.
I'll leave this alone. I think people are naturally good at writing clipped dialogue. Don's not alone in this respect. It's once you start getting into bigger sentence structures and paragraphs that people start adding fat.

It's not that we couldn't trim sentences like these, by the way, just that I don't think it would help the dialogue.

-----
"Whatever you're recording in full holo mode is getting saved somewhere. Not to your chip, though, because, no offense, but your brain isn't big enough to store a door shift's worth of data. Neither is Grouch's. Which means he's sitting somewhere with something jammed up his port."
People work "shifts", so it doesn't have to be "door shift".

"is getting saved somewhere" could be implied by saying that it's getting saved somewhere else.

"you're recording in full holo mode" seems a little long.

"your brain isn't big enough to store" could be a little shorter, but you want the slightly derogatory tone of "your brain isn't big enough". How about "your brain couldn't handle"?

I'll keep the sibilances and some-some repetition of the last sentence.
"The holos you're recording aren't getting saved to your chip. No offense, but your brain couldn't handle a shift's worth of data. Neither could Grouch's. Which means he's sitting somewhere with something jammed up his port."
47 words becomes 36: a 23% cut.

-----
Tony beckoned the bartender for a refill. "I'd like to jam something up his port."

Maia shook her head.

"Dammit, he's watching right now isn't he? I didn't think...God, I'm just so tired."
I'll leave this.

-----
"Don't whine, okay. I got it covered." Maia downed her second shot, looking pleased with herself. "I might not be able to touch his gear, but I can still touch yours. All he's seeing is me bitching about our parents. Your temples? That's me, sorry."
These cuts aren't necessary, but I think they work.

"I got it covered." is a prelude to her telling Tony how she has it covered. You usually don't need preludes. But if we cut it, we should hold off on the beat -- her second shot -- until after she's said something that is being-smug-worthy.

"I might not be able to" is long for "I can't". It changes the tone slightly, like she's drawing out the statement -- which she might be -- but I don't think you need it.
"Don't whine, okay. I can't touch his gear, but I can still touch yours." Maia downed her second shot, looking pleased with herself. "All he's seeing is me bitching about our parents. Your temples? That's me, sorry."
45 words to 37: 18%.

Aside: Does anyone else read this and have an image of Fiona from Burn Notice in his head? I'm just waiting for her to blow something up. :)

-----
"So, we're back to square one?"

"Yup. He's tapped into you, obviously looking for something he can't get from the cameras, here. I'm thinking that could be all there is to it."

Tony thought twice about a third shot. "Then, maybe we should just leave well enough alone."

"I said that could be. Besides, you wanna be Grouch's bitch forever?" Maia watched her third shot being poured. "You take the path-of-least-resistance to a whole new level, you know that? That's your problem! We crack on Ernie, but at least he didn't just talk about doing it 'his way.'"
If it's "obvious" you don't need to say it's obvious unless it wouldn't be obvious to the other speaker. In this case, I think Maia has made it obvious enough.

"here" is unneeded, as far as I can see.

So are "Then" and "just" -- keeping one of them is better than both of them. I'll leave "Then" because it sounds like he's coming to a conclusion.

A character saying "I'm thinking X" is the same as the character saying, with conviction (and this character clearly has conviction, no waffling necessary) just plain "X".

"I said that could be" feels like it needs more punctuation. It could also be cut to "I said 'could'."

"third shot being poured" bugs me just because it's passive. There's a guy doing that action, so have her watch the guy pouring the shot. No cut, but a better sentence.

Note that some people will notice the repetition of "a third shot" and "her third shot". Rephrasing might be in order.

"That's your problem!" isn't really needed -- she's just told him what his problem is.

"We crack on Ernie, but at least he didn't just talk about doing it 'his way.'" I think this means that he wasn't all talk and no action, and if that's what Don means then we can get there more quickly.
"So, we're back to square one?"

"Yup. He's tapped into you, looking for something he can't get from the cameras. That could be all there is to it."

Tony thought twice about a third shot. "Then maybe we should leave well enough alone."

"I said 'could'. Besides, you wanna be Grouch's bitch forever?" Maia watched the bartender pour her third shot. "You take path-of-least-resistance to a whole new level, you know that? We crack on Ernie, but at least he didn't just talk."
98 down to 83: 15%.

-----
Tony turned over his plastic shot glass and let his fist fall on it, crushing it flat. "What's your point, again?"

Maia pounded her fist onto the flattened shot glass. "You always do this--you take a couple of baby steps to something you want, then life throws you a curve and you don't know what to do. So you're willing to get bent over and take it, thinking a way out is just gonna magically appear."
This is one of the reasons I always read a full scene (or story) before I start to cut: If I went paragraph by paragraph, I'd miss interactions between different clusters of words. These two paragraphs have an interplay that we need to keep.

I like the characterization using the plastic shot glass. "Plastic shot glass" characterizes the bar. The "let his fist fall" characterizes Tony -- even when he does something destructive it's small and passive -- and when Maia "pounded" that characterizes her, too. But there's too much "shot glass" "fist" and "flat" and "flattened" here. We should try to cut some of that.

We could say "let his fist crush it" or "let the weight of his fist crush it" to get the sense of passivity. "Let his fist fall, crushing it." Maia doesn't have to pound "her fist onto" it, nor does it have to be a "flattened shot glass".

Some of Maia's words are extraneous. They're not bad, just not needed. If Don feels like adding them back, I wouldn't complain.
Tony turned over his plastic shot glass and let his fist fall, crushing it. "What's your point, again?"

Maia pounded the flattened plastic. "You always do this--take a couple of baby steps, then life throws you a curve and you're lost. So you bend over and take it, thinking a way out is gonna magically appear."
77 words down to 57: 26% cut.

-----
"Why risk making it worse, though?"

"Dammit, what about the principle? You scrape together all that money just to let yourself get turned into a tool. A literal tool! For once, freaking do something, man! Get angry! And if you do make it worse, freak it. Go down swinging. With your middle finger in the air, while you're doing it!"

Tony was too buzzed to be angry. "So, what do we do?"
"Though" isn't really necessary. If you think it is, or that the mood conveyed by it is, you could substitute "But it could get worse" or something similar.

"to let yourself get turned into" is passive -- which might be okay as a way for this character's sister to describe him -- and longish.

"Dammit, what about principle?" could be shortened to "Principle!" Or not. Since I'm focused specifically on cutting, I'll cut it, but as always, it's Don's prerogative to put it back in.

Maia's vigor is displayed in the "dammit" and the following f-bombs, so some of that could be cut.

I'm going to show my bias against exclamation points by removing some. That's just me, though.
"Why risk making it worse?"

"Principle! All that money scraped together and you're just a tool. A literal tool! For once, get angry. Do something. And if you make it worse, freak it. Go down swinging. With your middle finger in the air!"

Tony was too buzzed to be angry. "So, what do we do?"
72 words becomes 55, a 24% cut.

-----
"What I'm thinking? Scorched earth. I'm brainstorming, here. We fry his tech, or something. We'd need a lot of power--well, unless we get the right gear...."

"Sounds painful," Tony said. "If it's gonna hurt, why not just tell him to freak off and let him do his thing?"

"I thought of that," Maia said. "Who knows what he might be able to do to you. Best to just fry his stuff and be done." She ordered her brother another whiskey. "Just finish out your shift. I've got a couple of ideas. When do you guys go to church, nowadays?"

"Ten-thirty Mass, usually," Tony said.

"Good. Skip it and I'll come by the house then."

"Why the house?"

"It's gotta be there. Don't worry."
I'm running out of time, and this bursty dialogue is already mostly trim. A point here or there...
"What I'm thinking? Scorched earth. I'm brainstorming, here. We fry his tech. We'd need a lot of power--well, unless we get the right gear...."

"Sounds painful," Tony said. "Why not just tell him to freak off and let him do his thing?"

"I thought of that," Maia said. "Who knows what he might be able to do to you. Best to just fry his stuff and be done." She ordered her brother another whiskey. "Finish out your shift. I've got a couple of ideas. When do you guys go to church?"

"Ten-thirty, usually," Tony said.

"Good. Skip it and I'll come by the house."

"Why the house?"

"It's gotta be there. Don't worry."
124 to 114: 8%.

-----
Tony tried to protest but Maia put her finger to her lips and held out her phone. "Gotta go." She hit the button. Tony felt his headache subside as the live feed resumed.

"And you can tell 'em I said this," Maia said as she put her middle finger right in Tony's face, he knew, as a message to Grouch.
I think "as the live feed resumed" isn't quite within the character's POV. Instead, I'd prefer to link the hitting the button with the headache subsiding in the same sentence, reminding the reader about Maia's tampering with the feed. It also saves five words. :)

This might be going overboard, but I'm trying to cut, right? The "he knew" stands out because anything in third-person limited POV is automatically something that the viewpoint character knows. Let's kill that.
Tony tried to protest, but Maia put her finger to her lips and held out her phone. "Gotta go." She hit the button, and Tony's headache instantly subsided.

"And you can tell 'em I said this," Maia said as she put her middle finger right in Tony's face: a message to Grouch.
60 words becomes 52, a 13% cut.

-----

So here's the final version. In all, we have 770 words now, down from 983. Total cut: 213 words, 22% -- not incredible, but not bad.
The next day, Grouch got Tony hired as a doorman at Club D.E.M. after the girl with the Bettie Page haircut came down with some stomach-related thing. "The things you can do at the touch of a button," Grouch joked.

Tony started manning the front door sensor during the eleven-to-four shift. Grouch had assured him that the data streaming from his lenses wouldn't take up space in his brain -- his upgrade package didn't include disk space -- but he assumed that Grouch was watching or recording it somewhere.

Tony couldn't see the point. He listened for the door sensors to buzz like in those old TV game shows when someone didn't correctly answer the question, "Are you old enough to be here?" Then he would have pointed the offenders to the door -- except the buzzer never went off. Tony knew he'd let some fourteen year-olds in, but as Grouch drilled into him, "The sensors can only read what their ID chips say."

Questions weighed on him at first: why did Grouch want him there? Should he care? His nervousness made it hard to study. After a few days he didn't bring his books anymore, relegating them to home hours clouded with NoDoz and coffee. Eventually, even his anxiety crumbled into bleary-eyed monotony.

At least Maia was there. Twice she even came early, scoring a corner table, working with a sack of handhelds to figure out Grouch's game.

One Saturday night, as Tony's head throbbed from seeing blue all day, he took a break and ordered a shot at the bar. Maia slid in next to him, cheerfully ordering, "One for me, too! Put it on his tab."

"You found something?" Tony said, rubbing his temples.

"Actually, I got nothing. But that's something!"

Tony gave her the What's the Punch Line? look.

"The holos you're recording aren't getting saved to your chip. No offense, but your brain couldn't handle a shift's worth of data. Neither could Grouch's. Which means he's sitting somewhere with something jammed up his port."

Tony beckoned the bartender for a refill. "I'd like to jam something up his port."

Maia shook her head.

"Dammit, he's watching right now isn't he? I didn't think...God, I'm just so tired."

"Don't whine, okay. I can't touch his gear, but I can still touch yours." Maia downed her second shot, looking pleased with herself. "All he's seeing is me bitching about our parents. Your temples? That's me, sorry."

"So, we're back to square one?"

"Yup. He's tapped into you, looking for something he can't get from the cameras. That could be all there is to it."

Tony thought twice about a third shot. "Then maybe we should leave well enough alone."

"I said 'could'. Besides, you wanna be Grouch's bitch forever?" Maia watched the bartender pour her third shot. "You take path-of-least-resistance to a whole new level, you know that? We crack on Ernie, but at least he didn't just talk."

Tony turned over his plastic shot glass and let his fist fall, crushing it. "What's your point, again?"

Maia pounded the flattened plastic. "You always do this--take a couple of baby steps, then life throws you a curve and you're lost. So you bend over and take it, thinking a way out is gonna magically appear."

"Why risk making it worse?"

"Principle! All that money scraped together and you're just a tool. A literal tool! For once, get angry. Do something. And if you make it worse, freak it. Go down swinging. With your middle finger in the air!"

Tony was too buzzed to be angry. "So, what do we do?"

"What I'm thinking? Scorched earth. I'm brainstorming, here. We fry his tech. We'd need a lot of power--well, unless we get the right gear...."

"Sounds painful," Tony said. "Why not just tell him to freak off and let him do his thing?"

"I thought of that," Maia said. "Who knows what he might be able to do to you. Best to just fry his stuff and be done." She ordered her brother another whiskey. "Finish out your shift. I've got a couple of ideas. When do you guys go to church?"

"Ten-thirty, usually," Tony said.

"Good. Skip it and I'll come by the house."

"Why the house?"

"It's gotta be there. Don't worry."

Tony tried to protest, but Maia put her finger to her lips and held out her phone. "Gotta go." She hit the button, and Tony's headache instantly subsided.

"And you can tell 'em I said this," Maia said as she put her middle finger right in Tony's face: a message to Grouch.
So there it is. What do you think?

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2 Comments:

Blogger Merc said...

Thanks for sharing this--great learning tool, especially since you point out in detail what words can be trimmed and tweaked and WHY. :) I find it fascinating to see...

And yup, the trimmed version does read tighter and smoother. *takes notes*

8/28/2009 10:41 AM  
Blogger Don said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you!

One thing's for sure: I got far more than I bargained for. I definitely think the lessons learned here will help me take my rewriting process to a new level.

Up until now, cutting unnecessary words was just a matter of figuring out how to write a 10-word sentence in 7 words. And most of that was accomplished by using active vs. passive voice.

But the most important take-away here is Jake's analysis of exactly why certain words were unnecessary.

Also, he examines words that might have been unnecessary but might well stay how they are. It's rare to find a critique that says, "You could cut this here, but this might be your voice."

I will say this: one suggested rewrite was almost too good, so good that I almost can't use it, in good conscience :).

Thanks again, Jake!

8/30/2009 5:55 PM  

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