Four lanes separated Heath from life and death—two each direction. On one side, endless streams of people flowed beneath bright street lamps, their heels clicking against the pavement as they scuttled to the next bar or dance club. On the wrong side—his side—the broken paths remained empty, lit occasionally by pockmarks of light.
He should have known better than to cut through this neighborhood, but he was tired and late and he thought maybe this once it wouldn’t matter. Maybe just this once he could sneak through the part of town where houses sagged with time and shame. One burned house leaned heavily against its neighbor—roof collapsed on one side, edges charred and every opening boarded up. An electrical cord stretched from beneath one of the boarded windows, past an overturned tricycle on the broken porch, and to the utility pole out front.
He tried not to think about what that meant. …
[Heath continues down the street and is eventually knocked down, dragged into an alley, and used as a gang initiation for a distraught teenager. Death by stabbing.]
… Heath continued to scream as the kid continued to stab. They were both crying now. And the man behind him chuckled.
© 2015 D.B. Smyth. All rights reserved.
Dear Awesomesauce You,
Sometimes it takes several starts to find the one that is going to best move your story forward. And, believe me, I know how frustrating that can be!
I remember writing attempt #1. I was in love. Like love LOVE with this particular opening. It was intriguing, evocative and left the reader with a twist they didn’t see coming! Oh my goodness I thought it was the best thing ever!
Until I got the feedback from one of my beta readers. I’ll never forget the moment he lifted his eyes from the pages in his hand. I was expecting a bravo! Amazing! Perfect! Instead he said, “I don’t like it. Sure, you surprised me. But I don’t like her, and I wouldn’t keep reading. I’d close your book and I’d never come back to anything you wrote.”
“But, but, but!”
He shook his head. “You had fun at my expense as a reader and I’m not going to forget it. You want me to keep reading? Make me like her. Help me see her as more than a merciless hunter. Help me understand why, not just trick me with how.”
He was right.
Round 2 is what you read above. I looked back in my MC’s (main character’s) timeline and found the moment when she went against everything she believed to save a human (Did I mention she’s an Angel of Death? Not the kind of girl that normally saves people). Again I thought I’d found the perfect beginning. I drafted it, revised it (over and over) and sent it off to more beta readers.
The response was overwhelmingly positive! They loved the writing, the emotion, the characters! Wahoo!
Just one problem… they believed Heath to be the center of the story, not my angel.
As much as I (and my beta readers) loved Heath’s chapter, it couldn’t stay.
If I wanted it to be seamless… if I wanted to capture you (my reader) from the start and keep you until the end… if I wanted to reach my goal, I absolutely HAD to shift the point of view.
So I did.
I drafted a new beginning and then revised and revised and REVISED andREVISED. I cried a little (okay, a LOT) and then revised some more. Until finally I found what’d been missing in every other draft… her humanity—the reason we’re going to follow her to the end.
Here’s a sneak peek:
[By now we know that a teenage boy is stabbing his victim at the demand of a man we call Dark Aura. Both the boy and his victim are in shock and want it all to stop. Our MC, an Angel of Death, is not supposed to intervene.]
… Walk away! I screamed inside my head, This is NOT Aba! But my feet refused to move.
“Please.” This time the boy begged, his words strangled sobs. “No more.”
“You want family?” Dark Aura said. “Us or him. Choose.”
I stood frozen with the same anxiety of action as the young man holding the knife—the desire not to do it, the knowing I was going to anyway. The inability to stop, to break the connection between the present moment and the future that was about to take place.
Please, God, forgive me. I stepped forward.
© 2015 D.B. Smyth. All rights reserved.
A “false start” doesn’t have to be an indicator that we’re headed the wrong direction or that our BIG DREAM should be thrown away.
If we see it as an opportunity, rather than a failure, we empower ourselves to acquire feedback, measure effectiveness and make the necessary adjustments.
To revise our life story, rather than toss it away.
And to do that, all that is needed is a little change in point of view.
So when you feel stuck and can’t seem to make your BIG DREAM work, I encourage you to reach for a new perspective rather than a new dream.
Take two steps to the left or four to the right. Look at the problem upside down and sideways. You may even step to the other side of the fence for a moment. Don’t worry; you can always come back to the perspective you started with!
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter if our first start was perfect. It only matters that we’re willing to fight for the one that helps us reach our goal.
P.S. I offer transformational coaching for women and creatives who are ready to step into their power and claim their stars. Are you ready to stop dreaming and start creating the life you’ve always wanted? I have a spot opening up in my 1-on-1 personal coaching program–Doubt Your Doubt–on November 1. Email me if you are interested.