This is a series of posts appearing each Saturday morning, sharing the story and the editing of Dust, Unsettled, a western romance written in the 1980s by the teenage version of myself. To learn more about this exercise, check out the original post.
This story takes place in the late 1980s. I’ve decided to keep it there instead of updating it to 2016.
The first section is the original writing. It’s filled with poor dialogue tags, unnecessary words and poor story telling. In the brackets [ ] I’ll point out issues with the writing. I won’t point out every issue, only three or four per Saturday.
Word Count Comparison
Chapter 03 continued
“And you didn’t want me to drive.” Joey said, rubbing his forehead.
“You’re crazy!” shouted Jessica. “Plain and simple—you’re crazy!”
“But you love it.” Joey smiled as he helped himself up.
“You’re gonna kill yourself some day! I just hope I’m not around to see it!” Jessica pulled the keys from the ignition and closed the door. She started for the pizzeria door, leaving Joey behind. [Removing keys, closing door, walking to the door and leaving Joey are unnecessary details, so I kept only the necessary movements.]
“Aren’t ya gonna help me?” Joey whined as he leant against the truck. “I think I hurt my leg.”
Jessica stopped, taking a deep breath. [Fewer dialogue tags make the conversation snappier and doesn’t slow down the story.] “Can you walk?”
Joey put weight on his right leg and felt secure enough to walk to her. In the first step, he found pain, but continued limping towards her. “I think I twisted it.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t break it,” she replied, reaching out to give him a hand.
“Ow! Geeze, that hurts,” he whimpered, making his way inside the door. “I’ve gotta use the can.” Joe whispered. “You go order the pizza.” He dragged himself along the wall and entered the washroom.
Jessica approached the counter saying, hi to the young girl behind it.
“Hi, how are you tonight?”
“Okay.” [Needless chatter.]
“Your friend doesn’t look too good.”
“He’s had one too many,” Jessica answered while searching the menu board. “Can I have a twelve inch with bacon and pepperoni, please?”
“Sure. Would you like anything to drink with that?”
“Yeah, can I have a medium skim milk and a can of Coke?”
The girl rang in the order and replied, “That’ll be $12.53.” [I’ve order many pizzas in my life, and as a former pizza cook (five years behind the counter), these conversations are short and to the point, so I removed all the fodder. Dislike Coke (all dark pop; actually I no longer drink soda pop), so switched it to Mountain Dew.]
Jessica pulled out a twenty, laying it on the counter.
“Thank you.” The girl handed back the change and began to make the pizza.
Jessica took a seat at one of the three tables in the small establishment.
Ten minutes later, Joey stumbled from the washroom to take a seat across from Jessica.
“How’s your leg?”
“In pain,” he moaned, resting his head on his folded arms on the table.
“Maybe next time you’ll wait until the truck actually stops before you get out,” suggested Jessica. [Another unnecessary dialogue tag. We know who is talking.]
Joey remained silent and Jessica wondered if he had fell asleep. She combed his short, curly, dirty blond hair with her fingers. [I guess I really wanted to let readers know about Joey’s hair: short, curly, dirty blond. We don’t need to be that descriptive in one sentence since it is meaningless to the plot.]
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Yeah, I’m okay,” he spoke in a low voice as he lifted his head. His green eyes were blood-shot behind the slouching eyelids, and a bump began to swell on his forehead. [Slouching eyelids. Wow! I don’t ever recall eyelids being described as slouching. But I like it.]
“Joey!” she screamed, shoving the truck into park. She slid over the seat and down next to him as he lay on the ground. “Are you okay?”
“And you didn’t want me to drive.” He rubbed his forehead.
“You’re crazy! Plain and simple—crazy!”
“But you love it.” He grinned as he got up.
“You’re gonna kill yourself someday, and I hope I’m not around to see it!” She slammed the truck door and walked towards the pizzeria.
“Aren’t ya gonna help me?” he whined, leaning against the truck. “I hurt my leg.”
He put weight on his right leg and limped to her. “I think I twisted it.”
“I’m surprised you didn’t break it.” She reached out to help him.
“Geeze, that hurts,” he whined. Once inside he released her. “Order the pizza. I’ve gotta use the can.” He dragged himself along the wall and entered the washroom.
The young girl behind the counter frowned at Joey. “Your friend doesn’t look too good.”
“He’s had one too many,” said Jessica, reading the menu board. “Can I get a twelve-inch with bacon and pepperoni?”
“Would you like anything to drink?”
“A skim milk and a can of Mountain Dew.”
“That’ll be twelve-thirteen.”
She pulled a twenty from her pocket and gave it to her.
The girl returned the change and began making the pizza.
Jessica sat at one of the tables and waited. Ten minutes later, Joey stumbled out and sat down.
“How’s your leg?”
“Painful,” he moaned, resting his head on his folded arms.
He fell silent and she wondered if he had fallen asleep. She combed his curly short hair with her fingers.
“Hey, are you okay?”
“Yeah,” he spoke in a low voice as he lifted his head. His green eyes were blood-shot behind slouching eyelids. A bump had already developed on his forehead.
…until next Saturday