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 05 continued
“If it has so much power, how come you don’t keep it for yourself?” Jessica enquired with a smirk, wondering if he had an answer.
“Well, that cowboy neglected to mention ‘til after the game was over that the stone doesn’t work for the white man. You must have Indian blood running through your veins, and as you can plainly see, I am all white man. The stone was as useless to the cowboy as it is to me.”
She nodded. Obviously he had been selling artifacts, or junk, for many years, but his energy and imagination should be rewarded. “Well, I guess you’re in luck. My great-grandfather was a Micmac Indian, so, the bag should be of some use to me. How much are you selling it for?”
“Ten dollars,” he grinned.
Jessica placed the stone back inside the pouch and pulled it over her head. “I don’t think so,” she said. “You probably need Blackfoot blood, anyways.” Placing the medicine bag on the table, she returned to the picture. “I tell you what, for $15.00, I’ll buy the picture, if you throw in the medicine bag?”
The man scratched his reddish beard for a moment as he studied Jessica’s eyes to see if there was room for bargaining. [POV: This suggests we know what the seller is thinking. In other words it’s from his point of view. In this instance, we could leave this in because while making a deal like this, a person might know the other one is looking at them to see if they will bargain further. I decided to remove it though to shorten the sentence.] “You made a good deal today, Ma’am. I’m not usually this soft, but I can’t seem to say no to a pretty face.” He dug for a plastic bag from a box beside his chair and placed the 8×10 picture inside.
“I’ll wear this,” she replied, placing the medicine bag around her neck and tucking it inside her shirt. Jessica handed a ten and a five to the story teller and thanked him.
“Thank you, ma’am and remember, always walk against the wind.”
Jessica smiled at the comment, then continued along the mall, feeling pleased about the picture she had bought. It would look nice against her pale blue bedroom wall. And as for the medicine bag, the Indian or who crafted it would be happy to know it was in safe hands away from exploitation from the common day hustler. [Again with the names: In my early writing career, I used them much too often. There are only two people in this scene and they are the opposite sex, so it is easy to leave out the names and readers know who is speaking.]
The threat of rain changed to fact by the time lunch rolled around, stealing the sun again from the coastal dwellers of Nova Scotia. April had already had its share of rainy weather for this year, but people who remembered the extremely dry summer the year before enjoyed the abundant rain fall March and April had delivered. Saturday was a beautiful spring day and this provided a taste of the summer ahead once the rainy season was over. [For the most part, I tightened the text, eliminating unnecessary words that were just fillers. Sentences such as “He dug for a plastic bag from a box…” can easily be shortened to “He dug a plastic bag from a box…”]
“That cowboy neglected to mention one vital fact: the user needs Indian blood running through their veins As you can see, I am all white man. The stone was as useless to the cowboy as it is to me.”
She considered his answer. “My great-grandfather was Micmac Indian, so the stone should be useful to me. How much is it?”
He grinned. “Ten dollars.”
She returned the stone to the pouch and removed it from her neck. “You probably need Blackfoot blood.” Placing the medicine bag on the table, she returned to the picture. “I tell you what; for fifteen dollars, I’ll buy the picture if you throw in the medicine bag.”
The man scratched his reddish beard for a moment as he studied her eyes. “You made a good deal today, Ma’am. I’m not usually this soft, but I can’t say no to a pretty face.” He dug a plastic bag from a box beside his chair and placed the 8×10 picture inside.
“I’ll wear this,” she said, placing the medicine bag around her neck and tucking it inside her shirt. Jessica handed a ten and a five to the storyteller and thanked him.
“Thank you, ma’am, and remember, always walk against the wind.”
She smiled at the comment, then continued along the mall. The picture would look nice against her pale-blue bedroom walls. As for the medicine bag, the rock inside was pretty and would find a place on her bookshelf.
The threat of rain changed to fact by noon, stealing the sun from the coastal dwellers of Nova Scotia. April had seen its share of rainy weather, but people who remembered the extremely dry summer and forest fire on the Eastern Shore the previous year appreciated it. Summer was on its way. Jessica could almost taste it.
…until next time.