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LESSON #2 IN REVISION

The original from THE MONSTER IN ME:


The sweat on my back starts to cool, and I shiver. I wish I’d thought to bring a jacket or something to pull around me.

“Let’s head back then,” says John.

“A request or a command? I avoid both by getting a head start. I keep up the same pace, but downhill is a lot easier than up.

“Too easy, in fact. It gives me a chance to think about Mom, about all those times I wanted to ask her to help me, but she wasn’t there to ask. Crossing the street to school when I was little, washing clothes without ruining the underwear, cooking Ramen without making it turn into soup.

“Is that what John thinks being a foster father is? Well, I don’t need it. Don’t need any kind of father, foster or not. Never have.

“Now, a mother. Maybe. Just maybe.

“Except that I don’t have that, either.

““Natalie, this way!” John calls.

“I am going my own way, thinking I remembered where to go, but when I hear John, I turn around and realize he is right. I took a wrong turn. No big deal, right? This isn’t my city. Why should I think I knew where to go?

“But a part of me wants to ignore him and keep going my own way. I almost listen to that part. But the other part wins out only because I am too tired.

“Home, that part says. I want to go home.


My editor’s version:


“The sweat on my back starts to cool, and I shiver.

““Let’s head back then,” says John.

“I get a head start, keeping up the same pace. But downhill is a lot easier than up.

“I don’t need it. Don’t need any kind of father, foster or not. Never have.

“Now, a mother. Maybe. Just maybe.

“Except that I don’t have that, either.

““Natalie, this way!” John calls.

“A part of me wants to ignore him and keep going my own way. The other part wins out only because I am too tired.

“Home, that part says. I want to go home.


I could see why she made the cuts she did. Sometimes I have a tendency to let my characters have too much interior monologue that adds nothing to the story. And the details that are chosen here seem monochromatic, in a list that means nothing. But I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted this moment to be one where Natalie remembers something very clearly, that she learns something here about herself and her mother. I just needed the right story:


The final version:

The sweat on my back starts to cool, and I shiver.

““Let’s head back then,” says John.

“I get a head start, keeping up the same pace. But downhill is a lot easier than up.

“I remember the time I borrowed a pair of roller skates from a neighbor. She said downhill was the only way to try them out. I screamed for Mom the whole way. I hit a parked car and was so glad to stop I didn’t feel the pain. Then I did, and called for Mom again. She never came. I walked home, returned the skates, and took a stinging bath. I never cried for Mom again after that.

““Natalie, this way!” John calls.

“A part of me wants to ignore him and keep going my own way. The other part wins out only because I am too tired.

“Home, that part says. I want to go home.



Copyright Mette Ivie Harrison 2011 all rights reserved.
Last revised August 10, 2011.