Medeia and Adam's Contests and Remember Your Sucky First Drafts?

Jill (that snowflake is to help us cool off during the heat wave) had a post recently wherein she shared a snip of an earlier draft, showing how her characters had changed.

Well, Jill, this one's for you: the first scene I ever wrote featuring Baha. I had no idea who he was yet. In this draft, he's much older, and largely undefined, beyond his faith. I had no idea about his family's background, or his own.

It all came about during a writer's exercise on the forum, set by Claire. She gave us a list of characters, conflicts and genres, and we were to choose one from each column and write a scene. I twisted it to fit my wip, and ended up discovering my hero, though I scarce knew that at the time. For one thing, I still thought I was writing YA...

"1. Inciting incident: Rose lands on the quay at Constantinople. She has no luggage beyond a pocketful of stuff. Her travelling companions, Arcturus the monk and Joseph the love interest (there's more to him than that, of course, but for the moment let's keep it simple) are both suffering from seasickness and can barely drag themselves off the ship. Arcturus would have helped them navigate the strange new town, with his facility for languages and by virtue of the fact that he's more worldly wise than young Rose and Joseph, but he can barely lift his head from his bucket of sick. Joseph is dehydrated and lies on the deck like a limp fish. Rose is annoyed with them, but more worried than annoyed – she has no idea where to go, the landscape is strange and rocky, the sea coast has many dips and turns, and everyone is bustling around on the docks and not paying them the slightest bit of attention. Lots of men surround them, trying to sell fruits, candies, nuts, drinks, and they’re dressed in, to her, strange layers of flappy shalwars, some with turbans, and over everything comes the haunting strain of the call to prayer. All around her is chaos and stray dogs gambol back and forth around everyone's legs.

Through all this, a voice comes from behind her. "Can I help you?"

It's the artist, having returned to his hometown after studying in Italy. He found out he had a terminal illness and decided to return home, though his parents have disowned him for having left them and, as they see it, renounced his Muslim heritage by going off to live in a land of infidels. He's hoping his sister will still talk to him, at least.

2. Turning point: Rose decides to accept help from this stranger, as she has no other choice, and at least they can both speak a little French to each other. They both know a little Latin but pronounce the words quite differently, so that's no help, and some of his Italian words sound like Spanish, but not close enough. Still, Arcturus will be able to speak to him once on dry land. She points at her companions' helplessness, then tries to describe that she needs to find the Jewish quarter. The artist – let's call him Baha – finds them a man with a small boat (a kayik, or caique) to take them across the Golden Horn to the Jewish quarter.

3. Point of no return: Of course, Rose has no money, nor does Joseph. She suddenly realises that Arcturus spent the last of their money on getting them on the ship to Constantinople, and that while they travelled in Spain and France he used his monasterial contacts to find lodging and food. In this Muslim-ruled country, unless they can obtain help from an Orthodox church, there's no one to guide them or take care of them. She panics, and tries to retract her acceptance of help from the artist, embarrassed by the state she's been reduced to. Baha just keeps shaking his head, and pushing them onto the boat. She tries to explain that she'll pay him back when she finds her family, but her French isn't good enough for that. Baha gets into the boat with them, and Rose finally takes a seat in the prow, keeping her head averted so no one can see her cry.

4. Darkest hour: She's not just sad, but angry. But who to direct her anger to? Uncle San, for revealing that he's her father and throwing her faith into doubt? Arcturus for not letting her leave the monastery back in Spain to search for her parents when they were still only a few days away? Joseph, for wanting to be a knight yet never being able to help her with anything? How is she ever going to find her parents in this dirty, noisy city? She's angry with them too, for keeping the secret of her birth all these years.

5. Climax: The boat crossing takes longer than usual, as they have to wait for several larger ships to go by. As they bob in the water, Arcturus and Joseph groaning, much to the oarsman's amusement, Baha tries to talk to Rose a little. Something along the lines of...

"Jewish, yes?"
"Um, Catholic."
"But family Jewish? How possible?"
Rose tries to think of what the word for adoption might be... "My mother died and –"
"Ah, new family. They happy to see you?"
"Oh yes, I hope so.” She sees a shadow cross his face. "And your family?"
"My family not so happy. Never wish see me again."
"But why?"
"Leave glorious city of Istanbul, travel to land of giavours. Infidels. I learn much, but Father says only knowledge worth having is Islam."
"They won’t be happy, then, to see you have returned?"
"I can only hope. Perhaps my sister... we were close. But I bring sad news of myself. I am ill."
"Yes. I have, how you say, disease. I cough blood. I will not recover, Italian barbers say. So I return to my family."

Well, there it is. Not to get hoaky or anything, but his troubles make Rose's seem a little less earth-shattering. And I'll have to fix this a bit, later, since they should have talked before if they've been on the same ship all this time."

What an understatement! Needless to say, Joseph's out. And thankfully, Baha doesn't sound quite so stilted in conversations anymore, either. To say the least.

Medeia's having an amazing contest to celebrate her blogiversary, where you can win a copy of her novel Bestest. Ramadan. Ever. along with a host of other swag.
Adam's having a contest too, to celebrate his publication in the Beneath Ceaseless Skies' Best of Year Two Anthology.

As for me, I'm 25 pages away from finishing this round of edits!


Robin McCormack said…
Excellent! Good luck with the rest of your edits.
Jillybean said…
How cool! I like this a lot! Thanks for the solidarity. [g] SFD writers gotta stick together!

I think Baha has brushed up on his language a bit since this...[g]

I remember hearing mention of Joseph, but I think those drafts were before I joined up with the forum...for me it's always been Rosa and Baha. :-)
Nas Dean said…
Well done!

All the best with the rest of your edits!
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks Robin!

This was from January 2010, Jill. Baha was an old guy up until after Cherry Hill. Before that, I kept throwing Joseph at Rosa and she kept fighting with him and bringing him down. It took an HP for me to realise who Baha really was, how old he was, and that Rosa should be - and wanted to be - with him. [g]

Thanks Nas!
excellent little run down of the process. I love getting tips like this. Hope it's working for you!
I've just finished the Bestest Ramadan Ever and really enjoyed it.
Anonymous said…
Best of luck with the edits. :)
Anonymous said…
Good luck with the edits and thanks for the linkage.
MedievalABD said…
Good progress on your edits, Deniz. Thanks for the glimpse into the process. Sometimes, I have to remember to listen to my characters; luckily, mine are pretty insistent!

Hope you have a great week!

Nancy (lapidaryprose)
alberta ross said…
is it cool or spooky that you have a hero called Baha and the surname of my heroine is Baha?!! I can't figure it - anyway all the best with edits he sounds like a good guy
Regina said…
This sounds like a fun blogfest. I really liked your excerpt.
Nadja Notariani said…
Amazing how characters grow as we write, examine, think, process, think some more, and re-write.
Really, Deniz, I will have to find a way to prod you along in your editing process. Every little snippet I gain of 'Out Of The Water' makes me want to get reading! ~ Nadja
It's amazing how much a story can change over time. I got about 2/3 of the way through my MIP (after rewriting and changing large parts of the first first draft). Then I realized I needed to work out each scene and really see how they connected up. I needed to really flesh out the character profiles too. The character profiles are all done now and I'm hoping to finish my outline this week. Then, I can get back to writing my MIP.
Glynis said…
Thanks for sharing! Great to see how others work through their MS.
Talli Roland said…
Go Deniz go! I love looking at how others break down their MS. Good luck finishing this round of edits.
Deniz Bevan said…
Thanks TerryLynn, darkwrite and Medeia!

Hope you're having a great week too, Nancy!

Gives me a thrill every time I see his name, alberta, so we must be doing something right :-)

Thank you Regina!

Ooh, thanks Nadja! That's so encouraging!

It's amazing how much I've changed in the novel since I first started, Sonia. Like you I had to write quite a bit before I could finally see how the scenes linked up.

Thank you Glynis and Talli!

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