By Keith Fisher
At work the other day, I was paying close attention to the images floating past on my computer screen, and listening to old music through my headphones.
Because of the music, my mind began to wander to my teenage years with a mixture of happy and sad emotions. Suddenly, out of nowhere (I still can’t remember what led up to it), A phrase came to me for my work in progress. I stopped the scanner, turned off the music, and wrote it down. It surprised me for two reasons: One, because I haven’t worked on the scene where the phrase will appear since the draft, and two, because in the draft, I worked hard on the phrase, but couldn’t quite get it right.
Since most of the writing I’m doing these days is editing, I thought I would borrow a page from my friend Tristi Pinkston and show you how I used the words that came to me.
This is the way I wrote it in the first draft:
Jesse started to pick himself up, but Joseph gripped Jesse’s shirt collar and pulled him up to face Joseph. He gripped the collar with his left hand, and doubled his right fist. He pulled the fist parallel to his ear. He intended to break his brother’s jaw.
Then after a little exposition, I wrote:
Joseph was struck by the look on Jesse’s face. He looked calm, not at all scared, but Joseph could feel the quickened pulse in Jesse’s neck as Joseph held him by the throat.
This is what I wrote down at work:
With his fist drawn back to the side of his ear, he looked into Jesse’s eyes.
So after a little reworking, I changed it to:
Jesse struggled to lift himself from the floor, but Joseph pulled him up by the shirt collar and held him close. With his fist drawn back to the side of his ear, he looked into Jesse’s eyes.
Joseph was struck by the look on Jesse’s face. He looked calm, not at all scared, but through the shirt collar, Joseph could feel a quickened heartbeat in Jesse’s neck.
It’s not perfect yet, but it’s getting there.
Many writers talk about getting ideas at odd times. Like others, I get some of my best ideas in the shower or in the middle of the night while stumbling toward the bathroom. Most of us hurry to write down the fleeting thought and never wonder about the source of it.
Perhaps we should take a moment and thank the source of the muse, whoever he may be.