I’m not sure if “Death of a Character” is the proper title for this post or not. It’s more like a “travel back in a time machine to change the course of events so that a character will never be born in the first place” kind of death. In this case, the character being wiped out is a young woman by the name of Heather.
After completing the first revision of Such a Dreamer (my “twelve year novel”,) I handed it over to a peer whose opinion I trust greatly. After reading my manuscript, she pointed out that my protagonist Dane’s relationship with Heather in the first act seems unnecessary, slows the pace of the story, and overcomplicates the plot. Especially since Heather is not Dane’s true love interest in Dreamer.
When writers are so attached to a project and have been working on it for so long, it can be difficult for us to see the obvious issues even though they practically shoot out in our face like an impressive 3D effect at an IMAX theater. It’s like we forgot to put on the 3D glasses when the movie screen instructed us to do so. That’s why writers need early readers to help us find such problems. They act as our 3D glasses.
After processing my peer’s critique, I knew she was spot on. The relationship with Heather crippled my novel. She acted as a red herring in a literary novel that already has plenty of heavy subject matter. She ran interference, delaying Dane from the start of his hero’s journey and also gave the reader a false sense of who Dane was during the early stages of the novel.
So, Heather had to go. She needed to be obliterated, wiped from existence.
Not that it was an easy task; in fact, I’m still in the middle of such efforts. There are scenes, dialogue, and narration between the pair that I simply love. Most of Part I (first act) had to be re-written and a good portion of Part II needs to be altered too, which I’m currently doing. Voids need to be filled in. Then I’ll need to make sure I clean up any additional references or scenes involving Heather throughout the rest of the manuscript.
But soon, Heather will be all but a distant memory in the Such a Dreamer world.
However, since I’m still fond of their now defunct relationship, I’ve decided to post excerpts from the “deleted scenes.” I hope they stand alone as enjoyable chunks of literature. Hopefully, they will give you a sense of who Dane is and what he stands for while also giving you a glimpse of what the core of Such a Dreamer is all about.
In this first scene, the original Chapter 2, Dane meets Heather:
Outside of Graymont Sutter’s Home, Dane paused to wipe his forehead with the back of his gloved hand. He assessed the progress of his landscaping task, and realized he had a long ways to go. He only wore shorts and work boots, but it did little to combat the extreme humidity of South Florida. Streams of sweat rolled the length of his bulging pectoral and abdominal muscles. And to think—summer had only begun.
His thick arms and shoulders, slick with perspiration, thrust the shovel again and again into the clay-like earth. He stomped his foot on the back of the blade for deeper insertion, and to let out a little aggression. Look at me, Mom—saving the world one shovelful at a time. How pathetic.
He felt someone watching and turned. A beautiful, young woman, wearing black skintight aerobic clothing and tennis shoes without socks, stood about ten feet behind him. Her eyes locked on Dane and she gave a flirty smile with her girl-next-door appearance. He smiled back while trying to wipe the sweat from his eyes. Before he could say anything she turned and walked around the corner of the building. A ponytail of straight brown hair swaying between her shoulder blades is the last thing he saw.
Dane resumed plunging the shovel into the earth and ripping away the dirt. Kinda rude, he thought. At least stick around long enough for a proper introduction. I mean, really, what kind of wom—
A strong burst of water doused him from behind. He whirled around in dismay to discover the mysterious girl with a garden hose and a mischievous grin.
“Was I sweating that bad?” he asked as she finished with the hose down.
“Bad enough,” she answered with a wide, glorious smile.
Her smile could make the paralyzed walk again. She also had magical brown eyes, so clear he sensed a deep display of compassion behind them. If her smile could cure paralysis then her mystical eyes could raise the dead.
She put the hose down and approached Dane with a towel. He stood there dripping, speechless like some damn smitten fool. She wrapped the towel around his shoulders and began to slowly pat him down. Her hands explored the firmness of his muscles while drying him off. She leaned close to his body. Nearly hugging him as she continued to soak up the beads of water from his skin. A kind yet sensual gesture.
“I’m—” he began.
“Dane, right? Guy told me about you.”
“Is that so?”
“It is.” She flashed her gorgeous smile again as her eyes pierced his.
“And you are?”
“Heather.” She stepped back so they could shake hands. “I’ll be helping you to run some of the outdoor activities for the girls.”
“It’ll be nice working with someone who takes time to notice the little things. Like when a co-worker is about to topple from heat exhaustion.”
They both laughed.
“Well, I’ll let you get back to it.” She nodded to the dug-up ground below. “Seems that you have a lot more to do.” She snatched the towel back and flipped it over her right shoulder. “See ya around.” She turned and walked away.