Do you find it painful to delete a scene in your manuscript or give it a massive overhaul? Take heart as you’re not alone. Below, Kathy L Wheeler shows you a before-and-after from her book, Mail Order Bride:The Counterfeit, demonstrating why scene purpose is so important.
Kathy’s Behind the Rewrite
As a writer, I cannot tell you how difficult it is to delete hard writing words. What do I do when something doesn’t quite fit? I copy them to a document called “Deleted Scenes.” Sometimes I number them. However, in the case of Mail Order Bride: The Counterfeit, as it turned out, I only had one complete deleted scene to speak of.
While the scene below is still in the book, it resembles nothing of the final outcome. The villains’ motivations in the original scene were unclear. That’s called the “horrible 1st draft.” Reading through the original scene makes me laugh, especially, when I read through the final version. All the same characters present, but there is a difference, to me, in the tone.
Original First Draft
(Note: The below excerpts contain some profanity.)
The frigid night air cut through Alvin Danhauer’s less-than-adequate jacket against the late fall of a Colorado mountain night. But just as he decided waiting in the barn would serve as well as the boot of the Hobson’s carriage, the door to Merciful’s house opened and Glendora sashayed out ahead of her bastard husband.
“Damn it. There is something about her. I know that girl from somewhere.”
“Certainly, she’s not from one of the many brothels you frequent.” She sneered. “The girl’s much too innocent for the likes of you.” Alvin grinned at Glen’s irritatingly calm voice that managed to drive men wild. The woman never lost control. Not even when she lay spread eagle beneath a man, and him driving a hard cock in and out of her tight sheath. Her laugh sparkled through the cold night air. The sound was suited to the glitter of stars against their black backdrop.
Just as they reached the carriage door, Hobson snatched her arm and spun her around. “You listen to me, Glendora—”
She jerked her arm out of his clutch. “No.” She poked him in the chest. “You listen to me. We are in this together, whether you like it or not.” She glanced back at the house, then back to Hobson. “You think I’m so stupid or naïve? I know of your entanglement with the late Eleanora Jeffers.”
Alvin bit back a gasp, though why he should be surprised was a mystery not worth contemplating.
Hobson turned away, yanked the carriage door open, picked up his wife, and bodily tossed her through the opening. “What of it? A man as hot-blooded as me married to such a cold fish has to find some way to satiate his thirst or die trying.”
The force of palm against flesh should have started an avalanche, instead, the snow seemed to mute the sound to a degree. Alvin waited, tense with expectation. Finally. He had something to hold over that bitch. Glendora Hobson deserved everything she got and more.
“This is an age-old argument.” Her tone had reverted to that ever-ending control.
Alvin peered around the corner. Hobson had pulled up and was regarding his wife thoughtfully. “The question I have, is how someone as good a rider as Eleanora Jeffers ended up breaking her beautiful neck on a fall from a horse.”
She turned away and climbed up in the carriage without assistance. “Mysteries do abound. I’ve wondered that myself,” she said. Her gloved hands smoothed over her woolen cloak, never raising her head.
The carriage shook with Hobson’s bulky ascent. He settled in and flicked the reins.
After a time, a silence reigned, filled only with the crunching snow beneath the horses’ heavy hooves. Alvin’s brain raced. What the hell was Hobson indicating? Or, Glendora, for that matter.
Someone snapped their fingers. “Simone,” Hobson barked, with a prickle of surprise.
The carriage shook under a shift of movement and Alvin took the opportunity for a quick peek. “You will befriend Will Jeffers new wife. Do you understand?”
“Let go. You’re hurting me,” Glendora bit out. The hatred spewing from her ruby lips could poison the air.
Hobson didn’t seem to notice. “Once we find that deed, I’ll turn that little whore over to her mother.”
Glendora stopped struggling. “Her mother?”
Despite the glacial air piercing through him, Alvin grinned, taking warmth in the possibilities suddenly stretched before him.
Final Draft Of Same Scene
Kathy’s note: The purpose of the scene changed so completely, it didn’t work.
News traveled fast, and Alvin Danhauer hadn’t much cared for the news flyin’ around the Springs lately. Will Jeffers had a lot of goddamned nerve givin’ him the boot then turnin’ around, puttin’ out a notice to a bunch of Chink immigrants to come in and do his work.
He’d never have learned a thing had he not seen Ennis Wisentangle talking to Merciless. He’d followed the snooty proprietor to the depot’s telegraph office and seen him and the operator shaking their heads sayin’ “Merciless was a damned fool, openin’ that can of worms.”
Alvin wasn’t no dummy. Barton Hobson had to have signed off on that order, he was the one who owned the fucking mine. And that was exactly where Alvin planned on starting his trail of revenge. No one got the better of Alvin Danhauer.
He slid off his chestnut roan and tied him to a branch just out of sight of Hobson’s homestead. He’d show that bastard. Alvin crept up to the house, mindful of any servants lurking about. The man was as rich as a fresh gold vein streaking through dense rock.
He peered in an open side window and grinned.
Well, well, well. Hobson’s wife looked especially pretty tonight, all blonde and lithe. She was facing away from the window, but Alvin could see her blue eyes in his head anyway. He remembered them right enough. He spent many a night peeping at her through the windows. She tugged a picture from the wall, exposing a safe. He let out a quick breath that rose in the cold air. He’d been hankering after its location for days. She turned her head to check the study door several times while she worked. Finally the safe’s door swung wide and she quickly flipped through a stack of papers.
Her form went rigid. She dropped the stack and jerked the painting back in place, but with the safe open, the frame couldn’t lay flat to the wall.
Alvin dragged his gaze from her to the doorway. Hobson stood there, the look on his face, a mask of carved marble. The hair on Alvin’s neck raised. They were too focused on one another to pay him any mind, but he squatted lower just in case—just high enough to still see.
“Looking for something in particular, Glendora? Surely, I can help.” The frost in his Hobson’s voice was chillier than the snow-covered ground. Alvin’s hands grew clammy. Hobson sauntered in and leaned his hips against the desk, his hands clamping the edges on either side of him.
She slowly turned, malice wreathing from her. “You’ve made a fool of me for the last time,” she bit out.
“Fool of you?”
“You’ve been shagging those whores at the Gold Rush … again. I warned you what would happen, Barton.” She meandered from the safe to the liquor cabinet and poured whiskey from a crystal decanter into two tumblers. “You should have listened.”
Disgust twisted his lips into a sneer. “And, what do I get from you, dear wife? Tell me that. You’re colder than a fish hooked in ice.”
The fog of hate emanating from her stiffened shoulders shifted to a model of control when she turned and faced him, the previous malice erased entirely. “I see,” she said, strolling toward her husband, holding out one of the tumblers. Her lack of fear was both terrifying and inspiring. “How perfectly arrogant, egotistical, and utterly predictable of you to expect me to spread my legs for you after your humiliating chase after the new and younger Mrs. Jeffers.” Her maniacal laugh trilled, sending another blast of glacial freeze through the air. It had nothing to do with the weather, but the rime penetrated his skin, clear through to Alvin’s bones. “I was sitting right there, you bastard.”
Hobson’s steady gaze never strayed from his wife, all the while slowly sipping his whiskey, not a word crossed his lips. Impressive.
She laughed again. “You don’t even bother to deny it?” Her features twisted into a venomous snarl. “Of course, you won’t because it’s true. A leopard’s spots don’t change, do they? You’re aiming to take Will’s new wife just as you did with Eleanor.”
To Alvin’s surprise, Hobson flinched. Eleanor Jeffers had been dead two years.
Alvin eyed Glendora Hobson’s lush breasts, red lips, and alabaster skin. Her complexion was heightened with the flush of fury. His own cock swelled at the sight. The woman needed to get laid. Alvin decided he was just the one to satiate her need as an unforgiving seam in his trousers dug hard despite the frigid cold. The air in the study was so taut he dared not move.
Hobson’s cruel lips curled, but they resembled nothing close to a smile. “And you, darling? I may have humped her, but I didn’t murder her.”
Murder? Alvin pulled up.
“Look at it this way, darling.” Sarcasm dripped from her. “We need one another.”
“How do you figure?”
She set her tumbler of undrunk whiskey on the huge desk and stalked around Hobson to the painting where it hung parted from the wall. She reached into the safe and pulled out a sheaf of papers. She strolled back around, staying just out of reach. “This is the deed to the mine.”
Hobson’s body turned to a slab of marble. He didn’t so much as a blink. He slammed back the rest of his drink in a single swallow. He moved to put his glass down, but it slipped from his hand, missed the wood surface, and hit the floor in a shattering crash.
“I find the witness signatures a bit suspect.” Her voice grew teasing, and again, Alvin marveled at her composure. “I wonder what Will Jeffers would think seeing Ennis Wisentangle’s indecipherable scrawl.” She flipped through the papers, shuffled a portion of the top of the stack to the bottom, and shook the papers at him. “The question I have, darling, is what are you doing with William Henry Jeffers, Sr.’s discharge papers, signed by none other than James Monroe? I think it’s time we talked.”
“Talked about what?” His slurred words were barely discernable.
Alvin had never taken Hobson as a fool, but watching Glendora, Alvin realized that’s exactly what Hobson was. A fool. The man didn’t look so high and mighty now. Beaded sweat heightened his flushed face to a sickly shine.
Peeling off the top page, she shook it under his nose. “This is forged,” she said, then snorted. Quite a sight from Glendora Hobson. “No one in his right mind would have Ennis Wisentangle as a witness. And, Alvin Danhauer? It’s laughable. Alvin’s nothing but trouble. For another—” She leveled her gaze on him. “He was known to have been in Rock Springs, Wyoming working the mines there at that time.”
That was news to Alvin. He’d never signed anything for Hobson. She was right on her other point, however, he had been in Rock Springs, and damned proud of it. Killin’ off chinks one by one because of the jobs they were stealin’ from legitimate Americans. Good to know his efforts hadn’t gone unnoticed.
Hobson’s expression was priceless. No, not priceless. That expression was worth a considerable amount.
“You don’t even own the mine, do you? Where are the originals?” she demanded.
The man was caught, and by a woman no less. He pulled away from the desk and stumbled back against it. His face had turned a ghastly verdant shade. “Get me some whiskey.” His words were more husky than they were demanding.
The smile on Glendora’s angelic face set off bells in Alvin’s head, fear lifted the hair at his back of his neck again. “Of course, dear.” She sauntered to the cabinet and filled a new tumbler, then made her way back, hips swinging a seductive sway. She handed him the glass and he slung back the entire contents.
“No. I don’t own the mine,” Hobson snarled. The sheen on his forehead formed large drops. Alvin glanced toward the blackened hearth. Odd. “If anyone ever learns the truth, I’ll hang, and you’ll be destitute.” He swiped the back of a hand across his forehead. “I imagine Miss Bethany can help you out with any finances you need. Of course, you’ll have to earn them.”
Alvin had heard enough. Enough to get himself killed, and enough to know he stood to make a tidy little profit. He ducked from sight and worked his way to the stable, taking care to mingle his footprints with others in the snow back to his roan.
Final Thoughts From Kathy
Many times, I find that I must write even if what spills forth will not quite work. The writing itself allows a writer’s thoughts and actions to get back on track, or on a track. Sort of like a veering out of the lane car in a high-speed chase. Not that I was ever in a high-speed chase…
My lesson: writing loosens the blocks in your brain, takes you down a path you might not have envisioned. And, the more you write, the better you become.
Let me know your thoughts between these two passages. I would love your input.
Want To Read The Rest Of The Book?
Mail Order Bride: The Counterfeit (Book 1) – After a disastrous first marriage, Will Jeffers hasn’t the stomach for another emotionally entailed union. All he needs is a wife to cook, nurse his mother, and look after the homestead. But good women are few and far between in Colorado mining country. A mail order bride is the perfect solution. Amelia Johannasen is running for her life. Her brassy mother has decided it’s time her daughter joined the family business, shattering Amy’s dreams of marrying for love. Imagine her surprise when she is mistaken for Will Jeffers mail order bride. She has a talent for spinning tall-tales but no notion of how to cook, nurse or keep a house. Can she reach the heart of a man once burned so badly, he’s sworn off love?
More About Kathy
Kathy L Wheeler loves the NBA, the NFL, musical theater, reading, writing and karaoke. She lives in the Pacific Northwest with her musically talented husband, Al, their adorable dog, Angel, and their snooty cat, Carly.
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