The final week of The Craft of Plot was all about the editing and revision process (my favourite subject strangely enough). I’m not going to detail this week’s lesson as this is a topic I’d like to tackle in a post of its own (with a view to helping authors keep their editing costs down).
So, the lessons this week revolved around a twenty-one point checklist of things to look for while editing. It was a good list, very detailed in fact, but I’m of the opinion it should be broken down into bite-sized chunks, rather than trying to work through a super-long ‘to-do’ list. The lessons also discussed sharing work with others for feedback.
The Assignment: Plot/4
Our assignment for this week was to write a 1,000-word story with ten lines of rising action. I have no idea how many this has, but I do enjoy putting my characters through hell, so I threw everything I could at him.
Harry scrabbled through a tunnel of boulders inch by precious inch. The air was thick with dust and he could scarcely breathe but had to go on. Nearly ten thousand people populated the underground sanctuary and they were relying on him to find a way out. He wasn’t the first to scout but was confident no one had gone further. He hadn’t seen any markers since entering the tunnel. He could have taken a wrong turn of course.
“You haven’t taken a wrong turn,” he said through gritted teeth, spat out a mouthful of dust and gained another inch. There was a single route out of the sanctuary, through a long-forgotten door marked exit, an old word meaning ‘freedom,’ according to Davidson, the leader of the insurgents.
The first part of the journey had been easy. The door had opened on to a wide open tunnel with a spiral staircase. He’d walked until his strength left him, dropping to the stone floor with near-exhaustion.
It was several hours after he’d rested before he reached the wall, a plate of thick metal, once whole, but now buckled and broken. Large rocks protruded through the tears, evidence of Earth’s trauma. He surveyed the area as he ate his last protein bar. The earlier scouts were right. There was no obvious way out, but then he saw it, a narrow space where the rocks didn’t quite reach the ceiling—a space wide enough for a child his size to crawl through.
It seemed like a good idea at the time, but it was slow-going. His mother would be beside herself with anguish by now, and the Authority must surely have noticed his absence. If he turned back, he was going to be in big trouble.
Harry pushed on. He wriggled into the gap ahead. The ceiling pressed his back, the rocks his underside. If the gap lessened further, he would have to concede defeat.
His head torch flickered. He froze, holding his breath. The spare batteries were in his trouser pocket but he had no way of reaching them. He shuffled forward, jamming his elbow in his haste. Tears sprung and panic took hold. “Please…” he whimpered. “Don’t let me die… not here.” An image of his long-dead father came to mind. What would he think of his snivelling? Harry should have been sitting in the safety of the schoolrooms, worshipping the glory of the Council of Twelve, condemning the dark history of the world above, not trying to reach it.
He took a deep breath, calmed himself, and wrenched his elbow free. It was badly cut and his sobs grew louder. He choked and cried and cursed his ancestors for surviving in the pits of the earth, condemning him to a life of near starvation and despair under the brutal rule of the twelve. They’d killed his father for openly challenging them, and many others besides. Harry tried to follow the rules, but as the son of an insurgent, he suffered regular sessions with the disciplinarian, a brute of a man who enjoyed beating the rebellion out of children.
“Bastard!” Harry said, spitting a mouthful of dust out.
The light in his head torch fluttered and pinged. Harry closed his eyes and continued. There was no way he was going back to a living hell. He’d rather die.
Hours passed. Harry took his time, pushing forward an inch at a time. Finding he could breathe a little easier, and with less pressure on his back and chest, he opened his eyes. In the far distance, a speck of light glistened. Enthusiasm gripped him. He shuffled forward and without light or warning, the ground disappeared. He lost his balance, tumbled out of the tunnel, and landed heavily on a stone floor.
He replaced his batteries and shone it around. He was on another staircase. Rocks littered the tunnel but weren’t as compact as the ones he had crawled over.
Harry broke into a jog. Air tickled his face—fresh, sweet smelling air. Tears dampened his face and he let his tears come. There was no shame in crying for joy. He imagined finding help for his people; doing what his father and the other insurgents couldn’t—freeing them from the Council of Twelve’s control.
Travis approached the figure on the rock warily but shouldered his laser rifle when he realised it was a child. A skinny, filthy, ragged looking boy. He wore plain clothing, not the military regale the general insisted on. A frown deepened Travis’s brow. He reached down, grabbed the boy’s arm and yanked him to his feet. “Trying to run from your duty, are you?”
The boy stared back at him with bleary eyes, his mouth hung open.
Travis marched to the well-trodden mountain path, dragging the boy behind him. “Where’d you think you could run to? Look around,” he said, gesturing to the ocean below. “There’s nowhere else to go. This is it!”
The boy pulled his arm free. He took a step back and started jabbering in a tongue Travis had never heard before. He held up his arm and the boy quietened.
“I don’t know what you’re playing at, boy. I don’t care. You’re the general’s problem, not mine,” he said, pointing to the walled fortress below. The boy followed his gaze, nodded, and then smiled. He uttered another absurd sounding word and raced ahead.
Travis shook his head. Whatever the boy’s game, whether he’d run from the fortress or a hidden dwelling, the general would put a gun in his hand soon enough. He was in desperate need of soldiers.
He sighed heavily. Between the Afflicted—primitive humans with a lust for blood—and the continually rising ocean, their chances of survival were slim. Even if he found every last human on the mountain ranges, they would still number less than five-hundred. Mankind was a dying breed. The general was just too pigheaded to admit it.