Writing: editing "Dreams"

I am editing chapters 21 to 24 of “Dreams” and they are maybe the most troubled in the whole story.

It is in 21 where the two stories merge. To keep things simple I just copied and pasted those chapters from the sister-story “Limiters” and then edited them to fit into the different style.

One example (requiring more editing):

“You were snoring,” you say.

Your knee is touching me. I very much want to kiss you, lay my hand on your thigh, feel you bending towards me as your body shifts. “I had trouble sleeping.”

Your lips touch my neck.

I kiss you, taste the bitter coffee in your mouth, on your tongue, but this morning you are not where your kisses are. You are somewhere else. You use too many muscles that are not needed, there is too much tension to pretend you love me. I back up. A part of me is still pissed off now that things have become so concrete.

“What?”

Tension peaks. We did not really fix last night. Some of it takes over.

I back up more, suddenly angry: “Kiss me when you feel like it, not to try and please me. This does not work for me.”

You withdraw, stand up, eyes blazing.

Really? I think you really should tone down a bit, Abayomi. I am just kissing you for fuck sake. What do you want from me? Ignore you? Tell you that you really suck?”

“Play it straight. Be honest to me.”

This is the mirror-image in “Dreams”

“You were snoring. I had trouble sleeping,” I said.

I bent forward, in reply to her longing, touched the side of her neck with my lips, felt her withdrawing.

“What?”

A wall of tension suddenly peaked between us.

 “Kiss me when you feel like it,” she said, this pang of tension in her voice, “not to try and please me. This does not work for me.”

I looked at her, amazed.

Where is this sudden hostility coming from?

I stood up, only now fully remembering the trick she played on me last night. Remembering the Q&D analysis of our fucking relationship, figuring out where it would break. Showing me what she knew. Anger from that moment remembered and flowing through my body as if no time had passed since that moment yesterday.

She avoided my eyes, looked down.

Well: fuck you.

Really?” I said. “I think you really should tone down a bit, Abayomi. I am just kissing you for fuck sake. What do you want from me? Ignore you? Tell you that you really suck?”

“Play it straight,” she said.

What is the problem?

One of the things is that I am re-constructing the same moment from the other side. And where the dialog seem completely natural within “Limiters” it fees weird in “Dreams”.

Another issue is the the space I have. “Dreams” can only spend a fraction of the space to the same moments and events, forcing me to leave out specific things I did describe in “Limiters”.

Tone of voice is different, style is different. Look for instance at these two descriptions of the same moment:

I bent forward, in reply to her longing, touched the side of her neck with my lips, felt her withdrawing.

(“Dreams”) In “Limiters” I write:

Your lips touch my neck.

I kiss you, taste the bitter coffee in your mouth, on your tongue, but this morning you are not where your kisses are. You are somewhere else. You use too many muscles that are not needed, there is too much tension to pretend you love me. I back up. A part of me is still pissed off now that things have become so concrete.

The main character in “Dreams” only realizes after what happens, still sleepy:

I looked at her, amazed.

Where is this sudden hostility coming from?

I stood up, only now fully remembering the trick she played on me last night.

Style, time, space

Both “Limiters” and “Dreams” are written from completely different point of views and completely different characters. Abayomi, the main character in “Limiters” is very close to the moment. Her writing is in present tense and personal. When she addresses someone, it almost immediately becomes “you” as shown above.

Isabelle, in “Dreams” is more distant, more self-absorbed, leading to a different style all together. Her writing is in past-tense. She refers to others by name and “she” and “he”.

Abayomi is very sensual and focused on others. She talks about the bitter taste of coffee on Isabelle’s mouth while Isabelle only mentions the coffee itself and the kiss that follows. Isabelle mostly focuses on herself.

As mentioned before, Abayomi has the full space and time to go into detail. Her story (40.000 words long)  is a total of five days. Isabelle’s story (67.000 words) spans over 30 years. The 40.000 words of Abayomi’s story are compressed into 16.000 where the merge within “Dreams” meaning I have to cut out over 20.000 words to make things fit. Including the kind of detailed observations Abayomi can make. Take for instance this moment:

We drive over Rue Saint Dominique, take a piece of Boulevard  St Germain towards Pont Royal, hit Quai de Conti, slow down when we cross the first part of Pont Neuf. The taxi deducts money from your bank account, thanks us for the ride.

The smart fabrics underneath my dress brace up as the fresh wind from the river hits me, keeping my body warm. A small lift is waiting at the tip of the island that cuts the Seine in two separate streams. The curved sides of glass and monofilament carbon resemble the slender shape of a lotus flower, about to open. From that, a glass is spun in an intricate web spanning the water, stretching up in to the sky, holding three stories that seem to be carved out of black and silver leaves, mixing art nouveau with modern architecture.

You look up, wave with your right hand when you see faces on the balcony of the first terrace you recognize. Silver and glass spun bracelets on your wrist making high tinkling sounds like tiny crystal bells.

(From “Limiters”, Abayomi). Isabelle sees this, compressing two other bits (the waiting, entering the cab, driving towards their destination and parts about the dresses and clothing) into her storytelling as well:

We went down, waited for the cab to arrive let us be carried to the place: bridging the Seine, challenging the sky and the city like a glass construction made by a giant spider, my mind still overwhelmed, numbed by what I had seen earlier, slowly coming down as I shifted to another state of mind, preparing to wear my social mask.

And there we were, out in the cold, the construction rising three levels above us, the Seine flowing around us, the bridge at our back, music trickling down. We looked great. We looked awesome.

Isabelle makes no mention of her own jewelry, as that is less relevant. “We looked great. We looked awesome” is all she has to say what they are wearing.

Emotional attachment

Compared to the earlier chapters in “Dreams” (the story of Isabelle) the merge of “Limiters” in chapters 21 to chapter 25 seems less vibrant. It lacks the sparks, the potential awesomeness and the freshness the earlier chapters of “Dreams” do have. It is like I am losing the unique voice of Isabelle for a while. The writing itself seems less clear, less to the point and more in a struggle as well. It is not hitting the core as the earlier chapters (I have not reached editing the later chapters yet).

Chapters 21 to 25 in “Dreams” seem to hobble onwards. Where both “Limiters” and earlier chapters in “Dreams” start with some push and then simply roll on, unfolding itself in a very natural way, the merged parts in “Dreams” seem to fall back to several dead moments. Only meaning one thing (probably): that I do not get the “fuel”, the emotions/motivations, right yet.

The noble process of editing

In most cases I would just rewrite the dialog and work my way out of it that way. But this is a merge. The dialogs and situations I merge into “Dreams” work very well in “Limiters”. It is a deliberate experiment in my writing to make this merge: to experiment with “what happens when?” when I show the same scenes from two completely different people and thus they HAVE to work in “Dreams” as well.

I also started this idea of a double merge with the feeling: “if I can pull this shit off, it will be AWESOME!” (capitals indeed present at that time). It is like re-reading the same story and — because you know the other side — it has become something completely new and even richer than before and other parts hit you like a brick from a completely different angle.

That is: if I can get it past the mediocre writing it is now in Isabelle’s version and make it groove, vibrate, bubble, sing.

Next steps

As I am writing this blog-post (October 31, 2012) I realize one thing I have not been doing: reading “Limiters” (the story that leads these scenes) while editing the scenes in “Dreams”.

What is not helping either is that I am very distracted, very lazy and watching all episodes of “Teen Titans” instead of working on the story.

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