I was doing a little cleanup of my novel today when I came across a section I’d drastically rewritten. Obviously opinions are subjective, but I love this scene because it involves my main character, Darian, showing his personality even though he’s delivering a fair amount of backstory. I’ll probably look at it later and cringe, as I tend to do, but for now I’m in a good mood. Here:
“It seemed too good to be true.” Cassandra’s expression soured and she unsuccessfully tried to kick up the wet sand. “You’re right. This is trivial. We just killed a bunch of people!”
Darian squeezed her shoulder. “We didn’t have a choice. Kill or be killed.” That was Darian’s mantra.
“I know we didn’t.” Cassandra shuddered. “I’ve just never had to do that before. We’ve always managed to knock them out or scare them off. And Allan and ‘Lora don’t look bothered at all! Allan hates killing. He’s a Healer. It’s ingrained in him to save lives, not destroy them.”
“We all do things we don’t want to, Cassie.” Darian grabbed a piece of seaweed out of the water. “I guess they’ve had to do it before.” He twirled it around his finger, not meeting Cassandra’s eyes. “The first time’s the hardest.”
“’Lora said that, too.”
Darian sighed. “It’s true, though. I remember my first.”
“How old were you?” Cassandra asked.
Darian glanced up at her. “Eleven.”
“Holy hell.” Cassandra looked away for a moment. “How’d it happen?”
Darian walked into the water until he was ankle-deep. “You don’t need to hear it.” The cool seawater made a pleasant break from the oppressive heat. Rather than think about death, Darian focused on how the ripples bent his vision so his feet looked like they were detached from his legs. The calm and quiet seemed strangely at odds with the violent morning.
“How many people have you killed before today?” Cassandra asked.
Darian grimaced. “Too many. I’ve lost count.”
Cassandra sat on the wet sand, beckoning Darian to join her. “I want to hear about the first.” Darian rolled his eyes and sat by her side.
“Are you sure?”
“Fine.” Darian collected himself. “It happened on my first unaccompanied trip to the Gaius Temple from the warehouse. I was scared out of my damn mind.” He could almost perfectly recall the winter chill seeping through his too-big clothes, clinging to his skin like dirt. “A guy about twice my age tried to mug me.” He rolled his eyes. “I don’t know why he bothered. I didn’t exactly look like I had a home to get money from.
“It didn’t matter in the end, I guess, since he didn’t realize I had a gun in my hand until he grabbed my arm.” Darian made a gun shape with his hand and made a soft ‘pow’ sound. “Back then, I was even more squeamish than I am now. I don’t know how I managed to get to the Temple. Once I was there I didn’t stop retching until Raoul called a Healer to sedate me.”
Cassandra gritted her teeth and shut her eyes. Darian tousled her hair.
“Next time, Cassie, trust my judgment when I tell you what you do and don’t need.”
Cassandra scowled at him. “Now you sound like Allan.”
“Oh, no,” Darian said in a monotone. “Whatever will I do?”
Cassandra chuckled. “Do you think about it a lot?”
Darian caught her meaning. “Not as much as I used to. I’m finally accepting that the world isn’t painted in black and white.”
So… yeah. I’m happy with this for now. It’s definitely an improvement on the earlier versions of this scene, even if some of the writing itself is still rough.