A few weeks ago I presented the first draft of the opening scene of the Melvin Backbreaker story, based on the sample outline I wrote before. As it was a first draft example, it was intentionally bad in many ways:
- Too much telling, no enough showing: I often said what characters felts instead of showing it other ways.
- Not enough sensory input: the first draft you can hear, but you can’t really see or smell it.
- Introduce useless characters, such as the clerk brining Melvin the letter.
- Some unnecessary info-dumps.
- Inconsistent characterisation for Melvin, making him seem more manipulative and in control than he should’ve been.
You’ll find a revised version below. Mind you that this is a second draft, meant to address some storytelling issues from the first one as well as introduce new elements that I didn’t the first time around. Because of this, the text might end up longer than before, but that’s why the next stage, in a few weeks is the Streamlining, where I’ll cut out the fat and just leave the important bits.
“What the fuck do you mean I don’t have the right papers? I looked it up on the rect!” The big burly man in biker outfit shouted, indignant, pulling out a folded sheet of paper from his breast pocket. Melvin pushed himself as back as he could in his chair to avoid the man’s tobacco and cheap whiskey breath, which made it through the thick protective glass between them. “For Twelve-A in duplicate, forty-b, driver’s license and DNA sample!” The customer recited. “It’s all here!” he pushed the paper against the glass, making the thick crystal strain and groan. Roided by the looks of it this one.
Melvin looked at him apologetically, as he did to every customer, perfectly practiced, convincing and completely insincere. “Oh…dear…” He let the words hang and sighed, shaking his head. “You read the old site. The new one asks for other documents. Here.” Melvin leaned to the side, careful not to slip out and fall off his hover chair, opened a drawer and pulled out a stack of papers thick enough to kill rodents. “I compiled this guide myself!” He beamed proudly, once again practiced and even more insincere. “It’ll give you everything you need to know.”
The biker flipped through a few pages and his brow furrowed in confusion over the twenty different forms, in triplicate, certified, notarised and with every judge’s DNA sample and official document copies he should bring. Melvin could see the muscles in his arms bulge and his skin turn a sunrise-shade of red. “Is this some kind of fucking joke?” The biker bellowed, slamming a fist against the glass, triggering the alarm. The emergency sound blared loudly from the speakers and securobots emerged from the walls. “I don’t have the fucking time to do all this fucking shit, I’m just here to renew my fucking driver’s licence you shithole! Just give me my shit and I’m…wait, get your fucking tin hands off me!” The first securobot crumbled, its face smashed in. “I’ll fucking kill y…” the high-voltage tazer interrupted his rant, leaving him on the ground, in the fetal position, shaking and soiling himself.
Melvin leaned forward, shook his head and pushed the CLOSE button under his desk, obscuring the dual-phase glass. He couldn’t see it but knew the customers on the other side would see CLOSED on the glass.
Melvin leaned back on his seat, turned on the automassage option and rubbed his face. “I hate this job sometimes…” he groaned to himself. The massage took effect and he felt himself relaxing, but turned it off before he dozed off.
He felt a hand on his shoulder and it made him jump up. “I’m awake!” he said, startled, only to find Matilda giggling behind him, she clutched a bundle of papers under her arm. “Oh, Mattie, you almost gave me a heart attack, I thought it was…”
“Thomas?” She said. “Surely I’m cuter than he is!” She frowned, but the mischievous glint in her eye told him it was a joke.
Still, he played the part. “Of course you are, Mattie, I wouldn’t dream of comparing you!”
“Good!” She nodded and then had to push her red hair out of her eyes. She often cut it short, with just a long bang over the front, combed to the side, but it was more rebellious than expected. When her hair was in its proper place again, she handed him a brown envelope. “It’s from your solicitor, Mel.”
“I don’t have a solicitor.” He said, confused, looking at the sender’s address. It had been sent from Maccallum, the Backbreaker estate’s homeworld. “Shit…”
“What is it?” Mattie leaned closer, and he could smell the soft vanilla oil she used and feel the soft wool of her sweater on his uncomfortable dress shirt.
He glanced sideways at her, the way he always did when she wasn’t paying attention, then shook the thoughts away. “It’s from my dad…”
“Oh…” she let the words hang. “Maybe he wants to talk to you, get back in touch?” She said, but couldn’t manage to sound convincing.
“Nah, he’s probably croaked!” Melvin said casually. “Ow! What was that for?” He rubbed his arm where she slapped him.
“Don’t joke about that!” She reprimanded him, her stare hard.
Oh crap, her dad…he thought, remembering it had been a few months earlier. “Sorry Mattie, but me and my dad aren’t the same as you and yours. He’s a mean old bastard, and he’d die before he ever apologised.”
Melvin opened the envelope and pulled out the long document. He skimmed through it, disregarding or filtering out the legal speech. “Well, what do ya know…” He said numbly.
“I was right…mean old bastard did croak!” He chuckled once, but it was weak. He looked in disbelief at the letter.
“Oh Mel, I’m so sorry!” She hugged him tight, then looked at his quizzical expression. “Are you ok?”
“I don’t know…” He admitted. “I always figured I’d be happy, but it just feels weird…”
“He was your dad, of course you’re not happy!” She said sternly, then her eye caught some of the letter’s content. “It says something about an inheritance there!” she pointed at the page.
Melvin skimmed the page, fast reading as they taught them when they started this job. “Wow, that’s weird and so like the old man.” He shook his head.
“What is it?”
“According to this I need to go to Maccallum to the family estate and jump through some hoops for the inheritance.”
“I don’t have a clue, it doesn’t say.”
“I think you should go!” She said firmly, locking eyes with him.
“I don’t give a damn about the inheritance!” he said offhandedly, but too loudly, making heads turn towards him.
“Just go, you need the closure!” Mattie insisted, her voice lowering to a whisper.
“I’ll think about it, ok?” He grumbled when he saw the adamant look on her face.
“Good.” She nodded and returned to her post.
Melvin did the same, pressing the CLOSE button again and forcing himself to deal with more customers.
At the end of the day, tired and still numb from the news, Melvin left the Ministry, finding Mattie waiting for him outside. “Hey.” He said flatly.
“I knew it!” She said, wiggling her finger accusingly at him before the summer breeze made her hair go wild and into her eye. “Ow!”
Melvin chuckled and helped her. “Thanks!” He said.
“I need a good laugh.” He grinned.
“You idiot!” She shook her head. “You going home?”
“Yeah, lots to think about…” he said, patting the satchel on his side.
“Want some company?” She moved in closer, locking eyes with him.
“Uh…uh…yeah…” he mumbled and she nodded.
“Great, let’s hit the off license. We’ll get you properly hammered!”
“Your dad just died! You shouldn’t spend this night sober, my friend!”
She grabbed his arm and pulled him with her.
Later that night and after three cases of beer and three bottles of wine, Mattie looked him in the eye. “So you goin’?” she slurred.
“You know what? I think I will!” He said, wobbling.
“Just don’t forget us little people when you’re richhhhh!” she said, taking another sip from the current victim, a bottle of rum.
“Why don’t you come with me?” He blurted out what he was thinking. Not all of what he was thinking though.
“Are you serious?” She said, the slur slapped out of her by the shock.
“Yeah! I need you there with me!” He said, the alcohol making him more honest than ever.
“I’ll need to ask for vacations, and my cat and…” She flustered and blushed.
Oblivious to it all Melvin continued. “Let’s talk to Thomas tomorrow, no way he’ll stop you from joining me to go pay my respects to my dad!” He grinned.
“Ok…” Mattie said, nodding several times before taking long gulp from the bottle.
Hope you enjoyed this version a bit more than the first draft. Next time you’ll have the finalised version of the scene, streamlined to trim the fat and with a few other fixes here and there!