Intermediate Novel: Assignment 4: Flesh Out a Scene

This is the 4th assignment in the course INTERMEDIATE NOVEL WRITING offered by The Writer’s Workshop • The class is taught by Jana Harris • The text used for this class is The Weekend Novelist by Robert J. Ray
• Sep 27, 2021, Assignment 4

WRITING ASSIGNMENT: Flesh-out one of these scenes. Zero in on those details of setting that give the reader a “you are there” feeling.

This was the response by the teacher to my chapter submission:

CAN’T TELL YOU OFTEN ENOUGH WHAT AN AMAZING VOICE/STYLE YOU HAVE DEVELOPED IN THIS NOVEL. THE CHARACTERS AND THE TIME AND PLACE ARE VERY TRUE TO LIFE. YOU JUST HAVE TO WRITE IT, GET IT DOWN ON PAPER. IT SOUNDS AS IF YOU REALLY ‘KNOW’ THESE PEOPLE. THOUGH THE SUBJECT(S) ARE SERIOUS, THIS IS REALLY FUNNY IN PLACES. HUMOR IS THE HARDENT THING TO WRITE. –JH

— Jana Harris

Here is the revision with her comments included:

It rained in the canyon for a week, never letting up. Rain. She wished her father would come up [AWKWARD REPETITION OF THE WORD ‘UP’ ]with a more sodden, bloated, muddy word for rain because rain no longer told her anything about what was happening in this canyon. But this morning, her father had found a new word: Flood. HA! GREAT VOICE

 Gus DO WE KNOW WHO HE IS? braved the early morning stench of Tad’s pissy sleeping bag to cross the threshold into the Red Cabin. Gus’s long hair had whipped out of the ponytail and became shellacked GREAT VERB CHOICE against his forehead. Her father had called Gus a real mountain man. To Audra, he seemed to still be in Vietnam with his Army Surplus poncho, fatigues, and tent. Even his beard and long hair kept them trimmed and shaped meticulously. Gus sketched out what he had seen that morning while they slept—the creek had become swollen with rain and mud and now gushed into a torrent that swept trees up from the roots and washed out a part of the road and supports from the bridge. Even if they could get a truck to the bridge, it was unclear if it could hold the weight of a vehicle. They needed to get out of the canyon before they were stranded on this side of the creek. GOOD USE OF LIST TO DESCRIBE FLOOD.

Audra felt tears dribble GOOD VERB CHOICE off her nose. She threw her head down onto her pillow. Arc had given her the queen-sized mattress on the loft all to herself. He, Ricky, and Tad slept in sleeping bags along the floor since Gus’s tent flooded and he was forced to sleep in the back of his pickup’s camper last night.

Gus slammed his hand on the table. “Jesus Christ, why is she crying? I told you girls shouldn’t be here.” 

“Lay off her. She’s never been in a flood.” 

Audra had never heard her father stand up for her before. He often told her to see things from everyone else’s point of view. She hadn’t even realized that she’d made a crying noise, but maybe that was the nature of floods: single tears that ended in a sob. Why hadn’t Gus complained about Tad? The kid leaked from everywhere. HA!

Fed up with this cabin of crying kids, Gus yelled at Arc. He let her father have it for taking kids on before the school was set up. Audra, emboldened by her father’s defense of her, yelled at Gus, “I’m not crying anymore, FUCKHEAD.” VERY TEENAGE-ESE

Her dad snickered. Gus smirked as if she were nothing more than a piss ant. Tad let out a yelp. Ricky was suddenly beside her on the wooden plank next to the mattress. When had he climbed the ladder to the loft? Before or after she had said FUCKHEAD? His hand folded into hers under the blanket. From the hit of adrenaline she got from swearing, GOOD TOUCH she squeezed her fingers around his palm. A sudden rush of blood warmed her face. His hand seemed to pump blood into her cheeks.FABULOUS  Was this it? Was this the sin of Blood Transfusion that he had proselytized against? When he spoke of it, she had nodded knowingly, but she had no idea what he was talking about. This definitely felt like something a church wouldn’t want teenagers to feel. She checked Ricky’s face to see if this was the blood transfusion the Jehovah’s Witnesses thought a sin. Had her hand rushed blood into his face? Would he eventually have “bloodguilt” from this transfusion? After a week and a half with Ricky, Audra felt versed in a whole new language, Jehovah’s Witness-ese. NICE, BUT MAYBE SHORTEN TO JUST ‘WITNESS-ESE, TO AVOID CLUMSY REPETITION OF ‘JEHOVAH WITNESS” ? HELPS WITH PROSE RHYTHM

He seemed completely detached from his own hand. His chin rested on the palm of his other hand, and his elbow rested on his knee. He grinned in the direction of Arc and Gus as if the flood meant he was on the threshold of his beloved Millennial Kingdom while the Nephilims (which, according to Ricky, were the offspring of wicked angels) thrashed impotently against God’s headwaters. GREAT BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION

Tad screamed suddenly, “The river’s risin’ just like Ricky and the bible said, just like for Noah. Armageddon is upon us.”

Annoyed by Tad’s outburst, Arc turned to Ricky, who he noticed was no longer on the floor. When he saw Ricky in the loft with Audra, Arc’s brow furrowed, “Tad’s mother will ship him right out of here if you convert him. Tad has his own issues and you have your problems, Ricky. This flood isn’t the end of the world. It’s not even the end of this cabin. It’s a flood, not Revelations. It’s water, not hellfire. Get your biblical passages straight.” GOOD USE OF THE TRAJI-COMIC

Ricky lightly caressed the palm of Audra’s hand with his thumb while Arc continued to scold him.

Gus slapped the table again. “Enough of this religious horse-shit.” 

Tad rocked back and forth in his piss-soaked sleeping bag, nearing hysteria. “I pray to the Anointed Class to make me ‘other sheep.’” WONDERFUL
Rankled by her father’s pronouncement that Ricky had problems, Audra wondered if maybe Ricky was right; maybe this flood meant deliverance. Her senses were now so alert with this fear and blood pumping that she became aware of the creek gushing outside. It sounded as if it were licking the sides of the cabin. She sought to avenge her tears by getting Gus as pissed as Tad’s sleeping bag; she yelled, “Salvation’s comin’ with the river risin’.”

  Arc, desperate to end the fervor, yelled, “Audra, you too? Get the hell out of bed and pack your suitcase in case we have to leave. Ricky, get off that loft and help Tad get cleaned up.” Arc tugged his rubber boots over his jeans and lifted his rain poncho over his head. He sighed as he placed his hand on the wooden latch of the door to leave the cabin to face the flood, “and…and…what the fuck. Amen.” 

This class is funded by a generous endowment to my writing by my mom. 

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Lesa Quale Ferguson

Writer + Picture Taker ^ Image-Maker & Design Web-ber #Ma

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