re-write: 12 seconds from WattPad

I just (this week) found a new app – it’s basically a self-publishing platform where The Internet can comment on your work once you’ve uploaded it and exposed your soft underbelly, without the aid of an experienced editor to spare your blushes. I have yet to expose my own underbelly, but in the immediate short term am sampling others’ work, and enjoying it.

In some ways I’m finding it oddly inspirational – I’m thinking about what I like and don’t like about what I’m reading, thinking about how I might do it better, which bits I like, which bits ring like clanging clichés, and so on.

It’s spurred me on to finish the ending of the short novel/story I’ve been writing myself over a few years, and to appreciate that although it’s not finished-finished and I’m not super-happy with the middle of it, it’s a damn sight better than some of the dross out there, even if I do say so myself. So, I have an ending and am about to let Other people read it. This feels like a big step. A very exposing step… we’ll see how it turns out, eh.

The other thing I’ve been inspired to do is rewrite at least one scene that I read and thought was a nadge unrealistic and could be done, if not better, then differently. This is not-from 12 seconds by tall_girl (just realised that if she’s tall, she could probably take me in a fight. Oh well, at least this is the internet and she doesn’t know where I live…) which is an interesting and compelling read – I’m going ahead and reading the prequel in spite of the shortcomings of 12 seconds, which are mainly consistency when referring to characters’ by name and the armed forces. This should be thought of as exploratory fan-fic rather than a criticism.

Anyhow – here is my re-work of chapter 7, part 1. I’ve tried to make it work as a stand-alone piece so hopefully isn’t too confusing…:

Julia pushed the last piece of bacon around her plate, not wanting to finish. Finishing meant she would have to leave the café and go home. Home to the family who last night she discovered had been lying to her for the past two years about who she was, and how she lost her memory. She sat there, as she toyed with the bacon, her long, dark hair creating a protective barrier between her and the rest of the world. The café was small, but impersonal if you wanted it to be. Greyed formica table-tops and elderly plastic yellow chairs echoed of brighter days, before the extractor fans were coated with grease and the spoons bent out of shape.

She was about to spear the bacon and lift it to her mouth, when a cloud of second-hand alcohol invaded her space.

“Hey there,” a man slurred, as he rested his hands on the side of the table and leaned in until she had no choice but to smell his whisky-laden breath, “Fancy grabbing a coffee?”

“No,” Julia spoke in a monotone, not even looking at him, as she lifted the last piece of bacon towards her mouth.

“Come on,” the man with three days’ worth of stubble and dry eyes grinned, the corner of his mouth tilted up in a smirk, “we could get crazy.” He started to chuckle softly, and Julie felt her stomach turn over at the suggestion.

“We wouldn’t get ‘crazy’, as you call it,” Julie tilted her head to the side so he could tell exactly how much he repulsed her, “if we were the last two people on earth.”

Julie waited for those words to sink in before she continued. She could see the cogs whirring as he tried to process what she had said.

“Now, please leave me alone.”

Julia realised she had overstepped the mark when the smirk vanished from his lips, and his eyes grew dark. His hand whipped out with surprising speed, given the air of whisky about him, and gripped her upper arm to drag her out of her seat and to her feet.

“What did you say, girlie?” They were nose-to-nose.

And then, before Julia knew what she was doing, the drunk was nose-to-floor, and she was astride him (in a not-getting-crazy-well-not-in-that-way way), his arm twisted behind his back, and her bacon-fork pressed lovingly into his neck where, she presumed, his carotid artery was closest to the surface. Muscle memory is a wonderful thing, she thought, wryly. She heard crockery smashing, as she had clearly attracted the attention of the staff behind the counter.

“I said,” Julia growled from behind clenched teeth, “please leave me alone.”

The drunk struggled, but found, to the surprise of everyone involved, that he couldn’t move. Julia, having no idea how she had managed to achieve this “victory”, now realised she had no idea what to do next. She felt the presence of someone standing behind her, and she half-turned to face them, then froze.

It was the man from the park. Marc.

The man whose unexpected birthday card to her mother had kicked off this whole who-am-I episode.

Her former fiancé, apparently, if only her amnesiac brain could allow her to grasp that fact.

“Allow me?” He gestured towards the man on the floor, with an open, uplifted palm. Julia looked from his hand to her fork, still pressed into the man’s neck, then back. She, somewhat awkwardly, put the fork onto the table next to her, and took Marc’s offered hand, to steady her to standing. It wasn’t a big café, and there wasn’t a load of space between the tables. They wound up standing quite close to each other.

It was weird for her to think they had been so intimate, and yet she couldn’t remember a thing about him. She clocked that as she stood up, her recently reinstated dog tags had escaped from under her top. She saw Marc’s eyes land on them, and they exchanged a glance of understanding.

He knew that she at least knew the basic facts, if nothing else.

“Come on, Reynolds,” he grinned, “let’s get out of here.”

The use of her surname broke the tension between them. Julia nodded. She needed to ask him some questions. Questions her family either couldn’t, or weren’t willing to, answer. She wanted answers, but now that there was a risk she might get some, her heart started beating faster. Did she really want to know?

“I know a place,” Julia zipped up her hoodie, tucking the dog tags back in, and led Marc out of the café.