Today we started off the stream by doing something I’d been wanting to try for a while: re-writing a viewer-submitted story.
During out last stream, viewer QueenLavana submitted a story during freeshare that I thought would be an excellent candidate. It had potential, but the beginning was getting bogged down by backstory, was too quick in places, and left the reader not knowing what to feel. After getting their permission, we re-wrote the beginning during the exercise portion of the stream.
We made sure to pay attention to three things while re-writing: (1) giving the reader the who/what/when/where/why so that they can visualize and understand what’s going on, (2) showing the reader how how to feel by setting the tone, and (3) not being afraid to take it a little slow and set the scene.
Here’s what we came up with:
It was on the third day of being in jail that I realized I was the only one in the prison. I looked out the bars guarding my cell from the metallic outside, and there was nothing but silence. Across from me was a wall of empty cells, all barred and closed, but with no occupants.
At first I’d figured that I was just going crazy. When I’d woken up in my cold, window-less cell, I couldn’t remember anything. I couldn’t even feel anything, aside from a splitting headache and nausea pumping through my veins. I threw up in the concrete sink and collapsed on the metallic bed hanging from the wall.
On the second day, I woke up, hoping that it was all just a nightmare. But when I opened my eyes, I was greeted by the same cell lit by flourescent lights that were far too bright. Except for one difference: a plastic tray of microwave-dinner food on the ground. My empty stomach growled, and never before had piles of lukewarm corn and mystery meat looked so enticing. I wolfed it down in seconds.
That was the first time I looked out of my cell. I peered through the bars, expecting to see a bunch of rowdy, tattooed prisoners locked away, but there was nothing. Not even the person who’d brought my food.
I figured they all must be out for exercises or something. So I waited. Sat on my bed. Lied down. But no one came. At some point I fell asleep, the silence covering me like a blanket.
On the third day, I woke up to the same gruel on the ground, but I was finally aware enough to know that something was wrong. I’d probably been in shock for the past few days, since I suddenly felt overwhelming anger and sadness burst through me like a dam exploding. Ignoring the food, I ran up to the bars and gripped them, screaming for someone, anyone, to come and tell me what the hell was going on. But the bars didn’t budge. My voice echoed through the emptiness. I screamed until I lost my voice and slid down to the ground, my knee landing in the pile of creamy beans.
Worn out, I returned to my bed and slowly ate the meal. I spent the rest of the day curled up under the single sheet I had, desperately trying to listen for any sign of life. Any laughter. Any scratching of a mouse in the wall. Any wind or rain. But there was nothing. I fell asleep, feeling like I was being absorbed into a void. I was alone. I was the only person in the world. That was the only possible explanation.
Until I woke up the next morning and a young, pale girl was standing above me.
We wanted to stay as faithful to the original story as possible, so we didn’t change any plot or character elements. All we did was stretch it out a bit, giving the reader time to take in the scene, feel what the protagonist is feeling, and set up some fun mysteries.
I have to say, I don’t think we did a bad job. I still don’t think the beginning is perfect, but it’s definitely on its way to becoming a cool, hook-y beginning to a story.
After that we moved on to today’s prompt, and chat voted for this one submitted by bjarcher: “You have been trapped in this body for years, but have just awoken, sat at the wheel of a car, going exceedingly fast. You look at the dashboard, and see the words “DON’T PANIC!” displayed on a screen.”
Chat had a great take on this prompt: rather than just suddenly appearing behind the wheel of any car, we appeared behind the wheel of the Tesla Roadster that had been launched into space today!
That let the floodgates of ideas loose, and I love where our story ended up.
If you want to join us and help write a story by trolling in chat, or share your own writing for feedback, then we’d love to have you. We stream on Twitch every Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday at 7:30pm-9:30pm (U.S. Eastern Standard Time).
Hope to see you next time, friend!
Scott Wilson is the author of the novel Metl: The ANGEL Weapon, forthcoming November 2018.
Featured image: YouTube/SpaceX