I think perhaps one of the most famous quotes writers come across when reading books or educational material on writing is, “Kill your darlings.” Generally, it usually means you need to cut, cut, cut. Revise, edit, chop stuff out.
Of course, it also occasionally means you have to kill someone off, but that’s almost an entirely different post!
So as a writer, if you follow that advice, you end up chopping a lot of things out, or re-writing so that certain scenes aren’t necessary. But if you’re like most writers, you can’t bear to actually delete those snippets, your darlings. So you save them. I have all of mine in a document I call my slush pile. I review my slush pile now and again for snippets that I can maybe reuse somewhere else, or find a home for in another story.
Trial by Fire went through a lot of iterations in its lifecycle and I’ve changed plot, setting, characters, character arc, scenery… pretty much anything that could be altered, I’ve fiddled with. For today’s post, I’d like to share a piece from my slush pile for a VERY EARLY draft of Trial by Fire. I’m still hoping I can find a home for it [or for a rework of it] in one of the series books!
In this scene, Jade has an instructor named Antoinette, who works with witches on their spell casting. Unbeknownst to them, there was a gas leak in the room they were working in and one of the students was working on their fire spell. As they cast the spell, the room started to ignite with partial columns of fire engulfing the room. Jade, the heroine of Trial by Fire, was able to stop it. But she doesn’t realize she’s done it, nor does she know how to stop it. Paris, the leader of the coven has been called to assist. As one of the most controlled magic users, he has the best chance of assisting.
“Jade, how do you feel?” repeated Antoinette.
“What?” Jade felt distracted and had to force herself to look at Antoinette. She felt like she couldn’t keep her eyes from darting around the room like she was taking inventory.
“Can you control it?”
Even as she asked the question, Jade could feel pressure building in her sinuses and her brain. Her eyelids twitched against the feeling. Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the witches carefully picking their way around columns of fire, moving slowly toward the door.
“Am I stopping it?” asked Jade suddenly.
“Yes,” replied Antoinette smoothly. “How do you feel? Can you maintain it?”
“I…” Jade stammered for an answer and realized she didn’t have one. “I don’t know. My head is starting to hurt.”
“You must focus now, Jade. This is the most important lesson I can ever teach you. You have to focus on what you are doing.”
Jade flinched as a white-hot pain lanced through her skull. The pressure in her head was becoming nearly unbearable and was starting to travel downward into her chest. She realized, not knowing how she knew, that the pressure she felt was from the fire. The fire stretched, pulled, yanked at her insides, as if it knew that she was the reason it wasn’t free.
“Can’t you take over?” Jade snapped. She was hot and getting hotter. She could feel sweat trickling from her hairline, down her neck and settling on the collar of her t-shirt.
Antoinette shook her head thoughtfully. “I do not think I have the power to transfer control from you to me without taking too much long. In that time, we will all be consumed by the fire.”
Jade felt her nose begin to run and she knew without having to check that it was blood. She could feel the heat of the liquid drip out of her nose and hit part of her lip before it splashed to the ground. Her brain felt like it was swelling and was two sizes too big for her skull. Every beat of her heart throbbed against the unyielding bone of her cranium and sent a lance of pain through her eyes. The fire was angry. She could feel it screaming against her. Jade flinched again as another stab of pain shot through her, this time her chest. At the same time, a small ball of fire broke free and erupted in a corner of the room. Antoinette shouted something and it winked out of existence.
“Can you do that in pieces?” asked Jade, her voice thin and tight.
“Not while it’s under your control. I can only do that if you lose control. Can you break it off a piece at a time?”
It took Jade a second to notice she was shaking her head back and forth in answer to the question.
Paris’ presence as he came to the closed door outside the room was like a cool breeze across her sizzling skin. She felt his power curl around her questioningly as he sent an exploratory tendril. She could almost see him, on the other side of the door, one hand pressed to the wood, trying to figure out what was going on without opening the door.
“He can’t open the door,” Jade whispered, unable to make enough sound to speak louder.
“What?” said Antoinette, but Jade didn’t hear her. There was a roaring sound in her ears.
“If it smells the oxygen… there’s so much out there. He can’t open that door. I can’t stop it if he does.” She was whispering to herself as her entire body shook with exertion, her breath came fast and hard. She dropped to the ground and cradled her head.
She could see Antoinette out of the corner of her eye. She yelled. The door remained closed. Jade tipped herself over to lie down on the ground. She pressed her cheek against the cool tile of the floor and closed her eyes. It felt good for a moment, but then the heat of her skin seeped into the tile and the brief respite was gone. Her control was starting to slip away. She could feel it seeping out of her, as if the fire was bleeding her dry.
Jade felt a cold fog settle over her suddenly. It shifted across her skin before finally coming to rest upon her. It was firm, insistent. She focused on it. She could almost smell the familiar sandalwood and cedar chip smell of Paris. He settled his power on top of hers, and then pushed it down, mixing it with hers, until she couldn’t tell where his power stopped and hers began. There was a tug on her brain, almost like a question. She understood the thought behind it, as if it were her own.
Let go. Slowly. Just this piece here.
His power had mingled enough with hers that he was in control of the fire as well. But he couldn’t just pull it away from her. Paris needed Jade to let go so that someone else’s power could take over. She felt other tugs in different parts of her brain and body. She couldn’t identify them as she could with Paris, but she could feel they were different, not him. She dimly thought she could make out five other witches, trying to pull fire from her. At each pull, she felt Paris tell her the same thing. Let go. Slowly. Just this piece here.
He directed her which pieces to relinquish and as she did, he was able to take it completely, his own power keeping her from releasing too much. He then turned it over to someone outside the room. Beyond that, Jade didn’t know what happened.
It seemed to take a really long time. Pieces were plucked from her control and handed over to someone else. All the while, Paris kept his power draped over her, like a blanket. Finally, she felt part of his power leave, stretching out across the entire classroom as he surveyed for any stray flames. And then his power was gone.
I really do love this scene! I always feel strange commenting on my own work, but at the same time, I try to write stories that I like myself, so I do end up being happy most of the time! I really hope to be able to work in this scene or a variation of it in a later book. I like the trust element involved between Jade and Paris [the two leads of my series] and also the magic itself. I hope you enjoyed this snippet!
If you’re a writer, remember, you can kill your darlings, but you don’t always have to let them stay dead!