(Re)writing GotH II
The second excerpt for The God of the Hive is here, with more to follow on the 27th of February and March. For those curious about the creative process (who among us is not?) each will be followed by a post showing the first draft of that section, with brief remarks about the rewrite process. I will take care to avoid major spoilers, but if you wish to preserve the absolute purity of the eventual reading experience, I suggest you stop now and just stick to the excerpts themselves, and return to the (Re)Writing posts after you’ve read the book in May. Click on the images below to enlarge.
Part of the changes between first draft and finished version were made with an eye to the rhythm and authority of the language. To add The young captain looked as if he was clinging to the wheel as much as controlling it underscores the violent motion of the boat, motion that is an essential part of the change in Holmes’ intentions. And to say scarlet stains could be seen around the dried blood on the bandages is weak, both because of the arrangement and the passive voice. Much stronger to say, the dressings showed scarlet, just as to reduce the motions of the boat is better as simply, to calm the boat.
Adding the paragraph about Russell and the threat in Thurso is in some ways a distraction, as any backstory/explanation is, but I decided it was necessary to link this chapter with Russell’s, and to make it clear that their actions are illicit and illegal.
Chapter Two as it stands was cut out of a larger section, with the remainder shifted to become chapter five (which I am not showing here, since the excerpt does not include that part.)
When I looked at my seven page first draft, which carried the action through to the afternoon, I realized that I needed to begin instead with a brief and telling touch onto each set of characters. As I mentioned in my remarks about excerpt one, unlike the other Russell books, The God of the Hive is told from multiple points of view: Russell and the child going off in one direction, the two as-yet nameless men—prisoner and captor—in London, and now, Holmes at sea with his wounded son.
So, chapter two was pared down to three brief pages on a fishing boat, and the purpose of the chapter shifted from story line to a dash of plot with a hefty dose of sensation and contrast: We saw Russell literally wrapped around a small child on a tightly circumscribed island, but here we are with three rough males fighting the open sea. There in chapter one, all was dim and quiet and (for those familiar with Mary Russell) unexpectedly, even startlingly feminine; here all is violent motion, pressing noise, imminent death, and threefold masculinity. We have whispers in one and shouts in the other; the crunch of gravel versus wildly swinging cabin fittings; but in both, a powerful, even visceral determination to protect the person at hand.
Herein lies a key element of The God of the Hive: Sherlock Holmes as an emotional creature. We met his unknown son in The Language of Bees, but the two men spent most of the book keeping each other at a distance. Now, circumstances force them together, and with proximity comes an awareness of the other man as a person, and as a connection.
And this, not any plot element or unfinished thread, is why the previous book ended on the note, To be continued…