(Re)Writing God of the Hive IV
The fourth excerpt for The God of the Hive is here. (The book itself is available on April 27.) For those curious about the writing and rewriting process, each excerpt has been followed by a brief explanation of the changes made. As always, I take care to avoid major spoilers, but anyone wishing to preserve the absolute purity of the eventual reading experience should stop now and stick to the excerpts themselves, and perhaps come back to the (Re)Writing posts after reading the book itself. (Click on the images below to enlarge.)
What is now chapter four started out as the latter half of chapter one, but this (as with the chapter showing Holmes and Damian at sea) was divided in favor of a quick introduction to the various characters. When first we saw Russell, she and a child were crossing a hill at dawn. That first chapter showed us Russell and Estelle; set the scene; made reference to her brother-in-law Mycroft (whose Intelligence work will play a major role in The God of the Hive); and touched on the presence of an aeroplane and pilot, waiting ominously in the distance. (A basic rule of crime fiction: Don’t mention a gun if you’re not going to use it.)
Having met the principal players, the machinery of the plot now begins to turn, with Russell maneuvering her way across the island and absorbing the first lessons of surrogate parenting, namely, how to move about with a child in tow. This is only one of the skills she has never before had any particular need for, but Russell’s arms are already becoming accustomed to the child, as the reader begins to accept the presence of this small person in the story.
Which means that when a man turns a gun on the narrator, the reader immediately feels the threat to the child at her side.
All the elements of this chapter move towards this threat: the changed verbs of motion used to describe boarding and leaving the milk cart sharpen the senses, and the tension. The change from (in the original draft) Russell spotting the cart and instantly knowing how to get onto it change, illustrating her hesitation, even fear, due to the presence of Estelle: Russell is afraid of coming into the open.
And when the final line comes, the threat is not simply a man with a gun, it is a man threatening her heart.