Dark Doors

Ask. I will tell you a story.

Off-cut from Novel

With regret and much hand-wringing, I decided to cut this bit from my NaNoNovel. While I still think it is an example of quality writing (or should that be a quality example of writing?), after working out a couple of plot knots, this sudden outburst of anger just didn’t suit the main character anymore.

It is still my favourite set-piece, and I hope I can find a place for it somewhere, but for now, please read, and comment on the writing skill. Need feedback!

Thanks, everyone.


She wouldn’t speak to him for at least an hour. She had stormed inside and started washing the breakfast dishes, which apparently had committed some heinous crime and deserved corporal punishment. Repeatedly.

Finn grimaced as he heard her clattering and clashing in the kitchen, but he stayed outside in the sunshine; there was no force on Earth that would convince him to approach Maggie at this moment when she was standing so close to so many sharp implements.

He wished there had been a better way to broach the subject with her, but there was really no good way to tell her. It was fortunate that he didn’t have to say it out loud at least; this new ability may be quite useful in future. Especially when she has to communicate with the First Dragon… he thought, and let that idea trail off into nothingness when a corresponding shriek hurtled out through the open door of the flat. Finn’s tail puffed out in surprise, and he spent a few annoyed minutes smoothing it down. Thankfully, he found that this action kept his mind clear and blank, which would help Maggie to adjust to this new information.

Maggie stomped out to glare at him, her hands in bright yellow gloves and dripping sudsy water. She stared at him with a baleful look in her eye, pointing a gloved finger at him, as her mouth worked around the several things she wanted to say, but couldn’t choose which to say first. She settled on a high-pitched snarl of frustration, and then stomped back inside to continue her domestic assault.

The sun travelled its path across the sky, touching the roofs of the houses at the end of the lane. By this time, all was quiet within Maggie’s flat; there hadn’t been any violent outbursts of cleaning or inarticulate shrieking for nearly half an hour. But still, Finn waited outside. (Luckily for him, this lane is merely a footpath, and very quiet on any given day, so he didn’t have to worry about hiding.) He waited for Maggie to come to him. If he went to her, the anger and fear she felt would flare up again; but he was her helpmeet, and she had to know she could come to him when she needed help. Until then, he tried to soak up the sunshine and its energy, and waited.

Eventually, and bearing mugs of tea, Maggie emerged, quiet and subdued. She handed one to Finn, and carefully sat down. Her face was no longer flushed with fury, leaving behind a grey pallor that suggested acquiescence, but not necessarily acceptance. Her long hair glinted in the lowering sun, showing a few new grey hairs, but also an overall hint of golden red that wasn’t there before.

They drank their tea in silence, staring at the first of the spring flowers in the garden on the other side of the path. The setting sun and the silence served to create a soporific mood over the scene, and the two Awakened Ones sat side by side, letting all the tension and fear drain out of themselves.

“First Dragon, huh?” Maggie was the first to speak.

Finn bowed his head in a single nod of affirmation.

“Not too much to ask for a first Quest, is it?” Maggie wryly noted. “I’m sure we can find him just around the corner?” The note of sarcasm was so pointed that Finn felt like he was being flayed. “They keep them under the counter, so as not to let just anyone have a Dragon. You’ve got to be in the know to get one, right?”

“Maggie –” Finn ventured, but was cut short by her anger.

“Don’t. Just don’t.” As quickly as it flared, the anger died off again, leaving Maggie shell-shocked and fragile, as if part of her essence had drained away. She put her mug down on the ground, and pulled her knees up, hugging them to her chest. Was it only a day ago? Only a day when everything was normal?

But you didn’t like that life, did you?

Maggie’s ruminations reminded her of what her life had been like, and while one small, lazy, part of her wanted that life back again, she lifted her head and let go of her knees. She sat up, rolled her shoulders back – Finn was beginning to recognise this gesture of hers, the one that tells the observant that she is preparing to commit wholeheartedly to a plan – and cleared her throat.

“So, where do we start?”

“We go back to the North Sea,” replied Finn.


  1. I read this having no idea what your novel is about, and I found the details you dropped very intriguing! I think the strongest part is the second half, starting with, “Eventually, and bearing mugs of tea.” The interaction between the two characters is intense, and the underlying strength of their relationship is clear. It’s good stuff. In the beginning, something about it being in the past tense (“She *had* stormed inside”) and told from a such a distance makes her rage seem more cliché and comical to me than believable and specific to her character, but when she comes out of the house she really comes alive and turns three-dimensional on the page.

    • Thank you so much for that! Really helpful, and encouraging words. I am hoping to salvage the second half and include it in the finished piece.

      I am really pleased and touched that you enjoyed it. Thank you. *bows* 😉

  2. I get the scene and the interplay, all it needs is a bit of sharpening and some work on POV. The 3rd person POV switches between Maggie & Finn – is this intentional? To sort this out, you may find this link useful: http://www.novel-writing-help.com/writing-in-the-third-person.html (the whole site is worth a read, as an aide to getting better at what you do).

    For the purposes of sharpening, every word on the page must justify its being there. For instance:

    “First Dragon, huh?” Maggie was the first to speak.

    There are only two people in the scene and Finn nods afterwards. No need for the text after the speech.

    The words that weaken a statement most of all are: would, could, should and might. For instance:

    Finn grimaced as he heard her clattering and clashing in the kitchen, but he stayed outside in the sunshine; there was no force on Earth that would convince him to approach Maggie at this moment when she was standing so close to so many sharp implements.


    Finn grimaced as he heard her clattering and clashing in the kitchen, but he stayed outside in the sunshine; there was no force on Earth capable of convincing him to approach Maggie when she was standing so close to so many sharp implements.

    I’ll bet you can sharpen it even more.

    That’s not to say you should never use these words. If you’ve got a wishy washy character or a scene where the outcome doesn’t matter, then go ahead.

    The final point is show not tell. For instance:

    “Maggie –“ Finn ventured, but was cut short by her anger.

    The next words from Maggie show that she’s angry. Cut the line after Finn ventured, as it tells the reader what’s about to happen. Then you’ve got a flow where the anger jumps off the page.

    Hope this helps. I’ve spent the last 3 weeks in edit hell, doing the sort of things described above. I think I’m getting there, but still too shy to share 😉 Good that you’re past that bit!

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