Today I was working on a descriptive passage that’s pretty much an introduction to the landscape of my story, and, curious, went back to see how the details had changed since the first draft. It’s fascinating to me to see all the ways in which these few lines have evolved, so I’m sharing them in case they’re interesting to others too, compressed glimpse-into-process that they are.
By the time we crossed the Arizona state line it was ravens for sure, perched on the telephone poles, glossy wings bright as they winged through the sky, but, well, they didn’t seem any different from the ravens in New Mexico, or Texas, or Oklahoma. Most ravens are just ravens, after all …
We drove up the dirt road into Reddington, the nearest town to Raven’s Butte, in the dust of a June morning, beneath a huge cloudless–and I mean that literally–blue sky … I don’t think I’d realized how blue the sky could really be.
Second draft (after both a geographic and a pov shift):
He stared out the passenger window of Aunt Marissa’s faded pickup at dusty rolling hills broken up only by green bushes, dying grasses, and a few of the mutant palm trees his aunt called yucca. In the distance, pink-and-tan cliffs reached for the sky, but around them there was only barbed wire, scrubby ranchland. Above, the sky’s deep blue was the only color that didn’t seem washed out by the dust, blue so close and low–who knew the world had so much sky? He scanned that blue, but he didn’t see any ravens.
He stared out the passenger window of Aunt Marissa’s battered, once-red pickup at dusty brown hills broken up only by stunted trees, dying yellow grasses, and a few mutant palm trees his aunt called yucca. Barbed wire protected tired-looking cows and the occasional ranch house from, well, whatever it was cows needed protecting from. In the distance, faded pink cliffs reached for the sky.
Nate scanned that sky, but he didn’t see any ravens. There should be ravens, so close to the Monument … There should be people, buildings, something more than the endless blue that was the only real color in this place, blue so wide and low he half-thought it would crush him.
He stared out the passenger window of Aunt Marissa’s pickup at a land of twisted gray trees, dying yellow grasses, and dried-out cactus paddles. Barbed wire protected weary cows and the occasional ranch house from, well, whatever it was cows needed protecting from. Buckled brown hills sulked in the distance, like clay thrown down and abandoned to bake in the sun, a few pale green shrubs tossed in for good measure. The blue sky was obscenely bright against the washed-out land, like spilled fingerpaint on faded paper.
Nate scanned that sky, hoping to at least see some ravens, but the blue went on and on.