That’s the way things go, sometimes. Sometimes new ideas just don’t work out.
In dealing with the rewrite of The Dream King’s Daughter, I’ve been working on three fronts: giving Polk’s character more of an edge, firming up the background of what the Dream King is, dropping Aurora’s foster parents in favour of her newly-surviving mother.
To introduce my readers to Dawn, I decided a prologue was in order, detailing the events surrounding Aurora’s conception and birth. I had some sparks, but the whole thing wasn’t gelling. The prologue was getting longer and longer, and I was frankly starting to come away bored and distracted.
I finally realized that one of the strengths of the first draft of The Dream King’s Daughter was how it began and I would be a fool if I tampered too much with the raw energy of the opening. This is Aurora’s story first and foremost, so she should be there when the curtains came up.
And, here’s the brilliant bit that I was so stupid to miss for so long: those flashbacks in the prologue could come back. After all, this is a story where Aurora gets a whole bunch of flashbacks by reading people’s dreams. Giving us a clearer picture of her mother Dawn, and the time she met the Dream King? That can take place later in the story when it’s dramatically appropriate.
The fact that I wrote, and subsequently dropped, 2,500 words is made less frustrating by the fact that: (a) writers do this all the time and (b) the material can be recycled elsewhere in the story. And, besides, we learn from our mistakes. For that reason, our failures are almost as important as our successes.
Anyway, here’s a section with a bit more polish. It’s part of the rewrite from chapter three, where we flashback to Aurora at twelve, and begin a subplot that parallels Aurora’s adventures at age sixteen. Enjoy!
The first dream that Aurora read belonged to her best friend, Anne.
It was at school, sixth grade, and Aurora was just hanging up her new spring jacket. Standing back to appreciate the dark denim, she bumped into Anne.
Anne caught her arm. “Hey! Watch it, you klutz!” But not unkindly. “Nice jacket,” she added.
“Thanks!” Aurora beamed. “Dad bought it for me on the weekend. We went out to that new place that opened up out by the power centre.”
“Wow! Sweet!” Anne smiled patiently as Aurora held out a sleeve so that Anne could touch the deep blue, almost black, fabric.
“Isn’t it neat?” asked Aurora.
“Yeah, neat,” said Anne. She turned away, unzipped her brown polyester coat, shrugged it off and tossed it onto a hook. It missed and flopped on the floor instead. Anne sighed and bent to pick it up.
As she placed it back on its hook, a slab of a boy shouldered her aside so she staggered. He threw her ragged brown coat on the floor.
“Hey!” Anne shouted as she steadied herself by grabbing a dangling parka. Then she caught her breath when she saw who she was talking to. Aurora started forward to help, then stopped. Roger had already won two fights that the teachers knew about, and more that they didn’t. If that wasn’t enough, Roger’s friend and henchman, Jack, was right behind him. At two against these two, the girls were outnumbered.
Roger sneered. “Get your own hook.” He shrugged his parka off and hung it from the disputed hook with sausage-like fingers. “I saw this first.”
Anne’s breathing quickened. Her hands curled into fists. “No, you didn’t!” she snapped. “C’mon, there’s no other hooks in the room.” She stepped forward to pick up her coat, but Roger pushed her back.
“Too bad!” He grinned at her. “Your trashy old coat belongs in the garbage, anyway.” He started to turn away, then stopped and looked back. “Unless you wanna make something of it.”
Anne gulped. So did Aurora.
There was an adult throat-clearing. Miss Daultry leaned in from the classroom. “Is there a problem here?”
Aurora opened her mouth, but Roger caught her eye. He and Jack folded their arms and stood, waiting.
Anne glared at the floor. “No, Miss Daultry.” She coughed. “Everything’s okay.”
The teacher frowned over her glasses, then turned away. Grinning, Roger and Jack followed her out of the coat room, into the classroom. Anne thumped the wall.
“It’s okay,” said Aurora. “Share my hook.”
Anne looked up at her, and gave her a tight smile. “Thanks,” she said. And without meaning to, Aurora looked into her friend’s brown eyes.
Anne snatches Aurora’s denim coat and runs across the classroom, laughing, impervious to Aurora’s pleas. She flings it out the window into a lake that has materialized in place of the schoolyard.
Aurora blinked. Her coat was still on its hook, and the classroom windows were closed. Anne had turned away and was slinking out of the cloakroom to take her seat as Miss Daltry called the class to order.
“Aurora,” Miss Daultry called. “Won’t you grace us with your presence.
The rest of the class giggled, but Aurora was too distracted to be embarrassed as she slouched out of the cloakroom to take her seat beside her best friend.
Aurora read her second dream before recess. As the rest of the class filed out, Miss Daultry pulled her aside and knelt down to face her. “Is there anything the matter, Aurora? You’ve been distracted all morning.”
Aurora kept her gaze on the lower half of the teacher’s face. “Nothing’s wrong, Miss Daultry.”
“You sure?” Her teacher gave her an encouraging smile. “Look, if anything is the matter, you can always talk to me.”
Aurora looked up, into Miss Daultry’s eyes.
Miss Daultry kicks back at her desk and pulls out a good book. Around her, the classroom stands empty, the windows white with snow. School is cancelled. No children today. Miss Daultry fumbles through a box of chocolates, picks one, and settles in to read.
Aurora blinked, then dropped her gaze to the floor. “I’m sure,” she said. “Nothing’s the matter. Can I go?”
Miss Daultry’s eyes narrowed and she looked Aurora up and down a moment. Then she shrugged and patted Aurora on the shoulder. “Okay. Get going.”
At recess, Aurora played hide and seek and agreed to be ‘it’. As the other kids ran away, giggling and laughing, Aurora hunted them down methodically, pouncing on each boy or girl she found, and looking them in the eye. Dreams flooded her, and she drank them in.
…I did it! I scored the winning goal!…
…I get to meet Santa! And they told me he wasn’t real!…
Jack glared at Aurora. “What are you smiling at?”
“Nothing,” said Aurora, and moved on.
…Yes! I just punched Roger’s face in!…
…No. The planes are back. The sirens are wailing. The bombs are falling again…
Pho Tse flinched back as Aurora stared at her a moment too long. “Stop it, Aurora! You’re weird!” She pushed past Aurora and ran for home base.
Aurora sat by herself as she ate her lunch. In the afternoon recess, while her school mates laughed and flung snowballs, she worked away at rolling her own snowman. When Anne ran up to offer help, Aurora accepted it grudgingly. She kept her arm down during lessons.
Finally, at the end of the day, she fumbled on her coat in the cloakroom, lost in thought.
“Hey,” said Anne. Aurora jumped.
“You okay?” asked Anne as she yanked on her too-small, salt-stained, balding fur-lined boots. “You’ve been quiet all day.”
“Why do you want to throw my coat into a lake?” said Aurora.
Anne froze. She looked up and laughed nervously. “What are you talking—”
Aurora looked into Anne’s eyes.
Anne laughs. Aurora’s denim jacket sails out the window and lands with a splash before sinking without a trace. Aurora sobs, standing in Anne’s ratty clothes.
Aurora glared. “You’re jealous!”
Anne gaped at her. “No— wha— Aurora!”
“Your want to grab my coat and toss it into a lake,” Aurora snapped. “You hate that I have a new coat and you’re in an old one!”
Anne gasped. “How did you—” Then her eyes flashed and she stumbled to her feet in horror, standing in one stocking foot and one boot. Her hands went to her hips as horror turned to outrage. “You read my diary!”
Aurora drew back. “I didn’t! I—” Then she froze. How else could she explain how she knew? But she didn’t feel like she should be the one to be ashamed, here. “It doesn’t matter. You’ve been jealous the whole time we’ve been together, thinking all those things behind my back.”
“You think I really meant it?” Anne snapped. She drew a shaky breath and her eyes glistened. “Yeah, sure, I wanted the things you had, but that didn’t mean I didn’t like you. It was just a dream. That wasn’t the only thing I thought about you. I still liked you. Until now! You traitor!”
Anne turned away and stormed out of the cloakroom. She came storming back to pick up her remaining boot, and stormed out again. But this time her eyes were more than glistening, and she was choking back sobs.
Aurora watched her go. Her cheeks were wet. She cleared her nose with a sniff.