Hello again! Last week, I posted my first draft, which lacked something I couldn’t quite put my finger on—something important. It took me a couple of days, but I think I’ve finally figured out what was bothering me so much.
My main character felt flat.
Even after getting laid off, she’s financially set, so it doesn’t exactly kill her, and she ends up with a petty revenge. Not very exciting, right? To draw out more emotion, I need to stomp on her while she’s down, rip up her pride, take away from her the one thing she loves. Then when she finally gets her vengeance, it’ll be all the sweeter.
So I gave her an affair backstory to help amp up the tension. After going through and editing the story twice with that idea in mind, I came out with a bloody draft. Here’s a glimpse of the slaughter:
As you can see, I went no mercy on this mess! It’s always eye opening to me the amount of tweaking and polishing necessary, just to work in some characterization.
Also, I’m still on the fence about the first-person present tense thing. I’m not crazy about it, but when I tried to rewrite the piece in first-person third, that didn’t spark magic either. So I reverted back and decided I’m okay with it for now.
Ready to see how it all turned out? Here it is, my self-edited draft!
The Crow on a Birch
Adult Contemporary – 824 Words
I sit stiff in the chair, humiliated by the pity from the trio wearing varying shades of managerial blue across the table.
The middle one clears his throat. “I’m afraid the merger re-org has eliminated your position. We’re sorry, but we have to let you go.” The others nod solemnly, their lips turned down in false grief.
You bastard! I want to shriek into his lying, scheming face. For all the years I’ve loved him, I truly hate him now. My jaws ache from the clench of my teeth, but I have only my own stupidity to blame.
Shame on me for believing I could ever be more than a pawn to him. He’d seduced me, lured from me my greatest work. Then claimed it for his own before dusting me aside like a pesky cobweb. He thinks my meekness means I’d never fight back, but yet he can’t risk keeping me around. Not on the off chance I might expose his incompetence to his new overlords.
Fury consumes me, but I don’t give him the satisfaction of losing my cool. I refuse to let him see how his betrayal has broken me, how he’s crushed my heart and my self-worth with his hateful silver tongue.
I stare hard into his eyes, watching him squirm, waiting for him to justify what he’s done. His theft I can stomach. Chalk it up to a lesson learned for my naive trust. But to take away my job, the one thing I live for? How could he?
For one miniscule second, his features soften. “You’ll be pleased with the severance package. It’s enough to set you up for early retirement.”
My rage threatens to shred my last ounce of dignity. How dare he try to buy me out! It’s not about the money. It was never about the money. My boring but rapidly compounding index funds alone can cover me and my orphan heirs at the local Casas de Los Ninos for perpetuity. So fuck him and his severance.
“You’ll regret this,” I say. I get up and walk out, knees wobbly, leaving all three sitting there slack-jawed.
I go to my desk to gather my things, but there’s nothing there worth gathering. Except for the miniature bamboo stalk I received from my assistant one Lunar New Year. She too had been let go. I grab it by its China blue vase and exit the drab brown building into the glaring sunlight.
Now what? I dread going back to my lonely apartment. To my lone chair at my lone table watching some laugh-tracked re-run with my lone microwave dinner. No, I’m not ready for that. Not when it’s barely even noon.
I stroll past the bus stop, wandering aimlessly, seeing things for the first time. Cars sitting in smoggy traffic. Candy wrappers littering the sidewalks. A hotdog cart inside a lush park I didn’t know existed.
I buy one loaded with extra relish and take it to a wooden bench. Nearby, a shimmering crow caws at me from atop a speckled white birch. I toss a few crumbs in her direction, but a flock of geese quickly swoop in and swipe them away.
Tears flood my cheeks for us both. But the crow simply retreats, making no move to compete for the bread. She waits patiently, watching me until I break off a chunk of hotdog and offer it to her from my hand. She rewards me with a cock of her head and a stroke of her silken feathers, the obsidian beads of her eyes fast on mine as if to tell me a secret.
Let them act the geese, clambering for crumbs. Be the black crow, and feast atop the birch.
I decide I want revenge. Not the malicious kind where I hijack the firm’s system and turn my code onto itself, letting it eat away its efficiency like Pac-Man on dots. That isn’t me. I’m not that obvious.
Instead, I envision myself playing Andy Dufresne, crawling through five football fields of shit and coming out clean on the other side. That’s the kind of revenge I want.
It takes me two solid years, but I design a new software suite even more efficient than the last. I know my old code like the back of my hand—all its wonders and all its flaws. I use that to my advantage. I heed client reviews and develop features lover boy could never imagine with his non-existent creativity.
In short, I best my own work, only to turn around and sell it anonymously to his competitor for half its worth. Yes, I’m petty like that.
It only takes three quarters for his clients to flip allegiance. Meanwhile, I make weekly visits to the park, feeding the crow and collecting the shiny trinkets she brings me. All while watching the startup I helped build crumble.
But my sadness is fleeting. My heart knows no sympathy for self-serving geese.
Whew! I hope I didn’t make too much of a mess. I’ll be sending this draft off to my first CP, the talented Ariana, and editing it again with her feedback in next week’s post. I can’t wait to hear her thoughts on how to improve the story!
See you then and thanks for reading!