I was shocked how different each of my versions read. I suppose I could classify them as worst, better-worse (yes, I coined a new word) and best. It took all the courage I had to cut out my beloved mirror scene and make other edits necessary to tighten up the manuscript.
Without going into specifics, I will let you tell me which version you like best. We can discuss in detail the reason I chose for each revision in a later post. In addition, I ask you to tell me about your first and present drafts. You can email them to me and I will add another post highlighting your examples or you can past them into the comments section (chicken way out). Why did you make the changes and has it tightened up your beginning page? In reality, this is about my journey to improve my writing skills. Have fun:
First Draft (worst):..(No laughing allowed)
The Dark Side of the Medallion
Jennifer emerged from Swanson’s Department store and went to the curb, looking for her father’s car. A cool, moist breeze tugged her hair, whipping it across her face. Turning her head toward the ocean, she saw dark clouds gathering.
Oh great, a rain storm, she thought. Walking back to the small shelter, offered by the door opening, she watched the storm gathering overhead.
Lightning flashed, illuminating the already darkened sky and town. The crash of thunder rolled across the sky, reverberating down Main Street. Raindrops fell slowly at first. Blown around by the wind, they visited every brick, window and door of Swanson’s. Jennifer thought the rain paid special attention to her face and hair.
“Unfair!” she cried, as she quickly entered the store.
Placing her bags beside her, she retrieved a tissue from her purse and patted her face. Her hair was wet, clinging to her neck. For now, all she could do was to toss hair back and forth. To her friends she was known simply as Jen. Standing five feet eight and 3/4 inches tall, she was considered tall and graceful. Jennifer had an athletic body and worked hard at maintaining it. She played tennis on the girl’s tennis team, swam on the swimming team and had for the past two years studied Karate. Beside her beautiful face and smile her other striking features were her bright red, long hair and deep expressive green eyes. Tomorrow she would celebrate her 21st birthday with family and friends. For the past three years, she attended the local J. P. Simmons University of Archeology. Her grandfather, Dr. Henry James Standford, founded the University. Dr. Simmons was regarded as a leading pioneer in Central and South American Archeology. He was also a lifelong friend of her grandfather and he named the university to honor his memory.
Jennifer was following her family’s example. Both her father and mother were archeologists and taught at the local university. Her father, Dr. William Paul Standford was Head of the Ancient Egyptian Department and her mother Phyllis, taught ancient languages and art. When her dad was in his last year of college, he fell in love with a young woman of French ancestry, who was majoring in art. Shortly after, they graduated, he asked her to marry him and she went with him on his first of many digs to Egypt and South America. Over the next several years, she documented many of the excavations they were working on through her drawings. She also took up photography and learned how to develop her own film in the field.
First edit: (better-worse)
Jen’s inquisitive green eyes carefully observed the girl facing her. They focused on the long shoulder length red hair that hung evenly on both sides of her face. The girl’s long fingers moved down her dress, smoothing the sides. Tall--at five feet nine inches--and athletic in statue, looking like a fashion model, Jen noted. A thin gold chain sparkled against her beautiful black evening gown. Jen’s eyes followed the dress past her shapely waist and down to the hemline, just above a pair of smart looking black heels. Stylish--organized and neat—excessively so, could this be a flaw in her personality? The girl in front of her smiled contentedly. She treasured a secret, feeling she had reached a special point in her life. Full of adventure this one, ready to take a step into the unknown. Satisfied at her appearance in the mirror, Jen stood back, turned, and entered the formal dining room.
“Happy Birthday Jen,” her grandfather greeted her. “How does it feel to be 21 years old today?”
“Good evening grandfather...just feeling wiser not older. What did you do today?”
“That’s a very political answer to my question,” he chuckled. “Most of the day I spent editing my life story and reading a new book on the tomb of Menhotep, keeper of the king’s royal horses.”
This Egyptian archeological reference was common dialogue in the Standford family home. Every member of her immediate family was an archeologist. Her grandfather, Dr. Henry James Standford founded the J. P. Simmons University of Archeology. The next day Jen was to graduate from the university with the class of 2008. Her father Dr. William Paul Standford chaired the Ancient Egyptian Department and her mother Phyllis taught ancient languages and art. Jen’s Uncle, Dr. Henry Standford, also an accomplished archeologist, promised upon her graduation to let her join him in Egypt and begin her fieldwork.
“Menhotep...goodness they discovered his tomb less than seven months ago and there is a book already in print?”
“The archeological community moves fast when they want to.”
The house lights flickered several times reminding Jen of the heavy rainstorm outside.
Last edit: (best)
At the stroke of midnight, the sentinel’s eyes blazed with power, forming a shield of protection around the Standford family home—pushing the supernatural hailstorm out to the street. The guardian remained on alert until early morning, when her ears detected the high screech of a hunting falcon.
# # #
“Rats,” expelled from Jen’s mouth. “Taint fair, tonight’s the last night I can go dancing before leaving the country.” Turning around she looked at Miss Lickey, stretched out at the end of her bed.
“You are the laziest cat I know.” Moving closer she reached out and scratched under her chin. “I suppose you were up all night looking for mice.”
An eye opened. Jen smiled and returned her attention to the tempest.
The lone streetlight illuminated fresh cut grass, her mothers’ prized pink roses and motionless trees in her yard. This view was in deep contrast to the waves of frozen rain tap-dancing on the street in front of her house.
Something moved in front of her driveway. Jen blinked her eyes several times and looked out her window again. Three apparitions formed—floating at the entranceway of her home—staring at her, beckoning her to join them, singing to her a song of death. The wind tore at their black hoods, cloaks and stringy hair giving them the appearance of scarecrows caught in a hurricane. Jen shivered when lightning illuminated their weathered faces and boney arms. The three wraiths emitted a green mist from their mouth, reached out their right arm at the same time and pointed to her. The vapor began traveling in her direction.
“What the,” escaped from Jen’s mouth.
The roar of a lion exploded behind her and she froze like a museum statue. Jen watched a red glow bath the three hags and then they dissolved into the storm. A hideous cackling entered her mind breaking her rigidity and dropping her arm toward the windowsill.
“Yowza,” she said as her hand brushed against something furry. Looking down she saw only an empty ledge. Spinning around she looked at Miss Lickey still resting on her bed. What just happened? Did I really see three ghostly women, and hear that bellow, she thought. She walked to her cat and leaned down, “you didn’t’ make that loud growl, did you?” The cat stared at her. What an absurd question to ask a small cat. Jen smiled, “If you want your dinner, you had better shake a leg to the kitchen before it closes for the night.”
Miss Lickey’s head lifted, she yawned, stood, jumped from the bed and headed out the door. Jen followed her downstairs and entered the music room.
“Happy Birthday Jen,” her grandfather greeted her. “How does it feel to be 21 years old?”