Did It All Before Deleted Scene: The Reverse Cab Ride (or, The Case to Keep Moving Forward)
Kill your darlings, right? But why? What if I’m really in love with what I wrote? What if I can’t picture the story progressing any other way? What if there will be a hole in my story without the piece in question?
Sometimes pace can be the issue. Here’s an example of an edit that was tough to do, but was necessary for pace. I’ll call it “The Reverse Cab Ride.”
As readers of Did It All Before know, Scott and Jason finally become transparent about their feelings for one another in Chapter Thirteen. After a year and a half of stops and starts, doctor/patient restrictions, and relationships with other people, our Main Character and his Love Interest are finally together! They hold hands, kiss, and Scott invites Jason back to his place. Their cab ride from the park to Scott’s flat was one of my favorite paragraphs to write. After all, it was the payoff! They were boyfriends! At (very) long last, their passion was finally set free, right there on the page, for the reader to enjoy!
So why cut it?
It was about time and pace. As an early editor pointed out, once Jason and Scott admit their feelings for each other, there’s no need for an intermediate step between their first kiss and the consummation of their romantic relationship. The reader has been waiting (extraordinarily) patiently for them to be together, and the paragraph interrupting them on their way there feels like a frustrating delay rather than a build of excitement or tension. Getting them from Point A (the park) to Point B (Scott’s flat) seemed necessary, and I couldn’t imagine just skipping over the cab ride entirely. However, once I cut it, the the action moved forward smoothly and the boyfriends could finally get in bed, without the whiplash of going backwards in time.
I thought it would be fun for interested readers to compare one version to the other. Here’s the original:
“This is …” Scott chuckles, “home… Jason, we’re…” Scott yanks the keys out of the lock and tosses them toward the little table next to the door. He misses, and they go clinking to the floor.
“It’s lovely,” Jason says without looking, letting go of Scott’s hip long enough to peel off his jacket and let it drop. They are a tangle of arms closing doors and slipping out of sleeves and legs shuffling and knees bumping together as they flip off their shoes. Lips find each other again, opening and tasting, and Scott can’t believe they are at last just feet from his bed where they can lie down together.
The taxi ride had been a gruelling exercise in restraint and patience, where eight miles felt like every inch of two hundred. They started out holding hands, respectfully in their own seats, but by Olympic Park Jason inched closer so their thighs touched. Scott crossed their ankles somewhere around Mile End. Old Street had Jason smiling coyly, as Scott reached his arm around Jason’s shoulder. Jason rested his hand on Scott’s thigh, making Scott’s chest burn, and jokingly asked if they were there yet as they detoured around traffic at King’s Cross. There had been just one lingering kiss at Regent’s Park, after grinning stupidly at each other for so long Scott thought he’d scream.
Now Scott’s losing count of their kisses as their stocking feet slide them across the floor, Scott guiding them, until they fall sideways across his unmade bed. The gentle pine smell of arnica surrounds them and Scott opens one eye to check for piles of yesterday’s travelling clothes; there are none, thank Christ, but it doesn’t seem that Jason would care, the way he hooks his leg over Scott’s and pulls his face in for a kiss with both hands.
Reading this back now, the forward momentum of the action is thrown into reverse with the reference to the past cab ride. Our journey feels like it’s taking an annoying detour.
Here’s the final version:
“This is…” Scott says, chuckling, “…home.” He yanks the keys out of the lock and tosses them toward the little table next to the door. He misses, and they go clinking to the floor.
“It’s lovely,” Jason says without looking, letting go of Scott’s hip long enough to peel off his jacket and let it drop. They are a tangle of arms slipping out of sleeves and legs shuffling and knees bumping together as they flip off their shoes. Lips find each other again, opening and tasting, and Scott can’t believe they are at last just feet from his bed where they can lie down together.
The gentle pine smell of arnica surrounds them, and Scott opens one eye to check for piles of yesterday’s travelling clothes; there are none, thank Christ, but it doesn’t seem Jason would care, the way he hooks his leg over Scott’s and pulls his face in for a kiss with both hands, then pulls them both down onto the bed.
The edited version is shorter and keeps the action moving forward, which rewards the reader with the payoff they’ve been so patiently awaiting. Although it was difficult to cut the cab ride, it was the right call for the scene and the reader.
Did It All Before: Jason’s Playlist
Dr Jason Andrews uses tools to help Scott through his journey of healing and grief. While under his care as a patient, there are hot rocks, crystals, a float tank, and a particularly useful feather. After Scott’s treatment ends, the two become friends, and Jason reaches out with a truly magical tool when Scott is having a rough day: music!
Scott’s stuck waiting at an airport to board a delayed flight, which causes his anxiety to flare up. Here’s the playlist Jason sends him, and surprise, it’s not the kind of music Scott would have expected.
I loved picking songs for this playlist; it was a valuable exercise in expanding Jason’s character with something unexpected, and it was fun to build a body of music that I could picture him using for footie workouts or mood lifters.
I recently saw a video where Mahershala Ali described using different playlists to help him find his characters when he was playing four roles at the same time. He used music as the gateway to enter the world of each specific character, to ground himself in their world. I use playlists when writing for the same reason. The mood, tone, lyrics, and rhythm of particular music can get me to the creative mindset of a written piece better than just about anything else.