Wednesday, August 19, 2015


Everyone knows I'm working on the final draft (is there such a thing?) of my novel. While rewriting one of the last chapters I saw that I had committed an error. I tend to think logically from point A to Z, and that is how I write. I began the chapter here, had my characters do their dance, so to speak, moved the plot along, and that was the end of the chapter. It bored me to death.

You see, readers want to feel that on edge feeling, as if the unexpected has happened and everything is about to explode. I did not have it in this chapter. Yes, I managed to create some suspense and action, but ... I could make it better by throwing the crud in the fan. How, you ask, did I do it?

I asked myself what would happen if one character showed up late to the kidnapping described in this chapter. The protagonist has set a trap for a rapist on a secluded road through the swamp. Guns are drawn. The bait, a teenage boy, is on the road. The suspect's SUV is due ... when a missing friend drives up on his motorcycle and stops to talk. If the rapist sees this man he will flee.

But I had to write it nice and orderly before I could see that some disorder would create some great suspense and drama. So I rewrote it five quick times to see if I could capture that spark, that panic that readers love.  Here is a bit:

*It should be noted that I offered ample foreshadowing to tell the reader that Mexican soldiers often hitch hike along the road in this scene.

     We met Rudolfo and his son across from the police station on the square. As the sun began to set we discussed the plan and walked out of town on the swamp road. Half way to the main highway we stopped. Brisker, Rudolfo and I hid beside a tall bush on one side of the pavement, while John, the handsome teenager, waited on the other. Every time we saw headlights approaching the boy pulled off his shirt and walked toward them, looking like a Mayan kid walking home.
     An hour passed and we were getting eaten by mosquitoes.
     “So Rudolfo,” I asked. “Do crocodiles attack people out here?”
     “Only at night.” He laughed.
     Two vehicles passed. Out of the darkness a bicycle came squeaking and rattling up the road and a fat Mayan called a greeting.
     “Crap!” shouted Brisker, pulled his weapon and ran into the street.
     I hurried after him and grabbed his arm. “Wow, are you going to shoot the guy?”
     “Hell yes. He’s seen us. I don’t want the Mexican police knocking down my door if he blabs.”
     Rudolfo cursed and hurried out of hiding and stopped the bike with his hands on the handle bars, leaned forward and jabbed a finger in the man’s chest and spoke Mayan.
     The fat man nodded several times and stared at the asphalt like a guilty child being scolded, then peddled away.
     “Oh, let me shoot him.” Brisker aimed the automatic.
     “I told him that tonight he has no vision or memory. Until he dies he will never speak of this night. He is Maya.”
     About twenty minutes later Brisker said: “That sounds like Nick’s Harley.”
     One headlight vibrated about as a motorcycle drove toward us. And from the other direction I saw a set of headlights coming fast.
     “Crap, we got one chance to take the priest,” I said. “Nick is going to screw this up. Everyone hide.”
     Brisker looked up the road.“Yeah, that's Nick’s bike. I could tell that Harley anywhere.”
     “Let him drive by or we'll miss the priest. Hide!” I shouted.
     We must have been too slow because Nick pulled up. As the brake light flashed I saw his long hair dancing in the wind behind him. A moment later his two slobbering terriers ran up and hurried about smelling and licking everyone.
     “Cody, that vehicle is coming,” shouted Rudolfo.
     Nick flipped out the kick stand with a boot. “Dante, Sheila, come here.” He grabbed the dogs and ordered them to sit, then suddenly snapped upright and his face changed as though he'd seen a UFO in the swamp. “Cody, what the hell is that?”
     In the distance, across the black water, several people walked single file through the swamp, their lanterns and flashlights reflecting off the water around them.
     I looked at the vehicle speeding toward us, turned to the lights in the swamp. “This isn't good. Pack it up! Let’s get the hell out of here.”
     If the lights spooked me I should have known what they’d do to Brisker.
     “It’s a set-up. They’re trying to flank us,” shouted Brisker, pulled his weapon, glanced at the lights in the swamp and marched toward the headlights speeding toward him on the road, shouting and cursing, both hands on his weapon, an extra clip sticking up between his fingers.
     “No, let him pass, Brisker. Get off the road,” I shouted.
     Nick was already pulling from a saddle bag that old army colt he took everywhere. My simple abduction was about to turn into a gunfight.
     “How many rounds you got?” Nick shouted, dropped to a knee and aimed. “Are they coming for us?”  
     “I brought three clips,” said Brisker.
     “Put away the guns.” I ran over and shoved Brisker, but he wouldn’t lower his gun.
     Then the SUV stopped. From inside came a bunch of shouts and rustling about, and suddenly the doors flew open and four Mexican soldiers, who looked fourteen years old, jumped out and fell to the pavement with rifles, shouting as they belly crawled under the vehicle. 
     I should have jumped on Nick’s bike and drove away right then, during that moment of silence, but I waited too long and heard Brisker say, “I see you butt man, boy rapist.”
     Brisker’s first shot exploded the windshield and the second burst the radiator. 
     After the second shot I ran into the swamp, splashing through the water and shoving bushes aside, branches scraping my face and arms. Behind me I heard Nick’s cannon fire, and the percussion smacked my chest. I stumbled to a trail and followed Rudolfo and John, running for life toward the flashlights and lanterns.   
     Up the trail I saw three or four muzzle flashes from the brush. And behind me the shots ripped through the SUV, shattered a window and burst a tire.
     “Cody! Run this way.” It was Felix with a group of Maya.
     As I stumbled up the trail and pushed through bushes the Maya extinguished their lights and the area went black. A moment later the Airedales came up the trail ahead of Brisker and Nick.
     “Just lay down, everyone. That is how we disappear in the swamp.” Felix flapped his hands in the air.
     After a moment Brisker rolled through the dirt to one of the Maya who was sighting along his rifle. “Want me to take a shot?” he asked.
     Felix laughed. “My men could put out the soldiers’ eyes, but we are trying to spare lives, not take them.”
     When Brisker spoke again Felix cut him off. “If you speak again before the soldiers leave my men will shoot you.”