Writing Great Dun Dun DUNNN Moments

coverUsing my unreleased manuscript An Angel On Her Shoulder, I am showing you my techniques for reworking a story into a more readable, more enjoyable piece. It’s 45+ lessons in about 45 days. (To start at Chapter 1, click HERE.)

To view it best, bring up the two versions in different windows and view them side by side to see what was changed.

Then give me your thoughts in the comment section.

Dun Dun DUNNN: The Big Reveal

I don’t want to say much about his one before you read it, but as you do, consider if we need it at all.

Wait, you title a post Dun Dun DUNNN and then ask if we need it?

Yeah.


Chapter 27 “FINAL”

 

“Okay, okay, slow down.” Tyree had touched a nerve, and he knew it. “Calm down. Back up.”

The heat drained out of my cheeks

“Set that conversation aside for a moment and let’s talk about something else. Let’s shift gears. Okay?”

I wasn’t sure I wanted to keep talking at all. “Okay.”

“You ever play a game when you were a kid, and somebody got hurt?”

I grumbled. “Sure.”

“Tell me about it. Tell me a time when you played and somebody got hurt—and you felt bad about it.”

“Just, what? Anything?”

“Tell me about the first thing that comes to your mind.”

“Okay . . . First thing. I wasn’t even a kid. I was wrestling with the neighbor’s kid.” I didn’t know where we were going with all this. Maybe it was his method of figuring out which of his customers were crazy and which ones weren’t.

I decided to go along. He had earned my trust back at the parking lot, but he was on thin ice.

“What happened with that?”

“He was probably about 10 years old. My wife’s best friend’s kid. Calle me Uncle Doug, and all. I was chasing him around the house, and he slipped on the tile in the foyer and I caught him. I decided to tickle him instead of wrestle him. But when I did, he twisted to get away from me and I grabbed his hand, dislocating his finger and snapping a tendon. It ruined his chance to play basketball that season. He couldn’t shoot.”

Tyree nodded. “Now, you said it was an accident, but you felt bad afterwards. Why?”

“He was just a kid.” I shrugged. “It was my fault. You know those old guys who can’t straighten out their fingers because of a farm accident or something? He could have ended up like that at age 10. I felt pretty bad about that.”

“How did things end up?”

“Uh, he was okay,” I said. “It only messed up part of his season and his finger healed fully. He played the next year.”

“He was able to straighten out his finger?”

“Yeah, thank God.”

Tyree say back in his chair, cradling his giant coffee mug in his lap. “Okay, so you could have mentioned anything, any example from your whole life. Why did you pick that one?”

I huffed. “Gee, Doctor Freud, you said to take the first thing that came to mind. I guess it was the most recent.”

“Really? You never played a game with your daughter that turned out wrong? Not even when she was a baby?”

“Oh, sure, I guess so.” I pulled my soda a little closer but didn’t take a drink. “But nothing comes to mind. I mean, we had other things happen that we felt guilty about, like when she fell off the couch and hit her head . . .”

“You didn’t feel bad about that?”

“Sure I did. But it was an accident.”

“The thing with your nephew wasn’t an accident?”

“It was! But it was different. I felt bad because I caused it.” I thought for a moment. “And because I should have known better. He was just a poor innocent kid who got hurt by an adult who was acting like an idiot. From somebody who should have been watching out for him.”

Tyree nodded again. “You didn’t feel bad about your daughter falling off the couch and hitting her head? What’s more innocent than a baby?”

My cheeks grew hot. I looked down. “I felt terrible about that, but it was different.”

“How so?”

“It was an accident, but I didn’t cause it.”

“You make that distinction?” Tyree asked. “Between causing it and letting it happen?”

I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. It sounded accusatory.

“I didn’t let it happen.” I shifted on my seat. “She was sitting near me, then she rolled back and just rolled off the couch. Nobody expected that. It was an accident, but it was different . . .”

“Okay. I agree.” His tone was flat, his posture upright and rigid. In command. “Now, back to your nephew. You said that you felt bad afterwards because you should have known better . . .”

“Right. I felt guilty.”

“Okay, right. Guilty.” He narrowed his eyes. “What if you hadn’t felt guilty?” If you couldn’t feel guilt. What would you have felt?”

Nothing came to mind. It was the opposite of when somebody says, ‘Don’t think of an elephant’—an elephant is what leaps to mind. Here, the question vacated my reasoning ability. “I don’t know.”

“Anger?”

“Anger? No.” I thought about it. “Embarrassed.”

Tyree dismissed it with a wave of his hand. “Embarrassment is part of feeling guilty. What if you couldn’t feel guilty? If you could not feel guilt, what would you have felt?”

“I don’t know. Maybe empathy.”

“That’s still part of guilt.”

“Well, if I couldn’t feel guilt—if I couldn’t feel guilt at all—then I guess I don’t have an answer.” I was confused. “I wouldn’t feel anything about what happened.”

“Not the way we understand feelings, anyway,” Tyree said. “Who would not feel guilty over hurting an innocent person?”

“Nobody . . .” I began. “I mean, you know, a psychopath maybe. But not a human being with normal feelings.”

Tyree raised an eyebrow. “Or maybe just not a human being.”

“What do you mean?”

“Have you even heard the saying about angels and innocents?”

“I don’t know.” I raised my shoulders and turned the Coke cup again. “Maybe. Sounds familiar.”

“C’mon!” Tyree snorted. “You know this. You went to catholic school for ten years.”

“Twelve.”

“Twelve years!” Tyree sat back and clapped his hands to his knees. “You remember what they said in a stupid personal security training seminar for work, and you don’t remember this?”

“The one about the angels playing?”

“Yeah, that’s it.” He nodded. “I knew you knew it, don’t BS me.” He leaned forward in his chair, nearly spilling his coffee. “You know it. Tell it to me.”

“Playing angels, angels at play . . .” I paused. “I don’t know. I don’t remember how it goes.”

“Think. It’ll come to you.”

Those stupid nuns taught us a million things in school. I couldn’t be expected to remember them all. But Tyree was right. It was coming back to me in bits. I gave it some thought.

“When angels play . . .” I squinted at the ceiling, reaching back to Sister Helen in seventh grade. “ ‘When angels play, innocents suffer.’ Is that it?”

“Almost. That’s close.”

“Well, it was a long time ago. Close is pretty good.” I picked up my Coke, lifting it to my lips. “Besides, you’re the clergyman. Help me out.”

“Are you forgetting it on purpose?”

“What? No. I—”

He stared at me.

I stopped, my soda frozen in mid air. “What?”

“It’s not angels,” he said. “It’s dark angels.”

“It is? Are you sure?”

Tyree smiled, raising his eyebrows. “Oh, I’m sure. And it makes all the difference.”

I recited it now, recalling it fully. “When dark angels play, innocents suffer.”

A twinge of fear shot through me. My mouth hanging open, the soda drifted away from my lips.

And who’s more innocent than a baby?


Original Chapter 27, An Angel On Her Shoulder

 

Tyree had sent me off into a rage at the donut shop, a near panic. It was a horrible moment of recognition and realization.

And fear.

But I might have gotten it wrong, or maybe he was letting me off the hook, because he tried to bring things back under control immediately.

“Okay, okay, slow down,” he said. “Calm down. Back up.” Tyree watched as the red worked its way out of my face. He had touched a nerve, and he knew it.

“Set that conversation aside for a moment and let’s talk about something else. Let’s shift gears. Okay?”

“Okay,” I tensely replied.

“You ever play a game when you were a kid, and somebody got hurt?”

I grumbled. “Sure.”

“Tell me about it. Tell me a time when you played and somebody got hurt. Where you felt bad about it.”

“Just, what? Anything?” I asked.

“Tell me about the first thing that comes to your mind.”

“Okay… First thing. I wasn’t even a kid. I was wrestling with my nephew…” I didn’t know where we were going with all this; maybe it was his method of figuring out which of his customers were crazy and which ones weren’t.

I decided to go along. He had earned my trust back at the parking lot, but he was on thin ice.

“What happened with your nephew?” Tyree asked.

“He was probably about 10 years old. My brother had bought my dad’s old house and they lived there now, so I was chasing my nephew around like we used to when we were kids. You could run in a big circle from the kitchen to the dining room, then into the living room and into the foyer. Then it came back to the kitchen again. I was chasing him, and he slipped on the tile in the foyer and I caught him. He was only 10, so I decided to tickle him instead of wrestle him. But when I did, he twisted to get away from me and I grabbed his hand, dislocating his finger and snapping a tendon.”

I summed it up: “It ruined his chance to play basketball that season. He couldn’t shoot.”

Tyree nodded. “Now, you said it was an accident, but you felt bad afterwards. Why?”

“He was just a kid,” I said. “I hurt him from my stupidity; it was my fault. I should have known better. I shouldn’t have chased him. My dad was a doctor, so he looked at it right away and said he could put it in a splint but he wanted to check the tendon. You know those old guys who can’t straighten out their fingers because of a farm accident or an injury in the war. He could have ended up like that – at age 10. I felt pretty bad about that.”

“How did things end up?”

“Uh, he was okay,” I said. “It only messed up part of his season and his finger healed fully. He played the next year.”

“He was able to straighten out his finger?”

“Yeah, thank God.”

Tyree say back in his chair, cradling his giant coffee mug in his lap. “Okay, so you could have mentioned anything, any example from your whole life. Why did you pick that one?”

“Gee, Doctor Freud, you said to take the first thing that came to mind. I guess it was the most recent.”

“Really? You never played a game with your daughter that turned out wrong? Not even when she was a baby?”

“Oh, sure; I guess so,” I said. “But nothing comes to mind. I mean, we had other things happen that we felt guilty about, like when she fell off the couch and hit her head…”

“You didn’t feel bad about that?” he asked.

“Sure I did. But it was an accident.”

“The thing with your nephew wasn’t an accident?”

“It was! But it was different. I felt bad because I caused it.” I thought for a moment. “And because I should have known better. He was just a poor innocent kid who got hurt by his idiot uncle. From my screw up. From somebody who should have been watching out for him.”

Tyree nodded again. “You didn’t feel bad about your daughter falling off the couch and hitting her head? What’s more innocent than a baby?”

“I felt terrible about that, but it was different.”

“How so?”

“It was an accident, but I didn’t cause it.”

“You make that distinction?” Tyree asked. Between causing it and letting it happen?” I couldn’t tell if he was serious or not. It sounded accusatory.

“I didn’t let it happen,” I said, defensively. “She was right near me. Then she rolled back and just rolled off the couch. Nobody expected that. It was an accident but it was different…”

“Okay. I agree,” Tyree said flatly. “Now, back to your nephew. You said that you felt bad afterwards because you should have known better…”

“Right. I felt guilty.”

“Okay, right. Guilty.”

“Right…”

He turned to me. “What if you hadn’t felt guilty?”

“About hurting my nephew?” I asked. “If I hadn’t felt guilty?”

“If you didn’t feel guilty. If you couldn’t feel guilt. What would you have felt?”

“I don’t know…”

“Anger?”

“Anger? No.” I thought about it. “Embarrassed.”

Tyree dismissed it. “Embarrassment is part of feeling guilty,” he said. “What if you couldn’t feel guilty? If you could not feel guilt, what would you have felt?”

“I don’t know. Maybe empathy…”

“That’s still part of guilt.”

“Well, if I couldn’t feel guilt, if I couldn’t feel guilt at all, then I guess I don’t have an answer.” I was confused. “I wouldn’t feel anything about what happened.”

“Not the way we understand feelings, anyway,” Tyree said. “Who would not feel guilty over hurting an innocent person?”

“Nobody…” I began. “I mean, you know, a psychopath maybe. But not a human being with normal feelings…”

“Or maybe just not a human being.” Tyree offered.

“What do you mean?”

“Have you even heard the saying about when innocents suffer?”

“I don’t know,” I said. “Maybe. Sounds familiar.”

“C’mon!” Tyree laughed. He thought I was dodging him. “You know this. You went to catholic school for ten years.”

“Twelve,” I corrected.

“Twelve years!” Tyree was incredulous. “You remember what they said in a stupid personal security training seminar for work, about holding your car keys in your hand at Christmas and knowing your surroundings, and you don’t remember this?”

“The one about the angels?”

He slapped his knee. “Yeah, that’s it! I knew you knew it, don’t bullshit me.” He leaned forward in his chair, nearly spilling his coffee. “You know it. Tell it to me.”

“For innocents to suffer… angels have to…” I paused. “I don’t know. I don’t remember how it goes.”

“Think,” he said. “You know. It’ll come to you.”

There were a million things those damned nuns taught us in school; I couldn’t be expected to remember them all! But Tyree was right. It was coming back to me in bits. I gave it some thought.

“When angels play…” I started. “When angels play, innocents suffer. That’s it.”

“Almost. That’s close.”

“Well, it was a long time ago,” I protested. “Close is pretty good. Besides, you’re the clergyman. Help me out. What did I get wrong? Where are we going with this?”

He stared at me. “Are you forgetting it on purpose?”

“What?” I asked.

“Dark.”

“What?”

“It’s not angels,” he explained. “It’s dark angels.”

“It is?” I asked. “Dark angels? Are you sure.”

Tyree smiled. “Oh, I’m sure. And it makes all the difference.”

I recited it now, recalling it fully. “When dark angels play, innocents suffer.”

And who’s more innocent than a baby?


ANALYSIS

The reworked scene is 1200 words. You have to ask, do we need this?

Do we need 1200 words leading up to the moment Doug has to consider… whatever he’s now considering?

Maybe it should be trimmed down and added onto something else?

You can have 1200 word chapters. That’s not against the laws. But having words and scenes that aren’t vital, that is a crime.

So maybe this stays. But each chapter and scene and paragraph of the whole story has to be viewed in that cold light: For me to tell an amazing, gripping story, does this have to stay?

Now:

head shot
your humble host

Let me have your comments. The next chapters will post tomorrow but they will ALL come down shortly after February 15, so don’t dawdle!

You are readers, too. Your input will shape the final product. Be honest.

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Dan Alatorre is the author of several bestsellers and the amazingly great sci fi action thriller “The Navigators.” Click HERE to get your copy of The Navigators – $2.99 or FREE on Kindle Unlimited!

Available in paperback and audio book, too!

 

7 thoughts on “Writing Great Dun Dun DUNNN Moments

  1. Yepper, pepper… voting for it to stay. It was fun to watch Tyree get Doug to realize the difference between guilt and shame. Woo Hoo! Dark Angels, eh? Guess I didn’t stay in the Catholic school system long enough to allow that one to sink in, however I am convinced that much of the teaching style as well as material was based around guilt and shame for the SOUL purpose of control.

    Liked by 1 person

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