Just like in the making of movies, a lot of what gets written in the first drafts of novels ends up on the cutting room floor for one reason or another. One of my favorite writing quotes is from Stephen King “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” In the end, writing novels isn’t about keeping a death grip on your favorite scenes, it’s about brutal edits that make the finished product the very best version of itself as a whole. There is no room for ego when crafting a final draft. I do save a lot of those cuts, however—you never know when an old version of a scene might be the perfect inspiration for a new one.
The following is a scene cut from Children Of The Third. In earlier versions of the novel, the point of view switched back and forth between Sera and Micah, until I realized that Sera’s story was where the reader really wanted to live throughout most of the novel. So, I made the decision to stay in Sera’s POV until Part IV: The Battle Of Ellensburg. By the time I’d made this decision, I’d written quite a few scenes in Micah’s point of view, including the vision he has at the Facility that ultimately sends him north with Sera and the Marines. In the now published version, Robbie Song tells Sera (and, thus, the reader) about Micah’s dream concerning the pit locusts—a dream that proves to be eerily similar to a dream Sera has had herself. I thought you might be interested in reading Micah’s vision for yourself which features a particularly cute moment with Ash. So, I present to you the first-draft of the vision Micah has at the Papermill just after he’s reunited with Sera at the Facility…
I’m standing in the meadow at the Reinkann farm. The sun is shining. The sky is a soft, hazy shade of blue. A gentle breeze brushes through the wildflowers around my legs, filling my nose with a sweet fragrance. The doctor and his wife stand on the porch. They gesture for me to come closer. I’ve had this vision before. But this time Seraphina Donner is walking towards me, a soft breeze playing in her long red hair. Her gaze connects with mine. The sun sparkles in her emerald eyes. She pauses in front of me, smiles sweetly, touches my face. For a moment I think she might kiss me. She brushes past and the moment is gone. I turn to watched her go, my eyes lingering long after she’s disappeared into the tree line.
The ragged sound of crying turns my attention back to the farmhouse. The building is no longer there, just a pile of smoldering rubble. Doctor Reinkann is alone, down on his knees in the burned-out wreckage, weeping into his hands.
Confused, I try to move toward him. My legs push through the tall grass and flowers, but I can’t close the distance. Frustrated, I look down and find myself on a treadmill, walking forward but going nowhere.
A thunderous vibration fills the air. I look up to see a dark, swirling cloud charging in from the eastern skyto swarm above the doctor’s head, undulating like a sinister wave. Panic fills me. “Look out!” I shout.
The doctor can’t hear me above his anguished sobs.
I break into a run, but no matter how hard I pump my legs the treadmill keeps me in the same place.
The dark cloud breaks formation, diving toward Reinkann. He flails wildly, desperate to beat the creatures back. I can see their faces now, almost human, capped with yellow heads like tiny golden crowns. The doctor is quickly overtaken. He screams in agony, stung over and over again by the creature’s long, sharp tails.
My eyes flew open in the darkness. Still caught in the nightmare, I tried to sit up, but a heavy weight had me pinned me to the sofa. I felt a moment of panic before a high-pitched whimper grounded me in reality. Moonlight filtered in through the window, illuminating an enormous white muzzle. I stared up into bright amber eyes capped with perked ears. Ash. He must have heard me cry out in my sleep.
I settled back, letting the adrenaline drain from my body. “Sorry, buddy. Didn’t mean to wake you.”
Ruffling the fur on the wolf’s neck, I tried to piece the nightmare together.
The Reinkanns had been standing on their porch, beckoning to me. Seraphina was there. I remembered her green eyes, her blowing hair, the way her lips curved into a welcoming smile as she’d walked past me for the tree line. After secretly longing for her for almost a year, it made sense that she would invade my dreams. But had it been just a dream? Or was this another vision?
Frowning, I considered the idea. Some of the images had been identical to my visions from the previous summer, the visions that had called me to Leavenworth, the visions I’d foolishly ignored. But not everything was a message from Yahweh. Sometimes a dream was just a dream. It took prayer and discernment to recognize the difference.
Ash groaned, leaning into my scratching. I gave him a few solid pats, signaling his indulgences had ended—if he had his way, the scratching would never stop. “All right, back to bed now,” I told him.
Huffing, he dropped his massive front paws onto the floor and sat back to scratch himself amid a wolfy melody of grunts and groans. Chuckling, I shooed him off, and he bounded back to his blankets by the door.
With the first rays of dawn glowing pink against the ceiling, I laid back on my pillow and closed my eyes, determined to sneak in few more hours of sleep. Images from the dream prodded me. Eli would want to hear about this one, though admitting to him that I’d had a dream about Seraphina Donner would likely launch him into another tirade about how I should stay away from “the girl.” Eli liked to keep a log of my dreams for future reference; he enjoyed helping me “Sherlock” my way through them. Visions could be difficult to interpret. Some were direct and obvious, but many were more like puzzles filled with odd images that could have several different meanings depending on—
The image of a swarm of insects with yellow heads snapped my eyes open. Sitting up on the sofa, I grabbed my Bible from the side table and cracked it open to Revelation nine where I found the verse I was looking for.
“The locusts looked like horses prepared for battle,” I read aloud. “On their heads they wore something like crowns of gold, and their faces resembled human faces. Their hair was like women’s hair, and their teeth were like lions’ teeth. They had breastplates like breastplates of iron, and the sound of their wings was like the thundering of many horses and chariots rushing into battle. They had tails with stingers, like scorpions, and, in their tails, they had the power to torment people for five months.”
Barely breathing, I set down the Bible and tossed my blanket aside. Ash, muzzle resting on his front paws, raised his head to stare at me from across the room. “Those things weren’t symbolic,” I said to him.
Eight months ago, I’d ignored visions calling me to Leavenworth. I wasn’t going to make the same mistake twice.
Determined, I reached for my boots.