Editor’s Note: this post has been written by Tonya Peterson, an English major at Lewis University. Tonya is interning with the Jet Fuel Review this semester and will be contributing blog posts periodically.
Rewriting with Detail
Ever read a preface to a novel and wonder what the story is all about? Are there details that are left out that are truly needed in order to gauge a specific setting? Here is a challenge for you. Take a story – any one you like; it can be your favorite or one in which you know the reader needs some assistance with detail. Then rewrite the setting in a way that would be much more specific and interesting. This was an exercise done in my Fun with Fiction writer’s workshop that I took in fall 2010. The preface chosen for the writers was from a book from the Stephanie Meyers Twilight series. For copyright reasons I will not include the passage, but I will share with you all what I rewrote using detail for the scenery. This is an excerpt from my flash fiction piece called “Trails.”
We followed the green exit sign off I-80 that pointed us towards the heavily wooded two lane road that lead to the state park’s main lodge. The parking lot was overflowing with the cars of travelers looking for the ultimate hiking experience at Starved Rock. We were lucky that we managed to find a spot for Jason’s jeep wrangler next to the minivan that blocked the light from the lamp post. Jason said it was a perfect spot to ditch the car; not spotlighting our escape.
It was the middle of July and the park trails were covered with a canopy of hundred year old trees promising anonymity among the hikers, I couldn’t help but feel we were bringing harm here tonight. I looked from Jason to the entrance of the trail and back at his parked rust colored jeep. I needed assurance that this path would be the wisest choice. What would happen to the other innocent hikers if the tracker finds our trail again? As if in tune with my thought, Jason grabbed my arm and dragged me into motion. We went right past the obvious trail opening and instead headed into the forest through a thick overgrown and abandoned dirt path. Immediately the light in the clear night sky disappeared as if someone pulled closed the blinds on my bedroom window. My limbs felt like I was an unwilling passenger in my own body. I should have gotten out of that jeep a month ago. No, that’s not entirely right; I never should have gotten in.
I was being hunted. The poacher – a hunter who’s well honed skills made elite army rangers envious. We zigzagged our way through the thicket but it was a vain attempt at eluding a refined tracker with centuries of experience. I tripped over every slimy moss covered tree root and thoughts of the hunter kept materializing in my mind. It felt like he was giving us enough distance to make it interesting for him. My body temperature kept increasing just as a chill settled in at the base of my neck. I felt cold run down my back like the sweat on the outside a glass of ice left in the sun. It was searing a path. He was behind us now; the tracker had found our trail.
Complete stillness, as I listened to the ringing in my own ears. There was no movement of leaves or forest animals. Even the warm summer breeze broke off abruptly but I could still feel the air move, slightly, parting for and offering up something to this hunter. This was where the hunter belonged and we gave him his preferred landscape. Abruptly the ground beneath us stopped and a large canyon sliced through the canopy of trees. Behind us was silence as we felt the hunter start his approach. Jason and I both were looking at the bottom of the canyon where there was a dim light, like illuminated shadows cast on the side of a wall with a flashlight. Oh no, my first thought was that there were people down in the canyon. People the hunter would easily prey upon and for that moment I was no longer thinking of the hunter circling us.
Try punching up the preface to a book that you know needs some work.
— Tonya Peterson, Editor