9 Feb 2017

The Soul Blade Chapter 19 - Commentary

For a change of pace, I'm providing what got removed/rewritten in Chapters 16 and 19.  Originally, Brenna took a dislike to Amy on meeting her, a complete flip from when she defended her to Joni way back in Chapter 1.  For some reason, during the typing frenzy that is NaNoWriMo, I flipped Brenna's feelings around, with no reason for it.  It was jarring, as Greg Taylor, of Mathtans fame, pointed out on a beta read.  Analysis after the jump.

The problem began in Chapter 16.  Brenna and Grace had an entire conversation about Amy, with Brenna digging in her heels against the idea of her father having a younger girlfriend.  If she had stuck to just that, and was open to being convinced that she was being silly, then the problem could have been pulled out as a bad scene.  Brenna's stubborn dislike of Amy became a thread, one that caused problems later which made wrapping up the story difficult.  On edit, I managed to change the focus away from Brenna's dislike of Amy to a worry about getting stuck in a rut.

The original from Chapter 16:

As Brenna eased the van on the road, Grace leaned back in her seat.  "So, what do you think of Amy?"

"Who?"  Brenna guided the van out of her neighbourhood.

"Dad's girlfriend.  The redhead we met not even ten minutes ago."

"Oh.  Her."

Grace fixed her stare on her sister.  "Yes, her.  Dad seems happy."

"I suppose."

"You've been the one who wanted to see Dad happy.  He's happy.  What's wrong?"

Brenna kept her eyes on the road.  "Nothing, Gracie."

Grace braced herself as Brenna took a corner almost too tight for the van.  "Sure, Danica Patrick."


"NASCAR driver."


Grace pointed at a truck making a turn.  "Watch where you're going!

Brenna stepped hard on the brakes.  "I see it!"  The Savana shook and shuddered as it squealed to a stop.

"Bren, what's wrong with Amy?"

"Nothing, Gracie."

"Like hell there's nothing.  You almost hit a truck.  Out with it."

Brenna slammed a hand off the top of the steering wheel.  "She's too young for Daddy."

"What?"  Grace gave her head a shake.  "You're worried about her age?"

"She's just in her thirties."

Grace smirked.  "Actually, try twenty-eight."

"What?  No!"  Brenna gripped the steering wheel hard enough to turn her knuckles white.  "No.  No way.  No.  I won't allow it.  No."

"I don't think we get a say in this."

"I'll talk to Daddy.  He'll listen to me."

Grace checked the side mirror out her window.  "Get in gear, Bren.  And, no, you're not going to talk to him."

Brenna touched the accelerator, getting the van going again.  "She's old enough to be his daughter, Grace!  He needs someone older, someone more his speed.  Someone who won't give him a heart attack in the bedroom."

"Listen to yourself.  Bren, you're being ridiculous.  First of all, Dad's fit.  Second, he survived Mom.  Third, if I think it's about time he met someone new, then maybe you're just going overboard."

"I am not going overboard, Grace!"

"Bren, kids our age tend to have moved out of the family home by now.  Okay, the economy has sucked the past year or so, but still.  I've been in university and you, well, you're you.  But Dad shouldn't have to look after us any more.  And, who has he had to confide in since Mom died?"

"He has us."

"There's stuff that he's just not going to tell us, no matter how hard you try to be a Daddy's girl."

Brenna took her right hand off the steering wheel and slugged Grace in the shoulder.  "Shut up!"

"Ow, Bren!"  Grace rubbed her shoulder.  "Get over yourself."

"I bet if I read her, I could tell she's after him for his money."

"Don't you dare read her, Brenna.  I mean it.  Don't you dare destroy what Dad has with Amy."


"Don't Bren."

Brenna sighed.  She drove in silence several blocks, turning on to [street].  The sign for Pastor Brown's loomed ahead.  She pulled into the restaurant's parking lot.  As she brought the van to a stop, she muttered, "She's still too young for him."

Grace unbuckled.  "Deal with it, Bren."  She got out of the van, closing the door behind her.
I managed to keep most of the early lines, making the change a "simple" matter of changing the focus.  The change begins with Brenna's line, "Nothing, Gracie."  Some of Grace's lines afterwards remained intact.  But Brenna's concern about Amy became worries about the direction, or lack of, her own life took.  Gone are Amy's age, no longer relevant to the conversation, and Brenna slugging Grace.  Instead, the two sisters share a moment, and the worries are dealt with, at least for now.

If Chapter 16 was the only appearance of Brenna's dislike, then making the change from the above could have been avoided by just deleting the scene altogether.  Chapter 19, though, saw the issue return.  Again, for whatever reason, I kept with the idea of Brenna not being happy with Amy, possibly jealous that her father's new girlfriend was taking over her place.  Which doesn't make sense given Chapter 1.  This time around, the cause was Amy staying overnight.

The original from Chapter 19:
The smell of breakfast being made greeted her.  Brenna closed the door gently, then made her way to the kitchen.  "Hi, Daddy," she said as she entered.  "Sorry for--"  Brenna cut herself off when she saw who was cooking.

Amy turned to see who arrived.  "Hi.  It's Brenna, right?"

"Yeah, Brenna."  The older Halliday caught herself staring at her father's friend.  Mind, Amy was wearing one of Gary's shirts, an apron, and not much else.  "I'm interrupting something."  Brenna backed out of the kitchen.  Once in the dining room, she turned and fled upstairs to her bedroom.  Her mind whirled.  She patted her pockets for her cell phone, then remembered she left it in her van.

Brenna peeked out her bedroom door.  Seeing no one, she dashed out to grab the cordless phone in the hall and returned to her sanctuary.  She dialled her sister's cell number.  On the second ring, the line was picked up.  "Grace Halliday's office, Ms Gutierrez speaking."


"She's busy at the moment.  Who may I say is calling?"

"Her sister."  Brenna sat down on her bed, confused.

"One moment, please."  Just before the mouthpiece got covered, Brenna heard a giggle.

"Hey, Bren, what's up?" Grace said after few seconds.

"What the hell is going on?"

"That was Yesi practicing for her new job Tuesday.  What's up, Bren?"

"That hussy is still here, Grace."

"What are you talking about?"

Brenna huffed.  "Amy's downstairs making breakfast wearing one of Daddy's shirts."

"I know--  Wait, she's in one of Dad's shirts?"


"Okay, okay, you don't have to shout.  Did you read my note this morning?"

"Yes.  Thanks for the clothes and the aspirin."

"The whole note, Brenna?  Even the part where I mention that Amy stayed the night?"

Brenna closed her eyes.  "I missed that part."

"Brenna, I am going to super glue your reading glasses on so you can't take them off again."

"Mom came by, okay?"

"Where are you now?"

"My bedroom."

"Bren, here's what you're going to do.  You're going to go back downstairs, join the breakfast if Amy's made enough for all three of you, and be pleasant.  You're not going to say anything to her or to Dad about her age or anything else."

"What?"  Brenna stood back up.  "Grace--"

"Brenna, if I find out that you made her feel the least bit unwanted, I am go to make your life a living hell.  Do you understand me?"


"No buts, Brenna.  I mean it."

"Fine!"  Brenna stabbed the handset's off button.  She tossed the phone on her bed.  "I don't believe this!"

Joni phased through Brenna's door.  "What is it, Bren?"

"Just don't start on me again, Mom.  I'm not in the mood."  Brenna fell back on her bed.

"Are you done with the dramatics?"

"Did you see her, Mom?  Can you believe it?"  The  young brunette rolled over on her stomach.  "And Grace just told me not to say anything!"

Joni sat down on the bed beside her daughter.  "Brenna, is this about your father's new friend?"

A muffled, "Yes," came from the pillow as Brenna buried her face into it.

"Weren't you the one that told me that your father needs someone in his life who was alive?"

"I was wrong."

"Brenna, look at me."

After a moment, Brenna rolled on to her back.  "What?"

"Sit up."  Joni waited until her daughter complied.  "Maybe Gracie's right."

"You always took her side."

"I am not taking her side.  Bren, your father deserves happiness, right?"

Brenna clutched her pillow.  "I suppose."  Under her mother's glare, she relented, "Yes."

"And is this woman making him happy?"

"I don't know."  The brunette shrugged.  "I don't!  I've been away or out doing stuff."

"Leaving him alone."  Joni smiled.  "Bren, your father has a life, too.  Yours is taking you all over.  So is Gracie's.  Your father now gets to have his, too."

"I suppose."

Joni floated off the bed.  "Up.  Come on, up, Brenna."

Brenna put her pillow back and did as her mother told.  "I'm up."

"Go down, have breakfast, and meet this woman, okay?  Then you can decide."

"Okay, Mom."

Joni put her hands on her hips.  "And try to smile."

Brenna forced a smile on her face, then returned downstairs.  Her father and Amy, who had found a pair of jeans to put on, sat at the dining room table, eating the eggs Amy had been making earlier.  "Morning, Daddy," Brenna mumbled.  She sat down and grabbed a banana from the the fruit basket.  "Amy."

"Morning, sweetie," Gary said.  "Sleep well?"

"I guess."  Brenna shrugged.

Amy started to get up.  "Did you want breakfast, Brenna?"

"I'm good.  I'm not that hungry."

"Are you sure?  I made extra."

"I'm a vegetarian."

Amy smiled.  "I know.  Gary told me.  Are you completely vegan or do you allow yourself to eat eggs?"

"No, not a vegan.  My doctor recommended against it."

"Great!  Well, maybe not great, but you know what I mean.  There's no meat in the eggs, just mushrooms, green peppers, red peppers, onions, and some spices from the rack."

Gary raised a forkful of his breakfast.  "Try it, Bren.  It's really good."

Amy blushed a little at the compliment.  "I'm not that good, Gary."

Brenna slipped into the kitchen before her father and Amy started to get embarrassing.  She found the breakfast on the stove under a pot lid.  Still having reservations, she tried a forkful.  To her surprise, Brenna found the eggs tasty.  She piled more on a plate and sat down at the island counter, leaving her father and his friend some privacy.

As Brenna finished her breakfast, Amy brought the plates in from the dining room.  "Say, your dad and I are going antiquing today.  Want to come with us?"

"No, thanks.  I've got some work I have to finish today.  You two go have fun without me."

"Are you sure?"  Amy moued.

Brenna set her fork down.  "I'm sure, really.  I just have these sewing projects to get done and in the mail."

"Okay.  I'll let Gary know."  Amy returned to the dining room.

Brenna closed her eyes, centring herself.  She picked up her plate and took it to the sink.  She heard someone come in behind her.  "I'll deal with the dishes.  You two go have fun."

"Are you sure?" Gary asked.

Brenna set the plate down.  "Yes, Daddy.  Really."  She turned around to face her father.

"Come here, Bren."  Gary held his arms out for his eldest daughter.  Brenna ran into his arms, hugging him around his waist.  "What's wrong, sweetie?"  He rubbed Brenna's back.

"Nothing, Daddy.  Just tell me that she's making you happy."

"Amy is a very nice woman and I am happy being with her."  Gary kissed Brenna's forehead.  "Are you sure you don't want to come with us today?"

"I'm sure, Daddy."  Brenna broke away from her father.  "Go and have fun, okay?  I'll deal with everything else here.  And I've got people waiting for me to finish costumes."

Gary smiled.  "As long as you're okay with everything."

Brenna nodded and put on a smile she didn't feel.  "Don't worry about me, okay?  Go have fun."

"And you remember that you'll always be my little girl."  He kissed Brenna on the cheek.  "I'll call if I'm going to be late so you don't worry."

"Thanks, Daddy."
The problems here are easy to see.  First, Brenna isn't remembering her conversation with Grace, with an added "hussy" tossed in.  Second, Joni, who wasn't happy with the idea of Amy in Chapter 1, is taking Amy's side here.  Third, there's no indication that Brenna's really changed her mind about Amy.  With the rewrite for Chapter 16, this scene really needed work, either to be excised completely, which causes other problems, or a massive rewrite.  I chose a third route, changing why Brenna ran back to her bedroom.  I've established, I hope, that Brenna is a little weirded out when it comes to sex, in part from being the Bladekeeper and her extreme shyness.  Her running off when seeing Amy in not much more than one of Gary's shirts, an apron, and panties* was from embarrassment, not disgust.  Brenna's problem with Amy became Brenna's problem with herself, something that fit better with already established scenes.

During NaNo 2009, I couldn't find a way to end the story because of dangling plot threads, including this one.  Removing this thread didn't unravel the overall story and means there's one less problem to deal with when the end comes up.

Tomorrow, the interview, in The Soul Blade Chapter 20.
Also tomorrow, over at Psycho Drive-In, fan adaptations.
Saturday, over at The Seventh Sanctum, Starship Excelsior.

* Brenna didn't notice them because the shirt was long enough to cover them. 


  1. Here in the present, I had forgotten what I said, but I'm glad it seems to have been of use. Great that you've kept the old versions for comparison. The shift to the embarrassment works, in my mind; I didn't pick up on any issue there. Taking Joni out completely makes sense. It does raise a possible new issue though.

    What is the deal with Joni? She knows Brenna was out having some fun and drinking - yet NOT that her daughter almost died, except for Grace being there? There was no mention of spotting Joni the prior night... so how can Brenna's mom know some things retroactively (like who drove) and not others (who near died)? In fact, this is Joni's first check-in since Brenna almost died LAST time, in the parking lot, right? And Joni's the only one who can properly ID the murderer! Instead of bitching on Brenna for not investigating, couldn't she actively help a bit more? Spy retroactively on the police, to see what have come up with, for instance? Summer's doing more for the plot. (Nice return for Summer, by the way.)

    The talking about family life at least gave Joni a break from investigation complaints... though I now do seem to recall saying her position on Amy was out of character. And I'm not suggesting adding Joni back in. I'm not sure what I'm saying. Anyway, it's good that the Amy thread got tied up.

    1. You pointed out the sudden reversal Brenna had from, "Oh, let Daddy have some fun, he's been a widower for so long," to, "I hate that woman, how dare she swoop in and take Daddy's attention away," with absolutely no reason for the change. Changing the focus cleared the problem in both chapters.

      I couldn't figure out what to do with Joni once I changed the focus. Joni was a lingering idea from Brenna's original concept but the constant presence of a ghost turned out to be problematic. She should be appearing more, like you mention. I should have established the ground rules for Joni ahead of time, at least for my notes. Right now, Joni's a wasted element, appearing only when I need her. Summer became a way for me to get the information Brenna needed to her in a natural way. I don't think anyone wants to read about someone reading a book, but having someone off-screen reading and reporting gets the same job done. Summer will return.

      I have no idea how I switched Joni and Brenna's positions around. Joni should be the one trying to break up Gary and Amy. The family life part is more to keep Brenna three-dimensional; life goes on around her, tying back to the issue I used in Chapter 16. The Amy thread is now out of the way, though. It was one of the problems I was having when trying to wrap up the story.