Freebie Mondays: Symphony of the Stars Deleted Scenes

Freebie Mondays: Symphony of the Stars Deleted Scenes

A few weeks ago I shared a look at some older drafts of Dreamers Do Lie. It’s interesting to see just how much a story changes during the writing process.

One thing I hear writers talk about a lot is deleted content. I keep separate draft files for all of my manuscripts in case I ever want to go back and pull something from an older version. I’ve had to do this a few times. I once deleted important dialogue from Dreamers Do Lie, and I had to fish it out of the older draft after my betas got confused.

People like to point out that just because a scene didn’t ultimately end up working in its original position, that doesn’t mean it won’t find a place. I haven’t ended up using the deleted content from the novels I’ve published. But that just means I can write another interesting blog post!

Symphony of the Stars (the first trilogy of the Celestial Serenade) went through probably the most incarnations of any of my novels to date. There were several tidbits that didn’t survive that first heavy edit. And unlike the content I cut from Dreamers Do Lie, it’s actually coherent enough to share. (Though disclaimer, everything you’ll find in this post is super rough compared to the final product!)

The End of All Things Deleted Scene

Alrayia watched the soldiers depart from the high window in her kitchen. The legion had been gathering on the High Road all morning. They had gone from a small lump in the distance to a wide smear up and down the length of the entire street. By the time they finally turned and began to march with Kantis at their head, the entire High Road had been lined with citizens wanting to see them off. It was a great deal like their arrival had been, though this impromptu parade was far more subdued. There were once more flower petals being strewn in the path of the departing warriors, but they did not rain from the sky, nor did they fill up the road until it was choked with them. There were no flower arrangements passed to the men of the legion. There were no grand cheers or songs of celebration.

The soldiers marched with their shoulders drawn up and their backs set resolutely. The onlookers watched with bowed heads. The wives of the soldiers formed makeshift ranks of their own and followed in the wake of their husbands, lead by her brother. In his sorrow, he had dressed in drab gray instead of his usual bright reds, oranges and yellows, and his hair had been thrown into a braid that would not manage to last a full day simply so that it would not trip him or drag on the ground while he followed behind his departing husband. Likely they would follow their departing loved ones all the way to the very edges of the city before they finally turned and made their way back to their homes. Alrayia was certain there would be a great deal of tears shed between them.

Normally, she would have been by her brother’s side to hold his hand, squeeze his shoulders, and drown in his tears. But she had found over the years that she was not needed when he was with the other wives of the Legion. There would be plenty of comfort shared between them on their long walk home. As the person the famed Kantis held closest to his heart, Salis held a special place in the hearts of many Caltaran citizens, most especially the wives of Kantis’s Legion. It was almost as if they trusted him to lead them in their grief and anxiety in the same way they trusted Kantis to lead their men into battle and bring as many home safely as possible. Alrayia had felt out of place the few times she had accompanied her brother on these sojourns. Besides, she felt she was needed far more at home.

She watched until the departing soldiers and their escorts had faded to nothing more than a dim speck at the edge of her vision. Soon they disappeared around a corner and passed beyond where her eyes could follow. With a soft sigh, she let the curtains fall out of her hand and obscure the early morning sun once more. A heady breeze flowed in through the window as she turned back to her countertops and the chopping she had abandoned to watch the spectacle.

Beyond the city, the rare air cars that were occasionally used to shuttle important people back and forth would be waiting to carry the soldiers swiftly to their field of battle. And from there they would be borne by horses to the battle that awaited them. Alrayia did not know the details of who they would be fighting or why this time. She could have probed Anten for details, but she rarely did. She did not want to know much about the death and destruction of the war. She rarely understood the reasoning behind it. Most often she felt it best to simply keep her opinions on the war to herself… most especially since she had a husband who sat on the Governing Council and her brother had married the most famed warrior of their time.

She pulled another fresh carrot from its wrapping and went back to her cutting board, quickly turning the long orange stick into slices. When the procession was over, and Salis had cried himself out with the rest of the legion wives, he was going to need a distraction. The grief of this parting would not disappear quickly, and Alrayia was well aware that he would be seeking comfort from her. Comfort she would be hard pressed to offer him. She intended to have a full spread of his favorites for his dinner that night, and she suspected that even Anten would not mind sharing his table once more with her brother. She only hoped that a good dinner and loving company would be enough to hold her brother’s sorrow at bay for a little while since she had no cryptic promises of hope to comfort him today.

Why I cut it

Side note; this scene comes from a draft so old, I used an entirely different word processing program to write it.

It’s probably pretty easy to see why I cut this one. It doesn’t really do anything. The narrator isn’t even an active participant in the events; she’s merely watching them from afar. And while I feel like it sometimes works really well to have a character watch events unfold, I didn’t feel like it added anything to this particular situation.

I very much envisioned this as one of those movie scenes where something happens and then the camera pans back and zooms in on someone else watching the scene unfold. And while I do think the writing evokes that effect, I ultimately just didn’t think it worked that well.

Also, in later drafts of the novel, Alrayia’s character evokes a certain mysticism, and I felt this scene undercut it. It sort of suggests that Alrayia knows the things she does because she’s always watching rather than because of her intuition.

Alrayia’s relationship with her brother, Salis’s anxiety and Anten’s extended tolerance of Salis’s behavior while his husband is away were all easy to express in other ways and in scenes that ended up feeling more dynamic and poignant. Finally, the re-write of Kantis’s departure worked better without this follow up interlude.

Across the Void Deleted Scene

He turned and the sunlight from the window illuminated his face. His posture was rigid but his expression was relaxed. His face was framed by long, midnight black hair that fell over his shoulders, a few stray locks resting there, and she reached up to gently brush them away. His eyes were emerald green and when she looked deeply into them she lost herself. His face was serene and calm. His lips moved, and she knew that he was speaking, but she couldn’t hear the words. She could never hear the words. And yet she knew, somehow, that his voice was rich and deep and that he always spoke in a calm, quiet sort of way.

She watched him intently as he turned away from her momentarily, those errant locks of his black hair coming to rest on his shoulders once more. She knew this man, knew him well. She had seen him so many times now… but who was he? She didn’t know. She could never figure that out. Dreaming… she thought… or rather, realized. She had seen his face so many times now that she could realize she was dreaming the instant she saw it. She had never seen him while she was awake. He only ever visited her in her dreams.

He turned once again and this time he smiled at her. Somehow she knew that he almost never smiled. That this was a rare gift meant just for her, and she knew that she was smiling back at him. She felt butterflies fluttering in her stomach. Who was this man? When he smiled at her, she felt she was floating away on the breeze into the soft summer clouds she remembered from before the attacks.

He leaned close to her, and her heart fluttered. She found she was leaning closer to him too. What was it he meant to do? Whisper something to her? Or perhaps… she thought she felt his lips brush close to hers…

Then, abruptly, he was gone. The large window and the bright sunlight were gone too. She was alone in darkness. She shivered. She felt a terrible sense of foreboding. Something bad was about to happen. She knew, because whenever she dreamed of this void she always ended up waking in a cold sweat, even in tears a few times. She wished fervently that she could escape this place. She even tried to will herself to wake up, but she felt slow and sluggish, as if she was trapped in mud. She started to run, but her legs didn’t move very well.

Out of the darkness blossomed light; orange and red, the blaze of a fire as it exploded out of the darkness, shedding light on her surroundings. She was in the strange city. The rounded tops of the towers were lit by the blaze. In the distance she heard a terrible crash of thunder and then another blaze blossomed in the distance, devouring the decorated top of one of the buildings. She heard terrible creaking and shattering. Rain began to fall, but it was not water that struck the ground all around her. It was glass, a thousand panes of it, broken into millions of tiny pieces. They tinkled gently as they struck the ground.

There was another flash, another crash and the ground shook beneath her feet. She took off running down unfamiliar roadways, yet somehow she knew exactly where she was going. Houses crumbled, buildings burned and her breath came in short, terrible gasps. She felt a hand upon her shoulder and she turned, ready to fight. But it was him. His face was tinted orange by the light of the flames and his green eyes were fierce and intense. There was concern on his face, and even fear. She felt his hand tighten on her shoulder and he gave her a firm shake.

Wherever it was he wanted her to go, whatever it was he wanted her to do, she desperately wanted to go with him. But she knew there was somewhere she had to go. She had to run or soon it would be too late. She took off down the streets at a breakneck pace and she could feel he was there with her, only one step behind her. She didn’t know why she had released his hand… the comfort of its warmth was the only solace she had in this strange place.

Their feet crunched over the glass littering the ground. She felt her lungs begin to burn. Then suddenly, it was there. The strange statue looming up out of the distance, surrounded by smoke and crowned by distant flames. She could never clearly see the details, but it was roughly human shaped. An ancient god, perhaps? Or a king? Or maybe a knight. She could clearly see a sword in the man’s hand.

She was distracted from her inspection of the statue’s features by an eerie silence which fell all around her like the closing of a curtain. The sudden absence of sound was deafening after so long among the thunder and the rain of glass and the burning. She shuddered, feeling as if walls had suddenly closed in around her on all sides. Gulping, her eyes were drawn to the sky. She wondered where the man had gone. He was nearby, she knew he had followed her. But she could no longer see him or touch him. She desperately wanted him to save her. She knew, somehow, that he could. She wanted to call his name but she realized with terrible sorrow as she had a million times before that she didn’t know his name.

Then the city fell away and the star studded sky above was blocked out by a terrible shadow. It was the dragon, iron hide glowing red and orange in the light of the fires it had set. Its eyes burned red, and its gaping jaw fell open to reveal rows of razor sharp metal teeth. It filled the whole of her vision, a gigantic and terrible beast. It descended over the strange city to fall upon her and she knew it was intent on devouring her fragile human flesh…

Why I cut it

Unlike the previous scene, which I simply cut entirely, this scene was replaced with a different dream. Which technically might make this a re-written scene rather than a deleted scene. However, the new dream bears so little resemblance to this one, I don’t really think they can be considered the same. Especially since they serve entirely different purposes.

Anyway, the primary purpose I cut this particular dream is that it felt too on the nose. Gaia spends far too much of the sequence thinking about what the things in the dream mean. And that takes away from the immersion, which is the whole point of writing a dream.

There are lots of debates about whether or not you should show dreams at all. Personally, I like dreams if they are used well because their surreal nature allows you to do things you can’t get away with in most other settings. But this dream was not used well largely because it wasn’t taking advantage of any of those benefits.

I also felt this version of the dream focused a little too heavily on Anten. It made it seem like Anten served a role that certainly shouldn’t be attributed to him. And it’s probably the least exciting destruction sequence I’ve ever written.

The replacement dream uses the brain’s odd habit of mixing images from different times and places in order to show Anten from different perspectives. This draws the focus to the character without having to focus so heavily on repetition. It also uses a much more dynamic and exciting action sequence. Most importantly of all, it saves all the internal monologue for the scene after the dream sequence.

That’s it for now! What do you do with your deleted scenes? Let me know in the comments, as well, if you’d like to see more!

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