Update: I won’t be posting again till Sunday (in the US). Return to your regularly scheduled duties!
You know on DVDs when you get to watch deleted scenes? I always like those, because they teach you a bit about filmaking. As a wise teacher once told me, the eraser is most important part of the pencil.
Well, here’s a whole scene that didn’t make it into Specials. It was supposed to start on page 147, when Tally and Shay are tracking Zane and the other Crims across the wild.
Read it first, and then I’ll tell you why it was in there and, more importantly, why I took it out.
“Look, Shay, I know that Iâ€””
“No, hush, Tally.” Shay’s nose was in the air, her eyes closed. “Do you smell that?”
“What?” Then Tally smelled it too. “It’s smoke, isn’t it?”
Shay was slowly shaking her head. “Yeah, but it’s not some campfire, Tally. It smells big.” She made an interface gesture, then pointed directly upwind. “Look.”
Tally flipped down her infrared overlay and peered into the darkness. In the distance, she saw glimmering streak of orange laying across the horizon. The fire wasn’t only big, it was far away. Tens of kilometers in the distance, it was spreading slowly along a forested ridge line. A ghostly wall of heat rose up from it, turning an iridescent yellow as Tally tuned her infrared.
“A forest fire?” Tally said. “But there’s no lightning tonight.”
Shay nodded. “None at all. Looks like somebody made a little mistake.” She angled her board forward. “Let’s check it out.”
For a moment, Tally hesitated. If the two of them stumbled on the New Smoke by accident tonight, then there’d be no point in letting Zane escape. Their plan for making him a Special would fall apart.
But there was no way to protest without sounding totally random. Forest fires didn’t pop out of nowhere, so this one had been set by humans. That meant that someone else was out there in the wild, farther than any camp-happy city pretty would dare to go.
This was a Special Circumstance.
Without another word, Tally tipped her board forward and followed Shay into the darkness.
The fire had grown huge by the time they got there.
As they approached, the smoke rolled down the valley, too thick to see through and dense enough to choke even a Special’s lungs. It drove them out of the downwind path and around to higher ground. They climbed a nearby hilltop, where Shay paused to watch the .
Even from a few hundred meters, Tally could feel the heat. It sucked the moisture from the air, and the pine needles on the trees looked dry and dangerous, ready to explode if the fire managed to reach them.
The wind was at her back now, pressing her toward the inferno. It had become a ravenous thing, sucking air from all directions to feed its hunger.
“Be careful around here,” Shay said, looking up at the stars.
“Yeah, no kidding.”
“No, I don’t mean the fire. This is a restricted area.”
“Restricted?” Tally asked. “How do you mean?”
Shay didn’t answer except to say, “Just be careful and stick close to me. Move slow, and if you feeling funny, pull back.”
Tally glanced at the sky, calculating the path that had taken them here. There was no place Specials were restricted from, not that she knew about. Of course, she hadn’t gone anywhere on her own since turning special, either.
End of deleted scene.
A forest fire? What’s that all about?
Well, I knew that I wanted all the main characters to come back in Specials. And since Tally was out in the wild, it was the right time to have her run into Andrew Simpson Smith. But I had to make that happen somehow.
My first idea, shown here, was that Andrew would be leading an escape from his reservation by starting a forest fire to burn the “little men.” (Those nerve janglers that keep the villagers inside their borders.) Tally and Shay would smell the smoke and head that way. They would have an action-packed firefighting scene, then meet Andrew, and Tally would get a chance to recall a piece of her pre-Special past.
Action, plot point, character development. What’s not to love?
Well, the problem was, it was sort of whopping coincidence that Andrew would be setting his forest fire exactly when Tally left town. Maybe that was too easy.
This is the sort of problem writers face all the time: You want something to happen, but it’s tricky to make it work without getting your big fat fingerprints all over it. It’s like in the horror movie when there’s a scary noise in the basement, and seeing as how six people are already missing, NOBODY IN THEIR RIGHT MIND would go down in the basement to check. But somebody announces “I’m not afraid” and goes to their doom, because the writer’s too lazy to think of a real motivation for them to.
It doesn’t happen because it make sense, but because it moves the plot along.
Coincidences are just as lazy. So I threw out the 500 words above and rethought how to introduce Andrew.
I decided that Andrew had already escaped the reservation, since he’s had a few months to try since Tally told him the world had no walls around it. By now he was helping the New Smokies with runaways. And given that Zane and the Crims were still hooked up with the New Smokies and were running away, they would know where to rendezvous with Andrew.
Much less coincidence-y. And, as always, the writing gods shower rewards on those who don’t take the easy way out. I realized that Andrew would be giving out directions to the New Smoke (aka Diego). This creates a whole new conflict between Tally and Shay, who must decide whether to follow Zane or Andrew’s locator.
Conflict is always good! And Tally’s choice shows us how she’s still Tally; she cares more about taking care of Zane than taking down the New Smoke.
I still got my action scene (Tally stalking Andrew), a much better plot point, and some character development.
Anyway, that’s my director’s commentary. Hope you enjoyed this deleted scene.
A quick note for the sleepless: I know you’re all dying to win Extras samplers. But I won’t be posting between the hours of 11PM and 11AM US Eastern Time, so you don’t have to stay up all night madly refreshing. Sleep!
Also, I’ll usually post between 7PM and 11PM US EST, which is 9AM to 1PM Sydney time, so that folks in Australia can win too! (Sorry, Perth.)