For today's My Murdered Darling, author Wendy Nikel talks about the difficulties in shortening The Continuum from novel to novella length, and why it was so hard to cut one character in particular.
Many "darlings" were harmed in the making of this book. It was inevitable, when I decided to turn my 65,000-word novel about a professional time traveler into a 39,000-word novella. Such violent cuts forced me to eliminate a bunch of slow-moving scenes that didn't really serve an important role in the plot. They also, however, forced me to ditch some parts that I liked (regardless of how slow-moving and irrelevant to the plot they might have been).
Throughout its many iterations, some elements that didn't make the final cut include:
- a traveling salesman who sits beside my main character, Elise, on her flight home and tries to talk her into investing in synthetic polymer with the line, "They'll be making space ships out of this!"
- a coworker's nephew who picks Elise up at the airport with "a fluorescent sign the size of New Jersey," which he then attempts to stow in the trunk of a two-door Toyota (an homage to the first car I owned)
- a flustered lab tech at the travel agency where Elise works, whom she sticks up for when her coworkers give him a hard time
- a shopping trip, a restaurant stop, and a resort & spa experience that was meant to show how commerce will be done a hundred years into the future
But the character I felt most conflicted about deleting was Paul. Paul is the younger brother of my main character, Elise, and their relationship is a complex one, as most sibling relationships tend to be. He believes that she works for an ordinary travel agency, jet-setting around the world to research for their travel packages, and Elise carries a lot of guilt over the lies that she has to tell him. Since their parents passed away, they're all the family each other has left, and it bothers her that she isn't there for him.
In a deleted scene, Elise calls him from an airport after returning from a trip in the past, inadvertently waking him up due to time zone differences. The conversation that follows isn't earth-shattering and doesn't really move the plot forward (thus why it got cut), but I always liked how it provided a little glimpse into Elise's own past and her life beyond her job. They share some small talk, chat about their lives, and Paul hints that he'd really like Elise to come see him. At the end of the longer version of the book, Elise writes Paul a letter, explaining all that's happened to her and the decisions that she's made.
In the current version, poor Paul is relegated to a single line, even further distancing him from Elise: " My only relative, an estranged brother, knows nothing about my work."
I'd like to think that she still called him from time to time, somewhere in between the scenes that are shown.
Wendy Nikel is a speculative fiction author with a degree in elementary education, a fondness for road trips, and a terrible habit of forgetting where she's left her cup of tea. Her short fiction has been published by Fantastic Stories of the Imagination, Daily Science Fiction, Nature: Futures, and elsewhere. For more info, visit wendynikel.com or sign up for her newsletter HERE and receive a FREE short story ebook.