Editing is one of the most important (and least glamourous) aspects of bringing a book to life. Shannon Messenger, author of Let the Sky Fall & Let the Storm Break.
* * * * *
This dream/flashback used to come before Vane’s other memory of Audra and the snow, but I cut it because I felt like it slowed everything down, without adding enough to the story. Let the Storm Break isn’t really about Vane’s past or family, which made this information feel out of place:
Some are recent: Audra leaning in. Telling me she loves me before she…
I shove those memories away, focusing on the ones that mean so much more.
My mom and dad—my real mom and dad.
Almost everything I know about them was stolen and hidden and then given back to me in such a messy jumble I haven’t even known where to start when it comes to sorting them out. But the warmth guides me, connecting pieces here and there.
My dad’s face appears, happy and smiling and begging me to trust him as we stand on the edge of a cliff. I can’t see myself, so I don’t know how old I am. But I feel young and afraid as he takes my hand and leans us over, showing me the ground far below. I want to run—but he holds me too tight and before I can stop him he pulls us over the edge. I thrash and scream, but then I realize I’m not falling and open my eyes and find us hovering on a breeze.
A cool, calm breeze that tangles around us and lifts us higher.
“This is your heritage,” he tells me. “Your mother doesn’t want me to show you. She wants to protect you, thinks she can shield you from the fate so many others of us have faced. And I … I don’t know. I want you to be safe. But you have to know who you are.”
He hisses something I don’t understand—or, I didn’t then. I do now. He’s commanding the west wind. Ordering it to lift us higher.
And it does.
We soar so high the ground turns to nothing more than smudges of green and blue. I scream as I hold onto my dad, trying to trust him, trying to understand how this is real.
He tightens his grip on my hand.
“I had to show you this, Vane. I needed you to see the world the way only we can see it. Because I need you to understand our responsibility to protect this heritage. This power—this gift the westerly winds share with us. It’s more important than anything. Even our own lives.”
* * * * *
This moment used to happen right after the big Haboob-fight in Death Valley, as Vane, Audra, and Gus made their way back to the desert. I thought it might be good to let them be a little silly, to sort of lighten the mood after all the dark things that had just happened. But I realized as soon as I wrote it that it was TOO silly for where they all were at emotionally. So even though I loved letting Vane and Audra have a “cute” moment, I cut it and wrote the moments you now see in the book:
I pull her closer so I can get a better look at her wound, but the longer I stare at the red, bloody gash, the more my head spins and shadows rim my vision.
I will make Raiden pay for this.
Whenever I can.
As soon as I can.
“Hey,” she whispers, brushing her hand across my cheek. “It’s okay, I’ve had way worse in my training.”
Maybe—but that doesn’t make me feel any better.
I’m done letting her get hurt because of me.
I wipe the dried blood away, tracing my fingers gently along the edge of the wound.
“Sorry, does that hurt?”
“No,” she mumbles, her cheeks flushing red. “It … tickles.”
“I’m sorry, what?”
The Great and Stoic Audra is … Ticklish?
“You really shouldn’t have told me that,” I tell her as I pull her even closer and tickle her other hip, making her twist and grab my hands.
“Stop!” she tells me, giving me her I am serious look—which only makes me more determined.
“Stop what?” I twist my hands free and tickle her again, earning myself a shriek for my efforts—which sounds so ridiculous coming from Audra I can’t help cracking up.
“Seriously, stop,” Gus chimes in, and the weariness in his voice makes us both turn to face him.
“It’s been … kind of a bad day,” he says quietly. “I can’t handle three hours trapped in a tiny bubble with the happy couple tickling each other.”
My cheeks turn hot, partially because I can’t believe Gus knows. But mostly because I’m pretty much winning the prize for worst friend in the world right now.
* * * * *
I’m actually not sure where this scene went (terrible, I know! Bad Shannon!). When I was first drafting the book, I had Vane struggle a lot more with still wanting a normal life, and had tons of little moments like this, where he’s slowly starting to understand that a normal life isn’t possible. But I realized I wasn’t being true to his character—that his worries about Audra’s safety would take precedence over thoughts like this. So I took most of them out, leaving just a few scattered sentences here and there:
I haven’t really been letting myself think about the fact that there’s going to be like, a war. Probably because part of me has been hoping that once Audra gets back we’ll sneak away somewhere no one can find us and spend the rest of our days flying from town to town, only stopping when we need to eat. Or want to find a soft bed…
But can I really abandon all of these people who are counting on me?
Leave my friends and family unprotected?
Let Raiden wipe out the rest of the Gales?
And do I really want to live the rest of my life on the run?
I … don’t think I do.
But am I really planning to try and lead this army to victory?
I’m not a soldier, and a few weeks of training isn’t going to change that.
Wow, how did my life get so freaking complicated?
A few weeks ago, the biggest decision I had to make was if I wanted to apply to a four-year college and move away straight out of high school, or kill a couple years at College of the Desert before deciding where I want to go.
That’s a whole lot better than having to decide the fate of an entire race.
* * * * *
If you’ve read Let the Storm Break, then certain elements of this scene might seem familiar, since similar moments do happen in the book. But they’re broken up and rearranged, because I realized after I wrote this scene that some of the things they’re talking about needed to come up sooner, and some of them needed to wait. I’d just had so many huge things happen, it took me a little while to figure out the best way to let the characters process everything, and this moment wasn’t quite true to what they were all dealing with:
Almost back to the safety of the Gales, where …
… a crapload of problems are waiting for us.
I turn to Gus, who looks pretty scary with his bare, bulging muscles covered in the Stormers’ blood.
I reach out and squeeze his shoulder, careful not to touch any of the sticky red. “If you need to talk … ”
He nods, but doesn’t say anything.
I glance at Audra and she’s watching me, biting her lower lip—which I know means she’s worried, but looks so incredibly sexy I want to pull her close and wrap my arms around her and—
Gus clears his throat, like he knows exactly what I’m thinking.
“How long have you been bonded?” he asks quietly.
I consider lying, but there’s really no point. “Right before she left. Like, within hours.”
I say the last part loud, wanting to make sure Audra hears it.
Does she know how brutal that was? How many times I wondered if she left because I was a horrible kisser, or something?
Gus lets out an I’m-way-too-tired-to-deal-with-this sigh. “And I’m guessing you don’t want the Gales to know.”
“Actually,” I say, turning to Audra and hoping she won’t hate me for this, “I think we should just get it out in the open, so they can get used to it and move on.”
I can see the worry in her eyes, and I’m sure it’s there in mine, too.
But it’s time to stop hiding.
Well… almost time.
“I think we should wait until morning, though,” I add. “You know, so we have some time to recover from everything.”
Gus snorts, and I expect him to call me out for just trying to get some time alone with Audra—which I totally am. I want one night before I have to face the wrath of my mom and the Gales and Solana…
Ugh, that’s going to suck.
But then I watch Gus scratch dried blood off his cheek and realize what an idiot I’m being.
He’s never going to recover from this.
“Gus—are you sure you don’t want to—“
“Don’t,” he interrupts. “Not yet.”
We drift in silence the rest of the way.