Last week, I finished the first draft of The Gingerbread House. I’m reasonably happy with the story, but I know there are problems with the structure and the flow, not to mention the stilted character development.
I did minor editing as I wrote: I corrected spelling/typing errors, reworded awkward sentences, changed the ending of scenes a bit so they flowed better into the next scene. This wasn’t a thorough editing at all; it was simply picking up things I noticed as I wrote. My focus was to keep writing, not fix things.
When I began writing, I created a number of documents that mapped out the proposed plot and development of the characters. I’ll be going back to those documents soon but, first, I need to map out what I actually have down on paper. Once I have that done, I can compare what I had planned with what I ended up with and decide on the best approach to improve it. I might need to change things to match the original plan, or I might need to toss the plan out the window and create a new structure that works.
There are going to be changes. The original plot had nine scenes; the final draft has fifteen.
My scene maps for editing include a couple of things a lot of scene maps don’t. I add the extra bits so I can create a list of things to do to fix problems, and know exactly where to find the section I need to fix.
Below is and extract of the scene map for The Gingerbread House. You can find the complete scene map here. This is the first editing run. The scene map will be added to once I begin to compare the before and after documents.
This is it: the end of the story. Yes, there are gaps in the plot, and the characters haven't developed the way I wanted them to, but that's all part of the writing process. The next step is to edit the story.
You'll find the whole story on the Free Stories page. As I edit it, I'll update that copy.
Now to see how it all ends...
Mistress Osborne strode forward, the clack of her boots on the wooden floor and the soft susurration of her tulle underskirts the only sounds in the room. As she passed the cage, Hansel stood, his eyes bright, almost glowing in the shadowed darkness of his face against the brilliant light streaming in through the doorway.
Tristan watched her, taking a step back when she passed him, moving out of her reach. Once he was behind her, he removed the small pieces of paper from his pocket and held them aloft.
Andrew stepped to the side so he stood directly in front of the Aga, his right hand hovering over the handle for the baking oven.
Hansel stood, still inside his cage, but close to Gretel.
Just as Mistress Osborne raised her hands to strike Andrew, Tristan began to speak.
“Mistress Osborne, you have been negligent in your training, a direct violation of the apprenticeship agreement you signed with the Magical Council. You have left me with no option other than to report your actions.”
Mistress Osborne swung to face Tristan, took in his stance and sneered. “You idiot. You have to get out of this house before you can cast any spell against me or to summon the Magical Council. Do you think I didn’t think of that when I put you here?” Her gaze raked him from head to toe. “Look at you. You’re so scared of me you’re trembling.”
“You’re right,” said Tristan as he slid to the side, working his way around the table. Andrew smirked as he realised Tristan’s movements drew Mistress Osborne’s attention to him alone, leaving Hansel and Gretel unobserved. “I am scared of you. I have been since my first day as your apprentice. I knew, even then, that I had to hide most of my power from you or you’d bleed me dry.” Hansel stepped through the destroyed bars of the cage and joined Gretel, their hands clasped, eyes glowing.
“Most of your power?” Mistress Osborne sneered. “I’ll admit you have some talent, particularly with transmography, but it’s nothing a thousand other wizards have.”
Tristan smiled, and Andrew wondered how Mistress Osborne didn’t quaver in front of him. “That was the case two years ago, Mistress. Things are significantly different now.” He once again held his scraps of paper above his head. In a deep, sonorous voice, he said, “Mistress Osborne, you have made it impossible for me to perform my duties either as an apprentice or as a wizard. You have spent the last several years consuming the magic of others.”
“And what?” she sneered. “Are you going to strip me of my powers, little apprentice? Do you think you can really do that when half your apprenticeship has been here?” She swept a dismissive hand around her, indicating her disgust for the Gingerbread House.
“I have no need of your powers,” said Tristan calmly. “I have my own, developed right here, inside a gremlin-controlled house.”
“Have you no idea, silly witch,” said Hansel, making Mistress Osborne swing around and gasp at his freedom from the cage, “what it means to learn wizardry within the bosom of gremlin magic?” He pointed to Tristan. “His magic has grown as it would always have done, until it’s much stronger than yours. But it’s been infused with our magic too. He doesn’t need the paltry spells you know. He can create his own.”
“You won’t be leaving here until the Magic Council attends and hears your case,” said Tristan as he tossed the papers toward her.
“This house can’t hold me, you fool.” She batted aside the papers. Each one she touched flared bright around the edges then sank into her skin. Mistress Osborne shoved the table toward Tristan, distracting him, then she charged at Andrew, the remaining papers zooming after her and clinging to her hair where they flared and disappeared.
Andrew gripped the oven handle, swung the door open the shoved against Mistress Osborne. She tumbled into the oven, Andrew pushed her feet in and slammed the door closed, cutting off her screams.
Gretel charged forward. “Why did you do that? You can’t COOK her. You can’t destroy a wizard.”
“Of course not,” said Tristan. “But transmography is my thing, isn’t it?”
“What did you change her into?” asked Hansel, a small smile hovering around his mouth.
Tristan grinned at him. “Something you’ll appreciate.”
A timer dinged and Andrew opened the oven door, reached in and slid out a large tray. On the tray lay a human-sized gingerbread man, complete with current eyes and icing smile and clothes. As Andrew placed the tray on the table, the gingerbread man jumped up and ran to the door.
“You can’t keep me here,” it yelled, Mistress Osborne’s voice high and squeaky. She ran out the door and down the path.
Andrew joined the others at the window as they watched her run away. “I don’t think that was as successful as you think it was,” he said. “She got away.”
As they watched, a fox darted from the trees, cut across the clearing and entered the wood where the gingerbread man had disappeared.
“Maybe,” said Tristan with a grin. “But then again, maybe not.” He picked up his satchel and gestured to the gremlins. “Let’s go home.” At the door, he paused and looked back at Andrew. “Are you coming too?”
Andrew flicked the dials on the Aga so it would burn itself out safely, then grabbed his pack and followed.
We're nearly finished. This is the second-last part for The Gingerbread House. I'll post this one today, and the final part to finish the story on Saturday. If you've missed any parts of The Gingerbread House, the whole story is posted on the Free Stories page.
Andrew’s alarm grew as Tristan’s expression morphed from concerned to terrified. Tristan fumbled in his pockets as he asked Hansel. “How long do we have?”
“Gretel’s clearing the woods now; the mistress is behind her.”
“Shit,” said Tristan as he rushed over to his desk and started sifting through the piles of paper fragments there. Andrew joined him.
“I thought you were ready,” he said. His fingers itched to gather the papers together into tidy little piles, so he took a half step back. Tristan wouldn’t thank him for destroying whatever system he had any more than Andrew would tolerate anyone reordering his spices.
“I am,” insisted Tristan as he fumbled his fingers through the mounds of papers. He tossed another scrap aside, paused, grabbed it up again. “I am ready.” He held the scrap up triumphantly the strode back to the table and placed all his pieces of paper together, like a jigsaw puzzle.
“Hello boys. I’m back!” Gretel’s sing-songy voice floated inside.
Andrew shivered. “That doesn’t sound good.” He looked around, unsure what he was supposed to do. He sidled closer to the Aga, needing the warmth and comfort.
Tristan paused in his rearranging of the papers, then continued again, mumbling to himself as he worked.
Hansel’s brows furrowed and he shifted restlessly on his mound of blankets. One hand snaked out from under the blankets and he popped a sliver of gingerbread into his mouth.
A shadow fell through the door, swallowing the bright morning sun that had been streaming in. Andrew shivered in the dim, cool air remaining. As the shadow shrank, Gretel’s voice grew louder.
“Mistress Osborne has come to get you out of that cage, Hansel.” As Gretel stepped through the doorway, Tristan straightened, the papers clutched tightly as he shoved his hand in his pocket. The mumbling had stopped although his lips still moved; tiny movements like little air kisses.
Gretel strode in, tossed her long, golden hair over her shoulder, grinned, and winked at Hansel.
On her heels came what Andrew assumed was Mistress Osborne.
Mistress Osborne was the singularly least attractive person Andrew had ever seen. She stood easily at six and a half feet, had broad shoulders, narrow hips and spindly legs sticking out from her green and black ¾ length gathered skirt. Shiny black boots with thick red laces and two-inch platforms adorned her feet. The upper part of her body—the broad shoulders, huge, bulbous breasts and prominent collar bone—was barely constrained by a dirty white peasant blouse printed with small red skulls. Her face was a mix of reasonably attractive features: straight Romanesque nose, large almond-shaped eyes, high cheekbones, square jaw, wide mouth. Unfortunately, the features sat on a long, skinny face with a high sloping forehead, giving the appearance of peering at Mistress Osborne through a fish-eye lens. Her best feature could have been her hair: long, dark and curly, but it was so sparse around her face that, at first glance, it looked like her hairline began on the top of her head.
She took in the scene at a glance: Hansel incarcerated in a hovel, bereft of even basic comforts; Tristan hovering near the table, hands shoved into his pockets, an air of trembling submission about him; Andrew, standing tall and straight near the Aga, hoping his fear wasn’t showing on his face.
Mistress Osborne raised her arm and pointed at Andrew. “It was you! You’re the one who’s done all this. I could feel your power as I walked inside.”
Working out how to defeat the evil witch hasn't been as easy as I anticipated. I've just completed the set-up for it in Part 13:
Andrew changed out another tray of cooked gingerbread with another one going into the oven. A crease deepened between his eyebrows as the tower of cooling gingerbread shifted to accommodate the new one. “Let me get this straight,” he said. “She won’t burn the house down straight away because she’ll have to come inside to find out who’s responsible, even though by burning the house down, she’ll remove whatever threat we pose.”
Tristan nodded agreement.
“Then, once she’s inside, her power will be reduced because the gremlin’s rule here.”
Again, Tristan nodded.
Andrew continued, “These are the same gremlins she’s been controlling for years and she doesn’t want them to have any power over her.”
Tristan nodded but a scowl now darkened his features.
“Do you see where the problem is?” asked Andrew.
“You don’t think she’ll come inside the house,” said Tristan.
“Why would she, when coming in would mean her risking everything. She’ll know you’re inside, because you can’t leave. All she has to do is burn down the house with you in it and she’s done.”
“She can’t burn the house down.” Hansel still lounged amongst his cushions, his expression still blissed-out from the gingerbread.
“Why can’t she burn the house down?” asked Andrew.
“It’s protected,” said Hansel. “If she wants to burn it, she has to come inside and set the fire from here, without using magic.” He scrambled out of his nest of cushions and stood. “Also, she can’t destroy Tristan’s magic like that.”
“If he’s dead, he won’t have any magic,” said Andrew, not understanding how anything else would be possible.
“Tristan’s magic will protect him. If she wants him dead, she has to come in here and kill him.”
“If she does that, my magic will be free; it won’t automatically go to her.” Tristan joined the conversation as he sat at the table. “The Magical Council will feel the jolt of my magic being released even though the seat is over three hundred miles away. They’ll know I’ve died by violence and come to investigate. They’ll recognise the gremlins’ signature all over the place and she’ll be held accountable because the gremlins can’t act without her permission. She’ll be stripped of her own magic and cast out.” He sat back and crossed his arms over his chest.
“She won’t risk that,” said Hansel.
Tristan nodded at Hansel. “No she won’t. She can’t burn the house down to kill me and can’t kill me outright. She’ll know the gingerbread isn’t my doing so she’ll have to come inside to find out what’s going on.” He leaned forward and grinned at Andrew. “That’s when we’ll have our chance.”
“Our chance to do what?” Andrew sat in the seat opposite Tristan. “You keep telling me how powerful she is. She trapped you here. How are you going to defeat her.”
Hansel scoffed. “She’s not so powerful. She didn’t trap Tristan here; Gretel and I did that.” He came close to the bars but stopped before they could burn him again. “We felt Tristan’s power as soon as we stepped inside. He’s spent the last two years studying and is now much more powerful than she’ll ever be.” Hansel preened. “And you have me,” he said smugly.
“You’re a prisoner,” retorted Andrew.
Hansel picked up another piece of gingerbread. “How do you think we replenish our powers?” He puffed a breath onto the gingerbread, then slid it between two bars and slowly moved it to the side. Red light hummed as the gingerbread came in contact with the bar. When the light dimmed, Hansel’s hand, with the gingerbread was on the other side of the bar. The gingerbread had passed through the bar, cutting it neatly so a slice of air, exactly the width of the gingerbread, was clearly visible between the top of the bar and the bottom. When Andrew and Tristan jumped to their feet, Hansel waved his hand at the bar and it joined together again.
“You could have escaped at any time!” said Tristan.
Hansel grinned. “That was the last bar.” He waved a negligent hand and all the cushions and gingerbread disappeared, leaving Hansel alone in the cage with a pile of dirty blankets. “She’s coming; be ready.”
My day job has finally settled enough that I don't need to work all evening and all weekend anymore. To celebrate, here's the next instalment of The Gingerbread House:
Tristan passed the next day pouring over his spell books, frantically writing notes that would be used to create a new spell that would free Hansel and Gretel and trap Mistress Osborne forever. He didn’t think either Andrew or Hansel noticed he was still in the house.
Andrew baked all day. He made gingerbread, ginger cake, ginger biscuits, even a ginger and chilli stirfry. Hansel spent most of the day groaning in ecstasy while he ate gingerbread and breathed deeply of the heady ginger fragrance throughout the cottage.
After lunch, the stirfry having dragged Tristan away from his books, Tristan gasped. Andrew looked over from the table where he rolled another batch of gingerbread.
“That’s the key,” said Tristan as he stared at the latest batch of gingerbread men. “We need to finish cladding the house.”
Andrew frowned at him. “What’s the point? Both Hansel and Gretel know they can get as much gingerbread as they want if they just come inside.”
“They do, yes,” said Tristan with a grin. “Mistress Osborne doesn’t know anything about it, and I’ll be Gretel doesn’t tell her about the gingerbread either. She won’t want the mistress to know there’s an alternative source tempting her gremlins away.
“How can she not know? Won’t Gretel tell her all about how we trapped Hansel?”
“She won’t mention the gingerbread,” said Hansel from his prone position amongst his cushions. “That’s our secret weapon.”
“Exactly,” enthused Tristan. “So, when Mistress Osborne arrives and sees the house completely covered in gingerbread—”
“Minus the bits we ate,” interrupted Hansel.
“—minus the bits you ate, she’ll go completely mental.” Tristan clapped his hands together. “She’ll storm in here, flinging spells around all over the place, and won’t notice what’s really happening.”
“Yes!” Hansel jumped out of the cushions. “She won’t know what’s going on until it’s too late.”
Tristan and Hansel grinned at each other.
“What will be going on?” asked Andrew into the triumphant silence.
“Er…,” said Hansel.
“Um,” said Tristan.
Andrew sighed as he placed another tray of gingerbread on the table. As he slid it farther onto the table, the other trays lifted to make room for it. Within seconds the hovering tower of trays stabilised.
“Why is it so important that the house be covered in gingerbread?”
Tristan smiled again, back on secure footing. “She uses gingerbread to control Hansel and Gretel. If she thinks they’ve found an alternative source, she’ll want to destroy it.”
“What’s stopping her from just burning the house down?”
“She’ll want to make sure whoever is making the gingerbread can’t start over somewhere else.”
“That would be a given if she burns the house and us with it.”
Tristan scowled at Andrew. His fatalistic, simplistic attitude wasn’t helping. “She won’t burn the house down until she knows that’s all it would take to stop us. To be sure of that, she’ll have to come inside and assess the situation.”
“You seem pretty confident that she’ll actually want to know who’s doing it, rather than just kill us.”
“I’ve worked with her for four years. She needs to know what causes everything because that’s the only way she can make sure she controls it. Destroying the house would only be a temporary measure, and she’d be losing a potential source of gingerbread with which to control the gremlins. She’ll storm in here and try to intimidate you, then browbeat you into offering to support her.” Tristan leaned back in his seat, triumph bubbling through him. “It won’t even occur to her that you might say ‘no’, particularly as coercion spells are her forte. And there’s a pretty good chance she’ll totally forget that her magic won’t work inside this cottage.”
E E Montgomery
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