Thursday, November 5, 2009

Emma's Outlaw: Dan's Decision

The first week of every month, the Chicks are using an exercise format to explore their works in progress (wips). And, we’re inviting you to play along. Janet posted this exercise on Sunday: Choose one of your main characters (male or female) from any of your WIPs and from his/her POV write about one of the most difficult decision he/she had to make.

Since I’m working on Emma’s Outlaw for my Nano project, I’m using my hero, Dan for this exercise and then I can use the word count for Nano. What follows is a very revised version of the original draft.

A bit of backstory: In a misguided attempt to prove his courage, Dan joins an outlaw gang who subsequently kidnaps Emma. After a week of trailing the outlaws, Emma’s father finally catches up to them and it’s the big rescue scene. Dan has fallen in love with Emma and doesn’t want to do anything to hurt her. But he’s still an outlaw wanted for her kidnapping among other things.
And so it comes down to this:

Dan couldn’t sleep after his confession to Emma. He had to find a way for her to escape even though they had no future together. Leaving the campsite, he headed east along the embankment. He hadn’t gone fifty feet when he dropped to his haunches behind a limestone boulder. The hairs at the back of his neck stood at attention sending waves of tremors down through his arms. He waited with his rifle at the ready while the darkness faded into grey. Nothing moved in the pre-dawn stillness. Yet Dan knew someone was there.

If Emma’s father finally found them Emma was in danger. Dan needed to get back to her before the others suspected anything. Wishing he’d run back under the cover of darkness, he hunched down as low as he could and made his way back to camp.

A horse whinnied breaking the silence. Had the horses picked up a scent? Dan gritted his teeth and ran.

“Stop, or I’ll shoot,” someone yelled from his left.

Dan kept running. Zing. Crack. The bullet hit his left shoulder flinging him off balance. He stumbled and went down. Muttering an expletive, he glanced around. Whoever it was stayed hidden. Dan couldn’t shoot the rifle while lying on his side and if he sat up they’d likely finish the job so he let go of the rifle and slumped over into the prone position pretending he had died. As soon as there was a distraction he’d ease his Colt out of its holster.

“We have you surrounded. Drop your guns and put your hands up!”

Dan almost laughed. There was no way they were surrounded but Wylie and Owen didn’t know that. And with that shot sounding off, Virgil should be down from the ridge at any minute. Then again, considering he hadn’t stayed alert last night, maybe he’d already hightailed it out of here. Instead of anger, Dan welcomed the thought. One less outlaw to worry about.

“I’m going to count to three and then we’ll start shooting! One!”

Dan had his hand flat on the ground ready to push up before he remembered he was supposed to lie still. He had to warn Emma, though.


Dan looked up prepared to yell and at the sight, a thick band constricted around his chest. Wylie stood not thirty feet away with his arm around Emma’s waist and his gun pointed at her head. She stared straight ahead, unmoving.

“You let her go,” the voice bellowed across the prairie.

Wylie waved his gun near Emma’s ear. “If you don’t come out with your hands up by the time I count to three, Emmalyne dies. One!”

Emma twitched, her eyes flew to Dan. And for the first time Dan saw fear in their green depths.

“Two!” Wylie yelled.


Dan looked over in time to see a man rise from behind a small scrub brush. He threw his guns on the ground and raised his arms.

“Pa!” Emma surged forward.

Wylie yanked her back. “Not so fast, Emmalyne. I still need you, don’t I?” He jutted his chin at Emma’s father. “Where’s your son?”

If the man was surprised he didn’t show it. “Sent him to get the Sheriff.”

Dan clambered to his feet, Colt in hand and staggered toward the camp. It felt like thousands of embers burned in his shoulder but he still had his shooting hand. And it was time. Either he was a coward like his father said or he had the courage to risk his own life to save Emma’s. Because no matter which way he looked at it, it was two guns to one. He was going to have to shoot Wylie first without hitting Emma and then shoot Owen before he could react. Dan had never shot a man before but he wasn't about to let Wylie take Emma again.

“Owen, get his guns,” Wylie ordered.

Dan moved to Emma’s opposite side behind Wylie and waited until Owen was halfway to Emma’s father. He aimed his Colt.

A boy rose up from the prairie and aimed his rifle at Dan. And Dan realized it probably looked like he was aiming at Emma’s father.

With no way to warn his intent, Dan pulled the trigger.


And there you have it.

Obviously I haven’t told you what happened.

But I’ll let you guess.

Have you done the exercise yet? Tell us about it. We really do want to know.


Ban said...

Oh, very nice ! Don't have much time to comment today, wasn't even gonna stop by but I'm glad I did. You drew my right in :D

Karyn Good said...

Great snippet, Anita. I loved the tension and the conflict. All kinds of great questions came to mind while reading and I wanted to read more.

I'm wondering if you found the exercise valuable and if you learned something new about Dan from doing it?

Sounds like you're doing great with Nano over at eHarl and it's coming along.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thanks, Ban. I really appreciate you popping over for a look see. Have a great day.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, yes I did. I was going to add it to the post but the excerpt was quite long so I hoped somebody would ask.

In the original version, I didn't have the stand-off. Just Dan getting shot and escaping to the hills. While this was acceptable, it didn't show him in a terribly heroic light. And yet I may have left it if I hadn't been forced to really dwell on it.

When I started the exercise, I was just looking for a part in the book which I could use without giving the story away or changing the story. My other options were:
- Dan decides to go west
- Emma decides to escape
- Emma chooses between her orig goal of cooking school or searching for Dan via his parents.

But those options had already been decided and major parts of the book depended on them. I don't have time to revise this ms more than I'm doing. So that left the scenario as you read it.

So yes, I did learn something for the exercise. I learned that given the choice, Dan will shoot to kill to save Emma even if it means risking his own life.

I have 'skirmishes' in the ms but not one defining moment like this one.

So thanks for asking, Karyn.

And thanks for the assignment, Janet.

Karyn Good said...

It's amazing what comes to you when you do the exercise. Glad it hoped you. And I do agree, it shows Dan as heroic even though he's also part of the problem. I like that he stayed and took a stand, and is willing to do whatever it takes to save Emma.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Thank you Karyn, I'm glad you confirmed what I'm thinking.

Prairie Chicks Write Romance said...

Hi Anita,
Yes, it showed Dan was willing to die to save Emma. He knows the boy (Emma's brother?) is likely going to shoot him but he holds steady with his rifle. It's a hard and painful decision but he has to do it, not only to save the the woman he loves, but to prove to himself that he's not a coward. This is a great way of showing how your character has matured as a person and has been changed by love.

Well done,

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Jana, glad you stopped in.

Yes, you're right. I never really thought of him as maturing but I guess that's what's happened. So the thought just occurred to me that if I took this mature Dan and put him at the door when he overhears his father call him a coward, I would have a totally different story.

Thanks again.

Janet said...

I like how this shows character growth, Anita. Nothing like a little gut-wrenching decision to really prove a person's worth and valour! I'm sure the beginning of the story has Dan as admirable, but flawed and that the reader will wonder as the story unfolds if he truly is a hero - or as cowardly as his father implies.

Good luck with the revisions.

Anita Mae Draper said...

I have to admit Janet, I'm having a hard time writing him as a good outlaw if you get my drift. I need it to be believeble yet I don't want to turn the readers off. From your comment I can see you know exactly what I mean.