The Evolution of a Beginning

The first chapter of Crossbreed has probably been edited more than anything else I’ve written. That’s mostly due to the fact that I started it when I was 13, and it took me 11 years to finish the first draft. To give you an idea of how much that first chapter has changed, here are three different versions of the beginning of that chapter.

The first version, written when I was 13:

I was walking down a dark alley, it was about midnight, a cool, clear night with a full moon, a perfect night for hunting. The thought made me hungry, but I knew my promise.

Just then a police car drove in front of me, lights flashing. I quickly ducked back into the alley but the police got out of their car and followed me. I ran until I saw a large cardboard box, a good hiding spot. The police searched up and down alley, but they didn’t find me.

When they left I started walking home. I started thinking about how things had gotten this way.

Ouch, huh? I suppose it’s not too bad for a first try. Ten years and almost as many edits later, this is how Crossbreed started:

Midnight. Darkness surrounded me like a warm, dark blanket. I looked up into the cool, clear sky, my eyes lingering on the near-full moon. It was a perfect night for hunting. The thought made me hungry, but I ignored the feeling, choosing instead to spend the night walking. To clear my head.

The wail of a police siren broke the calm. I turned my head in its direction. Such a familiar sound. The city was full of crime, not unlike any other large city. Humans are such violent, greedy creatures. They steal, they kill, they rape, they hate. But humans can also be so compassionate and loving, willing to sacrifice themselves for others. I find myself alternately condemning and praising humanity. I’m of two minds about a lot of things, though I suppose that makes sense.

The siren faded, moving on to take care of crimes that were going on elsewhere. Down a nearby alley, a stray dog searched for scraps. It reminded me of an old friend. I searched inside myself for the animal that lived there. He was calm tonight. Over time, we have come to understand each other and help each other. He is as much a part of me as my emotions, or even my body. It took me far too long to realize this. My life could have been so much less complicated.

I turned a corner, heading for nowhere in particular. Thoughts filled my head as I walked. Old thoughts about old times. My life has been long, longer than the number of years I claim. And I could live for many more years; hundreds, if I wished. Growing more powerful with each one that passed. At times the idea of such a long life seems great, but now . . . things are different.

I glanced up at the moon again, my thoughts shifting. I began to think back to where my life, as I know it now, began.

Better, but the voice doesn’t quite fit with the rest of the novel. Crossbreed just doesn’t talk like this. So a few months ago, I rewrote the beginning. AGAIN:

Midnight. Darkness and the scent of blood surrounded me. I was too late for this one, but not too late for the hunt. I followed the scent trail that led away from the body. A spicy scent, vaguely like cinnamon. It led out of the alley and down the street. I found her a few blocks away, walking with her back to me. I was upwind. She had no idea I was there.

“Hey!” I called.

The woman turned. The wind shifted and her nostrils flared. She frowned, then her eyes widened. “You!”

“Uh-huh.” I took a deep breath to make sure. No, she didn’t have a gun on her. I waited, giving her a few seconds to run or fight. It’s a weakness of mine that I’ve never gotten over.

The woman ran.

My instincts flared: Chase! Catch! Kill! I ran after her.

She made it half a block. I grabbed her, wrapping one arm around her waist and bringing my other hand up to cover her mouth. She screamed against my hand. I pushed her up against the side of a building and glanced around. The street was empty. She struggled, but I held her tight. I bent my head to her neck, the scent of her filling my nose: warm spice, and femaleness, and fear. She whimpered as my fangs sunk into her skin. Blood filled my mouth, a hot, delicious torrent. God, it was so good.

I let the vampire’s body slump against the wall and stood there with half-lidded eyes, enjoying the rush.

I dumped her body next to the man she’d killed. I loved the hunt, the kill, the taste of fresh blood in my mouth. But afterwards, staring down at a body, I started to think. What had she been like? Had she chosen this life, or had it been forced on her? Could she have changed, given the chance?

Dangerous thoughts.
I left the alley again and walked down the street, my mind turning to other things. Old thoughts about old times. So many years, and still I’m young in the eyes of some. I could live for many more years; hundreds, maybe thousands. Growing more powerful with each one that passed. At times the idea of such a long life seems great, but now . . . things are different.

I glanced up at the near full moon. So many nights like this. My thoughts shifted to where my life, as I know it now, began.

Much better, and it fits the tone of the rest of the novel.

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