AB Scene Take One

I don't follow many podcasts.  In fact, I don't really even "follow" the one that I do listen to; I just put it on during those rare occasions that I'm doing something that doesn't require any sort of verbal concentration on my part- that is to say, generally when I'm doing something crafty, like embroidery.

Of course, the irony is that the one and only podcast that I listen to (and only while crafting) is all about writing, and it includes writing assignments, and sometimes they are so damned intriguing that I have to stop crafting, and go write.  Like I said, ironic- but not unwelcome.  After all, it's far more likely that I'll someday make money from my word-smithing than my laborious-ornament-assembling.

The assignment that got me derailed today was something called an "AB Scene", and the jist of it is that you're provided dialogue, and you write a scene around it.  And then you write an entirely different scene around the exact same dialogue.  Here's the dialogue they provided, and here's the first scene I wrote:


People have all sorts of theories about the magic of twins: some of it correct, but much of it wrong.  One of the most prevalent myths is that twins always know what the other is thinking.  That one, in Jack Branch’s experience, had no founding in reality whatsoever.

His sister Jill was staring with such ferocity at the map of their father’s estate that sweat was beginning to bead on her forehead.  There was a time, before they’d been sent to foster in separate estates, that Jack might have guessed if she was angry, or merely concentrating.  But that was eight years ago, and his sister had gone from a girl to a woman, and while Jack had learned many secrets of the natural world during his time with the Graylins, the ways of women were not among them.

“Jill,” he hesitated in her doorway, reluctant to invade her private domain.  It made his stomach twist to think on it- as little children they’d shared everything, even a bed.  But now?  Now she spent her evenings in a room stripped bare of any decoration but the Godstar on the wall, and a shelf containing a few meticulously clean magical tools.  Her work-table was large, but eerily spotless.  Jack’s own room was scorched, scratched, and stained: very evidently the site of many a failed experiment.  But Jill’s space might have been a corner of the royal hospital.  An unused corner.

“Are you alright?”

Jill blinked, shook her head, and refocused her eyes on him.  Her expression had gone carefully blank.  “I'm fine,” she said, smoothing the crisp linen parchment with both hands.  Her fingers shook as they passed over the snaking river in the southernmost part of the estate.  Jack realized, then, what she’d been trying to do:

“Let me help,” he tried to keep his voice casual, as though she’d be doing him a favor rather than the reverse.  Jill scowled.

“No. I have to learn to do this.”

Now it was Jack’s turn to blink.  He hadn’t expected her to admit so freely that she was having difficulties with a simple dowsing spell.  She’d been so prim and reserved ever since they’d returned home a month ago; he had gone immediately to embrace her, but she’d been stiff, and given no indication that she wished to resume their former closeness.

“Alright,” Jack said, trying to keep his voice casual.  He sauntered in, careful not to get too close.  Jill’s body turned subtly, keeping her shoulders squared to his.  When had she become so wary?  Everything about her vibrated like a too-tight bowstring.

“So.”  Her voice was anything but casual: it held challenge, humiliation, and a plea all wrapped up in a single, brittle syllable.  Jack longed to grab her hand as he’d once done, but he settled for tapping the middle of the map.  Tiny pinpricks of cerulean began to blossom on the ivory surface, spreading like blood in snow until they represented the size and shape of every hidden well within a five-mile radius.  Jill’s face flamed, but she said nothing further.

Jack rubbed his tingling fingers together and avoided his twin’s eyes.  “So. What if you didn't have to learn to do... that.”

Jill’s head snapped up, her nostrils flaring.  “What?”

Jack shrugged.  This was a problem he could solve.  “What would you give to have it flow through you as easily as it does me?  Without meditation, without purification rituals, without perfect silence?”

“Anything.”  Jill’s laugh was bitter, hopeless.  Without strong magic of her own, she’d be forever dependent upon Jack, tied to the estate.  The people would not respect her as they should, and she’d never find a good husband.

“Is that hyperbole, or would you really give... anything?”

Jill glared at him.  “If the Silent One sat down with us and offered to trade effortless spellcraft for my soul, I'd do it. I'd throw yours in with the bargain.”

“Good,” Jack laughed and tapped the map again.  The blue marks raced towards his fingertips, and he gathered them up into a shimmering gem the size of a robin’s egg.  Jill’s breath caught as he proffered it.    “Except he's already got mine.”

Jill almost dropped the bauble.  “How…” she breathed, holding it up to the late afternoon sun beams that streamed in through the diamond-paned window beside them.  The light danced in the gems’ depths, as though it was being filtered through leagues of water.  This was not land-magic; this was something far less common, and far more dangerous.  This was conjuring.


I found it quite frustrating to try and work with dialogue that wasn't written as I would write it- in fact I tweaked it in a few places to make it better suit the sort of world I'd decided to set things in.  And of course the whole endeavor sent my brain spinning off in new world-building directions.  Which, I suppose, is part of the point.

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