Mistborn Deleted Scene #1
Okay, welcome to the Mistborn One deleted scenes. Writing a book is quite the process, and ideas evolve and change. Sometimes, things get cut because I myself don’t like them. Sometimes, the edits come by suggestions from my editor or my agent. In these sections, I’m going to post some of the more interesting of the scenes that ended up getting cut from the book.
We’re going to start at . . . well, the beginning. Beginnings are often rough for me to get right. It isn’t that I have trouble writing them—it’s that because they’re the opening of the story, they tend to be when I’m still trying to work out how I want a book to feel. And so, the tend to need the most editing and work.
This book is no exception. While I knew the feel I wanted the opening scene to have, I struggled to get it right. I knew I wanted to focus on the dreary landscape and give the impression that this was not a good place to live—I wanted that to be the reader’s first introduction to this world. And then, I wanted a chance for the reader to see one of the oppressed masses look up in defiance: our first introduction to Kelsier.
Characters are about conflict, and my goal was to show Kelsier’s conflict before you even see anything from his viewpoint. He’s the man in a field of slaves who will resist.
I started, then, with something I probably shouldn’t have done—a third-person omniscient view of the field, as seen below, without any specific character who’s eyes we’re seeing through.
——The first draft of the first scene——
A blood-red sun shone above the field of workers. Long ago, the sun had been yellow—but those days, the days before the Ascension, were mostly forgotten. It had been long, so long, since the skies had been free of smoke and ash. Even the legends were growing vague about such times.
Certainly, the sun had been red for as long as the workers could remember. They were skaa. Less than servants, less than slaves, the skaa were the property of the Final Emperor—and they were poorly-valued property at that. No matter how many skaa were beaten to death, killed for sport, or worked to exhaustion, there were always seemed to be plenty more to take their place.
The skaa worked the fields with the lethargy of the hopeless, their motions methodical and listless. Though the sun’s light was darkened and ruddied by the ever-present smoke, the day was still oppressively hot. Yet, no skaa man paused to wipe his soot-stained brow—being seen resting by a koloss fieldmaster would invite a whipping.
So, the skaa worked. Eyes down, watching the dirt by their feet, they dug at the weeds—daring not to speak, barely even daring to think. Koloss stalked amidst them, blood-drop eyes alert for signs of skaa laziness.
There, beneath the red sun, amidst the heat and soot, a single skaa man dared look up. He smiled at the back of a passing Koloss.
When the creature turned, the man was gone. The koloss paused, staring at the empty spot of earth, a confused look on its unnatural face. It opened its mouth to make a demand of the nearby skaa, but the group worked with their normal uncaring rhythm. The koloss scanned the nearby area, but of course there was no sign of a fleeing worker. Skaa didn’t have the courage to run—besides, where would they go? The Final Emperor ruled all.
Finally, the koloss closed its blue lips and turned back to its rounds, convinced that it had been mistaken.
——End of Scene——
You should notice some things about this section. First off, it’s very “telly.” That’s one of the problems with omniscient: it tends to lack a certain visceral quality you can get by seeing through a specific person’s eyes. With a limited viewpoint, you can get passion, emotion. With a distant viewpoint like this, you tend to just get a lot of facts.
Of course, some people do it very well. J.K. Rowling, for instance, tends to use a lot of omniscient and make it work. A greater problem with this scene is that I was “writing myself in” to the story, which meant I was including a lot of telly phrases to explain to myself how the world looked. There’s nothing wrong with starting like this; however, it needed to be cut and made more personal.
Finally, you’ll notice that the koloss actually make an appearance here. I intended them to be a part of book one, but as I wrote the next chapter, I realized that I hadn’t really decided how I wanted them to act and feel. The plotting of the book made them mostly irrelevant in this novel, so I eventually cut them from the book completely, leaving them to appear for the first time in book two. In so doing, I made them quite a bit less stable and quite a bit more bloodthirsty. That meant that this scene—where a koloss was trusted to watch over slaves—is now terribly outdated, and could never exist in the world as it is.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at the second evolution of this scene.