You’ve seen them. Check out a DVD (or Blu-ray) film or TV series and more likely than not, there’s a deleted scene(s), commentaries by the director or cast, behind-the-scenes featurette(s) and more. Why aren’t there such extra features in books?
After writers pen their novel (or short story), revisions and edits may more often than not lead to paragraphs, scenes, and sometimes chapters cut from the final, polished product.
My first mystery novel, Death on Stoneridge, ending up having two scenes cut. The first of these would have appeared early in the novel. This “deleted scene” featured Lisa Collins, the college student who turns up missing and sparks an investigation.
She lay beneath sunny skies that hadn’t been seen in Syracuse in weeks. Though she tried to forget recent troubles and just enjoy the sun’s warm rays, her past and her future gnawed at her.
Lisa Collins dreamed of the red carpets and flashbulbs of paparazzi cameras. Arm in arm with a hot young man leading her to the latest movie premier. Not that she needed a man by her side, but she envisioned a partner, equal in fame, and together they would take Hollywood by storm. They would be like the king and queen of the prom only bigger. She would be adored by millions.
She felt she was well on her way. She had a house, a car, money. She was a mere month away from graduating college and would soon be free to ditch this city where too many people knew you and your dirty little secrets. She only had to turn her head and see the house next door. It proved her point. Her former college roommate lived there. So did a former boyfriend.
Why couldn’t Todd have stayed with her? He’d been an acting student, like her. Then he gave it all up and married that toad Rachel. He was far too handsome to be wasted on her. He should be her prom king when she hit Hollywood…
Adjusting herself in the lawn chair, she sighed.
Why couldn’t she ignore the past?
She tried to banish such thoughts out of her mind, to lay there and just let her bikini clad body soak up the sun. Over the long Syracuse winter, her complexion had paled too much for her liking. Let the sun shine. Let the past go. She would begin her rise, her ascent to stardom and the future she deserved.
A shadow fell across her. Did the sun so quickly retreat? She opened her eyes and saw him. Craig.
“We need to talk.”
His arms were crossed, and though shadowed, she could see the stern look on his face. This wouldn’t be good, but she’d known it would come.
“I get it. You wanted to tell me it’s over.”
That stunned him. His mouth opened, but he didn’t speak. His arms fell to his sides, and he shook his head. Not the response he was looking for? She smiled smugly.
“It’s no big deal really. What we had was just a fling. We both know that.”
It never would have worked out, not that Lisa would have tried. Craig Logan was thirty-seven, practically middle-aged! And he had two teenaged sons. Lisa was in no hurry to be a mother to anyone. Not like her sister who couldn’t wait to have children.
“How could you be so…”
Was he glowering? Lisa couldn’t tell. He looked away just then, back toward the way he’d come. She was about to say something, when he said, “You have to stop seeing him. It’s not right. He’s married.”
That perplexed Lisa. She wondered how Craig could possibly know about that. She just assumed he’d become jealous of the couple frat boys she’d been seeing. It’s not like she’d promised him exclusivity.
He faced her. She could see the anger in his eyes, in the curl of his lips. “I don’t know how the two of you…” He huffed. “I don’t care. You’ve got to stop. They live on this street for God’s sake. His wife will find out.”
His emphasis on that last statement sounded very much like a threat to her.
“Aww, is the doctor upset that he’s been cheated on?” Craig fumed, as Lisa continued, “I’m not a trophy for you to parade around at your cronies’ parties like some vacuous ingénue. If you’re looking for some young thing to idolize you, look elsewhere. And my other relationships aren’t up for discussion.”
“I don’t know what the hell I ever saw in you…”
Craig stalked off, no doubt disgusted by her disregard.
If she’d been standing she would have shrugged. Instead, she merely settled into the lawn chair to resume her sun worship. She barely gave Craig a passing thought before returning to fantasies of her future in Hollywood.
After all, it’s not like any of her relationships were serious. The college frat boys, the married man, Craig. They were just a means to pass the time. The big score would be in sunny L.A. She’d hook up with her Hollywood hunk, and then her life would really begin. If only…
Her mind conjured up an image of Todd, a picture of him smiling. It brought the edge of a smile to her lips. She’d been serious about him. Two years ago, he’d been the guy for her. Then her roommates, Rachel and Danielle, had ruined everything. Well, really, they’d ruined each other. Three squabbling college girls, unable to keep out of each other’s affairs, lived together in that flat on Euclid Avenue. Why had they stayed together so long? And now one of them was dead…
“What did Craig want?”
The sudden voice startled Lisa. She looked and saw Rachel. Unlike Craig who’d deliberately stood blocking the sun to get Lisa’s attention, Rachel had purposely approached from the opposite side where she could catch her prey unawares. Typical. That was so like her. Rachel spent her life on the sidelines watching others until that moment when she’d pounce to get what she wanted. Just like she’d done with Todd.
“Why are you here?” Lisa huffed, rolling her eyes, thankful that Rachel couldn’t see the gesture through her sunglasses.
“Is that any way to greet a neighbor?”
Lisa sat up in the lawn chair and looked at Rachel. “Since when have you been neighborly?”
Rachel shrugged. “So we got off to a rocky start. You have to understand; I never expected my former college roommate to move next door. It was a bit of a shock.” She looked up at the back of Lisa’s ranch-style house. “I’d scarcely imagine you’d even be able to afford a house.”
“Can the act.” This time Lisa removed her sunglasses and narrowed her eyes. She wanted to make sure Rachel saw her displeasure. “You’re not here for chit-chat. You want something.”
“You wouldn’t consider moving, would you? No?” Again, she shrugged. “Well, you can’t have everything. But you’re right. I do want something.” She looked Lisa directly in the eyes. “I want to know why you’ve been harassing my aunt?”
Lisa went slack jawed.
“I-I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she stammered.
“Really?” Rachel put a hand on her hip. “I thought you were supposed to be such a great actress.” A cat-like grin spread across her face. “With such big dreams. And that’s the best you can do?”
“Look,” Lisa said, “I was jogging, and your aunt said hello. We chatted for a few minutes. I don’t see why that should concern you.”
Lisa watched Rachel’s eyes grow cold, ominous.
“You’re filling my dear auntie’s head with lies. Telling her I’ve done something that I haven’t.”
“So you’re saying that what Danielle suspected isn’t true?”
“And there it is…”
“Isn’t it unfortunate that Danielle killed herself?” Lisa said. “Must be convenient for you. One less person to get in the way.”
A thin smile crossed Rachel’s lips. “I could say the same about you.”
Lisa eyed Rachel warily. What was she up to?
“What do you mean?”
Again that damn shrug. Rachel quipped, “Oh you know me. Always seeing the bad where there isn’t any. We were all like that. You, Danielle, and I. How did we ever survive as roommates?”
Lisa muttered, “It wasn’t that way at first…”
“Well, it doesn’t matter now.” Rachel spoke as if she hadn’t heard Lisa. “I just want you to stay away from my Aunt Sonya. She doesn’t need you adding to her delusions.”
Lisa’s eyes narrowed.
“I wouldn’t say she’s delusional.”
“My parents died in an unfortunate accident,” Rachel said. “I don’t need you or anyone else dredging up those memories. It was awful. I—”
She stopped abruptly, too choked up to continue. The sudden emotion astonished Lisa, who wondered if it was genuine or a fine bit of acting. She’d always had a difficult time reading Rachel. Could this be another bluff?
Taking a different tactic, Lisa quipped, “Well, I’m sure you have other more important things to do. Like Josh maybe?”
Lisa saw it for just an instant. A look, like a flash of lightning, crossing Rachel’s face that revealed the disgust Rachel had for her. It was gone so quickly, but she’d glimpsed it.
“What on earth are you implying?”
“You’ve been over at Josh’s house quite a few times—”
Rachel interrupted, “The man’s wife died. Is it so unthinkable of me not to offer a bit of sympathy? She was our roommate.”
Lisa smiled. “Really?”
Rachel looked at her blankly.
“You had eyes for Josh before he started dating Danielle. I was there, remember.” Lisa looked toward her right, staring at the back of Rachel and Todd’s house. “Course, that was before you stole Todd away from me.”
“Oh, not this again.”
“Well,” Lisa said, “you are the one who popped by for a visit.”
“What was I thinking,” Rachel said wryly.
For a moment—one standing, one lounging—they shared a common thought. They both considered how toxic their relationship had become which each other, and for the briefest instant, included Danielle in that equation. Snapping out of their own inner monologues, they eyed each other, sizing each other up for some future move.
Rachel was the first to continue the game.
“How’s your sister faring these days?”
Again, Lisa regarded Rachel warily. “Fine, I guess.”
“I just wondered. Her husband doesn’t seem well. I suppose he was rather upset when Danielle died.”
Where is she going with this? Lisa wondered.
“I do hope he hasn’t backslidden into old habits.”
“I’m sure he’s fine.”
Lisa endured Rachel’s typical scrutiny with aplomb.
“Well, I’m sure you would know.”
With that, Rachel turned on her heel, muttered something to the effect, “see you later,” and walked away.
Lisa watched her former roommate and current next-door neighbor’s retreat with a momentary sense of relief. Sadly, she knew all too well that this was one conversation, unlike Craig’s, that wasn’t truly over.
This scene would have followed the bridge game in the first chapter, but occur before the events of the second. While this might have heightened the conflicts central to the story, its inclusion, however, would have lengthened the time it took to introduce the main characters, Tim and Marie Dewitt, the sleuths of the novel.
Ultimately, its hard to know if it was best to cut or include this scene as it can be a subjective choice. What are your thoughts? Should it have been included in the novel or would it have interrupted the flow of the first few chapters?
Reproduction of the whole or a portion of this excerpt without prior consent of the author is prohibited.