A PEEK AT HE PROCESS #2: THRYFFS
In an early draft of REDISCOVERED, the inhabitants of my alien planet rode aloft on giant birds called thryffs. I liked thryffs, which had jewel-colored iridescent feathers and golden eyes. Then, as I toiled over the novel, I realized that I wanted it to be a work of pure science fiction, with no fantasy elements at all. I enjoy fantasy--I had read the entire Lord of the Rings trilogy three times before the first LOTR movie appeared in theaters--but I prefer not to mix fantasy with SF.
I have always had doubts about birds, no matter how large, as mounts for human beings. If I wanted to keep my thryffs in the book, I had to satisfy myself that they would be realistic as rides. So I began some research, and within five minutes I learned that no bird weighing more than thirty-five pounds could lift even its own weight off the ground. That made it conclusive that no bird could fly bearing the weight of a man, or even a child. So that was that. Goodbye thryffs!
Removing a recurring element from a story is complicated. First I had to take out all references to riding on thryffs, Then I had to rewrite all those passages using another form of transportation, incorporating the differences in experience which the change involved. Since the new way of getting around was slower, I also had to take the time factor into account, making sure that my characters didn't arrive at their destinations as early as they had before on a thryff. If the inclusion of these magnificent birds had had a direct (or even indirect) effect on the plot, I shudder to think how much more difficult it would have been to remove and replace them. Luckily, they were only incidental.
I haven't given them up entirely, though. The thryffs will be back in the sequel, miniaturized, as pets.
Come back next Friday, when I'll serve up another Teaser.