Another of Sam’s annoying habits is rambling. Often he says something and says it again, albeit with a clever slant, and then has the gall to say it again.
In my opinion, a clever statement isn’t the third try. It’s the first — the one with the most clout.
Here is an example of Sam’s needless ramblings. This is a scene where he is sucking up to Sheriff Uriah Jersey to save himself jail time:
“I shot at him and missed? Listen, Sheriff, I shot at him, all right, but I danged well didn’t miss. He was aiming down on my dog with a scattergun. And I can tell you if he’d killed Ballou, I would have killed him right there. Two things you don’t take from a man west of the Big Muddy. One’s his horse. The other’s his dog. I aimed for the barrel of his shotgun and I danged well hit it square. Knocked the gun right out of his hands. I’d say I more or less saved his life with one shot.”
Sam, I hate to tell you this, but the more you beg the less likely you’ll save yourself.
Here’s how I cleaned up Sam’s mess, to quicken the pace and save him from his pathetic begging:
“I shot at him, all right, but I danged well didn’t miss. He was aiming to kill my dog with a scattergun, and had he done it, I would have dropped him right there. Two things you don’t take from a man west of the Big Muddy are his horse and his dog. I aimed for his scattergun and knocked it away. Teal Webster’s lucky ’cause one quick shot saved him from dying.”
Here’s the value in the rewrite.
Sam’s original dialogue totaled 101 words. Sam’s rewrite totaled 73. By my math, that’s over a 27% savings –– shorter and quicker with more information.
Of course, some readers might say that there’s nothing wrong with Sam’s ramble and they could be right. I’m not the reader, so I don’t know. I do know this — the faster a bullet hits, the faster the results. Sam’s explanation needed trimming to simulate his fast shooting, so I toned down his self-absorption to meet that need.
In closing then, a horse is a horse by any other name is a horse — simply stated and with a lot more speed and accuracy — is a horse.