As you may know, I am currently in the process of writing a book that will put the Book of Mormon in novel form. Tentatively titled Out of Jerusalem, that will probably change.
There are many things I need to learn and changes will come as a result of that learning. One is finding my writers voice. Another is seeing the scene from the point of view of the character, really getting into his/her head. Then all the technical aspects of what each character does, those everyday things that I do very differently because I didn’t live in early 6th century BC.
It will all come, but it will take time. For now I am happy to have a large chunk “written down on paper.” You can track the progress in the sidebar on the right.
This is a relatively short snippet I have chosen to share. It’s the opening scene of, not the Book of Mormon, but the story I want to tell. It’s a little long (a little over 2,300 words), but hopefully worth the time.
The glow of the coals in the furnace bathed the otherwise dark room in a red light. Curtains were drawn over the single window keeping out the light of the early afternoon sun. A table sat under the window with several different metal implements set out in a neat and orderly manner, the work of the early morning. The furnace sat along the back wall, opposite the doorway leading to the front of the building. A thick curtain hung there instead of a wooden door separating the work area from the rest of the shop.
A young man set a long rod back into the coals to return the metal to a more manageable temperature. He wore only a light colored tunic, belted at the waist with a simple girdle. His robe hung on a peg near the doorway.
He was tall with dark hair falling in waves to his shoulders. Despite a length of leather encircling his brow to keep his hair from falling into his eyes, he brushed unruly locks out of his eyes. Trickles of sweat ran down his face and neck, forming dark patches on his tunic and making his skin glisten as he worked the bellows to keep the coals at the proper temperature.
Using tongs he removed the metal rod from the coals and picked up a small hammer from among other tools on a nearby bench. He used the hammer and anvil to work the rod’s end to a point. Then using the shape of the anvil he gently bent the point back toward the rod’s shaft.
Another thrust into the coals and a steady working of the bellows brought the newly formed hook back to the proper temperature. He selected a new tool from the bench and drew the rod from the coals. Gripping it tightly with the tongs and bracing the tool against the top of the hook he gave it a twist. The hook separated from the rod.
The young man traded his tool for the hammer again. With skill showing a love of workmanship he smoothed and rounded the top of the hook. A final movement created a hole in the top of the hook. With the hook’s design finished the youth thrust the hook and tongs into a small barrel of water with a hiss. Steam rose from the barrel.
Once cooled he drew out the hook and added it to the collection on the table, setting it just so within the pattern he had laid out with the other items.
It was the end of his shift that started early this morning. He slid back the curtain on the window, allowing early afternoon sunlight to stream into the room. It only made it hotter inside the furnace room, but the light was good. He could feel his tunic cling to his back and chest. He grabbed at the front of the clothing, pulling at it quickly to create some semblance of a breeze. A large amount of dust motes caught the light as they floated in front of the window.
He walked to the doorway, grabbed his robe from off the peg and pulled the heavy curtain aside. He stepped into the brightly lit section of the building. The front portion of the shop was open to the air, covered with layers of blankets and drapes suspended between wooden posts planted in the ground on either side and extending away from the rough stone building housing the furnace. Smaller wood posts formed a sort of mesh between the larger main posts casting a criss-cross pattern on the ground.
The front was open to the street where the crowds were lessening at this time of day. Most would be on their way home or at least somewhere to spend the hottest part of the day in some shade. The buzz of voices and animals was still loud though. Several of the nearby shops sold animal skins, oils or scented candles. The aroma was pungent and not particularly pleasant, but he had grown used to it.
The shop itself was not large, perhaps ten paces square, and lined with waist high shelves containing wares. Metal wood working tools and other implements, along with the tools were mixed in with other twisted and serpentine pieces that were of a more decorative nature. Most work was not done unless there was an order, but sometimes a customer didn’t pay or cancelled the order after the fact. Those pieces were part of the collected inventory.
Benches flanked the doorway to the forge and a work table sat infant of one of them. Lehi sat at that table, a variety of carpentry tools laid out before him. He was an older man whose hair had gone gray many years ago, before he had even started feeling old. Except for a small patch of dark that persisted in the center of his forehead. His beard was full and came to a point on his chest. Though old he had broad shoulders, barrel chest and much of the energy of youth. He could still best his sons two out of three times in games requiring strength. His face had shown more wrinkles over the years and his thick gray brows hung low. A sharp nose and rare, light colored eyes set deep in an olive complected face described his features. His hands were tough and worn from years of working metal, crafting tools and ornaments for citizens here at Jerusalem and the surrounding country. He wore a light colored wool tunic with a dark brown mantle covering. He had removed his sandals when he had arrived earlier this morning. They sat on the ground near the door to the street, set out of the way but easily accessible.
“Father,” he said as he entered the room, “I’ve completed all the work you wanted me to do. Is there anything else you need today?”
Lehi looked up from his meticulous work, staring for a moment as if trying to remember who the young man was. His smile was quick and warm. “Nephi! Done already?”
“Yes, father,” the young man replied. “Is there anything else you need? If not…”
Lehi set down the piece he was working on and stood with a laugh. He walked toward Nephi with outstretched arms. “Come here, son.” He wrapped Nephi in a tight hug.
“Papa!” Nephi said in exasperation. “You act like you haven’t seen me in years!”
Lehi laughed as he released his tight grip. “Oh, Nephi. Can’t an old man express his love for his son?”
“Not in public,” Nephi said under his breath.
Apparently Lehi still heard. He let out a loud guffaw and slapped Nephi on the shoulder. He walked back to the work table still laughing. Nephi thought he heard something about teenagers through the laughter.
“No, no. You can go, Nephi. I only have the fine work to do. I know you don’t like it.”
“It’s not that I don’t like it. I’m just not that good at it,” Nephi said.
Lehi sighed as he sat back down and took up his tools again. “You just don’t want to spend the time to become good.” Lehi fixed his son with a look. “You have the talent, even if you don’t see it. More than any of your brothers. I will not force you to do what you do not want to do, but I can’t help wonder if that is the right thing to do.”
Nephi shifted from one foot to the other, looking intently at the ground. “Papa, I’m sorry. Perhaps one day, but I just don’t feel like I do have any talent. I don’t see it.”
“That’s because you don’t look for it.” He waved a hand toward Nephi, shaking his head as Nephi opened his mouth to say something. Nephi’s mouth snapped shut. “No. Go, my son. Today is not the day to have this old discussion.”
Nephi hesitated, looking at his father. At his hands. How deftly they worked the tools, inscribing intricate patterns onto the piece he was working on. It truly was amazing what he could do. Nephi himself could only dream of crafting something so beautiful. And making it look easy.
Nephi hurried out into the street, eager to return home and change out of this sweat soaked tunic.