The Black Dress

Photo by Roz Morris / Photo editing by Terrabyte Graphics

Photo by Roz Morris / Photo editing by Terrabyte Graphics

Deleted Scene from “My Memories of a Future Life,” by Roz Morris

This is a scene I wanted to include in my novel My Memories of a Future Life. Briefly, the narrator is a musician who is injured, and is clinging to the hope that rest will cure her. In the early part of the novel she is making bargains with fate—if she rests, the universe will give her back her playing and her life.

I didn’t want to delete this from the book, but I had other scenes that made the same point. When I’m in final revisions I cut ruthlessly. I frequently ditch material that is perfectly good, and that includes scenes that I’m in love with. It takes discipline and soul-searching, but by that stage the story has a will of its own that overrides my ego. It doesn’t listen to me wail that I liked a scene. It is ruled by an overall rhythm of event, event, event; onwards, onwards, onwards. If a scene circles over already trodden ground, something must go.

So this is a scene I cut reluctantly. I liked its simplicity, the tiny slice it showed of a musician’s life and the totemic responsibility Carol put into one garment. In real life it was inspired by a family heirloom—another tug for the heartstrings, although that matters to no one but me. Even though it didn’t make it to the page, I like to think she still did it, off screen in the moments we didn’t see.


The house was quiet. On the coat rack next to the door was a dress in dry-cleaner’s wrappers. A Post-it note was stuck to the cellophane, scrawled with Jerry’s flamboyant script.

Picked this up for you. The dry cleaners were about to give it to Oxfam.

The dress was black velvet, three-quarter length. A performance dress. Classical musicians have a bizarre working wardrobe; you wear what you like for rehearsals, but performances demand formal wear. For the women it had to be black, with a modest neckline, a skirt at least nine inches below the knee. It was a constant battle to find clothes that obeyed those rules and weren’t funereal.

I’d found this dress in Camden Lock market three weeks ago. I wouldn’t have been there if I’d been playing, but I was out roaming London on another tour of nothing. The dress was on a rail between pseudo-Victorian nightgowns and mangy fur tippets. It was unloved—the seam split on one side; the other side fastened only by ancient press studs which left an alarming glimpse of flesh underneath. But the other seams were tough enough for a performance. The velvet was silk and the pile so fine it hung from my shoulders like liquid. I took it to the cleaners and discussed repairing it and putting in a zip. They warned me it would take a few weeks. That was fine, I said.

I left it there. It would count the days for me. I imagined picking it up on my way back from the hospital and carrying it over the threshold. I’d try it on; we’d nod at each other in the mirror. New start.

Now I didn’t even lift the cellophane to see if they’d done a good job. I threw it straight in the wardrobe and shut the door.


Keys to the Future (Compliments of Q2 Music)

Live from Abrons Arts Center on May 25th, 2011



Roz Morris

Roz Morris

Roz Morris is a bestselling ghostwriter and book doctor. She blogs at and has a double life on Twitter; for writing advice follow her as @dirtywhitecandy, for more normal chit-chat try her on @ByRozMorris. She has a second blog, where she runs The Undercover Soundtrack – a regular feature about writers who use music in their creative process.

My Memories of a Future Life AudioMy Memories Of A Future Life


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14 thoughts on “The Black Dress

  1. Pingback: A performance dress: why a precious scene had to go – guest post at Creative Flux « Nail Your Novel

  2. Lovely…it makes me eager for the dress to come out of the closet. I want to “see” her perform in that dress. Alas, it’s gone. Great photo.

  3. Hi, Roz, Terre, beautiful dress, elegant in its depth and simplicity, just like that extract. It is very moving – I can imagine some of the heartache of having to cut it, but to have the courage to love and let go for the benefit of the greater love, the bigger life, is a wonderful example of a writer’s craft – or any creative endeavour. I’m glad the character had her moment, and I enjoyed sharing the dress, and the cut extract having their time in the limelight too. Trish

  4. I love the scene with the dress. It’s a terrific metaphor for someone trying to repair life. It’s hard when these things have to be cut, been there and done that. 🙂 Thanks for sharing it

  5. Pingback: Carol’s black dress – deleted scene « My Memories of a Future Life

  6. What a beautiful passage!
    I’ve had to chuck parts I really loved on short stories, so I know how you feel.
    However, I’ve seen these extraneous sections in trad. pub. books, and they do not make the story better.
    I bought your book How to Nail Your Novel and am working on my first novel. Fingers crossed. : )

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