Short Story – getting down to business.


While the previous evening was a bit of a struggle, last night was very easy by comparison. Where I struggled to get 597 words down the previous night, I managed 969 in a similar time frame. It’s hard to say why, perhaps it was the children going to bed early, perhaps there was nothing to distract me on the television and perhaps the section I was writing essentially wrote itself – Hannah and Peter arriving at the church, a description of the surroundings, Hannah’s thoughts and misgivings, exploring the church interior and meeting, to their very great surprise as he emerges from the shadows, Father Hanlon.

Either way, a pleasing burst of activity which saw me cross the threshold of 2000 words. Recently, I’ve been averaging around 4000-4300 words per story, but I sense this one may clock in closer to 6000 – there is still a lot to get through, in terms of Hannah exploring her surroundings, events with the contractors and meeting the villagers (which will be something I’ll have to tackle shortly in the story).

Hannah snorted, staring at the white, humped outline. It reminded her
of a mushroom, spawned out of the damp earth after a shower of rain.

‘Come on Han, don’t pout so much. Come on, let’s have a look inside.’

Even now, after all the disappointments and arguments, he could make
her smile, and a little bit of her hated him for it. She stood on one
foot, and rubbed the sole of the other, then changed position.
Finally, with Peter waiting impatiently at the top of the steps,
Hannah moved to join him.

Building characters, or at least revealing their characteristics, is a bit by bit proposition. I suppose the impulse to get into a character’s head and give the reader an infodump comprising all the main elements of their life history, is strong. But I prefer to let that info out drip by drip, in conversation, in looks, in responses to questions or situations. The most important point I have to remember is that a character isn’t black or white – Peter isn’t completely selfish, and Hannah isn’t a shrew. Both of them want the best for themselves and each other, and their relationship isn’t so poisonous that they’ve forgotten that. A better writer than myself would know how to convey that better; at the moment, I’m feeling my way in the dark.

More atmosphere:

The steps were warm in the dwindling sunlight, the sandstone smoothed
by years of passing feet, the salty wind and the cold lashing rain
that fell on this part of the coast. She saw whorls and striations in
the rock, an endless pattern stamped in it tens of thousands of years
ago. A glimpse of the tremendous age of the area fell over her like a
shawl, and she looked up, shivering a little as the sun fell behind a
stand of trees screening a corner of the grounds. She stared hard at
them, noting the markers and stones lined up like soldiers on a parade
ground.

‘I thought you said the church was disinterring the bodies? Are we
going to be living surrounded by a graveyard?’

I think rock forms over 100s of thousands of years, not ‘merely’ tens of thousands – more research!

Overall, I think the writing of the story is shaping up nicely. I can see the way ahead in terms of what I need to write. Sure, sometimes it feels like I’m just dumping words on the screen, but that is what the editing process is all about. Stick around long enough, and I’ll be able to bore you to tears about all that.

See you tomorrow evening.

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