Author Commentary: Winter’s Shadow Chapter 5

by M.J. Hearle

By the time Winter left the Heritage Centre, the afternoon
light had taken on a much darker quality.

Weather is a great way to affect the mood of a scene. Storm clouds are gathering, both literally and figuratively, in Winter’s world. Da da dummm…

A low rumble of thunder sounded as she crossed
the parking lot to Jessie, her scooter.

I don’t like this sentence. I think it’s a clunky way to introduce Winter’s scooter, Jessie. It could have been done much more artfully. Maybe I should have clipped it at ‘she crossed the parking lot to Jessie.’ – and then added another sentence explaining what Jessie was and the significance of the name. On reflection I suspect I did just this in an earlier draft. It was probably collapsed into one sentence at the editorial stage for ‘pace’ reasons.

This is one of the first instances in the book where I inject some of my own history into the story. Growing up I had a dog called Jessie. She was a yellow Labrador with a gentle disposition and a huge appetite. Whenever I stayed up late to watch horror movies, she’d creep down from her bed in the kitchen and curl up at my feet, keeping me company until the movie finished. We had some good times together. Including her name in the story is my small way of honouring Jessie’s memory.

The whole ‘naming inanimate objects’ thing is something my family has always done. At one point we had a rusty green volvo station wagon which I inherited when I was a teenager. It was never called ‘the volvo’. Instead, we christened the car the Flying Green Cabbage. The significance of the name is lost to me now but whenever I see a green station wagon it pops back into my head. Every family has their own personal quirks that probably don’t make much logical sense to an outsider but resonate emotionally. Hopefully, Winter naming her scooter ‘Jessie’ doesn’t strike the reader as too unusual.

Winter turned to see Blake standing beside a rusty
pick-up truck on the other side of the parking lot.

In these kinds of stories the romantic hero usually drives a fancy car (see Edward in Twilight for evidence of this). I guess it’s part of the fantasy – cool guy, cool car. The reason Blake drives a dirty truck is twofold – a) I’m trying to break with convention; b) he had to be able to transport her scooter and a BMW convertible, while sexy, would have been too small. Function over form.

Good sense told her that anything that
provoked such a strong reaction was probably
bad for her and should be avoided.

It was really hard for me to justify Winter not accepting a lift with Blake. He’s so dreamy after all. Thus, there’s whole paragraphs of her questioning the sense of this decision. Sometimes, you can get away with characters acting stupid or uncharacteristically if they question their own actions. I probably use this technique too often which results in Winter coming across as self-loathing at times.

Pretending to be asleep, she would allow him to carry
her from the car to the bedroom – only to open her eyes
and giggle mischievously as he tucked her in.

Again, this is me bleeding into Winter. I used to do this trick to my dad all the time when I was a kid. Today, he blames his bad knees on this cunning ruse.

She’d only just turned onto Archimedes Drive
and was heading down the mountain towards
town when the initial fat drops fell.

Archimedes Drive. Owl Mountain – geddit? Probably not. It’s an obscure reference that only Disney fanatics (The Sword in the Stone) or Arthurian Legend scholars might pick up. Merlin had an owl that served as his familiar. That owl was called Archimedes. Naming streets is so boring, if I can strike upon a name of some significance I’ll whack it in. You’ve got to keep yourself entertained.

Despite Winter’s desperate pleading, the scooter soon fell silent.

Here I am forcing the plot instead of allowing character to dictate the narrative’s course. First with the broken camera, now with the broken scooter. It works, but only just. I’d like to think as I grow as a writer, I’ll abandon these kind of mechanical contrivances to get my characters together. Either that or learn how to hide them better.

Sitting on the side of the road, Winter watched
the storm rage upon Hagan’s Bluff.

This paragraph describing Hagan’s Bluff is a way self-indulgent. It feels like a first time writer trying to show off which is exactly what it is. I probably could have cut it altogether. Still, I guess it gives a sense of the geography of Hagan’s Bluff. I never know how much detail to add when describing locations? Ultimately, I probably could have left it as a ‘small coastal town’ and gotten away with it.

My fiancee’s last name is Lackey – hence Lackey RiverWhistler’s Peak is one of those florid type of names I gravitate towards. It’s a little cheesy but fun and better than Widow’s Peak.

‘Hop in,’ Blake said, pushing open the passenger door

I struggled with the last line of this chapter. Initially, Blake said ‘Hop in,’ with sly smile or churlish grin or something like that. I spent far too long agonising over it, so in the end just scrapped the description of his expression altogether. Readers can fill in the gaps – I don’t need to hold your hand. Unless you want me to.