Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Creative Writing Course - Stage 2 - Module 4

Such a great week of information! I highly recommend this online course for anyone who's beginning to write their first novel.

This week was about creating a scene. We had to think about the purposes of the scene, and add dialogue. There was a lot of information this week about developing dialogue. Again, I highly recommend this course by the Sydney Writers' Centre.

Here's my assignment:

Harry watched as the small party of riders made their way slowly along the valley. The sun was already below the ridge line, although the heat of the late February day lingered in the air. The riders folloed the river before veering up the hill towards the homestead, where Harry stood waiting.
He had expected uniformed officers, but these men were all similarly dressed, in moleskin pants and linen vests over their shirts. Harry picked the two stockmen guides from the way they slouched easily in the saddle, not tired from the long days of riding. He recognised the constable as Higginses son from Jamieson. The other two were clearly city men. Their backs were a little too straight, their heels pressed down into their stirrups a little too correctly.
The slim city copper reached Harry first. Harry tipped his hat, but received no acknowledgement from the officer who stood up in his stirrups and performed a stiff-legged dismount. He tossed his reins to one of the stockmen who had come up alongside, before marching up to Harry.
"Detective Alex McKerral," the man announced, extending his hand to Harry and gripping firmly for two quick pumps.
"Harry Smith."
"Well, Harry, show us the way."
He shouldn't have been surprised, because this was why McKerral had travelled three days to get to the homestead. To see Jim. But Harry had thought McKerral would have at least asked a few questions first.
Harry nodded. "Just take the horses around the house paddock to the stable, boys," Harry suggested to the stockmen. The other city officer and Constable Higgins had dismounted. Harry nodded a greeting to Higgins. McKerral didn't bother to introduce Harry to the other man.
Dusk was fast approaching, but Harry lead the three coppers across the valley to the sandy banks of Conglomerate Creek. He indicated south, up the creek, to the pile of rocks that now covered Jim's grave.
McKerral walked carefully around the site. "I assume the rocks are your work." McKerral didn't look at Harry when he spoke. It was not a question, but Harry answered.
"That's right. Jim had been dug up by dingos. I didn't want that to happen again."
McKerral grunted, looking up and down Conglomerate Creek, and then up the valley to the homestead. The other two coppers stood watching McKerral, mute.
"Did you move the body?" McKerral fixed Harry with his icy blue stare.
"His skull was over there," Harry pointed a couple of feet away, towards the creek. "But we, that is Arthur Phillips and I, saw some red cloth poking from the sand here. We dug Jim out. He was wrapped in a red blanket. We wanted to check that Bamford wasn't underneath. He's not."
"Arthur Phillips, the owner?"
"Yes, sir."
McKerral grunted again. "Who's Bamford?"
"The cook and general hand that Jim hired." Harry did not elaborate that John Bamford was missing, and that Harry suspected he had shot Jim. McKerral could work that out himself.
"Well, it's getting too dark now. Show me the house. We'll get the body out at first light." He started striding back to the homestead, with the two officers hurrying to catch up.
Harry took his time, nodding to Jim's grave and muttering, "This is the man they sent for you," before following the other men back across the valley.
- This is the reader's and Harry's first introduction to the detective who leads the investigation into Jim Barclay's murder.
- The division is established between city and county men. Harry is critical of the detective's style in horsemanship, how he proceeds with the investigation, and how he conducts himself with people.
- The detective is working. He's cynical, and suspects everyone. He likes to be in charge. He is critical of the handling of the crime scene, and the possible loss of evidence. Ultimately, he forms the theory that Bamford killed Barclay, and that Harry Smith killed Bamford in revenge.
- Harry refers to Jim by his first name, indicating his close friendship. The detective refers to Jim as 'the body'.

Here's the tutor's comments:

To Jacqui
The dialogue and setting are working well, and the atmosphere feels authentic, which is great.

My only quibble would be that I’d like more of a description of McKerral. How old is he, for example? Looks? Facial features? Just a bit more information to flesh him out.

You could do the same for the other characters as well, but McKerral is the main focus of the scene, so most information should be about him.

Arthur Upfield is terrific at this kind of writing, especially describing characters, and it might pay you to read some of his books if you haven’t already.

An interesting scene and promising story!

Next week is the last week, and then I'm on my own to write ... it's daunting!

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