Behind The Writing: November Snow

Blog No 107

With any good behind the writing, I start with the link to the original story so you can go read it and avoid any spoilers. Because, of course there will be spoilers.

I’ve never written anything like November Snow. I think I tried once in high school, but that was a long time ago (and I didn’t finished anything back then). The first person genera is a little bit of an odd duck. It is often ties with mystery or detective novels and I think that’s mostly because of Arthur Conan Doyle (are we supposed to call him sir?). While not all Holmes stories were in first person, many of the memorable ones were. By no means was he the first person to write in that way either, but you can’t take away from the reach of a character like Holmes (especially currently). While I wasn’t attempting to write anything like Sherlock Holmes (or any other Doyle story for that matter) I was planning on writing a detective story, so first person felt right. The pulp authors did it, so why shouldn’t I?

I see short stories as a fifteen minute recess in grade school. You have enough time to play one game, maybe try something new, get over one hurdle (metaphorically, we only did hurdling at recess when it was track and field season, and then, only in the last few grades). Before school, after school, and at lunch, there was a much longer time to play. Kids could organize a game or two, explore one or a few things more fully, and play games to their conclusion (usually). The longer recesses weren’t always the best time for experimentation, the short ones often were. So I took this opportunity to try something different with my short story. Just like I’ve never written in first person, I’ve never written about a detective either. (Technically I still haven’t I guess).

The narrator’s story came from situation. Much like what we at Adventure Worlds would like to do, he has started a small business with a partner in a trendy neighbourhood. He is having more of a rough time than we are, but he’s also embarking on a new part of his life. Things are tough, but maybe not as bad as he wants it to be. He certainly had a tragic event happen (being kicked off the police force) but it’s uncertain what he did (or is accused of doing). For all we know, he was guilty and is lucky he didn’t end up in jail. That’s one of the subtleties I really like with the first person narrative. How do we know we can believe the narrator? In a third person story, it’s almost taken for granted that the narrator is on our side. He (or she) takes the reader’s hand and tells them a story. What reason do they have to lie than for the author to mess with you? A first person narrator is telling you his (or her) story. Just like any person, they’ll paint you a picture they want you to see. In their head they are a persecuted hero, even if they are really a piece of shit. Poetry often does that marvelously. A great example is Frost’s famous Road not Taken. (I get a kick out of how badly it’s misinterpreted). The narrator ends the poem telling the reader that when he’s older, he’ll tell people that the path he chose made the difference. But he spends the first half of the thing telling the reader that there is no difference, “Though as for that the passing there, Had worn them really about the same.”

So my narrator tells his story. It’s pretty detailed with his morning routine, the noting the snow (with would have made more sense if it was posted in November like it was originally intended to be) telling how he met his partner, indicating that he is really the one with the gift. He doesn’t really do much (as was indicated a couple times in the comments) and we definitely don’t get to see him in action. He has his awkward confrontation with the girl (I’ve noticed I have a tendency to make characters who are often under the influence of strong, vibrant, women) and he goes back to his home/office. Initially I did intend to have a case for him to solve, with the help of his partner, and show that there was something to her psychic claim. Though, once I got into writing about him and his morning, I ran out of room. By the time I got to the end, I felt like I have written what I wanted. So really, I went from being a detective story to the exploration of a single character in a single point of his story. I’m happy with how it turned out and don’t think I’ll get back to this one again. I do want to try a detective story one day. I think I’ll start with a mystery to solve though, see where that takes me.

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