The photo above is titled Night Clouds and is by WVS, the photographer behind Daily Dose of Imagery. You really should view it large size as it’s quite spectacular. You can also view a blog entry on how this photo was created. This photograph is used here in accordance with WVS’s Creative Commons license.
Anyway, The Night Girl passed the 40,000 word mark last night. Not bad at all. This averages out to roughly 5,000 words per month over the past four months, and with luck, I might have a first draft of this story finished by the end of this month, which would complete a nearly four-year writing process.
Rosemary and Time, long before it became The Unwritten Girl, went from pen-to-paper through to first draft in five months (August to December 2001), while its sequels took about a year to eighteen months to reach first draft stage. One reason The Night Girl took longer was because reaching the first draft of the other three novels was only the beginning of the story. The Unwritten Girl took four and a half years to go from first draft to published novel, while Fathom Five took closer to five years. During this time, there was a lot of revising and editing.
Still, finishing the first draft is an accomplishment that’s worth celebrating, I think, and I intend to celebrate.
I don’t think I’ve found the entire plot to this story yet. Perhaps there needs to be another human character to counterpoint the goblins or complicate Perpetua’s life. Somebody from the government who is in the know, perhaps? Or perhaps Perpetua’s mother? The problem is, I’d considered these ideas before and rejected them. Maybe it’s time to revisit this, and right now Perpetua’s mother strikes me as having more potential given the story’s focus on Perpetua.
Yes, sometimes writing can be just this sort of frustrating struggle of discovery. Below is a scene about midway through the book. I wrote it to give Earthenhouse greater motivations to do the alarming things he contemplates at the climax, and also to answer a potential problem in the drama of the story. In this story I’m saying that at least some of the goblins and trolls woke up after being buried underground; this fits in with some legends that make the most of the stone flesh of these creatures, suggesting that they pop up out of the ground fully formed, and putting them back there puts them to sleep.
The problem is, doesn’t this make them practically immortal? Am I removing a key element of drama, that being consequence? With that in mind, this scene came about. I hope it works, and I look forward to your comments.
In this scene, Perpetua, wondering what the secret division Earthenhouse was operating was, infiltrates what turns out to be a construction site building a subway beneath Eglinton Avenue. The site is full of goblins and trolls, very efficiently digging the earth away. The human foreman, hearing Perpetua works for Earthenhouse, gives her a full tour, but then an accident occurs.
A rumble began to echo in Perpetua’s chest, a low growl like a passing subway train, but much closer this time. She felt the ground shake, and her vision wobbled. The other workers staggered and stopped what they were doing. She heard one close to her mutter, “Oh, no, not again.”
Then the trolls around the tunnel entrance turned and began shooing the humans back. The rumble grew to a roar of cracking, crumbling rock. The human workers looked around in horror. Perpetua ran forward. The air left her lungs as a troll put out its hand and blocked her.
From the tunnel, a cloud of rock burst forth. The humans scrambled away, turned their heads, covered their faces. The troll holding her pushed itself in front of her. Stones smacked the leathery skin and flew past. They were enveloped in a fog of choking dust. Then the rumbling eased to just a clink of a stray rock falling, and the scuff of a workboot.
Perpetua spat dirt from her mouth, pushed back from the troll and looked around. The trolls still formed a protective cordon around the tunnel entrance. The humans milled about, dusting themselves off, looking… She blinked. Frustrated.
The goblins, she noticed, were edging towards the tunnel entrance, peering inside, waving away the settling dust and picking at the fallen rock, as though… As though they were mounting a rescue mission.
Thompson sighed. “So much for being ahead of schedule.”
Perpetua staggered. “Are there people in there?” she exclaimed. “Aren’t you going to do something?”
“There’s nobody in there,” he said. “Just stoners. No hurry. They’ll take care of it.”
She sputtered. “What— Wait— You—” Her arms jerked, unsure whether to grab him for more information or throttle him because he so thoroughly deserved it, but Thompson was already hurrying off. She started after him, but stopped when she felt something tug at the hem of her dress. She looked down. A goblin looked up at her, beady eyes and lots of teeth. He gave her an encouraging smile. She gulped.
Then he reached out. “Come,” he said.
She sucked her teeth, then decided honesty was the best policy, here. “I’m… not supposed to be here. And I don’t know—”
The goblin’s smile vanished. He reached out again and beckoned. “Come and see.”
She frowned. “Didn’t you hear me?”
“You work for Earthenhouse,” said the Goblin. “You speak for Earthenhouse. You need to see.”
“Okay,” she said, taking his stony hand. Then, she added, “but don’t tell Earthenhouse I was here. I’ll do that.”
“Whatever you say.” He led her across the cavern, past the line of trolls, towards the tunnel mouth. She coughed on the swirling dust. Another goblin approached and handed her a flashlight. She took it nervously and switched it on.
Her throat tightened in horror. The cave-in blocked the tunnel with ragged pieces of rock. The goblins were gathering around. At the bottom of a scree of stones, she saw a tangle of limbs, half buried in the dirt; hard to see because they were the same colour as the dirt. The other goblins were carefully picking away the stones and tossing the rocks aside. Too slowly. It must have suffocated by now.
She jumped when the limbs jerked, and the figure sat up. Dirt fell away, and she found herself staring down at a stone imp, which dug itself out of the ground.
“Card,” said the goblin whose hand she realized she was still holding.
“Business card. Got one?”
Did he mean Earthenhouse’s business cards? Numbly, she pulled her hand free and felt in her rucksack. She pulled out the small case she’d filled on her first day. She opened it and pulled out a card bearing Earthenhouse’s address and phone number. She looked down at the imp and, tossing the card away, knelt close. “Hey!”
The imp’s head jerked up with the sound of two stones clicking together.
She looked into the imp’s eyes, and wondered how you checked a goblin for brain damage. It was hard to look for dilated pupils in eyes that were all pupils.
“Can you hear me?” she asked. “Do you understand me?”
The imp looked up at her. It nodded.
“Do you know who you are?”
The imp blinked. “No. I just woke up.”
She groaned inside. “What’s the last thing you remember?”
“I just woke up.”
“He won’t remember,” said the goblin beside her.
Perpetua bit her lip. “I’m not a medical doctor! What can I do?” Her voice rose with panic.
“Give him the business card.”
“How’s that going to help?!”
The goblin patted her arm. She stared at it, then at him.
“He won’t remember,” he said. “He just woke up.”
“You don’t understand,” said the goblin.
“No, I don’t.”
“He went underground,” said the goblin. “He new goblin, now. When you go underground, you forget who you are. You come out somebody else.”
Perpetua looked from the imp, to the goblin, and back. “This is normal?” she said to the goblin.
The imp smiled at her. “Can you give me a name?”
Perpetua knelt, mouth agape, for a second. Then she mustered herself enough to fish through her rucksack again and hand over another one of Earthenhouse’s business cards. “Go here. He’ll know how to help you.”
The imp looked the goblin, who nodded. Then it plucked the card from her fingers and stood up, shedding stones and dust, and ambled away down the tunnel. At the rockfall, the goblins resumed picking away stones, looking for others buried beneath.
“He’s all right?” she said, listening to her own voice as though it belonged to someone else. Then she shook her head, hard. “No. He wasn’t. He had amnesia.”
The goblin frowned at her. “Am. Nesia?”
“He didn’t know who he was. He must have head injuries - he needs to go to hospital—”
“He didn’t know who he was, because he was new.”
“But—” She sputtered.
“The rockfall ended the old, created the new.”
Perpetua struggled to picture this. Just like the legends said, these creatures slept underground. They lived underground; a rockslide meant nothing to them; they were immortal. Except they weren’t.
As her gaze followed the newly awake goblin as it ambled out of the tunnel, she caught sight of another goblin watching it go, a sad cast to its shoulders. An old friend, perhaps, that now had to start all over again.
She gave her business cards to the goblin who’d led her into the tunnel, and got out as fast as she could.