Nocturnal Adaptations


The image above is Untitled, by Martin Lambie. It is used in accordance with his Creative Commons licence.

So, as you know, while I’ve been waiting on getting an agent for Icarus Down, I’ve been working on getting The Night Girl into shape, including getting it professionally edited and showing it to a critique group, and sharing it with fellow authors. One such author, JM Frey said something very interesting to me:

I feel like we’re missing half the story. We see a lot of Perpetua at work, which is the central theme of the book, but equally important to the outcome of the plot is her relationship with Fergus. And that isn’t given equal screen time. So, when she yells that he’s her boyfriend, my thought was, “Is he? You’ve only kissed him once.” I would like to see them exhausted, sacked on her sofa after both their shifts. I want to see them on Saturdays when she is bored and playing with Pixel and he has to study. I want to go with them to the Ex, where they get those photo booth pictures taken. I want to see them have a spat and make up on the streetcar. And I want to see the goblins watching them as they do it. It is Perpetua’s relationship with Fergus is the driving force for the goblins coming out, and as such I need to be as invested in it as the reader as I am in Perpetua’s job. (And I feel like your word count is low enough that you can wiggle a few more chapters in there without having to worry that the book is too long for the age range).

I think that’s sage advice. And it also inspired a few scene ideas in me. I’ve decided to write them out and see what clicks, and then we can see how they’ll fit into the wider narrative of the novel.

So, the scene below addresses the issue of just how Perpetua handles going from being just a “night owl” to taking on a regular night shift. It’s glossed over in the current draft, but who says it has to be easy. The scene that follows is close to a first draft, and may be overly talky, but I hope it shows some spark between Perpetua and Fergus. It takes place in Perpetua’s new apartment, after she and Fergus have kissed for the first time…

In her bedroom, Perpetua laid face first on her bed, her snores muffled by her pillow. Beside her, Pixel lay curled up, purring softly. The sunlight against the window set the curtains aglow. Outside, the city growled, but Perpetua wanted no part of it. Not until she was good and ready.

The phone rang. The machine clicked to answer it, but the line went dead. A moment later, the phone rang again. Again, the machine clicked to answer it, but the line went dead. The phone rang a third time.

Perpetua’s hand emerged from the covers and patted at the top of her bedside table, knocking over a book and a glass before finding the phone and pulling the receiver under the covers and to her ear. Her voice croaked. “Okay, whoever this is, you are about to incur my wrath.”

The voice at the other end of the line was infuriatingly chipper. “Hey, Tua? You up yet?”

“Fergus? Why are you incurring my wrath?”

“It’s two in the afternoon,” he said. “This is your wake-up call.”

“You are so dead. You and all chipper people like you.”

“Well, you’ll have to wake up in order to find me first.”

“Fergus, I’ve submitted papers I don’t remember writing, or even turning in. There’s no telling what I can do with any handy sharp object, and did you know that sleepwalking is a valid defense in court?”

“Seriously, though,” he said, “When did you fall into bed? Six a.m.? Six-thirty?”


“And when did you actually get to sleep?”

Perpetua kept a mutinous silence.


She said nothing.


“Fergus, what do you want with me?” she howled.

“To help you wake up. Look, I’m coming over.”

“If you come here, you’ll only make it easier for me to kill you.”

“And I’m bringing coffee.”

She paused. “Okay. You get to live. Provisionally.”

“Be right there.”

“Fine,” she mumbled. And she let the phone drop out of her bed and onto the floor.

She blinked once, and fifteen minutes passed. Someone was knocking on the door, and not giving up.

Groaning, she rolled out of bed. Dressed in her sleep outfit of panties and a long t-shirt, she peered groggily through the peephole, then opened the door.

Fergus stood there, holding out a large cup, as though offering alms.

She blinked at him a moment, then opened the door wider to let him in. She snatched the coffee from his hand before he took two steps and took a deep swig. “Mmm!” She could feel it working already.

“Good afternoon,” said Fergus, as she closed the door.

“What was all that about?” She gave him a firm stare. “Who said you could give me a wake up call?”

He took a sip of his own coffee. “Well, you’re a night owl,” he said, “But you’re not a night worker. Big difference, there.”

“Go on,” she said.

“Your body is not used to sleeping by day and working by night,” he replied. “Thousands of years of evolution say so.”

“I’ve been doing okay,” she grumbled.

“Yeah, but you’ve only been at this for a couple of weeks,” he said. “You’re putting a strain on your body unless you teach it to adapt. And that means getting really regular with when you go to sleep and get up. Notice how you couldn’t get to sleep until 90 minutes after you crashed into bed?”

She didn’t answer. Instead she took a swig of her coffee.

“I know what that’s like,” he said. “So I’m helping you adjust.”

“What, just like that?”

He grinned. “Consider it part of the coffee service.”

She let out a short, sharp laugh, then took another swig of coffee.

Fergus looked around her room. “You’re going to need some heavier curtains,” he said. “Or a sleep blindfold. Sunlight stimulates the circadian rhythms, even if your eyes are closed and you’re dead exhausted. That’s not a healthy thing to be exposed to.”

Perpetua groaned. “I didn’t ask for a sleep analysis.”

“Hey, at least I didn’t suggest cutting back on your caffeine late in your shift, like all the doctors say.”

She narrowed her eyes. “If you secretly switch me to decaf, I’ll come after you with a pitchfork!”

He chuckled nervously. “Now there’s an image that will haunt my nightmares forever. Don’t worry, I won’t.”

“All right!” She set her empty coffee cup aside. “I’m up. You’re here. Now what do we do?”

Comments, as always are welcome.

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