Novel – Chapter Two

Warning – This story includes some sensitive issues that might upset some readers.


They brought Lenny home.

His tiny body was laid in his crib and placed in the front room on the table. Grace had bathed him – cleaning all the folds and crevices of his flesh, as he lay silent and still. Bill had watched from his chair beside the fire as she dressed Lenny in his baby clothes of gown, jumper, hat, and socks.

The funeral was planned and Bill worked on the coffin. The neighbours understood. They did not mind the sawing and hammering on the balcony outside the flat, and held their heads down as they passed by in respect for his loss. His heart broke, but his eyes were dry. Questions filled his head. Most of them started with why. It seemed that loss and grieving would be a constant in their lives. How could anyone remain committed through such pain?

It was cold that day and the snow had started to fall again. The chill went through Bill’s gloves and coat, and to his bones. He sat outside on the stairs sanding the corners of the coffin. The fragrance of the wood was some comfort in his sorrow.

‘I am going out, Bill.’ Grace pushed by him on the stairs, lent down, and kissed him on the cheek. He looked up at her. She pinned her cloche hat on her hair. ‘Keep an eye on Arthur will you?

He nodded. Grace buttoned up her brown coat, and walked on down the stairs.

Bill continued to sand. He breathed in the scent of the wood as though he was breathing the air. He thought he could smell the sea mingled with the sawdust. That smell caught his imagination as he smoothed his youngest boy’s last vessel. He imagined travelling across distant oceans. His grief was thrown to the far, sodden edges of the world.

‘Dad?’ Arthur’s voice interrupted his dreams.

‘Yes?’ Bill looked up at his son.

‘Where’s Mum?’ Arthur sat down next to Bill on the stair. His skinny frame was overwhelmed in a blue coat two sizes too big for him. Forever practical, Grace had said he would grow into it and anyway didn’t he look sweet?

‘Out,’ said Bill and ruffled his son’s wilful mane.

‘When she coming back? I’m hungry.’

‘Soon. Come here and help sand for Lenny.’ Bill passed Arthur a piece of used sandpaper.

‘For Lenny?’ Then, as if he remembered Lenny’s tiny body laid out in his crib, Arthur said, ‘He’s sleeping.

‘He is,’ said Bill. ‘He’s with the angels.’

‘Where’s that?’ Arthur’s faced screwed up quizzically. Because his bottom jaw was misaligned, he always looked determined as his chin pushed its way forward.

Bill pointed with his finger up in the air.

‘Eh? How’d he get up there?’ Arthur said smiling as if he didn’t believe a word of it.

‘He passed, Arthur lad.’

‘Is he with God? If he is, my mate Tommy said that only good kids go there. Tommy’s mum told him.’

Bill nodded.

‘And Ginger said naughty boys go to hell. And it’s hot in hell.’

‘He’s with God, Arthur, Lenny’s with God.’

This seemed to satisfy Arthur and, using the paper his dad has given him, he wiped it across the wood. He then stroked the coffin with his hand.

‘It feels soft,’ he said and stroked it again. Bill took his gloves off and stroked the top of the casket too. His heart ached. Bill wiped away a tear as Arthur looked up at him.

‘Are you crying?’ he asked.

Bill looked away and shook his head. ‘I’m all right,’ he said.

Sounds of children floated up the stairwell from the courtyard. Arthur’s head shot round and he looked down the stairs then back at his dad.

‘Can I go and play?’ Arthur asked. Bill nodded and Arthur leaped down the stairs two at a time towards the shouts and screams of his friends.

Bill’s thoughts continued with Lenny. Life meant death. Death was a certainty. How could you keep on going with that knowledge? He reckoned it was the good times like Christmas that kept him going.

Last Christmas had been the first one they’d had without Grace’s mum. He’d thought Grace wouldn’t get through it without her mum, but Lenny had kept her occupied. They’d visited Grace’s sister, Daisy, over in Croydon and the weather had been awful. By the time the train arrived at the station, it started to snow. Arthur climbed down onto the platform and poked his tongue out to the floating flakes of ice. Bill helped Grace down from the train and they walked the short distance to Daisy’s home.

It was a terraced house on a street lined with maple trees. The trees’ skeletons shivered in the wind and their leaves lay abandoned and crushed on the pavement. As Bill’s family bent themselves into the wind and snow, they could hear noises coming from the house.

Bill opened the gate and Arthur ran up the path to the front door. He snapped the letterbox twice and Grace used the doorknocker to announce their arrival. Bill watched Lenny stir against her—he seemed to feel the thrill of their arrival too.

Grace’s sister, Daisy, opened the door and ushered them in. ‘You’re here on time. The snow’s started… I was worried it’d slow you down – you know what trains are like. One leaf on the track and that’s it – delays.’ She wiped her hands on her grease-stained pinafore before she hugged her sister and put her hand up to Bill’s face. ‘Glad to see you.’

Arthur snuggled his auntie’s thighs and then ran off to find his cousin, Ray. Bill sighed. He was glad they’d made it to Daisy’s without problems.

He followed Daisy down the narrow hallway that ran from the front door to the kitchen. The night was cold outside, but Daisy’s home was warm and the bright rugs on her wooden floors brought colour to the house.

Grace’s eldest sister, Issy, was rolling out dough as Bill entered the kitchen. She looked up at Bill and gave him a hug. While Daisy was a plump dumpling, Issy was tall and slender like a silver birch tree.

Turkey smells wafted from the oven. The kitchen table was covered with utensils, flour, and jars of mincemeat, and shelves filled with tins and bottles covered the wall next to the stove. Bill watched Daisy walk over to the kitchen sink, look out of the window to the twilight, and then draw the green curtains shut. He opened his duffel bag and put the goodies, including a Christmas pudding, on to the table. Grace started making the pudding in January. It needed time to mature, she’d say. Her brandy butter was also popular. ‘Waste of good brandy,’ her mother had always said as she’d shovelled mouthfuls of pudding covered with the stuff into her mouth. They’d all laughed. Christmas wouldn’t be the same without her.

Grace had been devastated when her mother had died quite suddenly of a heart attack. Bill had come home from work and had found her in the kitchen, preparing supper, with tears streaming down her face. Tears he could handle—it was the long silence on a Sunday afternoon, as she would stare out of the window that he found disturbing.

‘Bill,’ Daisy’s husband Fred slapped him on the back with his good arm. ‘How are you?’

‘All right,’ Bill answered as he opened the pantry door and emptied bottles of beer from his bag onto a shelf.

‘And how’s work?’

‘Fine,’ Bill said. He poured two glasses of beer and thrust one at Fred.

‘Cheers!’ Fred said as he held out his beer. They chinked glasses.

Bill liked Fred. He fished the Thames with Fred during the summer. They both dangled their legs over the side of the wharf and threw the lines into the water. The bobbing of the waves was echoed in the dipping of Fred’s head as he talked. Bill listened and Fred talked.

‘Are they keeping you busy?’ Fred continued.

‘Yes. Big order just came in.’

‘It keeps food on the table, eh?’

‘Yes. And you?’

‘Can’t complain. We found a new assistant for the shop. He’s a hard worker. That’s all you can ask for really.’

Bill nodded in agreement.

‘We might be expanding next year,’ Fred continued. ‘The barber next door is closing – might be a good prospect.’

Arthur ran into the room and circled the kitchen table. ‘Dad! Look what I’ve got.’ He swooped up to Bill and pushed a wooden aeroplane into his chest. Bill smiled, grabbed the plane, and whirled around in a circle holding the plane up high.

Looking back down at Arthur, he said, ‘That’s a fine plane, Arthur boy. Will you fly that one day?’

‘No, Dad,’ replied Arthur, ‘I’m going to be a sailor like you.’

Bill ruffled his son’s hair and followed him back to the front room.

Arthur threw himself down on the rug next to his cousin, Ray.

‘Hi, Arthur,’ Ray called out through a mass of red hair and freckles. He sat in a dump of toys. ‘You wanna play with those?’ He said pointing to alphabet blocks piled on top of each other.

Arthur shook his head and flew his plane over the tin soldiers marching next to a wooden snake. ‘Nah,’ he said, ‘Wheeeee! Ack Ack Ack.’ He knocked the tin soldiers over with his plane as he pretended to be in battle. ‘What are those?’ he asked Ray.


‘Those chains.’ Arthur pointed to the paper chains that covered the mantelpiece, picture frames, and bookshelves.

‘They’re Christmas decorations. I made them.’

‘They’re good. I’d like to make some too.’

‘It took me ages – it took me weeks,’ Ray said as a huge grin took over his face.

Billy listened to the kid’s chat and looked at the decorations around the room – sprigs of holly with red berries hung from the walls, and branches of fir smelling sharp and sweet fought for space with the paper chains over the fireplace.

‘We can make some paper chains tomorrow, Arthur, if you like,’ he said.

Arthur looked up at him. ‘Really?’

‘Of course.’

‘Like Ray’s decorations?’


‘Thanks, Dad!’ Arthur smiled.

Bill felt his own chest fill up with emotion. He ruffled Arthur’s hair again and moved over towards the fireplace.

While the kids played on the floor, the adults chatted, drank beer, and laughed. Bill looked around the room. Fred hovered behind the tall armchair that had previously been reserved for Grace’s mother. He waved his stump towards the fire, ‘Do warm yourself, Bill. It’s a cold night.’

Grace sat by the window and stroked Lenny’s cheek. Issy plopped down next to her. She kissed the baby’s head. ‘He’s so beautiful. He looks just like you and he smells like a boy – all musky.’

Bill watched Grace smile at this.

She looked over at him. ‘He smells like his Daddy,’ she said.

He smiled at her. She had a way of making him feel loved. He was a lucky man—too lucky really. He didn’t deserve her and he didn’t deserve her family. He left the room and made his way to the back door.

Standing in the yard, he looked up at the frosty sky. His breath condensed in the icy night. Bill took a cigarette from his pocket and struck a match on the brick wall. The smoke tasted sweet and the nicotine relaxed his body.

The kitchen window opened by his shoulder and he heard Daisy’s voice. ‘Ah… that’s much better. It gets hot in here.’ Bill wandered over the flagstones to the gate and looked into the alley. He opened the gate and walked.

When he arrived back in Daisy’s back yard, he leaned against the wall. Lighting another smoke, he listened to the chatter of the women in the kitchen. He heard Grace’s voice through the open window.

‘Most nights, it is hard. He dreams and sweats and thrashes about—it scares me. Sometimes the nightmares are so bad, he wakes up screaming. His screams break my heart, Daisy, the sound terrifies me.’

Bill sighed. He squashed the cigarette under his boot and walked back up the alley away from the house.

Novel – Chapter One

Warning – This story includes some sensitive issues that might upset some readers.


‘Submarine on the port bow!’

A thud of steel on steel shook the ship. Falling hard against the bunk, Bill Dawkins bounced back onto the bulkhead. An explosion rocked the ship again and threw him into the passageway. Fire barred his way to the ladder ahead. He struggled through the mess deck amid crowds of men. He was swimming against a tide.


He moved onwards.

‘Bill! Help!’

He tried to turn his head but the vessel shuddered, shoving him ahead.


The sea surged around his feet. Screams filled his ears. The passageway was crammed and Bill was pushed forward into the galley. He halted in shock. The cook had been thrown head down onto the stove. His hair was on fire and his body twitched. Gagging, Bill was propelled past the man with the meat cleaver planted in his neck. His eyes stared open as blood pumped from his artery.

On to the deck, Bill found the India was split in two. Its aft was on fire. On past men flinging themselves into the icy water. He felt desperate as he looked for help. Ahead was a lifeboat edging its way down the side of the carrier. He threw his hefty frame into it amid shouts of ‘get off me, Dawkins!’ and ‘oi, you’re on me foot.’

The ship was sinking fast – dragging the lifeboat with it. Without an axe to cut the line, Bill followed his shipmates into the freezing water. Salt filled his nostrils. He grabbed at seaweed as if it would save him. The descending ship’s pull dragged him down. The lights above grew dim. The pressure increased. This is it – I’m dying, he thought. His hands and feet thrashed at jetsam in an attempt to stop the downward pull.

As he plummeted away from air, powerful hands grabbed his legs. He looked down into emerald eyes. Seaweed tendrils hung from the assailant. A sea monster dragged him towards the depths of the ocean.

Bill woke with a jerk and found himself sat up straight. He was shivering and breathing fast. His body was soaked in sweat. Had he been dreaming? It had seemed so real. His wife, Grace, was looking at him and saying something. Moonlight came through the crack in the curtains, and he could see his son, Arthur, looking at him from his bed in the corner of the room.

‘Hush, darling…’ he heard Grace say. She reached towards him and as her arms grasped him, he stiffened. He heard Lenny, their baby, snuffling in the crib at the end of the bed.

‘Darling,’ Grace said again, ‘You need to get help… you need to see the doctor…’

Shame rushed through him. Bill pulled away and felt for his clothes under the bed. He climbed into his trousers and drew his jumper over the mass of curls on his head. His clothes were coarse and cold against his hot body.

‘Bill… Don’t…’ Grace murmured.

Bill pushed his feet into his boots.

‘You know what I feel,’ he said and left the bedroom. It had been a while since she’d said such things. He didn’t need to see no doctor.

Down the hallway, he entered their small kitchen – it was more like a scullery. He walked over the old rug towards the stove. Picking up the iron kettle, he carried it to the large, ceramic sink under the window. After he filled the kettle, he carried it back to the cooker. The moonlight threw shadows onto the grey wall opposite the window and lit up the copper water heater that hung there. He lit the stove with a match – warm sulphur entered his nostrils – then he left the room.

The floorboards creaked under his boots, as he wandered across the hall to the front door. He stepped out onto the balcony and lit a cigarette. Gripping the cold railing, he looked out over the yard below. Snowflakes were falling on the cobblestones. It was cold enough for flakes to gather on the layers of slush that had melted from the previous night’s storm.

Rising up out of the darkness, the flats opposite outlined against the night sky. Bill’s eyes followed the line of the rooftops as he thought about work. They had a new barge to build. He enjoyed watching the vessel form and grow. There’s satisfaction in creating, but it wasn’t the sea. There was no roll of waves beneath his feet. Salt air didn’t fill his lungs. Seagulls squawking along the Thames were his only link with the sea. The Great War had not lessened his bond with the ocean.

Even though it was years since the war had ended, he was still having the same nightmares. Dreams about the night his ship was torpedoed by a U-Boat. Split the ship in two, it did. He’d dived overboard and was rescued by a fisherman and his daughter, Anna. Interned in Norway for a year, he’d managed to get back to England on a gentlemen’s agreement that he broke.

It’s odd though, because the night the ship was torn in two, Bill did see Charlie. He saw that Charlie was trapped, but in his dreams he can’t see him. He can only hear Charlie’s screams. Strange… And the monster – he did feel something drag him down that night. It did feel like he had been grabbed. But when he looked down all he could see was seaweed. Why does he dream of sea monsters?

The nightmares seemed so real. They brought back the terror. Terror that made him want to run. He needed to walk. Walking always helped. He liked to drift on his own. His mind could unfurl and rest, the chatter in his brain would slow down, his breath would become fuller.

‘Bill,’ Grace said as she walked out onto the balcony. She buttoned her dressing gown around her slight frame.

They stood there and looked at each other.

‘There’s nothing I got to do,’ he said. His mother had told him about the nut house and he was not going there. He did not need help. He got on just fine.

‘Come back to bed. It is too early to get up and you need your sleep,’ Grace said.

‘I’ll be along,’ he mumbled, wishing she’d leave him alone. Grace shook her head.

‘I’m going to check on Lenny,’ she said as she turned to the flat. ‘I think Arthur is awake too. You disturb them when you scream like that in your dreams.’

Shuffling his boots on the stone floor, Bill sighed and started towards the stairs. He had to walk and get away for a while. The walls of the flat were crowding him in.

It was then he heard her scream.


He’d never heard anything like it. She howled again and he ran back inside. It was dark in the hallway and he could hardly see. Grace came to him out of the gloom, still howling and holding Lenny out in front of her.

‘He cannot breathe! He needs a doctor!’

Bill grabbed Lenny, pulled the shawl around his head and small frame, and stormed back to the balcony. Lenny’s face was contorted and his lips were blue. His tiny feet pedalled as he struggled for air.

Crashing down the stairs, Bill pulled Lenny closer to him. He grabbed the iron rail. Fear rose up his spine and grabbed the back of his neck. Icy fog hit him as he reached the ground floor. His breathing laboured like Lenny’s. He ran across the courtyard and out of the estate. The road was full of slush. He slid and stumbled through the red brick tunnel at the end of the street.

‘Bloody hell,’ he cried as he fell. His back hit the pavement with a whack. Lenny fell onto Bill’s stomach and rolled towards the ground.

Time slowed down as Bill watched Lenny fall.

The pain in his back didn’t dull Bill’s reactions. He caught hold of Lenny before he crashed to the pavement. Cradling the writhing child in his arms, he slowly pulled himself up on the slippery path. At the end of Bear Lane, he turned onto Southwark Street.

Bill wished it was daytime when the street was busy. He’d have plenty of help then, but now it was empty. He raced passed the almshouses and under the heavy, iron bridge that carried trains south to the sea. His chest heaved as the cold numbed his airways.

Lenny had stopped fighting. He was lying limp in his arms. Bill had roamed these streets aimlessly numerous times, but now he threw himself down them with purpose.

Panic took over. Bill became confused. The dank fog was not helping. Where is the bloody hospital?He knew it was around here somewhere. He stood at the corner looking down one road and then another. As he was about to choose, a man dressed in rags seemed to glide out of the mist. His countenance was pale and faintly green.

‘Sir – Sir!’ Bill shouted. ‘The hospital! Where’s the hospital? My son!’ Bill held Lenny’s limp body out in front of him. ‘My son’s dying!’

The man pointed and moved off into the darkness with Bill on his heels.

The streets seemed to go on forever. Bill’s eyes followed the man. He appeared ahead in the rays of the street lamps. His green coat swung around his body and the mist sat in droplets on his sleeves. He reminded Bill of the creature in his dreams.

Lenny wasn’t moving any more – no struggle and no fight. Bill’s heart sank with every step he took.

The man stopped and pointed to a doorway.

Bill stormed through the entrance and looked around. Ahead of him, down the hall, a nurse came out of a room. Bill ran up the bleak corridor and thrust Lenny at her.

‘He can’t breathe! Do something!’

‘What’s his name?’ She opened the shawl and put her head to his chest.


The nurse nodded and entered a side room. Bill tried to go after her.

‘You can’t come in here,’ she said and closed the door with a thump that pushed Bill’s heart out of its moorings and into a swell of pain.

‘How can I help you?’ A porter came down the hall towards him.

‘My son…’ Bill pointed at the door.

‘Only nurses and doctors allowed in there – come sit over here.’ The porter showed him to a chair and Bill sat down.

‘I’m just over there, if you need me,’ the porter said and pointed towards an alcove. He ran his podgy fingers through his thinning, grey locks and walked slowly over to his desk.

Bill stood up as the porter wandered off and then sat down again. He grimaced at the hospital smells of cabbage and disinfectant.

‘What they doing in there?’ he called out to the porter.

‘They’re doing everything they can,’ he reassured. ‘Everything they can.’

Bill stood again as Grace ran in dragging Arthur behind her. ‘What is happening, Bill? What is happening? Where is Lenny? Where is my Lenny?’ she shrieked. He grabbed her and held her.

‘They’re doing what they can,’ he told Grace.

He sat her down in a tall, wooden chair. She held her handkerchief close to her mouth and stared ahead. Restlessly, she looked over to the door and then the floor and then stood up. Bill stood and held her arm.

‘I turned off the stove,’ she said. ‘You left the kettle boiling.’ He looked at her and wondered if she was accusing him or just passing on information. He couldn’t tell.

‘Thank you,’ he said. ‘I forgot.’ Such a trifling thing seemed pointless. Lenny was struggling to live and they were talking about the kettle.

The hall was long and the high ceilings disappeared into the gaslights’ dingy shadows. As if it were whispering, the clock on the ageing, yellow wall ticked in time with Bill’s thumping heart. Arthur was leaning against the wall, his head bent, seeming to study his shoes.

Quiet voices came from the side room, but nothing else. Bill watched as Grace wandered over to the door and stood listening.

‘Come here, sweetheart,’ he said, but she shook her head and put her finger to her lips.

Eventually, she said, ‘I cannot bear waiting… it is killing me.’ Bill walked over to her and gently guided her back to the chair.

Wandering back to the door, Bill stood listening. He heard faint murmurings. He also thought he heard Lenny cry or was he trying to breathe? Bill could not tell. It sounded like a cry.

‘Where is my Lenny? What are they doing?’ Grace screamed. Bill turned to see her shoot up from the chair and lunge towards the door. He barred her way and held her.

‘Darling. Darling. Darling,’ he murmured. She sobbed in his arms. ‘They’re doing what they can.’ The words fell like dead fish from his mouth and quietly echoed against the bleak walls. Whether the words were true or not, he had to say something to stop them from going mad. He took Grace back to the chair and sat down next to Arthur on the floor. Putting his big hand on top of Arthur’s small mitts, he waited.

Eventually, the door opened and a doctor came out. Bill and Grace stood up together.

The doctor looked sombre.

Bill’s heart sank. He felt faint.

He felt Grace slump against him, her head near his chest.

‘I am sorry to tell you—‘ began the doctor.

Grace howled.

‘Nooooooo!’ she screamed, pushing past the doctor and through the door. Bill followed her.

Yellow tile lined a large room dotted with polished metal trolleys. The trolleys were covered in medical instruments. Doors led off the gas-lit room and tall, frosted windows let in the moonlight.

In the centre of the room was a large bed. Lenny lay on this bed covered with a white blanket. Bill and Grace looked down at their baby. His face was tinged a light blue colour and Bill thought, he’s my blue angel, he’s with the angels, my blue angel.

His chest heaved. His breath caught in his throat. Tears sat at the edge of his eyes, before they plummeted down his face.

Grace picked Lenny up and sobbed over his body.

Novel – Reflective Commentary Five

My novel is based on a true event during WW1 when my grandfather’s ship was torpedoed by a U-Boat. In assignment one, I began with the family’s norm before the drama. After drafting the first chapter, I realized the beginning was too flat and I needed a hook. Therefore, I decided to swap chapter one with the chapter I wrote for my assignment two. As Bell says, ‘The hook is what grabs the reader’s attention… [writers] figure we have to get the readers seeing the location, then the characters… Don’t fall into this trap. Readers don’t care about the natural order if they are intrigued’ (2004:121).

Assignment two replaces chapter one and introduces us to Bill and Grace as they are dealing with trauma and crisis. We are thrown into their world where Bill has been traumatised by the war. Then, to increase the drama, their second child dies. Bell explains that ‘…very early on in Act 1… something’s got to happen to make us feel there’s some threat… happening to the characters’ (2004:27).

Along with Bill’s reaction to this drama, I built his character through his physical appearance. Because it is an action-packed section, I added descriptions of Bill in portions rather than one big section. For example, when he woke from his dream, he ‘climbed into his trousers and drew his jumper over the mass of curls on his head.’ Setterfield describes Lily simply as ‘a stubby figure, clutching a coat about her, [who] scurried in the direction of Radcot Bridge’ (2018:106). The course book, Starting a Novel, explains: ‘Great nineteenth-century novelists often spent a paragraph painting a detailed character sketch… But for today’s reader, it’s best to avoid such static descriptions. It pauses the action and diminishes the narrative drive… ’ (OCA,2018:46).

As I learned to create characters, I decided some characters were minor instead of major, such as Natalia. She interacts with Arthur later in the novel, but does not move the story on. In this section, Grace is a secondary character (deuteragonist), but later on she will have her own story to tell. However, this will not happen with Natalia as she is not directly affected by Bill’s trauma. As King says: ‘I had located the fossil; the rest, I knew, would consist of careful excavation’ (2012:193).

My tutor showed me how to stay with Bill’s point of view. For example, when Bill woke, I wrote, ‘Bill woke up from his dream screaming and grasping for air’, which sounded like it was the viewpoint of a person watching Bill. In order to keep with Bill’s point of view, I changed it to ‘Bill woke with a jerk and found himself sat up straight.’

In my reflective commentary for assignment two, I mentioned that I had experimented with first person, but forgot to mention that I decided to stay with third person limited. My tutor pointed out that I was writing in third person. I mention this because I want my tutor and the assessors to know I understand the difference between first and third person. I mainly decided to stay with third person because if I wrote the story in first person past, the reader would know whether Bill survives or not. Also, Bill has difficulty with intimacy and first person creates a closeness between the character and the reader that would not would work for Bill. Cowan explains that ‘One of the main effects of first person point of view is to… draw the reader into a relationship of apparent intimacy with the “speaker”’ (2013:132).

Bill’s life is based around water – living near the Thames, being a barge-builder, and being in the navy during the war. I enhanced this fact by introducing fantasy characters that help or hinder Bill, based on Scandinavian folk tales about a sea creature, and used watery imagery to describe them. In the early drafts, a policeman guided him to the hospital but I changed that to a man whose ‘…green coat swung around his body and the mist sat in droplets on his sleeves.’ The Snow Childis set in Alaska’s cold landscape. It is not clear whether the child Faina is a fantasy or real but Ivey uses chilly imagery to describe her: ‘There was something otherworldly in her manners and appearance, her frosty lashes and cool blue stare’ (2012:105).

My research included ships during World War 1, and hospitals in the 1920s. In The War at Sea, an armed merchant cruiser is torpedoed by a U-Boat. A Sub-Lieutenant appointed to the ship describes the attack: ‘Suddenly we were all startled by a shout from the starboard look out, “Submarine on the port bow”’, and there was my first sentence (Thompson,2005:160-161).

Assignment four describes Lenny’s funeral and Bill fleeing the cemetery during a flashback. Bill disappears later in the novel and this assignment gave reasons why he would disappear.

After the funeral, which is slow-paced with the characters being sad, the story changes to a fast pace with Bill running and upset with some interior monologue. This develops the character but also, I wanted to encourage reader interest. The course book, Starting a Novel, explains that ‘You don’t want to have a series of exciting, tense scenes at the start of your novel, and then have all the tension and excitement fizzle out leaving 200 slow pages’ (OCA,2018:107).

Bill’s character also develops through speech. He is the strong, silent type so his dialogue is short or he just nods. I strengthened his interactions with Grace because she is chatty and this helps develop Bill’s character. At the end of assignment four, Grace is upset and her dialogue is sometimes about six sentences long, whereas Bill’s dialogue is often one sentence. When Grace is trying to persuade him to go to the doctor, his answer is only that ‘“They’ll send me to the nuthouse.”’ Fletcher uses dialogue to develop Clara’s character. Clara is inquisitive and direct. For example, when she first meets Kit, she asks him about the Pettigrews. He asks her why she is asking about the Pettigrews and she answers, ‘“Because I want to know”’ (2018:119). Cowan explains that ‘…Lodge describes quoted speech as “the purest form of showing” because it allows fictional characters to exist on the page in all their particularity and individuality…’ (2013:103).

Having attempted to create dramatic tension, my tutor suggested I consider the length of a sentence – longer sentences slow down the pace and shorter sentences speed it up. In assignment four, I lengthened the sentences in the funeral, but when Bill was escaping from the car in the cemetery, I made the language more succinct and the sentences shorter. For example, as he was rushing through the cemetery, during the flashback, I wrote: ‘He could not breathe. He felt strong hands around his throat. Men cried out for their mothers. It was dark.’ In The Road to Grantchester, Runcie uses short sentences after Sidney’s friend Robert is killed and Sidney continues to fight with wild abandon: ‘When he finally gets back… he can’t keep still. He is shaking. He cannot stop. He looks for his friend’ (2019:69).

As Bill is leaving the cemetery, he has a panic attack: ‘With his lungs closing off, he felt like he was facing an abyss. He breathed heavily and felt panicked.’ My tutor commented in her report that ‘I don’t get this here. Did you mean that he felt breathless? But he’d stopped running and rested on the bench.’ So I researched panic attacks. It seems that panic only became a disorder in 1980: ‘Panic disorder first appeared as a specific diagnostic entity in 1980, in the third Edition of “Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders” (DSM III)’ (,1996). Therefore, I could not say he was having a panic attack. I decided to reorder the words, so that the beginning of that paragraph started with ‘Panic grew within him and he felt like he was facing an abyss.’ I thought this showed he was having a panic attack and that was why he breathed heavily.

In assignment five, the reader is introduced to the possibility of Bill going to the U.S.A. when he reads a letter he has received from an old friend. Also, after talking about the war with a man he met in Covent Garden called Jim, he considers committing suicide, which gives another possible reason for his disappearance. My tutor calls this causality – cause and effect. Woolf uses causality to develop Septimus Smith who suffers from shell-shock. Early on, we see his fragility when he looks at a stopped car and thinks ‘The world wavered and quivered and threatened to burst into flames’ (2013). Then later, we discover that his doctor thought he was healthy, which was obviously part of the reason Smith did not recover and killed himself: ‘For Dr Holmes had told her to make her husband (who had nothing whatever seriously the matter with him…) take an interest in things…’ (2013).

The discussion with Jim shows how Bill suffered during the war and also that Bill thought he had killed his friend. Jim is also another incarnation of the fantasy sea creature, but as a hindrance rather than help by being manipulative – encouraging Bill to talk about his story, get upset, and consider suicide. I had difficulty making Jim sinister without saying ‘he was sinister.’ In The Girl You Left Behind, the Kommendant is sinister. It is disturbing how kind he is to Sophie before he takes what he wants. He tells her ‘“I am a good man, Sophie… It is important to me that you understand that. That we understand each other”’ (Myers,2012).

Part five of the course considers techniques for finishing the novel. Most of my novel will be written in third person past but I am considering using first person present for the last part so that we can get close to Bill as he changes. In The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, the first main character had lost his memory and first person present brought the reader closer to the character, and also showed that the character knew as little about the developing story as the reader (Turton,2018). As Bill loses his memory, that technique could work. Also, Cowan discusses John Fowles’ novel The Collectorwhich has three parts: two in first person past and one in first person present. Cowan states that ‘…a large part of the tension and tragedy is created not by what they say or do but by something more technical than that: by the temporal disparity in their respective points of view’ (2013:130)

This section also discusses pushing form. I decided to write this novel chronologically with each part told by a different character. When I have finished this novel, I will experiment with moving parts around. The Bindinghas three parts (Collins,2019). The first two parts are from the point of view of Emmet. The last part is from the point of view of his boyfriend, Lucian. We learn more about Lucian when he tells his story. Also, it is currently fashionable to have each chapter from a different character, like The Girl on a Train, which is written from the first person point of view of three women (Hawkins,2015).

Because this is a sad story about how lives are affected by war, I chose to use a tone that shows the gravity and sorrow of the story. I show this in many ways, but especially in assignment five when Bill considers suicide. While this is a dark novel that includes a fantasy element, and the tone is sad and tragic, the tone is not disturbing and grotesque like The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times(Brooks,2017). Both stories are about how the Great War destroyed more than the men that fought but the tone is different in each tale. Turning to voice, this is something I have difficulty with. I understand what voice is and can hear it in other authors, but I cannot hear my own voice, or even understand what that is and how to develop it. However, through this class, I have noticed that I write about serious subjects and my voice tends towards a serious tone. I am not sure if this is the beginning of my voice, but I hope to develop this more in my next class.

Reviewing my work, I removed adverbs, some adjectives, and clichés. For example, I removed the following sentence because it is a cliché: ‘That night, Bill was looking for shelter from his storm.’ Reviewing each assignment has slowed down my momentum. I have finished drafting Bill’s story and moved on to Grace’s, but because of the constant reviewing required for this class, I obsessively try to find the right words. Although, I have learned from this intense revision, I will not revise the rest of my novel until I have finished the first draft. Smiley says: ‘I advise against rewriting… The desire to get each scene ‘just right’ works against productivity because it allows you to get in the habit of ruminating upon your self-doubts’ (2005:220).

Research for this assignment included Covent Garden in the 1920s. For this, I visited Covent Garden, searched for history online and read Covent Garden Past(Richardson;1995).

During this course, I have learned how to plot a story so that I now have a completed synopsis. My knowledge on how to keep with the main character’s point of view, dialogue, and controlling tension through pace has improved. I now have the tools to continue writing and complete my novel.




Bell, J. S. (2004) Plot and Structure. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.

Brooks, X. (2017) The Clocks in this House all tell Different Times. Cromer: Salt Publishing Limited.

Collins, B. (2019) The Binding. London: The Borough Press.

Cowan, A. (2013) The Art of Writing Fiction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Fletcher, S. (2018) House of Glass. London: Virago Press.

Hawkins, P. (2015) The Girl on the Train. London: Transworld Publishers.

Ivey, E. (2012) The Snow Child. London: Headline Publishing Group.

King, S. (2012) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

Myers, J. (2012) The Girl You Left Behind. [Kindle edition] From: (Accessed during December 2019)

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts. (1996) Panic Disorder and Panic Attack. At: (Accessed on 9 December 2019)

Richardson, J. (1995) Covent Garden Past. London: Historical Publications Ltd.

Runcie, J. (2019) The Road to Grantchester. London: Bloomsbury Publishing.

Setterfield, D. (2018) Once Upon a River. London: Transworld Publishers.

Smiley, J. (2005) Thirteen Ways of Looking at the Novel. New York: Random House, Inc.

Thompson, J. (2005) The Imperial War Museum Book of The War at Sea 1914-1918: The face of battle revealed in the words of the men who fought. London: Pan Macmillan.

Turton, S. (2018) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. London: Raven Books.

Woolf, V. (2013) Mrs Dalloway. [Kindle edition] From: (Accessed during December 2019)

Novel – Reflective Commentary Four

The first draft was a few paragraphs describing the funeral and Bill running from the cemetery. My edits included developing Bill with indirect speech and more description of the funeral and his journey home. For example, rather that telling the reader that ‘terraced houses turned into flats and shops as he got closer to home’, I described his wanderings in detail. Healey guided me in Elizabeth is Missingas the main character often wanders, for example, ‘I walk past the ugly house and the tea dregs and the acacia, the way I’ve always walked, and then further on, until I can hear the sound of trains. I stare hollowly across the street. On the opposite side is the Station Hotel’ (2014:168).

During revision, I added characters and settings that showed the 1920s like the bus conductor and her ticket holder. In The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, Turton includes settings like the stables that show the period (even though this is a fantasy novel, it is set in a 1920s country house): ‘Troughs overflow with oats, and carriages stand wheel to wheel… the only things missing are the horses’ (2018:38).

Adding in smells while editing helped bring the story to life. For example, I added ‘There was a musty smell of damp and wood polish’ during the funeral. In The Collector’s Apprentice, Shapiro showed me how to use aromas like this: ‘She throws open the windows that ring the house, letting in the spring-like air’ (2018:269).

The research I did for this section primarily focussed on funerals in 1920s and the cemetery. I visited Nunhead Cemetry where some of my family are buried. Also, I searched online to see how funerals were performed in the 1920s (Cryer,2019).

As this lesson was about structure, I considered the construction of the whole novel as well as this section. I developed the plot further: it will follow the five-act structure in third person past for each main character’s act: Bill, Grace, Arthur, and Molly, and then Bill again at the end. The trigger points are Bill’s trauma and disappearance. Developing Bill’s character in this assignment, I created concrete reasons why Bill would disappear – connecting events to compel the reader to continue on with the story. In The Art of Writing Fiction, Cowan states: ‘…this plot must have completeness, by which he means that the beginning, middle and end must have a necessary and plausible connection and must form a self-contained whole. Within the compass of the play… the beginning should have certain consequences’ (2013:144). In A Man Called Ove, the author gives us many stories where Ove’s neighbour interferes in Ove’s life which develops their relationship (Backman,2015). Bill’s continual wandering is also a foreshadowing – a signal to the reader of his disappearance. The Starting Your Novelcourse book states ‘Foreshadowing is an important part of building this excitement – letting the reader know where the plot is heading, so they can start anticipating it’ (OCA,2018:107).

Albert helps Bill carry Lenny’s coffin in assignment 4, but is not mentioned in assignment 3 as the family are introduced. I will add a description of Albert into assignment 3.




Backman, F. (2015) A Man Called Ove. London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Cowan, A. (2013) The Art of Writing Fiction. Abingdon: Routledge.

Cryer, P. (Webmaster). (2019) Costs of dying in early 20th century Britain. At (Accessed on 13 October 2019)

Healey, E. (2014) Elizabeth is Missing. London: Penguin Group.

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts

Shapiro, B. A. (2018) The Collector’s Apprentice. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.

Turton, S. (2018) The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle. London: Raven Books.


Novel – Reflective Commentary Three

My research of the location of Southwark in London where Bill lived included walking around the area, looking at old maps and photos in the travel guide by Bradshaw called Bradshaw’s London, and reading the history of Peabody Estates online.

As I revised Assignment Three, I changed the descriptions of the environments to highlight Bill’s emotion. For example, as the family gathered for the funeral, the blue cover of the sofa ‘sloped towards the floor with a sigh.’ Also, Bill looked out of the window and saw that ‘A magpie flew onto a branch…’ like the nursery rhyme about magpies: One for Sorrow. Cowan states in The Art of Writing Fictionthat ‘Setting, for instance, is often conveyed through the eyes and emotions of a particular character, the description inflected by that character’s voice’ (2013:78). In The Road to Grantchester, Runcie brings an iron crucifix into the setting when Sidney is shot. Sidney’s internal voice asks ‘What is that iron Crucifix still doing at the top of an arch that is on the point of falling?’ (2019:80). This highlight’s Sidney’s career after the war, and also that moment of possible death, by bringing in a religious artefact.

I described the table in Bill’s front room as having scars and scrapes, which show’s Bill’s internal scars on objects in his life. In House of Glass, Fletcher uses plant imagery to describe objects and even Clara’s disability because of Clara’s love of florae. For example, she describes brittle bones disease as ‘a twisted, dark-flowering vine which lacked beauty’ (2018:21).

As I revised, I checked the language to make sure it was not above the education level of Bill who is currently the narrator of the story. For example, the illustration in the book he reads to Arthur is a ‘woodcut’, but I changed that to ‘sketch’ as I did not think Bill would know the word ‘woodcut’. In The Razor’s Edgeby Maugham, you can tell the level of education that Elliot reached by his dialogue. For example, in a discussion with Maugham, he says ‘I saw an early Christian sarcophagus in Rome that took my fancy’ (2000:215).

Reading Davies’ Maternityhelped create Bill’s voice. This book was published in 1915 from actual letters written by women from that time. For example, I cut some of his sentences by removing words – rather than saying ‘I just need a fag’, he said: ‘Just need a fag’. TheStarting your Novel course book says that ‘The way your characters speak and the narrative voice… will be governed by when and where your novel is set…’ (OCA, 2018:69)

I revised dialogue so that it aided the plot or characters. For example, in my tutor’s response to Assignment Two, she mentioned that ‘At some point, perhaps in this chapter, you must give some reasoning for the death.’ I considered this and added dialogue to the end of Chapter Three where Bill and Grace discuss that Lenny died from blue blood. Neither of them were sure what that was, which shows the level of their education and adds to their character. In Plot & Structure, Bell says ‘Dialogue helps to create original characters and move the plot along. If it isn’t doing either of those things, it probably should be cut’ (2004:18).


Bell, J. S. (2004) Plot and Structure. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.

Bradshaw, G. (2014) Bradshaw’s London: George Bradshaw’s Classic Guide of 1862.Stroud: Amberley Publishing.

Cowan, A. (2013) The Art of Writing Fiction.Abingdon: Routledge.

Davies, M. L. (1984) Maternity: Letters from Working Women. London: Virago Limited.

Fletcher, S. (2018) House of Glass.London: Virago Press.

Maugham, W.S. (2000) The Razor’s Edge.London: Vintage.

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts

Peabody. (2019) Peabody. At: (Accessed on 15 June 2019)

Runcie, J. (2019) The Road to Grantchester.London: Bloomsbury Publishing.


Novel – Reflective Commentary Two

Writing about the characters has helped develop the plot. For example, I realized that Sid, Rose and Natalia are minor characters as their stories do not majorly forward the plot. King states in On Writingthat ‘…what happens to characters as a story progresses depends solely on what I discover about them as I go along… they begin to influence the course of the story’ (2012, 223-224).

Studying how they would react under pressure, I questioned how Bill and Grace would act when Lenny dies. Bill’s difficulty is that he runs away from conflict, but in a crisis, he takes command. Grace loves him for this even though he will not seek help for his nightmares. This knowledge helped me draft the new chapter one. OCA states in Starting your Novelthat ‘Conflict is created from dramatic need when it is jeopardised by obstacles and dilemmas’ (2018, 49).

In order to build a ghostly atmosphere in the book, bringing in Bill’s love of the sea, I created a watery creature that enters the story at different times. I introduced him at the beginning as ‘a monster [with] tendrils covered in seaweed [hanging] down its body’. Setterfield creates atmosphere in Once Upon a Riverby presenting shadowy characters like Quietly that are more myth than reality. She introduces him as ‘…a gaunt and elongated figure…’ who ‘…appeared when you were in trouble…’ (2018, 30).

My tutor asked who Arthur is and why he is a main character. I realized Arthur is more important than Bobby and swapped them. My tutor also mentioned that essential characters should be introduced in the first few chapters. However, Molly cannot arrive until later in the book, because she is Arthur’s daughter. In Rowling’s Harry Potter, a major character Severus Snape first appears in Chapter 7 (1997, 135).

Experimenting with first person point of view, I noticed problems with how Bill moves through the story. When Bill goes to the kitchen, I initially wrote that ‘The kitchen was small, more like a scullery… Grace had thrown an old rug over the wooden floor’. I changed this to: ‘Down the hallway, he entered their small kitchen – it was more like a scullery. He walked over the old rug towards the stove’. Kings says in On Writingthat ‘In fiction the paragraph is less structured – it’s the beat instead of the actual melody. The more fiction you read and write, the more you’ll find your paragraphs forming on their own’ (2012, 148). I felt the beat easier in first person.

It is an action packed section and I decided to add the description of Bill in a few different places. This included during his dream: ‘He threw his hefty frame into it…’. In The Snow Childby Ivey, Mabel is not described until page 6: ‘…she laced her leather boots, put her winter coat on over housedress…’ (2012, 6), but I had a good impression of her in my head because I knew the story was set in 1920s Alaska.

I decided to add in parts from the previous chapter one where it made sense. When Bill is on the landing, I added in the part when he is thinking about his work. This helps the reader to see who Bill is. In The Words in my Handby Glasfurd, the reader is given a clue as to the nature of the main character’s employment on the first page: ‘I walked across the tiles I had cleaned yesterday’ (2017, 3).

I chose words that heightened Bill’s sorrow with images from the sea. When he is comforting Grace in hospital, I said his ‘words fell like dead fish from his mouth.’ Ivey did something similar in The Snow Child. Mabel is grieving and her ‘Words lay like granite boulders in her lap’ (2012, 9).


Glasfurd, G. (2017) The Words in my Hand.London: Hodder & Stoughton Ltd.

Ivey, E. (2012) The Snow Child.London: Headline Publishing Group.

King, S. (2012) On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. London: Hodder & Stoughton.

OCA (2018) Creative Writing 1: Starting your Novel. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts.

Rowling, J. K. (1997) Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

Setterfield, D. (2018) Once Upon a River.London: TransworldPublishers.


Novel – Reflective Commentary One

I wrote this chapter to show Bill’s norm before the action begins. But since reading Plot and Structure by Bell, I have decided that the action needs to begin first and this chapter will now be chapter two. Bell says the following about beginnings: ‘The second thing to notice is that something is happening or about to happen to the character. And not just anything—something ominous or dangerous’ (2004:57).

My first draft had no physical description of Bill and the description of Grace was sparse. I had difficulty showing what Bill looked like because he is the protagonist and even though this is written in third person, it is from his point of view. I added Bill’s description in the second draft as if this was from Grace’s point of view and then changed it. For example, in the second draft, part of Bill’s description was: ‘He was a tall man with broad shoulders…’ I changed it to this in the third draft: ‘Grace looked up at him. She’d always told him how handsome he was, but all he could see when he shaved in the mornings was his pert nose…’.

While I was reading Young Anne by Whipple, I noticed how she added some of her descriptions of characters into action. For example, she says ‘he stalked with stiff, long legs, his lips drawn into creases of disapproval’ (2018:6). I followed this example especially for the minor characters such as Daisy: ‘She wiped her hands on her grease-stained pinafore before she hugged her sister…’

Bill is the strong, silent type. I showed this in his dialogue and kept it to a minimum. When revising, I cut some of his lines. For example, I changed ‘“We don’t have time for your shenanigans today, Billy. We’ve got a train to catch.”’ To ‘“There’s no time for shenanigans.”’ For Billy and Grace’s family, I used contractions in their speech, but because Grace has a few airs and graces, I had her use the full words such as ‘he has, she has, etc.’

The first draft was mainly action and dialogue. In the second draft, I added description such as Daisy’s home. During my final revision, I read the chapter out loud. Some of the description was too detailed and slowed the story down. For example, I described Daisy’s home in such detail that it seemed to take a long time for them to arrive and head to the kitchen. I took out some of the description, for example, the second draft described Daisy’s home as having ‘a narrow hallway that ran through from the front door to the kitchen… In contrast to the wooden floors throughout the house that were covered with rugs of varying shades and sizes, the stairs were covered in a worn, slightly shabby, red carpet with yellow swirls on the edges.’ I changed this to: ‘The night was cold outside, but Daisy’s home was warm and the bright rugs on her wooden floors brought colour to the house.’

For this chapter, I especially researched train stations, Christmas decorations, Christmas food, and clothes in 1920s. I used the Internet for this. For example, I found out that mincemeat was sold in jars in 1920s from Robertsons’ website (Robertsons:2019).

Once I had my final draft, I went through it to check for adjectives, adverbs, abstract nouns, or clichés. My draft was pitted with adjectives and I removed many of them. As Mort, Milton, and Flower say in Writing Skills: ‘Adjectives can also hold up the action and get in the way of what you are really trying to say’ (2010:147). I also checked the amount of similes and metaphors. I changed one simile to a metaphor. Rather than have Daisy ‘round and plump like a dumpling’ I changed this to ‘a plump dumpling.’



Bell, J. S. (2004) Plot and Structure. Cincinnati: Writer’s Digest Books.

Mort, G., Milton, N., and Flower, T. (2010) Creative Writing 1: Writing Skills. Barnsley: Open College of the Arts

Robertson’s. (2019) Robertson’s.At: (Accessed on 2 February 2019)

Whipple, D. (2018) Young Anne.London: Persephone Books Ltd.