Beginning a Novel – Barafundle Bay

“Let’s start at the very beginning…”

I thought I was starting at the beginning but it hasn’t worked out that way at all.  After my first burst of inspiration for beginning a novel came in Venice, my next came on a trip to Pembrokeshire and a walk at a glorious beach called Barafundle Bay. 

A ruined lookout point leads down stone steps to a wide, sweeping, sandy beach.  Cliffs rise on one side and I sat down with my back to the rocks.  There are lots of low lying rocks just resting under the sea which are draped in curly seaweed.  It struck me that the seaweed could look like human hair.  It was like an epiphany – a whole story was opening up.  A girl washes up on the beach after a storm – how did she get there?  Why was she at sea? 

A young boy tottered past me collecting all sorts of bits and bobs from the beach.  He could be Joe in my story who has a secret hiding place for all of his beach “treasures”.  He’s the one who finds the girl washed up on the shore!

There were so many people on the beach that day that I could see them all as different characters. 

The beach is very much real but I then invented a town and a quayside and the places where everyone lived.  So please don’t go there expecting to find anything from my story. 

I wrote a couple of scenes on the beach which I thought would be the start, but they’re not.  In my excitement I had forgotten that there might need to be a bit of background.  The characters need building and the place needs to be thought about geographically.

In the spirit of getting my words out there here is one of the scenes which I wrote on the beach…

***

Pressure…burning lungs…air needed…sinking further and further.  She couldn’t help herself – panic was setting in.  The cold had taken her breath away in spite of the layers that she wore.  Salt water hit her in the face every time she tried to reach out for help, but the boat was tantalisingly out of reach disappearing out into the night.  Her arms were so heavy that she could barely lift them because of the weight of her coat.  The layers which had been so welcome were now dragging her down.  Logic told her to shed her coat and she tried to unbutton it from around her neck but her fingers were stiff, swollen and cold and they fumbled it.

As the waves pounded over her head she could have sworn that she was seeing stars.  She tried to focus on them as they swam before her eyes and flickered and disappeared in the waves.  As she came back up for air – there they were again – flickering lights, calling her.  Where they were calling her, she didn’t know – it could be the spirits beckoning for all she cared at the time.  She felt herself being tossed up onto the curl of the next wave and thrown forward.  Expecting the same impact of a rock hard watery landing, she was quite surprised when she hit actual rock instead.  The air was knocked out of her along with a lung full of sea water.  Her body scraped along the rocks and barnacles – raw burning pain that she could suddenly feel through the ice cold.  Winded and bruised, she thought rock means land.  Land means safety – she clung on to the rocks and was pummelled by the waves until she lost consciousness.

***

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

― Lewis CarrollAlice in Wonderland

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