Whale Rock on Flinders Island, Tasmania, Australia

Fiction

When you write in a business setting, fiction often takes a longer route to production. And while it can be argued (quite successfully) that much of radio copywriting is fiction, this page is about the more traditional fiction where a narrative unfolds over more than 60 seconds.

Here is a sample from my latest story: The Friendship Bracelet (yes, it is currently doing the rounds of agents and publishers).

CHAPTER - CAMPING

It was cold; the kind of biting cold that is uncommon across most of Australia. When Sarah breathed in she could feel the chill air hit her lungs and it made her feel exhilarated, excited and ready to face the day and whatever new experiences lay waiting. The cold made her eyes sparkle and her joyous laughter to come in great gusts of steam. Fingers of ice stretched across the little dam that dominated the landscape of their campsite, and the morning mist was a smoky blanket on the mirror-smooth water.
Overhead, birds announced the new day: magpies warbled, kookaburras laughed, galahs chattered noisily, and a lone cockatoo called raucously to no reply. In any other season, the early morning feathered choir would have been a cacophony loud enough to awaken all visitors to the area, but this was the start of winter and many of the birds had already chased the sun and flown to warmer regions.
Reflected perfectly in the waters of Paddy’s River Dam, the sky was a clear blue, promising another fine day.
“Not much snow in the Snowy Mountains, dad,” Sarah called to her father as she stepped out of their caravan.
“Not yet, Frog, but it’ll come.” Her father was the only person who called her by that nickname. She had earned it from her summertime habit of swimming in the family pool and then laying on the poolside pavers to dry off. There was no reply to his comment so he stuck his head out the open caravan door; his new, dark beard, liberally sprinkled, like the hair under his Akubra hat, with grey, was still scraggy and itching, and he had vowed to shave it the minute they got back home and never to leave his razor behind again.
“What’s up?” he asked, bushy eyebrows arching over clear blue eyes.
“Shh, look,” she replied, pointing. A family of kangaroos was sharing their campsite, breakfasting on the grasses that grew near the dam’s edge and along the banks of the little tributary streams. Two females were grazing, with wide-eyed joeys poking their heads out of their mothers’ pouches and gawking at the cold world outside, heads turning this way and that as they surveyed the campsite. Though curious, the young kangaroos were not tempted to leave the warm comfort of the pouch.
There was also a large male, a buck, the patriarch of the group, tall, imposing and alert, keeping a wary eye on the young girl. His head flicked slightly as Sarah’s father emerged from the caravan, but seeing no immediate danger he returned to a cautious breakfast.
“Quick,” Sarah said quietly, “pass my camera, please.” The Canon Digital SLR had been a birthday present just two months earlier and had come with two lenses. Sarah had known it was coming and had worked hard around the house to earn extra money to put towards the extravagant gift. She had mowed the lawns every two weeks, painted the bathroom and the laundry, helped dig over the vegetable patch, and generally done everything she could including regularly washing the family car and the four wheel drive Landcruiser. Sarah couldn’t have been happier when she reached her goal of having saved enough to pay for half the camera package, and her parents matched her savings to complete the birthday present. Since the moment she had unwrapped the gift, barely a day had gone by without her finding something or someone to photograph.
Gently she took the camera from her father and quickly attached the telephoto lens. She pocketed the lens cap and drew the camera to her eye, looking at the very narrow world presented through the viewfinder. She could have used the LCD screen on the back of the camera, but Sarah liked the feel of the eyepiece and the physical joining of the camera to her eye. The camera body felt cool against her cheek.
She had taken no more than a dozen photos when a shaft of morning sunlight broke through the trees to shine directly onto one of the joeys. Finding himself in the spotlight, he shook his head, ears flapping in gentle indignation. Sarah laughed as she captured his disgruntlement.
She turned her attention to the lake, Paddy’s River Dam, where the mist was slowly rising in ghostly tendrils, evaporating as it hit the early morning sunlight.
This was their fourth day of camping at the dam, and every day Sarah saw new things to photograph and new ways to frame familiar subjects. It was the same landscape, but with each passing day it revealed a little more of itself, and Sarah came to know it intimately through the lens of her camera.
On the first morning of their camping holiday she had stayed in bed too long and had only seen the last act of the lake’s misty morning dance. It wasn’t until the third day that she saw her first mosquito orchid; and suddenly she could see them everywhere. It was as if a veil had been lifted from her sight. The delicate flowers had responded to a few warm winter days, but the warm weather would not last and the flowers would soon fade away, slumbering until Spring’s touch woke them once more.
Lizards basked in the last of the warm sun and tiny finches, waiting until the first snow fell before they headed west, flitted from twig to twig in the trees, challenging Sarah’s emerging photographic skills. She had been particularly proud when she had taken a photograph of a spider’s web, perfectly formed and covered in tiny ice crystals in the early morning frost. She had photographed it until the sun had turned the delicate, sparkling ice into glistening droplets of water, and a thousand tiny rainbows seemed to blossom like flowers. But there was one inhabitant of the Snowy Mountains that she still hadn’t seen, except through the window of the four wheel drive as they had driven in to the campsite four days earlier.
“I want to see some brumbies,” she had complained to her father. They knew the wild bush horses were in the area because there were fresh tracks in the damp, early morning grass and piles of dung scattered around the edge of the campsite. That morning, Sarah had found a fresh pile beneath the trees; it was steaming silently in the cool dawn air.
“Look, they were here again last night,” she had said. “I just wish we could see them so I can get some photos.”
“You may yet, Frog, we’ve got a couple of days left. You need to understand that they don’t trust us humans; we chase them, capture them and even shoot them. They’ve got a lot of reason to be wary. Put yourself in their position, you wouldn’t trust us either.”
“But we saw wild horses on the way in, we saw brumbies, and they’ve been wandering through our campsite since we arrived.”
“Yes, and they saw us, they know we’re here. All you can do is be patient and have your camera ready. For all you know, you’ve already walked close to lots of them and just not seen them, they’re pretty good at blending into the background. Now, what do you want for breakfast?” her father asked. “Porridge?”