Often, one of the great challenges in writing fiction, be it contemporary fiction or science fiction, is prosing away on that which you have no experience, or that where your experience is limited. Sometimes it’s easy – a Google search, imagination, or a few memories to guide you, and sometimes it’s surprisingly difficult, especially when you realize you’ve really just missed the mark. Now missing the mark can be everything from mistakenly writing cubic litres instead of cubic meters and having the stuffing taken out of you in a book review – yes, that happened to me, and as embarrassing as that was, sometimes the more subtle omissions wrench the realization from you, that you were remiss.
I had that happen yesterday as I walked my dogs. I grew up in the Okanagan Valley where winter was a reality, but on Vancouver Island, real winter is a rarity. We’ve been anticipating snow, generally a treat as long as one is prepared to park the car and walk, and when it began last night, I hitched up the dogs for the first snow walk of the season. My walk was not much different than normal – cooler, still keeping my eyes open for the distraction of deer, and of course the inexperienced drivers as the flakes fell and stuck. Then as I walked throughout my neighborhood a slow dawning came over me as I enjoyed the muted silence of the evening – it was the sounds of winter, and sometimes the lack thereof.
It’s been over thirty years since my last full winter, and as I paused with that first snowfall falling around me, I appreciated that in my many descriptions of the season, I had forgotten that overall dampening silence of snowfall and the many softer sounds that can be associated with it. The Scarlet Bastard series takes place on the colony of Samsāra, twenty light years from Earth. It’s a cold world with long, dark winters and cool wet summers. My many written sketches of the world take place in the depths of winter, and although I focus on the bitter cold temperature, the various colours of white, the misery of darkness and perpetual cold, I had forgotten that simple pleasure of winter’s many sounds.
With snowflakes falling, all sound ceases and the interruptions of the outside world – traffic, machinery, dogs, all fade until it is simply that solitary you in the world. I can imagine myself on that distant planet so far from Earth. The darkness, the snow falling around me with only the softest whispers as snowflakes settles in the trees, or perhaps the soft ‘scrunch’ of my boots – these are a few of the many and varied sounds that I had forgotten in my characterizations of a Samsāra winter. So here I am refreshed with new tools in my author’s toolbox as I work on my latest work, The Scarlet Bastards – The Rule of Nine, and I will reflect upon the simple yet most pleasurable sounds of winter.