The first time I did Camp NaNoWriMo, I surprised myself by writing a ghost story. Sometimes when I write – especially fantasy – I have a clear direction. Anything else… I start going in one direction and about halfway through the manuscript, I find my path. It’s a wonderful feeling, like wandering through a desert of words and suddenly cresting the final ridge to the oasis below.
Anyway. The Secret of Treacher’s Creek was one of my earliest finished drafts. It’s also aesthetic and spooky and I really like it and I need to revisit it soon.
A LITTLE ABOUT The Secret of Treacher’s Creek…
The world of Treacher’s Creek is a bit odd. The setting reminds me of a town knocked out of time and I think it was inspired by a mixture of my own rural life on the edge of a forest mixed with the town where The Waltons took place. I couldn’t quite pinpoint a time period for this one, either. The 1940s seems most right, but even that’s not quite there.
This is the story of a small town faced with a tragedy. It’s a little like Something Wicked This Way Comes and every ghost town TV episode you’ve ever seen. There are five POVs from very different perspectives in age and origin and motive, but all the threads tie together to tell the whole story. It’s very different from anything I’ve ever written and remains a bit of a curiosity to even me, to be honest. I like it and I feel like it’s still quite tangled.
In some ways, I wanted to take my favorite parts of ghost stories and whodunnit murder mysteries, toss in a bit of supernatural and small rural town creepiness and make something unique.
WHAT GENRE IS The Secret of Treacher’s Creek?
When I posted this one for Camp NaNoWriMo in summer 2011, I called it a Ghost Story. Retrospectively, I’m not quire sure that fits, but it’s sort of a paranormal mystery. Not quite paranormal horror, but I suppose if rewrites went a certain direction, that could happen.
WHAT’S THE INSPIRATION?
This WIP has the most ridiculous inspiration. It had basically nothing to do with the story itself.
Once upon a time, I was young and still living with my parents (problematic on about 30 levels). It was… June? July? And my boyfriend-of-the-time was spending the night. My family is very religious and the fact that he was in the same house was already a big “no” so when my father caught us cuddling – legit, just cuddling! – in bed, it was a loud and angry lecture and ….a whole thing, use your imagination. And it’s not like we were kids – I was 21 and he was 23 but this just goes down a slippery trail of my family’s beliefs system and my need to be able to afford different living arrangements. ANYWAY.
I was pissed at my father, so I started writing this scene with a young woman about my age and her minister father who kept her in a constant state of fear by promising her eternal damnation for anything short of perfection and… it spiraled. That character was Madeleine, and she is one of my five POVs in this book. The first ever Camp NaNo was a month or so later, and I hadn’t planned on participating, but I had a lot of existential anger at the time and the story persisted.
Please note that The Secret of Treacher’s Creek doesn’t focus on anti-religion or anything like that. My own journey with faith and the experiences I had with my family’s beliefs are not universally representative of other practitioners, but they have very much shaped my experience with religion.
WHO IS THE PROTAGONIST?
There are five POVs in The Secret of Treacher’s Creek. I love multiple POV books and like writing them best. A brief intro to each of the five:
Madeleine – A young teacher in the town and the daughter of the local minister. Her family lives primarily on the charity of the people and she’s shy, bitter, and fearful. Her mother was brutally murdered when she was young, and those wounds still bleed.
Trisha – Trisha is Madeleine’s best friend and one of their group of three, alongside Madeleine’s cousin Alison. She dreams of flying away out of the small town of Treacher’s Creek and going to college and becoming an artist and traveling the world. She sketches all the time, with a particular penchant for drawing angels.
Roger – Roger is one of the local children in Madeleine’s class. He’s active and imaginative, but has difficulty making friends because many of his peers think he’s a bit weird, especially as he likes to make up stories and games. He’s overly curious and independent.
Joan – Joan is Madeleine’s maternal aunt and Alison’s mother. Joan and Madeleine’s father don’t get on well – he disapproves of her living alone after she was widowed, and of the books she brings into the town and the news she reads. Joan is too secular for his tastes, too modern. Madeleine adores her.
Ashten – Ashten is the typically “outsider” trope. He comes into town at the wrong time and is perceived as a threat. He’s unattached to any one thing and makes his way through the world by the skill of his hands and his willingness to do any labor as long as it doesn’t tie him down. He’s also avoiding the outside world – perhaps a draft into a war? Or an abusive family member of friend? – and Treacher’s Creek felt like the perfect disconnected place to disappear… until it wasn’t.
WHAT POV IS The Secret of Treacher’s Creek?
As I mentioned in the protagonist section, there are five POVs in this book. One of the things I remember noticing in even my first draft was that the story was too short to support that many POVs so one of the things I will need to do in rewrites is address that aspect and make sure each character has something vital to share that cannot be told from another POV and… if all five make the cut, I’ll need to flesh them out better.
I know for sure this will still be a dual POV with Trisha and Madeleine. I’m not sure if Joan or Ashten are necessary, but I liked their unique takes so I really just need to go back through. Roger’s POV, I believe, is irreplaceable. His character needs to be tied in better to the others and his character much better developed. Either that, or I’ve got some serious rewrites to do.
So anyway. Five POVs, third person, limited.
WHAT IS THE CURRENT STATUS OF The Secret of Treacher’s Creek?
As this was my second completed WIP, this one was actually on the docket for next edits back in 2014. Obviously, I’ve gone on to participate in multiple other NaNoWriMo sessions which have gifted me with another complete WIP of another book (A Star Danced) as well as partial drafts of Improbable, Quest, Rhapsody In Blue, The Story Collector, So I Married a Demon Hunter, Ashes to Ashes and Green … and partial rewrites of Fate and The Land of Dark and Broken Things.
Needless to say, I have some focus issues.
In all seriousness, though, The Secret of Treacher’s Creek is on my shortlist of upcoming projects. I do want to finish partial drafts that I have, but as far as rewrites go, this one is at the top.
WHO IS The Secret of Treacher Creek’S TARGET AUDIENCE?
This is a weird one because I don’t know.
The character’s age is one of the good indicators of target age group (and thus, target audience). I think this one could be read by YA, or by adults, but it sort of falls into the between “New Adult” genre that right now is still developing outside of erotic romance.
It’s just… a really unique story that has edges of Stephen King’s low-key books and I love it and I’m confused that I created it. Lol.
WHAT IS THE BOOK’S BLURB?
I’ve been away from this project so long that I don’t think I could pull together more than the barest bones of the plot, so please enjoy this blurb I wrote at the beginning of Camp NaNoWriMo nine (NINE) years ago.
Alison Whitehall’s death is the first of many strange things that are happening in Treacher’s Creek. Twenty-year-old school mistress Madeleine Whitehall recognizes the signs, but everyone keeps telling her that the Wraith is a blasphemous fairytale. How many deaths will it take for them to realize she is right?
The story actually strayed away from the Wraith… but I would like to bring that back in edits. It was NaNoWriMo and I just sorta needed to write the story in the direction it took me at the time in order to finish, but this was a better idea than my actual end point. 😅
A SMALL SLICE OF MY WIP
Just a warning, the blurb that follows this aesthetic is a little graphic with the imagery of a corpse. CW for sure.
It was summertime when they discovered Allie, her hazel eyes ridden with maggots and a swollen black tongue lolling out of her mouth. She hadn’t been dead for a long time, but she had been dead long enough. It was the smell that brought them to the body, a whiff in the wind that made Madeleine’s nose turn up in disgust and made the bloodhounds bay. It was absurd they hadn’t thought of the bloodhounds before, Madeleine thought, as Lady sniffed at her owner’s lifeless fingers.
That blurb is the unedited first paragraph as written such a long time ago. Some of the writing and a little of Madeleine’s characterization is rough, but overall, I still think it’s an intriguing hook. Why not start with a dead body?
WHAT’S NEXT FOR The Secret of Treacher’s Creek?
As mentioned above, this one has been on the docket for revisions for a long time, and I’ve written other books instead of focusing on revisions on the drafts I’ve already finished. But. An unfinished thing drive me crazy. So I’ll likely work on finishing at least Rhapsody in Blue first, but after that, The Secret of Treacher’s Creek will run edits. As much as I want to work on my other projects, I want this one to be a priority because it’s been sitting around for so long and it feels … special, somehow. At least from my portfolio.
Most of my year is focused on edits for Lost Boys for my friend, but I anticipate The Secret of Treacher’s Creek on my docket for edits in 2021. I think it’ll be a good bounce off from Rhapsody in Blue, as they’re both paranormal but at different levels and in different environments.
Once in edits, I’m looking to flesh out the town’s legends and do some setting work that will be a good ground point. Madeleine’s history needs to be fleshed out on paper so it’s more than just my own vague internal canon and the paranormal aspects are consistent. Roger’s character needs work, and I want to do a clean reread to get a refreshed feel for the plot as it existed in 2011… then write out a basic outline to guide rewrites.
A lot of busy work on this one next, but there’s that joyful promise of rediscovery and expansion, so I don’t mind so much.
Would you every want to write a paranormal story? Have you already written one? Tell me a little about your WIP in the comments! Extra points if it’s something spooky.