On Writing ‘Wolf Point’ – Louise Kennedy

Louise Kennedy discusses her short story ‘Wolf Point’, taken from Issue Eight of The Lonely Crowd.

I always feel like a chancer when I talk about stuff like ‘my writing process’; it makes me sound like I know what I’m doing. Especially these days, when my process is to agonise over each sentence until I think I’m going mad, even at first draft stage. (For a lot of reasons, I hope this state of affairs is temporary). And while there is often a motif or image or even a final line guiding the work, the thread of the story only really reveals itself in the writing of it.

I saw the man who would become Peter the Woodsman in Lidl one day. He was in his late forties or fifties, leaning over a small girl in a trolley. He was trying to work a tiny zip on her cardigan. His fingers were too big, but he persevered until the collar was snug around the child’s chin. He loaded his groceries onto the conveyor belt and when he was finished he turned to look at her. While his back was turned she had pulled the zip all the way down. He began to do it all over again.

My house is a short drive from a wood on the edge of a lake. When my children were younger we went there a lot. There is a walking route along gravel paths that should take forty minutes, but it always takes me longer. I take pictures on my phone, of light on the water, of plants I don’t recognise, like the broomrape in the story. I make short videos, a few seconds long because my phone is old and there isn’t much memory left.

One day I went off the main path to the end of a small promontory. It was very still and quiet, except for water lapping at the pebbles on the shore. I heard the coastal rescue helicopter in the distance, the sound low at first, louder as it got closer. By the time it passed over my head I felt almost frantic. Who were they looking for? Was someone lost in the hills, or in the lake? The helicopter dropped low over the water and I watched it through slatted spikes of rushes. I hear its engine over my house most days and it doesn’t bother me, but there was something about being at the lakeshore while a search was on that upset me terribly.

And once I put Peter and his daughter in the woods I was writing a fairy tale.  A fucked-up fairy tale.

Louise Kennedy’s stories have won several prizes and been published in The Stinging Fly, The Tangerine, Ambit, Wasifiri & The Incubator. She grew up in Holywood, Co. Down and lives in Sligo. She is a PhD Creative Writing candidate at Queens University Belfast.

© Louise Kennedy, 2017. Image © Jo Mazelis, 2017.