Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Character: Catherine Cole

Today is a prime example of how preparing posts ahead of time can save you a lot of pain sitting in front of the computer saying (or crying) "C...what starts with C? Why doesn't anything start with C? What ever will I write about?"

I ended up going with Catherine Cole, as you may have guessed from my overly clever title. Catherine, or Cate as she prefers to be known, is the main character of my WIP, Second Nature. I don't know if writers are supposed to have favorites amongst their darlings, but I'm pretty sure Cate's mine. She's a tough talking, wildly sarcastic, pop culture referencing woman and these traits make her an absolute delight to write for. Sometimes I forget I have other characters when Cate's in the mix.

Anyway, The scene I'm going to post is her opening scene. I can't post the entire scene; it's entirely too long but if you're interested, the entire scene can be read HERE on my non blog webpage.

Well, here we go. Hope you enjoy it...

The fifteenth of June that year had been a perfect day, right up until the moment they told her her mother was dead.

Cate remembered how nice it was. It was the first truly nice day of the entire year. The winter had been long and dumped a record amount of snow on the city. May, keeping with a long standing New England tradition, had been a month of wind and rain, saturating Boston and everyone in it until they were all wet to the bone. June had been drier, but still gray and unseasonably cool in its first two weeks. The entire city was on the verge of rebelling but, on the fifteenth, the sun appeared in all its radiant glory and suddenly, the entire population of Boston was fighting the urge to ignore obligation in favor of lounging in the warmth of a much missed sun.

Cate had been no exception. It was the first day she’d cursed her decision to take a summer class at the university and had contemplated skipping her philosophy lecture altogether. Ultimately she’d gone, mostly because she didn’t want to either lie to her mother about going, or suffer through a lecture about skipping.

So she sat in the windowless lecture hall with about fifty other students, few of which she judged as being actually enthusiastic about their attendance. She neglected to take notes and spent the time alternately drawing random patterns, staring off into space and wondering why the first really nice day— the first really warm day— of the year wasn’t automatically declared a city wide holiday.

By the time the lecture came to an end, Cate had filled two pages with Celtic looking knots, pyramids, cityscape outlines and a variety of stick figures in various death throes. She looked over her handiwork before shoving the notebook in her bag and considered declaring a major in art or art history. She decided against it though and instead joined some friends with plans to waste time being marginally disreputable around Quincy Market. Her cell had been off during class— her professor insisted— so she took it out of her bag and turned it back on so she could check in— at her mother’s insistence— with Fiona, the housekeeper. She saw she had a message waiting and accessed her voicemail in order to hear it.

“Catherine, love,” Fiona’s Irish lilt was saying. “You have to come home. Right away.”

She stopped then at the top of a flight of stairs and lowered the phone, holding it against her chest. She never heard Fiona sound mournful before. Angry, or disappointed, appalled by Cate’s sometimes questionable behavior even, yes, but mournful? No. Not once.

Her friends called to her then, noticing she was no longer with them. She looked up at the sound of her name and saw Daniel looking back at her. Daniel was her mother’s man, Laura’s jack of all trades, and right now he stood next to her friends at the bottom of the stairs. He was a man who made stoic people seem down right emotional and the look on his face made her drop her phone and hold onto the stair railing for dear life.

“What happened?” she asked.

Your mother’s dead, they told her, Daniel and Fiona together, once they all sat together in the living room of Cate’s Beacon Hill townhouse. She’s gone.

Cate looked at them, dry eyed, for a moment and then turned her head to her left. The windows overlooked the street and she watched the people walking past, wearing their shorts and short sleeved shirts. Fiona came and sat beside her, taking her hand.

“Cate,” Daniel said.

“I don’t understand,” she said.

And she hadn’t. She hadn’t understood it any more three days later when she was standing grave side, watching her mother’s coffin being lowered into the ground. She still didn’t understand it. It had been nearly a month now and still she just didn’t understand it.

Maybe if there had been a reason. People died suddenly all the time, some crazy tragic accident or something, but all Daniel and Fiona had said, or would say, was that her mother had a sort of cancer. And it killed her.

Cate knew they were lying. Laura Cole did not have a sort of cancer. The woman was healthy, the woman had always been healthy, never even a damn cold, forget cancer. And if there had been, by some freak chance, a tumor, Cate would’ve known. Her mother never would have kept that from her.

They’d had the sort of mother-daughter relationship that only existed in fairy tales or whatever, but not real life. Cate told her mother the truth— the truth— about things. Everything. Almost everything. Boys, fights with friends, the stupid stuff she did in school, whatever. And her mother reciprocated. Of course, her mother never dated, didn’t really have many friends and never, ever did anything that could be counted as stupid. But still, she shared. She damn well would have shared that she was dying from a sort of cancer.


Cate came out of her reverie suddenly. She was sitting in the waiting room of her doctor’s office. The receptionist— Rosie maybe?— was standing in front of her, hand on her elbow.

“Hi,” Rosie said, smiling her very best fake smile. “Sorry to interrupt your day dreaming.”

Day dreaming. Right.

“No problem,” Cate said.

Rosie nodded. “Dr. Blaire will be with you in a moment,” she said. “He’s just running a little late.”

He was always running a little late and yet they still expected her to show up for appointments on time. Whatever. Cate nodded and Rosie patted her elbow before retreating back to her desk. Cate glanced at the clock on the wall and saw she’d been waiting almost thirty minutes already. Not that she’d noticed. Time sure did fly when one was obsessing over one’s dead mother.


  1. Great post! Loved reading about Catherine.

  2. Double C's and your own character. Good stuff. I am trying to visit all the blogs in the A-Z Challenge

  3. Excellent introduction to Cate. Not such a great start for her, though!

  4. I enjoyed reading your excerpt. I think we all have our darlings when we write. :)

  5. Good writing! You're right about being pressured to write something. C? What's a C?

  6. That's quite the powerful opening line. Thanks for sharing.

  7. That's quite the powerful opening line. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. Great scene and I already like Cate.

  10. I like Cate too. Wondering if there's some mystery as to why her mother died. I want to read more. Nice job.

  11. That was fantastic! You do a wonderful job describing characters and relationships without it being obtrusive whatsoever. Nicely done :)

  12. Over here for the challenge (not that it's a challenge to visit. I mean, for the A-Z Chal...oh, you know what I mean!).
    Only "marginally" disreputable at Quincy Market?
    Shoot, I've been "downright" disreputable there.
    To say nothing of the Combat Zone.

  13. "The fifteenth of June that year had been a perfect day, right up until the moment they told her her mother was dead." - I love this first line. Definitely pulls you right in.

    I also love the alliteration of Catherine Cole. What a great name!

  14. Cate is awesome and I love the way you spell her name! I would definitely read more. That first paragraph is fantastic!!!!!!!!!!

  15. Very well written! Thanks for sharing it with us :D

  16. WOW-powerful beginning! I want to read more! Checking you out for the A to Z Challenge. Nice blog!

  17. M.J.:

    I loved how you ended it. Very powerful sentence.


  18. Cate sounds awesome! I can see why you love her!

    My C

  19. Intrigued! Must know what killed her mother....

  20. Thanks for sharing Catherine with us! New follower! : )

  21. Love it! I think it's fine to have a favourite character, but you know what they say, "kill your darlings". if she's your favourite, then she'll likely be the favourite of your readers too.

    Jamie Gibbs
    Fellow A-Z Buddy
    Mithril Wisdom

  22. Poor Cate. Seems like something is up if she didn't know about the cancer?? As in, not really cancer? Color me intrigued!

    Shannon at The Warrior Muse, co-host of the 2012 #atozchallenge! Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  23. Thanks for introducing us to your character Catherine Cole. I didn't think to do this but its a great idea to teach out to your readers and engage them with your characters. Good luck with your WIP!