In Love and Snow by Erik Norman Farleigh Edited by: Sarah Soards
Dear Mr. Farleigh, Thank you for sharing In Love and Snow with me. It is an amazing opportunity, and I appreciate your willingness to work with me on such a personal document. Your ability to paint such a vivid picture of the Pacific Northwest and your knack for building dramatic suspense is marvelous. You have truly captured the beauty, joy, and depth that native Oregonians feel for their state. The characters are connected to the landscape in such a variety of interesting ways: the mountains, the trees, the fresh air, (and of course the snow,) seem to speak for themselves throughout your piece. The characters depend on these natural wonders to survive— both physically and emotionally. I could really sense the pride and care you took with every description—it made the manuscript genuine and strong. So thank you for sharing that strength. As a fellow writer myself, I realize how difficult it is to have other people critique your work. But my hope is to help improve your manuscript and improve my editing skills along the way. My comments are merely suggestions—what you decide to do with them is entirely up to you. I hope they are helpful, and I appreciate your openness to this process. My comments will be divided up into four sections: structure, character, language, and plot. My goal is to give suggestions on ways that you can strengthen your manuscript, but also to point out examples of things you do very well. Please keep in mind that my colleagues and I have attempted to focus on different aspects of your manuscript, but there may still be some repetitive comments.
The structure of the manuscript is very precise: it begins with a prologue, has parts, chapters, and an epilogue. It reads very formally and has clear organization. However, the pacing at the beginning of the manuscript is a little jagged. The reader learns about Kody’s connection to snow in the prologue—it has beautiful descriptions and reads very much like a poem. Prologues are used to introduce the setting and the tone of a piece—they give the audience a glimpse of the overall picture. I think in the case of In Love and Snow, the prologue isn’t needed because the tone and setting are already so strong early on. Likewise, the time spent describing Kody’s prep before his race, and the crash keep the reader from getting to the thick of the story. While the crash is the catalyst for the Heater brothers’ journey to redemption, it is ultimately Deanna who succeeds in healing Kody’s emotional strife. I suggest starting the novel with chapter nine—it is still from Kody’s perspective, and we arrive in the thick of things. He wakes up in a hospital bed, his body racked with pain. Instead of including a chapter about his crash, he could have flashbacks throughout the novel, giving the reader little glimpses into his dreadful experiences. Although the chapter about Jacob visiting Kody in the Austrian hospital is really heartwarming and informative, it keeps the reader from getting to the “meat” of the story. Things don’t really start happening until Kody arrives in Oregon and meets Deanna. My suggestion would be to place Kody in Mt. Hood Medical Center—Jacob can still visit Kody in his comatose state, but we get to meet Deanna much sooner and watch her and Kody’s relationship develop. Changing the hospital location to Oregon also helps with the intimacy and the immediacy of the scene. Jacob travels a short distance from his home, only to turn around and leave again after Kody wakes up. His line, “and so I left my little brother in that Kitzbuhel hospital on the darkest 1
evening of my life,” (31) would only amplify the tension of the situation. Jacob seems even more cowardly, and the reader automatically feels intense sympathy for Kody. This would create more suspense around Kody and Jacob’s mysterious estrangement, and leave more room for Jacob’s development in the story. Kody’s coma will also be a helpful resource for you to insert the memories of his family, which would link up perfectly with the appearance of his brother. I would suggest using some of the memories from the memoir Kody is writing. They are nostalgic, haunting, and emotionally wrought. In particular, I think the story about Jacob and the snowboarders on page 144 would be apt for this section. The reader learns about the relationship between Kody and Jacob, and we get a glimpse into Kody’s childhood. It is a memory of something lost; something Kody will never have again. When Jacob comes to visit Kody in the hospital, Kody could be cognizant of a presence, but not know it is Jacob. This will allow you to keep Jacob’s plea of: “wake up Kody, you need to wake up,” (p. 26) intact. I love that Kody keeps having recurring dreams of this phrase, and doesn’t realize until later that it is Jacob who woke him up from his coma. The chapter could then flow seamlessly into Deanna’s chapter four—while Kody wakes up, Deanna also wakes up. Since you are fond of symmetry, this device would work well for connecting both characters. Then both characters meet shortly after.
Point of View: The story takes place from three different perspectives: Kody’s, Jacob’s, and Deanna’s. While the perspectives make the piece interesting to read, they are often inconsistent. Jacob only has two sections in the novel—Part II at the beginning of the novel, and Part VII near the end. By the time I got to Jacob’s second section, I was a bit surprised he was narrating. Even though he is mentioned fairly often throughout the manuscript, his voice disappears for a long period of time. It was exciting, but a bit jarring to have Jacob’s voice return to the page. Jacob’s chapters are also very short, and while his character is interesting, his perspective does not move the plot forward. I would suggest fleshing out Jacob’s character a bit more. The bar scene is a great place to start; Jacob shows the reader not only the fierce love he has for his brother, but also his ability to finish what he starts. This scene tells us a lot about Jacob’s mantra, and what we are to expect from him later in the story. Jacob’s voice also provides the most contrast out of the three characters. I think more chapters would add to the dynamic of the story and give it a consistent flow. Kody is the main protagonist. He takes what Joseph Campbell calls the “hero’s journey;” growing and changing into the man the reader meets in the epilogue. Kody also has the biggest chapters. While I understand that Kody plays a large part in the development of the story, he is still only one fraction. Deanna is the reason why Kody goes on his hero’s journey, and yet she does not have the same amount of page time as Kody. The story is told from Deanna’s perspective from chapters four to eight, chapters ten to fourteen, and chapters thirty-eight to forty-one. The other chapters, (with the exception of two,) are all from Kody’s perspective. I think a good way to give the characters more equality would be to develop Deanna and Jacob’s characters a bit more, condense some of Kody’s memory sequences, and alternate voices more frequently. If Kody’s perspective goes for three chapters, then Deanna and Jacob need to have three chapters. Alternating perspectives and keeping a similar amount of chapters between characters will keep the manuscript consistent and organized. For example, in the middle of the manuscript, it is Kody’s perspective for over one hundred pages. Granted, this section tells the reader a lot about Kody—we really start to see his character development shine through. But as I was reading through it, I found myself wondering how things were from Deanna and Jacob’s perspectives, and how they were dealing with everything that was happening. Kody’s long block could simply be cut up with some of Deanna and Jacob’s chapters.
Character Voice: 2
You have created three characters whose futures are inevitably intertwined. That is a powerful device. Their voices have become intertwined, however—Deanna’s snarky lines sound much like things Kody would say; and some of Jacob’s brooding lines could be mistaken for Kody’s musings. Each character uses similar vocabulary and similar body language. Each character swears, uses slang, and often makes sarcastic comments. One of the most common examples of body language is that each character shakes their heads softly or laughs silently. I will go over these examples in more detail later. I would suggest creating a character chart and listing each character’s trait, likes and dislikes, and what is important to them. This will lead you to create unique characters that possess different language sets and quirks. For example: Wouldn’t Kody’s vocabulary be a little different from everyone else, as he is a professional skier? Similarly, Jacob’s language would be more refined at times because he sells people homes for a living. Deanna often uses slang, but should also have a very educated vocabulary due to her extensive education. A person’s job and education contribute to their vernacular, and continue to build on it over time. Let your character’s jobs influence their vocabulary—it would not only enhance the dialogue, but also allow for a clear sense of who each character is. Another way to develop and create distinction between your three main characters is to look at their internal conflicts. What is Kody’s internal conflict? He cannot forgive himself for the death of his parents, and he cannot decide whether or not he wants to see his brother. What is Deanna’s internal conflict? She cannot forgive herself for ignoring her father while he was dying, and she doesn’t know if she should be with Tony or Kody. What is Jacob’s internal conflict? He cannot forgive himself for being cruel to Kody, and he cannot decide whether or not he wants to see his brother. Each character’s internal conflicts are very similar. What is wonderful is that you have clearly defined these conflicts for each character. It makes it easy to empathize and the characters can commiserate on their parallel plights. Yet, these conflicts make it difficult to distinguish one character from another at times. It is true that people handle similar situations differently, but there is also something more added to the mix. Perhaps one of the character’s struggles with the realization that one of their parents is fallible—maybe Jacob saw his father do something questionable, and it affected the way Jacob felt about women and relationships. Each character has been built on a strong foundation; they just need varied conflicts to further their development.
Character Choice: You have created an excellent cast of main, secondary, and tertiary characters. They are all there for a reason, and add depth to the story. That being said, you must be wary of the types of characters you have created. The female and male characters follow a very typical set of character traits that could border on stereotypical. These stereotypes could isolate potential audiences, so please be aware. The female characters you have created in this manuscript have a lot of potential. They’re boisterous, strong-willed, smart, stubborn, and funny. Deanna’s sarcasm and sharp comments are especially entertaining—I really enjoy the way you have shaped her language for these scenes. I love the scene with the seventeen-year old kid; the bit about the sippy cup on page thirty-eight is absolutely priceless. While these women have strong personality traits, they also dip into female stereotypes. They are beautiful, insecure, and believe that finding a man will ensure their happiness. For example, Rhonda is described as “a fiery nurse; heavyset but still quite beautiful, with curly black hair down to her shoulders and deep brown eyes, her skin smooth and milk-chocolate in color” (37). The focus of this sentence is not Rhonda’s fiery temperament, but her weight. Deanna points out that in spite of Rhonda’s obesity, she’s overcome it by being beautiful. It is as though Rhonda has a physical deficiency, or problem, but it’s okay because she’s pretty. This line is a bit offensive, and could dissuade some readers from continuing with your story. It also makes Deanna seem unkind, passive-aggressive, and judgmental. You have created Deanna to be a sympathetic, compassionate character; it seems out of place that she would say something so impolite. I would cut this line out entirely, or if Rhonda needs to stay overweight, give the reader a reason. Why is it important that this character is bigger than other characters? How does this character trait move the plot 3
forward? There is a way of giving the reader this information without being offensive. Since your primary readers are going to be women, I would suggest developing Rhonda’s character a bit more. What are her interests? If she has a heart of gold, but a no-nonsense attitude, maybe have a scene with Rhonda and a patient or have Deanna and Rhonda go out for dinner. This would enable readers to see what Rhonda is really like, rather than be told. Deanna tells us how much she admires Rhonda, but we don’t really see the two of them interact on a deeper level. Adding a scene with Rhonda would legitimize Deanna’s spoken regard for her, and deepen the bond the reader has with Rhonda. Eileen, like Rhonda is a really sassy, fun character, but she also needs a little more development. She is described as being overweight, busty, and “beautiful in her prime” (38). Her appearance causes her to say: “look at me—I’ll probably die alone and miserable” (125). On one hand this is excellent character development; you show Eileen’s fear of aging and her vulnerability. On the other hand, they seem like sexist and ageist ideals. No one will want her because she is overweight and older, and she is meaningless if she doesn’t get married. Eileen seems to think that only young and skinny women can get married. For example, Deanna, who is described as fit and beautiful, is proposed to twice. If Eileen is going to have a sexist and ageist philosophy, then her backstory needs to be developed. Did RJ leave her jaded and disheartened about men? Maybe her parents told her the only way to be happy is to find a man, etc. She needs to have reasons for feeling this way. It will make her an even stronger and more compelling character. The older male characters are often described as being a little overweight, imposing, weathered, feeble, and gray-haired. While wrinkles and gray hair come with age, for some readers, the language you use in your portrayal of older characters could be considered a bit ageist. For example, RJ, who is in his sixties, has a “weathered face dusted with gray whiskers,” and has a “semblance of a belly” (327-328). The race official has “broad shoulders and a thick chest and legs as strong and stout as oak tree trunks, though his motions were slower now and somewhat labored” (6). Kody’s friend Jerod, while only in his fifties, is described as being “a tad overweight, but still quite strong and imposing” (138). Jerod’s face is also said to be “toughened and leathery” (138). You have done an excellent job explaining the reasons for each character’s current appearance; i.e. living on a mountain or near the ocean—but you have created three very similar characters. This could suggest that all men become overweight, weathered, and feeble with age. I propose developing each character a little more—focus not on their age, but on their defining, positive characteristics. Does RJ have a full head of hair? Does Jerod enjoy living on the mountain, despite its harsh conditions? Does the race official have an interesting laugh that starts deep within his belly? Characters need to be defined by more than just their ages. I think the way you describe Dustin is a great example of a developed older character. You have provided Dustin with an excellent backstory—he is a lawyer turned physical therapist after a skiing accident left him broken. After training relentlessly, Dustin not only gets back on his feet but also starts skiing again. He is described as being incredibly fit and very driven. The training scene is perfectly detailed—I got a good sense of who Dustin was, and what his purpose was in the manuscript. He gives Kody hope, and the necessary tools for Kody’s rehabilitation.
Language Use: Be aware of sexist, racist, ageist, and homophobic language. If it has to be used, make sure the character has a reason to use it. For example, when Kody gets teased for wanting flames up the sides of his ski suit, one of the young kids tells him, “that’s the gayest thing I’ve ever heard” (76). Kids say hurtful things; often words they don’t even understand. They turn simple words into grotesque, awful-sounding things that destroy other kids. So in this context, using the word gay works. However, it does not make sense when Kody’s mother uses it in the same context as the kids. She asks Kody if he wants flames sewn onto his suit and he shakes his head no. She then says: “Good—because I think that would look a little gay” (78). Homophobic language does not work in this context; she is using gay as a negative, and she is telling her son that it isn’t okay to be gay. If she is trying to make fun of the other kids by using the same word, or if she is attempting to soften the blow, it needs 4
to be clearer. Is she a homophobic character? If she is, there need to be little hints throughout the manuscript so that the reader isn’t surprised and befuddled by her strong shift in values.
Repetition: You are very detailed about how your characters say their lines. They say them while laughing, smiling, crying, wrinkling their brows—it is pretty admirable how much care you put into each reaction. However, you have a habit of using laughed softly, and laughed quietly, frequently in the manuscript. I would suggest going through and changing some of those phrases. Maybe examine the character’s situation; did Kody say something funny to Deanna? Perhaps she laughs loudly, chuckles, or snickers. I love that your characters laugh often; even after all the terrible things that have befallen them, they still make time to have a good guffaw or two. You have given your characters realistic integrity—because if you can’t laugh, you cry. Another word that was used often and stuck out to me is moist. Perhaps go through and switch it out with damp, wet, clammy, etc.
Dialogue: One of the best things about In Love and Snow is its dialogue. Your characters talk to each other in short bursts, emanating the rhythms of realistic conversation. The dialogue goes by in the blink of an eye, and it is quite refreshing. Sometimes though, the dialogue the characters say does not match the natural flow of the sentences. The characters do not stumble when they’re nervous, say the wrong thing, or use filler words. Every character seems to know exactly what to say to each other when they are in conversation. You do a great job with Jacob and Kody’s first meeting. They stand there staring at each other for several minutes and then Jacob says, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry for everything…” (367). You create strong emotions in few words—it’s a powerful scene in the story. But a little bit later, they have slipped into easy conversation: “‘I know I just said this Kody, but this place is great. You’ve really done well for yourself.’ ‘Thank you…’ I said, grabbing two Budweiser’s from the fridge. I twisted off their caps and placed a bottle on the counter in front of him. ‘It works fine for now, but if I’d been more careful—if I’d stayed on my skis and won a few more races—I could’ve built up a nest-egg for something newer and nicer. It gets a bit drafty in here’” (368). Kody gives Jacob an immediate answer; he doesn’t even know his brother, but he is ready with an explanation. I suggest giving the situation a more sheepish tone—they do not know what to say to each other, because there is so much to say. People bumble over their words and pause a lot when they are feeling awkward. This would give this scene a more genuine feel. How do the characters feel about seeing one another? Since the reader only gets Kody’s interior monologue, it is important to show how Jacob is feeling through his body language and his part of the dialogue.
Plot Lincoln City:
This was one of my favorite sections in the manuscript. It was well structured, had wonderful descriptions, great dialogue, and well developed characters. I thought that chapter thirty-six would even work well on its own as a separate story. It has a beginning, middle, and an end; and the protagonist learns something that contributes to his personal growth. The characters are entertaining, quirky, and familiar. Those of us who have grown up near a coastal town know these shop owners all too well. The only suggestion I would make for this section is to give RJ more of a reason for making up stories. Threatening people with a shotgun is not really something a person brags about. The people in town fear RJ, and he seems to think it’s entertaining, and it gives the “kids a harmless outlet for their free time” (332). But why does RJ need people to fear him? There needs to be more development around the storytelling. After Eileen’s rejection, did he ban people from visiting because he felt so upset? Perhaps he has something valuable hidden on the property that he must guard all 5
hours of the day. He is a very amiable and interesting character, but his story needs a little more development.
Epilogue: The epilogue wraps the story up nicely and succinctly. But I feel like it summarizes the story without ever really adding to it. I love the line at the end of the last chapter: “and eventually, when enough snow had fallen to its leaves, I would settle on my answer…perhaps she wasn’t really alone” (422). The sentence is strong, descriptive, and leaves the reader with a hint of mystery. I think it encompasses the tone of the manuscript completely, and that it would be a powerful way to end your piece. I would also suggest adding a marriage scene between Kody and Deanna—the reader needs closure after the terrible accident. Perhaps you could put the scene in the hospital room—it would heighten the tension, the emotions, and the sympathy for both characters. It also wouldn’t interfere with the rhododendron scene at the end, which is such an eerie and sweet moment. Thank you again for giving me such an incredible opportunity to read and edit your work. Once again, feel free to disregard any suggestions I have made—this is your story, and I am pleased you were open to sharing it with me. This manuscript has a lot of potential and I am excited to see how it will turn out after this process. I hope my input was helpful, and if it wasn’t, well, thank you for giving me the experience. I look forward to meeting and talking with you soon. All the best, Sarah Soards