Moving swiftly along!
Writing Group Session
01 December 2017
Today we needed to be alert and sharp for a exercise that required some flexibility and mental agility. I thought it might be a good idea to play a round or two of a word game, just to get the grey cells going first? Hmm, not sure how that went! We did not do so well, but maybe we were sharper for doing it, who knows. Something made the next bit go quite well!
Members were asked to think of an opening to a story and just start writing. They only had ten minutes to begin introducing the main characters and after that time they were told to stop and start again, this time moving to a different chapter in which they were to focus on a single character that would at some point interact with those already introduced.(5 minutes) Then, moving swiftly along, they had another five minutes to develop a back story, and introduce it to the reader, about one of the main characters.
Only two people wrote a title. Jimmy’s title was ‘A Successful Band.’ He wrote an autobiographical piece in first person introducing ‘himself’ as a singer/songwriter and an agent who he called Fred. in part 2 we met Michael, a friend and publisher and in part 3 we learned more about Fred who had known what he wanted and had made a success of being a manager. With little time for sentiment he told told ‘Jimmy’ to drop the current band and get some better musicians!
Leigh gave us ‘Sex and Mince Pies’ and introduced us to two characters, 79a and another character also known by a number! This intriguing opening turned out to be a futuristic setting where the characters were clones, constrained by their programming and trying to make sense of relationships. As Pete quickly spotted, they could well be metaphorically representative of the way we are all conditioned by our socialisation and the constraints put on us by society and its norms. It offered a fascinating array of possibilities, which might involve psychological insights overlaying a superficially ‘science fiction’ story. An unusual choice of setting for Leigh but I love the fact that she was motivated to try something different, and it worked.
Jim’s opening also had a potentially science fiction or supernatural flavour. Harold finds an object while out metal detecting. In minimalist style Jim gave us no description or explanation of what it was. He simply piqued our interest by telling us that the plastic bag he took it home in was inadequate to protect anyone from the danger it represented. His wife took an instant dislike to it, in fact she felt ill around it and demanded he get rid of it. In the next section, years later, Joyce, the wife has died of a mysterious wasting disease and we meet their son who finds the artefact and takes it with him to Canada….
Pete opened his story with the word, Hola,’ spoken to a passerby by an old man with skinny white legs who sits every day in his garage watching TV. The amount of information given in the first couple of sentences was great. We know where we are, we can picture the scene… In the second task he tells us of the large German lady with the enigmatic smile who was not his landlady but the old man’s wife! In the third passage we meet a bearded handsome policeman in his aviator sun glasses, find out that the story is actually on the tiny island of Graciosa and that there is a drug smuggling angle to the tale! Great characterisation, economy of language and an opening that definitely has legs.
Aileen told us of Rita an old lady of 88, regularly asked if she was going to play whist this week, but for several cold, wet weeks she had been making excuses. In the second passage we meet Liam who is asked to break in to Rita’s house. Apparently she is not answering her phone and in the last passage we learn that she has not actually been seen for two months! The intrigue came in the brief discussion after, when Aileen disclosed that she was thinking of having them find the house empty and Rita gone with no explanation! (apologies Aileen for the lack of time to explore your ideas more fully.)
Sue’e story starts with a young woman who has taken a job hastily as she has no money and nowhere to stay. She is looking after a silent and forbidding old man. Her employer, Mr Black has told her not to agitate him by trying to engage him in conversation and to keep the doors locked and with that has left her to it! In the second part we meet Angus, a nervous, insecure young man who is using his phone to navigate the streets of London on his way to an unspecified appointment. In a flashback we meet again the old man as a contented University professor, musing on the first time he met a particular young student.
Plunging into different part of the story or deliberately coming up with a new character who has yet to be woven in to the narrative are suggestions for those times when you might get a bit bogged down with the point you have reached, Or sometimes life has got in the way and you have had to break off from your writing and find it a bit difficult to just pick up the thread at once. Or perhaps you feel you are drifting and the story is losing pace and you re not sure where you want to go next. You may even be a bit bored with the passage you are working on and just want a change. Just as the story does not have to be told in chronological order, you don’t actually have to write it in the order in which it finally unfolds!