I am working my way through part two of WSF so I thought I would put some of my efforts up here so that I can either, get feedback or develop the pieces as I go along or use it as a learning tool as I progress.
Page 50 – Writing yourself 1.
I found a photograph from a few years ago. I’m the one on the left. I tried to see myself as a stranger might and asked myself the question. What do you see? I was now a character. I had to imagine a young businessman passing my character in the street.
It was fun to imagine myself as a complete stranger and trying to imagine what the character was thinking about and what would happen next.
Lydia paints on a bright smile, she’s trying to relax but realises she is holding on to Jenny a bit too tightly. She wonders what Jenny really thinks about her. After all, she was a good friend to Monica. Does she think what they’re doing is wrong? Peter seems relaxed enough, but they’re hardly going to turn against him after so many years of friendship. Lydia hopes the weekend passes without any uncomfortable incidents. She almost regrets coming. How can she expect them to approve when they know that Monica is at home, none the wiser. Do they feel as if they are betraying her too? What if someone recognises them and tells her?
Peter lowers the camera. ‘Lovely. You both look gorgeous.’
‘Good,’ Jenny says and wriggles out from my grip, rubbing her upper arm. ‘Now can we go and eat. I’m starving.’ She links up with Simon, and they walk ahead of us, along the little, cobbled streets of the village that lies on the edge of the tulip fields.
A young man in a suit is coming towards them. He glances at Lydia. She thinks he must know her. His eyes are looking her up and down, a whisper of a smile on his lips. He nods almost imperceptibly as he passes. She feels the compulsion to look back at him, and when she does; he is looking back at her. She frowns, wondering and then it hits her. A shiver runs down her spine as she turns away, pulling on Pete’s arm and quickening her step.
‘Let’s hurry. I’m absolutely famished,’ says Lydia, desperate to leave the man behind.
Page 55 exercise – Familiar strangers
- Familiar strangers are the people you recognise from everyday life but don’t interact with. Choose somebody, it could be the old man you see frequently at the bus stop, the young mum at the gym or the taxi driver you pass on your way to work each morning.Choose one vivid detail about this person. From one detail that strikes you, write the introduction to this character’s short story in a way that reveals much more about who they are. As you’re beginning to learn, plots can come from characters so start to think how a story might develop from this introduction. If it’s working, keep going and draft a story.
Brian always wears a woollen Crombie, black with the collar turned up. It’s too long for his five-foot-one frame but it looks good with his black, leather gloves. He wears it when he knocks on all the doors in the village, selling poppies for The British Legion every year. He wears it to attend church with his wife every Sunday morning and he wears it to attend the coffee mornings at the village hall on the first Saturday of the month during the whole of autumn and winter.
It was a typical November evening when Brian knocked on the door of the new couple who had just moved into the village.
‘Good evening,’ he said in his usual authoritative voice, looking up at the willowy young woman who answered the door. ‘I’m the designated poppy seller for the village and I wondered if I might persuade you to purchase one. Any amount you care to donate would be gratefully received.’
‘Ah. Yes. I’ll just get my purse,’ the young woman said and disappeared inside, almost closing the door on Brian.
Not exactly welcoming, he thought. Still, when Sheila invites her to attend the next WI meeting, it’ll break the ice a little.
Melanie came back to the door and unzipped her purse.
‘I can’t rattle my collection tin, I’m afraid,’ said Brian, coughing slightly and smiling up at her. ‘There are only notes in there at the moment.’
Melanie raised her eyebrows and stared down at Brian. She didn’t fasten the zip on the coin pocket of her purse. In fact, she looked at the pound coin in her hand and popped it back in her purse. Brian widened his smile until Melanie drew out a fifty pence piece and popped it in the slot on the top of the collection tin. It thudded loudly as it hit the bottom. She then helped herself to a poppy from the tray that was securely fastened to a broad red ribbon and hanging around Brian’s neck.
‘Goodnight,’ she said and promptly closed the door in his face.
‘Well, I never,’ spluttered Brian before racing back down the path and slamming the gate behind him. He hurried to the large detached house next door. He had no idea what Bill and Jacqueline Brown would make of it but it was definitely his duty to raise their awareness of the sort of neighbours who had just moved in next door to them.
2. Now try a monologue as a way of getting to know this familiar stranger as a character. This is an excellent way to get into the head of the character. In the same way as you free write, don’t think about it too much, just write from your character’s head – as he/she waits for the bus, works out at the gym, or drives the taxi – and see what emerges.
Just wait until I get home and tell Sheila. Disgraceful really and to donate only fifty pence. That is not the spirit of generosity I expect from my fellow neighbours in this village. It most definitely will not do. I’m not entirely sure now that Sheila should invite the wretched woman to the next WI meeting if she was going to be this mealy-mouthed. She’d barely made any effort at all to speak to me. There’s no way Sheila should make her welcome after that. No! I’ve a good mind to warn everyone in the village about her. I know…I’ll bring it up at the next parish council meeting.
Oh dear! She’s making me behave as abominably as she did. Perhaps I’m being a little hasty in my judgement. Now then, Brian. Have a word with yourself. Charity and all that. Must give her the benefit. It may be that she didn’t want to open her door to a stranger. I suppose that could be it. In all fairness, that’s exactly what I am to her, a stranger. She doesn’t actually know me from Adam.
That’s probably it. Still, I have to say, I didn’t like the way she looked down at me. It would have been better if she had stepped down on to the path instead of looming over me as if I was a child.
Be that as it may. I shall be charitable and forgive this first encounter. I’ll send a personal invitation to the next coffee morning in aid of the RNLI. Then we’ll see if she and her husband will deign to show their presence. Then we’ll know. Yes. Absolutely, we’ll know.