Welcome back folks. A brief hiatus due to frolicking in the Palermo sun and we are back at work. The first draft is now at 40k and according to my most recent feedback…..
The reader is beginning got see that there is a lot of subterfuge going on here..lots of masks and duel identities..lot of flogging too. The action seems to mirror the context; full of mystery…smoke and mirrors.It actually feels like the story we are being told right now is not the real story at all.
Couldn’t have put it better myself.
In other news the creative writing course has come to an end and today I thought I would share a couple of the exercises from the last few weeks. There is no doubt that the course has given me confidence to write, as well as an understanding of some of the key issues. The first one I’m going to share was a challenge based on a picture. Interpret it as you see fit. For most of the exercises I have used them as an excuse to work on the novel. But for this one I decided to take myself out of my comfort zone and write something in a completely different style. I decided to write something deliberately dark and the picture I had to work from was “Home” by Bo Bartlett. I did not like the picture, so that helped to make the exercise a little darker than normal……
Archer fidgets in his seat, he is sweating, whether from the heat or the memory it is impossible to tell.
“So, the best way I can tell it is like this. It was like a picture I once saw on a girlfriend’s wall, before all this started. It was one of those hokey American realist pictures that mistake technical ability with art. Big mistake IMHO. In the picture, there are these three figures and a deserted house, but the picture is serene, trying to be enigmatic, here it was….well, here, it was the real world. The child had just collapsed on our only blanket. It was bleeding from its mouth, fluid leaking from its eyes which were black from the infection. Gonna have to burn that blanket I thought. So, that already kinda pissed me off. The woman, Gena, just looks pissed at the whole clusterfuck. She knew the situation, knew she was likely next. We had both seen too much, lost so many, one more dead kid was hardly gonna to make us weep anymore. Anyway, it had just tagged along a few days ago. By then we had no food, precious little water and nowhere to sleep. Then “Hey kids” look what we found, a white picket fenced house just waiting to offer us a refuge from the horror of the world. Hah! Just the basis for a new nuclear family. Ma, Pa, two adorable children, the whole shebang.
The other kid, don’t remember his name, was peering around the corner of the house. Looking out for them. He was as dumb as a bag of rocks that kid, always asking questions nobody could answer, never accepting that Gena and I couldn’t give him answers. “But why” he would forever ask. “Dunno, just is” I would reply. He was really starting to bug me, I do remember that.”
Archer stops, he blinks nervously, tilts his head to see me better through the glass. He leans forward, shouts, spittle flying from his mouth.
“There was nothing I could do, nothing I could fucking well do. They were all gonna be dead. I just decided to end it there and then. What else could I do man. I mean, what else was I supposed to do?”
He slumps back, tired, exhausted, wiped with the effort of trying to stay alive.
“How the fuck was I supposed to know you were home.”
The second exercise was a form of oblique strategies whereby you are given a couple of disparate phrases that have nothing in common and work them into a short piece. The two phrases I had to work with were.
“The thing he is doing with that newspaper”
“A man wearing a plate on his head”
For this I set myself the task of incorporating these two ideas into the novel’s narrative. So here is the beginning of Chapter 8.
An Innocent Abroad
“Well isn’t this nice.” Mary Bennet resplendent in an eye-catching yellow dress and clutch bag surveys the slightly garish red and gold flocked interior along with the well-dressed clientele of Verrey’s of Regent Street. The waiters, discreet in their plain evening dress, move as if on castors between the many little square tables. They wield trays and platters high above their heads like gladiators poised to hurl sharpened edges. One glides past Perrin and from his angle it looks as if he is wearing the plate on his head, whether for protection or attack Perrin cannot tell. All the tables are individually lit by red-shaded wax candles. Perrin fidgets, his collar feels tight, his sweat soaked shirt sticks to his back and he is constantly looking around to see who may be watching them. He has brought a newspaper with him from the bawd house, thinking it was part of his attire, appropriate as a gentleman about town. But, here, he now has no use for it and unknowingly, restlessly taps it against his leg.
“Francis, you know the thing you are doing with that newspaper?”
“Oh, errr yes.”
“Stop it. It’s deeply annoying.”
“Yes, absolutely, sorry.” He drops the newspaper to the floor.
“Relax Francis, this is an excellent restaurant. The French may not be to everyone’s taste, but one must admire their ability in the kitchen. Do you not agree?” Mary is making small talk, partly because that is what is required in such a situation but partly, Perrin thinks, to annoy him given the circumstances that have brought them here.
“Whether or not I agree on the culinary abilities of our French cousins is mute. I am, as you are no doubt aware, more concerned about who and when somebody is going to make overtures on my body.”
“Oh, you should have said, I could have gotten one of the girls to make overtures to you before we left.” She smiles sweetly at him. Perrin is having none of it.
“Oh, how very bloody funny this must be for you and Salt. To see me paraded out in public like some prize bull just before the poor animal gets slaughtered.”
The interesting thing about this is that the challenge of these random ideas definitely improved the narrative and allowed me to add to the scene description as well as the characterisation of the mood of the characters. So think outside the box and if you find that difficult then there are ideas and processes out there to get yourself out of a rut or challenge your thinking.
See you next week.