Well, like I said, off to an early start for Week 2!
Week 2 started with more discussion of personal writing technique, like your ideal writing environment. Fortunately, I’m already quite familiar with that:
Environment suited to me
With his laptop loading up, Richard reflected on the serenity of the space around him. He was completely alone in his room – no sound, no movement, nothing for company but the furniture. He was in his own little bubble, with nothing to distract him. Sitting comfortably in his leather chair, he could simply put his fingers to the keyboard and get tapping away, focussed on the flow of the words, running from his mind to his fingers. “OK,” he thought. “Target is one thousand words, an hour from now – let’s get started.”
Environment not suited to me
This hadn’t been a good idea, Richard pondered, as he sat hunched over at the picnic table in the park. Each time he put his pen to the notebook, he managed just a couple of sentences, until something interrupted his train of thought. The breeze against his ears; the uncomfortable feeling of having nothing propping up his back; the movement in the corner of his eye as an excited child or dog ran past; the glittering sunlight reflecting off the river in front of him…he tried going to the other side of the table, but then he was facing the green, where the families were playing. There was too much movement, refusing to let him focus. This might well be suitable for collecting input and ideas, but not for the writing itself.
There was then talk about building a character based on their behaviour and inner thought processes, rather than just their appearance. Thus, I tried to modify my earlier character sketch of Harold, though I’m not sure it really needs it:
On his head, Harold was wearing a black trilby and thick-rimmed glasses, and he looked several years too young for either item. Shy strands of close-cut brown hair poked out from beneath the trilby. His squashy coat, which added to his already considerable rotundity, and the red scarf that almost trailed down to the pavement, were more appropriate for someone going for a countryside stroll in winter, than sitting alone at a Cardiff bus stop on a spring day. Blue and bright, the coat blared out to the eye like a police siren, so even as Harold hunched over in his seat like a curling-up hedgehog, and kept his chubby, clean-shaven face buried in The Guardian, he attracted a few sideways looks from the others at the bus stop, who kept their distance.
Pursing his lips, Harold appeared engrossed in what he was reading – but every few moments, he looked up from the paper and gazed from side to side with a quick, jerking movement of his head, biting his lip as he did so.
“Don’t do it, you fool,” he kept thinking. “Don’t draw attention. Fly on the wall. Just be relaxed.”
But he kept looking up anyway.
Finally, as the bus pulled up, he scrunched up his newspaper inelegantly, picked up his Waitrose bag, and followed the crowd onboard with an awkward waddle.
Initial attempts to observe people around me haven’t yet resulted in noting anyone I’d like to write a story around, but I am increasingly curious about Harold. We’ll see where that goes.
After learning about how to make your writing original, such as using “familiar words in unfamiliar places”, I tried this out:
The dog hurled himself onto the decimated battlefield of mown grass and rolled around as if possessed, satisfied grunts easing from his throat. When he got to his feet, his shortbread hair was dyed an alien green.
The final exercise involved taking a quote from the radio and turning it into a story/character sketch. I turned on the radio and heard the words, “two very different sisters running a café together.” I’m not sure exactly what I’ll be able to do with this in the coming weeks, but I was able to write this:
Sitting up in bed with her laptop balanced on the duvet, running a fingernail along her teeth, Terri carefully re-arranged the icons on her blog template, her chocolate-brown eyes half-closed in a mixture of trying to concentrate and resisting early morning drowsiness. Then she glanced at the clock at the bottom of the screen; Jem would be back in about fifteen minutes. Terri sighed, closed the laptop and climbed out of bed. Effective time management was calling – building her masterpiece would have to wait a few minutes. They didn’t want to be late to the café; she’d have to be showered and out of the bathroom by the time Jem returned from her morning run.
Stumbling flat-footed across the flat into the bathroom, Terri glanced in the mirror, to be greeted by a fresh spot on her chin, and what looked like a black mop plonked on her head. Glumly, she stripped off and wandered into the shower to battle the monster before it consumed her brain. She didn’t mind being on the pudgy side – she had better things to do than trying to compete with her sister, Queen of the Amazons – but why did Jem have to get the genes for straight hair? These curly brambles were a nightmare to deal with.
Happily, the hot shower served to energise Terri, and she left the bathroom feeling fresh, looking less scraggly, and holding herself less like a cavewoman. Throwing on her worn blue jeans and a plain black T-shirt, she checked her watch and saw that Jem was slightly overdue. Well, back to the laptop.
By the time she heard Jem coming through the front door, Terri was kneeling on the bed and staring proudly at the blog, currently empty, but full of possibilities – once they actually had something to write about the cafe. Oh, but soon…soon, it would be the envy of café blogs everywhere. None of the others were manned by someone with a degree in I.T., after all – hopefully.
“More fun than inputting travel agent bookings already,” thought Terri. She just hoped Jem would appreciate it for the work of art that it was.
I’m unsure whether everything I’ve taken on board this second week is going to work for me personally, but it has certainly provided some challenging exercises and food for thought, and useful tips I’m going to experiment with.