Monday, 18 October 2010


For this week we had to write two mini sagas. 50 words each, one an autobiography and the other on a subject. The title can be 15 words.

I am really not good at titles.

Saga one (49 wds)
Born under the crab and the warrior twins, I tread the balance between hermit and questing traveller. My tri-faceted self diverges at crucial times making my path unpredictable. A goal or philosophy endures as long as the prevalent front, my journey to unite these opposing forces the only constant.

Saga two (49 wds)
The first living beings were formed from the earth’s core. They ruled the roiling crust, flying through flamed skies and swimming the magma. As the world greened, these great dragons retreated. Now they wait, mantled in rock, their legacy bursts of fire as they churn the core to feed.

Week Seven

“Poverty in the laboratory”

Lab Rat

“Perkins! The incubator! Wake up boy.”
John Perkins stared at his supervisor for a moment before blinking and hurrying to silence the beeping and empty the incubator. Usually he would toss off some kind of salute in response to being called boy, but at least half of his mind was still elsewhere. He hoped the few minutes delay would not affect the test results. The previous day he had been so excited about this latest batch of tests, it really felt as if they were on the verge of a discovery. The atmosphere in the lab was noticeably different, quieter, a thread of tension coupled with quick smiles as the workers looked across at each other after another set of successful results.

They all knew the unspoken deadline. Theirs was a niche research unit, privately owned by a previously rich, but still mad, genius. Curiosity around the Big Boss’s life was actively discouraged, but it was somehow common knowledge that he had re-mortgaged his house and the lab to back this venture. Big Boss was convinced it would work; it was whether they would finalise the new drug in time that was the issue. Once the drug was viable the banks would lend whatever was needed to get it into production. They had three months before the money ran out, no more jobs for them, no more anything for Big Boss.

John had no idea how close to the line they were running, Big Boss wasn’t much of a communicator. Just three months and he could be out of a job and then he’d really be in trouble. Although on what he was on, it wouldn’t make too much difference to his current problems. As his mind came back to Fiona he felt his mouth dry with panic. Any minute now he was going to get shouted at again, but what was he going to do?
It had all started as a bit of fun. Although looking back he wasn’t even sure about that. All he knew was that he’d seen her walk into the bar and the world had spun. When the dizziness faded he had been possessed by a stranger. John was not a compulsive man. He was a scientist, a logical methodical worker who enjoyed knowing what he was going to do each day and how he contributed to the grand plan. He was not, for instance, someone who would walk up to beautiful girl, buy her a drink and insist on taking her for dinner. He was certainly not someone who would then send her flowers at work and have a limousine waiting for her outside to whisk her away for the evening. And he definitely wasn’t the kind of man who would propose to a lady in a grand romantic gesture, with said lady believing him to be a wealthy man and the owner of the laboratory. He would have said that wasn’t him last night, but in that case it hadn’t been him for over three months. If he was someone else for that long did it still count as someone else?

John wasn’t saying it hadn’t been fun. He had very much enjoyed being this other man, men double-looking at the beautiful woman on his arm, fancy restaurants and low-lit bars with cocktails he hadn’t even known he could pronounce. He wasn’t sure if he really loved her, he couldn’t think about her without his brain dribbling out through his ears never mind see her in a rational state of mind. He had spent his entire savings on wining and dining and had vaguely thought that once the money ran out the charade would come to a natural close. Now she was expecting to be taken ring shopping and would want to see the country house he’d told her was his main home.
This morning the glow of Fiona’s acceptance had been replaced with numbness, the ringing in his ears repeatedly drowning out the beeps and buzzes of the equipment he was minding. After buying a lottery ticket on the way in to work, his second thought had been of alchemy. He knew it had been proven, so all he needed was a cheaper way of doing it. This could solve everyone’s problems and he couldn’t think why he hadn’t tried it before. His cotton-wool head could think of no particular objections, except for the sharing part. He could make gold, buy the laboratory and be the person he’d been acting. Answer number two sorted. Solutions always came in threes but what with the ringing and the tumbleweed in his head he was finding it hard to focus.

His head cleared to a single high pitched whine. He had it! All he had to do was sabotage the tests! He couldn’t believe how simple the answer was. If the experiments didn’t work then in three months time the laboratory would close. Big Boss’s name would not be listed anywhere as the owner, so John could show Fiona the facts as they would probably be reported in a trade journal, and she would accept he had lost everything. It was perfect.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

Story six: dialogue

“Hey, fancy seeing you here”
“Everything ok? What’s that you’re drinking?”
“That good huh? So which is it, work, women or rugby?”
“You don’t want to talk about it, right, got it… How about 20 questions? All you have to do is grunt. First question: Is it work?”
“Ok, is it women?”
“Ooo, a change of grunt! But if ‘uh-uh’ is no then that makes it work AND women. No wonder you’re hitting the scotch.”
“I just never thought anything would come of it, y’know? In fact, I’m not sure I even thought as far as that. Things come up, I take opportunities, I deal with setbacks. The one thing I do not do is plan. Who wants to think that far ahead? Decisions, compromise, uch.”
“Uh, yeah. So now you’ve got to have a plan?”
“Maybe. What I actually have to do is tell her what I’ve done.”
“Woah mate, hang on there! Why would you do that?”
“I think I like her. I mean really like her. So she needs to know and then she can decide what we should do about it.”
“And you would just go along with whatever she said??”
“Well, I guess so. Maybe I should outline a few choices, narrow it down a bit.”
“I should think so! Or not tell her anything, did you think of that? This is not cool buddy, you’re not the only one in this you know.”
“But that’s just what I’m saying, she’s a part of my life now so this affects her too.”
“And me? What about me?”
“What about you? You’d come and visit wouldn’t you? We don’t see each other that often.”
“You haven’t even told her but you seem to know what the answer will be. And you’d just take it all on yourself?”
“Well sure I would, but I’ve only just decided to talk to her, I have no real idea what she’ll think.”
“That’s true, she might say you should both make a run for it.”
“Honestly? That’d be great, but she’s got a good job here, family and friends. I wouldn’t want to take her away from all that.”
“So you’d agree to just turn yourself in and take all the blame if she asked? How would you explain the marks?”
“Eh? Where was that in the options? I’m just thinking it’s a bit premature to be asking her to move to Vancouver with me.”
“Move to Vancouver.”
“Yes, I’ve been asked to open a new office there. I thought we were just having a friendly chat in the pub, but turns out the CEO was sounding me out.”
“Thank God for that mate, thank God. Don’t ever do that to me again. Hey Bar, can we get some champagne over here? Congratulations buddy, here’s to the snow!”

Week six

We were only eight this week, sad that some couldn't make it, but also a very good number for discussion. This week's homework was dialogue. 'If you like, use characters you've already written about. You might even want to 'convert' an earlier descriptive narrative. If you have little time, just do Stage 1...

Two characters are 'talking'. Pretend it's a script, with no prose at all in between. Your characters are in conflict (that doesn't necessarily mean an argument.) Make the dialogue work very very hard. Consider the possibilities of irony, misunderstanding, humour, subtext, differing perspectives, contrast between voices... What is NOT said?

IF you have time, go back and add only the most necessary prose in between the speaking parts:
-- to identify or locate characters (eg "she was still in her school uniform", "he was sitting on a pile of fur coats", "they had reached the top floor where the view...", "It was 1789 and Paris was...")
-- to clarify important or unspoken action (eg "he dropped the gun", "her perfume reminded him of his stepmother", "the car didn't stop", "the chandeliers shook with the first roll of thunder"...)

Please bring clear copies to class next week. Your work will be read out by others.'

Matt sent his dialogue as his apologies:

Man on park bench. Dog on string.

Grumpy man: "I've heard that he won't be able to make Elise's class tonight. Typical"

Small dog: "Yap, yap, yap"

Grumpy man: "Yes, yes I think you are right, he won't make next week either"

Small dog: "Yap"

Grumpy man: "I'm not as worried as you. But I do think, next time you see him, it would be useful if you subtly raised the whole dedication and commitment thing to the artist's way"

Small dog: "Yap, yap, woof"

Grumpy man: "Subtly, I said, there is no need to be extremist or set unecessary cats running."

I was entertained :-)

Comments from the class:
Try and follow the emotional logic, do the reactions make sense?
Dialogue always gets hugely pared down in editing
If speech gets interrupted use a - (long dash) at the end
Good scene of dialogue has a turn of events/moment where a revelation lands
Easy to be disingenous and mislead the reader

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

Week five

I didn't write anything for this week :-( I was really upset about it as well, the course is only 8 weeks and it would be better to spend 10 mins getting down a few words than nothing. Lesson learnt! A few of us also spent a fair bit of time wandering round the building as our room was changed but there was no notice on old or new room door and reception had no idea what was going on. Don't miss that bit of being at uni!

It was a fun week for homework as well. We each had to describe a room in the mode given. So someone did it as a bug, someone in lyrical prose, someone using no alliteration etc. One guy wrote from the room's pov which I really liked.

Mine was dialogue and I was going to do either a couple being shown round a room by an estate agent and arguing over what the room would be good for, or two ladies escaping from a bat in the house and trying to work out how they were either going to get out of the room or protect themselves.

Story four: Love

"Hey hon, it's Erica. Guess what? Matt and Meggy just called and they're going to be in town tonight. I've booked L'Anime for dinner and we're all going to meet in Paulo's for cocktails at six. Please say you'll come?"

Josephina looked down and sighed. She should never have picked up the phone, what was she thinking?

"Jose? You still there? C'mon, we can have champagne, we'll all raise a glass. Josephina, we're your friends."

"I know Erica, I'll meet you at L'Anime at seven thirty. Looking forward to it."
Josephina smiled. She was looking forward to it, she hadn’t seen Matt and Meg in months and she loved spending time with Erica. After putting a bottle of bubbly in the fridge she took her time getting ready.
Josephina walked down the stairs carefully, she was a little precarious on stiletto heels and was anticipating her reception. She looked up from the last stair with tilted head. “So?” She stepped into the hall and gave a twirl, the bottom of her red dress flaring out. “What do you think?” Josephina imagined the raised brow and pursed lips as Darren tucked his chin under the forefinger of his left hand. “I don’t know, it’s lacking something,” he said, before producing a box from behind his back. She opened it and gasped in delight to see a diamond pendant. “Oh Darren, it’s beautiful!’ she exclaimed, “please can you help me?” She held her hair back while the necklace was fastened, then closed her eyes and pulled a glowing kiss from her memory. This evening was perfect.
Josephina didn’t always see Darren, but he had never missed their Friday evening drinks. She carried the tray out to the balcony to see Darren staring far out across the ocean. “We should go one day,” he said. “Just keep going forever, I want to know what’s really out there.” Josephina looked at him. “Water, fish. Big fish.” “But the adventure!” he replied. “Imagine every minute as unpredictable. Imagine how alive you’d feel.” Josephina put down her glass and hugged her arms. Why was he spoiling this? Had the car crash been unpredictable enough for him?
She hadn’t intended on making a grand entrance, but as the last to arrive everyone stopped talking and looked up. Erica stood up to give her a hug. “Josephina, I’d like you to meet some of my book group. As we usually meet on a Friday evening I invited everyone along.” “Hi,” Josephina raised her hand awkwardly in greeting. “I’m Josephina.” “Jose!” boomed Matt as he swung her round in a bear hug. “You look fabulous!” “I’m so glad you came out” added Meg. “We’ve been hoping you’d visit and now I can bug you in person.” Josephina sat down between Matt and a slim red haired man with large glasses and freckles. Erica introduced him as Martin, an artist.
“I call myself an artist, but it’s not what pays for the proverbial roof,” Martin confided. “I’m an architect. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it, but if I could earn a living from painting that would be my real job. I guess that doesn’t make me the best architect, but if you want a pretty place to live, then I’m your man.” “Martin,” mused Josephina. “You’re not Martin Fellows are you? The man who designed Waterfrets, down near the kite-surfing beach.” “Ah, my masterpiece!” Martin grinned. “Ocean views from all but two windows, I spent weeks figuring out how to do that. I wanted to invite the outside in, I’d love to see what it’s like to live in.” “You’re welcome to come and visit,” invited Josephina. “I would be very interested in any history you have.”
Back at her house, Josephina found a dusty bottle of port under the stairs and poured them both a nightcap. She was expecting to see Darren waiting up for her to ask about her evening, but as they wandered through the house it felt empty. Martin wanted to lean out of every window and check out features she’d never even noticed before. Patterns in the skirting in some of the rooms, extra twirls on selected cornices, bespoke varnishes that he had selected for some of the floors. Martin chatted the whole way round the house, explaining his vision and then interrupting himself as a new room triggered memories. Josephina started to ask the occasional question and was pleased they had started upstairs. She was looking forward to finishing the tour on the balcony now and seeing his reaction to her favourite part of the house.

Week four

This was a great week for stories and I felt we really got to see a lot more of each other. We had happy, sad, insightful, reminiscent, anticipatory, pretty much everything.

I was disappointed with my effort in advance but apart from struggling with the word limit I wasn't quite sure why. From the feedback I realised that there wasn't enough of me in it so it just wasn't authentic enough. Lucky I didn't finish it either as my ending was going to be quite dramatic and at the end Elise said how glad she was that no-one had been melodramatic. Thank goodness for that...

General points:
Be careful with titles - don't get journalistic
Be clear with words that indicate timings, e.g. 'became' 'I never'
Give equal weight to voices
Vulnerability of the author/narrator is very endearing. Laughing at oneself also
A one sided monologue with no response in the first person can throw a line out to the reader by using 'you', often used with dead people, way of continuing a rel that's stopped for some reason e.g. post relationship split up

Homework for this week:
750 words MAX
Write about falling in love, being in love, or falling out of it. You don’t have to write the events in chronological order (the sequential order of happening) but in whatever order makes a better story