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Bereavement


‘The apples were black, the table top like tar, the  carpet a mass of grey patterns, even the flames in the grate were black and when he caught himself in the mirror above the fireplace it was a silhouette. There was no colour in his face, no colour in his arms and through the window every spring plant looked stiff and cold. He held himself so still, so steady that he began to rock, just a gentle swaying back and forth. He heard his heart beat. How it thumped and thundered and would not stop. Bang it went! Bang. Bang. And the clock joined in. Bang it went. And Bang again. ‘Your time is up’, it said. Bang. Bang. Bang. This time yesterday she’d been alive’. He thought.

Week Two with Writer’s South East at the Writer’s Place, Brighton yesterday evening.

I’m enjoying how these sessions work. Sixteen or so of us. A little talk, a bit of doing, then sharing in pairs or small groups doing what we’re here to learn to do, or to find the confidence to do. ‘Bereavement’ was the second word of the second exercise. In our group of four we each took it in turns to read out what we had spent six or seven minutes writing.

I’d thought I’d struggled with the previous word. These we took from a bowl (I have them all to work on today as a series of exercises).

Whatever I do is for characters and events that are long-established in my head; I have the story, just in need of a way to tell it.

What was my word here?

‘If she could wash his skin without disturbing a hair’

‘She washed the young soldier’s body as if she were painting a picture in smoke’.

‘It was like picking eggshell out of a froth of meringue’.

‘It was like … ‘

‘She remembered how she’d once … ‘

‘It was like removing hair from someone’s eye, then having to do so over and over again and again. Each time she’d clam her breathing, steady her hand, then reach over the wound in the soldier’s chest to remove another piece of shrapnel’.

‘Her caress was warm, like a halo’.

This week the theme was ‘Show and Tell’

Before we got started some ideas were shared on how to build a profile for your character – last week was on plot and character … or that plot is character. Ideas were shared on answering the what, where, why, how and when questions, on writing a diary in character (or blogging it perhaps?). This is necessary to know how your character is going to respond.

When it comes to ‘showing not telling’ my immediate thoughts went to Alfred Hitchcock – he notably said that talk on camera was no different, nor more important than music. I thought of how scripts are written putting onus on the visual and just the other day John Hegarty (he of Bartle Bogle Hegarty) saying that words got in the way of communication. From this, I conclude that text should aim to compensate for the visual, to allow the reader to create an image in their mind’s eye. Novels were the early movies.

‘Showing’ matters to create empathy, to increase reader participation.

It should be:

  • Sensory
  • Descriptive
  • Revealing
  • Significant
  • Specific

and use

  • Actions
  • Body Language
  • Objects
  • Dialogue
  • Gesture
  • Possessions
  • Tone
  • Complexity
  • Detail

 

We were asked to imagine what a character might have in their pocket. I came up with:

  1. A ticket to an airshow in June 1911 featuring the aeronaut Gustav Hamel
  2. An elastic band attached to a short wire hook
  3. A pair of elegant/expensive delicate (I should have said female) kid gloves
  4. A penknife with a bradawl and hard carved handle. The blade well used and sharp, the bradawl as sharp as a knitting needle.
  5. And a handful of pennies, farthings and thrupenny pieces sticky and smelling of beer.
  6. And a policeman’s whistle.

 

This failed to reveal that ‘Ettie’ is a young woman. What in her pocket would reveal that she was female? Well, the pocket would have been in a smock or skirt. Research required. What did young girls have in their pockets in 1911!!!

 

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