Week 2 of OU Fiction Writing Course.
Was feeling a bit nervous, as I’d agreed to buddy up with another of the students on the course. First I had to install Skype again, because I deleted it ages ago. It kept popping up every time I turned on my laptop, and whatever I did, it kept asking me who do you want to call? Ghostbusters!!! I wanted to say, or more specifically, bloody annoying application busters!
But I digress. Regularly.
Of course, Skype wanted to know my old password. What?? You can remember my username. Oh yeah! THAT you have no problem remembering. But my password? Nope. I mean, I might be a cyber criminal who just happened to hack into a 3 yr old Packard Bell, ‘cos I really needed to skype my grandmother, but hey!! Thank God you stopped me, Skype geeks, with your code red high security protocol. I can rest easy that my once-a-year Christmas sessions with Mum in the UK are safe from scrutiny. And those random requests from men in Eastern Europe are being fazed out.
So, thirty minutes later, and I now have Skype re-installed; primed, newly passworded, and pacing the halls of the interweb matrix. Logging onto the course site, I wait, a little breathlessly, for my study buddy to log on. Then I remember – I forgot to get my notebook and pen. Dash downstairs, retrieve notebook, lovely London themed Christmas pressie from my sister, & dash upstairs again! I’m tired already!
Also, have tacked handwritten sign on door. Do not disturb, etc! With a family, it pays to be prepared! You just KNOW the minute you are engaged in any writing related activity, is the exact moment they will all need your attention/advice/urgent hugs etc.
Phew! I think I need another coffee now. Hurry up. It’s already 15 minutes past. Study buddy a bit late. No problem. I know she’s a mum too, will just have to be patient. I’ll just take a quick look at this week’s activities while I’m waiting…
An hour later, study buddy a no show. Oh well. I’ll start without her. Maybe she’s online already, & just forgot to tell me! I had brushed my hair as well, in honour of our first skype meeting!
Oh well… again.
To the course…
Week 2. The Habit of Writing.
This week was all about details and characterization. Something I may not be very good at. I struggle with flowery descriptions. His eyes, sparkling like two billion year old compressed pieces of carbon. No!! Adjectives are my achilles heel; I’m always too busy falling over my words to get the story out. I read a small excerpt from another student’s exercise piece: ‘his Adonis-like face... ‘ I feel nauseated. I think I may have an allergy to adjectives!
Lots of reading was involved again this week. Two long excerpts from Graham Greene and Kate Atkinson. I have found that I am a skimmer when it comes to reading. Maybe it comes from being a mum and having to give a lot of things 20% of your attention, all at the same time. Or maybe from the short attention span that comes from living in a techno-rich, 24 hr news culture. I found that I had to go back and re-read, several times. I have decided to print out these excerpts at the beginning, so that I can refer to them as I need to.
Another quiz. They really should think about giving out points. Even a puppy needs motivation!
Next we had to write a short story of no more than 500 words, using observations that we had jotted down throughout the week in our notebooks. On Friday I had seen a youngish man on a bus, who looked rather sad and weary, so I wrote about him. Here is an excerpt:
The young man on the bus looked weary. His hair was unkempt and needed a wash, and his clothes were tatty and worn. He rode on this bus, the number 24, every morning and every evening, to get to work.
It wasn’t much of a job really. Oxfam in Nottingham city centre. But it was something to get out of bed for every day, and the Jobcentre insisted on it.
Ever since his wife died, he’d had little incentive to work, shop, or even to drag himself out of bed in the mornings. His mother kept ringing him, but he let it go to answerphone all the time. She just made him feel worse, with her well-meaning questions, and fussing over what he’d had to eat that day. When he’d said ‘I do’ to the question ‘Do you, Mark Joseph Brightman, take this woman, Hannah May Green to be your lawful wedded wife?’- he’d been the happiest he’d ever been in his whole life.
After two years of unsuccessfully trying for a baby, Hannah had gone to see a specialist. Then followed a whirlwind of tests, more tests, shaking of heads, and finally, chemo. She’d been so brave, telling him to try not to be so angry, and to let himself love again, one day.
His head, resting on the window of the bus, suddenly jolted upwards. It was his stop, and he got up reluctantly, following a woman and her seeing-eye dog down the steps. She wore a bright red rain jacket, with white spots. He thought she looked like a fat ladybird. Vying with the crowds, he made as if to pass her, when suddenly she fixed her pale wandering eyes on his face, “She sees you, you know,” she said.
“What? What are you talking about?” Mark spat out, self-consciously looking around. Maybe she hadn’t been speaking to him at all?
The old woman smiled, “Her. The one who left you.”
Silence. In the busy clamouring of the day, Mark’s world went completely still.
He stared at the dog, who was busy pawing at something on the kerbside. “What? Who? Who ARE you?” The woman shook her head slowly, and tapped on her stick for the dog to follow her. “Not yet,” she whispered, “She’s not ready.”
Next thing he knew was that he was on the ground, cold and shaking, and there was a small crowd standing over him. A podgy man was shaking him by the shoulder, and a petite asian woman was checking his neck for a pulse. “I’m OK. It’s OK… I think. Thanks!” he managed to force out. “I must have tripped and conked out for a minute.”
He looked around for the woman and her golden-haired escort. She wasn’t anywhere to be seen. After getting up and assuring the kind group of strangers that he was OK, he walked over to a vacant bench and sat down, heavily. His head felt stuffed with cotton wool, and it ached. What the fuck just happened? Mark really needed a cigarette now, more than ever.
Bloody Hannah! Why had she insisted he give up smoking? Oh yeah… because of the cancer risks. Well, she wasn’t here now was she, so to hell with her! He walked up to the news stand and bought a pack of Rothmans, smoking two in quick succession.
Also this week, we talked about finding your own space to write, and what particular routines helped your creativity. It was good to share and compare with other writers, and I learnt that most people thrive on routine, whereas a few, (like me) prefer the unpredictable muse. We had a few different exercises to do, involving more observation and character building. At the end of the three hours, I felt quite warm, especially in the brain area!
My study buddy never did show up. I’m sure she has her reasons, and I wish her well with her studies!
I think I will go it alone from now on…