It’s nearly the end of the Easter weekend, and the weather in London has been beautiful, with the air as clean as I’ve ever known it.
Yesterday we went out for our daily excercise in the evening. Away from the river there were no runners about, and the City belonged to the few homeless who were out on their benches … and to the pigeons and the squirrels. It felt like we were in their front room, with enough space to notice each other, and to say hello.
Today is much cooler and there is less blue through the window – a better day to be stuck inside, and to try to get on with the writing.
Here are my free writing attempts from last week. The prompts were set for us by Saraswathi Sukumar, who always manages to come up with inventive ideas to get our writing group thinking.
This time my brain felt a little disravelled, if there is such a thing, and looking back I can see that for the two long pieces I never even managed to reach the prompt itself – I spent too long dragging my characters towards them. Anyway, here they are, exactly as they were written at the time.
I hope you might have a go at some point. In fiction you can create anything … the power is yours, and with free writing none of it has to be perfect.
Hide and seek (write for five minutes): They’d found them. Simi felt the relief lift her from the heart up. She had no idea how long they’d waited, just her and Marybelle, and Uncle Fred, his life fluttering slowly out of his damp body. They’d tried to shield him from the wind, to reach their voices into his consciousness, to keep the small spark alive, to flare it back to life. Jambee had gone out to try to find help but they’d all known he would not get further than the door. The full force of the storm was back, and even from their shelter they could feel its rage.
Think of a piece of information that you want your reader to know. It doesn’t necessarily have to be an important or big piece of information, but it’s something you’d like your readers to know. It can be something as small as someone’s name or a date, or it can be something much bigger like someone’s pregnant and/or had an affair. Pick a character. Your character develops the power of invisibility. They use this power to eavesdrop on conversations. One of the conversations they overhear contains this piece of information. Who are the characters that reveal this information? What are your eavesdroppers thoughts and actions when this information is revealed? Is it a significant piece of information that warrants a big reaction? Or is it small? Something that your character may not react to at all. Write the scene (write for twenty minutes)
“Strange that friendship – Simi and Marybelle.”
“So different – she’s the colour of cocoa and as confident as a catwalk…”
“… and Marybelle all pink freckled, and built like a duiker. Where are her folks from? Must be some Scottish, or something in there?”
“Marybelle’s folks? Did you never meet them?”
“Well – one was a model, but so faded she never said a word, and her father was that South Africa photographer – his firm was called Impala Ltd. Brilliant but not really a breeder if you get my drift.”
“So who’s she like? The mum?”
“No way – she had the legs of a giraffe. Well over six foot. No she’s not like any of them. Marybelle was adopted when she was tiny. No other kids.”
“How do you know that?”
“My mum used to teach at her school. I think she was the one who helped Marybelle when she found out.”
“Ja – her mum told her just before she died. Apparently she was in bits.”
“But she’s never said anything.”
“I don’t thinks she ever will. She adored her folks. Doesn’t want to know who left her.”
“Dad still alive?”
“No. He died about two years ago.”
“Who else knows this?”
“Don’t think anyone. I only found out because she kept coming round our house to see my mother after school.”
“So that’s why you’re her favourite hey?”
“Well, she doesn’t have anyone else … any family. Just her. Still working in the same school she went to. I don’t know why I’m even telling you – this storm’s just scrambling my brain.”
“No worries … I’m not gonna tell anyone. But maybe it makes sense of why they’re friends. Outsiders in a way. I mean she knows all of us but she’s not really at the social stuff. I think I’ve seen her at the Tin Shack once … that was when the school sports master left. Farewell party I think.”
“Ja, and now she doesn’t have the money anyway. But I tell you what she’s got something I never knew she had. You seen how she’s dealing with this? She’s just taken charge. No trumpets or anything but she’s everywhere. I think Simi would be in a real mess if it wasn’t for her. And we’d probably have lost Uncle Fred.”
“Telling me. When I came in all cold and pathetic, she sorted me out straight away. Blanket, tea, warm place to sit. And I needed it. Needed to be told … and she saw that.”
“Yeah. We’ve just got to remember that when all this is over. We’ve got to keep checking on her.”
3) Imagine a character. Your character finds a box. Inside the box are the following items:
- a doll
- a red hat with a white feather
- a radio
- a broomstick
- a newspaper
- a broken bottle
- a letter
- a dagger
Your character rummages through the box. One of the items reveals the information from prompt 2. Be creative, the object may literally have the information written on it, or it may lead to a memory that reveals the information, or it may have something hidden inside it etc, etc. Write the scene (write for twenty minutes)
Devastation. This was it. This was what that word meant. Tendai stood at the entrance to the hotel surveying the carpark. Chaos. He’d used these words before … but in the wrong place. He knew that now. This was where they belonged. Here amongst the crushed cars, the mesh of boulders, the snapped trees … here stained sodden with the orange red of the soil. The early dawn light was a lifting grey with a slight tinge of pink on the clouds. The rain had stopped for now at least, but the damage was everywhere. He could not think straight. He saw cars smashed in two, cars tipped with their wheels to the sky, metal folded like paper. He saw all that with his eyes, but in his heart all he could imagine with the houses of their village, of that river that would now have flooded with an anger they had never seen. They knew flooding but not catastrophic oblivion. Those were the words. He could see them on the page of his school dictionary – he had learned them, carrying that dictionary with him everywhere so he could learn in daylight while the sun was strong to read the tiny words. Night was no good when he was a child. No lights then … and only sometimes now. If the chief had not given the warning, and if his family had not listened, where would they be now. Caught in the catastrophic devastation. Caught in the chaos. Caught, dragged into oblivion. He forced himself off the front step, out of his exhausted daze, round towards the cottage. Rudd’s house. He had asked him to check, to see if the roof leaked, if the windows held. Tendai did not think there would be a problem. That little house was old stone. Built when the first walls of the hotel went up, the walls that had kept them all safe last night. The red soil sucked at his gumboots, as he clambered over the debris of sticks and stones round throught the gap in the hedge to the cottage. The door opened easily. As he thought – everything looked fine. He went into the main bedroom. Ladies clothes everywhere – back of the door, over the chair, piled on the bed. So many outfits for one wedding he thought! How much money for this? But that mother, mother of the bride, she was like a queen – maybe she needed this. He half smiled, went round to check on the small room where Rudd had his desk. All fine. Nothing. Surface big and empty and the box there as usual.
Mirror (write for five minutes)
Simi caught sight of herself in the mirror and stopped in shock. She had never looked like this. A mess. Both hands flew to her face, covered her eyes, then peeled away slowly, curiously. She stared again. Deep dark rings sat beneath eyes, her hair was blown out of her headscarf in random bunches … and where was the other earring.
I hope those have entertained and distracted – invitation always open to anyone who’d like to share anything they might have been inspired to create.
Thanks to you for reading, and to Saraswathi Sukumar for giving us her mind-twitching ideas, which, of course, always belong to her!
All the best
Copyright Georgie Knaggs & The Phraser 2020