Week 7 of this term’s writing class pulled together a few of the themes from the last three or four weeks and focussed on one slightly larger exercise than usual. We all, without a huge amount of thought, came up with four potential characters – just name, age, and profession – which gave us a selection of about 30 to choose from. We picked two and then had to write three scenes – or, effectively, two scenes and a brief ending – with some direction.
First up was a scene in which the two characters are at either a wedding or funeral, second was the start of the overall story, and finally a few lines that suggested the ending of the story. We didn’t know about parts 2 and 3 before writing part 1 and, ultimately, we read back the work in chronological order (i.e. part 2 before part 1) rather than as written. I’ve reproduced here in the order it was written, however.
So I picked Joy, a 34 year old book shop owner, and Grace, a 21 year old student. This is what they got up to:
It was on occasions like this that Joy was given to rue her name. There was something toe curlingly embarrassing about introducing herself at a funeral:
“Hi, I’m Joy”.
There was no getting past it, no matter how sad she made her face, how remorseful her follow up words, there it was. “Joy”. On the least joyous occasion.
She was loitering near to the edge of the room, trying not to make eye contact with anyone, desperate to avoid an introduction. It was worse here – she’d barely known the guy, he just used to come into the shop pretty regularly. An avid comic reader she remembered. Thought it was graphic novels now she’d asked him once, you know “all grown up” she’d added with a smile. Apparently not. Comics, he’d declared, boldly reclaiming the word from her projections of childhood and the Beano and all that stuff. She’d barely known him but his wife had come to the shop, said it was his favourite place and asked her to come.
Just then she was startled away from her thoughts by a young woman entering the room just next to her. She’d somehow caught her foot on the small step on the way in and tumbled forwards, landing at Joy’s feet.
“God, are you alright ?” said Joy extending her hand, pulling the woman up.
“Yeah, yeah. How embarrassing !” said the woman.
“I’m…” Joy hesitated. “I’m Joy”. An apologetic smile.
“Thanks Joy, hi” said the woman, extending a hand. “I’m Grace.”
“No, no, no !” Grace exclaimed. “It just couldn’t happen.”
“It would !” retorted her uncle, turning back to the pile of comics on the table. “There’s precedent Grace.”
“Precedent ?” she snorted.
“Yeah ! There was that arc where the Marvel guys came in to the DC universe…”
“That was just money” she cut him off. “DC did it chasing sad old fan boys like you !” Her uncle cheerily winked at her. “Just money.”
“So you really don’t think Bruce Banner would team up with Bruce Wayne ?”
She rolled her eyes. She knew he was just teasing but they both loved these conversations, she wasn’t sure when they’d stumbled on a shared love of superheroes and the fantastic but it had kept them close now for a long time.
“Wayne’s a loner. Banner’s a loner. They work alone.” It was her final word. Almost her final word. “Besides, one argument and you’ve got the Hulk smashing up the Bat Cave and trashing all that hi tech gadgetry. Never gonna happen.”
Her uncle raised his hands in supplication, accepting defeat, and delighting in the act they’d created, each of them playing their part so well. Sometimes he thought it was all he had.
She found it tucked in his oldest pile of comics; she’d been leafing through, inhaling the dusty pages, remembering him. The pink piece of A4 fell out, a single name written in the middle under her birth date: Grace Jenkins.
The room flipped as she caught sight of her father’s name.
I enjoyed this exercise albeit I felt the results were a little mixed. I was pretty pleased with my first piece – okay the play on the character’s names is arguably a little trite but I thought it worked quite nicely. However, having made my characters meet in the funeral scene and, consequently, making it feel like the beginning of the story, I was then a little thrown by the instruction to make the second piece the actual start of the story. The outcome was that I pretty much jettisoned Joy altogether and it turned into Grace’s story and her, as it transpires, father (uncle). I didn’t intend that at the outset – it was making itself up as it went along.
Second scene works less well for me. I don’t know where the comic thing came from in the first scene and I kind of ran with it in the second. I’m not sure I’d stick with it if I was revisiting the piece overall. It was interesting though (to me) that I ended up with what was essentially a close father / daughter relationship that hints at some deep sadness to come – well, not really hints, he ends up dead. Fairly big hint. This is at the heart of the bigger story idea I have with the character of Emily from the last couple of weeks.
So, not an unmitigated disaster… but still not quite right in terms of the tone I’m looking for. Last week of term next week. Not long to get it right (fortunately there are more terms to come…).