Just Write 19th May: Diary
It’s impossible for me to write the words “dear diary” without it calling to mind “Heathers” which remains one of my all time favourite movies. So many brilliant lines (the clip above has at least two belters in 90 seconds – “are we going to prom or to hell ?”, “my teen angst bullshit has a body count”) and wickedly funny. However, this post has nothing to do with “Heathers” other than the fact that my writing class this week was concerned with diary entries as a potential route in to creative writing.
Starting with the homework from the previous class… We were tasked with keeping a diary for the week but I didn’t do that, or didn’t do that quite as briefed. Inspired by the session on first lines from a fortnight ago I decided to just do an opening line for each day. This in no way reflected the fact that I had left the whole thing until an hour before the class began. No way. Don’t dare insinuate as such… Here ’tis:
I’ve kept a diary since I was 13 and know days that aren’t worth recording: today is one of them.
My new boss fixed me with another stare and leaned in close: “I was a combat soldier for 10 years so I’ve seen people struggle with similar things”.
“The bomb disposal team are now investigating the car” intoned the voice over the tannoy as we descended another flight of stairs, walking past a sign that ominously declared: “no refuge beyond this point”.
A lovely surprise as one of the bands I had blogged about shares my post on their Facebook page and my blog stats go berserk. (By berserk I mean I get about 200 views in the week which qualifies as berserk relative to my usual stats.)
It doesn’t matter how long I’ve lived here, riding up The Mall in the back of a black cab, watching Buckingham Palace recede through the rear window, still feels magical: like the opening credits to your own movie, the script as yet unwritten.
Nikki is claiming she will never drink again; I am silently congratulating myself on ducking the cocktails in favour of a humble beer.
Decide to start my homework two hours before it’s due which, if a diary is supposed to be an insight into character, is a pretty telling insight. Spend some time debating with myself whether it’s technically cheating to just write first lines for each day in a cunning attempt to splice together the task with something we were doing in the last session. Spend so much time debating it that a first line becomes as much as is realistic in the remaining hour.
I actually thought this worked out pretty well although it helped that some genuinely interesting things happened to me in the week – notably being evacuated to the sub vault of the Bank of England during a bomb scare. Perhaps I should try a one line diary over a longer period of time.
The class itself was a really enjoyable one with a nice mix of character profiling and some subsequent writing based, in part, on the diary idea. The character profiling involved writing up some basic details that we associated with a couple of random selected photographs: name, age, significant others, enemies, current problem etc. In so doing myself and my partner for the exercise came up with a slightly convoluted story about two Americans – Dr Chuck Brody and Charlie Wright and Chuck’s struggle to be honest about his sexuality. It wasn’t entirely serious and wound up a bit like an episode from “Days Of Our Lives”, the soap that Joey from Friends stars in as Dr Drake Ramoray. Anyway, part one of the exercise was a diary entry from, in this case, Dr Brody, about one of three scenarios we were given – in our case, fortunately, one of them was “having an affair” as we’d already made that part of the story up in developing the characters ! Part two was supposed to be more of a show-don’t-tell piece of prose just after the moment at which the affair had become known to both parties. Make of it what you will:
Trouble again today, I can’t keep this from Charlie for much longer. Met up with Milton as planned, the usual pretext for Charlie – we’re just catching a game of tennis after work. Went to that new place down town, La Scala. Figured she wouldn’t know, besides I think she was trying to sort things out with Grace tonight. But Leyton was there. Man what are the chances ? He saw us. We spoke for chrissakes, I made something up about double booking the court but did he see how close we were ? It’s not so strange, two guys catching a bite to eat and Leyton’s met Milton before so why am I freaking out ? It’ll break her, this on top of the custody battle. What was that joke she keeps making ? You’re number two Chuck, this has gotta work out – I can’t be a divorce lawyer with two divorces on my watch.
Leyton called the waiter over to get the cheque and then froze, fingers raised in the air. It was Chuck and Charlie. He was about to turn his raised fingers into a wave to attract their attention but hesitated. Charlie had quickly taken her seat leaving Chuck standing, a puzzled look on his face. She had already picked up a menu, raised in front of her face like a shield. Chuck sat down opposite her and studied the table in silence. Hadn’t he seen Chuck in here last week ? With that guy ? Milton. That was him. They’d been sat together, maybe poring over some documents he guessed, shuffled up close so they could both see. He’d said hello but they’d seemed offhand and Chuck had dashed off. Strange he was back so soon, he must have rated this place. Charlie was still buried in her menu but, briefly, it lowered as she let it slip from her fingers. It was hard to tell across the room but Leyton could’ve sworn she was crying.
As mentioned it all came out far soapier than planned. I think we’d set up a comedy (even with daft name gags – Milton Keynes and Leyton Buzzard) which I then didn’t really commit to in what I ended up writing so it sort of fell somewhere between a not very funny farce and a not very convincing drama. Ho hum. Lessons learned… and I guess that’s the point.