It begins gently, easing all would-be writers into two months of advice, learning, discussion and exercises to improve our writing.
Firstly we have to write two very short scenes. Scene one contains three fictitious elements and one fact. Scene two includes three facts and one fictitious element.
Here are my offerings. (Can you spot the fact from the fiction?)
As a boy, Grandpa accompanied his father on his fishing boat, dragging in nets of freshly caught sardines, ready for the lunchtime rush. Whenever the chance arose, he’d climb aboard to hear the fantastical adventures of the trawlermen. One day, after carrying the catch back to the family’s restaurant-shack, he decided to spin a yarn of his own to the unsuspecting diners. Word spread and the queues for sardines grew longer. He wooed my grandma at that shack, telling her there were more stars in space than grains of sand in all the beaches of the world. The old romantic fool!
Grandma got her own back though, by requesting a diamond ring, any would do but she had her eye on one from the rains of Jupiter or Saturn. Grandpa laughed and said it would take him a Venusian month to earn enough for any diamond, let alone one from space. He added it was more than happy to take her to Sagittarius B, just to sample the alcoholic cloud dust though. Sometimes, I feel my grandparents are from another universe.
Next up – what seems like a gentle easing into the subject soon calls for more effort and application. With a focus on building great characters, we are tasked to create a character sketch using someone we have recently observed – be it a stranger or a familiar face.
So, please meet Mr Ordinary:
Mr. Ordinary (James) goes to buy his daily newspaper.
Tall, male, aged about 70 – Greying hair with hints of a sandy blond of earlier years
Bespectacled. Frameless glasses – quite trendy – and steely blue eyes . Bushy white/grey eyebrows – untamed and very mobile when he talks. He mumbles though, not pronouncing his words clearly, when he greets the shop assistant.
Gaunt, thin face – protruding cheekbones and thin, pale lips – the colour of washed-out rose petals.
Despite his gaunt appearance, he smiles a lot. It’s a gappy smile, with several missing teeth – but it reaches his eyes and the creases add depth and warmth to his bronzed face. He has a tendency to throw his head back when he laughs and then jerk it quickly back in place.
Slim body, his red polo shirt hangs over his ribcage – one might reckon to identify each and every rib should they be on display – bony, tanned arms with prominent elbows jutting out. Smart khaki shorts to the knee – angular knees – you can see the patella through the wafer-like skin. Thin hairy legs and a scar on the right calf running from the knee to the ankle (or as far as one can see due to clothing) – possibly as a result of surgery. Black ankle-high socks and Jesus sandals – either a dinosaur in the fashion stakes or someone with a sense of humour.
His grip on that rolled-up newspaper is misleading. Is he worried about dropping it? Does he have arthritic fingers that he cannot unfurl or is he on the defensive?
Wary maybe of the man, dressed in black and wearing sunglasses, who leaves the shop with his phone glued to his ear and a gun at his waist.
That’s quite enough detail to start with. Week Two expands on James’ story and he becomes one of many new characters to add to my repertoire.