Start Writing Fiction Course – Week 5

This week focussed on how to enrich characters and give them conflict. I had to consider stereotypes and how to work with them to challenge expectations, for example;

  • A pretty blonde who is also smart.
  • A geek who also has an active social life to make up for the isolation at work
  • A goth who is also a positive thinker (I’ve been to goth festivals and contrary to popular belief they’re actually pretty upbeat. :P)
  • A punk who likes to help the elderly or raises money for charity (perhaps he wants to make up for previous mayhem.)..
  • An old librarian who enjoys going out on the town after work.
  • A shy, socially awkward person who is happier in their own company and appreciates the peace and quiet.
  • A rebellious teenager who is helpful.
  • An old man who isn’t wise but instead a prankster.
  • An older person who is technically saavy and current.

I then attempted to write about a character that challenged the expectations. In fact I created a couple of them that seem to have reversed roles; an old women who is eager for a little more excitement in her life and a punk who is slightly feeble.

The elderly inhabitants all sat around in their worn armchairs while gazing at the television playing the same old documentaries; volume set to unbearably loud for the hard of hearing. Mary hummed a tune to herself while gazing through the window into the sullen yard outside; droplets formed a pattern on the glass. She was eagerly awaiting the arrival of a new carer to add some interest to her otherwise mundane routine. Every day they sat here together in the floral-patterned lounge while their bodies and minds grew more frail. Even if her body couldn’t Mary still longed to experience life; perhaps through the shared memories of others. She scrutinized the people around her and wondered about the story behind every wrinkle and scar, but although she tried to delve for conversation most were not very forthcoming; their minds were possibly too tired to recall.

Everybody shrank away as a nervous hulk of a man entered the room – everybody except for Mary of course. This must be the new carer. He was certainty different; A mohican topped his head and tattoos adorned his thick arms. The man’s eyes darted around the room and he fidgeted uneasily.

‘Hello,’ Mary called him over. He strode towards her in just a few steps.

‘Hi, I’m Puck the new carer here,’ he had a surprisingly soft voice, ‘do you need any assistance?’

‘I’m looking for some stimulating conversation,’ Mary chirped while slapping her thighs. ‘I bet you have some interesting stories to tell. Like that, how did you get that scar? She pointed a delicate finger towards a mark on his left bicep.

‘Motorcycle accident,” he looked down solemnly as if reliving a traumatic experience, but as he titled his head back up a wry smile appeared across his lips. ‘I gave up riding after that. From now on my wife and my beautiful children are my top priority. As well as overseeing you lot of course,’ he winked.

‘Shame. I was going to ask for a ride,’ she chuckled and wrinkles formed around her wizened eyes, ‘you know, I think you’ll fit in here… So tell me, how did you meet your wife?’

I then learnt about a number of different methods for starting to develop a character: biographical, autobiographical, shared traits from several different people, using just your imagination… etc… We had to develop a piece for another review session using such methods. I was inspired by my friends and I think the character I’ve developed is in some ways an amalgamation of all of us. I created a male character who appeared confident and funny and yet at the same time has issues with his appearance (which I feel is a problem sometimes under-represented in men.)

A roar of laughter vibrated through the whole pub. Jamie had just finished telling an anecdote about one of their lectures. They’d only been at university for a few weeks, but so far they’d spent more time drinking than studying. While Jamie was enjoying his chosen subject of media studies, he was relieved when they were finally able to escape the pressures of the classroom. The intoxication of alcohol gave him a release.

‘I need another drink,’ he lifted his glass and eyed the emptiness inside.

As Jamie headed for the bar he was halted by the light tapping of a finger on his shoulder. ‘Excuse me.’ He turned and to his horror there stood a pretty girl dressed in red.

‘My friend thinks you’re cute,’ she titled her head in the direction of another girl watching from one of the booths. Jamie’s stomach lurched, ‘Oh sorry, I’m not interested.’ The girl stared blankly for a moment as if astounded that any man would turn down such an offer, and then snarled and strutted away. He knew that he should have felt flattered to have been approached, but it made him uneasy. He wasn’t sure if it was all in his head, but for a moment everybody appeared to be staring at him; sneering faces hidden in the shadows of the dimly lit room. His hands began to fidget and tremble. One of his friends pushed by him, giggling into his pint and causing the froth to spill out.

‘Are you crazy? Turning that down,’ He elbowed him jokingly.

‘Yeah,’ Jamie replied softly before forcing a grin, ‘I guess I must be.’

Jamie made his way to the men’s toilets; relieved to find that they were empty. He scrutinized himself in the mirror and sighed. she must have been fooling with me, he pondered. Staring back at him he saw a grim face riddled with imperfection. He also considered himself too slim. He lifted his arm to try and flex the muscles but there was nothing there. To his friends Jamie was considered to be the funny easy going one, but beneath the façade this wasn’t the case.

The incident had bought back unpleasant memories. While growing up Jamie had often been bullied for his appearance. He had tried to change the way he looked by wearing different clothes, getting a new haircut and even lifting weights, but still the teasing continued. The thought that anyone could find him cute seemed a little unbelievable.

The door opened and he flinched as another body entered the room. The new person was totally oblivious to Jamie’s plight and yet he couldn’t help feeling self conscious. He knew that questions would be asked soon if he stayed absent and so he took a moment to calm himself before re-entering the fray that was student life.

For some reason I had a lot of difficulty writing that day, so I’m quite proud that I managed to finally end up with what I did. The feedback has once again been wonderful and helpful. As I mentioned before starting the course, despite the fact that I enjoy writing I don’t feel like it comes very naturally to me and I’ve never had much confidence in this area, so to have people tell me they enjoyed it feels really good. I think my main issue is that I can sometimes be a bit wordy. I use too many additional descriptive words that the reader is already able to make an assumption about based on previous information. I need to try and be a little stricter on the editing process.

I recommend watching the Ellen Brock You Tube channel for some useful writing tips –

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About wallcat

I have a strong passion for computing. In particular programming for which I am able to use a variety of languages including C++, Visual C#, Blitz Basic, Actionscript 2.0, Python and Lua. I also enjoy web-design and have some knowledge of HTML/CSS, PHP/SQL and Javascript. As well as programming I have a strong background in art and enjoy drawing in my spare time. When I’m not sat at my computer I like to keep fit by going to the gym or using my exercise ball.

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