Urban Writers Bootcamp – Part 4
(Is it this number 4? I lose track. I have said on numerous occasions that I’m rubbish at maths, and my apparent inability to count from 1 – 4 is surely proof of this – I think the one I’m most proud of is right at the end, so feel free to skip1 )
Anyway. Here’s what I came up with this week. I only managed 4 of the 7 tasks I was given due to general workload and being busy as a bee, and as hassled as a hoverfly kind of thing. So here goes!
This is meant to be the scary rabbit story revisited – click here to read the first bit. I have to explain from one of the character’s viewpoints about why one of her major character traits has developed the way it has. I’ve chosen to focus on why this woman feels responsible for animals & their fair treatment. Please note, this is not me, and did not happen to me. This is all written from a fictional viewpoint (although I do like animals too, it has to be said!)
“I have a thing about looking after animals, I can’t help myself. Always have done. When I was a kid my mum used to keep gerbils in the back yard, and they’d squeak their little sing-song squeaks in my ear and wriggle their cute furry bodies when I picked them up, their little feet feeling all scratchy on my neck. We had tropical fish too, obvioiusly a lot less affectionate but absolutely beautiful, the chinese fighting fish would swim around looking glamorous with their floaty scarf like fins, trying to scare their reflection on the side of the tank. Then there was the tortoise who sat in his box in winter, not very interesting for a 5 year old I seem to remember, but very cute in summer when he’d stick out his wrinkly head to have a nosey at the world and would eat a bit of lettuce to pass the time.
I’ve just always remembered feeling that I should be responsible for other creatures, my cousins once came over and whilst they sat there chatting to me about some new pop song or other, one of them grabbed what I call a Daddy Long Legs (Crane fly?) off the window ledge and one by one pulled off both of its wings. He laughed as the wingless, disabled fly crawled along the glass. I remember laughing along with him, because he was 2 years older and that’s what younger kids do when they’re with the older cooler kids I suppose. I felt so ashamed of myself afterwards. They left and I picked up the fly, which was now technically a ‘walk’ and took it outside. I knew it would die and I felt so guilty that I’d not told them to leave it alone, and that I’d laughed along with them. I decided then and there that I’d never do that again. It didn’t matter that it was only a fly, the principle stood by me for the rest of my life. When the kids arrived, I wanted them to feel the same, so that’s one of the reasons why we got our rabbit.”
The next one is about putting a scene from a chosen story (I’m still running with the scary rabbit one) into a dialogue.
Dave – Why did you have to get another pet? Do we really need one?
Rose – Well, I can’t bear to read about them on those Freecycle lists, I just imagine them sat there all unloved and ready to be shoved out the door. …and with it being a rabbit, I think that if I hadn’t got there first someone else might have, and you know,….they might have…well, (in hushed tone so rabbit can’t hear)…eaten it.
Dave, – It sounds to me like we’re more likely to be the ones that are eaten, have you heard the noises that thing makes? Sounds more like an adder than a rabbit.
(cue – hiss from box and scratching noises as the box rocks from side to side.)
Rose – We can use Patch’s old hutch, it’s roomy enough, and you can sort out a run or something can’t you? It’s been an inside pet, but I’m not too sure about that judging by the size of its teeth and the size of our kids. it does sound a bit vicious doesn’t it
Dave – raises eyebrows, wanders over to cardboard box and nudges it – cue another noise that sounds more growly than hissy, and he backs away.
Dave – If you want to try getting that thing out of the box, then good luck to you. I value my fingers too much.
Rose – Come on Dave, it’s just a bunny!
Dave – (resignedly) Ok, don’t say I didn’t warn you, I’ve never come across a ‘bunny’ like this one before. Here goes nothing. Is the hutch open out back?
Rose – Yep. I know I should volunteer, but I don’t trust myself not to drop him you see.
Dave – yeah, yeah, yeah! (begins to open box)
Rabbit – hssssss ggrrrrrrrrr (scratch scratch)
Dave – puts hands in Swears loudly, ‘Damn thing has bitten a hole through the bottom of the box you know. It’s a good job it didn’t manage it in the car, you’d have had had to have found a seat belt for it. Must be very hungry if it’s eating cardboard.
Rabbit now hanging over the edge of box, scrabbling it’s back legs, and trying to heave itself over.
Dave scoops up the rabbit, rabbit immediately attaches itself to his jacket and rips a lump out of the collar.
Dave – swears again. Wanders out carrying bunny like a corsage attached to his collar.
They go out to the garden.
Dave – Get it off me!
Rabbit – Muffled “Grrrrr….’ because of mouthful of coat.
Rose – Look Mr Bunny, enough is enough. We were kind enough to rescue you from that mad old bat, least you can do is be nice.
Rabbit is prised off Dave and hurriedly put in the hutch.
Kids come outside to pet the ravening rabbit.
Roger : Can I hold him? What shall we call him? Does he eat carrots? How old is he? Will his ears go straight? Can I take him to school?
Rose – Tomorrow you can when he’s a bit more settled, the poor love is terrified I think.
Roger – But it’s show and tell day tomorrow. (whimpers and looks like he might cry)
Dave – Look Rog, he’s very nervous and he needs to calm down. Best thing we can do is leave him for a while
Last view is of Bunny with his two front teeth hooked around the chicken wire, gnawing, pulling and making funny noises.
Roger turns round and says ‘Mum, he’s soooooo cute’
Rabbit – Grrrrrrr….
Here I had to introduce a new character and say how he met one of the main characters in my story. I have chosen to use Dave & Rose (mentioned previously here). So this is how they meet! Who says romance is dead!
Rose is curled up on one end of a sofa, a pile of washing sits at the other end. The TV is blasting out Corrie, and she uncurls just as the advert finishes. She picks her way across the living room, carefully stepping over a couple of plates, a mine of plastic toys and accidentally kicks a toy horse that begins manically neighing. ‘Do you want a brew?’ she asks her friend who is sprawled out on a bean bag.
Suddenly there is a very, very loud banging sound. ‘Mrs Amberly, it’s the police, let us in!’ Rose looks shocked and shouts, ‘I’m just finding my keys’ and then mutters ‘What the hell! Where’s my keys, where’s my keys, goddamit, where’s my keys!!!’ The knock gets louder and a very deep male voice shouts ‘Open the door or we’ll have to break the door down’. Rose and her friend are by this point scrabbing down the back of the sofa, looking under the huge pile of washing, and are generally scouring the floor whilst yelling ‘Just wait! What’s the matter! Can’t find the keys!’
Then there’s a huge crash and four policemen fall through the front door and crash into the living room.
‘Mrs Amberley, we’ve heard reports of suspicious behaviour and we are duty bound to investigate all such reports’
‘Did you recently come back from an exotic holiday and did you, or did you not return with suitcases full of suspicious items?
Rose looks blankly at him.
The police officer, peers through to the kitchen and indicates a towering pile of cereal boxes. ‘Them, for example?’
Rose looks blankly at him again and then a look of recognition sparkles in her eye. ‘ Ah, suspicious cereal! Of course!’ Rose remembered her neibour commenting on her numberous bags of Crackawheat that she’d dragged in through the door last week. She thought he’d looked at her a bit funny. He’d probably thought she’d hidden drugs in amongst the fruit and nuts muesli.
Just as she begins speaking a younger, freshfaced officer says ‘Shall I search the place Sarg? ‘ and then mutters more quietly ‘ Mind you it looks like the place has already been turned over’
‘Oy!’ Rose says sharply, and looks daggers at him. This is my house, and I like it this way. ‘
‘I’m just investigating suspicious cereal, m’am, don’t mind me’ he says and wanders into the kitchen whilst Rose’s friend sits there in absolute astonishment.
After much discussion, and Rose explains that you can’t get that sort of cereal in the uk, and that they’re running a competition on the packets, so she bought a ton of them back to the country. ‘I’m not a criminal, I’m a comper’ she explains.
There’s a ton of rustling going on in the other room as they discuss Rose’s obsessive comping habit, and a dog has appeared from the back of the house, apparently unpeturbed by the policemen, but very intent on eating as much of the cereal as he can get his paws on. The younger policeman is quite literally tipping muesli all over the place in search of drugs, most of it is going in the floor and the doggy is very happy about that indeed.
The other policemen have wandered into the kitchen too and are helping sift through the packets, whilst talking amongst themselves about the other load of coppers that night who got sent to an armed robbery, and what do they get ‘A frigging muesli mission’ one of them mutters.
The Sargeant eventually calls off the now very bored policemen in the kitchen, and explains to Rose that they’d had suspicious reports and he was very sorry, but he’d had to investigate them. No drugs had been found and he’d leave her to her strange hobby and get out of her way. He apologises profusely for the state of the kitchen, and Rose, (recognising he’s actually really quite fit, and is genuinely sorry) tells him that it’s ok, and that it was time to feed the dog anyway, so he’d saved her a job. As they’re getting everything together to leave, the dog ambles through the living room with a slight sprinkle of cereal still on the top of his head.
As they’re leaving, Rose, ever the opportunist, after discussing the cost of the broken door, asks the ‘Sarg’ his name, and asks ‘is this if this the sort of thing you do regularly on a Saturday night?’
‘It’s Dave’ he said ‘And no, nothing as exciting as this usually. I think we’ve got reports of Cow Tipping to investigate now.’….and then grins broadly at her.
‘Well, best of luck with that’ she says as he leaves
‘What the f*ck was that about, and oh my god he was gorgeous!’ Rose yells to her still bewildered looking friend who is sat back on the beanbag, picking bits of cereal off the dog.
The last exercise was to revisit a previous story and focus one particular feeling that you wanted to convey through your words – ie, hope, fear, foreboding. I decided to go with foreboding and helplessness. Cheerful eh! This was the first installment if you want to read it, and this is how I’ve adapted it.
Sillhouetted in the morning sun
He could see her stood there, in her slippers, wearing her old green cardigan and her tatty blue jeans, leaning with one hand on the top of the old wooden bench – just staring towards the sunrise. Not doing anything, just holding the umbrella in her other hand. Motionless. It was cold and he shivered a little, drawing his dressing gown closer around him, he felt helpless. If he went out there, she’d get upset at him for getting in the way of her ‘quiet time’. The last couple of times this had happened, she’d not even believed him when he’d told her that it wasn’t raining, and she’d continued to stand there, just staring, quietly, with eyes as cold and empty as stones. It had taken ages to persuade her to come back inside each time, and she’d always been shaking with cold and yet refused a blanket to warm herself, or a hot water bottle or a warm drink – she just wanted to be left alone, to stare at the window towards the sunrise and wring her hands. Later on she was always fine, the passing of a few hours and morning tv seemed to shake whatever it was that seemed to hold her in the early hours and it was as if these strange episodes were dreams that she forgot, and expected him to forget too. Thinking about it, Richard realised that this was the third time this week, and that the morning’s dull awakenings were beginning to fill him with dread. Quietly he’d watched his wife climb out of bed, pull her clothes on, and wander down to her spot in the garden, where she seemed to lose herself in some sort of private hell he wasn’t allowed to enter.
From what I’ve written I’m trying to come up with a short story I can work on, using the resources I’ve written and inspirational prompts that have enthused me. We shall see, I’ll be continuing to work on this next week and will see what I come up with. Probably a pile of tosh, but I’ll try anyway. Got to be innit to winnit as they say in comping circles!