Tag Archives: story

The Lonely Stormtrooper

Looking after a friend’s children recently I took along my Lego Stormtrooper knowing he had plenty of City Lego set up. So, my Lego Stormtrooper went visiting. I couldn’t pass up an opportunity to have some fun and tell a story in the process.

The Lonely Stormtrooper #1 Taking a well earned holiday, TLS took a mystery flight to see if he could relax.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #2 At first he felt lost, just one of the crowd, but at least he had individuality here.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #3 He thought a boat trip may help him relax but he got seasick before they left the dock.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #4 Taking a wander around the port helped get rid of his seasickness but not his stress.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #5 Everything was so busy, frantic, always on the go. Just like work.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #6 Lunch for one had its advantages, sitting in the corner booth. At least the tea was good.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #7 An afternoon constitutional was in order. He liked the order of the trees. Felt like home.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #8 A stable was a welcome distraction. Everyone loves to pat equine. He missed his dewback.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #9 But one should never pass up the opportunity to spin the decks. Bringing the noise!

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #10 And there was even time for a photoshoot as a momento of his day. Black is so slimming.

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The Lonely Stormtrooper #11 Then it was time to go home. Still lonely but having had a good day nonetheless. The End

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The Best Times and Places to Plan New Writing

When are the best times and where are the best places to plan new writing?

Time is precious.

We all have the same number of grains of sand filtering through the hourglass each day.

Writing time is precious.

We protect and hoard our allotted (and dedicated) time to write.

But we’re all busy.

And if you’re a new and emerging writer, you fit writing into the nooks, crevasses and tiny compartments of time available between the crack of dawn and when you finally feed the door and lock the cat for the night.

So when are the best times and where are the best places to plan new writing?

There is an untapped resource in the mundane ennui of our lives. Times and places where we can let our minds wander through the cereal aisle of our minds and happily browse all the pretty colours.

Remember to carry a pen and notebook so you can write down new ideas, revelations, plots, characters.

The bathroom – Use those quiet minutes to generate new ideas, plots, characters. If you’re constipated, you can always work it out with a pen. Maybe it’s just a guy thing, but seriously, uninterrupted time is precious especially when you have children. 

Washing up – a friend of mine calls it ‘sudspiration.’ Let your subconscious compost the ideas you have. Mull over concepts for plots or allow the characters in a scene to throw around some dialogue.

Have a tea towel handy as you’ll need to dry your hands quickly to take down notes.

Hanging washing on the line – As you hang out the next load on the line, observe how you do it. Is it socks (and do you pair them or leave them on the line randomly) and underwear first? Or whatever comes to hand? Do you use the same coloured pegs for each garment or you don’t care?

Now think about how you approach a new plot. Is it similar to your washing line approach?

Use the time to plan a new plot; with each garment think of it as the next scene in your story.

In the shower – nothing like a quickie to get your mind turning over. Think about how your character would carry out their ablutions. Maybe he or she uses the face washer only for the face, or they don’t care and use it all over. What kind of shampoo and conditioner would your character use? Would your character have sex in the shower?

There is something refreshing and rejuvenating about water and the process of becoming clean. Visualise the bad ideas washed away to leave the good ideas. If a good idea slips away, hope it gets stuck in the mat of hair clogging the drain.

On the commute to work – regardless of your mode of transportation you can use the time to chunk down the massive sprawling plot into scenes.

This is a little harder if you drive to work but perhaps a dictaphone (what am I saying? Every phone these days as the ability to record audio. Use your phone instead. Forget I said ‘dictaphone’). Or train your brain to remember all the minute details (we really should exercise the ol’ grey matter a little more by developing our memory).

During the commercial break – how many plot ideas can you generate in the ad break? Make a challenge of it. If you write down 2 ideas in the first ad break, can you double it to 4 in the next?

Taking a walk – stop being sedentary. Stand up out of the chair and take a turn around the block. Get the blood moving through the body. Movement creates momentum and clarity.

Use the time to process a character’s motivation. Imagine, as you walk, the character’s movement through the plot. What is their internal and external motivation?

At any family gathering (or wherever people congregate) – watch people and their mannerisms. Listen to how Great Aunt Ethel speaks about fashion and last week’s Bingo fiasco and watch how she uses gesture and body language. Become an acute observer of human behaviour and language. Can you apply it to a character?

You’ll find your own mundane moments to compost and percolate ideas.

What works best for you?

Tell Me Your Story

“What’s your story, boy?”
“I don’t have a story.”
“Every man got a story.”
The Saint of Fort Washington

Three simple lines of dialogue.

A simple declaration by a homeless man: “Every man has a story.”

I saw this film, starring Danny Glover and Matt Dillon, many years ago in my late teens and the lines above resonated with me, deep in my spirit and in my soul.

I wrote down the lines in a notebook (which I still have). Deep in my spirit and deep within my soul these words planted a seed that is only now beginning to germinate and take root.

When I am asked why I write, this will be my answer: “Every man got a story.”

I wrote a manifesto.

It is my declaration of who I am as a creative person.

It is my declaration of who I am as a writer.

Towards A Creative Manifesto

I am a writer.

I write because I want to tell a story, but not just any story.

I write because I want to tell the story of those who are not heard.

I write because I want to tell the story of those who cannot speak.

I write because I want to tell the story of those who are disempowered.

I write because I want to tell the story for those who cannot.

I write because I believe that telling a person’s story is integral in understanding who they are.

I create art to speak into the darkness, that I may be a light for others to ignite their own flame and walk clearly.

Last night in a quick burst of ideas on twitter I threw down some words. It extrapolates further on my manifesto. I have compiled them here (with some editing for clarity and development).

People matter because every individual has the potential to be amazing in their own way. We ignore the everyday because we think it’s insignificant.

Instead we worship the grandeur of the successful and the famous. They are inspirational and we learn from them but it is little more than hollow idolatry.

The most influential people in our lives are the ones we know intimately because we’ve learned from their example, both in word and in deed, even when they are not looking. We have been mentored by their advice, corrected by their discipline and modelled our lives after theirs.

They are fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters, cousins, friends, coaches, teachers. They are servants at heart.

And they are ordinary people.

But in their ordinariness, they have become extraordinary.

We have learned to listen to their story and recognise its value and importance.
Celebrate the little things people do. Believe in them. Support them. Love them.

For in doing so, we grant them dignity & respect.

I write truths about life through story by focusing on the little things, the seemingly insignificant: an argument before a family holiday (The Holiday), a gardening accident (Open Wounds), mental illness (Scar Tissue/Pieces of A Puzzle), cancer (The Naked Jacaranda), discrimination and disability (Give Me Your Hands), life expressed through sound (Sounds of the Heartbeat).

Simple truths expressed through story; parables and fables in their own way. It is an expression of loving your neighbour as yourself because story connects people.

Let me tell you a story.

But first, tell me your story.

Speaking for the Voiceless

While working on my novel I was thinking about its content and thematic concerns. I then thought about another novel idea I have in development and ideas I have for a couple of short stories and noticed there was some similarities in regards to their thematic focus. 

My stories are not about people who are broken, because we all are broken, and I like to explore that aspect of people in what I write. My stories are about those who are unable to express themselves, are marginalised, the outsider, the forgotten.

In particular, seeing my mother working with people with disabilities at the art studio where she works, has influenced the focus of what will be my second novel.

In part I am also influenced by the parables in the Gospels and the stories that revolve around the dispossessed and those considered “outsiders.”

I wrote down some statements to clarify my thinking about the purpose of my writing and what I want to achieve from it. These statements will inform the basis for my writing.

I am yet to fully explore what this all means, but I am excited by the prospect of what it can do for the focus of my writing. Perhaps in a later post I’ll explore the connection between speaking the voiceless and the innate ability for everyone to be creative.

  • I write because I want to tell the story of those who are not heard.
  • I write because I want to tell the story of those who cannot speak.
  • I write because I want to tell the story for those who cannot.
  • I write because I want to tell the story of those who are disempowered.
  • I write because I believe that telling a person’s story is integral in understanding who they are.

Hand Writing

The calligrapher traced with his forefinger, following the loops and curves of her name scribed in black ink, barely touching the fading parchment. Returning to the start of her name he traced the handwriting again, imagining her face, conjuring her soul and knowing her identity. She was there, encapsulated in her handwriting. He closed his eyes and created a vision of her name in the darkness of his mind, following the form of letters she wrote on the parchment. Opening his eyes he selected a pen and wrote her name, breathing life into the ink as it flowed like blood.

Post Marked: Piper’s Reach Blog Tour – Rebecca Emin

Today the lovely Rebecca Emin (@RebeccaEmin) hosts the 8th stop on the promo blog tour for Post Marked: Piper’s Reach.

While we leave crumbs on the kitchen table, we talk about why we wrote a story in letters and what it’s like to work collaboratively on a project; especially one that has a ‘no spoilers’ policy.

Writing collaboratively has always been a bigger and better experience than going solo for me. I find it almost intoxicating… sharing the responsibility of building a narrative; riding the joint momentum… Most of all I love watching my characters come alive through another writer – Jodi

We write independently of each other but the narratives are intrinsically tied to the other. We weave in and out of each other’s stories. The advantage of collaboration is the perspectives and insights another person provides. The downside to this project is the ‘no spoilers’ clause – Adam

To read the whole interview, click here.

[FGC #2] The Photographer’s Concerto

[FGC #2] The Photographer’s Concerto

 “Charlotte,” she said, extending a hand. “Charlotte MacKay. I’m the photographer.”

A figure in black extended his hand. It was sweaty but cold and the reek of curry wafted over her. “Michael Bailey, band manager. Knock yourself out.” He stepped to one side allowing her through to the side of the stage. Around her black figures unwound mic cables, tuned guitars and placed various bottles around the stage. The crowd congregated at the other end of the room, sipping beers and drawing on cigarettes.

The thud of a kick drum felt like a punch to the stomach as the drummer ran through a sound check. From the side of stage, Charlotte watched the lean musculature of the drummer’s left arm as it raised and lowered like a pendulum, cracking the snare. Through the viewfinder of her camera she reeled off a few shots.

With the sound check over, the crowd pressed forward to the barrier, drinks abandoned at the bar. The lights dimmed and the crowd gave its approval: whistling and yelling, their voices tearing apart the darkness. Four shadows crossed the stage, fine-tuning, swigging from bottles, turning volume knobs. At the crescendo of the crowd’s voice the lights exploded like a thousand suns and the band struck the opening chords.

Across her line of sight past the bass player and lead singer, Charlotte glimpsed the guitarist. He wore an unbuttoned paisley vest, no t-shirt and long shorts with his guitar sitting slightly high. His hair danced around his shoulders and the guitar was an extension of his arms. Moving from the side Charlotte dropped between the barrier and the stage. Squeezing past the bouncers she stood before the guitarist, a worshipper before the shrine. Putting the viewfinder to her eye she sought the soul of this man.

Behind her the crowd pulsed in an orgiastic cycle of adoration, worship and dancing. Charlotte’s heart quickened, racing in concert with the shutter. Each frame captured a little of his essence, a relic to be fingered in quiet moments of prayer and contemplation.

The set finished and the house lights raised but the crowd lingered, unwilling to let go just yet, savouring the rapture of the music. Charlotte squeezed past security, back to her camera bag. From the corridor leading off stage a figure emerged, his head wrapped in a towel. His chest gleamed with sweat as he towelled off his head, drying his hands before offering one to Charlotte.

“Jake de Brito.”

His voice was softer than she imagined, and she noted a slight fragility in his frame, obscured by the stage lights. Bereft of his guitar he stood before her, a mere mortal. She watched his fingers move involuntarily, forming shapes and patterns in the air like a secret language; the fingers invoking sounds from the darkness of the void.

“Thanks for, like, coming to take photos of the band.”

“No, it was fantastic. I haven’t done a band shoot for ages and this was an awesome gig. What the street press are writing about you guys is spot on.”

He shrugged. “Did Michael, like, look after you?”

“Yes, thank you.”

A voice called from the corridor leading back stage. “Jake, you comin’ man?”

“Yeah. Hang on,” he yelled back. “Might see you soon, yeah?”

“Sure.”

Charlotte watched Jake disappear into the black. The persona captured on film was powerful and articulate; a shaman who summoned life and let it explode through his guitar. Without it, he was human but the magic boiled away at his fingertips.

“Hey, MacKay.” The waft of curry shot through with beer and cigarettes announced Michael Bailey’s arrival behind her. “Thanks for shooting. Send your invoice to my office.” He handed over a business card. “If you want, you’re invited to the post-gig party. Address is on the back.”

Charlotte scanned the address and pocketed it like an Access All Areas back stage pass.

Killing the engine of her Datsun 180 she flicked on the interior light and rummaged amongst the loose papers and film canisters on the floor of the passenger side. Finding an old lipstick she applied it while looking in the rear vision mirror. Pocketing another full roll of film she made her up the driveway to a broad fronted house.

At the end of a long corridor a second-hand clothes store explosion of flannelette, torn denim, scuffed boots lounged on chairs, stood in doorways and congregated in every spare area of the huge lounge room. The stereo cranked out late night radio through the haze of cigarette smoke. Adjusting her leather mini skirt Charlotte felt more glam metal than grunge, the bulkiness of her camera bag against her thigh an added layer of self-consciousness.

She lent against the doorframe, scanning the room unsure of where to go.

“Hey, you’re the photographer from the gig.”

“And you’re the drummer.”

“Mitch. Come in and grab a beer.”

Following through the house Mitch took her to the kitchen and grabbed a beer from the fridge.

“Let me introduce you around,” said Mitch.

Mitch lead her through the lounge, the only name Charlotte remembered was a girl’s with a towering teased and tasselled fringe in need of a structural engineer to code it for safety.

In the kitchen a group of guys gathered around the table, populated with loose cards, a bottle of Jack, cans of beer and bottle tops, and loose change. She recognised Michael Bailey, the bass player and singer but her eye fell onto Jake.

“I suck. That’s why I’m not invited to play,” said Mitch.

“Mind if I take some photos?”

Through the lens she snapped Jake’s fingers as they tapped the back of the cards. His hair was tied back into a ponytail and Charlotte noticed again the fragility. Not as a weakness, more a humility of character.

The radio cranked another tune. At the sound of a cello Jake inclined his ear to the sound and mimicked the song.

“Nice work cello boy,” said Michael.

Jake shrugged the insult and caught Charlotte’s eye as she moved the camera from her face. A brief smile formed on his lips as the opening lyrics invaded the smoky haze.

“I just died in your arms tonight.”

There was a chorus of disapproval from the flannelette wearing crowd but enough supporters to form a sing along.

“Mitch, take my place,” said Jake holding up his hand of cards. Moving from his seat Jake came to Charlotte.
“I’m seeing you sooner than I, like, thought.”

He led her out onto a concrete verandah, a rusted Hills Hoist rearing up from an overgrown lawn. They tossed musical preferences back and forth until they found a common ground.

“You remind me of the drummer in my first band,” he said after half an hour of false starts and half-finished sentences. “His time was, like, more fluid than water and he often didn’t know where the ‘1’ was. We were playing rock’n’roll, meat and potatoes music, not some Billy Cobham fusion piece from Mahavishnu Orchestra.”

“Sorry I’m so awkward,” said Charlotte, pulling on the strap of her camera bag. “I’m usually more… articulate.”

“I find music, like, easier. Notes, arpeggios, solos. Words are clumsy in comparison.”

“Next time I’ll be less like your first drummer. Promise.”

“I’ll get your number from Michael.”

****

Tucking the photo portfolio under her arm to avoid the rain, Charlotte dashed from the taxi to the restaurant awning. In her mind she replayed Jake’s message from earlier in the week.

“Hi Charlotte, it’s Jake de Brito. I was wondering, if you had your photos ready you could, like, join us for dinner on Saturday night. We’re at Belafonte’s, say seven-thirty. See you then.” Even through the tinny machine speakers his voice sounded musical.

She had spent the week arranging the shots from the gig and after party, agonising over which shot and in which order to present them.

Shaking off the rain she stepped inside and the raucous laughter from the table at the rear pointed her in the right direction. Jake stood and kissed her politely on the cheek and introduced her to the rest of the table. The band was there, Michael, and a girlfriend or two.

“Would you like something to drink?” he asked.

“Red wine, please.”

Charlotte sat down in the vacant chair, still awkward around these new people. She’d made a habit of existing on the periphery, invisible behind the camera. Putting the portfolio on the table, the girl to her left quickly snapped it up.

“These are brilliant,” she cried and the table turned its attention to Charlotte’s photography. “Oh my God, Mitch. Look at your arm!”

Blushing at the adulation she fielded questions from the girl to her left, identifying herself as an artist. A familiar topic allowed her to proceed smoothly, unaware Jake had returned. She sensed the quietness beside her, a reserved figure simply observing.

For the remainder of the evening her attention was divided between commentary on her portfolio and Jake. It pulled at her; she revelled in the attention her work received but it didn’t allow her to focus her attention on Jake. He politely deferred to the table, not offended by the interruptions. She wanted to drink from his presence, bathe in it. The continual movement of his fingers, playing imaginary songs, created gossamer strands around her heart.

Back at his place, she was surprised to see a cello positioned in the corner of the lounge room.

“I was classically trained from an early age. I wanted to learn guitar but my folks were classical musos. The guitar was, like, beneath them. Had they never heard of Slava Grigoryan?But it was Eddie Van Halen I idolised. I learnt cello as a concession in order to play the guitar. I even learned a bit of piano until they were convinced guitar wasn’t a passing phase.”

He poured two glasses of wine, offering her a seat on the lounge. “Besides, playing cello doesn’t get you the chicks.”

“Do you still play?”

“All the time. It’s different to guitar. Feel. Tone. Pitch. Sound.”

“Would you please show me?”

Setting his wine on the low bookshelf Jake placed the cello between his legs, resting it against his shoulder, tightening the tension in the bow. With a light finger he plucked the strings, his ear held close to the strings as if he were listening for a heartbeat. Charlotte watched the tattooed arm adjust the tuning pegs.

Satisfied with the tuning Jake drew the bow across the strings, pulling out long notes, full of longing, resonating deep in Charlotte’s chest. She pulled a camera from her handbag and a roll of film. Careful not to interrupt the virtuoso she adjusted the camera’s settings and closed her eyes for a moment, carried by the music. Opening her eyes Charlotte moved between notes and passages with the rhythm, pressing the shutter in time with the music. Through the view finder her eye caught the lines of the bow perpendicular to the strings; Jake’s arched fingers against the neck, his knee hooked into the curve of the cello’s body.

Jake grinned at her once, changing the tune to a quicker, lighter pace before the sonorous tones emerged again. Charlotte crossed her arms and held her camera to the right of her chin, studying her subject. Moving back to the couch she wound off the film and began to reload.

“The sound is sensuous, almost melancholic, yet beautiful,” she said.

“Playing cello is like making love to a woman,” said Jake, his legs straddling the dark stained wood. His fingers rested lightly on the body of the cello, the bow waiting for the invocation of music, the horsehair tickling the strings above the bridge.

“And like all guitarists, you name your instrument.”

Charlotte crossed her legs on the couch and sipped at her wine.

“What’s her name?” she asked.

“Celie.”

The woman frowned, no knowledge forthcoming.

“From The Color Purple,” he said.

“The movie with Oprah in it. I’ve seen it. But isn’t Celie raped by her father and beaten by her husband?”

“I read the novel. It’s the redemption found in love. And you can’t treat a cello like a loose woman. That’s what guitars are for.”

Returning his focus he looked at the woman seated on his couch. She leaned back into the furnishings, her feet crossed beneath her.

“If this is your lover,” Charlotte said indicating the cello with her wine glass, “how do you make love to her?”

Jake adjusted his legs around the cello. “You embrace her. Find the position where she is resting against you, comfortable and intimate. The body of the cello has the shape of a woman, curved and full.” Jake ran his hand down its body as if he were feeling a woman’s breast or the curvature of her thigh. Taking up the bow he began to play.

The cello’s notes, full of anticipation, took up the melody. “Each note made up here on the neck is her breasts: sensuous, ripe, engorged. With each touch you develop the song. You caress, press, touch.”

Jake saw Charlotte glance down at her own breasts, the fingers of her hand fiddling with the shirt button, perhaps conscious of their small size. He hesitated to make eye contact and let the music weave throughout the room, passionate incense perfuming the room.

“When you make love, you must remember all parts of a woman’s body. You embrace her to feel the softness of her skin, to inhale her fragrance, to consume her. But her breasts are but one part of the symphony.”

The bow arched and fell as Jake pulled and pushed it across the strings watching flakes of resin disintegrate from the hair and float under the light. The strokes gained intensity, no longer pushing and pulling, but thrusting with controlled ferocity. The music reached a crescendo, held sustained but not resolved. Jake plucked at the strings, a quick pizzicato, holding the tension. Attacking with the bow, the notes were drawn out in a hasty flight up and down the neck of the cello. An improvised solo, pushing, pulling, thrusting.

The bow arched sharply, the final note held in a vibrato by his fingers on the neck. Jake felt his breathing slow and become deeper. He rested his hands on his knees, touching the body of the cello, a light intimacy, with the headstock leaning into his shoulder.

Charlotte, the raven-haired woman with the camera for eyes, placed her empty glass on the table. Crossing the floor she felt Jake’s arm curve around her waist, pulling her into his lap. Positioning the cello between her thighs, her hands shadowed his fingers. The bow moved arched slowly over the strings and her fingers followed his like a spider on the neck. Even now she could feel the vibration through the bow moving up his hand and into hers.

Turning her head, her mouth brushed against his ear.

“Play me.”

I must thank Jodi Cleghorn for giving me permission to use her characters, writing the beginning of their relationship. Thank you for the trust in staying faithful to the characters you created.

You can read the story that inspired it, and what happens to them here: What I Left to Forget

Word Count: 2500

Jake and Charlotte

 

He invited her back to his place, their conversation far from finished. She was surprised to see the cello positioned in the corner of the lounge room.

“Classically trained from an early age and all through high school. My folks were classical musos and the guitar was beneath them. Had they never heard of Slava Grigoryan? But it was Eddie Van Halen I idolised. I learnt cello as a concession in order to play the guitar. I even learned a bit of piano until they were convinced guitar wasn’t a passing phase.”

He poured two glasses of wine, offering her a seat on the lounge. “Besides, playing cello doesn’t get you the chicks.”

“Do you still play?”

“All the time. It’s different to guitar in its feel, tone, pitch, sound.”

“Would you please show me?”

Setting his wine on the low bookshelf Jake placed the cello between his legs, resting it against his shoulder as he tightened the tension in the bow. With a light finger he plucked the strings, his ear held close to the strings as if he were listening for a heartbeat. Charlotte watched the tattooed arm tune the strings.

Satisfied with the tuning Jake drew the bow across the strings, pulling out long notes, full of longing, resonating deep in Charlotte’s chest. She pulled a camera from her handbag and a roll of film. Careful not to interrupt the virtuoso she adjusted the camera’s settings and closed her eyes for a moment, carried by the music. Opening her eyes Charlotte moved between notes and passages with the rhythm pressing the shutter in time with the music. Through the view finder her eye caught the lines of the bow perpendicular to the strings; Jake’s arched fingers against the neck, his knee hooked into the curve of the cello’s body.

Jake grinned at her once, changing the tune to a quicker, lighter pace before the sonorous tones emerged again. Charlotte crossed her arms and held her camera to the right of her chin, studying her subject. Moving back to the couch she wound off the film and began to reload.

“The sound is sensuous, almost melancholic, yet beautiful,” she said.

“Playing cello is like making love to a woman,” said Jake, his legs straddling the dark stained wood. His fingers rested lightly on the strings, the bow waiting for the invocation of music, the horsehair tickling the strings above the bridge.

“And like all guitarists, you name your instrument.”

The raven-haired woman crossed her legs on the couch and sipped at her wine.

“What’s her name?” she asked.

“Celie.”

The woman frowned, no knowledge forthcoming.

“From The Color Purple,” he said.

“The movie with Oprah in it. I’ve seen it. But isn’t Celie raped by her father and beaten by her husband?”

“I read the novel. It’s the redemption found in love. And you can’t treat a cello like a loose woman. That’s what guitars are for.”

Returning his focus he looked at the woman seated on his couch. She leaned back into the furnishings, her feet crossed beneath her.

“So this is your lover?” Charlotte asked indicating the cello with her wine glass. “How do you make love to her?”

Jake adjusted his legs around the cello. “You embrace her. Find the position where she is resting against you, comfortable and intimate. The body of the cello has the shape of a woman, curved and full.” Jake ran his hand down its body as if he were feeling a woman’s breast or the curvature of her thigh. Taking up the bow he began to play.

The cello’s notes, full of longing, took up the melody. “Each note made up here on the neck is her breasts: sensuous, ripe, engorged. With each touch you develop the song. You caress, press, touch.”

Jake saw Charlotte glance down at her own breasts, the fingers of her hand fiddling with the shirt button, perhaps conscious of their small size. He hesitated to make eye contact and let the music weave throughout the room, passionate incense perfuming the room.

“When you make love, you must remember all parts of a woman’s body. You embrace her to feel the softness of her skin, to inhale her fragrance, to consume her. But her breasts are but one part of the symphony.”

The bow arched and fell as Jake pulled and pushed it across the strings watching flakes of resin disintegrate from the hair and float under the light. The strokes gained intensity, no longer pushing and pulling, but thrusting with controlled ferocity. The music reached a crescendo, held sustained but not resolved. Jake plucked at the strings, the pizzicato quick, flicking the strings, holding the tension. Attacking the strings with the bow, the notes were drawn out in a hasty flight up and down the neck of the cello. An improvised solo, pushing, pulling, thrusting.

The bow arched sharply, the final note held in a vibrato by his fingers on the neck. Jake felt his breathing slow and become deeper. He rested his hands on his knees, touching the body of the cello, a light intimacy, the headstock leaning into his shoulder.

Charlotte, the raven-haired woman with the camera for eyes, put down her empty glass. Crossing the floor she felt Jake’s arm curve around her waist, pulling her into his lap. Positioning the cello between her thighs, her hands shadowing his as fingers. The bow moved arched slowly over the strings and her fingers followed his like a spider on the neck. Even now she could feel the vibration through the bow moving up his hand and into hers. Turning her head, her mouth brushed against his ear.

“Play me.”

 

This is an extract of a longer piece, which you can read on Sunday, as part of the Write Anything Form and Genre Challenge. Many thanks to Jodi Cleghorn for giving me permission to use her characters, writing the beginning of their relationship.

You can read the story that inspired it here: What I Left to Forget

 

Meditative Domesticity

Meditating. Percolating. Doodling. Chewing things over.

Writers have a plethora of ways to describe the thinking process of their creativity.

I prefer the term ‘composting.’

I remember my grandfather having an old compost heap, as did my father. It was a homemade enclosure of spare bricks stacked to form a small wall, about 4 bricks high. It had three sides with the fourth side open. As kids we would take down the bucket of scraps from the kitchen and dump it onto the pile of other food scraps and grass clippings.

From time to time my grandfather would turn the pile with a four tine garden fork revealing the decomposed layers beneath of nutrient rich soil. Shovelling forkfuls into the wheelbarrow, the compost was deposited around the pumpkin vines, beetroots other vegetables in season, around the citrus trees and under the rose bushes. As kids we would point excitedly and carry on if we saw a worm writhing and wriggling when exposed; a sign of good soil.

I like to ‘compost’ stories and characters in the back of my head, adding layers of ideas, concepts and problems. Sometimes all I get are choko vines (the world’s most bland and inedible vegetable unless used in McDonald’s Apple Pies) and the inevitable tomato plants (I don’t even like tomatoes).

I keep adding layers of scraps and in time, it yields a crop.

And as there are many ways to describe the creative process, there are as many places for a writer to go to spark their creativity or solve a problem with a narrative.

Time to mix my metaphors.

I may be no gardener, but I am a good washer-upperer.

For some reason, the place I best yield a crop of ideas or solve a plot problem is when I am over the kitchen sink, elbow deep in suds and bubbles, scrubbing dried on tomato sauce from plates. It’s meditative domesticity.

It’s a focused but unconscious activity requiring little deep thought and allows my brain to ruminate or compost a story I am working on. Maybe it’s the methodical process I use when washing up (glasses, cutlery, crockery, pots, miscellaneous – can we say OCD?) that allows a story to bubble to the surface and somehow gain a better perspective.

Often I’ve had to step away from the sink, dry my hands and head to the laptop to scribble down a paragraph or lines of dialogue. Maybe I need a dictaphone or speech recognition software so I can operate hands free.

Other writers I know hang out washing, iron clothes, go for walks or work out.

I told my wife that if she saw me washing up when I’m on long service leave I’m probably trying to solve an issue with my novel.

What’s your creative process and thinking space?

Speak to Me – Does Your Character Talk to You?

How does a character talk to you?

Some writers claim a character comes to them fully formed, knocking politely on the door and waiting to be invited in and offered a cup of tea and a cream biscuit. All the necessary information about the character is formed in their heads.

Others begin with a basic sketch of the character, then develop the character through notebooks of detailed information, from date of birth, clothing, interests and hobbies, music preferences, even food allergies and the character’s belief as to why chocolate should be considered a breakfast food.

When I am writing flash fiction or a short story, I have a strong sense of the character, his/her internal and/or external motivation and decision making process. The need for detailed character development can be dispensed with in a short story or flash fiction. A few broad brush strokes allows the reader to imagine the character and to understand the immediate conflict they are facing.

I do not think of them as “fully formed” characters in the initial writing. By the end of the writing process the character has hints and suggestions of their past and who they are. The reader can extrapolate more of the character’s background and motivation from the story.

As I was writing a new short story recently, the more I wrote, the clearer the character became. It wasn’t the physical description (which I rarely use in short pieces) of the character that became clearer but the internal motivation and the way the character thought and saw the world.

I found it quite a profound experience coming to an understanding of this character and her reasons for her actions and her way of speaking. In reshaping and reworking the narrative, I have a clearer idea of the shape and form of the story because I understand the character better.

Which leads me to a problem…

A current collaborative WIP has me writing from the perspective of a male protagonist. I have the name, a setting, some background and that’s about it. The development of the narrative and the project depends on my understanding of what the character has been doing for the past twenty years as this impacts on the present.

After lots of thinking and mental composting, all I’m getting is choko vines growing over the fence. (The choko is the blandest vegetable on the face of the planet). I needed a chat with my collaborator to help produce a few tomato plants,  a passionfruit vine and a crop of pumpkins. And some lettuce to make the salad (better not labour this metaphor any longer).

After a chat, I sat down some time later to write my first part of the project. I still only had a sketch in my head of the character, but enough to know his internal motivation and how he would respond to the situation. However, as I wrote, the character became more than a phantom of my imagination and more of a ‘real’ person. I understood who he was and the kind of man he is. I am sure over the next few months he will become a defined person, less two dimensional, trope, caricature or stereotype, and someone the audience can understand and relate to.

I am also in the planning stages of another novel where the characters are beginning to form in my head and in my notebook. They are taking shape, no longer formless and void, but they need to become “real” for the audience.

In extending my writing to novels from shorter flash fiction pieces, I am coming to understand the complexity and depth required in knowing a character. A novel requires greater consistency and development in a character. The character needs to act consistent with the parameters of the world of the novel. Sometimes you watch the character through  CCTV and record your observations. Other times, you throw an obstacle in their way to see how they respond. Character affects plot and plot affects character.

In a YA novel I am working on, the characters are fully formed and I understand their internal and external motivations. They didn’t “speak to me” as such, rather, they developed as the novel has progressed.

This is still the beginning of the journey for me. I’ll revisit my thinking on character development after completing these projects.

How do you create characters? Do they come to you fully formed, sitting on the sofa drinking tea, or do you need to dress them like a child and teach them to speak?