We’ve departed from the creative cocoon of Arvon’s Lumb Bank and are now ensconced in a Manchester city centre hotel where I can hear the Toytown toot of the tram crossing Piccadilly Gardens. It’s been sunny since we arrived and how often do you get to put the words sunny and Manchester in the same sentence?
Over the week we worked on poetry skills, character development and plot. We arrived rather nervous for our own reasons. But by the end of the week we were welded into a peer group of writers, the writing being the equalizer and counting more than any amount of previous experience.
I now can stop vexing myself to death over poem line endings thanks to Carola Luther. Mark Illiss has contrived to blow me out of any kind of comfort zone into the free fall of fiction writing. Did I write a short story last week? Or is it something more, a novella if not a novel?
There was some very brave writing that was shared at our Friday night gathering. Taking my lead from my travelling community of Cavan writers, I am taking a leap of faith and scrapping my original project. I have locked myself in my hotel room with the ‘Do Not Disturb’ sign posted. I plan on being here for most of Monday and Tuesday. By then I hope to know if this a short story, or sequence of interlinked short stories, a novella, or a novel. My friend Claire started an MA in Novel Writing and is going to bring me over some reference books.
Taking pointers from our exercises in character development with Mark I’m fleshing out one of the secondary characters of the story I read in our Friday night performance of work in progress. I want to see where he will take me.
And no, it’s not a murder story. Just because you want to kill someone does not mean it’s a murder mystery. Everyone wants this character dead because he is a truly vile human being. This villain will have to be humanised and given some redeeming characteristics by the time I’m done with him. Although my tutor Mark seemed to think it odd that I had moral qualms about killing off such a reprobate. Pacifism may not be a bonus for fiction writers.
I’ve tapped out 1,200 words this morning and mulling where will this child character lead me. He’s not a talker. I’ve found out that much. And that can be problematic for dialogue. Kate Ennals is our tutor for this week. Around 4pm I’ll trail downstairs to have a chat. One way round might be to have the non-chatty boy speak in first person so we can see his point of view. But he is still a bit opaque. I’m not quite sure of his potential. I may just need to let him reveal himself in his own good time. Unlike his sister who has burst upon the scene in all her OCD fury.
I’ve also been contemplating how some people choose happy over smart as a modus operandi in their life. Say you have a character born smart. Smart does not necessarily make you happy. You know too much – not just academic knowledge but the street wise smarts that help people duck and dive through life. But what if a smart person disavowed smart life and elects happy instead? It’s an interesting life decision-making process. How would that manifest? What would a character have to do to get that ball rolling. I have no idea where that’s come from or where that thought will go but it’s there, floating like scum to the top of my consciousness.
It’s all part of the Lancashire hot-pot of my creative writing life at the moment.
Bee Smith is travelling in March 2014 with the Leonardo da Vinci Life Long Learning Programme “Developing Creative Practice Across Borders” to Yorkshire and Lancashire organised by the Cavan Arts and the Social Inclusion Unit offices.