Author Archives: Kath

Just Write April 2010 – listen with both ears

12 April 2010,  Part III – Listen with both ears
Musicians, linguists and radio writers all need a great ear for detail. Intense writing often has elements of rhyme and rhythm to it. We include exercises to train your ear – helping you conjure up your fictional world through your characters’ hearing. You can also play with the musicality of your words, and practise mimicking authentic dialogue.

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Let food be your muse – cucumbers, chocolate and flavoured peanuts tell a story

Last week’s Just Write included exercises to taste food samples and write about the sensations. Then we used these writing samples as the basis for elements of a short story. And unexpected stuff we found – showing how much more vivid writing from your senses can be.

Here are some  first drafts this month’s JW inspired.

First drafts from: Astrid

Cucumber

Slice my bark
Lick my geometric window.
Emerald rind purifies
Your dull saliva.
I am a leaf raindrop
A quenching canoe.

Cucumber, cheese, cherry chocolate…

He loped towards the swing doors, swatting away a stray fly. Sweat, a raindrop on glass trickled between his shoulderblades, wetting his white shirt. He smoothed his brylcreemed hair back with long fingers. Then used them to push open the door, part the chain link screen with a jangle that rattled his bones.

The smell punched him like a metal bar. Men in dirty bacon and egg overalls, stained with blood and cavity fluid, pushed and pulled the meat. Cows’ legs wrinkled stiff, covered in skin like old cheese. The carcasses swayed in a drunken waltz, inviting him to dance. He manged to escape before her father saw him. A clot of nausea bloomed in his throat.

She is standing beneath the cherry tree, smirking. Blossoms fall on her dull hair and she flicks them off with sausage fingers.

“So have you told him yet?” Her lips pout, magenta stained.

He shakes his head, clumps of hair falling free. his green eyes blink, and she sees him swallow. The grass is wide ribbons beneath his good lace up shoes. She sighs like a February breeze.

“Come on,” she says, “I’ll come with you.”

First draft: from Kath

Story inspired by cucumber, mould-ripened cheddar and flavoured cashews

This place was cool and fresh as a privet hedge on a summer’s day. Celestina arrived in a flurry of cheap perfume – violets – and garish silk underskirts. IN her cloak she kept a hip flask of apricot brandy, which she hid under a handkerchief and raised to her face to smell its eye-watering sweetness.

Celestina was anchored at this country house on the hill for the whole of the summer and maybe through the winter too. It was as clean as she was grubby. The supervisor with the bunch of keys at her waist walked on a head. Small clipped steps along the yards of scrubbed lino. Every corner of this corridor was white and reflecting the blue light of the mountains onto the panelled walls. It smelled of tea and cucumber sandwiches with a whiff of edelweiss and a tinkling of a piano in the distance.

“Miss Baker, you’ll find Green Retreat a home from home. A haven from which you can hear your whole life clear as a bell,” said the woman in a musical French accent.

Celestina hid her fingernails, clenching her hands behind her back and tried to take smaller, daintier steps.

Next morning after breakfast of a boiled egg and a slice of ham, Celestina walked through the French windows onto the path leading out to a sunken garden. She passed clumps of alpine plants, delicate yellow flowers huddled up against rocks in blue and rust colours.

The planting was arranged in concentric circles of raised beds. Some boxy hedge s made of rosemary bushes. A brown bird with a yellow chest and a long straight tail – “Chaffinch?” she wondered – was nibbling at the rosemary leaves. She walked around a corner, deeper into the garden.

A man was stooped down over a bed of cucumbers. Their heavy fruits arranged in a star shape on viney leaves. The man of about 60 was wearing a brown lumpen cardigan and denim overalls.

He had a soggy looking fag butt in his mouth and was whistling tunelessly. She wished him a good morning and he eyed her up and down with green eyes under black, bushy eyebrows. He coughed a rattly cough up from his bowels.

“New are you?” he said and grinned sidelong at her. She saw a yellow front tooth and a gap where the other one should be.

Cucumber
Slice my bark
Lick my geometric window.
Emerald rind purifies
Your dull saliva.
I am a leaf raindrop
A quenching canoe.

Cucumber, cheese, cherry chocolate.

He loped towards the swing doors, swatting away a stray fly.  Sweat, a raindrop on glass trickled between his shoulderblades, wetting his white shirt.  He smoothed his brylcreemed hair back with long fingers. Then used them to push open the door, part the chain link screen with a jangle that rattled his bones.
The smell punched him like a metal bar. Men in dirty bacon and egg overalls, stained with blood and cavity fluid, pushed and pulled the meat.  Cows’ legs wrinkled stiff, covered in skin like old cheese.  The carcasses swayed in a drunken waltz, inviting him to dance. He manged to escape before her father saw him.  A clot of nausea bloomed in his throat.
She is standing beneath the cherry tree, smirking.  Blossoms fall on her dull hair and she flicks them off with sausage fingers.
“So have you told him yet?” Her lips pout, magenta stained.
He shakes his head, clumps of hair falling free. his green eyes blink, and she sees him swallow.  The grass is wide ribbons beneath his good lace up shoes.  She sighs like a February breeze.
“Come on,” she says, “I’ll come with you.”

From Astrid…

Cucumber

Slice my bark

Lick my geometric window.

Emerald rind purifies

Your dull saliva.

I am a leaf raindrop

A quenching canoe.

Cucumber, cheese, cherry chocolate.

He loped towards the swing doors, swatting away a stray fly. Sweat, a raindrop on glass trickled between his shoulderblades, wetting his white shirt. He smoothed his brylcreemed hair back with long fingers. Then used them to push open the door, part the chain link screen with a jangle that rattled his bones.

The smell punched him like a metal bar. Men in dirty bacon and egg overalls, stained with blood and cavity fluid, pushed and pulled the meat. Cows’ legs wrinkled stiff, covered in skin like old cheese. The carcasses swayed in a drunken waltz, inviting him to dance. He manged to escape before her father saw him. A clot of nausea bloomed in his throat.

She is standing beneath the cherry tree, smirking. Blossoms fall on her dull hair and she flicks them off with sausage fingers.

“So have you told him yet?” Her lips pout, magenta stained.

He shakes his head, clumps of hair falling free. his green eyes blink, and she sees him swallow. The grass is wide ribbons beneath his good lace up shoes. She sighs like a February breeze.

“Come on,” she says, “I’ll come with you.”

We were never being boring – but we did our best…

There’s a Petshop Boys song called ‘Being boring’. And in August, Just Write member Charlie Davies thought this theme up for a writing exercise. But guess what – being boring is trickier than you think. The pieces people wrote raised a few laughs, and were often intriguing.

That’s because the mundanities of a character’s thoughts can tell you a lot about them. So by relieving us of the pressure to be interesting, we gave ourselves space to develop characters. Anyway you can read more on Charlie’s blog here

http://charlesdavies.wordpress.com/2009/08/05/being-boring-a-writing-exercise/

Tarzan, tattoos and Pussy Galore – it’s all kicking off at JW

Just Write was in a lazy mood tonight…. something to do with the long nights drawing in, too many red wines on Sunday and moving house today… and other sorry excuses.

But we got on with it regardless. The writing prompts included:

  • Tattoo – this yielded a story about a woman in sheltered housing who decides to get a tattoo on her bum. Plus a skit about Tarzan getting so into his bongo playing that he loses his libido.
  • Dangerous driving – recall the time in your life when you drove the most dangerously – a tale of teenagers perilously overloading a car, and a story of stoned driving, with a murder mystery flavour.

We also started writing with the opening line from Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale – “The scent and smoke and sweat of a casino are nauseating at three in the morning…” Three of the stories featured fat men, variously with a cigar and a busty woman on his shoulder. We enjoyed a reminisce about a Perth casino popular with teenagers who dressed up like Bond and Pussy Galore. Those were the days.

Next deferred till next week an interesting exercise in characterisation… a dialogue piece with one of the characters in denial about something.

Tea break featured: blackberry and apple tart and pain au chocolat.

Thank you to Libby and Grae, Sarah and Mike for your verve and nerve.

Just Write goes international

Just Write member Mike Shreeve tried out the Just Write format on a group of teachers a few weeks ago. Mike was leading a session for TEFL teachers at a summer school. And one of the participants was so blown away she’s now trialling Just Write in the United Arab Emirates.

Just Write is obviously a patented, copyrighted format. And all this was done under strict supervision.

Mike tell ’em what happened…

Bank holiday meet up – no rest for wicked writers

Hello Hove, Brighton, the world. Just Write officially launches on the blogscape.

We’re meeting up on bank holiday Monday for those writers who just can’t get enough writing exercises, prompts and sharing of inner madness. If you’re coming then text or email Kath.

Stop press / blog – we now have 4 new writing exercise books… woo hoo. Two of them on loan from the lovely Sarah. And 2 I splashed out on at Amazon. Tee hee.