I finally found some time to tackle the Day School exercises.
Pick two words from the dictionary at random. Using the two words as prompts, write a focused freewrite. (10 mins)
Words: despair, secret
Secrets are never a good thing. Someone always gets hurt when secrets are involved. Why people keep them is their own reason, but it’s usually to protect someone from something – most often themselves. There’s obviously little secrets, like gifts – you don’t want to disappoint someone by letting them know what a present is before it’s unwrapped. But then there’s the big secrets – governments hiding things from people, secrets that start wars, break up families, ruin lives. Who decides what gets hidden and what gets told? The pressure of secret-keeping must be intolerable. I find it hard to keep small ones! I can only imagine what it would be like to keep a huge, life-altering secret that could potentially affect so many lives. No wonder people say they’ll take their secrets to the grave. Most often the grave is an early one, caused by the loneliness and despair of having to keep something so massive to themselves. The stress, anxiety – what if someone finds out? What will happen then? No, secrets are no good. They cause more trouble than they keep away. Ignorance is bliss, they say, but is it really? Shouldn’t people be allowed to decide if they can handle something? Not be told that they can’t and someone forever holds back.
There’s a trust issue there as well. If someone’s keeping secrets from you, can you really trust them? What if your partner was really a secret agent? What if you found out one day? You would feel like your whole life has been a lie. I suppose that would fall under a secret being kept to protect someone – the agent would obviously not want their partner to be in any danger. But wouldn’t they be in more danger if they didn’t know? Some big bad guy could walk up to the door one day and take them hostage, or worse. It’s like one of those spy shows on TV, the spouse/kids are always in trouble and there’s the whole crying scene where they find out their loved one was really a secret agent who saves the day! Ta da! Things would’ve been much simpler if the family knew about it and were able to protect themselves if need be.
So I suppose secrets can cause despair on both sides. Torment for the secret-keeper, torment for the person who unknowingly discovers the secret that ruins their lives. Shakes their foundations and all that jazz. Personally, I hope I never have a situation like that. I don’t know how I would react, to be honest.
Choose a picture from the ones provided and write a character biography. (5 mins)
[I chose a picture of an older looking gentleman with a hat, beard, and glasses.]
His name is Melvin Smite, of approximately 57 years. He lives in a quiet, country village known as The Fellows (a population of around eighty people, all over fifty these days). Everywhere he goes, he makes sure his little battered notebook and smoking pipe go with him. His only fear is growing too old to do things. He loves a good piece of smoked haddock – freshly caught by himself, all the better. He’s rarely seen without his old tweed jacket. His greatest love was for his late wife, Rosalie. Now, his love is fishing – for the peace and quiet it gives him, allowing him to reflect. His father was a miner and his mother was a housewife, both are deceased. His favourite colour is a murky green-blue, like the river.
Melvin wants nothing more than to live a peaceful existence along with the other members of The Fellows, but their idyllic way of life is under threat from a big business who want to buy the land to build brand-new housing schemes for the wealthier population. The problem is, of course, that Melvin is just one man – and an older one at that. There’s not enough of them to fight against the big business. The voice of the people is strong, if there’s someone to lead them, Melvin needs to gather The Fellows together and show the big business that they will not be silenced and beaten into submission.
Melvin is an old country gent with a gruff, English accent. His rants are legendary, once he gets going on something he’s passionate about, there’s no stopping him!
Write a first person narrative, from the point of view of your invented character: A trip to the zoo. (20 mins)
A tug on my arm and I’m dragged down the hill at the entrance to go look at some animal or another. The little one doesn’t have much strength to her yet, but I play along and let her lead me down the path. There’s a stink of manure in the air – a nice, healthy smell, if you ask me. It’s a bright, sunlit afternoon, perfect for a wander around the zoo to keep the little one quiet – or at least not pestering me as much as usual. I love her, I do, but kids these days are just gibbering, high-pitched noises in my experience.
She drops my hand and leans over a fence with some swans on the other side. I could’ve shown her those back at The Fellows; my little village is full of them at this time of year. I reach into my pocket, nudge my pipe out of the way, and grab my old notebook and pencil. The swans will keep her busy for a few minutes. Flicking to a blank page, I scribble down a thought that’s just come to me: Town meeting. Big wigs beat down. Got to get notes down while they’re fresh, my old memory’s not what it used to be.
“Don’t go running off now,” I call out.
She comes back and grabs my hand again, pulling on it to make me go faster. My head is on the meeting; I’ll prepare it when I get home and the little one’s back with her mother. My Gloria’s a good kid, she’ll understand the need to go home early when I tell her I’m going to save my village.
“What’s that grandpa?” She points to a little monkey walking freely along a fence.
“Don’t touch it now,” I told her as we stepped a little closer. “It’s a marmoset.”
“He’s cute,” she declares, reaching out to touch him.
“What did I just say, little lady?” I give her one of my looks and she pulls her hand back, disappointed.
There’s no aquarium for me to take the kid and watch the fishes, I’d much rather spend my day that way. Something about the way the fish dance across the water is soothing. My Rosalie used to love watching the fish with me before she passed. We used to make a day of it, Rosalie, Gloria and me.
The little one’s still pulling on my arm, trying to drag me to the tigers next, her favourite. I suppose there’s worse ways to spend an afternoon. All that’s waiting for me back at home is another eviction notice and angry letters from the big wigs telling me to clear out. On a beautiful day like this, who needs that?
The tigers are hiding from the sun, much to everyone’s disappointment. I sigh, I’ll never hear the end of it.
“Make them move, bring them out!” the little one demands.
Words straight from the big wigs’ mouths. I shiver as I grab her hand, move away. I can be fierce and stubborn like the tigers, they’ll see.
Aim: Bring a character to life and tell their story through thought, action, speech, body language. Show don’t tell.
The bottle clinked against an empty one as he dropped it back on the table. Through bleary eyes he tries to count them. Seven. Too many, time to go. Groaning, his joints stiff and heavy, he stands and surveys the room while he sways in place. No one’s noticed him, thankfully. His face is becoming too familiar these days.
He throws some coins on the table and stumbles across the room until he reaches the door. Counting his blessings that he didn’t bump into anyone, he pushes the old door open and winces at the high-pitched creak that rattles his booze-infested brain.
The fresh air hits him like a wall and he stops for a second to catch his breath. His horse was somewhere to the left, in the stables. He was aware of that, but his heavy, drunken body pulled him to the right as he stepped forward.
He smiled as he remembered the last time he had been this drunk. I’m fifteen! I can handle it, he’d declared. What a fool.
“Still as sober as ever then,” someone muttered close by.
He glanced up to see a tall man in a hooded cloak standing in the shadows. The voice was familiar.
“Jack,” he said, trying to stop the world from spinning.
“Arsieu,” Jack replied. “What kind of state are you in? Do you even know what day it is?”
“It’s my day,” Arsieu replied, waving a dismissive hand. “Leave me alone.”
“You remember what we’re doing, right? What we’ve been fighting for?” Jack pushed, stepping out of the shadows just enough that the light fell across his disapproving face.
“I’ll find him,” Arsieu said. “He’s my brother, I’ll find him.”
“You’ll do a bloody good job in that state.” Jack sniffed.
Arsieu stopped. Jack was right. His brother had been lost for years; drinking wasn’t going to do any good. They were close, he could feel it.
“I think I know where he is,” Jack almost whispered.
“Where? Tell me!” Arsieu tried to round on Jack but tripped over his own foot, stumbling to the ground. He wheezed as he rolled over, the air having left his lungs.
“Sober yourself up and we’ll talk,” Jack said.