Quill and ink – returning to the basics


Ok, well I didn’t ACTUALLY buy a quill and some ink, but the concept is the same. I’ve reverted back to my pre-computer days and I’m letting my creative flow from my brain, down my arm and out through a good old pencil or pen and onto the paper.

I decided to give this a try when I started my Writing Creatively class this semester. I knew I could take a computer or an iPad to type up my work, but instead, I picked up and dusted off my trusty note book and sharpened a pencil.

Interestingly, in my private time, I seem to have found a bit of a plotting groove. I’m still working out finer details of my current WIP, working on my character arcs, my external conflicts and the inner conflicts too. Can you tell I’ve been attending a creative writing class yet?

I’ve been delving into the nitty-gritty details, deciding between one outcome to another, working out which outcome would better suit my characters and the story as a whole. I’ve been developing character flaws and strengths, deciding on the character reactions, the why’s and how’s and adding detail in where it is needed to make sense. I do worry, in the dark recesses of my mind, that I may be plotting forever, but each time I sit down to plot, I find more holes that need filling, more issues that need remedying and more questions that need answers. This doesn’t mean that I haven’t been writing.

While the class has been full of very interesting and valid instruction, I am starting to feel like I am forcing myself to try things and they aren’t really working for me. I’ve tried everything requested in class, given them all a go. Tried to apply my writing to the styles and tricks we talk about, but some of the exercises have been rather stressful. Perhaps worrying is a more appropriate word. You know that urge to preen when you re-read something that you like. That warm fuzzy feeling that blossoms out from your heart as you appreciate that perfectly created line? I can’t say that recently at least, that I love any of the work I have done. I’ll give you an example of one of my pieces below and I’d love some thoughts on it. It’s the excessively rough draft, but I don’t even really like where it is going.

So, aside from writing and not liking what is coming forth, I have reverted back to writing everything, even my plotting in my note book. This feels more natural, more in-tune with my brain and creative focus, the writing seems to come easier. I can remember when I was still at school, and well into my angst-y poetry days I used to drag around a notebook that I’d doodled all over. A notebook that bore explosions of my rather dark reflections from the heart. So perhaps this new notebook can be the vessel for some great writing as the teachings start sinking in.

I’ve talked before about the use of visual prompts and how good they can be for prompting writing. We did an exercise in our first class where the teacher provided us with some photos and we had to spend about 15 minutes coming up with something based on one or multiple of the photos. After having a look, I can’t find the exact photo that I picked, but I’ve found something similar. This image gives you the general gist of the image we used in class, but the one in class was all black and white. We were working on characterisation, trying to work through the aspects of a character. I’m not convinced I got there…

So, here’s what I came up with.

The girl who sat on the bench

Icy rain fingered playfully at my shoes as I sat on the park bench. Why did it have to happen this way? Left alone and hurting with the sky mimicking my feelings. My black umbrella, the same deep shade as the wicked words that spewed forth from her mouth.

Honey blonde hair and vivid green eyes almost too big for her face are what stole my heart when I first saw her. Siobhan was a wildcat, her cheeky sense of humour and flirty and bubbly personality only served to further make me want her. I shyly glanced at her from across the room, underneath a veil of lowered lashes. My heart beating like that of a frightened rabbit.

Our eyes met.

I swallowed the lump that had risen into my throat and managed a weak smile. The twinkle in her eyes lit even brighter.

Remembering the good times only serves to make me more miserable; I watched happy couples running, laughing together through the weeping day and across the park.

Would I ever be that happy again?

The caress of her smooth, warm hand over mine as we watched TV, the manic actors grinning at us from the screen. The electric blue nail polish she painted her toenails with, wink cheekily at me from underneath the end of the rug. She wriggles them.

My tears silently trek down my face and as I tilt my umbrella back, mingle with the rain. Why did she have to leave me? How will I cope on my own now?

Watching the delight escape from her glowing face as she unwrapped the Valentine’s Day gift last year. I made her a book of love poetry. I had written each piece for her. About her.

I wanted to burn that book now. The cancer had taken up residence in her head and stolen her from me, making her a shell, a husk of the woman I had once loved.

My heart, my soul and the love of my life had passed before this country would allow us to marry. I was angry. I asked her to travel to a country that would allow us to express our love, but she would tell me not to be silly, this was our home.

I watched the darkening sky and let it sour my mood further as I pushed awkwardly from the bench.

I watched too, as the life in Siobhan’s eyes fled from her slowly decaying body, the thinness and frailness becoming more prominent.

Now, I must struggle forward. Resting my hand on my distended belly, I realise it is not just about my life anymore, but that of our still unborn child. My only piece of her left in this world.

What a weight on my shoulders. Mother and father of this little person, I couldn’t allow my grief to cloud my mind further. I must live my life for our child.

When she became the twisted and bitter woman at the end, I struggled to remember that this was my lover; she took on the persona of someone else. Cruel and hurtful towards those that loved her as the disease attacked her brain.

And that, my dear readers is that. In all its flawed glory.

I think, despite the fact that I described Siobhan physically and you get some aspects of emotional characterisation of both characters – albeit briefly, I don’t see the same level of construction that I wanted to see. Am I being overly critical? I shared it with a fellow student at the next class and didn’t get any comments, good or bad…

Let me know what you think in the comments below. Do you tote a funky notepad around with you too or do you type your thoughts into your phone, computer or tablet?

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6 thoughts on “Quill and ink – returning to the basics

  1. I agree with Tony, it’s the change in tenses that confused me a little and I felt I had to re-read them. I loved the descriptions and the word usage though – I felt the characters really come to life and I was able to visualise it all really easily 🙂

  2. Some of the imagery is nice – the lowered lashes, the rain on her shoes. The blue nail polish on Siobhan’s toes.

    I think the biggest problem for me is the change of tenses from present to past and back again throws me out of the story. Here’s an example:

    …her smooth, warm hand over mine as we watched [past] TV, the manic actors grinning at us from the screen. The electric blue nail polish she painted [past] her toenails with, wink cheekily at me [present] from underneath the end of the rug. She wriggles them. [present]

    …You changed tenses halfway through the sentence there. It put me on my guard, and I was watching for others rather than reading the story. 🙂

    What would I add in a rewrite? I’d bring more of the cold rain into it. Is the bench hard against her legs? Can she feel her fingers? How long has she been sitting there? Does the child in her stomach kick and complain at the cold?

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