I hardly recognised her

I’m just finishing off the last few ‘to-do’ tasks for the second week of  the Start Writing Fiction MOOC. We’ve been thinking about characters, and as part of an ongoing exercise I have a character called Jakov, a mystery man who’s waiting for a train. Now I have a new, different task:

Ideas for a story

Writers often worry that they won’t be able to think of ideas for a story, but ideas can come from anywhere. Turn on the radio and take note of the first thing that is mentioned. Use it as the basis for either the start of a story or an entire story – whichever, it should be no more than 500 words. Imagine a character, someone who is central to what the story is about. Try to use clear, vivid language so that your reader can see the character. Use some characterisation techniques we have talked about so far:; You might not wish to include all of these various aspects in your story but you might like to know something about them nonetheless: physical description/thoughts and inner life/personality/where the character is located/the character’s back story/how the character acts in the world.

I tried this yesterday, but the snippets I heard brought nothing to mind, struggling families, Grimsby, Blackpool, towns vs cities, the song ‘I was a king’… I tried again today and caught a phrase ‘from sensuality to puritanism’ and then ‘the runaways’, and last, ‘send me out of the room with a gun in my hand…’

This certainly got me thinking… and this is what I came up with – whether it will become part of a story, whether it’s linked to Jakov, I have no idea!

I hardly recognised her – in fact I wouldn’t have recognised her and walked straight past, looking for someone extraordinary, someone with strange hair, exotically weird attire. I almost did walk straight past the plain woman, greying hair scraped back off her face, no make-up, no piercings, natural eyebrows. I almost passed her except she met my gaze, lifting her hand in greeting. There was no welcoming smile, her watchful expression unchanged.
“Louella!” She didn’t stand and my embrace was awkward, she was stiff and unresponsive.
“I’m no longer that person, you can call me Faith, Faith-Be-My-Joy,” the old Louella might have said it then hooted with laughter, this stranger stared blankly at me. I wanted to hoot with laughter.
“I’ll get a drink – coffee? Tea?” I almost added ‘or a sinful hot chocolate’ – it was one of our sayings, things being sinful… but I held it back.
“It’s table service, I will have a mint tea.” She still didn’t smile.
Was this a joke? An elaborate joke? She always was a prankster, was someone filming us right now? I resisted looking round and sat opposite, seriously nonplussed.
Others would have seen her, Louella/Faith and me, Jess, a sort of aging hippy.

Here’s a link to my novels – I wonder if one day the story of Jakov, Louella/Faith-Be-My-Joy and Jess will ever appear in print?


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