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Week 8 Weekly Writing Exercise
In Week 8 - Pacing
Jude Potts
Mar 17, 2022
I had fun with this, though as in life, I had to fight my urge to slip in a joke here and there to break the tension. Dawn is just breaking. Here on the edge of the village, at this hour, not much stirs. I’m still in my pyjamas, thick socks, cocooned in a knitted blanket, sitting at the desk. Dan's away with work, the kids are with their gran for half term. It snowed overnight so there is that strange bluish light and the silent quality as the weight of snow damps down what little noise there is. The dog is snoring beside me and the radiators are ticking reluctantly into life. Everything else is silent. That's when I hear it. A rapid knocking at the door. The violence of the noise shakes the last of the sleep from my limbs. The dog grumbles lazily, curling more tightly against the tepid radiator. I head reluctantly towards the door, as fast as someone wrapped in a blanket, wearing socks can move. There is no one there. I lean out, peering left and right down the narrow lane, shivering in a sudden chilly blast.. There’s no one in sight. There are no tracks in the perfect white of the lawn. The lane is still crisp, virgin snow. I shut the door against the wicked chill, turn to move away, wishing I wasn’t alone. Wishing it wasn’t quite so silent. Knocking, loud and insistent, starts again. But I know no one is there. The noise has woken Norman. He sits just behind my knees and whines. Me too, Norm. Me too. A cup of tea, that will settle my nerves. There is bound to be a simple explanation. I move towards the kitchen, Norm padding along behind. More noise. This time from the basement. A dull thudding. I should investigate. It’s probably nothing. Maybe the window has come open and is banging? Maybe an animal got in? A big animal. I think about grabbing a weapon. Desk lamp? Umbrella? A large, expensive scented candle? Thud, thud, thud. The umbrella seems like the best choice. I creep to the top of the stairs. Norm has gone back upstairs. Thanks guard dog, you’re a great help. I slowly open the cellar door. The basement light is on. Did I leave it on? Did Dan, before he left? Just as I place a foot on the top step the front door rattles and I start so violently I almost fall down the stairs. I scurry back up to the kitchen and grab my phone. I try and call Dan. No reception. Thud. Thud. It’s slow, deliberate. That isn’t an animal or a faulty window catch. I open the cellar door. Dry mouthed, shivering, I am frozen on the top stair. My heart thumping in my chest in time with the thudding from below. I’m not sure how long I’m there, fixed to the spot, but two things bring me to life. First, I realise the thudding has stopped, replaced by a ticking noise. A noise I recognise as the cool down phase of the tumble dryer. I almost cry with relief. Whatever was thudding, it’s just something in the tumble dryer, something weighty rolling unevenly around. Dan’s trainers? Maybe he set the timer for economy seven, yesterday before he left. I was out until late, so who knows what little chores he did. The other thing that gradually drifts into my consciousness is the smell. Sickly sweet, metallic, catching the back of my throat. That’s when the lights go out.
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Week 7 Weekly Writing Exercise
In Week 7 - Show vs Tell
Jude Potts
Mar 13, 2022
I enjoyed this exercise and I'm really curious to see how different everyone's take on the same information will be. I found it really challenging, I have written three different pieces and the one below is the one that feels most like a complete scene. I found it telling that I immediately went to 3rd person, possibly because the 'facts' are 3rd person. Kirsten empties Rabih’s overnight bag as he grabs a quick shower. She knows he hates the stale grittiness that the underground and the intercity leave on his skin, but she still finds herself checking his collars for lipstick, sniffing his shirts for perfume, hating herself for it. Knowing Rabih has never strayed, looking for signs anyway. They both pretend she sorts his washing so she can put on a wash straight away because he needs an ordered house, would only do it himself as soon as he came downstairs anyway. The same way they both pretend he hasn’t clocked the wine bottles and ice cream carton in the bin. Or the way they don’t mention his nightmares when they both wake bathed in his sweat as the light creeps under the curtain. All the conversations they haven’t had, that hang in the air like the dust motes, occasionally revealed by a shaft of early evening sunlight. She leans deeper into the bag and a lock of hair streaked with silver falls into her face. She tucks it quickly behind her ear as her other hand finds a framed photo at the bottom of the bag. She pulls it out. A wedding photo, no silver in her hair here. They look so young, his arm around her waist, pulling her slightly towards him, both laughing as she loses her balance slightly, their heads almost touching at the moment the photo was taken. Kirsten smiles at the memory, touched that Rabih takes this with him when he’s away. She slides it back into the bag, straightens, tucks the loose hair behind her ear again, then feels the thud of a pyjama clad toddler crashing into her leg, pudgy hands gripping tightly to her fleshy thigh. Frazer, their ‘sticking plaster baby’, as Kirsten’s mother cruelly called him. Pretending not to notice, she moves around the kitchen slowly, dragging her leg, child and all behind her. ‘Has anyone seen Frazer? It's time for his story and bedtime.’ Frazer giggles. Zaina pads in from the lounge, feet bare on the tiles, instantly drawn into the familiar game. ‘No, I haven’t seen him. Have you looked under the sink?’ She mugs a thorough search of the under sink cupboard, the downstairs loo, under the dining table for her younger brother. They are all giggling now. A creak on the stairs then Rabih, skin flushed and damp, leans against the door jamb. ‘What are you doing, guys?’ ‘We have lost Frazer’ Zaina feigns alarm. ‘We’ve looked everywhere’ ‘Oh no. I was going to make hot chocolate. Now he’ll miss out.’ Rabih freezes in mock alarm. ‘Oh my goodness, Zaina. What is wrong with mummy’s leg?’ He dashes forward. ‘This huge lump. We may need to operate’ Zaina grabs her doctor's play kit from the kitchen table and solemnly dons a plastic headlamp and pulls a plastic scalpel from the kit. Rabih has a firm grip on his giggling son. Laughing, Kirsten loses her balance slightly as she leans over to watch her daughter performing the ‘operation’. Rabih looks up, his arm reaches round to steady her, their heads almost touching.
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Week 6 - Weekly Writing Exercise
In Week 6 - Dialogue
Jude Potts
Mar 04, 2022
A lot of what I have written so far doesn't have a great deal of dialogue, because its supposed to be the MC's memoir. I am happy that the MCs voice comes across in my writing, because the memoir is very much her voice. But maybe I can try to use more dialogue to develop some of the other characters. Ophelia is dressed in a fitted, black jacket with a mandarin collar, fitted black moleskin trousers and knee high black boots, along with her trademark black elbow length leather gloves. Her hair is drawn back into a low ponytail, her catflick eyeliner and matte carmine lipstick flawless. She catches Glory in the mirror, watching her as she applies a hint of blush to each cheek and swipes powder across her face in a well practised swirl. Glory looks her up and down, with a slow nod. ‘Hmmm. I can’t decide. Is the look you’re going for high class ninja call-girl?’ Ophelia snort laughs then shoots straight back. ‘They don’t call it war paint for nothing.’ There’s a long pause. Their smiles fade as they look at each other in the mirror. No one is laughing now. ‘War, is it?’ And here we are, finally, Ophelia thinks. Finally facing reality. She exhales heavily, still looking at Glory in the mirror. ‘Oh my god, Glory, it's so much war.’ She puts down her make up bag, swinging round to face her friend. ‘It isn’t what we want, but that doesn’t make it less true. I either wave a white flag or start throwing bombs.’ Glory blinks slowly. She has been hiding here ever since they left Jamaica, never really recovering from Desmond. But she has just started to want a life, something more than the Sanctuary. It was worth fighting for. She is ready. ‘You’re right. It is. But it isn’t one that you can fight on your own,.’ she moves towards Ophelia, puts both hands on her shoulders, as if she wants to shake her. ‘Or even with just me. We have friends in high places…. and some in low places.’ she shrugs, her mouth twitches lopsidedly but her dark round eyes stare deeply into Ophelia's ‘Let's use them. Use their skills. Don’t be a lone terrorist. Be a fucking General, lead an army’ Ophelia’s own instincts are to never rely on others but she is not used to being the target, the one in someone’s sights. She takes a slow breath in, glances at the floor, hears the baby murmur in her sleep. She realises the breath sharply, nodding. ‘Glory, it sounds like you have a plan.’ ‘The start of one at least.’ Glory shrugs. ‘Well let's see where we get with that start, shall we?’ They hunker down in the two easy chairs, and Glory lays out her ideas.
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Week 5 Writing Exercise
In Week 5 - Style
Jude Potts
Feb 25, 2022
Like the others I found this challenging. I get the point of the exercise - it is very easy to write using one style automatically because it is the most comfortable, and not explore how telling the same story in a different way might draw out more interesting elements. It could also be useful if something isn't working, to re-write that scene in a different style to come at it in a different way. I deliberately challenged myself to change the tone of the piece as well as the viewpoint. It's not the story I want to write, but I can immediately see how different the story would be without the gossipy, flippant narrator. I now wonder whether I can bring some of the emotive elements this 2nd piece has the potential to give to my current work, without losing the voice & style I want to keep. Original piece - first person conversational narrative, comedic tone By now, I’m sure you are wondering how someone like me became, well, someone like me? What makes a girl turn to a life of crime? I can’t speak for anyone else of course, I’ll leave that to the criminology and social policy experts, but I was born into it. My parents were both magicians, experts in close up work, sleight of hand and making things disappear. Whilst I’m not suggesting Paul Daniels ever conned anyone out of their life savings, the skillset is very similar for hustlers. Distraction, illusion, persuasion, and ‘the sell’. One makes a lady in a bunny costume and a sequined top hat disappear, the other makes your investment portfolio or antique jewellery vanish. My parents did both, diversifying their income streams way before such things were necessitated by the gig economy, putting the hustle into side-hustle. At age five, when many children are learning to tie their laces and recite the alphabet, I was standing on a glittery box on a street corner, charming people into giving me cash doing the old cups and ball trick, and then giving them the hard sell for tickets to whatever fleapit my parents were appearing in that night. By age eight I was part of the disappearing lady trick - I’d appear in the box in place of my mother, much to the audience’s delight. It was around this time that I also perfected the art of pickpocketing, relieving punters of watches and wallets while my Dad distracted them with card tricks. Say what you like about Fagin, but at least it wasn’t his own kids he was exploiting. Re-write: 3rd person, not a hint of flippancy. There are many reasons why a person is drawn into a life of criminality . For Ophelia the need to take what did not belong to her was handed down by her parents. They were magicians, experts in sleight of hand, touring low rent end of pier theatres, fairs and carnivals, living hand to mouth in an endless whirl of cheap bed and breakfasts. Never in one place for long, they often stole away in the dead of night to avoid paying for their damp rooms with scuffed paintwork, dirty sinks and sheets worn thin and shiny. Her parents’ skills of distraction and persuasion amused afternoon audiences, drowsy from heavy lunches and daytime drinking, with disappearing ladies and handkerchiefs that turned into doves. But those same skills could equally distract unwary tourists and part them from watches, jewellery and wallets, and frequently did. They moved from town to town, like a touring crimewave, always two steps ahead of whatever criminal investigations took place. Frequently neglected, often hungry and desperate for companionship and affection, Ophelia learned quickly that mastering a new card trick, perfecting a pick pocketing technique or charming the punters was the only guaranteed way to gain a decent meal, brief parental attention and maybe even praise or a hug if she was really lucky. As an adult, the hunger remained, the mistrust and the sense of impermanence. Life was a show, a performance. If she dazzled enough people might not see the lost child, looking for parents who had slipped out a back window when she wasn't looking.
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Week 4 Writing Exercise
In Week 4 - Character
Jude Potts
Feb 17, 2022
Desmond Meets a new girl: Not going to lie, I like the ladies. Ones that look like ladies and act like ladies. I treat them pretty good, though I ain’t always a gentleman, if you get me. But the one I met this morning, she is fine. Those curves! First thing I see as I came out of Rosie’s Kitchen with my daily chocolate tea, that ass hugged nice and tight in little pedal pushers, bent over the motor like she knows what she is looking at. She had this cute little smudge of oil on her nose when she turned to look at me over her shoulder. But I was looking pretty sharp, I didn’t want to get oil on my suit. Then she gave me those big baby blues. I’ve always been a sucker for a damsel in distress, how could I say no? ‘I know my way around a car, if you need some help there?’ ‘You don’t look like a man that needs to know his way around a car‘ she is looking me up and down. ‘I got talents you can’t even guess at’ I said, checking her out, nice and slow just like she did to me, before I look under the bonnet. Luckily I didn’t have to work too hard or get my suit dirty. For some reason her battery leads had worked loose, so a few minutes and I had her motor purring again. Man, she was grateful, all giggly, shy and shit, just how I like. ‘Can I buy you a drink later… as a thank you.’ I think I might even have blushed, when she stroked my arm. I haven’t blushed at a woman since I was fifteen and our neighbour hit on me. Normally a woman asking me out, that’s a hard no. That’s not a real lady. But this was saying thanks, so it’s not pushy. Plus, curves like babygirl, she gets to be a little bit pushy. Naturally I told her about Royal Beatz. What man would not brag a little bit to hot chicks if he owns his own club. I told her I’d put some Cristal on ice for her, so she knows what kind of man she’s getting. She knows I like class. I cannot wait to see her when she’s in a dress and heels, with her makeup done. And, if I keep the bubbles flowing, maybe it’ll get all messed up again and she’ll look even better. 'Babygirl' Isn't All She Seems He found me just as I planned; half heartedly inspecting a flat tire, my peachy ass tilted pertly in his direction in some snug little pink capri pants, outside his favourite cafe one fine June morning. An ass man who likes a damsel in distress? I think I managed to tick enough boxes to capture his attention. And there he was, practically begging to help me. And I was oh, so very grateful. I simply must buy him a drink to say thank you. Big wide eyes; check. Simpering and blushing; check. Nervous giggle; check. Little stroke of his arm; check. The man fell for it all. Sometimes these things really are painfully easy. Men, mostly. Desmond wasted no time in explaining that I didn’t need to buy him a drink, he owned a club. No shy glancing to the floor for Desmond, no nervous blushes here. Desmond gave me his best swag, his widest ‘I’m the big man’ grin. And a little pat on the backside I could, frankly, have done without. I gave him a breathy ‘Oh gosh, really? Do you?’ like he’d just told me he had a cure for cancer in his jacket pocket. I think you’ll agree, being able to giggle adoringly for a man who almost killed your best friend takes some acting talent and an admirable amount of self control. Desmond gave me the name of his club (Royal Beatz, if you please) and told me he’d put some Louis Roederer Cristal on ice for me. I batted my eyelids like a trouper and told him I could barely wait. Hard to say which I felt like I needed more when I got home, a stiff drink or a shower. I dressed using all the information Glory had given me to ring a few more of Desmond’s bells. I had a good selection of cocktail dresses from my stint grifting the casinos. I picked a dress that hugged my ass in a way that is probably illegal in some places. It was smoky grey silk, shot with rose gold metallic thread, low backed with a zip that may as well have been labelled ‘pull here’, but a soft drapey neckline to keep it classy, not trashy. Subtle make up, a perfume I knew Desmond really liked, heels that really made my behind ‘pop’ as they say. I was good to go. Not going to lie, I looked smokin’. Shame it was wasted on such a scumbag.
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General Discussion for Week 4
In Week 4 - Character
Jude Potts
Feb 15, 2022
I have a couple of suggestions for people, to add different tools to developing character. The first is a bit left of centre, so bear with me. A few years ago there was this 36questions to ask a partner to fall in love / live happily ever after type thing. No idea if it works for its intended purpose, but for me, some of the questions are more useful in developing a character than whether they prefer coffee or tea and like rollercoasters( I'm not dismissing this kind of list, all types of information about characters speaks differently to everyone). Not all of them will apply, but its pretty good 36 questions to fall in love - 36 love questions tested (cosmopolitan.com) The other thing I'd recommend is a book I've recently got - Inside Fictional Minds by Dr Stephanie Carty. It gets you looking at what is really going on underneath. One of the things she talks about regarding character arc is the push/ pull effect. People resist change, so even when they are becoming aware of why they behave in a certain way (or others behave in a certain way), people will resist that new knowledge, or bury it. For example - someone who has been a recluse for many years might meet a character who penetrates their defences, whom they care for. They might then avoid that character, or become hostile to them, because they fear change and getting hurt. They might do this several times, with gradual growing awareness that they are sabotaging themselves before they fully embrace that friendship.
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Week Three Writing Exercise: Narrative
In Week 3 - Narrative
Jude Potts
Feb 10, 2022
Original scene (present tense, 3rd person POV): Glory sits at the reception desk reviewing bookings when the doors open and a tiny young woman, just over five foot in her heeled boots, scrambles in carrying a large holdall and dragging an even larger wheeled case. Behind her follows a paunchy, perma-tanned man in his late fifties, expensively dressed in a salmon pink cashmere jumper and designer jeans that sit below his protruding gut. Glory takes in the ruddy complexion, the broken veins across the bridge of his nose even fake tan couldn't disguise and the vain attempt to hide a thinning patch on top. ‘Get out of the way. Stupid girl.’ he barks at the young woman. Her big eyes widen as she cowers away from him. ‘Take a photo and post it on twitter. God sake, you shouldn’t need telling, bloody degree in Media and Comms.’ The young woman, who read the privacy policy for the Sanctuary on its website and is at this very moment gazing at a reminder on the reception desk, opens her mouth but nothing comes out. He snatches his phone from her trembling hand, ‘I’ll do it my bloody self’ ‘Mr Saunders, I presume?’ Glory gives him her warmest smile, moving from behind the desk. Saunders has his phone grasped in his raised right hand, and Glory gently but firmly takes hold of his arm and lowers it. ‘Actually this is a media free zone, Mr Saunders. It is all in your confirmation email. We provide a safe and private haven for all our guests, so no blogs, vlogs, photos, film, interviews or social media posts from here or about this place. If you don’t mind?’ Her voice is a well-practised honeyed steel, her cool gaze giving lie to the wide smile. ‘Well what is the point of Leila being here? Comms is her job, and you’re saying she can’t bloody comm at all?’ Incredulity makes his voice squeakily high. ‘Very little point at all’ Glory says placidly, her eyebrows lifting slightly in expectation. Saunders shoos the young woman away with a dismissive waft of a slightly short arm. Leila doesn’t need telling twice, hurrying out before more ridiculous orders are issued. Now with a couple of weeks to where she can carve out some free time to look for another job, she almost dances down the street to the tube. Daniel Saunders, TV presenter made famous by his show Daniel’s Daily Dose, a weekday morning staple for years. He has made his name looking down on his viewers and sitting in moral judgement on the lives of others. His most used twitter hashtag is #BeKind though Daniel himself rarely is. His most frequent targets being young single women in the media glare who enjoy themselves and show too much leg and too much chutzpah for Daniel’s liking, single parents, anyone from an inner city environment - especially women who make a success of themselves. When rumours began to circulate that Daniel had one eye on a new career in politics, Ophelia reached out with an invitation to the Sanctuary. Daniel had snapped it up. A chance to recharge and revamp his image at the Sanctuary appealed to his ego, every bit as puffy as his well fed face. New version: 1st person, past tense: You’ll remember Daniel Saunders, of course? He has somewhat dropped off the radar in the last few years, but he does still pop up between the repeats of The Bill and Take The High Road on British Gold channel advertising funeral plans and conservatories. Ever since Daniel’s Daily Dose, his weekday morning chat show, got cancelled. The way he has told it, on everything from Loose Women to The Politics Show, HE was cancelled. Silenced for being out of step with the Wokeratti. Although the various spreads in the Express, Mail on Sunday and Times, the Radio Four interview, autobiography and accompanying podcast don’t exactly scream silenced, do they? Boringly vocal and tediously petulant seems more apt. The show was cancelled, if you remember, after his mike was accidentally switch don early, whilst he was still in make up, and recorded him sexually harassing his poor make up artist, and then calling her a ‘hysterical carpet muncher’ when she politely asked him to stop his running commentary on what he’d like to do with her tits. Somehow that audio made it on air, just as the show went live, and the backlash was enough for his ratings to tank overnight, and for the show to come off air within a week, having had all its advertising cancelled. Boo, and I mean this most sincerely, fucking hoo. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy. Spoiler alert, it was not the first time he had harassed a woman. I have the video. He has, of course, been to the Sanctuary. Cast your mind back a little further and you may recall he was mooted as a potential MP. Can you fucking imagine? Well yes, obviously, there are places he would have fitted in perfectly. Which was why I felt we needed to put that idea to bed, quick smart. Celebrity right wing narcissists with a penchant for sexual harassment in positions of poltical power does not end well. As soon as I heard the rumours about the move to politics his invitation was in the post. There was no way a man with an ego as puffy as his well fed face was turning down a chance to revamp his image, ready for his new role in the political spotlight. We had him booked in for a three week stay. A little tightening and tweaking of his overly orange visage, time for the bruising to go down, and a few ‘well deserve’ massages to iron out the kinks. We hoped we’d catch him being indiscreet and saying something inappropriate on the phone or something. Oh boy did we underestimate what a shit he really was. His stay lasted less than forty eight hours, it was more than enough time for him to do some serious damage. I remember the day of his arrival. I was down in my private office and on one of the monitor feeds I saw Glory greeting him at the reception desk. His publicist, a tiny slip of a thing in her mid twenties, barely more than five foot in her heels, was dragging a suitcase almost as tall as her towards the desk, whilst also hauling an oversized holdall that threatened to pull her over. Behind her, free of any such burdens, strolled a paunchy, perma-tanned vision in salmon pink cashmere, designer jeans sitting just under a well stuffed gut. I watched Glory take in the broken veins across his nose and cheeks that even the heavy fake tan couldn’t hide, the carefully coiffed hair designed to hide an expanding bald patch and failing miserably. Leila, the publicists, cowered from the bellowing windbag as he demanded she take a photo of his arrival at the Sanctuary. She flinched as she pointed to the privacy notice on the Reception desk. Clearly not the first time she had been balled out in public. It may have been his favourite hashtag, but clearly Mr Saunders couldn’t tell his #BeKind from his behind. Though her smile remains fixed and bright I spotted Glory’s grip tighten on the edge of the desk as he dismissed Leila as surplus to requirements once it became clear he wouldn’t be able to tout his prestigious invitation to the Sanctuary across his various social media platforms. Leila practically skipped from the building at the prospect of three weeks away from boss of the year as Glory spoke. ‘Mr Saunders, such a pleasure to have you staying with us’ were her words. Her foot was twitching under the desk, impatient for the pleasure of taking him down a peg or two.
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Jude Potts
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