I’ve been working, for some time, on a story about an old man and an old woman who are visited by a junior reporter from the Isle of Thanet Gazette newspaper. I split the story into three sections – the first section was written in third person and describes, in some detail, the journey taken by the young reporter to the old couple’s home. The location is real, as is the journey, and I wanted to give the story an authentic feel so I’ve used bus numbers and street names and I’ve described the houses as they were during the years the story is set (1975).
I wrote the second section as a play script and formatted it in that way. I was interested in writing something a little different and experimenting with medium. I thought I was being very clever. I enjoyed writing the script part as much as, if not more than, the prose part. Here’s an extract from the second section:
You: What was your job around that time, Mrs Tapp? What did you do at Fairdale’s?
Albert: Sweet Fanny Adams, if my memory serves me.
Beryl: He’s asking me, thank you very much. I worked in the laundry room washing and ironing the garments with some of the other girls.
Albert: That’s not all she worked.
Beryl: What’d he say?
You: Nothing. Nothing. Go on.
Beryl: From seven thirty in the morning to half five in the evening.
You: A long day, Mrs Tapp?
Beryl: It was a long day. Sunday off, mind. I was good. Some days I’d press up to thirty shirts.
Albert: That’s not all she’d press up to.
Beryl: I had nimble fingers, see. I was quick. Swish, along the collar. Swish, down the sleeves. Swish, side panels. Swish, back panel and up onto the hanger.
You: I can imagine. You made a note of that – ‘nimble fingers, swish,’ you wrote. Well done. Fat lot of good that’ll do you when you get back to the office.
I finished with a third section and reverted back to third person prose. I wrote and rewrote until I was happy with it. Next, I made an audio recording of it. I screwed up plenty of times and found myself having to go back and start again. I swore a lot. I have several outtake recordings to prove it. Finally, at around 10.45 p.m. last night, I uploaded it onto MacGuffin, an exciting site for writers which I discovered a while ago but hadn’t, until last night, had the courage to upload my writing onto.
I felt very pleased with myself – I’d worked really hard, over several weeks to get the story to a point where I was happy to share it. Now I look at it, re-read it, re-listen to it, and it’s still very much a work-in-progress, I can see the plot flaws in it, it doesn’t quite hang together and the characters’ responses are a little forced in places. Finally, the ending isn’t right. So, why the photograph of the angry looking bird? Well, when I picked it for this post, I thought the bird was an owl. Now I’m not so sure – which leads neatly back to the way I feel about my story.