Thursday, May 25, 2006

Crime Writing Workshop: Day 2

To avoid confusion, read Day One first.

Not being much of a morning person, it was hard to fight back the groans when we were given our first exercise of Day Two. It involved thinking. And walking. And the outdoors.

The exercise was called Five Hundred Steps. The idea was to pick a starting point at the park across the road, walk one hundred steps and wherever we landed, write. Without intention or plan, just write in the voice of our chosen character.

Even though I had come up with a basic plot for a story the day before, I wasn't entirely sure who the protagonist should be, but the exercise tipped the scales: I chose the most difficult character.

A woman.

A rich, lonely woman who is worried that her husband is cheating on her.

Before you slap me for insulting the female race, let me explain.

Being a writer, I understand loneliness, but when it comes to the bell curve of women and finances, think of me as the kid that slid down the wrong end. Still, I pushed on, with the help of sunglasses and caffeine mixed with artificial sweeteners. In powder form.

After we'd settled into some discussion on our characters and how the exercise had helped our writerly muscles flex, a strange thing happened.

People started disappearing.

After the first day, one of the younger students and I hit a local pub for a few beers. Perfectly normal activity in Newtown. But since I was forking out hard earned cash for the course, I bade farewell after my second drink and headed home for dinner. The other guy stayed on. And on, arriving home at about 1am. So it made perfect sense that he was a little quiet and prone to staring off into the distance.

But some time before lunch, he left the room in a rush, during the middle of an interesting talk on the spiral structure of mysteries. From the look of him, I figured he was off to pray at the Great White Altar, but by the time lunch arrived, we discovered that he had disappeared.

And he wasn't the last.

The rest of the day wore on, with topics of interest including: pacing, transitions, the burying of clues, and editing and rewriting. Once afternoon tea was over, one of the older ladies left a few hours early. At least she mentioned it to someone.

Another one, gone.

We threw around theories of poison in the cake, a deadly visitor to the toilets, or pale-faced nurses in PVC uniforms and dark makeup brandishing shiny, spiked instruments. Stabbing, again and again, relentlessly, until ... okay, I made the last one up. Just for Mr. MacBride.

Fifteen minutes before the end of the day, another woman made apologies and left. Something to do with picking up children. Sure, we believe you. We know there's no evil conspiracy behind the staff at the Nursing Campus. It's normal for people to drop off throughout the day on a Sunday.

And thus it endeth here.

Stay tuned tomorrow for further reflections on the more illuminating moments of the workshop.

If I live to tell the tale.

(cue evil laughter, let it fade into a mess of echoes, add a huge explosion, then a little voice saying 'ouch')


Sandra Ruttan said...

Damn, where did they all go? This is all very X-Files-ish.

Or they were really hung over. Or you're out of your mind and they never left at all...

The possibilities are endless.

Did you feel the exercise was helpful?

M said...

Brilliant. I was enthralled. And I think it is very telling that those who stayed are probably the most likely to complete and publish a novel.

Now where is that great white Altar LOL

Thanks for the heads up on yesterdays progamme. I couldn't make it but appreciate the info. Cheers

Daniel Hatadi said...

Sandra: I thought the course was great. There's a real difference between reading about writing and learning it from someone in front of you. Much more interactive. But nothing substitutes for sitting on your arse and writing. That's the best form of learning.

M: Cheers right back at ya, M. Might be seeing you later tonight. Depends if I ... LIVE TO TELL THE TALE.

I better stop that. Used it too much already.