I’ve had a rethink

A couple of days ago I shared a writing dilemma I was trying to sort out – whether I should ‘kill’ a particular character – who is being stalked, or whether he should just disappear for a while (maybe kidnapped, maybe trapped somewhere by accident, maybe deliberately taken ‘time out’)  or whether the character should exit the story altogether and go back to the green room and wait to make an entrance onto another stage – i.e. another story altogether.

The particular character is Darius, who I have written about quit a few times already, a character waiting fr a story… so what could have happened to him?

  • kidnapped – in my previous novel ‘Earthquake’, a character had disappeared man it turned out he was being held against his will, so I definitely didn’t want to have this character ‘disappear’ in that way
  • trapped – no, that just wouldn’t fit in with the rest of the story; he wasn’t a pot-holer, he wasn’t trying to investigate his own mystery, he wouldn’t have gone out walking and fallen down a cliff or into the sea (although maybe in a future story that could happen to someone!)
  • if he was taking time out, it would be either without telling anyone – which would conflict with a different story-line, or he had told people in which case he wouldn’t actually be ‘missing’

I didn’t want to take the character out of the story altogether because then I would have to unpick the whole stalker story-line – I have done that before in another novel, and it is still an option, but it’s quite complicated to check there are no passing references to that person or the situation he’s in… also the final scene in which he appears, he is actually dead, murdered!

When I last wrote about this, I had an idea – I would keep the plot line, but change the character, so Darius has now become Fergus (called Fergs by his friends and colleagues) and the original is back, waiting in the wings for his own story – in which, I think, Darius may be the main character.

So now with my new missing character, Fergs, because he has a different personality – he’s nerdy, introspective, weedy, maybe a little eccentric – it has thrown a completely different light on that plot-line. The original missing person, Darius, was good-looking, a strong but repressed personality, depressed about some unspoken issue, but with a definite quite strong character if only he could get over whatever was troubling him. This means the nature of the stalker has to change – the stalker would feel differently about a strong silent type than they would about a needy, weedy type.

It won’t only be the character who has changed – the attitude to him of the other characters will have to change to. Colleagues would feel differential about a needy bloke from a confidant bloke; also the reader will have different thoughts about him – might they care less about weedy Fergs than they would have about Darius, my strong silent type?

I think I have made the right decision, but this is going to take some work to rewrite everything I’ve written before – this plot-line weaves in and out of the others… Poor Fergs maybe dead, but I have another character still waiting for another story!

If you want to read the other stories in the same series, then here is a link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_14?ie=UTF8&qid=1505809966&sr=8-14&keywords=lois+elsden

The first in the series, Radwinter, is now available as a paperback:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-Lois-Elsden/dp/1521415196/ref=sr_1_1_twi_pap_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1505809966&sr=8-1&keywords=lois+elsden

 

 

Treat umbrellas kindly…

As a post script to Ruth Drew’s advice on cleaning umbrellas, particularly silk ones (I didn’t know there were silk umbrellas) I share further thoughts from her on looking after your brolly. Just thinking about umbrella reminded me of various stories where they play an important role… with people concealing things in them, using them as weapons, using them as a distraction – and who could forget Sairey Gamp in Martin Chuzzlewit? She even for a while gave her name to umbrellas.

I came across these other novels featuring umbrellas

  • Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
  • Howards End, by EM Forster 
  • Father Brown stories, by GK Chesterton 
  • Amerika, by Franz Kafka 
  • Winnie the Pooh, by AA Milne 
  • Mary Poppins, by PL Travers 
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, by CS Lewis 
  • The End of the Affair, by Graham Greene 
  • Umbrella, by Ferdinand Mount 

… and you can find out more here:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2010/sep/18/10-best-brolleys-in-literature

However, back to Ruth Drew; this is the time of year when umbrellas come into their own, and when you come home with the poor things sodden and dripping this is what you should do:

Don’t forget to treat umbrellas kindly. It is not a good idea to leave even a damp umbrella rolled up, let alone a sopping wet one. Unless yours is a nylon umbrella, wet will rot the fabric – and seep through and rust the spokes. So a good shake is what’s needed – even for the nylon kind – and then a little time to dry with the spokes open.

One thing which afflicts damp umbrellas left to dry all rolled up is smell – a nasty musty almost foetid smell will develop, and then envelop you next time you’re walking along beneath it in the pouring rain…

 

And some more from the Umbrella Factory Museum

I’m sure my two different stories from the Easthope and area local history Museum, known as the Umbrella museum because it’s situated in what was an old nineteenth century umbrella factory, will come together at some point and make something longer, maybe a novel… Maybe I could use these ideas for Nanowrimo – the national Novel Writing Challenge this year. (it’s an online challenge to write 50,000 words of a new novel in the month of November)

The first strand of story is total fiction, a youngish man, David, becomes friendly with someone sharing his house who works at the museum; the curator, Malcolm, is  rather eccentric and David and the other house-mates are intrigued by him.

The second strand is totally different but also involves someone who works at the museum, Darius; Darius is happily married with three young children and he doesn’t realise that certain members of a book-club who meet in one of the public areas of the museum by the little café are fascinated by him – he’s young, virile, good-looking, and some of the ladies of a certain age always have an eye on him. he would be embarrassed if he knew!

This is the next part of the Malcolm story-line… but it may need quite a bit of rewriting!

A visit to the museum

After that it seemed that I bumped into Malcolm more frequently, and I actually began to wonder if he coincided coming out of his room when he heard me on the landing. We exchanged the usual sort of ‘all right, mate?’ ‘glad that rain’s stopped’ sort of pleasantries which made me feel like my granddad – I’d be talking about pruning the roses or the price of petrol next!

Then one day for no reason – or maybe I actually thought that maybe he was a bit lonely, I asked him if he wanted a cup of coffee – I’d had an excruciatingly tedious day at work and needed caffeine. I wanted to dump my things and go straight back downstairs again for coffee then maybe a beer and chill with the others.

He thanked me as if I’d offered him something much more exciting – what a dull life he must lead. I said did he want to come down, or… but he said, yes, he’d come down… and so the pair of us went downstairs. I made coffee for everyone who was home, mentally thanking our landlord for the dishwasher as I found mugs. Coffee made and distributed, I slumped onto the settee, and he perched on the edge and I could see that the others wanted to make some crack, but restrained themselves. They restrained themselves until he finished his coffee and thanked me and went back to his room.

“Your new best friend, Dave!” Adam said and we had a laugh then turned on the telly to watch the footie while we decided which pizza to get from Domino’s.

***

 I suppose you might call it a quirk of fate – well you might, but actually I wouldn’t… it’s one of the things granddad would be more likely to say in one of his old stories… I’ve heard them all so often I could almost join in with the telling, but I never mind, he’s my granddad and that’s what granddad’s are for… anyway, quirk of fate or whatever, my boss asked me to drop something off at the local history museum, as it was ‘on my way home’. Well, actually, no it wasn’t.

I did think about just giving it to Malcolm when I saw him later, but no, the boss wanted it there tonight. I said the museum wouldn’t be open, but yes it would; his cousin was giving a talk on the buffalo of the Great Plains, and it was his cousin I had to deliver the package to.

I thought it would be mean not to say hello to my new friend Malcolm. I handed the big buff envelope to the boss’s cousin who  looked nothing like him, especially as he was actually dressed as a Native American, complete with  war paint. He asked me if i would stay for the talk, but regretfully I had a prior appointment… I didn’t say it was an appointment with the quiz team in the Lark.  I asked a museum person where I might find Malcolm and he directed me to the ‘stores’ where Malcolm was getting out the artefacts.

I was about to knock on the door when it flung open as I had my hand still up in the air. Malcolm looked astonished to see me.

“David! Thank goodness! I don’t l know what to do!”

He dragged me into the store-room. I was rather overwhelmed by the amount of objects in piles, in heaps, on tables, under tables, dusty and seemingly neglected, but he pulled me through a short passageway into a back room, more ‘artefacts’, probably junk to my ignorant eye, presided over by the sadly benign head of a buffalo, yes an actual buffalo – or is it a bison?

It was huge, absolutely massive, and a sort of grey colour… It was obviously dust, but in my imagination it was not just the musty motes from the museum store-room, but from the prairies of the Wild West.

It somehow didn’t look real, rather fluffy, its glass eyes dull… they needed polishing, but wouldn’t it be rather creepy, polishing a bison’s eyes, or is it a buffalo. I remember we did a project in history about the American west and all the things which could be made from the buffalo…

But my meandering thoughts about buffaloes and bison came to an abrupt and shocking full stop as I saw what Malcolm was pointing at. He had grabbed my arm and I could feel him trembling and was pointing with his other hand…

“It’s Margaret!” he exclaimed, a catch in his voice.

I’d never know what she looked like, no-one would ever see her face again. I’d not noticed her, transfixed by the dusty bison; she lay to the side of the room, what appeared to be a tomahawk in her hand, but her head, well, her head or what was left of it was beneath a squat but massive totem pole, and a rather nasty puddle of something pooled beneath her.

“Good grief…” I said.

Another episode from the old umbrella factory

I wrote a true story the other day, heavily disguised, so the actual people involved remain private; it was about a person who I know very well who I called Blaine, and in a fictitious location, The Easthope and Area Local History Museum, I transposed another real person as a fictional curator who I called Darius. I’ve changed everything about the people in my true story – I might even have changed genders! You won’t recognise these people, even if you knew them, but the facts of the story are absolutely true. My friend was telling me about another episode.

Georgie, an old friend of Blaine’s who didn’t visit Easthope very often called to say she was in town, looking at an exhibition at the museum on rope and rope-making, and could they meet for coffee… and maybe some cake!
It seemed an excellent idea, and with a little quiver of anticipation, in case Darius was working, Blaine agreed to meet her. Blaine thought she was a little early, as she strolled in; she had walked as it was a pleasant day and she thought she needed the exercise. However Georgie was already there, and to Blaine’s surprise and delight another friend was with her, Paddy, who she hadn’t seen for a very long time.
Paddy and Georgie were sitting at a table in the main café part of the museum – it was all open plan so visitors were walking all around; they had got a chair for her and it was facing them, and facing the window looking out into the little courtyard. In a way, Blaine was glad she had her back to the counter, and to the museum desk and little shop.
Blaine was so pleased to be with her two old friends and they chatted and laughed, and caught up with each other’s news, and with the latest on families and other friends. There were tables on either side of them, rather close in fact, but it didn’t matter, there was nothing private or confidential in what they were saying.
“I say young man,” said a rather sever looking woman on the ext table, her glasses perched on the end of her nose.
Someone came and stood beside Blaine to talk to the woman who was complaining about her coffee being too strong, and it was Darius.
He talked about the coffee, served from the café and took her cup away to get her tea instead.
“let’s go and look at the rope-making exhibition!” exclaimed Blaine and jumped up and got he coat and bag.
Her friends had finished their drinks and were ready to move to the upstairs gallery where ropes, rope makers and rope making were on display, and feeling embarrassed herself, Blaine hurried across the stairs before Darius could return with the tea.

I have used The Easthope and Area Local History Museum as a setting for my truly fictional story about Malcolm the curator – he really is an invention!

The Curator of the Umbrella Factory Museum

Meeting other writers, and working with others is a most stimulating, interesting and useful process, and I’ve joined a course which is taking place at the American Museum Bath – “Using objects from the Museum’s collection as prompts, Alex and Jude will inspire you with their creative writing exercises and help you find your writing voice. Sessions are fun, informal, and will explore character development, point of view, and plot, among other subjects. The sessions are suitable for complete beginners or for writers who would like an inspirational boost.”

This is what I wrote during the first session:

The Curator of the Umbrella Factory Museum

I knew that Malcolm worked in the local history museum; it’s on the road leading out of Easthope, but tucked away round the back in a nineteenth century building which was part of the old umbrella factory.

He was one of my house-k=mates in the shared Edwardian villa at the other end of our little town, and I probably wouldn’t have got to know him if our rooms weren’t opposite each other across the small landing on the top floor.

he didn’t come downstairs very often, never chilled in the lounge part of the open-plan area on the ground floor, but would come down to cook his meals. The rest of us would cook for ourselves, share a meal, or get a take-away… Malcolm never did. He was invited to join us and responded pleasantly but always cooked his simple meals and took them upstairs back to his room.

By the time I rented my room,the others were so used to him that there was no gossip or char and though he sort of fascinated me because he was my nearest neighbour, I didn’t really ask about him. I guess Malcolm was in his thirties, or maybe forties, brown hair cut in a normal but vaguely old-fashioned way, I don’t know if women would think he was good-looking, he just looked normal to me.

One evening as I was trying to concentrate on the massive tome which was all I needed to learn for my next exam to be a financial advisor… so dull, so dull, there was a knock on my door.

Most people in the house would knock and stick their head round the door if it was open, as it usually was, but Malcolm knocked. I rolled off my bed and opened th already ajar door.

“Hello David, sorry to disturb you, but something has slipped down the back of my wardrobe and I can’t shift it.”

“No worries, Malcolm, I’ll see if I can help.”

II must say I was intrigued to see the inside of Malcolm’s room; he had stepped back as i opened my door and he didn’t so much as glance over my shoulder into my room. My room is pretty much as you’d expect – untidy, clothes in heaps, books in piles, an array of dirty mugs along the window sills, an Irish flag hanging off the side of the wardrobe, and photos of my family and girlfriend on the small chest of drawers.

Malcolm had closed his door behind him and now keyed in the code on the number pad. His room was the same as mine, but the other way round, a sort of mirror image but it hardly looked as if anyone lived there. Apart from a couple of books on the chest of drawers there was absolutely nothing personal on display. The bed was pristine, a plain brown duvet cover, beige pillowslips… it was almost shocking in its emptiness, and the friendly witter I was about to utter died on my lips.

I knew Malcolm had lived here for a couple of years – I’d been here just over a year and he’d been established for longer than that.

“Er… David…”

I’d been staring around – staring at nothing actually because there was nothing to see. It looked like an empty room.

I apologised and went to help him manoeuvre the wardrobe.

My featured picture is not of an umbrella factory, it is of the Underfall yard in Bristol

Here is a link to my books on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_1?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=lois+elsden