This week, the 2nd part of the excellent voice-note / character monologues that came out of my CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS ONE DAY COURSE in London on Sunday June 18th.
I wanted to share these with you because I hope, from the quality and richness of the different characters created over about 90 minutes, inspired by real people, that you will also be inspired to create characters and start stories by observing real people in the real world rather than by staring at your blank computer screen.
These characters were all inspired by people in and around Waitrose on the Holloway Road in London.
The real-life Charlie was walking along Holloway Road, arguing with a woman, and carrying a plastic shopping bag which was full. He was rake-thin, the way addicts can be, and was in a state of distress. He was wearing a pair of fairly new-looking work boots (the kind construction workers wear), which stood out from the rest of his outfit (shorts, polo shirt) and made me wonder if he was currently employed or acquired them some other way?
As he passed Waitrose he dropped the bag/it burst, which led to more bickering – not helped by the stifling summer’s day. Then he stormed off into German Doner Kebab. That was the last I saw of him.
EXT. HOLLOWAY ROAD – LONDON – DAY
A hot, stifling kind of summer’s day. CHARLIE (early 50s, rake thin, wears clunky work boots) marches along, his hand shaky as he smokes the end of a cigarette, flicks it away. He turns into a…
INT. WAITROSE – CONTINUOUS
As he walks, he opens a WhatsApp chat on his phone and begins to record a voice note.
I went to the graves today for my mum’s anniversary. First time in months. She’s lucky I even visit at all. And the state of her fucking headstone. Covered in fucking ivy and all kinds. None of those other bastards she called brothers and sisters think of coming to visit or change the flowers once in a while. No. It’s all on fucking Charlie. He’ll tidy up the mess. He’ll call the flower shop at the grave. He’ll spend his HARD EARNED FUCKING MONEY…
A couple of customers gawk at Charlie, who pays them no notice as he walks.
And what makes it even worse? That prick buried next to her has a fresh bouquet of lilies on top of him. Fact she even chose to share a grave with him sums her up perfectly. Weak. Weak-minded. Weak spirit. After all he done… You know what I can’t be arsed no more. With none of them. I’m a nip in and get a kebab, then I’ll stop in Tansy’s because I fancy vodka tonight. And we can finish what’s left of the mandy. I’ll take the day tomorrow if needed so fuck it, they owe me time as is…
The voice note ends. Charlie exits through a door at the opposite end of the store out onto another street. Walks about 10 yards before turning into a kebab shop named “GERMAN DONER KEBAB.”
Esther has lived 60 of her 67 years in London. A widow and bereaved mother, Esther’s loneliness is belied by her flamboyant dress and hearty laugh. She is a stalwart of the church and is possibly the Royal Family’s biggest fan. Friends have been deported as a consequence of the (now openly) hostile environment and the walls of Windrush are now closing in for Esther too.
“Oh Esther, don’t forget you’re not really who they think you are. You’ll never be who they want you to be. It’s probably not even their fault. Just doing what they’re told to. Always remember how much you loved their queen. Your Queen. Her Majesty. And her big boy’s the one in charge now. Surely to God he’ll have inherited his mother’s grace … although he does fly off the handle at the slightest thing doesn’t he. Anyway, he’s not directly involved, so it doesn’t really matter. Right. Focus on what you need to remember. What you need to say. The stuff that is important. But the man doesn’t even seem to know how to use a pen! In God’s name! Would he actually help you now if you did ask him to? I wonder … I mean, has he ever seen you, noticed you sitting there on the collapsible chair with the tinfoil of sandwiches and your big flask of tea as his horses trot past your hard-fought-for spot behind the barricades. Remember that time one of them farted, at nose level as well, right as it came past with its sweaty flanks. I think that’s what you call those bits. Probably too busy thinking about what awaits him at the end of the parade, pens and whatnot, papers to sign.
You are a decent looking woman, at least a well-kept one with good standards, dignified, smart but with a bit of pzzazz! Ha! These things are important. And a heart full of love. Yes. That for sure. Come on now Esther. Focus. What is it you’ll say when they ask you – “for the final time, Ms Hamilton” – for those papers you need to prove that you’re worthy … those papers you never needed till now so never had? What in the name of sweet Jesus will you say? It won’t do to say you were there in the Mall for all the big weddings. And it doesn’t seem to matter that Daddy drove the buses and then the underground trains and made sure they were all in time for their work. And Mother, half a day every day in the convenience store that was anything but convenient for her or her family and a bit of cleaning at the weekend to boot. And I did better than them. That’s what you do. That’s what your parents hope for. Not just any hospital, but the one they delivered all their lovely little royal babies in. That floor was polished like a mirror, that’s what the bosses told me. Taking a pride in what you do. That’s what matters. You paid your taxes and you should be getting your pension now. But you don’t have the papers, those papers that prove your loyalty. What are you going to say?”
Alex (35 – young dad, well turned out, votes Tory) has airpods in, and carries Waitrose shopping bags on a busy Holloway Road. He’s accompanied by his 4 years old son, Frankie, who rides a wooden push bike (no pedals). Frankie pays as little attention to his father, as his father pays to him.
Hey man, I know you’re out with the kids today. Me too. Out with Frankie at the moment. Just on our way back from Waitrose. Are you in the park? We’d drop by on the way past, so let me know.
Otherwise, I’m hoping to nip out for a pint later this evening. Ayuna should be back from her Mum’s by about 7, so I’ll be free then. It’d be good to catch up. Haven’t seen you in a while. Wondering how you’re getting on. 3 kids! You must be busy. I barely get any time to myself with just Frankie hanging out of me.
Frankie, crossing here…
God, this road is always so busy. Sorry, man. One sec.
Frankie we’re going this way. Turn. Frankie. Turn.
Fucking hell. I don’t know how you do it with 3. No doubt you’re dying to get away too, so drop me a text, or give me a call when you get a chance.
I’ll be at the Bunch of Grapes from about 7:30 either way. Pop down if you can get away.
I’m still waiting on that darts rematch, after you annihilated me last time. In fact, I think I still owe you a pint for that, so tonight could be the night to redeem it. Actually, come down tonight, and I’ll make it two for the price of one.
I need to be back by 10 though, because Ayuna has an early start and doesn’t like it when I come in too late. And she’ll be putting Frankie down tonight, so that’s fair enough.
Okay. I’ll let you go. I still have to ask about how you got on in Greece. Hopefully see you in the Bunch of Grapes for a pint later, but if not, I’ll be in the City, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday this week, so can grab a lunchtime pint any of those days. Or even after work on Wednesday, if that suits. It’s been a while since we’ve managed that, and the weather is beautiful these days, so it’s an easy one to justify.
Okay, that’s me. Frankie, pick it up and come… Sorry, mate. Have to go. Eh…chat soon.
Frankie – give it here.
MARGARET (70) is a grandly dressed Islington lady in a turban with a string of pearls. She befriends a young man, who is forever in trouble with the police, after he saves her from muggers. I’ve given him the name of Tyson.
Hello, Tyson. It’s Margaret.
I’ll be in all day apart from a brief trip to the high street to reprimand Mr Bailey for his sausages. He’s changed the recipe without forewarning. I’m in a good mind to stop recommending him. It really won’t do. And as for the street itself, I am in despair. There used to be an umbrella shop, you know. Gone long ago, but there’s no change in the weather, so it’s quite beyond me.
Thank you so much for returning my mobile phone. I told the police your view of the situation, that it wasn’t the pearls but the shoes they were trying to steal. What an extraordinary world?
And I went back to the shop. The police advised that the girl was mistaken when I said I wanted the best and she provided the most expensive. Nike Air Mag Back, they call them. But you would know that better than I. They refused to take them back. Mugging is not a returnable reason under consumer law it seems. Anyway, they were happy to supply me with new pair. Pink this time. They assured me that there was very little likely hood of theft or robbery with Adidas. She seemed quite disdainful actually, but I was very pleased.
It was banana cake yesterday, but you didn’t come. Maybe Black Forest Gateau is a better proposition? I’ll stop by at Perkins on the way to Valerie. She’s doing very well at the charity shop but has been hounded by a group of schoolboys. On this occasion the police have failed to rise to the challenge. I suggested that we should call upon some muscle from the hood, but she was quite horrified. What would Oxfam say? Maybe you can advise while I write to the Magistrate? My husband was in law, you know.
They have all the wrong experience, the judiciary. They only see you when you’re in the dock, which makes them quite biased as to your character. I fully intend to put them straight.
Would eleven AM be good? Or two in the afternoon. It’s been four days since you left your message asking for assistance. I’m very keen to help, but if you go to ground like this, then there’s not a lot I can do. If you have tea and cake on the other hand, I’m sure I can be most useful.
A huge thank you to the writers – David, Lorraine, Eamonn and Dan – for the excellence of these characterizations and their generosity in allowing me to share them with you.
The next newsletter – a celebration of the CHANNEL 4 SCREENWRITING COURSE – will be with you on Friday July 28th.
Friday July 14th 2023