The Sunday before last, June 18th, I held my one day CREATIVITY FOR SCRIPTWRITERS course for the first time since pre-lockdown. The writers really entered into the spirit of the day and so many brilliant story ideas and characters emerged from the day.
We do an exercise in which I ask them to go outside, find a person who intrigues them, then work at turning this real person into a fictional character with a life and story of their own, culminating in 15 minutes for them to each write a voice-note / monologue capturing that character’s voice.
So, with the very kind permission of the writers involved, here are some of those characters (more to follow in the next newsletter). The course took place in a room on London’s Holloway Road and most of the writers gravitated to the Waitrose next door. The takeaway from this exercise – find your inspirations from real life, real people; don’t get stuck in front of your blank, forbidding computer screen.
I’m so impressed by the way the writers dive into the exercise with such commitment – and then by the sheer quality of the work they do with so little time.
Leia is a young woman in her late 20s with a figure that fits awkwardly in her Waitrose uniform. Her oval face is pale and freckled. Her mouth is lipstick-free and tightly closed. Her amber eyes have short lashes that seem to fight her black mascara, daily. Her hair is her defining feature; long, thick, ponytailed and, recently, dyed a vibrant orange using L’Oreal’s “you’re worth it” Mango Copper.
Note: This is a stream of consciousness that represents some of the melting pot of thoughts swirling around in Leia’s head while she’s at work. It can explain why she looks a little distracted on first meeting and how she would get interrupted by her break ending. NB She is talking about ‘Jakey’ – see the next monologue!
‘I must pick up Mum’s tablets from the chemist tomorrow. Try to find time to speak to Carrie about that course I wanna go on. Ask the boss if I can change my shift for Mum’s hospital visit on 19th. See whether the neighbours will move that washing machine that’s on the drive. Fix the button on my uniform. Ask Auntie Jenny if she’d come over for two hours next Saturday to see if I can go out with that lad, Jakey…….do I wanna go out with him? He had kind eyes but looked a bit of a state. I don’t need any more mess. I like the way he stood up for me with that pissy woman and the plastic spoons, though. It’s not easy, this job. People think that because it’s Waitrose you’re gonna be super human. Or “never knowingly unkind” or summat. But really it’s just as much of a slog as working in Tesco down the road. Maybe more. Customers think they deserve more. I can’t lose this job. It’s all I have to keep me and Mum going. I don’t wanna be stuck at home again like when I left Boots. I’m lucky Janey still gets me stuff on discount ‘cos this hair dye is going to cost me a fortune. He liked it though. Said it matched his Monster. That made me laugh. ‘Course, Mum doesn’t like it. She expects me to have Princess Leia hair buns! She doesn’t like much right now. And I can’t put it right. I do my best. But she’s definitely getting worse. When I think of last year she could hold a proper conversation. Now her throat seems to have dried up. She looks at me and I can see she’s frightened. I am, too. Jakey seems to get that. It sounds like he’s got problems with his Nan. He did have kind eyes. Gentle, like. I wish someone was gentle and kind to me. I always seem to be the one giving out for everyone else. Only last week I was listening to Margaret in the store moaning on about some relative of hers who’s been caught stealing (Lidl of all places). She never once asks me about Mum. It’s not………’
‘Jakey’ was passed out on a bench on Holloway Road. He was holding a Lost Mary vape in one hand and there were some fresh Ritz crackers scattered at his feet. He looked like he was in his late 20s, dressed in an old t-shirt and trackies, with food and beer stains down his front.
‘Do you know how tense Bargain Hunt gets? I swear some people think it’s just selling old shit at auctions but sometimes it’s way more than that. I’m not shitting you. I know it sounds like I’m shitting you but I’m not. The other day there was this couple on there, right. They were like 50s or something, and they could not agree on this China plate, right. And me and nan were – I watch it with her cause she loves it and only gets out for the bingo so I always let her choose the telly – and it’s actually good telly, you know? But me and nan, right, we were fully on the side of the wife, like, it was clearly undervalued and all this and she knew some stuff about it from a documentary and it would’ve made a few bob we thought, right. But her husband was just not having it. And he was on and on back, but with no good reason. Just proper tense and aggy and him just refusing to give it a punt. He wanted this shit old chair or something. Anyway, sure enough, the old chair loses them 50 and the other team took the plate and made like 200. And I just thought like, it’s not even about the money, but like, couldn’t you just let the wife have it? Let your missus have it? She seemed so lovely… Like, a really nice wife. And I just thought mate, if I had a wife, I’d just let her have the plate. I’d let her have whatever she wanted.’
SARAH J LEWIS
I spotted Grace, a girl in her early twenties browsing in Waitrose on Holloway Road with her glamorous mum and two older sisters. One sister pointed out that Grace had a leaf stuck in her flip flop. Grace giggled “I know, but I’m leaving it there because it’s annoying everyone.” Her sisters looked at her with a kind of fatigued disdain. This is a voice note to her university housemate:
Voice note ends.
New voice note:
Baabe. Sorry my finger slipped off the thing. I’m literally dying.
So…news flash…I’m actually speaking to you from your bed. I knew you’d be super-chill about it.
So Spike was begging me to bring him up to Nottingham for a night out so we came up yesterday and it was so fucking funny. We had the maddest night. Like I’m literally dying. Actually deceased. You seriously need to meet him. He’d love you. Anyway he ended up bringing this guy back and they were in my room doing debaucherous things, so I just jiggled the little lock thing on your door which we can totally get fixed, because I just knew that out of everyone you’d be the chillest.
So I’m just looking at all your little photos on the wall! I don’t think I’ve ever been in your room before. So cute. There’s you and the fam at the…are they caravans? Are they caravans if they don’t have wheels? Cute little chalets made out of plastic. Such a vibe. I’d love to sleep in a caravan. We should actually do that.
Oh and the other thing I’ve been meaning to say and I’d actually totally forgotten about it was you know that fifty quid you borrowed when we went to Magic Radish? Totally don’t worry about that. I’d actually forgotten anyway so seriously don’t worry. Is that your brother with the leg tats? You should bring him up to stay some time. Tell him I said his ink is sick.
Aw, look at you with your little granny. Is that the one that died? R.I.P Granny.
Oh! And I have some good news – you know that jacket that was your mum’s and we all rinsed you for wearing it? Well Spike was trying on some of your clothes last night and he actually totally found a way to make it work. I took pics, so you can wear it if we style it up in more of an ironic way. I think there’s a tiny rip under the arm because he’s pretty hench but he can sew that up because he is a qualified fashion designer. I was thinking I could wear it out tonight but it’s just so massive on me. Why is everything so fucking huge on me? It’s really annoying being tiny sometimes. I’m an actual Polly Pocket.
Aaanyway let me know when you’re back in Nottingham and we can hang… sorry I’m just trying to find the label on your little owl cushion to see where it’s from…Home Bargains. Iconic.
Ok Sweets. See you soon. Lots of love.
Roman (mid 20s) is a first generation Brit of eastern European origins. He’s the sort of individual who casually swings through life carefree. He works exceptionally hard at making life as easy as possible. He’s perfected the art of working smarter not harder. He has a larger than life personality, you will hear him before you see him.
ROMAN: ‘Hey Ester Sweetheart, you know you kind of asked us not to get involved in your deportation case. Well, we kind of got involved. It was only meant to be a small protest outside the home office but it kind of evolved into a mini riot. Just thought I would give you the heads up before you saw it all over social media. Also, I may have punched someone really important but he had it coming to him. He was being a wanker. I did it in your honour, so you can thank me later. But don’t worry, you’re staying in the country even if I have to handcuff myself to the twat of a home secretary….Holy shit that’s it. Ester got to go, if you know where I can get pair of sturdy handcuffs and I mean the real ones, the ones the police use text me.’
Thank you so much to Sarah, Sarah, Claire and Anesh for letting me share their work.
The next newsletter will be on Friday July 14th,
Friday June 30th 2023