Sit at your table with your group. Take a sheet of paper each.
Write a name. Pass it on.
Write an age. Pass.
In our group, this brought our first sheet full circle. My task was now to write a short scene featuring Neil Ruby. He’s 15 and is privately tutored. He’s in a café in a village in Iceland, and currently, he’s disappointed.
Sludge. That’s what he’d call it. It wasn’t what he thought it would taste like. Hot chocolate was sweet. This was not. It was just sludge.
Why do adults drink it? He thought. Adults do a lot of strange things. Like drinking weird shit. Or moving to Iceland. Or privately tutoring their son.
The shop smelled strange- the wood furnishings, the non-British brands, the freezing summer air.
A jingle from the door’s chime. Neil turns. A man stamps his feet, shedding snow from his fleece and boots. His bobble hat marks him out as a local.
He finds Neil instantly. It’s a weekday. The rest of the kids are in school.
“Neil”, he says. “I’m Richard.”
“Hi.” Neil forces a smile.
Neil shakes his hand, like an adult. Sits down with purpose. Pulls his sleeves back, like he’s about to help a sheep give birth. “Your life’s been a bit upside down for the last few weeks, then?”
“Yeah,” says Neil. “You could say that.” He grimaces.
“Well, if it makes you feel any better, I’ve been divorced for two weeks now. It’s a similar feeling. And I know because my dad, he was a businessman. Sold timber. We travelled a lot. Was in your situation when I was your age. Pretty shitty isn’t it?”
Neil smiled for the first time in two weeks. “You could say that too.”
Hmm. Fragment sentences seem to appear more when writing under pressure. Do you find this? Well, James Ellroy does it a lot- both pressurised writing and short stubs of sentences. That’s my excuse.
It’s not normal that I write a scene with no violence and with two amiable characters. Neil could have been me ten years ago (okay, fifteen). Richard was an amalgamation of a range of maths tutors, support tutors, a guy who advised me in a sales job once- a keen-eared, plump version of Terry Pratchett- and the odd counsellor. They were all men who had advised me or taught me (or at least attempted to) over the years.
I totally guessed at Iceland.