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Regular news and insight from our many poets, writers, educators and facilitators

02 May 2020

Posted by Charlotte Fodor

Lock Down on Writing

Overnight the world been changed by a life-threatening virus and now, our schedules take place in our living rooms. This is not the opening for a dystopian novel, dear reader: this is our new reality.

Social gatherings and work have turned completely digital. And within this digital space, SO:write women continue to gather over Zoom, to do what we do best. Write, as much as we are able to. Whether it is a small piece, or something longer, it does not matter. What is most important is that the community of SO:write women is still out there, at the click of a button. Offering kind words of support and encouragement. Offering us normality, connection, hope. 

Through Zoom, Jo facilitated an inspiring workshop on the subject of building character. This session flew by very fast and it really locked us down into writing for a short while. Despite being over the internet, the workshop was, as always, very motivating and enjoyable. We focused on how we write characters and bring them to life on the page: a key part of writing which drives our narrative forward.

To start, we considered which objects would belong in the pockets of a character. Objects are fascinating devices which can reveal significant details about plot and our protagonists, while also helping us to weave in subtle notes of suspense. 

If you missed our latest session, try this yourself. Think about

What do the objects in a character’s pocket tell us about them?

Why do we, as human beings, feel the need to carry objects with us?

Think about what your character would carry in their pockets if they could only keep three precious belongings.

In the session, we heard tales of Wonder Woman and what she would carry (she is partial to sugary sweets and I honestly can’t blame her!); the story of a sex worker and the anti-depressants that she keeps close to her in order to take the edge off the world; the relationship between a disabled woman and her carer – and how objects can shape the core of our identity.

Included below is an extract of a piece that I was spurred on to write during the session, based on Jo’s brilliant writing prompt:

Violent Delight

“These violent delights have violent ends

And in their triumph die, like fire and powder

Which, as they kiss, consume” 

Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare

By now, Roza knew how to slow down her own heart. It was the best way to steady herself in any condition. 

In this particular instance, she was concealed in snow. Her shallow, wispy breath laced the cold air. 

This wouldn’t do, she had to be utterly invisible. She filled her mouth with dirt and grass. 

Roza was lying on the ground with the earth, out of sight. The metal of her locket pressed lightly into her skin. Through the scope of her rifle, she watched the wolves tear into their meal: red and pink stained the white. She focused the crosshair onto the biggest one in the pack, the alpha with pale grey eyes. Her finger stroked the trigger and it made her feel a part of the hunt. 

Any moment now and it was time. 

He appeared in the clearing, a jagged silhouette in furs. He was holding a crossbow.

Crack. 

With one click, the bullet went straight through his skull. It was quick, a small mercy.

He thudded backwards and landed limp. The blood spread open like the blooming petals of a rose. 

The wolves stopped eating and turned their heads away from their ripped-up fawn. They looked his way for a moment, just a moment. 

Then, they returned to their food. 

Roza waited in the same place for a while. She kept the dirt in her mouth. Her lips had turned blue. Birds scattered across the open sky and the sun started its descent.

There was no sound except for the gale of the wind, how shrill it sounded. 

No one was going enter into this remote ghost land.

Eventually, she decided it was safe. As safe as you can ever be in these situations.

She wondered whether she could have left hours ago. You can never be too careful. 

She had made many mistakes over the years, when she was younger, more brazen. Mistakes have consequences. 

Roza knows this better than anyone.

She covered her rifle in cloth and rose slowly from the snowy foliage, towards his corpse. The wolves still lurked from a distance and watched her with their teeth bared. They were wise enough to know not to start a fight with a bigger predator. 

His wide eyes were agape and sapped of life, like the glass ones found in a doll. The gaping hole of the bullet rested in the centre of his forehead.  She searched through his pockets and took what she needed: an identity card and a packet of cigarettes for later. No rations this time. 

Roza left him there exactly as he was. 

When she was younger, she used to close their eyes, to make them seem at peace. 

That was back when she felt something after a killing. 

But death and survival harden you until it becomes nothing more than a monetary transaction. She thinks of it this way. It makes it easier. It helps to her hunger for the kill as hunters are meant to.

A few months later, Roza would dream about a crow pecking out both of her eyes, rendering her blind and bloody. So perhaps her dreams, the place where she has buried everything, still haunt her from time to time. As all of our dreams do…

Are you interested in joining our upcoming next online SO:Write Women workshop? You can find information about registering and the dates of our monthly sessions below:

Thursday 11am-1pm                       SO:Write Women

Weeks 1 and 3 of each month, led by Joanna Barnard

A group tailored towards creating, sharing and celebrating women’s writing in a safe and supportive environment

For sign-up details please email sowritewomen@artfulscribe.co.uk

Joanna Barnard won the Bath Novel Award in 2014 with Precocious and her second novel Hush Little Baby was published in 2017. Jo has worked with SO:Write Women for the past three years.

You can find out more about Joanna at www.joannaibarnard.wordpress.com and read about SO:Write Women in our blog at www.artfulscribe.co.uk/blogs

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