When I retired from teaching drama I thought I’d never find something to take it’s place – until I began to write!
Believing there to be certain similarities between the two I set about questioning their differences.
Drama teaching involves developing characters the playwright has already created and the teacher, or director, has the job of bringing those characters to life and putting flesh on their bones. It involves costuming the characters appropriately and visualizing where the action is taking place in order to produce a set. It is then about polishing the play, until it feels ready to be viewed by others, the audience – and it is about marketing – things we also need to do as writers.
The main difference, as I see it, is that with drama I am ‘looking outwards’. I am viewing what I have interpreted from reading the script. While with writing I become locked ‘inside’ myself, lost inside my own head. I become unaware of what’s going on around me, where time vanishes and I ‘become’ each of my own imagined characters. It is only after my work is done that I have the luxury of hearing their voices ‘out loud’ as I edit my work.
So, for me, the difference between drama and writing is – in drama we bring to life someone else’s thoughts and ideas and present what we imagine from the page – while looking out – while in writing we delve inside our own imagination to develop, control, visualize and plot the path we wish our characters to take – thereby having more hold over them.
I am still learning and am sure I always will be. But the road I now travel is taking me on a new and exciting adventure, an adventure where I am the one in charge.
I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Gloves from the charity shop.
“They’ll do – they fit.”
“Are you sure? Why don’t you buy a decent pair, not second hand cast offs.”
“These are good enough for me, they’ve hardly been worn.”
I sighed, knowing full well all he wanted was to get home and watch the golf on tele.
“Well, if that’s what you want …”
I took um to the lady behind the counter, who took me money and put the gloves in a second hand Tesco carrier bag, before passing um across with a knowing wink. I think she must have heard us discussin’ um. I must admit they were in good condition, hardly worn; the leather weren’t scuffed or anythink. When we got home I put um in the cloakroom – and forgot all about them for a few days – until he wanted to pop down the paper shop one morning.
“Where’s them gloves we bought, they’ll be just the job this morning, its bloody cold out there today.”
Eventually I found um. They’d slipped down behind the coats, onto the floor and got wedged in one of his welly boots. He were going to walk up to the shop and get some fresh air he said. Fresh air! When the sun’s shining and I suggest a walk in the park he turns up his nose – yet he’s prepared to go out on a miserable mornin’ like this – and he knew I had to wait in to pay the window cleaner.
After an hour or so I began to worry cause he weren’t back – and after two hours, well, panic set in. I put on me winter coat and fur ‘at and trundled me shopper on wheels up the road, presumably following in his footsteps. I reached the paper shop and went inside.
“Hello George,” I said, “has Alec been in for ‘is paper?”
“No love – do you want to take it?”
“I thought he were getting’ it … Oh, OK, yes I’ll take it … but where the ‘ell is he?”
As I came out the shop who should I bump into but her from number 30 -‘she who knows everything’ – and just as I was about to ask her if she’d seen Alec she laid into me.
“You should be ashamed of yourself, sendin’ him out to do your dirty work on a day like this.”
“And so you should be – a fine man like ‘im – and fool that he is he’d do it. Now you’ve gone and got ‘im arrested.”
“Don’t you come your high and mighty ‘what’ with me. We all know who wears the trousers in your house – but to send him out pinchin’ – when you’ve got money to pay for it un all.”
She sniffed, stuck her nose in the air and hurried on.
Arrested … did she say arrested?
I walked on towards the police station and went inside.
“Have you got my ‘usband locked in your cells?” I shouted.
“Never you mind what my name is – where’s my ‘usband?”
“If you don’t tell me your name madam, how do you expect me to know?”
Well, I suppose he had a point, so I told ‘im.
“Mrs Mavis Jones – wife of Mr. Alexander Jones.”
Well, that stopped ‘im in ‘is tracks – and he looked me up and down.
“Wait here,” he said.
Then another copper appeared and told me to follow ‘im – took me into a room … with a table and two chairs, one each side the desk
“Sit down,” he says. So I did … because he looked … angry..
He then started asking questions. I didn’t know what was goin’ on and he wouldn’t tell me. I said I wanted to see my ‘usband but he said he was ‘busy helping them with their enquires’.
Then he started asking about jewellery – if I’d had anything new lately – if Alec had been giving me gifts – was it me birthday? Well, I told ‘im the last gift I got from ‘im was a set of saucepans in 1988.
They kept me there for three hours.
Apparently they’d caught ‘im in the jewellers stuffin’ a ruby necklace into ‘is pocket. Well, you could ‘ave knocked me down with a feather. It certainly wasn’t my birthday – so who the heck was he buyin’ rubies for?
They kept ‘im in cells overnight – while his clothes was tested for DNA. When I went back this morning they said the tests had ‘revealed some interesting facts’ – there were ‘fibres’ on his clothes from a man who’d been murdered three years before. Well, I told them my Alec just didn’t have it in him to murder! He were useless – he’d have botched it! But they didn’t believe me.
They’ve just called to ask about the gloves. Alec had told um we’d got them from charity shop and they wanted to know if it were true. I said ‘go and ask the shop lady, she’ll remember us’ … they said they already had … and she was still checkin’ who the gloves had come in from.
It’s been a week now and they’ve still got ‘im.
I were asked down the station this mornin’ – the same constable saw me as I met t’other day. He seemed a bit friendlier. He told me they’d tracked down the gloves to a woman. She’d taken them to charity shop with a lot of other stuff … said they belonged to her ex-lover, who was now in Winson Green for burglary and GBH. Apparently the gloves were ‘is and the DNA on them was from a chap murdered in Castle Brom.
But that didn’t account for Alec havin’ rubies stuffed in his anorak pocket.
Silly sod, I should ‘ave known it. Trust ‘im to get it wrong! That mornin’ he said he were goin’ out to buy ‘is paper was a lie. He’d gone to jewellers for a 40th wedding anniversary present for me. Well, we’d never given anniversary presents before – what was he thinkin’?
Well, seems like he were just lookin’ at the necklaces and ‘she who knows everything’ comes in the shop … and he, silly sod, not wanting her big mouth to give the game away stuffs the rubies in ‘is pocket. Then the alarm goes off! The shop assistant thinks he’s pinchin’ … and the cops come and handcuff ‘im and throw ‘im in the cells.
I wouldn’t mind … but he couldn’t even get that right … it’s not our 40th weddin’ anniversary for another three years! I don’t think he can have known they were real rubies anyway – well he’s never been that generous before – bet he thought they was bits of coloured glass. But I’m not lettin’ ‘im off the hook, not that easily – after all he can’t come up with anything less than real rubies now can he – or I’ll think he really has got a bit on the side – eh.
So it all ended well – until Betty Smith called over the fence.
“Cooee, how are you Mavis,” she said. “I heard all about your little mishap from that nosy cow at number 30, you know Ruby Robotham …..”
RUBY Robotham – ‘she who knows everything’ – well I tell you straight … she better not know too much about my husband!
HomeThis story was inspired by the 1945 movie ‘Brief Encounter’.
Final Encounter by J.M.Hulme
The interior has changed but the old familiar smell still lingers. I can taste the coal dust. I stand, expecting to hear the whistle – a sound that excites me even after all these years.
The woman behind the counter is looking at me. She must think me weird just standing here. I walk over to her.
“Tea please,” I smile.
“You seemed lost for a moment my dear.” She turns to collect a white station issue cup and saucer.
“It’s been a while since I was here. I was noticing the changes – although the old scents and sounds seem to be captured in the walls – or certainly within my memory.”
She nods as if she understands. I pay for my tea and take it across to the little table in the corner. Why, on this day of all days did I feel ‘obliged’ to come here? I look up at the clock on the wall – the same brown one, with its enormous Roman numerals. I count the seconds, as I did then, watching the long hand tick its way around the clock-face. The door opens and a lady enters, headed by an excited child, who rushes up to the counter.
“Hello Lou-Lou – what would you like today?” enquires the waitress.
“A Penguin Biscuit,” shouts Lou-Lou.
“Please!” warns the lady, who I presume to be Lou-Lou’s mother.
My mind goes back to when I was small. Had the same thing happened to me?
Several people then enter in quick succession. Perhaps a train is due. A businessman equipped with briefcase, newspaper and umbrella is soon followed by two chattering middle-aged ladies, possibly sisters, carrying shopping bags ready for a day out in town. A youth arrives next, sporting a black tee-shirt exclaiming, ‘Don’t Wake Me! I’m Not a Morning Person.’ Now an old couple enter – husband and wife, judging by the way she’s ordering him about.
Only the elderly sit, the others hover, glancing from time to time towards the window. The old lady deposits her husband in a chair facing the counter, while she collects their drinks. His back is towards me. When she returns she nods.
“Lovely day,” she beams.
“Yes, It’s beautiful,” I reply.
“We come every Thursday. I’m always pleased when it’s dry. He loves the trains.” She lowers her voice a little. “It’s Alzheimer’s you know. He settles here. He’s used to it, aren’t you love?”
It’s difficult talking to someone sitting with their back to you – but the wife doesn’t seem to have a problem with it. I guess it’s an outing for her too and she’s grateful to have someone to talk to.
The train rumbles into the station, causing activity in the Café, as people collect their belongings and make for the door. The lady has to restrain her husband from rising.
“Not today dear – there’s no one coming today.” she says gently.
He sits down again, obviously disappointed.
“He often does this. Thinks he should be going somewhere or meeting someone,” she explains. “When we lived in Chorley he’d get off the train at this station for the hospital – he was a doctor you know. I think he remembers.”
“It must be difficult for you.”
“I’m used to it my love. I used to get in a flap but we’ve learnt to live with it. People are very kind. They understand. I’ve not seen you here before have I?”
“No. I’ve not been here since I was a little girl. We lived in Catchworth and Mom used to bring us to the shops here in Milford. We’d always arrive back early enough to have a drink and a biscuit before catching the train home. It was our treat. It’s the 6th anniversary of her death today – somehow this seemed the right place to be. Silly isn’t it after all this time?”
“Not at all! If this is where you feel close to your mom then it’s the right place to be. If anything happened to my Alec, I think I’d come here too.” She pauses. “Tell me about your Mom. What was her name?”
“Laura. Her name was Laura. She was lovely. Although I would say that wouldn’t I?”
“Is your Dad still alive?”
“Yes. He worshipped her. It was dreadful for him when it happened, I didn’t think he’d ever get over it – but he’s seeing someone else now. He needs a companion I suppose. Men are so useless on their own, aren’t they?”
Alec then calls his wife’s name and we both turn towards him. She shakes her head and reaches out to pat his hand, as you would a child. Perhaps to her that is what he is now.
“Have you always lived in this area?” I ask.
“Alec went to work in South Africa for a time – he’d a brother living there – but he couldn’t settle, so we came home. It seemed important to him to come back to this area – and as long as he was happy ….” Her voice trails off and I can see the love in her eyes as she looks at him.
We chat for a while, until my train becomes due. I then get up and walk round the table to face the old man.
“It’s been lovely chatting to you both,” I say. “Perhaps we’ll meet again sometime. Goodbye Alec,” I take his hand and he looks up at me – with an expression I can only describe as wonder – and for a moment I hold his gaze.
“Goodbye Laura,” he says, tears forming in his eyes. “I knew you’d come back.”
I turn to his wife.
“He gets confused dear,” she whispers.
Yet as I leave I have a strange feeling he knew exactly what he was saying – and my heart lifts – and I feel glad.
I’ve just had the privilege of working with three other writers on a short play for voices. This became a very mind opening experience. We met only once a week and after each session I’d go home feeling enriched and arrive at the next session full of ideas. What I hadn’t accounted for was that they too would come back bringing their own new ideas.
It was so different from working alone, when no one questions your direction and you’re allowed to walk a familiar path. But when required to turn down a road you don’t know you have to concentrate, think on your feet, abandon the familiar. Your mind has to move in new and unexpected directions – until, once again you become excited, the new path becomes familiar and you go home enriched with new ideas – which will possibly get pushed aside on your return.
Writing with others needs give and take. It’s challenging and requires patience, but it stretches the mind wonderfully and makes you aware of ‘what ifs’ – which you can incorporate into your solo work – and when the people you’re working with are also willing to give and take, it becomes loads of fun.
Should We Forgive?
Is it right we should always forgive?
Let go of happenings from the past,
Move on, so in harmony we'll always live,
Bury ill feelings so relationships can last.
Let go of happenings from the past.
Forget the hurt so cruelly displayed,
Bury ill feelings so relationships can last -
Allow time for bad memories to fade.
FORGET the past so cruelly displayed?
Surely some friendships need to end.
Allow time for bad memories to fade?
Know below the surface time can never mend.
Surely some friendships need to end,
Moving on is the only way to heal.
Know below the surface time can never mend
If you hide the anger which you feel.
Moving on is the only way to heal,
So don't opt to always live a lie.
If you hide the anger which you feel
You'll be harbouring wounds until you die.
So don't opt to always live a lie,
If you want to live your life in peace.
You'll be harbouring wounds until you die,
Let go - allow your hurt to cease!
If you want to live your life in peace
Move on - so in truth you'll always live,
Let go - allow your hurt to cease!
Is it right we should always forgive?
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
How do you build your characters?
For CRASH I needed a baddie. I sort of knew the type of person i wanted as he was already in my imagination – but I hadn’t seen him in real life.
One day a speed-walker passed by my house. He was very small, middle aged, had brown hair (possibly dyed), wore rimless glasses and was very focused. Now I’m sure he was a perfectly nice man and would be horrified to know I’d cast him as a manipulative monster in my novel – but he was exactly what I had in mind – and being able to view him in the flesh meant I could add to my original image.
As a drama teacher I always enjoyed taking a character from the page and turning them into believable people. I guess with writing it’s much the same but it has to be done the other way round – find the flesh and bones first and then use words to paint the picture of them.
I’d love to know what devices other writers use to develop their characters.