I took my first innocent steps in creative writing when I had to learn to take the minutes of council and committee meetings. Nowadays, minutes consist of just a heading and the statement, “RESOLVED. Do/spend/object ...whatever...” but when I started, Council minutes were more of a social history and told a story.
I quickly discovered there was no point trying to write what people actually said; dialogue is disjointed. It rambles. It repeats itself. It makes no sense whatsoever. And as for reasoned debate, it doesn’t exist. So I wrote what they meant to say. Not everyone gets to write history!
It was all a matter of knowing the characters and it was a rare meeting that didn’t turn into the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The characters were easily identifiable.
The dormouse was a nocturnal creature and was often seen walking round the village after midnight. “Photographing owls,” he said. Old and tired, he fell asleep during every meeting. He had a thick white beard and side whiskers. Unoriginally, we called him Santa. He was one of nature’s innocents who bumbled around the world losing umbrellas, cameras and raincoats.
We had the Red Queen. She was sad, bad and mad and her behaviour even made the papers. I lost count of the number of good people she wounded when their backs were turned.
The twins, Tweedledee and Tweedledum were contained in the persona of one two-faced councillor. He was the Uriah Heep of the local government scene and turned hand-wring into an art form that would impress even Simon Cowell.
One of my councillors never stopped smiling. He loved the limelight and having his photo taken. His smile has faded like that of the Cheshire Cat however. We buried him last month. Poignant but that fact will later play a part in this blog.
The Mad Hatter? That was the plumber, the maverick, the one who voted in opposition to everyone one else on the council. When push came to shove though, he was usually right. He was often the only one who knew what was happening.
My life with the council was so bizarre I was often the White Rabbit, caught in the headlights.
I learnt a great deal about dialogue, character and setting but I never wanted to write the book; the Vicar of Dibley got there first and J K Rowling has followed up with her book, Casual Vacancy. Although I had no book, I was writing: articles, poems, short stories.
But despite being a member of this group for about 18 months, I haven’t overcome my main problem. I still lack the focus to stay with one form, one genre, one anything.
I’ve been quite prolific – it’s better than doing housework – and like Dr Who crossing his own time-line, I sometimes turn round and trip over something I’ve left laying around. To my embarrassment, on the internet there are some of my old poems and stories and that matter of the Red Queen that made the newspapers? I put her there and that piece of writing is on the net too.
For several years I’ve written a monthly, 1000 word article for the Courier, the community newspaper, concerning events that happened during the past of the three villages covered by the paper. I do my research in local archives, at the Records Office and on Yahoo. One article concerned the Puritan son of the Lord of Blaby Manor who sailed to the New World in 1633. The article ended up on the website of a Heritage Group in Connecticut. Occasionally in my wanderings over the internet I find myself being directed to that site. It’s great, I’ve become a source!
I’ll try my hand at writing anything. When my friend and ex-colleague, the Mad Hatter died recently, I wrote his obituary for the Courier. Then the widow of the Cheshire Cat asked me to write his. I have no wish to make it a hat-trick.
The question is, do I continue with my butterfly approach to writing, or do I get serious, write the book and refuse all other commissions?
I’m skipping over the surface of writing like a flat stone skimmed across a lake. Can I find the dedication that other members of this group have? Or will I sink to the dark, cold depths and drown if I stop bouncing?