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Friday, 14 June 2019

Noir doodles and kickstarts

I’ve never experienced writer's block, sometimes I’m lethargic, other times I’m content to write rubbish. The important thing is to keep the tap running. Recently I’ve returned to Clay Cross in a series of short stories, three written—ten more to go. And I’ve discovered a new trick, new to me at least.

It involved using pinterest noir/and pulp covers. I stare at the picture and let my mind wander, but ultimately describe what I see. It focuses the mind, gets the keyboard going and five minutes later I have a workable paragraph, some of which immediately suggest a short story in that vein.

I’ve included a few examples, illustration of the method rather than anything profound. As I said from the start, I’m quite happy to write rubbish. These are mere doodles.

They danced slowly and I watched mesmerised, the woman in her ivory silk dress covered in large red roses, the man guiding her with his hand on her back like a brown malevolent crab. A hot crab that sweated.

She sat on top of an open piano, legs crossed and in a short black dress. There was sheet music, and the guy was playing, but his gaze remained fixed on where her thighs almost crossed. There was a smile on his face, like he couldn’t believe his luck, and ever so often he puffed as though remembering the cigarette in his mouth.

It gave me a view of the street and the alley in which the punk stood. He looked like a cheap imitation of a hard man, a P I on top of his game. He looked like a cheap imitation of me, except the cigarette in his mouth was unlit and worn like an accessory to the dark Italian suit, black shirt and sharp-knotted tie. The hat, too, looked new and was a little too small for his head. Still,  he had a rod in his pocket,  and he was looking at the same thing as me: a brightly lit window over the bar, framing in amber a woman slowly getting undressed.

She sat on the sidewalk wearing only a shirt and breathing in rain

Light slanted in from two tall windows, cutting through the bar but doing little to dispel the gloom that heaved in light and shadow. Men hunched around tables, in trench coats, fedoras, some wearing cloth caps. Others stood, looking on as though wondering what they were doing there, or where they were going to next.

The air was thick in mist and snow, given a warm sepia tint by a hint of street lighting on the hard-packed slush. But my eyes were focused on something else, something that had no place being there: a woman who by all accounts was dead, and a small black and white dog. Both were staring at the other in quiet understanding or a battle of will that would end in one of their deaths. In that, the dame had the advantage seeing she was already dead, or so people told me.

And if I was going to write something historical, this picture is crying out for words. Those at the front appear quite relaxed, but what are they talking about? Is the preacher thinking of his sermon or perhaps why his wife is so damned miserable?  Why is the girl nervous? She's seen or heard something. The men at the back are definitely alarmed. What's going to happen next?

Pilgrims Going To Church by George Henry Boughton. 


DRC said...

We used to do exercises like this in our writers' group. They really did get the creative juices flowing. I liked the one with the guy watching the guy watching the woman in the window (haha) very Hitchcock...

Mike Keyton said...

I like that too, but it's the one showing the bar full of men in trench coats and fedoras that'll probably provide the bsis of the next Clay Cross story - may well exploit the fact that James Cagney was in Newport for a short time during World War II. All grist to the mill :)