I'd like to start by talking about first drafts. They're never that easy and, when trying to rewrite poor novels, they're actually harder than when I'm free writing.
When free-writing on an idea that I have, even if I have no plot, I can generally get by enough that I can write large amounts. I am nothing if not verbose. I can write fifteen words where a normal person will only manage three. It means I can rack up enormous word counts and feel productive. But I'm trying a new tack with this experiment. I'm trying to get as much done in as few words as possible. This makes characterisation a little more challenging. Trying to communicate setting, atmosphere and character interaction all at once is harder than it looks. Especially when my characters unexpectedly hi-jack conversation.
Take tonight as an example. I wanted to have a conversation to show Anastasia's relationship with her parents (not good) and with her flatmate (cardboard cut-out character necessary to prove that Anastasia is at University). That was it. Then I would skip to a night out where romantic male lead would be introduced and we could focus on that for a while (maintaining a stalker sub-plot for a bit). This would be short.
Then Suzy, she got a name, decided that she and Anastasia would get along rather too well. And that she would be a Christian. And that this would be a thing.
In short, I have characters. But I hate them. I feel like a proper writer and everything.
As usual, I plugged the whole thing into the wonderful 750words.com because they are awesome and why aren't you doing the same?
Rating: PG-13 (Sexual content[?] and violence [no clue])
Feeling mostly Upset, and concerned mostly about Religion[?].
Mindset: Introvert - Negative - Uncertain - Feeling
Time: The Past; Primary Sense: Hearing; Us and Them: You
46 minutes at 31 words per minute.
"Oh, you're back."
"Your Mum rang, didn't leave a message," Suzy walked softly from the hall, "Seemed like she wanted to talk to you."
"Thank you, Suze," Anastasia called after her in a mock-exasperated tone, "Hope you had a good day too." She shook herself a little, simultaneously trying to get rid of some of the rainwater and keep the hallway dry.
Hanging up her coat, she looked around and wandered into the small kitchen and dining room combined, the bus had been held up in traffic and she was famished. A quick look in the fridge informed her that she was out of most of the essentials but provided a yoghurt to be getting on with and the chance of cooking something meaty. It was a shame because she really didn't feel like cooking.
"Weren't you supposed to be working or something?" Suzy had walked in behind her and was sorting through a small pile of washing by the table with a frown on her face, "I swear you should have been home hours ago."
"I am touched by your concern," Anastasia replied in a monotone, "There was traffic."
"Hmm," she found a pair of pants and smiled, "You could have walked."
The drumming of the rain on the outside window was clearly audible and so Anastasia let that be an effective response. "Best go return a call, then."
Given the exchange, Anastasia reflected that people would have been forgiven for believing that they hated each other. Suzy had a way with words and a tendency to play deadpan. She also knew that family weren't terribly high on Anastasia's list of things to play about with and would leave her alone by the landline in the hallway long enough to do the duty. For that, Anastasia was grateful.
There was a small chair by the phone table, but she wasn't intending to be long, a quick punch in of the number and she listened to it ring at the other end. With any luck she would be able to spend an hour or two completing her essay on the Norman Cultural Explosion and still have time to make some food before bed. Either than or she would end up pulling another all-nighter and then have a sleep in. When people said 'Sundays are for sleeping' they probably didn't have such a mundane existence in mind, though there was a social for the end of the week.
"Hello?" It was Nina's voice.
"Hi, you rang? Suzy said you wanted to talk to me."
"Oh, hello, Love! Yes, it's good to hear from you. How are things?"
She sniffed. "Not so bad."
A pause on the other end of the line. "So, what have you been up to?"
"Not much. Uni things."
"I see. Busy then?"
"You could say that." Then again, she could always leave the essay until the morning and try to get it done during daylight, maybe watch something that required little thought for the evening. "Bus got caught in traffic."
Another long pause. Nina was obviously trying to find some way in to the conversation. On one level, Anastasia didn't blame her, but it was hard to have too much sympathy for a woman that thought the middle of an argument had been a good time to reveal that she was, in fact, adopted and then had the bad taste to repeat that when the Student Loan came through. Almost as if she had been inviting some form of financial compensation for looking after her.
"Well, I hope you're still having a good time. Trefleet's a long way from home and I want you to know that your father and I-"
"You're not my mother, he's not my father, you made that pretty clear." A sigh, she really wasn't in the mood. "Anyway, you wanted to speak to me. We've spoken."
"Yes," her tone was resigned rather than cold, but it was also strangely undefeated. That was almost enough to hate her for. "Yes, I suppose we have." Another slightly awkward pause. "Well, don't be a stranger."
"I'll ring if I miss you," as barbs went it was both weak and probably unnecessary but it was out of her mouth before she could stop it, "Don't wait up."
"Yeah." She replaced the receiver and let out a breath that she didn't even know she'd been holding. There was something about the evening, she realised, something that was making her feel just that little bit more cocky and confident. Perhaps now would be a good time to complete the essay.
Light through the window meant that the rain had finally stopped and that she felt almost physically assaulted. How dare the light attack her. How dare morning be here. How dare the night have fled. It meant getting up.
Warmth. Toes sneaked to the end of the duvet. Recoiled in horror. Face covered by hair. Pulled over eyes. Denial. It was not morning, it was not morning. It was not Sunday. Sunday wasn't a real day anyway. It was a charlatan. It could bugger off.
Rumbling in stomach. Ah yes, necessities, there was a meaty thing in the fridge but it was probably off by now. She'd eaten everything else. Cracking an eyelid open, 11am, then shutting it again because the daylight hurt. Resignation.
By the time she reached the kitchen she had managed to throw on some clean clothes and wash her face.
"Oh, the zombie apocalypse has happened overnight," Suzy was sitting at the table with a magazine, "Should I get my car and drive to somewhere in the countryside?"
"Your sarcasm has been noted and will be punished," replied Anastasia darkly, "Please leave a message after the tone because I'm not in right now."
"You're such a joy in the morning, you should send applications to morning television, with hair like that you'd bring joy to millions simply through the realisation that they don't need a beauty regime."
Narrowed eyes practically caused her to fall over, it made seeing things more difficult.
"And if you're going to channel an angry chinchilla then maybe I ought to read in other room."
"Whatever, you look like a rodent that's air-dried anyway." A sweet smile, possibly part genuine, "There's milk in the fridge, make use of it and get yourself something to eat."
She wasn't lying. "What's got you in such a generous mood?"
"Church. Wouldn't do to go converse with the Almighty about being forgiven if I had a starving housemate whose need I could fulfill, would it now?"
"Ugh, Christian charity."
"No, more Christian one-upmanship. I look better than you in a morning. I feel guilty. I provide you with milk." There wasn't time to stop her bursting into off-key tune: "It's the cir-cle, the circle of li-ife!"
Blearily, Anastasia staggered over to the cupboard, "Careful, you'll have me enter my anti-Christ phase and I'll mock you by pouring the milk first and the cereal second."
"I don't even know you!"
"Much as I'd love to re-enact early human development of language with you," Suzy was smiling again, the hateful harpy, "I've got a Church to catch."
"Careful, zombie Jesus hates late-comers."
"Oh, you're just jealous that we get to play at being cannibals and then eat chocolate at Easter legitimately whilst everyone else does it to get fat."
"Give my love to your imaginary friend and remember to pray for the dinosaurs that died without faith."
"I will!" and, with that, she was out of the door. "Get some make-up on before you leave the house, I don't want people thinking I'm housing the homeless."
"In the words of the Virgin Mary: 'come again?'" It was a cheaper shot than she'd usually make, but she was tired.
"Ooh, you are tired. Have fun waking up, you heathen!"
The door slammed shut, there was obviously still a wind blowing, and Suzy had left the flat.