Some of these have been for writing activities within my Masters degrees so may or may not actually be used within the book that I’m working on. But I thought I would be share, to give you, my audience, a hint of what is to come – feel free to let me know what you think:
The empire: Work in progress – this is written in diary form in sections – this one is about the death of the main characters’ mother by the hands of the government due to her not adding to the empire due to disability. The three POVs will be from one of the guards of “The Peoples’ Army”, one from the mother and one from the narrator. I want them to be connected, yet clear so have to think about how to weave them together. This has to be written with the idea that the diary may be read by someone who may use it against the protagonist.
The wind bites; colder than the last month and threatens us all with snow. Before I go for a mandatory run with my assigned partner, I have taken what rations I can. Not nearly enough, when the overseer’s back is turned, I work swiftly. Since my mother no longer gets benefits for her spinal condition, her bank account has emptied from the government take-over and they have not provided her much. Luckily she doesn’t live too far. Wait a minute, there’s a knock at the door. I can hear someone outside and the knock was both heavy and official. I better go see who it is.
This is the worst part of my job. But no one is safe from the will of the empire. It’s bitterly cold out, almost as cold as my next assignment. No one wants to do this, but you have to do what they tell you. They. The invisible force that has transformed our country and soon the world. They, the higher-ups, have designed this system to be hard on the less fortunate and golden for those able to keep up. I know someone is in, and the person I am here to see should not be out, as soon, they have to fulfil their duties too. I know they aren’t going to like what happens next but it is necessary. I am here to ensure all is done as it is supposed to be. Not the nicest job; it hurts my heart to have to do this, and I have to ensure no one runs from this. After the girl is collected, soon, we will depart.
I wonder what is taking so long; I’m cold, wrapped in a knitted blanket, sat in my wheelchair, surrounded by old plates cemented with leftovers. I can’t have the heating on and it hurts my bones. I try so much, to move and not dwell on the past. I voted for this, I voted for my grandchildren’s future. Where did it all go wrong? A bag sits by my back door, filled with empty wine bottles. Oh how I would kill for a glass! I’ve run out of my medication, I ran out ages ago. And if it wasn’t for my daughter, I would starve. She’s been my rock and I wish she had more time to linger here, chat to me, help me tidy up like she has done for years. But since the rise of the Empire, they’ve had her on a strict schedule. I know she will get in trouble if found here, but I need her. Now, more than ever.
I’m sorry, dear reader. It has been a while since I could continue this diary. I’m afraid my tears will smudge this ink. My hands hurt, my heart is shattered into a million pieces. Where did we all go wrong?
She opened the door; the girl I am here to collect. I see the worry etched on her face. Usually my presence would mean trouble. That hasn’t changed, but it is not what she thinks. I introduce myself and tell her that I am here to collect her and she is relieved from duty today. She instantly asks why. It is unusual to be allowed off the runs and meetings and work duties, though she is now given compassionate leave.
“Why do I need companionate leave?” her voice raises a few decibels and then I reveal it. I am here to escort herself and her mother to Sleepy Hollow’s – she doesn’t know what it means, I have to explain. This is the government-sanctioned facility to relieve patients of their mortal coils. To relieve the empire of it’s burdens. I am here for her mother. I see the whites of her eyes as it hits her. Today, is her mothers’ last day and we must leave immediately. She shakes her head and mutters “no, no, no” softly, then walks straight out and follows me into the black van.
Finally, my daughter arrives, I see her shadow and know that someone is with her. Someone who is carrying a large gun. My nerves fail me and I shake like a leaf. I sit here in prayer, god, please let me have not got her in trouble, her kids need her, I need her too! But she walks in, I can see she has been crying, and the man follows, looks around at the mess at my bungalow in the old peoples’ complex and sighs. She hugs me, longer than normal and she tells me “mum, we have to go now.” Her voice cracks, I can see she is trying so hard to hold it together. I ask why, and she says that we have to go to a hospital. I see her waiver at the word hospital. I ask her why she is upset, and she says that it is because they have no choice and she grabs my hand. “Mum, I love you so much. I am so sorry.” The man helps take me to the van, he barely looks at me as the driver starts the engine and we begin the unknown journey.
My mother is my world. I lost my grandparents a few years ago. One to cancer, one to kidney failure, both within a few months of eachother. Somehow we propped eachother up. Got through the darkest times of our lives. I watched my mum fall into a pool of depression, drinking more to escape the physical pain, escape the pain that ripped through her heart and soul. Somehow she was also strong, inbetween those moments, she gave me strength to pull myself out of the abyss for my children. My mum was my best. The person I’d talk to everyday. My last link to the memories of my family. My dad was never around, it was always me, my mum and my nan. I don’t know how I will cope.
A nurse was waiting outside of the entrance with a wheelchair. The girl stayed by her mothers’ side, trying to be strong. A hand on her mothers’ shoulder as myself and my assigned partner followed. I have a brand new pack of cigarettes in my pocket, I don’t know if she smoked – nowadays these are near impossible to get hold of, but I was allowed to offer her as much as she needed, I had water in my belt and weapons to hand should they try to escape, though I really don’t think they can or will. Still, we are prepared for anything. My partner stays with the mother as she is checked in, I call the girl out and offer her one of the smokes. She takes it. I light it. Then the tears fall like a fountain. I am not allowed to apologise as it would be admitting the Empire is wrong and I don’t know who is listening. Instead, I stay quiet, except to answer questions.
They have taken me to a bed where a nurse is now fussing for readings. The other man who drove us here is stood beside the bed. Holding the large gun. I ask why I am here, but he stares through me, like the nurse. I can feel it in my gut; the feeling of dread. I look around and see many people in chairs and beds. People in fatigues, like my daughter, look distressed. I have a feeling, a bad feeling. When I hear the tone. I heard it before on TV; I used to love watching medical dramas, wishing that I could’ve been a paramedic until my condition got in the way. It was the tone of death, and it came, one after the other, after the other. It hits me. Like a ton of bricks. I’m here to die.
My mum stared at me when I came back in and asked “they’ve taken me here to die, haven’t they” I was struck dumb at her awareness and could simply nod. “Mum, I am so sorry. So so sorry” I reply and hold her hand, I can’t stop the tears once they’ve started. I watch as a nurse adds a line into her arm and my mother doesn’t even flinch. She steps out leaving the two men and myself alone for a moment. I can see she’s trying to stay strong for me. It kills me inside. I hate that I feel so powerless right now. The machine beside her, beaps with each heartbeat. And the little blip where she has a hole in her heart. Not long after, the nurse returns and nods to the men beside us and states “it’s time, now. I am going to administer this. You won’t feel a thing, it will be like you’ve fallen asleep” then, without a pause, she begins. My mothers eyes flutter “I love you” and as she gets to the You, the machine lets out the screaming tone of no heartbeat. It was over too quickly. I hold her hand and lay my head on it, crying like my insides were being clawed from within me. Now, I am all alone in the world. Parentless. Grandparentless. Less of a person. Less. I whisper the lords prayer and silently hope that heaven exists and she is heading there with all the people we’ve lost. They allow me this. A few moments with my mother uninterrupted before once again, staff follow suit and wheels the bed away whilst another one waits with a new bed. The guard who has been by my side through the whole thing asks “smoke?” I nod, because what else could I do?
These places remind me of conveyor belts. I do not think it is fair how quickly the turn around is. And I know all the dead will shortly be thrown in the furnace and the ashes then put into holes in the ground. It isn’t right but it’s not my place to condemn. She’s in pain, the girl, and I don’t think they’re given enough time to prepare. All I can do, is offer what I have and am allowed to give. After this, I am collecting another person from the same complex. At least this woman had the girl, some people have no one. A lot come out of their trashridden homes looking like skeletons, some never leave at all as the weather changes and the lack of heating has done the job of this facility. I’ve known the odd person to make a run for it, and we are then allowed to disable them as they will be destroyed anyway. I’ve known family members to fight but that means re-education and a missed opportunity to say goodbye. The girl did her duty, as did the mother. I will report only positive things and she will be allowed extra rations, I will also petition for her to be allowed to keep something from that bungalow of her mothers, as she won’t get the ashes. Before the place is reconditioned and the belongings claimed and recycled, before a family is assigned the emptied place. The girl will get a week to recover and a letter from the Prime Minister of the Empire, basically telling her how she has done her duty and because of her, a worthy family has a home and her family will be rewarded. It’s no solace, I know. But it is our duty for our new country.
Reflect on the relationship between the kinds of character you write (ideally in your ongoing project, though you might like to think about how far this typifies your approach to character more generally) and the style and world of the fiction they belong to. Write a 500 word reflection on this and share and discuss with your fellow students.
I am currently working on (for myself) a story called The Empire; Britain has voted in a party that promises to “Return the British Empire to its former glory”. Considering its current tension filled climate, I wanted to take a deeper dystopian world of what could be.
The main character, Cilla, is both the narrator and mother within this story. It occurs after The Empire has taken power, and families have been militarised – every household has a “maid” or overseer who sees to the house and children but also keeps an eye on the husband and wife to ensure that they are doing their duties. This is written in diary form, as she keeps a diary to write out her thoughts, even if they end up getting read. She fears being sent to a re-education camp, so tries to be careful as to not write anything damning about The Empire.
Generally, the type of characters that are write are female, dealing with a darkness within them. In this instance, Cilla is dealing with external forces outside of her control. She doesn’t like the overseer, as she seems too harsh with the kids, particularly the autistic son. She watches her daughter take on duties with ease (as all children must not only go to school, but also must go to a form of Empire Cadets), her husband works long hours on the Railway infrastructure, she tries too look after her mother between her exercise drills, before meeting with her assigned partner, as all sort of aid, benefits and medical help for elderly and disabled has been ceased. She also has to watch her mother die in a government sanctioned assisted suicide building. She is no longer allowed to mother her children, and has to handle policies that include a five-child minimum, a society where telling on your neighbours in encouraged, and very little alone time to collect herself.
Compared to my other characters, Cilla was a normal mother, whilst other characters like Lana Lane (Black Moon Rises: The First Book) is a victim of abuse, and the abuser changes her whole world into become a part of werewolf society. Both are victims of external forces, but Cilla is a stronger character. She has to adjust or lose everything. Lana ran from everything and tried to build herself a new life.
Whilst Lana Lane’s world is purely imaginative, Cillas world has roots in real events – the Nazi take over of Germany was a big inspiration; as they completely changed society to build their versions of the ideal “Aryan Race” – as I have visited Auschwitz and researched extensively during my Undergraduate History and Literature Degree, I wanted to model some of that world to Cillas.
Cilla and her family are also modelled on real families; a mother, father and three children.
Write a 500 word piece in which you emphasise the anti-heroic qualities of the narrator or main character from your work in progress. Even if you have never conceived of your character in this way, it is vital to grasp their inevitable imperfections.
Think about how you are going to do this without losing the reader’s engagement. Maybe we sense a hidden depth or vulnerability; or a tragic lack of self-knowledge; or the voice has so much energy (wit, inventiveness, verve) that their faults become irresistible; or the character is pitifully unsuited for what they hope to achieve.
What do you think of when you think of a maid? A drudge? A cleaner? A subservient worker at your very beck and call? No. We are not what you must think we are. Take my belt for example. A belt has a lot of functions; it holds up your clothes, you can attach things to it. But here, my belt plays two main parts. A punishment and attached, a holster to hold another form of punishment. We are told, that we can use them on disobedience, what ever the age. And a little punishment doesn’t hurt anyone. I remember getting the belt. I was about the same age of my assigned families youngest, about 5 years old when I felt the sharp sting across the back of my legs for wetting myself in front of my father. My father never had patience but nevertheless, I certainly did not wet myself in front of him again. The difference this time though, is we also get the use of an electric device. Something we had a little basic training for. A tazer.
Now, you may think that I am an awful person. Going around hitting and attacking anyone that disagrees with me. In some cases, yes. I must be harsh. Kids need discipline and they also need to model what The Empire wants them too. I am in charge and they have to respect their elders. Their parents cannot go attacking us either. I’ve heard of other maids being beaten for simply giving a well-deserved punishing to a child who needed to be rid of their bratty ways. This Empire has absolutely no tolerance for brats.
Talking of brats. This family has a particularly wild youngest child. The reports said he is a “high-functioning” branch of Autistic. Yet, he is very oppositional. And it is taking a lot more than a few cracks of my belt to get him to do as I tell him. He tries to run to his mother, but she knows the look. He is my responsibility, and if I do not keep him under control, then he could be recommended for destruction. Though, he has been advocated for, by his teachers for his excellent mathematical and reading which is currently two years ahead of his peers, eclipsing that of his brother. His potential to aid The Empire, certainly outweighs the resources for his very life, so he was allowed the privilege to live.
My child wasn’t given that. So when I see him, screaming and flapping, crying like a two year old. I feel angry, In those moments, I feel myself reaching for my holster. I question whether his behaviour is worth his potential, because what is potential if it is hindered by immaturity? The threat of the tazer is sometimes enough. Once they are in bed, I have heard his brother comfort him. And it is in those times that I sometimes regret my reactions. Yet, for The Empire, I must continue. I allow the brother to quietly comfort him.
Because they are no longer allowed the comfort of their mother.