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Sunday, 21 January 2018

Winter Term 2018 Theme of Loss of Love

Theme:  loss of love of Mum or Dad
This does not have to be autobiographical.   It’s very common for author’s to make use of personal experience to portray imagined character’s or imagined loss.    But the theme of loss of love is very common in all kinds of writing, and indeed songs and plays.    My professor at university, the poet   F T Prince, wrote at the end of one of his poems about Richard the Lion Heart:  “but worse than all is loss of love”.   Here  he was thinking of love of his people and friends, I think.  

Of course not everybody thinks love is the most important thing in life.

We all grow up (at least to a certain extent) and lose the kind of ‘cuddly’ love we had as children.   You can write about that.   Sometimes we fall out with our parents, or they with us.   Eventually, of course, they die and we lose their love in that sense, although you could say that in another sense their love remains in us all our loves.   Often writers express loss of love by describing things or places which ‘bring back’ loved ones.  It might be a seaside beach, a certain walk,  an ornament, a song.  Or they may simply describe a memory.   You may recall the old old pop song

These Foolish Things Lyrics
Oh will you never let me be?
Oh will you never set me free?
The ties that bound us are still around us
There’s no escape that I can see
And still those little things remain
That bring me happiness or pain

A cigarette that bears a lipstick's traces
An airline ticket to romantic places
And still my heart has wings
These foolish things
Remind me of you
A tinkling piano in the next apartment
Those stumbling words that told you what my heart meant

A fairground's painted swings
These foolish things
Remind me of you
You came, you saw, you conquered me
When you did that to me, I somehow knew that this had to be

The winds of march that make my heart a dancer
A telephone that rings - but who’s to answer?
Oh, how the ghost of you clings
These foolish things
Remind me of you

This sounds like romantic love lost,  but to me captures more general aspects of  loss of love, perhaps of my mother’s now she is dead.   She used to sing this song on stage.    In a strange way the song both reminds me of her loss and yet 'brings her back' at the same time.
I stress that in writing about loss of mother’s or father’s love you don’t necessarily have to talk about yourself.   Nor do you have to mention loss of love in so many words.   Sometimes you hear someone simply talking about what Mum or Dad used to do and you can feel the affection.   And perhaps that’s the most powerful way of conveying love – that is without mentioning ‘love’ at all.  

The lyrics of These Foolish Things sometimes slips into sentimentality, perhaps, but most of the time it seems very effective to me.  We can learn from this lyric how powerful your writing can be if you can pick on the small specific detail,  like the lipstick o the cigarette,  the tinkling piano,  the fairground swings.   I’m just thinking what I’d recall of this class when it finally has to close.  Well:   pigeons still flying from France right into the classroom,  a comment about never having seen her husband’s willy,  glares from a wheel-chair,  hugs from a young visitor,  flying into space in a dream and correcting my spelling mistakes. . . .  Well, I mustn’t go on for fear of seeming to leave out the rest of you.  I realize there are some specifics from all of you.   Later in the course we’ll look at that kind of ‘love’ if ‘love’ isn’t too heavy a word to use.  

But for this weeks ‘homework’ try to think of loss of parental love, either through quarrels or betrayals, or simply through their having died and ‘stayed’ in your memory like those lipstick traces.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Prose Poem Redraft 2

Redrafting Prose Poem 2

I  still can’t get this right because I still can’t find what my feelings are for him, that school friend in schools I hated and yet managed to put on a face and be, on the surface, ‘successful’ in, but as soon as I could, aged sixteen I dropped out.  
I’ve tried to make it more pithy this time

i. m. RJH (revision 2)

At school dinner, you’re sliding your semolina to me   You’d sat on Prince Regent.  We shared a study. Your girlfriend was called Ivy.  You looked at me and told me I’d got the measles.  You captain and  me vice-captain of the house cricket team.  Practising together. 

Prepschool, public school: eight years of termtime everydays -  chapel, lessons, prep, practice, shower, your blond confidence there, then.   Till I dropped out, and you went on, became a rich CEO, and I never wrote.  You’re still twelve years old, pushing that full toss to deep mid-off for your hundred and calling “Yes!” with an almost singing joy.

Thursday, 23 November 2017


 Continue working on your complete prose poem.    We I’d like to take them all in next week (or please email, them to me, those of you who are sick).    Think of the following points which you need to consider for ALL your writing in whatever form.    It’s always a good idea to try out different approaches.   See how they sound.
·       Are there any words I can cut out?
·       Would it be better from a different point of view?  That is, for example, saying ‘I’ instead of ‘he/she’.
·       Would it be better in a different tense?   Telling it as if it’s all now, in the present tense, for example.
·       Cut the clich├ęs!   I hardly need to mention that.
·       Would it be better in a different tone of voice, for example more casual, slangy,  conversational, speaking to a ‘you’?   Or sarcastic?
·       Do you need to make the sounds of the words imitate the meanings?  Change, ‘I walked across  the lawn’ to ‘I squelched across the lawn’
·       The ‘twist’ at the end can happen in many ways.  Think about what you’ve got the reader to assume in the main part of the piece and then in the last line or so show that really things were quite different.

Below I’ve printed my first draft which I read out to you last week, and then my first rewriting of it.  It's about a former schoolmate who died last month.     The basic problems it deals with are

Liked the guy and yet hated the world we lived in (those private boarding schools)
Haven’t seen him for sixty odd years and didn’t want to
YET remember him so well, especially a moment of joy
A moment of joy, not sorrow, fills my mind at the thought of his death.
What can that mean?   I’ll leave it to the reader to decide.


Hadn’t seen you for sixty odd years.   And didn’t want to, wanting to forget those awful schools,  even though we’d been friends of a kind at both of them, you sliding your semolina over to me next to you at that long dining table, talking about how you’d once sat on Prince Regent, wanting to share a study,  being captain and  me vice-captain of the house cricket team together, practising together.  But you didn’t really matter.  You were still part of all that.  

Except hearing of your death, now,  I keep seeing you, about twelve,  that time when you scored a hundred for the school, that moment on 99,  when you pushed a full toss towards midwicket calling “Yes!” for that 1 more run, with almost singing joy

i. m. RJH (revision 1)

We’re sitting together at that long dining table, and you’re sliding your semolina to me   You’re telling that once you’d sat on Prince Regent.  We shared a study. Your girlfriend was called Ivy.  You looked at me and said,  you know what  you’ve got the measles.  You captain and  me vice-captain of the house cricket team.  Practising together. 

Prepschool, public school: eight years of everyday chapel and lessons and prep.   Your blond confidence. My half admiration half envy.   There.  Them.  When I dropped out I never wrote.  You were part of those places.  You didn’t matter now.   And yet. . .

H, hearing you’re dead, a rich CEO, now, sixty years of silence later, I keep seeing you, at prepschool, that time, that moment,  when you scored the one run you needed for your hundred.  You’re pushing a full toss towards midwicket and calling “Yes!” with an almost singing joy.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017


Write a piece of dialogue in which people express their feelings.  

You don’t have to make the feelings dramatic, and you may describe how they are controlling their feelings, and not saying exactly what they mean.

What you write could be a quarrel of some kind, or it might be a graveside speech,   or a declaration/admission of love,  a child telling her parents about a terrifying experience,  a farewell at the station or airport.  

You need to think about

·       Why the person says what they do just then

·       Giving the people individual voices, even accents, maybe habits of repeating themselves, or using particular words,  swearing, apologising

·       Showing who is speaking by
o   Starting a new line when there is a new speaker or a change of speaker
o   Putting in ‘he said’,  ‘he whined’  sometimes

·       Indicating any gestures the speaker makes as, before, after speaking.  ‘He did up his shirt’,   ‘She pushed her hair behind her ear’.  A gesture to add to or alter the meaning of the words, or replace them.

Tell the same short passage from several 
Point of View

Third Person Narrator  (objective)
She came down the steps of the Police Station.  Herr hanky was shaking hand still and her coat undone.  She walked unsteadily.

“Look where you’re going!”  shouted a woman grasping her child out of the way .

Third Person Narrator  (subjective)
She still couldn’t take in what the inspector had said.  Jimmy was in prison.   She’d forgotten she was still holding her hanky.  When she noticed it shaking in her hand,  she almost staggered into a small child on the pavement.  

“Look where you’re going!” shouted the mother.

First Person    
How can Jimmy be in prison?   How can  he be?   Prison!  Jimmy!   God, where am I?  Where is this?  What am I doing?   Oh!  It’s a child.     I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to. . .   You don’t have to yell.   In prison.  And for. . .  No.  he couldn’t have.

Talked about
“So she goes to the police station, yeah?   And they tell her, “Jimmy,  your son, we’ve arrested him.”
“What was it for?”
“She wouldn’t say.   She seemed to be drunk!”
“Wouldn’t say?”
 “Something to do with that Sharon, I expect.  I knew she was trouble!”


Third Person Objective
The narrator doesn’t get involved.  He just observes.   All the characters get the same treatment.   Though it’s still possible to show sympathy by the way  things and people are observed.   (She had eyes as dark as amber.  She had eyes as dark as Satan’s sweetheart)

Third Person Subjective
Here the narrator allows him/herself to slip into the thoughts of characters, usually just the main character if it’s a short story.  The narrator is ‘looking over the shoulder’ of a character, sees things from his/her point of view.

First Person
Here the character him/herself speaks, and so you get a fuller account of how he/she is feeling.  But of course, the point of view might not be reliable.   He/she may twist the reality to suit his/her dignity or fears.   Some novels had several first person narrators, so we keep switching point of view.

Talked about
Here the characters do all or some of the narration when they talk about the main character.  We then get their point of view, and the character is seen through their attitude to him/her.

points of view.  Which suits you best?  Why?
Using concrete imagery to express ideas

What is/might be suggested by these examples

·       Christina lifted her chin higher as she replied
·       A large shiny of beetle crept out from between his lips
·       Her diamond on her necklace was cut into the form of a swastika
·       She looked quickly away.   He wore nothing but a stiff white collar and bow tie.
·       “I am Theresa May!” she announced, slipped and lay for a moment in the puddle.
·       “We don’t talk about boyfriends at table!”

The Resolution

Write the outline of a story or poem up to the resolution.  
For example,  a single mother hears that her daughter is in danger of being snatched at a party.   She rushes to the venue and just manages to get there in time to see a man walking with her to his car.   She grabs the girl away just in time.   But then. . . .

          An old man is told that there’s a huge escaped zoo-animal in the area.   He should lock all his      doors and if the beast should break in looking for food, climb up into the attic and wait until it           has gone.   The beast does come, and does break in, but when the old man comes downstairs the next morning. . .

Character analysing and reacting to the problem
Once the problem has been introduced you have to make your character react to it.  Some sort of decision has to be made.  
How they react and what they decide to do will be partly a matter of character.
You also have to decide how to show them deciding.  Do you simply make them act without any explanation, or do you make them sit down and think about things?  Talk to a friend? Who’s point of view do you take:   detached author,  victim,  trouble maker,  someone telling the story to a friend?
Oh no, nonot the ‘little  talk…!
Christina, I -  well, I. . .
In relation to the Love Theme
In the possible story sketched last week where a mother is agonising how to tell her daughter about the facts of life you could just show her making an embarrassed attempt. Here the way she talks might show her awkwardness, self-confidence, wrong assumptions, and so on.  If she talked about it with a friend  you could get the back-story in easily, through the friends questions).  Or she could be sitting in the park alone maybe rehearsing what to say. Or be looking in a bookshop.   

Using concrete imagery to express ideas

For each of the points below, write one sentence giving one example which must be ‘concrete’ – that is something you can touch, or see, or hear.   Or you could describe people’s physical reactions.  The examples below give just the general idea.    What you have to do is bring them to life by focusing attention on the things.
If you get exactly the right detail, that saves you having to describe in detail, because from that detail the reader can imagine everything else.  But more important, it gives a much strong impact.

·       Julia is standing outside the cinema waiting for James.  She’s getting anxious.

·       Debbie stands on the red carpet of the film premier looking gorgeous.

·       The party next door was very noisy

·       A van was backing laboriously up their back drive

·       The amount of alcohol had begun to affect her vision

·       When the teacher told her off little Anne was very rebellious

·       You could see that Linda had go off into one of her dreams