Today’s prompt is inspired from the May 2014 issue of The Writer magazine.
Write about a character (real or fictional) surrounded by music. What instruments? What songs? Describe the soundtrack to the character’s story. How does music affect his or her actions, and what role does it play in the narrative?
More from this issue:
“Write the way people actually talk. You can use imagery and be poetic, of course, but the best lyrics sound like something people might actually say.” — Murray Horwitz, co-writer of the musical Ain’t Misbehavin’
I was checking out old blogs and came across this one. It has always interested me on how to write a character’s voice, and have found one can only do so much of, or the reader will go nuts. Below is my attempt to capture the ‘rough music’ of a Cockney (Londoner)and how this particular voice penetrated the Cambodian undergrowth during the late 80’s, when Pol Pot was committing heinous crimes against humanity. This is a brief extract of a story written some years ago, and I was reminded of it when I read this prompt and dragged it out of my file of stories I will one day doing something with! Maybe!
Frank is exactly what you hear; rough, funny, and without fear.
From my shirt pocket I pull out a toothbrush which, after three months living in the Cambodian jungle, resembles something a chimney-sweep might use rather than clean teeth with; and if this isn’t sad enough, the mangled tube of paste is all but empty. I hold the tube against wheel arch, and drag the toothbrush handle along its length, flattening the tube paper thin and gaining one last glob of spearmint paste. I take a guzzle of tepid water from a bottle and spit the waste into a pile of rotting leaves before pouring the remainder down the back of my neck, swishing its wetness into my sweaty armpits before unhooking my shirt from the truck’s wing mirror, thrashing it against the fender to dislodge the overnight inhabitants, and pull it on. Slipping off my socks, I wring out the odorous moisture and sniff the result. It’s not good. No choice but to put them back on and lace up my boots.
Voices can be heard gathering at the breakfast tent, mostly Scandinavian accents, but one, a thunderous voice, is a cockney. My approach is met with a true cockney welcome.
‘Hey, Brannigan, ‘ow’s it goin’, yer get enuf kip?” It has all the magical lilt of my homeland, calming my nerves here in a far off, and dangerous place.
“Some – yourself?” I respond, looking for a place to sit at the table.
“Like a new baby, mate. Once I gits down inat soft muck I’m dead ta world.” He jostles some space. “Get in’ere an grab yerself some eggs, ‘ope you don’t like’em soft – cook mustta got distracted…,” Frank stretches his neck, looking in the direction of the rotund, red faced man “…eh Porky?” and emphasizes his dissatisfaction by pointing a thumb downward in execution style. The cook, stone faced, glares right back, then slowly and deliberately raises his arm to produce a solitary stiff finger from his knuckled fist, which he jerks skyward. Frank laughs heartily.
I select a couple of bread crusts from the basket and slap three rubbery fried-eggs between them. “Where’s your lass, she sleeping in?” I ask, smacking the hell out of a ketchup bottle.
“Na, mate, she’s fixin’ up Sven’s wrist, idiot broke his cast yesterday. She’ll be along, don’t yer worry.”
Frank had first met Olga, his wife, while working on a building site in North London. Olga, a Norwegian, had been on a two-year nurse exchange in the U.K. and remembering his very first sight of her, Frank told that she was walking across a hospital car-park in Tottenham High Road. ‘She was wearing one o’dem red cloaks over her uniform, and o’my-gawd, doze gorgeous fishnet stockings, I wanted her right then!’ He chortled, before taking another slug of beer. Frank had admitted to me that he had watched her walk to her car and the following day went back to see if the same car was back. It was. He waited five hours for her to return and when she did, in his usual brash ‘Bow Bell’s’ style, asked her on a date. A month later they married.
mcullen Post author
Hi Kelly, I think you did an excellent job of capturing Frank’s character with dialogue (word choice) and perfect with the accent. Not too much and not too little. I could understand what he was saying. More fabulous writing from you.
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