Writing Character

May 16, 2018 § Leave a comment

This sketch was written in response to an exercise in FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction.


The concrete road sizzled under the hot afternoon sun. I might have thought that I was in a village in southern France or Spain. The ornate iron-wrought traffic light turned green and I stepped onto the zebra crossing. I looked at the small toy-like cars waiting for pedestrians to cross, seated with people going home for a siesta. I hurried across. In the street was a ceramic workshop I dropped by in yesterday. A few yards away there was a row of rundown shops badly in need of repair. The wooden frames of the door and display windows would also benefit from a coat of paint. Despite the worn down state of the buildings, I found myself admiring the antique shopfronts. After a furtive glance down an empty street, I crossed and turned into a narrow alley. A group of people sat around a table at the corner of the building, holding choripán in their hands.

I had taken the same way yesterday. There had been a possible holdup from a military coup somewhere in the vicinity and I had smelled danger, even war looming behind. A kind-hearted woman had accompanied me, returning home from work as a housekeeper at the hotel where I was staying. ‘I live just a stone’s throw away from where you’d like to go,’ she’d said, ‘I know a short-cut.’ I was more than happy to have her take me there as I would have had to take a taxi, eventually ending up on the other side of the town.

I found myself on the top floor of a fifteen-storey building. I opened a door next to the lift and climbed a flight of stairs. I reached the roof whereupon I took in the views of the town. There were no other tall buildings in sight. I observed the streets that I took to get here. The air was muggy. Far off, the rest of the town disappeared behind the sepia-tinted fog.

I entered the building once more and took the brassy lift to the foyer. Despite the modern steely exterior of the building, the interior hadn’t been renovated or refurbished. I imagined an old crumbling historic site hidden inside that no one knew of, perhaps an ancient Guarani altar or a burial tomb. I looked around for any familiar faces.

Among the dimly lit round tables surrounding the reception desk, I saw a young Asian woman and her sleek black hair styled in an up-do. In her hair was a large bright red Hibiscus flower, pinned by a decorative golden hair comb. Opposite her sat a young South American woman, dressed in a traditional Paraguayan costume.

She caught sight of me looking at her and instantly turned back to her friend. I walked nearer towards them. Himari was dressed in a black blouse, embroidered with metallic thread, her bare arms adorned with nanduti sleeves and white skirt reaching the floor. Large studded red and ochre gemstones adorned her neckline. Two more friends appeared in view, sitting back in their sofas. I found an empty seat next to Himari and plumped myself into it.

Himari’s demeanour had been becoming more like that of her younger self, her pert and dissolute self.


Ideas for a Story

May 9, 2018 § Leave a comment

This comment was written in response to the exercise in FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction.


‘Over the past few months, we have engaged extensively with our allies and partners around the world,’ President Donald Trump’s voice blared on the car radio, ‘ We are unified in our understanding of the threat and in our conviction that Iran must never acquire a nuclear weapon.’ Wasn’t Iran the country that Jin-Hye had gone to for shooting her documentary on Channel 3? Hee-sun had felt mildly envious, watching short, plump Jin-Hye become an overnight sensation on Public Affairs and Culture Channel, turning heads after she’d gone on a full detox diet and lost two stones in a matter of weeks. As a high school student, Hee-sun had been a happy-go-lucky girl of sixteen who, surrounded by her uniform-clad classmates and parents, had had no care for the world outside of her protected nest. Now, Jin-Hye was showing slices of Iran and rural life, speaking fluent Farsi and gaining respect for her work with underprivileged group of female folk musicians. She felt happy for her. She hadn’t known her that well and Hee-sun had wanted to be with the slim and popular girls, the ones who got dainty sterling silver chains for their birthday, whose parents sent them on summer camps abroad, and hired chauffeurs exclusively for their children. On the other side of the world, a similarly aged girl would not have so much luxury as a branded tennis racket than a roof over her head. She wondered if Jin-Hye would recall that she had offered to lend her a spare calculator when she had forgotten to bring it on Examination Day.

Shiny silver hoods glistened in the sunlight. It was nearing Mid-autumn Festival and the air was balmy and stifling hot in the car seat. Hee-sun was wearing her usual outfit of a dark silk blouse and cardigan for work. Her cuffs were open, sleeves rolled up to her elbows and the top two buttons undone. She fanned herself with her hand in dramatic remonstrance, and occasionally clutching the steering wheel with the other. ‘What slow-moving traffic,’ she muttered. She was on her way to pick up a few items from the supermarket before heading home in preparation for the weekend-long festivities, including a set of stainless steel pans and a spatula for turning jeon. She missed a few turns after a sports car whizzed by, immobilising her and another sedan refused to let her into the lane. She wiped the droplets of perspiration percolating on her forehead.

In the parking lot of her apartment block, she opened her car door, slipped into one of her black patent leather heels and held a mobile phone to the side of her face. ‘I’m here. In the lift. Be there in a minute.’

She stashed all her files from work into a canvas tote and flung them into the backseat, slammed the car door shut and upon limping, realised that she still had on one her loafers. Hee-sun swore under her breath. She will try and remember to take the motorway home during rush hour. She was just a lover of taking dirt roads. Somehow, even with Hyung-sik’s making fun of her propensity to enjoy the ‘slow life’, she always managed to find an excuse to veer off to the woods and saunter her way home.

Comparing characters again

May 8, 2018 § Leave a comment

This comment was written in response to the exercise in FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction.


‘So how come they omitted the image on page thirty-three?’ Jin-Ho adjusted his black heavy rimmed glasses. He was seated next to his colleague Kyung-suk from the graphics department. Dressed in the same smart grey suit and thick glasses, they resembled twins, Jin-Ho’s slightly heavier frame being the only difference. He wasn’t a big talker but he had the authority of school headmaster and the matching charisma of a K-drama idol that commanded the attention of the group gathered for lunch this afternoon.

‘Yes, apparently,’ Se-yeon answered, ‘I must ask Officer Roh to re-send the files. Representative Shin was supposed to have taken care of it but he’s on leave.’ She continued, ‘It will get done today, I promise.’ Next to her, Hee-sun nodded demurely to each statement made by her female colleague as if they were bees and butterflies buzzing and fluttering that with a flick of a hand she could brush aside. She sat close by her, her left arm resting on the cushiony seat and her leg crossed over her right. It made her look as if she was disproportionately placed and if she made a further twist of her body, she would be thrown out of balance. Before she could nod off to sleep, Kyung-suk almost sent her flying across the room.

‘So whose ideas was it to come here for lunch?’

‘That would have been Hee-sun’s,’ Se-yeon said, ‘She has a point card that gives her an additional ten percent off. Isn’t that neat?’

‘Oh, really? The food’s great, I must say.’

‘I know. It’s my second time here. We had kabocha pumpkin soup here last time. It was absolutely amazing. You should try it, too. It comes inside the shell of a pumpkin like Thai pineapple fried rice.’

Hee-sun had many such point cards from food establishments to businesses that would surprise even savvy Se-yeon. She had collected quite a handful over the years from purchases she made with her credit card; she had not yet run into a debt, thanks to her careful book-keeping. Her most memorable was one made at an online store where she had ordered twenty-six laundry soap bars for her aunt who had moved into a new home, to give her an ‘effervescent’ greeting as one would, according to the local custom. She fished out one rice dumpling filled with honey and sesame seeds and began prodding it with her thin long chopsticks. She wondered if her aunt had used all of the soap bars and if she had liked their scent of freesia. Surely, she wouldn’t have thrown them away by any chance and taken her generosity for granted, would she?

Se-yeon had moved on to the topic of her client whose baby was celebrating his one-hundred-day-old birthday and was in need of a photo album that included a re-touching of the red-eyes. Hee-sun slipped on her moonstone jacket and tossed her black ponytail out from underneath. It wasn’t right, babies in need of photoshopping when she was in need of a surgery for her molar with a chipped crown. She let her two hands rest in front her and her index finger tap on the other.

‘They use a different machine altogether. You know that, though,’ Jin-Ho turned to Hee-sun. ‘Isn’t that right, Hee-sun?’ Hee-sun nodded back at the man behind the dark imposing glasses opposite her and replied rather enthusiastically, ‘Yes, of course.’

Heightening Your Observations

May 7, 2018 § 2 Comments

This comment was written in response to the exercise in Future Learn Start Writing Fiction.


She is sitting in a group of four — two men in their thirties dressed in smart grey suits and another female colleague on her right. With her left leg crossed over her right, her black hair is tied up in a loose ponytail. Her smallish face flaunts no trace of make-up. Her blouse is black and she is wearing a navy blue cardigan. Her gait is a modest one; she has chosen the cushiony seat opposite the two young men. The man in a black heavy rimmed glasses seated diagonally across her is engaging her in a quiet conversation, perhaps asking for her opinion on a certain matter. Inbetween her short replies, she is taking a spoonful of round balls that appear to be a dessert. The large soup bowl is being partaken of by use of thin long chopsticks. She has straightened up now as the meal is coming to an end. The female colleague next to her has begun an animated discussion with the man seated diagonally across her. He too is wearing thick black-rimmed glasses. Her eyes widen as she raises her voice, ‘In the beginning…’ The others nod, listening intently to her. The woman in a ponytail is resting her left arm on the seat to support her weight. She seems lethargic although her particular preference for sitting close by her colleague indicates otherwise. She has slipped on her moonstone woollen coat to prepare to leave the table. Her index finger taps on the other while she lightens up in response to a question posed by the man opposite her.

Imagining Writing Spaces

May 5, 2018 § Leave a comment

This comment is in response to the writing exercise in FutureLearn Start Writing Fiction.


A man with a pen in his hand is sitting, his left hand supporting his chin and elbow propped up on a few sheets of loose paper, of which the edges are flapping in the stiff breeze. His coffee is drunk with a momentary relaxing of his shoulders when he leans back in his chair, looking down at what he has just written. His pen is a stylus that he bought at an exquisite stationer’s on his trip visiting his grown-up daughter in Australia. They hadn’t seen each other for fifteen years since she’d married and relocated there. He now places this beloved souvenir on the table, its nib facing him.


There is only one other person in the restaurant whose face is cast down. His wife is showing him a few photographs. Martha restrains a puppy only two months and three weeks old, trying to calm him as he wrestles his way out of her arms, only to have his collar yanked back by his frustrated owner. It is an outdoor restaurant with the option of sitting inside where throngs of children, retired men and women queue up to a buffet. She is with her two other friends; one who is laughing, chatting on her mobile phone, the other flagging a passing attendant with a tray of unwashed dishes. He can barely walk a few yards without a child crossing his path or a guest swishing past with a load of things in his hands. Martha has a small pocket-sized notebook open, bookmarked with the side of her dish, with a pen stuck inbetween the pages where she left off just before her highly active puppy started becoming agitated when he caught sight of a large red suitcase.

Audiobook excerpt

March 24, 2018 § Leave a comment

Warlight by Michael Ondaatje, read by Steve West.

Audiobook excerpt

March 24, 2018 § Leave a comment

Love and Ruin by Paula McLain, read by January LaVoy.