Workshop Creations: Character Week (by Maria et al)

“We thought the idea we had would work best as a screenplay or television series. A bit like Lost, in terms of a set of random characters coming together over an exceptional circumstance, but with faster pacing than Lost and it would be a self-contained series, maybe like six episodes. A bit cinematic, very visual.

My character was: Alfie, the obsessive architect who experiences prophetic dreams.

These dreams portray the collapse of the building he has most recently designed. The collapse occurs in various ways, but always involving some kind of impact, implosion or explosion. Through flashbacks we come to understand that these dreams originate from Alfie’s experience of witnessing 9/11 from his mother’s living room, staring at the television and thinking he was just watching a pretty brutal disaster movie. It was only in the ensuing weeks, with further reporting and a shaky lesson at school, that he came to understand that this thing had actually happened. Throughout the series, there will be stuff about the flimsy nature of reality, the slippery relation between fantasy and reality, representation and real life. In Alfie’s head, 9/11 still sears with this uncanny, filmic quality. He can’t help but design all his buildings in a very similar style to the Twin Towers. All his sketches bear traces of that primal trauma. He used to have dreams where the fall of the second tower would loop over and over again in his mind, and he’d wake up in cold sweats. Now the dreams are about his own creations. He was a very prolific architect and sailed through university, completing his degree in fewer years than the required seven. The dreams of collapsing creations started when he started uni.

He tries to control this strange situation by designing elaborate architectural landscapes, ones with the sturdiest materials. It takes years to build them, but sure enough, the night before opening, he will dream of its destruction and awake to the fresh creation burnt to ashes, collapsed to rubble. After a while, people begin to be suspicious of him and he stops being hired by architect firms. Then, when word gets out about the slightly supernatural trail of bad luck that follows him, Alfie is hired by artists who are interested in the transience of the modern urban landscape. Everything he draws and builds is beautiful, but fleeting, they write on their website. They are planning to make a documentary film which will end up looping in the exhibition rooms of the Tate for the whole of winter. His crumbling towers capture the essence of contemporary consumer futility. In his spare time, he is designing a new hypermarket, in the American style, hoping for success on British shores. He has a hopeful sense about this one; that it won’t fall down, because its purpose is so insignificant. A place where people buy groceries, reduced tellies, own-brand shampoo. Surely it would not warrant the usual extravagant disaster.

Other characters:

  • 2 x TV executives
  • Spy
  • Hitman
  • Adult entertainer

Plot points:

  • People are drawn to the supermarket because it is advertised as an innovation in consumer experience, designed by a famous architect. They want to experience the surreal browsing wonderland of an American hypermarket.
  • Alfie waits for the customers to arrive, watching them from the roof as he nervously sips brandy. He has not had the prophetic dream yet; there is no telling what will happen to this particular building.
  • The spy is actually chasing the hitman, pursuing him through the supermarket?
  • The adult entertainer, Wendy/Gwendoline, is drawn to the hypermarket because it sells very rare health-giving berries (from a specific Australian wetland) at a precious price. This is what also draws the health-conscious (unhealthily addicted to being healthy) TV executive. Turns out Wendy knows a special recipe for unlocking the berries’ hallucinogenic properties.
  • There is a war going on outside – some kind of vague nuclear meltdown between nations. A lump of debris/plane crashes into the hypermarket, shattering half the building. All the characters have to make their way to the safe part, picking their way over collapsed shelves and bodies and bricks like they are trapped in a labyrinth.
  • Everyone is oblivious to the war.
  • There is a television broadcasting disaster on a loop (because the crash cut off the signal and so it got stuck on one particular scene) but they assume it’s just a movie. Deja vu – 9/11.
  • One of the TV execs (the deceitful one) is secretly filming everything as the characters work their way through the hypermarket, fending for survival and trying to work out how to reestablish their phone/internet signal to send for help.
  • It is all about questioning what we take as reality: we witness the hypermarket from each character’s perspective – the anxious architect battling with guilt, the hallucinating Wendy and Steve McNicol the TV exec., the mesmerised hitman staring at the telly, worrying about his cat who is pining at home without him.
  • There is an irony because we know about the war outside and they don’t; they think the supermarket is a sinister environment, but actually it’s providing domestic sanctuary from the war outside (e.g. have cute scenes where characters share Pop Tarts and cereal straight from the packet, chatting about how they miss their houses).
  • It ends with the discovery of a giant telly, and the revelation that the TV executive has been filming them all along; one of them hears their own voice repeating something they have said before and follows it along to discover the telly. The final scene, perhaps, will be the characters all staring up fearfully at this giant screen reflecting their own selves – and they are frozen into silence (a silence perhaps suggestive that even the world outside has ended?).”

A Mother’s Worry

The joyful event, long awaited as well on court as among the subjects, did not happen. Even five years after Prince Dominic had freed Princess Arianna from the dragon, no promising belly had grown underneath the princess’s dress, let alone that a son had been born. First, lords, ladies and commoners had stayed calm, assuring each other – and the royal family – that the young couple still had plenty of time and opportunity in this regard and that the newly wedded deserved some time to enjoy on their own.
However, when Prince Dominic became king after his father’s surprising death two years ago, the whole matter became more serious. Especially the new queen felt the pressure as her ladies-in-waiting perpetually gave her advice about exercises to strengthen the body, days during the cycle and positions, hedge witches from the village sent her potions which were supposed to help her conceive and peasant women did not get tired of telling her that they included her in their prayers. Advisors to the king managed to hold back their concern in front of His Majesty but behind closed doors they were discussing how long they could watch this severe situation and whether or not the queen should be sent back to her parents or be disposed in one or the other way. The king’s mother observed all these with growing concern. She was fond of her daughter-in-law and knew the pressure she was exposed to as she herself went through the same difficulties thirty-five years ago even though her suffering had been shorter.
So, one day the king’s mother found herself sitting in front of Madame Rosalie, a massive woman with an azure blue dress and ringed fingers that were stroking a dark crystal ball.
“You want to know when the king and queen are going to have a child?” the fortune teller asked in a voice that was probably meant to be mysterious but seemed artificial to the king’s mother. She only nodded.
Madame Rosalie scattered some incense grains on the glowing coals next to her and the room filled with sweet smelling smoke that made the king’s mother cough. The fortune teller didn’t pay attention to her but began to hum an incantation. A light lit in the inner of the crystal ball and grew stronger and stronger. Soon the entire ball glowed in white light and the fortune teller’s humming seemed to have transgressed in the air and multiplied. The king’s mother felt surrounded by the song as if the entire room was singing. In midst of the humming Madame Rosalie’s voice rose: “The queen will not bear a child until justice has been done and fidelity lies where it belongs.”

The king’s mother took her time to think about these words but no matter from which angles she reflected on what Madame Rosalie had said, there was only possible solution: There was a person standing between the king and the queen. She could not believe that her dear son would break his vows, so she decided to start with her daughter-in-law. Her youngest daughter who was still unmarried and waited on the queen was suited best for the task of spying on the queen. “Do not leave her side unless your brother is with her” the mother instructed her daughter who nodded with a heavy heart because Princess Gabrielle had no doubt that her sister-in-law was loyal to her husband. It should turn out that Princess Gabrielle was right. Even though she reported to her mother dutifully, no lapse could be discovered.

After two months the king confronted his mother: “Why do you make my sister spy on my wife? I’ve always thought you loved her.”
“I do” his mother said under tears. “And that is why I spy on her. You two have been married for nearly six years and still you do not have a son. I asked Madame Rosalie and she made a prophecy that one of you was not honest to the other… and… and… Why are you blushing?”
Indeed, the king’s face had turned red while his mother was speaking. “Mother, it is not Arianna. It is me but it is not what it seems to be. Before I left the castle to find a bride, I was already in love.”
“Why did you not tell your father and me?” the mother asked. “I am sure, we could have found a solution even if she was not our rank. We could have made her father a lord and you could have married her.”
“Well… it was not exactly that” started the king. “It was rather the fact… that it is Lord Frederic.”
The king’s mother starred at her son and he starred back. Then they started to laugh.

What were your prompts?: azure blue, fidelity, prophecy

by Rut Neuschäfer

Not with a bang but a whimper

They say we haven’t long to live- They’re always saying we haven’t long to live. Seems like every couple of years we see some new Armageddon poised to take the Earth in its jaws and bite. So far we’re safe, or about as safe as humans can ever be. Of course, you never know. Maybe we’ll meet our end at the hands of meteors, or aliens, or zombies, or gods. Then again, its far more likely we’ll be the ones to destroy ourselves.

Won’t that be a fine way to go out- Bathed in the warm glow of a few million bombs, shells and bullets. We’ll be heard on Pluto, and when the powers that lurk the void finally arrive at our dusty hick-town of a planet, they’ll wish they saw the curtains fall. Oh, who am I kidding, It won’t be anywhere near as loud or exciting.

‘It’ has started already, and it’s going to be a dull one. We’ve forged ahead as we always have, belching smog, gnawing mountains, swarming the Earth with our bastard progeny, but now, after centuries of exploitation, it seems we’re nearing the climax. You and I have strolled by at just the right moment. We’ll bear witness to the glorious peak of everything that ever was- And the ensuing decline, I’m sure. The skies will choke and the oceans will rot, and all by our hands. And when the thunder of extinction has passed, the wasteland will creep through the places we loved with a skeletal grin.

To be honest, I’d much rather rough beasts and blood-dimmed tides.

Prompt: Prophecy

by Paul Inglis

Azure and the Revelations

They christened her Azure, because like the deep blue of the sea her little blue eyes were a wealth of hope and happiness. She was raised in humble circumstances, with the lovely nourishing of nature – of rivers and fells and forests for company – and with the firm instructions of her mother. But when Azure turned thirteen, her mother died quite suddenly of a nervous condition that the doctor would not explain.

Azure had no sense of what to do with herself. Without her mother’s guidance, she did not know who or what she was and how. Her father was no help, and retreated into his books. A nursemaid from the village fed her after school and helped her with her homework, but other than that, Azure was a lonely thing, adrift in a world uncertain.

She found friendliness in the valleys and hills around her father’s cottage. While he withdrew to private study, Azure played in the wide green world that was suddenly open to her without her mother’s restrictions. She would hang upside down from a yew tree, listening to the linnet singing. She would dangle her feet in the clear mountain streams, where the water rushes past with the coldness of ice. She would take off on a Sunday afternoon and climb the summit of some new peak, finding solace by a lake where she watched little fish circling in stream after stream. In a rainstorm Azure would find shelter under the bowers of her favourite trees, nestling in with the flowers and ferns and leaves. She learned which berries to eat, which mushrooms to pick and where the faeries lived.

When she thought of her mother, Azure would not weep anymore; she would fly down some mountainside until the thoughts rushed from her head and she was more alive than ever she could be.

But Azure’s name bore a prophecy, and the world would not stay her own forever. When she was fifteen the war broke out and all the city children were being sent to live in the country. Azure offered to train as a nurse but her father would not allow it, and even when he was drafted and she had only her grandma to answer to, she was still forbidden. They insisted that she get an education. It’s what your mother would have wanted. Still, she had little time for books or figures; all Azure wanted to do was feel the dew on her skin and the pleasant caress of the wind. Whenever she sat with her homework, idle at her father’s desk, she felt unfaithful to nature.

To make matters worse, the city children were leaps and bounds ahead of her. They knew long division and the capital cities of Europe; they could recite Shakespeare by heart and list monarchs and dates from history. In class with them, Azure felt nothing but the awareness of her failure.

One day, however, it was snowing and the school was closed. All the children had turned up in their hats and scarves and now were lost and shivering in the desolate playground. It was hours before the adults would come to pick them up. It was Azure that had the Revelation.

“You think you know everything,” she told them, “but there are things you haven’t seen.” She took the troupe of children across the village and out into the fields. The snow was falling thick and slow around them, blinking bits of ice in their eyes. Their cheeks grew rosy as they chased after their leader, who knew the contours of the ground like the back of her hand. They danced across great puddles of ice, raced down hillsides, linked arms and sang an elegy to a dying eagle. They buried its beautiful body with snow. The war and the cold were forgotten as the children crouched in the forest and listened to the stirring crickets, the squirrels rustling in the undergrowth. The animals always knew how to take shelter.

It was a sad thought to know it was soon home-time. Home, but not really home. Together, they followed Azure across the white plains of farmland back to the village.

At the school, the parents were full of rage. They wanted someone – some dirty country scoundrel – to blame. But when they saw the happiness on the children’s faces, all was forgiven. They took their children’s hands, and as they looked up to the bright blue sky, they too saw the new world that they already lived in.

(Prompts: azure blue, fidelity, prophecy)

by Maria Rose Sledmere

The Azure Sky

Victor Moore has always been particularly skeptical when pertaining to matters of faith or uncertainty. One could call him a pragmatic man, only interested in the facts, but pragmatic does not quite cover the extremity of such skepticism, for one, pragmatism suggests logic, a certain degree of sensibility, while Mr. Moore’s belief’s teeter on incredulity. He believes neither in God nor science, on days he will side towards science, but is propelled back by lingering doubts. More recently, he has uncharacteristically toyed with the idea of God, but only in fleeting moments, and customarily followed by a remark of cynicism. His worldviews may even be considered close-minded, and often stretch no further beyond that the ground is here and the sky is up there. On the outside however, his simplistic nature and pessimism with regards to systems of belief is neither displayed nor spoken. Only on the inside, behind the borders of the skull, never to transcend from the throat to atmosphere, do such thoughts accumulate, as he would be certain to offend, if he were to attack the convictions of so many people, especially at a time as tremulous and delicate as this was.

But today, his misanthropy is neutered by one azure blue sky, cloudless and without gradient, a solid dimension of blue that reigns from above and trickles behind distant buildings and even more distant mountains further beyond. Opening his curtains, Mr. Moore is filled with a rare optimism based solely on the sky. He smiles slightly, and suddenly the weight of these past few weeks feels lighter, airier, like he is being lifted into the sky and is permeating the soft winds of the altitude. Despite his reluctance to wager on faith, Mr. Moore prophesied the recovery of his sister, the new smell of spring spurning his channels, letting all thoughts of gloom diffuse into the air and be replaced by warm winds and fresh grass. And so at once, Victor Moore had bet all his hopes on the unfurling vigor of a new season.

What were your prompts?: azure blue, fidelity, prophecy
Marcus Bechelli

L’amour est bleu

So, you came here to forget. To this God-forsaken place you’d never heard of. To heal the pain you felt every day, every single day in life. You carry that weight, it’ll never leave you until you occupy that same earth … You’ll remain faithful until that day, semper fidelis. There will always be that place in your heart.
Yet you’re not unhappy at the place you find yourself. As you stand now, the gentle breeze off of the ocean ruffling your short cropped hair, on the little platform, waiting for the 1315 off of Kildoran and you stand there ready to make the tablet exchange with Helen who’ll be driving, you look out to sea. On a day like today, when the sound of Sleat is like a mirror and the cobalt blue of the sea meets the azure blue of the sky, you drink in the fresh, salt tinged air. For a while the pain eases, life doesn’t seem so bad. Where will you be in twenty years? Who would dare to prophesy? Maybe your life is not over, maybe the healing hands of time…

What were your prompts?: Azure blue Fidelity, Prophecy
Jane Jones.