Challenge: Invent a protagonist and write a character sketch of them including their motivation – what do they want? what are their goals? – followed by a couple of paragraphs setting out the outline of how they are going to get there. No need for ancillary characters or details of a setting at this stage.
Closing date: January 27th
Finding My Mother.
Karen glanced at her reflection in the hall mirror. She straightened her new pink floral dress. The dress fitted her slim frame perfectly. She began to brush her long thick blonde hair and swept it back off her pale face. Her bright, hazel-coloured eyes shone. She wondered if her mother had the same hazel eyes, freckled arms, and size seven shoes.
Five years ago, she had accidentally found her birth certificate, hidden in a bedside table drawer. She had stared at her Mother’s name; it was her secret. She thought about her birth mother every single day. Who was she? Where was she? What did she look like?
Today, she was going to confront her adoptive parents. Why hadn’t they told her, she was adopted? She was determined to find her Mother, Joan White. She counted, she was twenty, so Joan would now be thirty-seven years old. Maybe, she even had brothers or sisters. It was time to begin her search. Tomorrow she would take the first step and register herself on the UK Adoption Contact Register. She had waited long enough. She shuddered with excitement; it was time to buy a train ticket to her hometown Leeds.
‘Love Me Do’ (working title).
The novel begins in the Autumn of 1963. It takes place in a girls’ boarding school in a British seaside town.
The central character is a twenty-six-year-old PE/geography teacher, Jennifer Williams. She comes from a lower, middle-class background. Although intelligent, her parents did not approve of her going to University as they felt she would not meet the ‘right’ young men; universities being a hotbed of free-thinking. Anyway, Jennifer’s interest in sport ensured that a teacher training college was more suitable. Jennifer is looking to find a husband, so that she can have stability, a home, and children. Unfortunately, in her mid-twenties, Jennifer could already be classed as being ‘on the shelf’. These are the days before women’s liberation, but they coincide with the rise of The Beatles and popular culture’s view of ‘love’ or, as the ‘Fab Four’ put it, ‘Love Me Do.’
Jennifer has just joined the staff of St. Barbara’s School for the Daughters of Clergy; this is her second position as a teacher. Previously, she worked for four years at a grammar school in her hometown whilst living with her parents. She left that job under a cloud although Jennifer is reluctant to talk about it; even her parents cannot pin her down to a reason for her resignation. Her new school is ten miles away and, as she has no car, in fact she cannot even yet drive, she now has a temporary room in the school’s main building and shares a bathroom with two other members of staff. The only attractive male at the school is its chaplain; a handsome bachelor who invariably leads services in the school’s chapel and supports the teaching of religious education. All other male teachers are old and married; anyway, there are only two of them. With her bright smile, athletic figure, and strong personality she is not short of admirers but living in a boarding school where weekend and evening duties are compulsory, it is difficult to socialise. This was one of her main reasons for accepting the post originally as she wished to retreat from the outside world. Now that she has been there a few weeks, she is beginning to regret her somewhat rash decision. Being a fit, captivating, and attractive woman, she is also the centre of attention of the girls. Living without male company for weeks at a time, there is a harmless culture of being attracted to older pupils and young female members of staff. However, Jennifer becomes the victim of an unhealthy interest in her.
The novel looks at the undercurrents and passions that run rampant in a boarding school; how love can be damaging as well as uplifting, and how Jennifer copes with the noxious undercurrents of school life. The story is told through the point-of-view of Jennifer, a fellow member of staff, and the diary of a fifteen-year-old girl.
(I would like to point out although this is based in a world of which I am familiar, Jennifer Williams is not me! Helen)
WALK ON THE WILDSIDE
Frankie Volutatis had always been an unorthodox and unconventional character. Whilst most of us are comfortable and happy with a fairly routine role involving family, work and homelife he preferred the risky, uncertain elements of life. He was happiest alone on the top of a mountain or swimming in the sea on Christmas Day. As a young boy he had told his parents of his ambitions and they were happy to support and encourage him.
As soon as he was old enough he would take himself off for long walks and this progressed to him heading into the Peak District and following ten mile routes, including winding river valleys and snow-capped peaks, armed with rucksack full of “goodies”, an Ordinace Survey map and a compass. This progressed to weekly holidays taking in as many Wainwright walks as possible in Scotland and the Lake District. Before too long he and other members of his walking group were planning an expedition to the Himalayas with the twenty six thousand feet of Mount Everest being there ambitious target. Some goal!
Swimming in the sea on Christmas Day is some challenge, especially when you live in Nottingham, but Frankie was very determined and took himself off to the local swimming baths every week and gradually introduced himself to regular cold showers. As a special treat one Christmas he and his family rented a cottage for a few days on the Norfolk coast and the best Christmas Dinner ever was preceded by a full scale attack on those boisterous breaking waves. No half measures, a sprint across the deserted beach and straight in. Some achievement! XmasDinner was superb.
The story is set in the 17th century and is told in the first person. The narrator is Nathaniel, a puritan preacher who has a flock of devoted followers. His wife died in childbirth and he has raised his only daughter Rebecca alone. She is now adolescent, headstrong and used to getting her own way.
Nathaniel feels he is not allowed to worship in the way he wants and persuades his flock they should emigrate to escape persecution and start a new life, in the new world. His goal is to build a new community. His motivation is religious freedom. His character is morally strict and inflexible.
One of the young men, Adam, opposes his plan but Rebecca persuades him to join them. They cross the Atlantic in squalid conditions and many die during the voyage. They reach land much further north than intended and have to survive a harsh winter, which confines them to their houses. Rebecca is bored and Adam offers to help her study the scriptures. They begin to meet regularly.
One of the women accuses Rebecca of fornication. She denies it and Nathaniel forces her to confirm, in front of the whole community, that she is a virgin. Later, he is shocked to discover she is pregnant. He is furious and banishes Adam from the settlement. He wakes next morning to find Adam has already left and Rebecca has gone with him. Nathaniel sends men to search for them but without result.
In the spring, Adam and Rebecca return with their child. They were taken in by Indians, who gave them food and shelter and cared for them until the birth. Rebecca tells him she was a virgin when she made her statement but was so incensed by her father’s behaviour, she then slept with Adam. Nathaniel apologises to them both and welcomes them back into the community.