Monday, 30 May 2011

Writing groups

Writing plays a large part in my life, so here is another angle. I go to a couple of writing groups, where members write about a topic or a title that has been set beforehand. One group is part of the Pershore U3A and the other is Worcester Writers Circle which is apparently the oldest in the country and 70 this year. The Circle has all the titles for the year on their web site (
From that you can see that last week's title was 'Catch the little thief'. Is it a good idea to bend my mind to some random title? Wouldn't it be better to get on with whatever book I am writing?
I think a lot of writing groups do this, so it must work for some, and has obviously worked over a period, so not a thing to cast aside lightly. I usually try to think of something on the subject, at least for a day or two, but there is some benefit in trying harder. If I keep writing the current book, there is every chance that it won't be much different from everything I've done before. Really bending my mind to this week's title might just drag me into writing something I've never done before.
So, Catch the little thief it is.

‘What's your name?’
‘That's a weird name for a kid.’
‘It’s what they all say when they throw things at me.’
‘What do they throw?’
‘Rocks mostly, crusts or something I can eat, if I'm lucky.’
The kid grinned, ducked his head and squirmed away, but the big man was too quick for him and grabbed his coat, rapidly transferring his grip to a shoulder as the skinny arms wriggled clear of the sleeves.
‘Put your coat back on, we haven't finished.’
Twisting him around the dark brown eyes searched his face.
‘Do you have another name kid?’
‘What you want to call me?’
‘I’m not calling you names I’m asking questions. Are you gonna run some more?’
The kid looked up, his glance darting between the figure holding him and the nearest building. Half a smile cracked the face in front of him; the bastard knows it’s too far to run. The kid shrugged. The hand on his shoulder relaxed a little, but didn't move.
‘This way.’
Three steps took them to the car and the kid climbed in with startling alacrity, creating enough space to spread his small frame and own as much space as he could.
‘Never been in one of these huh?’
‘Cop car init.’
‘Sure is.’
‘Am I going to jail?’
‘Not unless you try to drive this thing.’
‘How thick are you? I'm sitting in the back seat; even a big bugger like you can't reach the pedals from here. Besides, that bloke in the front can drive us’
The kid stopped looking over the driver’s shoulder for a second and risked a glance at the man alongside him, grinning, raising his eyebrow a fraction. Sensing the attention on his face, his right hand sneaked across to the door handle and pressed it. His body tensed to jump and run, he pushed harder, then sank back in the seat defeated.
‘I can't get out can I.’
‘Not unless you can jump over a big bugger like me.’
The smile came back, but the detective still had the initiative.
‘Where do you live Catch?’
‘Like a house, you mean?
With your mum or your dad.’
‘Fifty two Newbold road.’
The big man leaned forward and touched the driver on the shoulder
‘Did you get that?’
The driver half turned,
‘There's only forty houses in Newbold road.’
‘Try another one kid. Lets have name and address properly this time.
‘Catch. Catch is my name. Only name I go by.’
‘OK Catch, have you got a last name.
‘Little thief.’
The detective laughed.
‘That's the other thing they call you huh? How long have you lived on the streets?’
‘I don't live on the street.’
‘Kid either you live in a house or you live on the street.’
‘I live under the street.’
This brought a pause, a deep breath and a rueful smile.
‘Catch, Have you always been this smart?’ Another pause. ‘Nah, don't answer that one, how would you know. Any idea how old you are?
‘I might be twelve, or maybe thirteen.’
‘Did you go to school?’
‘Before my mum died.’
‘When was that?’
The kid shrugged.
‘Well, roughly, like how many winters ago?’
‘I'm not a Red Indian.’
‘I never said you were.’
‘Then don't make with the how many moons stuff. It was the seventh of January 2007, why does it matter.’
‘You've been on your own since then?’
‘Mostly. Sometimes I hang out with people.’
Catch turned, taking in a change in the figure beside him, shoulders dropping, one more frown line, he’ll be calling a social worker next, he thought.
‘Whoever. I'm a little thief remember. I go with anyone I can get stuff from.’
‘So I should arrest you for stealing?’
‘Not that kind of stuff.’
A resigned sigh. ‘What then?’
‘Learning, brain stuff, finding things out.’
‘Go on.’
‘Reading, computers, money, languages, stuff to know, good stuff.’
He risked another smile, captivating, enticing, and sucking the detective into his world. ‘Can't go to school, can I, they'd have me in an orphanage and I'd never get out or learn anything either.’
‘That's not how it is ki… Catch.’
‘They don't teach cops much do they.’
‘Meaning what?’
‘Do you know how many O levels the average kid in care gets? Do you know what percentage of kids in care end up unemployed or in Jail? Put me in there and I'll end up being a top gang leader in ten years time and give you loads of trouble. I'll have to change my name of course.’
‘Because we'll never catch you.’
Catch caught a glimpse of his own reflection in the window, hair all over the place a smudge of dirt on his forehead and for a nanosecond a mercurial smile flashed across his face.
‘On the other hand we could say I'm sixteen and small for my age and I could help you. Pretty soon, they'd be calling you Catch. What do you reckon?’

It could be said that I cheated slightly by adding a comma to the title, but I enjoyed trying to create a character with the minimum amount of description. There is of course the usual problem that when something begins to work, I feel like writing a book about the character. Catch is now running around in my head full of mischief, but he wouldn’t be there without the writing group.

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