A lady came up to me, holding her hand out in the classic gesticulation of inquiry and started to ask me, “Excuse me are you An…” and like a helpful soul I finished the “Andy” for her.
Immediately all the tension of uncertainty left the air, confirmation made, identity established and visible relaxation was in order. Well for the nice inquiring lady at least, for me my head was kicking up the mental gears as fast as my mental boot could manage (note for non-motorbike riders; we use a foot to change gear).
As you might have guessed, street recognition is not a common occurrence for me; I can count how often it has happened, including this time, on a single finger. The lady obviously knew who I was and so I got worried, quite worried in fact. I will play a game with you, which of the following might have caused me concern?
She was from a local business I had dealt with?
She was a member or partner of a member of our motorcycle club?
She was associated with a charity event we took part in for the last two Easters?
She might have wanted me over some unpleasantness or transgression?
Although any of these could be true, none of them in their selves worried me. What concerned me, was that I simply didn’t recognise the lady and at any moment I was going to have to own up to the fact that I couldn’t remember her at all. Maybe it wouldn’t be the worst social failing but remembering and being remembered tells the other person “I find you interesting/valuable/important and worth knowing” and it was important to me.
So we have our little scene with three people in it Husband, Mystery lady and Wife. Each having different thoughts and concerns, each has their own series of actions, dialogue, internal dialogue and emotions. Each can be having an entirely different internal response to what is being shown. Can you fill in what might have been going through the wife’s mind at the time? If you were writing about this chance meeting, wouldn’t it be nice if you had some way to map out all this, keeping all of what is happening in view.
Well this week I came across an idea on the web that does this. David Nygren on his website http://www.theurbanelitist.com/ writes a short story using a spreadsheet and columns. The columns represent Action, Dialogue, plus one for each character’s thoughts. I can’t explain it properly here, for that I will leave it to David. On his site he covers what he was trying to achieve and has a short story formatted this way. Go to his site and check it out here Short-Story-Spreadsheet
I personally see it as a useful tool or story board for strongly emotional scenes, others will hate such a structured approach. As with all things, each to his own.
Oh, and if you are wondering who the lady was who recognised me in the street. She is Bev who wishes to come along to the next meeting of the Just-Write creative writing group. She recognised me because a week or so ago I sent her my photo, so that she could find us in the pub.
Bev, if you are reading this, “Hi, nice meeting you.”
Please do leave comments on this, further hints are most welcome.