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Last week I started a writer's course. Creative Writing 101, since I didn't know where else to start. The class is an assortment of lopsided halves: two men and ten women; one retiree and a couple of students in a gaggle of working professionals; 11 westerners of Australia/European heritage and myself the only obvious non-white face. The first class, as with all first classes, was mostly ice-breaking and getting started. Introduce yourself. What stories do you like to read, what types of books and genres can you name? What about points of view, how does each work, what are their pros and cons? That last was particularly amusing as I realised that I've written every type of POV at some point in my life for fun or fanfic.

This week: character building. From the obvious what do they look like to personality, beliefs, and background. Fears and loves. My favourite and most frustrating part of story building. And to end the workshop, a writing exercise. In 10 minutes, create a character and write for them a personal ad, "X seeking X". Key condition: NOT YOURSELF. WRITE SOMEONE VERY DIFFERENT FROM YOU. The examples we gave were dating profiles pulled from the internet (unattributed, I couldn't help note). "Girl Seeks Boy for Watch Morning Cartoons and Eat Sugary Cereal" and "Forty-Something Man with Empty Boat Seeks Lady Companion to Make Boat Less Empty." I came up with the following:

Gentleman Arrival


Male, 47, exile. I am not here by choice, and am feeling rather lost, at least in my understanding of the word. I'm looking for a friend.

What I offer: tales of faraway places, where silk flows like water and fireworks light up the skies. A walking companion, eager to explore your city, if a little reserved. Exotic foods, every night if you so wish and have an adventurous palate. Where I come from, all men can cook.

You: local, daring, patient. Show me your streets, explain to me your art and why the music I hear from windows makes people dance. Male or female matters not. If you understand this notice, all I ask is that you help me forget.

I'm not sure where he came from, but I like him. So did my class when I read my ad aloud, and they immediately wanted to know his backstory imagining a man somewhere in Europe, perhaps from Egypt or Morocco, sometime in the 19th century perhaps, which was almost exactly what I was going for. Certainly my ad was very different from the larger-than-life, apparently cheerful, modern-day characters my colleagues created, all looking for love or fun.

For next week, I have to write a response to a classmate's ad. His creation: a 38 year old man who likes cats and long walks on the beach, wants to travel, and is looking for his soul mate. What I'm going to do with all those cliches I don't know. But I am excited to see what the classmate who has my ad comes up with.


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May 2016

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