Thursday, 6 June 2013

Toby Farrier catches the bus

I thought it was time to review my progress with this story and have re-posted a little piece I wrote before the NaNoWriMo competition last year. I guess it sets up the thought process that goes into my writing before I build the character outlines and make up a storyboard of the chapters. Since I last posted it I have done some editing to keep it in line with the individuals as they have come to life in the novel.

I know all writers use different methods to keep focus and I have found this a great tool to use.

Merlene Fawdrey is the genius behind this and much of my story planning because as I getting to the end of KUNDELA she asked could I hear the characters calling 'are we there yet' and that  little question produced the spark that caused this planning piece.

If anyone is thinking about writing and the processes to follow Merlene has some great writing tips on her Blog: 

 TOBY FARRIER:        The riders on the Character Bus

I rolled on the broad rimmed steering wheel and dabbed the brake pedal. The hazard lights began flashing and the bus drifted to a stop at the kerb. The gasp of air expelling from the brakes startled my first passenger. I knew he would be the main character of this story, It was easy to see he had a cocky manner by the way he leaned against the post of the shelter, he was lean and wearing those blasted skinny leg jeans, a white muscle tee shirt and scruffy white sandshoes. Why kids have to have blonde tipped hair I’ll never know, but this kid had spiky black hair and tipped this way. I thought it was strange that he didn’t wear shades; instead his chosen eyewear was a pair of round gold rimmed and prescription with a light blue tint. I remembered seeing one of the Bee Gees wearing something similar years ago.

Time to get him on board.

‘G’day mate I’m Terry L Probert, spinner of yarns, and for this story I’m the bus driver. Are you okay with that?’ I said to this kid as he climbed aboard. ‘Tell me a bit about yourself and as we pick up the other characters in your story, you can introduce them to our readers. Do you think you can manage that?’

‘Year sure, I can it happen. My name’s Toby Farrier and I live with my Grandfather in Brunswick, we’ll pick him up at the next stop.’

I could see the grandfather at the stop just over the tramlines. I had seen him somewhere in mind over the years, possibly a composite memory of people who were helpful and kind to me when I was younger, I thought. The bus stopped and Toby stood up and beckoned the old man to come aboard.

‘Hi Pop, this bloke is Terry L Probert. He’s our bus driver for today and says he’s a spinner of yarns. Reckons he’s an author and we will all become part of his new novel and it’s about me.’

‘How are ya Terry. I’m Arthur, Arthur Farrier, young Toby here calls me Pop and I’ve lived here in the North Melbourne suburbs all my life.’ He said with a hint of Scottish accent. ‘What’s your story called?’

‘Pleased to meet you Arthur, welcome aboard.’ I thought he looked about my age and the spring in his step showed a young at heart attitude. ‘The story’s called, Toby Farrier and the P.I’s secret. I have aimed it at a young adult readership but I want it to cross the generation divide and hope everyone who picks it up enjoys TOBY.’

‘Bit of a long name isn’t it?’ Arthur said, and right there I could see he might be a bit of a tough nut to crack.

‘A long name or a name with a sub title it didn’t seem to hurt the Harry Potter books, it kind of gave them a back story for the title. I just thought it might work, what do you reckon Toby this one is all about you?’

‘What like you’re JK Rowling and I’m Harry Potter? You’ve got a few rocks in your head if you think you can do that, what happens to me? I’m no wizard.’

‘That’s true.’ I said feeling the sneer in his voice more than hearing it, this kid is tough. ‘But Toby you have a gift, you are inquisitive and determined. Sure you had troubles as a kid and gave your parents hell but you are about to embark on the greatest adventure of all time. Now let’s pick up some of your friends.’

The bus gathered speed and we trundled along Brunswick Road to turn left into Sydney Road. Our next passenger was a friend of Arthur’s. I squeezed between the cars lining the road. Touch parking the vehicles to the front and rear, as I often do making sure the step was close to the kerb.

‘Come on in Charlie.’ Arthur called. ‘We’re all gunna have a part in Toby’s story and this is the character bus. Now so as we make sure he gets it right, you’d better tell the driver, come author of the story a bit about yourself.’

‘Yeah, yeah. I’m not as young as I was just let me get in first, what’s the rush?’

I noticed Charlie was a bit older than Arthur, he was wearing an old pair of trousers, they were clean but worn and once a part of an expensive suit I supposed. The crisply pressed long sleeve shirt contrasted with his braces and they were the button on type, none of these new fangled clips for Charlie. His pants probably had a button up fly. Hair neat and tidy he had shaved this morning. Charlie would have been a smart dressed dude in his day.

‘Charlie Ramsey, the auctioneer’ I said.

‘How’d you know that? Besides I’m retired now.’

‘Read the name above the door and made an assumption.’ I said. ‘Besides it’s me writing this story so without me, you guys don’t exist.’

‘Hmmph, don’t bet on it driver we can be a rowdy and disruptive bunch. The kid’s pretty smart and he wants to write too, maybe you should concentrate on him.’

Charlie slid into the seat by Arthur and they nattered away for a while before we reached the next stop. I flicked the indicator to turn left, we had to go along Moreland Road and pick up a few of Toby’s friends. I rationalised my thinking, if Toby is the hero of this plot we need a band of friends, a nemesis of some sort and a storyline. I hoped by the end of this bus ride I would have just that.

‘I thought you’d be plugged into an iPod or fiddling with your phone or another gadget.’ I said to Toby who was jotting a few lines into a vinyl covered pocket book.

‘I gave Mum and Dad a fair bit of trouble before I got to come and live with Pop. I guess you could say he helped me to find myself. I learned that I didn’t need the latest gadgets to make or impress my friends. I stopped being a spoiled prat and it took a while but I began to like myself. I have a fair way to go before I earn my Stepmum’s trust and I’m prepared to wait until Dad can look me in the eye again. So you see I know I need to make an effort to deserve this part in your story. I want to write for a living and prove myself worthwhile, and that’s difficult to do in a small town where you have burnt all your bridges. All of my family’s friends have been abused, cheated, and let down by me at some time, it took a while for me to realise it but now I know what I’m sorry for.’

‘Pretty smart of you to turn your life around Toby, did the old fellas help you out a bit?’

‘Yep, Pop never raised his voice, but I knew not to cross him, and Mr Ramsey has been great. Some Friday nights we go around to his rooms and he gets on the old piano and while he plays we share pizza and have a bit of a sing along. Pop tells us stories from his past and as they drink beer my friends and I sing along to all the old songs. You know stuff from Elvis and the Beatles, old stuff like that.’

‘So you’re happy then?’

‘Yeah, now. I’m a pretty good place.’


‘Pop pulled a few strings and got me into Prince’s, they have a lot of good programmes and if you stop just up here where those blokes are, you can see the common grounds.’

I slowed the bus and saw a group of youths who could only be described as a gang. Five of them, homeboy pants, butt cleavage, dirty scuffed up shoes black singlets and unbuttoned flannel shirts. I wasn’t sure I should let them on the bus. Behind them a girl and three better dressed lads sat in the shade, I was sure these were Toby’s friends and waved for them to board the bus. I motioned for the others to wait, but they pushed ahead of Toby’s friends.

‘Who are these guys Toby, do you know them?’ I asked.

‘Driver, this is Slasher and his mates the Slater Street Gang. Are you sure want to keep then on the bus?’

‘We’re stayin’ Slasher said ‘If this prat is going to be in your story, then we’re gunna be in it too. So Farrier, don’t think you can keep this caper all to yourself. Got it, we will be up the back watchin’ every move you make and that’s a promise.’

I wasn’t too sure about these blokes and wondered if they had any place in Toby’s story, but they were already on the bus now, there wasn’t much I could do. I would give myself some time to get to know Slasher’s friends later, much later. Almost hidden and drowned out by the noise of the Slater Street Gang Toby’s friends stepped onto the bus.

‘So Toby, who have we here then?’

‘Terry, I’d like you to meet my friends from Prince’s.’ Toby said standing up and giving a hello hug to those boarding. ‘This is Jack Revesby, Nathan Roberts, Sophie Nguyen and Ben Scott we are all in the same classes at school. Sophie is a black belt in karate and she’s pretty smart too.’

I could see these friends were tight, there was something in the manner of their greeting, I could see they trusted each other. These kids would have Toby’s back as he met the challenges of the Hero’s Journey.

‘Come on driver,’ Slasher yelled from the back while his mates laughed. ‘Get a move on driver, where are we off to next?’

I wanted to give him a slap, and tell him that with one tap of the delete button he could be written out just as quick as he appeared, but every story needs a villain and in this one, Slasher will do just fine. This bloke is going to get under my skin as the story develops. I hope I can make him evil enough to do him justice.

The door shut and we pulled away, heading west along Melville Road. A few more corners and we would cross the road to Sydney Road again. The big wheels thumped as we crossed the tramlines on Royal Parade, as the traffic slowed near the cemetery, I stopped and opened the door. A chill swept through our conveyance. I looked in the mirror Slasher shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

‘What are we doin’ stopped ‘ere.’ he said. ‘Shut the door driver, it’s getting cold.’

‘We just picked up another rider Slasher,’ I said. ‘Everyone please welcome aboard the ghost of Shamus O’Toole. Mr O’Toole can’t communicate in the normal way, but believe me he will make your story interesting.’ I wanted to go on and tell them more about why O’Toole was with us but as the window behind Slasher had started to fog over. We both knew where Shamus had taken his seat.

‘People, I want you to look to your left, this grave yard is going to play a big part in this novel.’

‘Why boneyards don’t scare us do they Slash?’ Red hair freckles and a smart arse, I’ll call him Freckles in the story and he won’t be quite as tough without the gang to support him.

I turned into the traffic and following the right turn lane, turned into Lygon Street. During the ride around the city I pointed out many of the landmarks and places which in the next seventy five thousand words would become their playground.

With every character now informed about their personality, and having shown them the places within the story I asked them if they understood their roles. Having achieved their unquestioned agreement for co-operation, I told them that it is now time to bring on NaNoWriMo. Assured and confident that they had a part in my novel I thought they would relax, but when I looked in the mirror again I saw my characters beginning to squabble like petulant movie stars. Peeved with their attitude I am going to drop them off in front of the Collins Street bank they will be drawn to. An evil place, and the site of the first financial crash in the thirties, crash that began the great depression. This was a place for villains.

I took the bus back to the garage, parked it in the back corner and covered it up in readiness for use the next time I need to pick up some characters for another story.

Monday, 3 June 2013

KUNDELA: How Joe met Laura

This is a bit of the book that never made it to print as it didn't add much to the story. It is in first draft form and is a bit rough. I thought I'd share it with you to give you a bit of background to the Gillespie family's story.

After the accident, Les tried his best to be a better father but his demons would not let go.
They spent some wonderful days of water skiing, or riding after cattle together but slowly the drink would beckon. Les would be in town for days, sleeping off a skinful only to resurface and get back into it all again. He never truly broke the cycle and try as he might, the weakness would overtake him. He would drift into a morass of self-pity and remorse, opening the door to yet another binge.

Happier days for Joe would be the weekends and school holidays; he spent at Uralla, the neighbouring farm. His cousins made him welcome and Auntie Bet, his mother’s sister treated him like one of their own.
Uncle Tom Mitchell had become a strong role model for Joe and unlike Les; Tom had worked hard to buy their place. He was often away working, taking all kinds of jobs, roo shooter, fencer and shearer, anything to make a quid. He was happy and caring, needing to love and be loved by his family.

Tom took pride in his abilities, paying the bank off bit-by-bit. ‘A hard day’s work is easy when you are working for something you love,’ he would tell Joe. It was too easy for Joe to be saddened and conflicted by this, for as much as he loved his father; he wanted to be just like Tom
Moving to boarding school in Adelaide was good for Joe. Being a boarder provided him with a sense of continuity and structure. Something, through no fault of his own, it had always eluded him. He enjoyed the discipline of a planned existence, he felt secure knowing if he put in the effort, his academic abilities would take care of themselves.

Joe lived by a mantra he had heard somewhere, ‘if it is to be, then it’s up to me’

When things got tough he would recite it repeatedly in his head, somehow it seemed to work. The more he studied, the easier things were. Joe knew boring things like Maths, English and Science would be important. If ever Wanooka’s Well would be his one day, he would need them. Therefore, it was a done deal; he put in the hard yards, always passing, amassing credits and distinctions.
Sport, however was his first love, a passion, something he was unable to enjoy. Before leaving for Adelaide, his opportunities at home, to play sport were limited. His dad always had chores for him to do after school or on weekends, but in college, Joe could shine.
Over the next four years, Joe studied hard. He took every opportunity to improve his sporting prowess and building the library of his mind. All the time, his memories of the bush kept calling him home. Joe adapted easily to city life and had many friends. Yet he yearned for the holidays and always packed a day early for the journey home.
The place seemed smaller after the city and now with Les was spending even more time in town. Joe could catch up with Joseph, his grandfather and finding out what had happened in the time he was away. Old Joseph was proud of his grandson and understood the difficult relationship they both shared with Les.
The old man’s kindness and knowledge made him easy company. Joe loved the time they shared together, learning the history of the property, what to look for when buying sheep or cattle and how to maintain machinery properly.
‘These are all things a father teaches a son,’ Joseph would tell his wife, ‘so if Les can’t or won’t then I can, I must, after all he is my grandson.’
Joe filled his grandfather’s old Land Rover with petrol, checked the oil and water, casually kicking the old tyres to check if the pressure was okay. Standing back with his hands on his hips and admiring his ride, Joe was ready to escape, disappearing to explore the far ends of the place.
He would tell his college friends, ‘To sit behind that worn out, old, thin rimmed, steering wheel, with the windscreen down and the doors removed was freedom personified. Not fast you know but to hear the old tyres crashing through the gravel in the dry creek beds is as good as any tune on the radio’
His city friends could picture Joe, wide eyed and grinning. Just a flash of faded green scything through the tracks and splashing into the creeks of Wanooka’s Well, envying him his freedom and love for the country.
Holidays were fantastic, a time full of enjoyment, a wonderfully easy time. Joe visited his cousins on the neighbouring property every chance he could. He loved nothing better than racing through their drive and skidding up to the front gate. He loved Auntie Bet’s welcome, waving her finger and scalding ‘Joe slow down before you kill yourself or someone else’.
She would throw her arms around him, holding him, tenderly whispering. ‘Just what would your mother say and wow look at how much you have grown since we saw you last’
Their ritual becoming a bond between them over the years and one both enjoyed immensely.

The Mitchell girls were a lot younger than he was, they looked up to Joe as they would a big brother and he revelled in it. This trip home was different though, Joe had thrashed the old Land Rover across to see Auntie Bet for their usual ritual. Only this time it was not Bet who was first through the door, another shadowy figure appeared, hard to picture, she was silhouetted against the setting sun. Joe knew it was a she, he might be a country boy, but he was not slow and her image was enchanting.
The picture sharpening, becoming ever clearer, as Joe shielded his eyes. With the dust clearing and the sun setting, light shone through the ankle length white cotton skirt. Revealed a pair of long, fine legs supporting a slender body, Joe stood there with his mouth agape. Her long neck and shoulder length hair framed a pretty face. Taking a long and lingering view of the young attractive woman in standing front of him, he smiled.
‘She’s pretty,’ Joe yelled to his cousins as they began falling over themselves racing across the yard to see him.
‘She’s pretty! Is that your best line?’ the young woman snorted, turning on her heal and going back inside. ‘You had better be able to better than that country boy’
‘Her name is Laura’ Mary giggled, ‘You just met your match boy’
‘It’s gunna be fun watching you squirm Joey, tonight, you might just get your come-uppance’ Janet sniggered.
While everyone engaged in conversation over dinner, Joe couldn’t take his eyes off Laura. He clumsily tried to make small talk, attempting to engage her, but tonight his easiness evaporated. His mouth was unusually dry and his words just died, dissolving into the depths of his awkwardness.
For her part, Laura had the upper hand, feigning disdain at his fuddled attempts to be charming, laughing and teasing Joe.
Whispering to Auntie Bet, ‘I’m enjoying this but he is cute and I don’t want to upset him too much’
Placing a reassuring hand on the young woman’s knee, Auntie Bet laughed and whispered back. ‘He’s tough, I have never seen him so uncomfortable and don’t worry you are the only one in this room tonight who has his attention. I love it’
‘It’s not like you to be stuck for words,’ Uncle Tom stated while they were washing the dinner dishes, ‘I think this one’s got you hooked.’
‘There is not a girl in the world that can hold me’ Joe grinned, knowing he was fibbing and more than a little bit too.
‘You reckon, Joe?’ countered Tom ‘I’ll bet you a week’s work, that in a month or two you will be calling her every night if you can’
‘You are on Tom, to spice it up a bit why don’t we make it a week of fencing. Grandad says there is a bit at Third Water which needs doing,’ bluffed Joe
‘Done’ and Tom clasped the young man’s hand, ‘remember to bring your gear over next time you’re home’
That night, Joe lay on his bed staring up at nothing, sometimes watching the revolving blades of the wicker, ceiling fan as they continued their circle. They were keeping time with the image of Laura, rotating in a seamless time loop in his mind. This had been an unusual experience, terrifying, enchanting and exciting all at the same time. Why was he feeling something new, something much unexpected? He was the cool guy; his friends all called him Joe Cool didn’t they. He had always been able to control the traffic of his thoughts but not now, not tonight. Sleep eluded him; he had never felt this way before. There had been a couple of girlfriends while in Adelaide but this girl was different, very different, and somewhat scary. It was fair to say that Laura had more than upset his equilibrium.

How did she do this, why was she constantly in his thoughts and why did he smile whenever he conjured up her image? It would all have to wait, he was off to Adelaide in the morning, this was the final term and his exams needed passing.
‘Where did she fit in, why was she visiting? Oh, there were too many questions and very few answers’ Joe hoped this would not affect his study results,
‘Knuckle down and get on with it, priorities, Joe priorities’ he silently chanted.

This last term just vanished and now Joe only faced the pressure of his Final Exams. Was he up to it? Joe drew into his huge reserves. Remembering his Mother had insisting on a trust fund to ensure he received a good education.
Taking his seat in the pavilion, he silently promised to make his mother proud, the mood quietened, beginning the first exam. Those two hours seemed like eternity and yet there still seemed to be no time. ‘How does that happen?’ he wondered. ‘One down four to go’
Term finished and now for Christmas holidays at home, the wait for his results and a week of fencing with Uncle Tom.
‘Can’t wait,’ he thought. Joe had called Laura, not every night but often enough to keep his word.
Laura would be spending some of her time with the Mitchell.s over Christmas.
The thought of seeing her again was exciting and in that moment he could feel his face smiling again. ‘How does she do that?’ he wondered.
These were great days, the young pair riding horses. Exploring the many aboriginal sights along the waterholes that littered the valleys and ranges of Wanooka’s Well. Laura especially loved the area they called Third Water. Sharp grey granite cliffs framed a backdrop to a permanent water hole. Protected, the old river gums stood proud sentinel over the lushly grassed river flat. The cliffs kept an ancient secret, a narrow opening behind a slab of granite hid a deep cave. Filled with traditional art and precious artifacts, the Gillespie family too kept its secret,
‘The old people, the traditional owners hold the cave sacred and we should respect that. I will always protect their rights.’ Joe told her. ‘Outside the cave however, we can do what we want’

Now eighteen, Joe not only had love on his mind but once his results were in he would need to make a career choice. For today all that could wait, he was in love and everyday spent with Laura filled him with joy and happiness.
From horseback on the hill overlooking the homestead, they watched the mail truck wind its way slowly along the creek, creeping toward the letterbox at the station gate. The old truck’s brakes squealed in agony as the vehicle gently stopped, a trail of dust seemed to surge past the truck as if challenging the driver to race it to the next stop.
A small figure bounced out of the driver’s seat and lifted the lid of the milk can, which had fashioned the letterbox years earlier. The driver tossed in the sealed bag with its unknown cargo. What was in this week’s mail? What exciting news did it hold?
‘I’ll race you down. It could be your results’ challenged Laura
‘I don’t think so, Dad gets funny if I touch the mail’ Joe responded. ‘Come on I had better get you back to Auntie Bet’s. She wanted to take you into town this arvo, or did you forget?’
Joe stopped talking to Tom for a while and then drifted off home imagining the treasures the shoppers may find. He remembered the package and wondered if anything arrived in the mail for him.
An official letter waited on the table, a letter unexpected. This was not his examination results but one heralding change. Joe trembled reading the contents; the words revealing his conscription into the Australian Army. Like his father had been before him.
It didn’t seem fair, and now for the first time in his life since his mother had died, he was at ease. His perspective freshened, increasing his hopes and Laura making him happier than he could remember.
Why was this happening to him and why now? In sixty days, Joe would be a soldier and he knew he would have to accept it.