It's that awful phrase you dreaded at school - it usually meant the teacher wanted you to get into a partnership with someone other than your mates. As a grown up being asked to work in a pair is no less daunting. The last playwriting workshop of the year involved a collaborative exercise - work together to write the beginning of a play using the theme of moving - in ten minutes.
As always a diverse group of people results in diverse pieces of writing. We had two on moving house, one on moving forward in life and one on being part of a movement. Working with someone else was an interesting experience. So often the words we choose to use are highly personal, the topics mean something deeply to us even if we are not aware of it at first. How would two different writers find a common ground? I sat back, I didn't want to antagonise anything - I've been accused of being bossy too many times.
But it worked out well. We just began talking, throwing names out into the air. Trying to find ones that fitted the characters we were thinking of. My partner liked to talk through all the back story, getting more and more complicated, thinking up more twists and turns. We had burned through five minutes of the precious time we had for writing and I needed to get it down on paper. It was fun, bouncing ideas off of each other and creating new characters from scratch.
When we read the piece out to the group they commented that we had been clever and subtle, how well we had woven things together, thought of all the interplay but in reality we just bounced wild ideas off each other and had a lot of fun doing it. It was a good thing to hear as two days previously at Writers Workshop I had sat through a round up of everything we'd covered - all these things I was supposed to be doing while I was writing and I panicked. I didn't think I did any of them. Maybe I wasn't cut out to be a writer at all. But now I believe that maybe writing is a instinctual thing and we keep learning with every sentence we write.
Here is the ten minute collaboration.
Malcolm & Wendy Tibbins, late 40s, meet Ashley, a young estate agent outside a two up, two down terrace.
ASHLEY: Mr & Mrs Tibbins, you found it alright then.
MALCOLM: Yes fine thanks.
ASHLEY: Mrs Price is here, ready to show us round. (rings doorbell)
Yvonne Price opens the door, Malcolm starts spluttering.
ASHLEY: Ah, Good Morning Mrs Price
YVONNE: Ms actually. Please call me Yvonne.
WENDY: Where are your manners Malcolm?
MALCOLM: Oh sorry, good morning Yvonne
WENDY: (whispers) Why did you say it like that?
MALCOLM: Looks more like a Marie to me.
ASHLEY: Come through, come through. This is the lounge area. A very welcoming space.
MALCOLM: So M...err Yvonne, why are you selling?
WENDY: Malcolm! Manners.
YVONNE: I'm moving to Spain. There's no future for me here.
WENDY: Oh, you got family out there?
YVONNE: My fiance has a condo.
WENDY: What's wrong with you Malcolm?
ASHLEY: Shall we go through to the kitchen? There's a lovely breakfast bar that catches the morning sun.
WENDY: Oh what a lovely photo - are those your children?
MALCOLM: You never said you had kids.
Wendy looks at Malcolm and Yvonne in turn.
ASHLEY: And if we just go upstairs... here is the master bedroom.
WENDY: Oh what's that perfume?
YVONNE: Chanel No. 5
WENDY: That's what you bought your mum for her birthday isn't it?
Wendy exits the room.
YVONNE: Malcolm, are you alright? You look a little pale.
MALCOLM: Why didn't you tell me you were engaged?
YVONNE: Why didn't you tell me you were married?
They walk into the hallway.
ASHLEY: And this is the bathroom.
WENDY: What are you two whispering about?
Malcolm and Yvonne look guilty.
ASHLEY: As you can see it's a lovely family home.
WENDY: Huh - that's just like the tie our son bought you for Christmas. Where is your fiance Mrs Price?
YVONNE: In Spain (looks at Malcolm)