We’re back to lists today and we are thinking about characters at the same time. Ann Berthoff writes: ‘Lists are composed; they don’t just happen.’ Composing a list involves organising names and sometimes actions according to some purpose. The act of list writing can even be a way of discovering purpose. One thing can lead to another -which is often how writing happens. We start off writing about our grandmother and then find we have launched into a treatise on velvet curtains.
Shopping lists and to do lists are deeply personal. If we write ‘pots’ on your grocery list and then give the list to someone else, they may work out that it is potatoes that you want, not flower pots, but they may not know whether you want King Edwards or Desiree. Shopping lists can tell a story. I have to confess to collecting abandoned lists from supermarket trolleys. I try not to stare too obviously at the contents of other people’s baskets. But it is fun to wonder, as we stand in line at the till, why that person requires ten litres of full fat milk and whether this person with a stack of ready meals and a pack of sausage rolls, lives alone, doesn’t like to or hasn’t the chance to cook, is just really, really busy.
What do you imagine about the person who made this shopping list?
coffee beans tin toms rigatoni dk choc wine envelopes ink flowers for R
And what about this one?
spuds bananas milk cornflakes oven chips fish fingers cat food Calpol batteries
You could write a story about one or both of these characters. Give them each a name and see how they appear in the same story. What difference might it make if there was weed killer on the first list or Champagne on the second?
Or you could create a shopping list for a character you invent for yourself. Let the shopping list help you think about their story. It might even turn out to be a plan. Then write the story.