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Please Welcome. Ch 1

by Jubbly 

Posted: 21 November 2003
Word Count: 3747
Summary: An attempt at a commercial, first person narrative novel. Chapter one, I'm not sure if this is a good idea or a load of old cobblers.

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Please Welcome

Chapter One

How the hell did I get here? Me, Tina Morrison, nee Robinson; how did I come to be standing here about to go on stage in a nightclub in Croydon and sing The Greatest Love of All in front of hundreds of strangers?
"You're up next Tina alright?"

"Yeah," I say. Well I try to speak but I'm too nervous, so I just nod and make a funny noise, oh my God, what am I thinking of? How did I end up as a finalist in the annual South East Regional Karaoke Competition? Crikey, I feel like I'm on Pop Idol - I keep having to pinch myself to see if I'm dreaming.

It all started last November, nearly a year ago. Bonfire night it was - that was the night that everything changed forever , the night that life kicked me in the gut and winded my soul. We'd gone up the park to watch an organised fireworks display, me and the kids that is, my two big girls Sammy and Laura and the baby Joe.

We was expecting their dad Pete to put in an appearance but he never showed up. I remember standing there in the freezing cold, pulling my jacket tight around me and hiding under my hood watching all those fantastic explosions of light and colour cascading through the darkness and thinking to myself - Pete would love this, it's right up his street. It weren't like my Pete not to show up, he's a good dad and he loves an occasion- only the Christmas before last he didn't have to be asked twice when they needed a Santa for the school Christmas party - he was in that fat costume and beard before you could say Jingle bells and it didn't half suit him.

I remember the head, Mrs Clark remarking, "Oh he's lovely - your husband, a real sport and the kiddies adore him."

Yeah, he is that's for sure. My Pete, we were a brilliant couple, everyone said so. We're not a bit a like me and Pete. I'm from round here you see, born and bred in Holloway, not the prison but round here there ain't much difference. Where as Pete comes from 'Up North' Preston , I've only ever been up there a few times, nothing much to see not unless you like rain, grey skies and soggy chips. His parents don't even live there no more, they moved to Spain, made sure they bought a tiny little two bedroom apartment so we can't go and visit - they aren't stupid.

Pete's been down here for twenty years now but if I'm truthful he's never really fitted in. It's the North and South divide, that invisible line that stretches across the country separating us all by how we pronounce our vowels. I loved it when we first met, he used to call me his little cockney sparrow and I'd say don't be such a pillock, this is North London, not the East End, but I knew what he meant.
My mates had all settled with local lads, boys we knew from when we were kids - but not me, I met my Pete at work. I was a dental nurse , not highly skilled I know, but I had a very nice uniform and when I was wearing it I felt like a real nurse and I looked like one too, I know cause I always got half price down the cinema and a seat on the bus which you don't even get if you're ten months pregnant these days.

He came in for an RCT, that's a root canal therapy to the uninitiated. We just clicked, he was scared stiff and kept trying to crack jokes, I'm used to that. I'd just smile sweetly and reassure the patient , say things like - "Oh Dr Evans is amazing, we call him Doctor No Pain, don't worry darling, it won't hurt a bit."

Course I was lying through me teeth, Dr Evans was a mean old git who hated his job. He used to wear a little ear piece thingy that was plugged into his transistor radio so he could hear the races. Many's the time he'd be standing there, drill poised in one hand, patients life in the other and without warning, he'd jerk the drill away from the poor sods mouth and shout, "Yes!"

These days I expect he'd be struck off, but this was ages ago, and people didn't like to complain.

Pete asked me out for a drink, it wasn't the best of dates really, what with him not being able to talk much, with his sore mouth and swollen lip, he'd made that fatal mistake a lot of inexperienced dental patients do and chewed up his anaethised lip like it were gum - didn't hurt at the time but a few hours later, ooh.

Me and Pete used to have a right laugh together, down the pub or just curled up on the sofa watching the telly.
He loved that Only fools an Horses, he'd fall about he would.

"They 're just like us Tina."
"Nah, don't be such a plonker." I'd say, outraged.

"You know what I mean, always striving to be something they 're not, trying to get out of the rut, better themselves."

I didn't know whether to be insulted or flattered.

"But Pete they live on the top floor of a grotty tower block in scuzzy old Peckham and we've got a very nice if not compact, three bed roomed council house with a back and front garden."

He'd just wave his hand, "You know what I mean Tee, it's all the same at the end of the day."

When he never showed up at the fireworks display, which I must admit was spectacular even if some clumsy bugger did manage to smear ketchup all over the sleeve of my new coat, we went back home for the traditional sausages and jacket potatoes for supper hoping we'd all catch up there, I even had a stash of sparklers in the hall cupboard so as we could go out back and wave them around like great big illuminated pencils.

Pete loves Tina, that's what he used to write in the night sky, ahh, soppy I know, but that's me for you.

"Where's dad?" asked Sammy, still sulking cause I hadn't let her go over and stand with all her mates who were quite obviously smoking a joint and talking about sex like they was experts.

"Don't know love," I said, trying to put her at ease but concerned all the same. The car wasn't in the drive and his mobile was switched off.

"Perhaps he's gone down the pub mum." suggested Laura; at 13 she was very wise, takes after her dad. When I first knew my Pete he was working on a building site - he used to joke it was just so he could wind up the birds when they went passed by.
I used to say, 'That's disgusting, that's sexual harassment that's all that is."

He'd just laugh, "It's only a bit of fun love, you wait till you're over the hill, then you'll be complaining cause no one's whistling at you."

Now I know what he means.

Anyway he must of got fed up with ogling all them shapely legs and pert bosoms cause he went off and did a course at the poly tech, in computers, turned out he had an aptitude for it, he was a whiz, now he's doing very well thank you, had to go over to Japan for a fortnight a few years back, he even contemplated taking a job in Edinburgh and moving us up there. But I said, "No, it's too far".

"Too far from what?" he persisted.

"You know, London, oh no it'd do my head in if I couldn't go round me mums and anyway what about the girls they've got all their mates round here?"

He just shrugged and said, "We'll see." which loosely translates as 'anything Tina wants Tina gets.'

That's about the time we bought our house from the council, a little terraced house off the Cally Rd. We were so happy when the girls were little everything felt right. We had our mates Gary and Lisa and my sister Teresa and her kids were just around the corner, me mum was always popping over and telling what I was doing wrong and me and Pete , well we couldn't get enough of each other, mind you that was before me tits went south, oh well, I've still got the photos to prove it.

"One day we'll move out of London", he used to say, a big grin spreading over his face, "Yeah, that's what we'll do."

I always responded the same, "Why?"

"Oh come on luv, we don't want the kids growing up down here, think of the freedom they can have if we go back up North, they can ride their bikes around all over and come in late for their tea, we won't have to worry and fret about them, it'll be just like it was when I was a kid."

"Are you mad?" I'd say, "I'm not having my kids growing up in the country, it's terrifying out there, full of weirdoes lurking about and hiding in forests, and besides the shops are rubbish."

Well I know that's a bit harsh but that's how I feel and I can't help it.
I mean I'm sure their are some very nice places up there and I suppose in the bigger cities the shopping's alright too, don't get me wrong I'm hardly snob features Victoria Beckham, but I feel safe in London, I really do. When you read in the papers about horrible things happening to kiddies and old people, it's always out of London, in the country or somewhere, you see my theory is there's just too many people down here, too much going on, so you don't get all these crazy lunatics - well you do but you get used to them.

I mean I went into my corner shop the other day, just to buy some Frosties and the semi-skimmed when this woman comes in looking normal, no coat, shoes on, nice handbag, nothing obvious to prepare me for what was to come. Well, she walks up to Mr Kamal and says as brash as you like, "Excuse me, what shall I buy? " well Mr Kamal is gobsmacked, so he says, "What ever you want madam."

But that weren't the end of it, then it's, "Shall I buy some milk?" She says and goes and gets a pint of milk out of the fridge, Mr Kamal just smiles and says, "If you like." Then she gets really confused and slams the milk down on the counter and says really loudly, "What else?" So Mr Kamal, who's trying really hard not to laugh, just shrugs and looks at me as if to say, Bloody Hell what a nutter. So I look down at my shoes and try and pretend like it ain't happening. Then she says, "Shall I buy a packet of crisps?" Mr Kamal, says if you like, and points to the crisps, so she goes over and has a good look then shouts out, "Well what flavour should I get?" Mr Kamal is now pretending to be invisible and this gets her really mad, so she starts yelling, "Salt and Vinegar? Cheese and Onion, Ready salted? Which ones?" Finally she just storms out screaming, "What sort of shop is this anyway?" Bloody mad. Oh well, that's Holloway for you, wouldn't live anywhere else.

But my Pete don't agree - he had it all planned you see. When the girls left school he wanted us to move, he even talked about going abroad, the Costa Del Sol or somewhere, he worked hard on me he did. Took me out for a meal to his favourite Indian, plied me with lager even though I'd said more than once I'd prefer wine.

"Think of it luv, just you and me, we'll have a lovely big villa with a swimming pool and all the sunshine in the world," he gloated, nan bread in one hand pint in the other.
"But what will we do? " I implored.

"Well I'll get a job, you know me, I can turn me hand to anything, besides there's plenty of opportunities for computer experts like me, I could ask the firm for a transfer."

'Well what about me?" What can I do?"

He smiled at me, one of those big confidence building Pete smiles that he reserves for me.

"You can go back to your job darling."

"But Pete, I was a dental nurse, besides I can't speak Spanish, what if the dentist asks me to pass him the drill and I hand him a bunch of flowers, I wouldn't last five minutes."

So we put our plans on hold and poodled along as usual. The girls were both in secondary school and still hadn't got any convictions - everything was rosy. Sam was doing ever so well, she'd inherited her dad's brain for technology and she was excelling in her IT classes.
And Laura was surprisingly good at music, she was brilliant on the steel drum, a natural, she wants to be a nursery nurse when she leaves school, so all that banging about making music will come in really handy.

Then it happened didn't it? Just a couple of months before my fortieth, I went and got pregnant.

"You're what?" said Pete, 'what at your age, is that possible?"

Well yes Pete, despite my great age my ovaries are still in full working order as I said at the time if you recall - but no, you know best, so when you sent your unstoppable sperm hurtling down my birth canal they had a whopping great target in view.... you prat.

That's how I came to have a baby at the age of 40, bloody typical, you look forward to your big 4 0 all your life, planning a big girlie knees up and the presence of everyone you've ever known in your life, a real, rip roaring, booze fuelled rehearsal for your own funeral I suppose, champagne, male strippers, the works and how did I spend it, with me head down the lavvy, chucking up. Couldn't keep a glass of water down, horrible it was, there I was five months pregnant and losing weight just when you want to be putting it on, I couldn't look at a tin of tuna without heaving, poor cat had to become a vegetarian, never mind what any one tells you, cats love baked beans.

The other two kids were a breeze, but this little bugger, what a sod. His hormones and mine didn't mix, they didn't like each other one bit, strangers in a custody battle for my body and the intruder was winning, ousting the poor cow who'd lived their quietly all on her tod for the past 4 decades. But where will I go, I thought, the answer was nowhere, I threw up for the entire 42 weeks, yes he was over due naturally and then some, after an excruciating five hour labour, with no drugs or pain relief due to the fact that apparently it was too sodding late to administer an epidural, Joe Raymond Morrison came kicking and screaming into this world at ten past five one Monday morning in February and as far as I know is still bloody screaming.

So there I was 43 years old and mother to a toddler. I'd walk down the street with him and people would think I was his gran, some of the neighbours, just the ones you pass not the ones you speak to, thought he was my Sam's, as if, she might be a face pulling teenager but she ain't thick, she knows how angry I'd be if she went and had a baby before she done her GCSEs. The only advantage of being pregnant when you're over 40 is that people assume you must be younger than you are, let's face it, in their opinion you'd have to be a bloody idiot to get yourself knocked up at that age.

Pete was at the birth of course, like he'd been there for the girls, but he didn't seem that interested really not in retrospect. It was only when I burst into tears and begged the midwife to throttle me - did he finally look up from his newspaper and say, "What's going on now?"

He declined the doctors offer of letting him cut the chord and pulled a face like he'd just seen my placenta - whoops I think he had.

Despite Joe being a boy, Pete didn't help out as much as I'd thought he would. I mean he loved him to bits, don't get me wrong, he'd have killed anyone that laid a finger on him, but he was.... a bit distant that's all, never gave him a bath or changed his nappy or went to him in the night and he came home a lot later from work than he used to.

"We're so busy at the moment love, what the merger going through and everything."

I thought it was because boys tend to be a lot more difficult than girls, at that age anyway what with all the testosterone surges - little girls will sit there quietly playing with their dolls and dress up outfits while little boys will for no explicable reason hurl themselves against the wall shouting, "AGHHH!" My sister Teresa always says if she don't like someone and she finds out they're expecting she always hopes they have a boy, ain't that nasty?

It was perishing that bonfire night, Joe had fallen asleep in his pushchair and I remember thinking, oh bugger, that's me up at 4am then. The girls were texting their mates and giggling over some silly topical joke that was doing the rounds and everything was normal, I put me key in the lock and turned it, completely unaware that my life - our lives were about to change forever.

"Pete!" I called out, I don't know why, I knew in my heart he wasn't there.

"Mum, where's dad?" whined Laura.

"How should I know?" I snapped back and was immediately sorry but too anxious to show it.

Not a sign of him, nothing. I bunged the spuds and the sausages in the oven and put the baby to bed.

It was just when I was walking down the hall, passed the little box room that had been converted into an office that I had a funny feeling.

I'm not really one for checking my emails all the time, days can go by before I realise there's anything in my Inbox, as they say.

I wonder , I thought, there's no message on the ansaphone, nothing on my voice mail, I wonder.

I switched on the monitor and checked - sure enough right beside my name was a little blue number one - sender, Pete Morrison.

Dear Tina,

Sorry I couldn't make the Fireworks do tonight, thing is I'm not actually in London. I know you're going to be really gutted and I'm so sorry to do this to you and the girls, and Joe of course and I promise I'll come down as soon as I can, I just need to get away and sort my head out.

What? What the hell was this all about? Sort his flipping head out, has he got the boot? Has he robbed a bank and done a runner? Where in Christ's name is my husband?

I was panicking now, my heart was pounding, I swear I could see it like a cartoon character in a haunted house, it was like a train crash I couldn't look away from that terrible computer. I was being sucked into this cyber hell and there was no way out but to read on.

I've been in touch with Madeline, don't know if you remember Madeline, I told you about her, she was an old girlfriend of mine from school. Well she's divorced now and we sort of met through Friends Reunited and one thing led to another and well, I've gone to stay with her, just until I decide what to do. I know you must hate me but please believe me when I say I never meant to hurt you. Don't worry about money that will be sorted out as I've asked for a transfer to the Manchester office and it's come through.

Take care Tee,

Pete xx

The silence was overpowering but I was screaming inside, every organ that made my raddled old body function had shut down. Then I heard myself, I was saying "No!" under my breath, "No, no, no....even then I didn't want to share this disaster with anyone else.

The bastard, the bloody bastard, an email, huh, the coward didn't even have the guts to write me a letter.

I fed the girls then lied to them.

"Dad's gone to visit Uncle Jimmy, he'll be back soon."

"What, on Bonfire night, why?" asked Laura, stunned.

I lied again.

"Oh you know dad, dates were never his strong point."

"You sure he ain't having an affair?" joked Sammy, and it was all I could do from shouting, "Well as you've asked, yes, yes, your wonderful loving daddy is up to his neck in another woman!"

But I'm glad I didn't.

Later that night, as I tried to find comfort on both sides of the double bed - the dreams began. They're recurring now, but then they came as quite a surprise. So vivid, so real, first a close up of his face, his big brown eyes and strangely coifed hair, the stubble on his chin and that trademark black T-Shirt. It wasn't a sexual thing, I didn't fancy him, not a bit, I just needed something from him, approval I guess. He was seated on a chair behind a big desk, staring at me and shaking his head, and then he spoke.

"Well Tina, all I can say is that was distinctly average, and with that, Simon Cowel, Mr Nasty from Pop Idol off the telly - looked down at his notes and simply said. "Next."

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Comments by other Members

roovacrag at 22:15 on 21 November 2003  Report this post
Sorry, this kind of work will never sell.


you want people to be honest. I do this all the time. With better writers than you. Do not be down hearted,I didn't have anything like writewords to help me. xx alice

Jumbo at 01:10 on 22 November 2003  Report this post

The story line you have chosen is obviously one plucked straight from modern day life, and it is one which could stand telling from many different viewpoints. But given your chosen style of delivery, I would suspect that most of your potential readers will put this down after the first paragraph.

As an aside, I wouldn't use the word 'comercial' to describe it!

The section about people with mental illness and their dress habits I found quite offensive. Perhaps I'm over sensitive. Perhaps it's because I've dealt with some of these people in a professional capacity that I find it difficult to find any strengths in that part. Maybe your intention was to alienate the reader from the character. I don't know. But if so, I think it worked with me!

What surprises me is that your character appears not so different - in background, location, upbringing (maybe) - from those in many published stories - or indeed some popular TV soaps. But somehow you have managed to strip her of anything which makes me want to 'care' about her.

Having read to the end I found that I have absolutely no interest in what happens to the character. If you want people to read on, I think that you are in for some serious re-writing.

Good luck with this, however you choose to deal with it.



Account Closed at 08:27 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
I haven't read this yet, but a question for Alice really. How can you be so sure this will never sell? If you have some experience in this field, maybe you could write something in the forum, giving us advice on what will sell. Or say what doesn't work in this piece. That would make your comments seem more positive.
Thanks and Jubbly, I'll comment when I've read.

Jubbly at 08:57 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
I'm very sorry to have offended you Jumbo, that certainly wasn't my intention to upset anyone. I guess living in the heart of Hackney has tainted me and I've learned to cope with some very scary experiences by making light of the situations. If you've read any of my other work on the site you'll see this is quite a departure for me and I felt comfortable in being able to experiment with writing in the supportive and constructive world that is Writewords. Alice, though I appreaciate you taking the time to comment, I feel remarks such as 'better writers than you' are not constructive and if received by someone on this site who is not as thick skinned as myself, could be very destructive indeed.


bluesky3d at 09:48 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Julie -

This is well told and I found it very engaging. I was interested in her and felt her views on the characters that populate the inner city indeed represented a realistic survival strategy. Since when was the reader expected to agree with views expressed by a character in a story?

Perhaps you do not need to strive to be 'commercial' but only strive to 'tell it as it is' and strive to be as true to the character as possible, then with luck it will be successful by default.

One or two things did slightly jump out - eg the reference to the film 'Straw Dogs', is it a cultural refernce in common use in Hackney? - would a more modern film be better - or does it have some individual significance to her?

Well done - Great stuff!

Andrew :o)


Typos - 'their' 'they're' and 'there' - there were a couple of places where it went awry.

Dee at 10:04 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
I've just read this and can understand the criticism. As an experiment, I think it's a good exercise but, if you want to keep it going into a full length novel, you'll need to re-think your character. There is absolutely nothing to like about her. Nothing in her to sympathise or empathise with. The section that offended John would probably be more acceptable if it was balanced by some insight into what brought Tee to the point of having such an attitude towards people with mental illness. It may be something as simple as inexperience but you need to show us that. We need to see some level of vulnerability in her, something likeable. Even when Pete left, her reaction was two-dimensional. There was anger but no pain. And how did Simon Cowell get in there?
I hope you take these comments constructively, because that's how they're intended. I was surprised and disappointed to see such negativity from Alice. She may be right. This may never sell. But she should back up her statements with some constructive help. That is, after all, the reason we post work on this site.


Oops! Forgot to sign it.

timpig at 10:30 on 22 November 2003  Report this post

Why on earth must we LIKE main characters in fiction? I certainly didn't like this character - she seemed to be prejudiced, bitter and narrow minded - and FOR those reasons i really enjoyed this piece! At least the character was realistic!

I liked this Jubbly, it felt alive to me. If i had any crit it would be the ending, which i felt was a bit weak. But otherwise, loads of potential.

all the best,


Jubbly at 10:35 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Thanks Dee and Andrew for your comments. This is a very early draft and I wanted to get it down quickly so it hasn't had the usual painstaking re workings I normally give. I take your point about Straw Dogs Andrew and I'm very pleased you understood what I was trying to do. Dee, the Simon Cowell reference will be brought out later, as the character finds her feet in the karaoke world. I felt as the man seems to be taking over the world lately, I should incorporate him. I agree she doesn't give the reader much to empathise with at the moment, but I think I can remedy this as I get to know her. It's a challenge writing in first person for someone I'm creating as I go along without revealing anything about myself. If this makes sense. A lot of people I know who live similar lives to Tina, are as hard as nails when you first encounter them, but when you peel back the layers there is so much more there and boy have I learnt this the hard way. I am not mocking people with mental health disorders, but I want to show what it really is like in areas like this. Life isn't all rosy and green pastures, some days it's a battlefield and we all have to just get on with each other. But as I said, I don't want to offend and I'll certainly sort that bit out.

Jubbly at 10:37 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Gosh, I've set the cat amongst the pigeons this morning, something for the non rugby fans to do, great fun. Tim our threads crossed but thanks so much for the positive feed- back. I will try and make her nicer though.



Account Closed at 11:04 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
I am not offended by your character’s opinions because they are hers. At the moment it’s hard to sympathise with her because she’s quite a hard, insensitive person. I know you wanted to write this in the 1st person but maybe you could try putting it in the 3rd and then adding her voice in dialogue because I think her manner of speaking would be a bit tiring to read throughout an entire novel. In the 3rd person we would see her confusion about life but not be subjected to her opinionated views all the time. I found one typo:
That's when bought our house (we missing) and just a thought: if she never looked at the e-mail, why did she do it that evening so quickly? Also I’m not sure about hubby’s job – he seems to be doing very well and to be offered an ex-pat contract puts them in a different social category. I can’t imagine that he’d consider going to Japan.
Don’t give up on it, though (not that you would)
Hope that helps

Dee at 11:15 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Yes, thanks for the diversion, Julie. It's just gone into extra time!
I'd like to respond to Tim's question, if you don't mind.
As writers we want readers to invest time as well as money in our work. As a reader, I don't want to spend time with a character I dislike. I'm not saying I want them all to be nicey-nicey. Some of the most attractive and interesting characters are bastards but they have personality traits which make a reader want to stay with them.
Julie, I actually started reading this last night but gave up after the first few paragraphs. I only read it through to the end this morning because I was intrigued by the comments from Alice and John. In your re-write you need to build in that attraction right at the start or an agent will more than likely do the same thing I did.
Hope this helps.

Jubbly at 11:21 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Thanks Elspeth, I think you're right about Third Person, I'm so used to writing for stage and radio that I forget how much more dimension and actor can bring to your work, thus making characters much more sympathetic than orignially written. And Dee, thanks too, I agree with what you've said, I want the piece to be humourous but certainly not tedious and I was concerned her moaning voice might put people off. Strangely I like her and understand her dilemmas, but that's because I know so many people like her but I know that's certainly not coming across on the page at the moment.



bluesky3d at 12:18 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
First person works well for me in this piece - I feel it gave me more sympathy for Tina and made her more real whereas the danger in moving it to 3rd person, might be to make her views more remote, and sanitized. I do agree that colloquialisms should not be over done though.

Normally, I much prefer to read and write in 3rd person as it is easier to develop other points of view - but this piece proves the exception as it enables the reader to experience things more immediately through her eyes.

However, in making it first person Julia, you have to be extra careful that it is Tina's voice that is speaking and not Julia's. I agree that there might be some confusion as to the social standing and cultural references, but at the same time, it provides a potentially interesting aspect to develop and a possible way for her to escape from her social shackles either in her mind or in reality. (Educating Rita style?)

That you have already received so many varied and interesting comments suggests that this is a vibrant piece and in no way the 'load of old cobblers' that you suggested in jest in your summary.

Andrew :o)


ps The reference to it being Simon Cowel doesnt sound plausible. (perhaps the judge should be someone who models himself on him). Can't magine we would be would be so desperate to want to associate himself with such an event?


typo - meant 'he' would be so desperate

spud at 17:15 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Hi Jubbly

I first read this last night and wanted to think through what I wanted to say, hence the delay. Feels a bit like I missed the boat, as much of what I was going to say has been covered...but in a nutshell:

I didn't 'like' the character - too moany, BUT I wanted to find out what happened to her, and why she was on stage - so I had to keep reading.
I found her 'voice' a bit jarring, so perhaps Elspeth's suggestion of 3rd person might work well for this reason. It also took me a while to realise that she was looking back on her life and seeing how she got to that point - however could be the fact that I read it quite late at night.

Anyway, what I really want to say is keep going. I find it really difficult to step out of the flash/sort fiction genre at the moment, and so admire anyone that has the ability to tackle a novel. Good luck with it - I know you've got it in you to make it work.



Jubbly at 17:34 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Thanks Andrew again, I was thinking only late last night about Educating Rita and wondering how it would have been written if it was a novel, and that really is what I'm trying to do. This is the awakening of a niave prejudiced woman to a whole new world, I won't give up and I'm glad it's proved so contentious. Thanks too, Spud, this is my third attempt at a novel, my last was said to be very well written but not commercial enough so this time I'm going for broke.

best to everyone that's commented, even those who hate it.


Ellenna at 17:58 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Hi there am mildly surprised this has engendered such extreme views.. I feel I have met people like this , particularly as i lived for few years just off Holloway road. No, she isnt the most sympathetic of characters.. but there are people like her..I have to say though some phrases jarred because they didnt seem to be "in character" like.."preparing to participate in first sexual experience" somehow i didn't think that was Tina..

I see what you mean about ~Educating Rita character but maybe you need to make her more humourful.. to counteract her toughness.. but I think this is great...and all power to you for creating a story about someone who doesn't instantly appeal..I wonder what does happen to her...

Dee at 18:07 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
The point I was trying to make, Ellie, is that, yes of course there are people like Tina but I wouldn't want to spend time with them and I don't want to spend time with a character like them unless I know at the start that there is something about her to make it worthwhile.
I do think it's a story with potential but the character needs something to pull the reader past the first couple of chapters.


Sorry, meant to say 'first couple of paragraphs.' there!

Nell at 18:36 on 22 November 2003  Report this post

I don't know how far into your novel you are, but it often happens that as the character develops and the writer gets to know them better that he/she realises that they'll have to return to adjust the beginning. Someone may have already said that, but if so I think it's worth repeating.

I didn't much like her until the bonfire, when I began to see that she might have a genuinely wry and comic take on life, and I'm sure that as you get under her skin you'll be able to develop this fully. I don't believe that it's obligatory for the reader to like the narrator/main character in a novel, although I think we will like her as time goes on, the thing that concerns me most is that you're setting out to write the definitive commercial novel. I'd say forget all that and just get into the character and the writing. I'm sure there are hundreds of authors out there who have worked out a commercial formula but unless you're genuinely passionate about what you're writing it'll just be hard work.

I do believe you can do this Julie, and I'm glad you have faith in yourself and are sticking with it. It's early days yet - more power to your typing fingers!

Best, Nell.

timpig at 21:14 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
It seems strange to rule out reading an entire book just because you don't like the main character...it's an interesting and effective narrative angle to take that has worked for a wide range very talented and diverse writers from Charles Dickens ("A Christmas Carol") to Brett Easton-Ellis ("American Psycho").

Jubbly at 22:29 on 22 November 2003  Report this post
Tim you gladden my heart with your vociferous observations. After readg your intriguing profile I shall look forward to reading your work, but in the morning,hey, it's been a long day.

Jubbly at 16:56 on 23 November 2003  Report this post
Nell, I just wanted to say a belated thankyou for your kind words of support yesterday. I'm still surprised at all the hoo ha it caused, but there you go better to be talked about than ignored. I believe I can make this work and what's more I believe people like Tina, have a voice and deserve to be heard.

Best Julie

Nell at 07:55 on 24 November 2003  Report this post
Julie, it's definitely better to be talked about than ignored. And if all the characters in novels had politically correct ideas reading might become somewhat boring.

Have you ever read Sylvia Smith's Misadventures? I'm not comparing this to that in any way, just wondering what Alice would have said about it had she seen the manuscript before publication. The fact of the matter is that no one can ever say for sure what will or will not be published. Good luck and keep writing!

Best, Nell.

Nell at 19:14 on 24 November 2003  Report this post
Julie, you're at the top of the 'Most Popular'!

Jubbly at 07:41 on 25 November 2003  Report this post
Morning Nell, thanks for pointing out my chart sucess. I haven't read Misadventures, but I did read an interview with Sylvia Smith and I remember thinking it sounded like an odd book to be published. I'm going to re work ch one and try and marry some of the style I normally use when writing fiction. Tina's voice has been cyphoned from a stage play I co-wrote a few years back. The play was very sucessful but that is largely because the actress/writer in the lead role really made her a fully developed hilarious character and we gave her a terrible tragedy, revealed at the very end that got the audience's sympathy. Off I go then, if I can ever get a break from my youngest son who doesn't believe in sleeping and sees it as a waste of his and my time.



Nell at 07:59 on 25 November 2003  Report this post
Julie, I had one like that. It always seems to be the boys...


Not a politically correct observation, but what the hell!

Tim Darwin at 11:10 on 25 November 2003  Report this post
Julie, I've read this piece and the commentary several times, and I have enjoyed it a great deal as a study in character. It feels to me like the sort of study a dramatist might undertake to get at the inner workings of a character in under to understand her before launching into the drama. At that level--as a character study--I think it's a delight. With only a few small lapses (which others have noted), her voice is authentic, consistent, and credibly 3-dimensioned with a distinctive point of view. Creating good (that is, credible) character is, in my view, the critical thing in dramatic writing.

Whether or not we like Tina is another matter; as has been noted, the issue is whether or not we care about what happens to her. And it seems to me the problem is one of medium, and POV within medium: in a play, we can care about a character we don't necessarily like, because of their dramatic situation/choices, but in a 1st person narrated novel, liking does come in to it. If Hamlet had written his autobiography, it would probably have been a dreadful concoction of self-pity and dithering!

So, for what's worth: keep the character, she is very well crafted, but find the right medium and/or POV to use her. And good luck!

Anna Reynolds at 12:41 on 25 November 2003  Report this post
Julie, I think Tim makes a good point here- we don't need to love Tee, just to care. What worked for me was her very ordinary-ness; she seems someone who is easy to identify with whatever the reader's background, and in this sense I can see you finding a voice for her that could potentially be more mass-market. It doesn't feel as if you've quite found that voice in the beginning part of this, but it starts to come through more strongly later on, which is always the way. Possibly it needs to be condensed more, so that we move into the story more quickly, which is Pete's departure and Tina having to cope with the fall out from that? I'd certainly like to read more, and as we have said time and time again, please keep your comments constructive, helpful, and senstive. Being overly blunt or judgmental doesn't help anyone. Keep going, Julie, the only way you get at the heart and soul of this woman is to stay with her and get deeper.

Jubbly at 13:14 on 25 November 2003  Report this post
Thankyou Tim and Anna for your helpful comments. I'm going to do a big re write this week and soften her up. Still not sure about the POV but will see.



PeterOC at 22:46 on 25 November 2003  Report this post
Hi Julie,

Maybe you could keep the first person but split it into a narrative first person and a thoughts first person. Keep the nfp a little less colloqial, but at the same time revealing a bit more about Tee's emotions. I hope this makes sense. I think it's a quite endearing tale, but I also think that reading a full novel in this 'voice' would be a bit wearing.

I loved the cats being fed beans and the image of the woman handing the denist a bunch of flowers. Didn't like 'that was before me tits went'.

You're going to have to continue now though as you've so many people waiting on the next installment. Reviled or revered, you certainly wont be ignored.


Ralph at 19:38 on 23 December 2003  Report this post
Hey Julie
I'm really sorry I came to this so late and, I'm guessing, after re-writes???
I certainly didn't find anything offensive about this piece... In fact, I found it very absorbing. At first, yes, the colloquial tone set my teeth on edge a little, but I think you've got enough strength as a writer to carry this. You've certainly perfected a voice - very quickly it felt like I was reading words as they poured out of a stand-up's mouth (not that it was all comedy, just that it seemed so spontaneous and alive). There's a certainy zany quality about some of it, a delicious oddity that was completely addictive.
And I thought his was a lot better than some of the "commercial" novels I've read lately. There's a lot more meat to it - especially as nothing in it talks down to the reader or assumes that they need certain experiences explaining to them.
I really enjoyed reading this, and I'm looking forward to the second part...
All the best with it



Jubbly at 20:29 on 23 December 2003  Report this post
Hi Ralph, thanks so much for reading and commenting. It did cause quite a stir that day. I've posted ch 2 in my profile archive and I'm working on 3 and 4, hoping to enter it in a competition. Oh well, happy christmas, see you next year.


kennyp at 23:47 on 15 February 2004  Report this post
Hi Julie

I have just read the piece and I'm kind of surprised by the amount of people offended by it. It didn't offend me at all. Living in Hackney which has a large care in the community population, you do see the character described in the shop. It is now part of inner city landscape. It would be interesting to see how the story pans out.

Good luck with it anyway.

Cheers kenny

Jubbly at 07:54 on 16 February 2004  Report this post
Thanks Kenny, we sure know what it's like round here eh? I recently entered three chapters for a comp and decided to cut the bit in the shop, mainly because it came from another piece I'd written ages ago and I felt it didn't quite fit in.



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