Tuesday, 30 August 2016

A Leap of Faith

I'm following a writing course called 52 Dates For Writers at the moment. It's an interesting take on writing, suggesting ways to approach characters from a different angle. So far it's been suggested that we think about food - what would our characters eat, what would that reveal about them and how would they behave in a situation involving a meal? We have been challenged to think about how they'd dance and in order to do this we were invited to dance like no-one was watching.

We've also been asked to take them to a fortune teller. This is where today's post comes in. I thought that I'd share the piece I wrote when one of my characters visited a fortune teller. This may or may not make it through the editing process (assuming I ever get that far!) but it was an interesting piece to write. Some background to set the scene: in the novel there is a man, George, who has relationships with two women, Sally and Jemma. These relationships are polar opposites - one fiery and passionate, one steady and calm. George has to decide which he wants and the rejected woman takes it very badly. No spoilers so I won't tell you what she does or even who she is but there's some lovely writing to come as she takes her revenge! So here's what happens when Sally popped in to see a fortune teller.

Sally opened the door and parted the curtain that was draped across the doorway. A few candles and tea lights were gamely trying to add atmosphere to what was, essentially, the back room of a pub. There was a table in one corner with the usual tools of the fortune tellers trade arranged neatly on it: crystal ball, two packs of cards, one standard and one tarot. The gin was warming through her and she stifled a giggle as she looked round the room. There were two chairs facing each other tucked under the table. Sally pulled one out. It scraped across the wooden floor and she sat down to wait for whatever was going to happen.
She imagined a stooped figure swathed in shawls, heavy gold jewellery and dangling earrings. She’d have a rich voice with a trace of an Eastern European accent. Madam Arcati from Blithe Spirit sprang to mind. Sally closed her eyes and imagined how the reading would go. The fortune teller would gaze into the crystal ball and reveal her future. She’d tell her all about her success as an actress, the awards she’d win and her love life, especially her love life. Sally had a romantic view of what the fortune teller would say and the emphasis was on ‘romance’. She sighed as she thought about what would be revealed about her and George, the way they were destined to be together despite his straying lately.
Her reveries were interrupted by a creaking door and she opened her eyes to see a tall rather gangly young man standing behind the chair opposite her. He smiled and sat down. Sally looked around the room to see if anyone else was there, maybe someone who would explain what was going on.
‘I’m sorry,’ she said, ’I think you may be in the wrong room. I’m waiting to have a reading and the fortune teller will be here soon. You’d better wait outside until we’re finished.’ She flashed her most brilliant smile and turned away from him.
‘Great! I’m Nigel, the fortune teller. I’ll be doing your reading today.’
Sally turned back towards him and forced her mouth to stay shut. This couldn’t be right. Who’d ever heard of a fortune teller called Nigel?   
‘Do you have a preference?’ Nigel asked, indicating the items on the table.
Sally shook her head. This was disappointing. Nothing about this filled her with hope and she felt herself sobering up rapidly.
‘I’m not sure. I’ve never done this before. Well, there was the school fete when I was 14 but I don’t think the Geography teacher had the gift, if you know what I mean.’
Nigel steepled his hands together and his head nodded enthusiastically as Sally spoke.
‘In that case, may I recommend having your palm read? I’m very skilled in that area and most first timers find it most revealing.’
Sally struggled not to giggle when he said he was skilled in that area. She nodded and held out her hand.
‘Both hands please.’ Nigel said, his voice lowering in tone and volume.
She reached across the table and he took her hands in his, turning them palms up and closing his eyes. A few moments of quiet and steady breathing followed and Sally waited patiently.
‘This one is the dominant hand,’ Nigel said lifting her right hand gently. She placed her left hand on the table and waited.
‘What do you want to know?’ he asked. ‘Work, health, love? The choice is yours.’
‘Love.’ Sally said firmly. ‘Tell me about love.’
Nigel stared at her palm with such intensity that Sally started to feel uncomfortably warm, then hot. As an actress she was used to people looking at her but this level of personal scrutiny was something she rarely encountered. She became acutely aware of ever sound in the room: the door creaking in the breeze, someone walking past, a distant clock. But above all their breathing. The only other time Sally recalled being aware of someone’s breathing was when she was having sex. This was different and made her uncomfortable. It was intimate in a different way and she had no idea how she felt about it.
‘You have a very complicated love line. It is long, twisted and broken in places. This indicates that nothing is simple when it comes to love for you. You have loved deeply, very deeply but I sense disappointment in love. There is someone who you loved more than they loved you. You have lost them recently. Not lost to death but lost to another.’
Sally felt her mouth swinging open as Nigel spoke. How did he know this? It was as if he’d peeped into her life. All she could do was nod and swallow.
‘He’s not for you. He’s moved on and is beyond your grasp. Forget him. That part of your life is over. You aren’t ready to move on yet but you will be soon. Broken hearts mend eventually.’
Sally snatched her hand away. This was not what she had come to hear. She needed to hear that George would return to her, that she was the love of his life and he would see the error of his ways.
‘No!’ she shouted, ‘That’s not true. Look again, you’re wrong. He needs me, loves me and will come back to me. Use the cards. They’ll tell you.’
Nigel looked sadly at her and shook his head.
‘I’m sorry that you don’t like the reading but I can only tell you what I see.’
‘No!’ she shouted at him again, ‘This is a set up, you’re in it with him, aren’t you? How could I have been so stupid? Of course this is all a joke to you. I can see you both laughing as you plotted to humiliate me. Well, it won’t work. I’ll find a way to get him back!’
She stood up suddenly and sent the chair clattering to the floor. Nigel remained seated, pale and worried as she ranted. He managed to save the crystal ball when she swept everything from the table but the cards scattered across the floor. Sally stormed towards the door, opened it then turned back towards him. He clutched the crystal ball to his chest and held his breath.
‘You can tell George that I saw through your little ruse. Tell him that I’ll never give him up. Especially not to that nonentity he’s seeing at the moment!’
The door slammed behind her and Nigel waited a few moments before he felt it was safe to breathe again. That was not how his readings usually ended. He popped the crystal ball into his jacket pocket and headed to the bar, shaking slightly.        

A slightly longer post than I ususally do but I hope you enjoyed reading it. Do let me know what you think!
Also let me know if you'd like me to post anymore little bits like this from the course.

Here's a link to the course if you want to know more:



  1. Really enjoyed this scene - your writing flows so well. I would love to read more of these characters - could also imagine a series of stories as told by Nigel - interlocking tales of the people who visit him as story teller. Perhaps this could be a second project?!

    1. Thank you for that lovely comment Claire. I also love the idea of developing something with Nigel - I can imagine all sorts of kooky people visiting him!