Developing a character

Week one short character sketch

The Lady Bianca – character sketch

Week 4 exercise – woman on a bus (4.6 and 4.7)

‘A woman on a bus today carried her Pekinese dog inside her handbag. It had a red bow on its head that matched her sweater.’

This short description of a real person could be the starting point for a fictional character. Imagine:

  • Who might she have been?  An elderly woman living in a flat in Chelsea. She was a dolly bird in the swinging sixties. Her name is Alexandra but since the age of 18 she has been Sandi. She has always had a lapdog, and the dog has always been called Mitzi. She has also always co-ordinated the dog’s ribbon with her outfit. She gets the ribbon from John Lewis.
  • Where was she going? To a tarot card reading. Mitzi is coming with her because the lady who does the tarot readings also has a pekinese, and she is hoping that she can suggest that Mitzi (who is male) should service the female peke, rather than Sandi having to pay for the reading.
  • What did her appearance suggest about her mood or state of mind? She has just fallen in love with her Polish plumber. She wants to know what she should do to make the Polish plumber fall in love with her.
  • How old was she? 76
  • How did she live?  Alone. She is confused and very lonely because most of the friends from the old days have died.

Asking ‘What if?’ (4.8)

What if the woman who is doing the tarot reading dies in the middle of the reading and Sandi decides to stay in her house/assume her identity.

What if the plumber’s girlfriend realises that the flat is full of valuable vintage designer clothes? (this would have to be a completely different plot line).

Sandi did have some work as a photographic fashion model when she was in her twenties. She has kept all the clothes she managed to acquire during that time. Some hang in cupboards in the second bedroom of her flat, others are crammed into black plastic bags. Some of them are now extremely valuable, like the Pucci print psychedelic shift minidress, and the boxy plastic Courreges coat. The plastic is now a bit brittle and crackly.  She had worn it with a funny little space-agey helmet hat, pulled forward over her forehead. Her big smoky eyes with the long sweep of black eyeliner and the false lashes peeked out like a doll’s from under it.

Her first pekinese was a gift from a designer. She had had to hold it in a photo shoot. It was a very bad-tempered creature and nipped everybody, but when Sandi held her she calmed down as if by magic. She and Mitzi became inseparable.

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