Wednesday, 21 September 2011

WoW - the problem

The brief
Write On Wednesdays Exercise 15 Give yourself some time to notice the people around you. The people who may cross your path each day. The lady in front of you at the supermarket, the man who helps the school kids cross the road, a neighbour, a waitress in a cafe, a librarian, anyone at all. Choose one person, someone you don't know, and this person will become the basis of the week's writing exercise. Describe this person as you see them, describe their surroundings. Then imagine a problem, create conflict for this person. Describe the conflict. Describe how your character deals with the problem. The conflict might resolve itself, it might not. It is up to you. Perhaps, the lady in the supermarket has forgotten her wallet. Does she bursts into tears? Maybe the librarian finds a lost child. The aim is to show how your character responds to conflict and in the process, reveal something about that character. Tell us their story.

Let's aim for around 200 words, keeping with the theme of the last few weeks (to make each word count).

This was fun! I had a few characters in mind, but this guy intrigues me every time I see him.

His eyes snap open. The hydraulic hum, the distant smash of glass a far away call to duty. Feet to floor, he dresses quickly, buttons one two three four five, a compulsory sixth tightens his neck. High waisted jeans, longitudinal creases precisely pressed. Hair parted and combed slickly.

His pulse quickens as the noises come closer, anxiety presses in as he anticipates the disruption ahead. Socks, then shoes, laces left over right, under, looped then tightly snapped. Sugared tea stirred, exactly thrice.

He stands outside tense and waiting.  His block runs from Shipley St to Windy Parade and he must keep it right.

‘G’day, mate!!” shouts the garbo over the cacophony of rubbish and recycling. An annoyed dismissal – how dare this troublesome invader expect response?

Machines lift and lower, coloured-lidded bins crash landing spreadeagled in gutters and grass. As the truck moves off, he scuttles into action, dragging them back into place, perfectly lined.
Down the street, house after house, (the units are the biggest anxiety), order is regained. Sweaty palms pocketed, his breathing slows as he surveys his morning’s work.

Another Tuesday morning.

Would love your feedback, positive or negative!


  1. Interesting piece, though I wasn't quite sure if the main person was the garbage man or an onlooker.

  2. It was a well described piece on a not so well loved or talked about topic. I loved it.

    Anne xx

  3. I read it as a man who puts all the bins back in order after the garbos have collected them. I love it-the regimentation of this weekly routine is compelling. You wonder why he does it...

  4. Thanks Jayne, you are absolutely right. This guy marches up and down the main road lining the bins neatly. I can only imagine he has OCD..I should say hello one day! Kate

  5. You have done a fantastic job describing this man, my heart aches for how he must be feeling until he gets those bins lined up each Tuesday.

  6. Wonderfully paced piece, really enjoyed it. Have you ever read Addition by Toni Jordan about a young woman with OCD? It's a great read - love her writing!
    J x

  7. Intriguing insight into this obsessive personaility. You've described the character perfectly!

  8. Really quirky piece, I liked it. I had to read it two or three times to fully grasp that our man was not the garbo, but a really uptight neighbour. This could be a case of it's not you, it's me? Curious to see what other readers say.
    Great characterisation. Reminds me of my grandpa a little, checking his mail box, obsessively paying his bills the day they arrive in the mail. Hope you enjoyed WoW this week. :)

  9. interesting feedback - thankyou everyone! The character is so familiar to me ( and my proofreaders) that I had not considered there could be a confusion regarding the focus character. Maybe that was the intrigue?

  10. I myself have had the compulsion to fix the bins on garbage morning. Love this story and how you made sure to highlight all his habits!

  11. Great piece, each word was precise! Loved it! Doing well!


  12. Oh, bless him!

    Tuesday mornings must be very stressful for the poor man. You did a wonderful job of describing his idiosyncrasies.

  13. The pace of the story was so quick, I couldn't help but read through it fast, which perfectly matched the pace of the man's thoughts and actions. What an interesting character! So frustrating not to know the real reason behind his behaviour!

  14. Very interesting! Your descriptions are fantastic. Paced wonderfully, written beautifully. Wonderful job of outlining this man's quirks.

  15. Very cool, I really liked it. I liked your descriptions and the precision of your sentences gave that hint of OCD. The whole street should be thankful for him, I hate when the street looks a mess after the garbo's been!

  16. Yes, I read it twice and then the comments and got it. I didn't guess it was a garbo truck "the hydraulic hum" was too subtle for me!
    At first I thought he was a door man at a hotel or maybe he was employed to do a job and was caught out slacking off....
    I like the imagery, the pace and the characterisation.
    Read you later x

  17. I could feel his tension. OCD is so terribly controlling and painful to see. You did a really good job of capturing how it must feel!


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