Writing characters you can recognise from the office.

Relaxing on the beachYou know, you can’t find a decent bikini around here” said the girl 

Why do you want a bikini for, you off on holiday?” asked one of the scientists as he waited for her to find the form he needed.

 Lynda groaned. She knew exactly what was coming next.

 “Oh, didn’t I tell you. Ricki and me, we’re off to Magaluf in a couple of weeks. Get a nice bit of tan. That’s if we get outside the hotel, if you know what I mean !

 I think I’ve got a brochure in me drawer. Would you like a look ? It’s a really lovely place. Got a pool and a bar and a club in the complex. Reckon we won’t have to go anywhere to have a good time, if you know what I mean !”

This was the third time this week Lynda had heard about the holiday and, if she was honest while it might leave her team short of people, at least there would soon be no talk of pools and bars and knowing what she meant.

Phil: If you are going to set a story in an office, it helps if you’ve actually worked in one for a few years. Most people have and so they will spot unrealistic characters invented by creative types who have never experienced the grind of doing the same job day in day out.  People who can’t understand why men wear ties, that the quality stationery indicates status or that no working day includes a “huddle” to brainstorm. More to the point, you would rather die than take part in a “huddle” especially if there are bean bags involved.

Writing the office requires great subtlety. The characters must be muted. Surround yourself with beige and pale grey while writing is a great help. Creative types tend to live in a Technicolor world where people’s little foibles are indulged and even celebrated whereas the real world involves a whole lot more seething and bubbles of hatred – carefully masked of course because if they weren’t, the average British workplace would quickly become a bloodbath. Think “Lord of the Flies” with staplers.

The little scene above doesn’t move our story along much apart from fleshing out a couple of minor characters, but it provides a quick scene change and touch of comic relief in the middle of a more serious section. Most people will have worked with someone who wants to bang on about their holidays and looks for any excuse to shoehorn the subject into a conversation so I’m hoping for a little chuckle of recognition as they picture their own bete noir. If they think, “That is just like…” then we’ve succeeded.

To be fair, there are lots of people like this and holidays are more palatable topics of conversation than why ‘elf and safety is ruining the country and less tedious than a description of their latest object of desire on the Autotrader website.

I also wrote the section for a more unusual, but nevertheless practical reason. You see, we know that when the publishing world picks up on the book, there will be a bidding war for the film and TV rights. Whoever wins is going to have to offer a part to one half of the writing team as a condition of the contract. The role has to be a speaking one and it somehow a woman who is always going on holiday just sort of formed itself in my head. Vikki and her boyfriend Rikki make a quick appearance earlier in the book. He will be played by George Clooney. That’s also what it will say in the contract.


Filed under Phil, Writing

2 responses to “Writing characters you can recognise from the office.

  1. Spot on Phil. Worst thing about working for a company? – role playing weekends. A shudder passes up my spine when I think of them! Second worst thing – dress down Fridays. As us creative types went around in jeans, Kickers and t-shirts there wasn’t anywhere for us to go sartorially speaking, so we dressed up. The Suits (mainly the ad account managers) tried to look cool in their jeans but as they always had creases in them, it didn’t quite come off. There were also a lot of dodgy jumpers about but, hey! man, this was the 70’s!

  2. You know – the beach looked exactly like that…. 🙂

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