I began writing a few years ago when hearing loss forced me to retire from teaching drama. It also meant giving up acting at the Little Theatre company I’d belonged to for many years. Being unable to hear cues hardly inspires confidence in your fellow actors! Having used the words of others in both these capacities I decided to fill this enormous gap by trying to pen some words of my own. I was lucky to find a brilliant creative writing group with a wonderful teacher and I now write each day. My newfound hobby has become something of an addiction and in 2018 I was thrilled to get my first novel published. As my work grows it seems sensible to put it all in one place. I began with this blog but have now changed to a website, where I’d love you to join me. Details of my novel ‘CRASH’, along with other short stories and poems can now be found at JMHulme.com.
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How do you develop characters for your stories?
When I was writing CRASH by J.M.Hulme I needed a baddie. I knew in my head exactly the type of person I wanted, as he was already in my imagination – but I hadn’t seen him in real life.
Then one day a speed walker passed by my house. He was very small, middle aged, had brown hair (possibly dyed), wore rimless glasses and was extremely focused. Now I’m sure he was a perfectly nice man, who would be horrified to know he’d been cast as a manipulative monster in my novel – but he was exactly the person I had in my mind. Being able to view him in the flesh meant I could add to my mental image.
As a drama teacher I always enjoyed taking a character from the page and turning them into believable people. I guess with writing you have to do much the same – but the other way round – first find the flesh and bones and then paint a picture of them by using words, allowing your reader to visualise them.
I’d love to hear the devices you use when developing your characters!
When did I turn from being a creative writer to becoming a writing junkie, compelled each day to write a new poem, begin a new story or create a new character?
Am I like the jogger who takes up running to keep fit, only to find s/he can’t complete a day without an adrenaline rush – or the smoker needing a nicotine fix.
Images stay muddled in my head until I pick up my pen – then my head explodes and words come tumbling out like magic as my pen takes over. Characters are born, stories told and I end up exhausted – yet refreshed.
Does anyone else feel that way? If so I’d love to hear. Meanwhile, having had my fix I’ll end my rant.
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On a miserable, wet, Monday morning a thoughtless driver unwittingly causes an accident involving several vehicles. He drives away oblivious to the carnage he has caused behind him. However, his actions have been recorded on camera.
After the accident people are forced to take stock, resulting in radical changes to their lives. For some the changes are positive, for others tragic.
Tensions build as one person takes their own life and another stands trial for murder.
Becoming a published author has been a dream come true – but it is also a little frightening. In my poem below I try to put into words my feelings.
Today I glow
My seeds unleashed take on new form in others eyes
Pages now exposed burst into life
The embryo fashioned in my mind becomes real
Figments of my imagination live afresh, are reshaped.
Loved, loathed, laughed at, they rise,
Explain their problems, tell their stories.
Today I glow, as from the page my child is born.
For more poems and stories please visit me on my website
I’d love to hear from you!
There’s something wrong with Danny, he’s become withdrawn,
He used to be so happy, now he seems forlorn.
Is it the age he’s going through? We used to be so close,
Now he’s shut away in his bedroom, so sad and so morose.
I only want to help him. I’m not trying to intrude
But if I begin to question he becomes quite rude.
I can’t tell anyone and I don’t want to worry Mum
If I did it would only make it worse.
I don’t want to go to school. Why are they all so cruel?
What have I done to deserve this curse?
Today they tied me to a tree – used me as a target – threw mud at me.
I hear their laughter in my head each night as I lie in bed.
I see someone watching from afar, knowing it’s not right,
Yet they don’t want to get involved, to help me in my plight.
Why won’t they stop them – be my friend?
Why won’t they help make my agony end?
I just want to lie down and die – not pathetically cry.
People say, ‘Stand your ground, when you see the advancing crowd.’
But when its only you, you can’t!
They advise, ‘Tell the teacher of your class’, yet if you do they call you a grass.
I really don’t know what to do –
No one knows what I’m going through,
No one cares how I feel inside.
Why did I let it happen? Perhaps I should have seen.
Maybe I could have done more for the lad,
But I didn’t realise it had got that bad!
I must share the blame. Its my job to protect –
Yet I’ve so much to do – I can’t be perfect!
It was only a bit of fun – a laugh to put on Twitter,
It wasn’t our fault he was so soft, or that he was a quitter.
He just let it happen; we didn’t inflict any pain,
We didn’t know he’d take his own life, that he wouldn’t play our game.
Today we are assembled to mourn the loss of Dan,
A lovely young boy – who will now never grow to become a lovely young man.
Many of you sitting here saw what he went through
And you’ll be asking of yourself, ‘Was there anything I could do?’
To stand aside – to see it happen – means we are all held to account.
Let’s hope we’ve learnt our lesson –
And let’s kick bullying out!
Today I am saddened as I read there are 1,700 fewer drama teachers in the UK than there were eight years ago. As a retired drama teacher I worry our children are getting a raw deal. I am not knocking our government, because this problem has been going on for years.
As soon as it is realised that drama benefits are for all – not just would-be actors – so much the better!
Although some children I taught went on to drama schools, most pursued other careers.
We live in an age when computers have become our chosen form of communication. Verbal communication seems to have been down graded, dismissed as if of no importance.
On the same day as reading about the drop in drama teacher numbers, I read how private Improvisation classes are helping those suffering with anxiety.
Perhaps if drama and improvisation were taught from an early age, anxiety would be lessoned and stressful life situations, found so difficult, could be explored and understood within a safe environment, before they become out of our control.
Such classes should not be available only to the chosen few! It is the responsibility of the government – of which ever political persuasion – to be aware of this subjects value!
The bubbly blond with the big heart came rushing into the hospital, crashing through the doors in her haste not to be late again!
‘Please don’t let there be another ticking off from Matron!’ she thought.
The diminutive nurse took the lift and made her way up to Neurosurgery, where she walked briskly across to the nurse’s station. Her stomach felt less than secure after a night on the tiles and she hoped she’d be able to keep its contents from leaving her. Not a good image to have a nurse vomiting all over their bed.
‘Ugh! Never, never again!’ She told herself for the umpteenth time.
She passed Mrs. Bennett’s bed and waved a hand in her direction.
‘You look as if you should be in my bed my dear – another heavy night was it!’
Cathy put a hand on her stomach and pulled a face displaying to the lady she was right. ‘Oh god, even the patients know about my indulgent life-style! I must put my social life on hold for a bit!’ she chided herslf.
The deep thunderous voice of Matron echoed around the ward! Cathy took a deep breath. Oh well, here goes!
‘Nurse Jackson! Thank you for eventually dragging yourself into work, particularly as you’re not feeling up to the mark I see!’
‘I’m sorry I’m late Matron’ she stammered.
Matron’s beady eyes scanned Cathy Jackson.
‘Maybe you should first visit the Ladies Room and tidy yourself up. Apply a little blusher; it will make you look more like a nurse and less like a patient. When you’ve done that perhaps you will do me the honour of visiting me in my office.’
Matron actually rather liked Nurse Jackson. She reminded her of herself many years ago, before the NHS had knocked all the stuffing out of her. Nurses, she felt, needed to be spirited as well as caring to successfully deal with patients and all the problems that their treatment put before them. However she wasn’t going to tell Nurse Jackson that!
In the corridor outside the Ladies Room Cathy bumped into Doctor Green – or Mike as she knew him outside the hospital grounds. Her heart missed a beat – she’d give him bed room any time!
‘Good morning Nurse Jackson – in a hurry?’
‘Yes, late again I’m afraid Doctor Green. I’ve just been sent to tidy myself up before going to get a dressing down from Matron.’
‘You need to learn to pace yourself Nurse,’ he laughed, as she hurriedly disappeared into the washroom.
She looked at herself in the mirror. Ugh! Matron was right, she did look a sight. She certainly wouldn’t be whispering sweet nothings into Doctor Green’s ear looking like this!
Having spruced herself up she went to knock on Matron’s door to hear her fate – and after being well and truly disciplined she was given her duties for the day. She went across to bed 4 – Mrs Brenda Milburn – who was looking pale and worried as she fixed her eyes on the lights in the ceiling, her mind a million miles away.
‘How are you feeling today Brenda?’ she asked.
Brenda looked across at Cathy, seemingly confused as she came back down to earth, leaving her far away thoughts on the ceiling.
‘You’re having your Op tomorrow, aren’t you? Is anything worrying you?’
Mrs M nodded.
‘Can you advise me, my dear?Should something happen during the operation I don’t wish to be resuscitated. Is there a form I need to sign for that?’
‘Nothing will go wrong!’ assured Cathy.
‘But if it does, I want to be prepared.’
‘I’ll get someone to come across and explain everything to you – but I’m sure you’re worrying unnecessarily! What’s made you feel like this?’
‘I’ve always been very independent, my dear. I don’t want to spend the days I have left having to be looked after. I would rather take the wonderful life I’ve had and leave it at that. I don’t want to be a burden to my family. I’ve had a good life and I want them to have the same – I don’t intend being the one to spoil it for them.’
Cathy squeezed Mrs. M’s hand.
‘I’m quite sure you’d never do that! From what I’ve seen they love you very much!’
‘That’s exactly why I need to do this. They do love me and would want to do all they could for me. I want to spare them that. If I don’t sign that form – and if it did happen that the children were put in the position of having to pull the plug – that would be unbearable for them! Can you imagine their guilt? Better it’s me than one of them.’
‘I’ll send someone to talk to you.’
Cathy was troubled. In a way she could sympathise with her patient. She’d seen, only too often, worn out carers trying to do their best for their parents.
Mike had just come onto the ward and she told him of Mrs. Milburn’s worries.
‘She wants to sign a DNR Mike. Can you speak to her? I didn’t know how to advise her.’
Mike walked across to Mrs M and Cathy watched as she once again explained what she wanted. He sat by her bed and talked to her, answering the questions she posed to him. Eventually he rose and came back to speak to Cathy.
‘Give her a minute or two and then go across and see if she took it all in – see if she’s understood what I told her. She’s a frightened lady trying to hide her emotions. Just give her time to absorb what I said.’
‘Does she still want to sign the DNR form?’
‘Yes. She seems determined. Let’s hope her operation goes well and we don’t have to abide by it.’
At the end of a long shift Cathy went home to her little flat. She couldn’t get Mrs M off her mind. This was new to her. Most patients were only too happy to know the doctors would do everything they could to save them! She sat thinking. Would she also want to make this decision – could she be unselfish enough to ask for it? How will Mrs. M’s children feel when they know her wishes? Cathy knew she would always want be there for her mom – but will her mom always want her to be?
And WHY! Why did the poor lady have to make this decision now? Why couldn’t she just sign a form saying she wants out if or when her quality of life becomes too hard to accept? Why couldn’t they just give her a lethal injection then, if her suffering became too much for her? Why had she been driven to make this choice before anyone knew the outcome of her operation? Sometimes a heart can stop beating during an operation but often it resolves itself within a few days. The law had taken this option away from her. How could it possibly allow people to choose to end their life via a DNR but not to choose to stop the medication they need to survive when life becomes intolerable! As long as the patient was of sound mind and it was their decision, what was the difference?
When she arrived at the hospital next morning Mrs. Milburn had already been taken up to theatre and hadn’t returned by the time Cathy had finished her shift.
When she saw Mike later in the bar, he was laughing and joking, obviously the life and soul of the little group that stood about him. He saw her watching him and sent across one of his dazzling smiles. She wanted to go and ask him how things had gone with Mrs. M’s op but knew better than to ‘talk work’ with a group of medics out enjoying themselves. She’d wait until tomorrow.
She decided she didn’t want any more to drink and made her excuses to leave her group of friends. Somehow she didn’t feel like socialising tonight. As she got to the door an arm reached across her shoulder and pushed it open for her. She looked up surprised to see Mike standing behind her.
‘Had enough already?’ he asked cheerily.
‘Yes, not in the mood tonight. I’ll see you tomorrow.’
To her surprise he followed her outside.
‘She didn’t make it Cath. I had to stand back and let her go.’
They stood in the drizzling rain, lit by a pool of street light.
‘I’m sorry Mike,’ she whispered.
‘It happens! We have to pick ourselves up. We can’t dwell on it. As they say, ‘tomorrow is another day.’
She nodded, understanding now that his life and soul mood at the bar was there to protect him, to protect him from getting too close – from feeling too much.
‘Do you fancy going for a bite to eat, I’m starving,’ he said jovially, apparently back to his old bon homme self.
‘That would be great!’ she replied.
Perhaps she would be hearing those sweet nothings after all!
(A poem about our first boat trip together)
My first boat trip
Will I like it?
Never sailed before in my life!
Going through locks must be hard work
Will it be worth the strife?
The sun is shining
It could be good
The trees creating shade.
I think I may enjoy this hobby –
Oh heck! It’s going to rain!
Moor the boat!
Pull up the canopy!
This isn’t a good start!
Rain now dripping from my nose
I doubt I look the part!
Oh well, wet now!
I bet he’s changed his mind.
Make up gone and hairs a mess –
Reckon this trip could be our last time!
Now a lock – god this is hard –
Perhaps he’ll come and help –
Why is he sitting in the dry
While I’m here flogging myself!
Now the lock gates are stuck fast,
What am I going to do?
The gates won’t open fully –
Oh! Maybe he’ll get through!
Oh shit he’s stuck
The boat’s held fast
By gates on either side
Looks like we won’t get too far –
Bet that will hurt his pride!
(We went on to marry the following year and had many more boat trips together – all resulting in some kind of adventure!)
THE BABY GIVER: A romantic comedy
SCENE – Amanda’s flat.
(Amanda wearing faded jeans and an equally faded baggy top is lounging on the sofa in her ground-floor flat. Sitting next to her is her friend, Sukie, who by contrast is colourfully dressed in an Aztec beaded smock, her long flowing hair encircled by a braid , skin-tight leggings and knee high black boots, her image completed by large round ‘shades’. There’s an empty bottle of wine on the table in front of them.)
I’m thirty four Sukie! My clock is ticking.
Well, you’ll never find a man if you sit in here every night. You need to get out there and flaunt yourself!
But I don’t want to flaunt myself – and I don’t want a man Suke! I never wanted a man! Men are trouble and I’ve been hurt too many times by them.
(Laughing) Well, I’m sorry to tell you that if you want a baby you need to find yourself a man first!
Why? (Sukie continues to laugh at her friend) NO! Don’t laugh at me! Just tell me why I can’t have a baby without having to take on all the rubbish that comes with a man. I’m not cut out to be the stereotypical little woman – and I can do without all that sex too! All I want is the end result – a baby!
Well sorry, but I’m afraid you can’t have one without the other.
What are you suggesting – putting an advert in the local rag? ‘Fertile man wanted for one night stand?’ (Sukie throws her legs across her friend’s lap and falls back into the sofa, laughing uproariously – then she stops abruptly and sits up.) Hang on, wait a minute. You know that’s not such a daft idea!
Why am I stuck with a batty friend like you? Oh, to hell with it, let’s open another bottle. (Amanda gets up and crosses to the cupboard to fetch another bottle of wine)
It’s not that batty Mand! Think about it. We could put an ‘Ad’ online …. (Sukie, now excited, begins to mull her idea over) ….. We’d need to fix a few rules first and it would have to be worded right ……
(Laughing) No one would apply!
They would if we offer a cash incentive, they’ll come rolling in! We could ask for photos and vet them first …… just to make sure they look presentable …… and you wouldn’t need to see them apart from ‘ON THE DAY! I could do all the vetting! (She is now really excited) Come on Mand! It’s a brilliant idea! Let’s get the Ad written and we can email it off tonight! Now, what kind of man do you see as the perfect father for your child?
(Laughing as she tops up their wine glasses) You really are mad Suke …. but if I was looking I’d say … definitely no bald heads – or at least they must have the capacity to grow hair …
(Typing into her mobile phone) N-o b-a-l-d h-e-a-d s. No bald heads!
… and no beards. The thought of all that dirty, rough hair rubbing across my babies face would be an absolute no-no!
(Typing) No … beards.
… and no smokers, I couldn’t stand the smell – not even for ten minutes … (Looking into her wine glass) the odd drinks ok – but only within reason … and most important, I wouldn’t want beer bellies!
(Typing) No beer bellies! (Looking at the list she has written) This is great – I’ll be Auntie Sukie before you know it!
Hold on, I’m not saying I’m going to agree? After all it’s me who’s going to have to ‘perform’!
Close your eyes and think of England! It would be all over in a flash. We won’t be asking for a marathon session – just a quick wham-bam, pay him and you’ll never see him again! And just think – the end result will be a baby! It might be worth getting a written agreement though to defer all paternity rights before you begin. Come on, let’s do it! Let’s get the advert done!
SCENE – The lift outside Amanda’s office.
(The following morning – Amanda tumbles out of the lift, bumping into John Russell, a colleague)
Sorry John. I had a bad night – too much wine – wasn’t looking where I was going – sorry! (He smiles and walks on) What does he think he looks like? Who wears a Fair Isle tank top in this day and age? (She looks at her mobile phone) Nothing from Sukie yet – with luck no one will have seen the advert. Why the hell did I let her talk me into doing it? That’s what happens after sharing two bottles of wine I suppose. (Phone rings making her jump) Oh god, it’s Sukie! Hi Suke…………. What none? Good! How do you feel? I’ve had the most awful morning. First I bumped into a long haired youth sending the entire content of my handbag all across the platform – then an old lady congratulated me when she handed me back the Mother and Baby magazine I’d dropped ……….. What? ………..Oh I’d bought it to read on the train. I thought I’d better get myself up to date with parenting skills in case there were any replies………. Tonight? …….OK……..See you! Bye!
SCENE – Amanda’s flat
(Sukie comes bounding in full of energy)
We’ve got four replies!
WHAT! \FOUR? REALLY? What are they like?
Give me a chance, I haven’t had time to look properly yet!
Let me see!
No! We decided you don’t see them till ‘the day’! Remember the rules!
Oh come on Suke. You won’t believe the day I’ve had! I had to stand up all the way home on the train while some slick suited business type sat comfortably reading his newspaper. I wondered if he’d have been quite so unchivalrous if I’d been heavily pregnant! So go on – just a few hints won’t hurt. Age – Job – Hair? – No baldies please Suke! You did remember to say that, didn’t you?
You won’t be looking at his hair Mand! It’s not his hair we’re worried about.
I know that – but it’s just my luck the child will take on all his worst qualities!
SCENE Sukie’s flat.
Sukie has printed off the potential baby giver photographs which she now has spread out on the table in front of her.)
(Talking to herself) Right, let’s have a look at Man A. (she frowns) mmm ….. He looks a bit weedy – and he wears specs……. mmm …. Perhaps a bit intense …. But that could mean he’s reliable….not very fashion conscious though – but then neither is Mandy!
OK, now for Man B. (She looks at photo and frowns) Oh dear, he’s a bit rough round the edges! He’s definitely in it for the money…… Ah, he’s holding a guitar, that’s promising! (She turns up her nose and shakes her head) No, he’s definitely out. I can almost smell him from here. Mandy would never forgive me! (She gives a deep sigh) Let’s hope Man C is a bit better. Mm….. James Bond type…..wearing a suit and tie ……. certainly looks more intelligent! This could be the one! …..But perhaps James Bond might be too flighty for Mandy; she is a home lover after all. That leaves Man D. (Nods slowly as she takes him in) Well he looks the most fun loving of the four – and cool with it. His long hair is certainly a plus ….. Well it is for me but would it be for Mandy? Well I know which one I’d choose – but sadly he’s not for me and Mandy’s never been known to have the best taste in men. Oh I don’t know! None of them look right ….. But it’s not as if she has to fall for him, she’s only seeing him once. As long as he’s presentable and has no obvious defects to pass on to the baby, any of them would do.
SCENE – Amanda’s flat
(Sukie is now dressed in green leggings, high boots, a cropped purple tee and a blue leather cap on her head – while Amanda wears a dressing gown.)
Now you will stay in the kitchen all the time won’t you and if you hear me yell come in as fast as you can.
Yes, we’ve been over this a thousand times Mand, stop worrying!
I really can’t think why I let you organise this.
Because you have no other friends capable of doing it, that’s why. Who else but me cares about your welfare? (Smiles) And I want to be an auntie as well.
(The doorbell rings. They both jump up. Sukie gives a thumb’s up followed by a high five which Amanda reluctantly returns. Sukie goes towards the door, stops, pulls down her tee shirt and exits to open the door. Amanda looks terrified)
(Whispering to herself over and over) Baby, baby, I’m doing this for a baby. (Voices heard off) Oh, he’s coming in! I can hear his footsteps on the linoleum! (There is a tap on the door and the tension builds as the door begins to slowly open – until) JOHN RUSSELL! What the hell are you doing here? (John Russell enters wearing a Fair Isle jumper – they both stand open-mouthed, staring at each other for a few second – then Amanda bursts into tears and rushes out of the room shouting) SUKIE HOW COULD YOU!
(We hear the front door slam as she runs out of the flat into the night.)
SCENE – Sukie’s flat – A year later.
( Sukie, is sitting cradling a baby. She is wearing a white trouser suit)
So that’s how you came into the world little one. You see I kept the photo of the long haired fellow and emailed him back. I told him that, although he hadn’t been the successful candidate, there was a chance he could help another maiden in distress! At least I’d summed him up correctly; he was certainly a guy up for a laugh! Then you came along my precious.
(The doorbell rings)
Ah, at last! (She shouts) Come on up, the door is open! (Turns her attention back to the baby) Now you will be a good girl today, won’t you? It’s a very special occasion because it’s not only your mummy and daddy that are getting married today! You see after all the who-ha Auntie Amanda found out she did rather like Uncle John after all. I think your mummy might have a gift for this matchmaking business.
(Amanda looking flustered, bustles into the room dressed as Sukie, in an identical white trouser suit)
Sorry we’re late Suke. We were just about to leave the flat when madam here decided to fill her nappy and I had to go back and change all her clothes. Are you ready? The boys are waiting downstairs. Come on. Looks like it’s going to be a nice day!