Write a brief dialogue between your character and someone else. Make them disagree. Add in descriptive sentences throughout until you feel that it’s balanced.
The contents of the magician’s car
Jan had more or less given up on hitching a lift when the magician pulled over to the side of the road. He wound the window down.
“Where are you headed?”
He wasn’t quite wearing a hat covered in a star and moons motif, but he was sporting what looked like a velvet smoking cap and he did have a long, white beard. He also seemed friendly and, as she hadn’t seen another vehicle for more than an hour now, Jan put her bag down in relief and turned towards him.
“Ipswich. I’d be ever so grateful of a lift, if it’s not too much trouble”.
“Oh, it’s no trouble at all. I’m headed in that direction, more or less. Hop in”.
It wasn’t much of a car really. Although it didn’t seem to be that old, it also felt ancient. Opening the passenger side door, Jan paused for a moment.
“Oh, excuse the mess”. The magician reached across and began to gather up crinkling crisp packets, piles of books and what looked like a very battered leather briefcase. After a minute or so, there was just about enough room for Jan to climb inside. She tried not to think about some of the stains on the seat and felt it was probably best not to mention them. She really needed this lift, after all.
“This is really very kind of you. I wouldn’t normally do something like this. I’ll pay you petrol money of course”.
“Hmm? Oh, don’t be ridiculous. It’s no bother at all. No bother. You look exhausted. Why not close your eyes for a moment and enjoy the ride?” He waved his right hand in a slightly odd gesture, and Jan immediately felt her eyes beginning to sag. Maybe she was more tired than she thought? Before giving in to the sudden drowsiness, Jan glanced behind her, into the back of the car behind the driver’s seat. What she saw quickly drove any thoughts of sleep out of her mind. She gestured over her shoulder.
The magician didn’t even bother looking back and instead kept his hands firmly on the wheel. “That, young lady, would be none of your business”. His extravagantly bushy eyebrows arched upwards in a mild rebuke.
“What do you mean? It’s glowing!” Even as she spoke, the faint blue light she’d seen emanating from the back seat began to intensify and to gently pulse.
The magician continued gazing out of the windscreen into the night and said nothing. As it turned out, the sound of the engine wasn’t quite enough to obscure other sounds.
“What was that?”
A flash of irritation crossed the magician’s face. “Also none of your business”.
Jan suddenly felt vulnerable, trapped in a moving car. Being stuck in the cold, dark night on the edge of the road in the middle of nowhere didn’t seem so bad now.
As if sensing her discomfort, the magician’s demeanour softened and he let out a gentle sigh. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I don’t often have other people in the car, but you looked a little forlorn back there on the side of the road and I felt I really ought to stop to offer you a lift. I’m not much of a knight in shining armour, I’m afraid, but there’s nothing to be afraid of. Not really”.
Hearing this, Jan began to breathe more easily, but the blue glow in the back seat seemed to be getting brighter and brighter. “I don’t mean to pry, but what is that?” She angled her head slightly to one side, indicating the back seat. “If you don’t mind me asking, of course”.
The eyebrows flickered briefly, but then the magician sighed a little and turned his head towards her.
“It’s really nothing to be afraid of. Just don’t make any sudden moves and you’ll be fine. Most likely. He doesn’t like surprises or strangers, but he’s usually sleepy at this time of day.”
Jan turned anxiously to look at the back seat again. The glow seemed to be coming from underneath a large picnic blanket. As she watched, she could see that the blanket was moving slightly, as if something was breathing slowly and rhythmically underneath it. It seemed to be snoring slightly.
“What kind of a dog is it?”, Jan asked hopefully.
“Oh, it’s not a dog. What makes you think I have a dog?”
Jan blinked. “Are you going to tell me what it is?”
“No. I’ve told you: it’s none of your business. Besides, you wouldn’t understand and you’d get upset”.
“Can you pull over the car, please? I’d like to get out.”
“Don’t be ridiculous. It’s the middle of the night and we’re in the middle of nowhere. I’m not about to stop the car to leave you here. It wouldn’t be safe”.
“But it’s safe in the car?”
That flash of exasperation again. “Yes. Of course it is”.
“Then what’s under the blanket? Why is it glowing?”
The magician seemed to focus even harder out of the car windscreen. Perhaps it was Jan’s imagination, but were his knuckles turning white as he clutched the steering wheel? It started to rain, and now the gentle sound of breathing from the backseat was obscured by the rhythmic thud of the wipers.
“I told you that you should rest. It would perhaps be better for us all if you just had a little nap until we get to Ipswich”. The magician made that strange hand gesture again, more emphatically this time, and Jan felt the world beginning to swim before her eyes. She fought the feeling, but everything suddenly seemed so far away and unimportant to her now. The only thing that mattered was sleep.
Jan only awoke when the car suddenly stopped and she was jerked into consciousness. It wasn’t raining any more, but it wasn’t quite yet light. It must be nearly dawn, she thought. I’ve been asleep for hours. As she surfaced, she began to remember and instinctively checked the seat behind her. The blanket was still there, but she couldn’t see any movement and it was no longer glowing. She turned back to find the magician beaming at her.
“Hello there. Did you sleep well?” Without bothering to wait for a response, the magician continued. “Well, we’ve made it safely to Ipswich”.
Jan blinked at him sleepily and looked out of the car window again. They were pulled up on a quiet residential street somewhere. It could have been anywhere for all she knew.
“We’re just off the ring road, about ten minutes’ walk from the main square”.
“Thank you. That’s very kind of you”. Jan paused before continuing. “I had a very strange dream last night. It seemed very real, though”.
The magician turned to face her, the bottom of his strange little smoking cap almost touching his magnificent eyebrows. “Oh really? Well, I’m sure it was nothing”. He seemed almost amused.
“Well”, said Jan, “I suppose I should let you get on. Thanks again for the lift.”
“Oh, it was nothing. A pleasure”.
Jan opened the door and began to lift herself out of the car. As she turned to close the door, movement caught her eye and the blanket on the back seat seemed to twitch suddenly. The magician seemed unperturbed, but perhaps keen to move on.
“Be sure to take care now. Goodbye!”
Jan pushed the door closed, the magician pulled away and within seconds, he was gone.
Jan really hoped this was Ipswich.
Read: The Case for Being Less Serious
2 days ago