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Exercise Nine: Workplace

The Art of Writing Fiction Michael Wheatley

‘Your rules are these: decide on the social context you wish to record, then set your own time limit, depending on how often you go there… then each time you attend, bring back an incident, a conversation or a character sketch to record in your journal.’

With Exercise Nine of Andrew Cowan’s ‘The Art of Writing Fiction’, the anecdote repertoire continues to blossom as I observe incidents in my workplace.

For those unfamiliar, I work at Marks and Spencer, and have done for about three years on-and-off at this point. Unsurprisingly, over those three years I have a fair few stories to tell… the jacket potato gentleman, for instance, still irks me to this day. As I set about this exercise, I prayed for interesting occurrences, and was not disappointed.

Below are four records taken from my past four shifts (names have been changed):


Exercise Nine: Workplace

Wednesday, 20th June 2018

Joanna told me she was going on holiday after Friday.
‘To the Isle of Wight’, she said.
A friend of hers is starting a yurt camp for glampers by the coast.
‘How are the puppies?’ I asked.
‘They’re cute and adorable and assholes’, she said. ‘They still haven’t opened their eyes’.

Friday, 22nd June 2018

Just before he left, John started singing Céline Dion.
‘It’s all coming back to me now’.
This soon gave way to a band called Divinyls, and John and I imagining singing it to customers.
‘I don’t want anybody else, when I think about you I touch myself’, John sang.
‘Are you okay for bags?’ I finished.

Sunday, 24th June 2018

‘Were you on yesterday?’ I asked.
‘In the morning, yeah. Why?’ replied James.
‘Was everything okay?’
‘It wasn’t your responsibility, you left at 5. Yeah, it was fine, Mikey. It could have been flawless and I’d still have blamed Phil.’

Wednesday, 27th June 2018

Today, Graham, wanted to create a new system for the haphazardly organised groceries housed in darkness.
‘Lionel Jones used to say he was off to get his miners hat’, said John.
‘I mean look at this’, Graham said, pointing at an unclear, packaged product. ‘It looks like a letter bomb’.
‘I just don’t want this to be like Brexit and we regret it for the next year’, Graham finished.
‘Two years’, I added.



An exercise which felt risky, because I’d quite like to keep my job. But, also an exercise which seems tremendously applicable; as we are all familiar with one another in my store, the conversations we have are appropriately casual. These descriptions have an appropriately ‘real’ feel in their mundanity and absurdity.

Depending on what happens in the future, these work observations may be shifted to observations of my Masters class. Similarly to the differences in Street Life observations, this change in environment could yield interesting results.


Next: Home Life.

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