Characters

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‘Strong, well-rounded characters who spring from the page fully formed are the most valuable currency for every writer.’

How you find characters varies from writer to writer:

– you collect details as you go along

– you collate details from people you know

– some emerge fully formed from the sub-conscious (like Dracula in a dream to Bram Stoker)

‘The way to make characters believable is for you, as a writer, to inhabit their skin – imagine what it is like to be that person, no matter how unlikeable, corrupt or creepy.’

‘The telling detail can give us as much, if not more, than any amount of description.’

Exercise

Think of a character who has little in common with you:

• establish the basics: name, age, nationality, appearance etc

• start to think about who they really are: what do they like to eat? what is their favourite item of clothing? what do they smell like?

• then ask: what is their greatest fear? what is the first thing anyone notices about them? what is their relationship with their parents?

Now write a scene with the character in it. Keep it ordinary and everyday, like doing the dishes. Let their actions tell us about them.

Source: How to write, Kate Pullinger, The Guardian, 2009

Writing with colour

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Colours are rich in symbolic value and cultural meaning.

All colours are capable of activating our senses in ways we may not be consciously of:

– yellow > fun

– red > exciting

– green > calming

– black > power and aggression

The names used to describe colours are often just as important as the colours themselves … colour names are powerful tools for shaping the reader’s experience and helping to create a specific image. Gravy-brown, for example, does not evoke the same image as coffee-brown.

Exercise

Choose an emotion and a setting. Now describe your setting from the point of a view of a character who is feeling the emotion you have selected. Include lots of colour to suit the emotion.

Source: The five-minute writer, Margaret Geraghty, How to Books, 2009

Voice

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‘All good writers, whether we are aware of it or not, establish a bond with their readers by sustaining a distinctive narrative voice’:

Alisa Cox, Writing Short Stories, A Routledge Writer’s Guide

How to find?

  • pick up linguistic habits from the writers you are reading
  • your writing voice will derive largely from your speaking voice
  • forget any pressure to write ‘standard’ or ‘good’ English

Exercise

Write a monologue about anything you love or loathe such as:

  • where you are at
  • the opposite sex
  • the worst thing about Christmas
  • my most embarrassing moment
  • my idea of paradise
  • my idea of hell