What's it about?

This blog has a very specific purpose: it's a place to post prompts for creative writing during the time of the lockdown. Initially it was for the use of my writing group, as we cannot for the time being meet in person - but I want to open it up to anyone who'd like to have a go at creative writing. I very strongly believe that writing is good for you: while you're writing, you're off somewhere else - you've escaped! And that can only be a good thing during lockdown.

Do sign up to be notified by email when a new prompt is posted - usually on Thursdays - and I would love to hear how you're getting on in the comments. Have fun!

Thursday, 9 April 2020

Creating characters

For many writers, characters are the most important part of any story. Author Inbali Iserles has created - for the lockdown - a series of videos about how to write a novel. I settled down happily to watch the one on plotting (watch it here) - which is not my strongest point; but found that for Inbali, plot really comes from her characters: they drive the plot - not the other way round.

Here's a lady you might recognise. Is she always this calm? Would she really rather be somewhere else? And is sludge green really her favourite colour?

So let's create some characters - and the stories, hopefully, will follow!

First, a very simple exercise. Think of a person you've seen around; not someone you know, but just somebody who's caught your eye, whom, perhaps, you've wondered about. (If it wasn't for the lockdown, I'd send you out to do some people-watching in a coffee shop or in the park, but alas that's not possible, so you'll have to dredge your memory banks. That man who walks the streets with a hunted expression on his face; the elderly woman who's always exquisitely dressed, but never seems to talk to anyone.

Now, describe their appearance. You might, at any stage, find yourself  becoming intrigued by your character, getting involved, telling their story, and that's fine - just do it! Follow the thread!

But if not, start to ask yourself some questions about them.

  • What name would fit this person?
  • What piece of clothing would s/he be happiest wearing?
  • Does s/he have any characteristic habits? (Eg pushing hair back off face, fiddling with a necklace she always wears, driving like a maniac?) Or maybe s/he has a pet phrase - 'At the end of the day...', 'Least said, soonest mended...'
  • What does s/he care about most in the world?
  • What is s/he secretly frightened of?
  • What does s/he most want?

Now - write about a day in the life of this person. Maybe a significant day - someone's birthday - maybe their own - or wedding, or graduation. Write about their day, from their point of view - and try to show all you've learnt about their character through what they do, how they do it, what they say, how they say it.

So not: Vivian was very frightened of deep water, but: Vivian flinched as she gazed into the still, deep water of the lock. She moved away from the edge. She couldn't help but remember... etc.

But don't agonise, and don't worry about getting everything in - just do what Inbali says, let your character lead the way - and have fun!

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