Poetry & Writing · The Cork Board

Some sort of character…


My standard Saturday afternoon these days is one of nervous tension as I monitor the live update scores, or lack of, of my favourite football team. Whatever I’m doing I have to check a screen on a regular basis between 3 and 5 pm. However, last Saturday was a break from routine. Mrs. Monkey and I attended a writing workshop on “coming at character from all angles”, to quote the blurb.

I’ve found these writing workshops welcoming places regardless of publishing record or writing ability. We’re all there to learn and share and if you only take away one idea then at least you’ve probably had a very relaxing couple of hours.

One of the outcomes that has astonished me is just how much you can write when someone gives you a subject and says “ Time starts now !” Instead of watching the football results I came away with another idea to pursue based upon the afternoon’s fleshing out of a character based upon someone I’d seen in passing 20 years ago.

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We started simply. Who is your character? Give them a name. Age, sex, generalities. What clothes do they wear? What items do they have in their house/flat/apartment?

Then we began to hone it down. List 6 words that relate to your character. Having done that choose one above all. That one becomes the kernel of who you are trying to create.

Now all that was tough enough but then came the real eye-opening exercise. Write a letter as your character writing to you the author. You have 20 minutes. Placing yourself in the space with a free-write instruction we all came up with some dramatic and challenging reactions to the chemistry between ourselves and the now “living” character we had created. And from this point stretches out the story you intend to write.

A broad discussion to round up the session threw out some nominations for the great characters of literature. Gatsby. Madame Bouvary. For me, Steinbeck’s characters are always vividly drawn. Doc from “Canary Row” being a prime example. Steinbeck describes him: “Doc is rather small, deceptively small, for he is wiry and very strong and when passionate anger comes on him he can be very fierce. He wears a beard and his face is half Christ and half satyr and his face tells the truth” We get the picture. Here’s the source – the real “Doc”.

Do you have any nominations? Why do they appeal?

It was a thought provoking and creative afternoon. Time well spent with stuff to work on.

… and we drew… well, you can’t win them all.

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