I’ve just had the privilege of working with three other writers on a short play for voices. This became a very mind opening experience. We met only once a week and after each session I’d go home feeling enriched and arrive at the next session full of ideas. What I hadn’t accounted for was that they too would come back bringing their own new ideas.
It was so different from working alone, when no one questions your direction and you’re allowed to walk a familiar path. But when required to turn down a road you don’t know you have to concentrate, think on your feet, abandon the familiar. Your mind has to move in new and unexpected directions – until, once again you become excited, the new path becomes familiar and you go home enriched with new ideas – which will possibly get pushed aside on your return.
Writing with others needs give and take. It’s challenging and requires patience, but it stretches the mind wonderfully and makes you aware of ‘what ifs’ – which you can incorporate into your solo work – and when the people you’re working with are also willing to give and take, it becomes loads of fun.
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
How do you build your characters?
For CRASH I needed a baddie. I sort of knew the type of person i wanted as he was already in my imagination – but I hadn’t seen him in real life.
One day a speed-walker passed by my house. He was very small, middle aged, had brown hair (possibly dyed), wore rimless glasses and was very focused. Now I’m sure he was a perfectly nice man and would be horrified to know I’d cast him as a manipulative monster in my novel – but he was exactly what I had in mind – and being able to view him in the flesh meant I could add to my original image.
As a drama teacher I always enjoyed taking a character from the page and turning them into believable people. I guess with writing it’s much the same but it has to be done the other way round – find the flesh and bones first and then use words to paint the picture of them.
I’d love to know what devices other writers use to develop their characters.