Not having done much real creative writing this last year (well in my view writing a blog and reviews hardly counts, and neither does writing work and research reports, even if that is what I do in the day job) I decided to treat myself to a a day’s out, on a workshop. And what a great day it was. I managed to create a complete new character which can go snuggly in with all my other ideas for that wonderful time when I’m retired and have oodles of time to write short stories and finish my novel. Actually, by that time, it will probably mean rewriting my novel. My new character is a young girl who is at loggerheads with her mother, someone from the old feminist school of view.
How she came about? She was born in this workshop today. To start the day we were set in pairs and asked to question each other about a character, someone we had never thought of before. And so with Judith’s help and relentless questioning Tara was born, I dressed her, gave her parents, found out about her friends, her likes and dislikes, how she lives and what she does. As the day goes on, I invented situations for her, conversations start taking place, she expressed her dislikes, she had to pack a suitcase and I decided what she put in it and why. All sorts of things happened to this girl and now she is there, in the back of my mind, somebody I’m going to have to attend to, sooner or later.
The workshop was run by Vickie Grut who has a short story in the Asham Award Short-Story Collection that I mentioned a week ago: Waving at the Gardener. Her story opened my eyes with respect to the development of character and how this should be done, gradually. One of my worries has been just this: I am inclined to write down whatever I know, inform the reader, make sure that he or she knows exacty what and who I am talking about. That, of course, is the biggest mistake you can make as a fiction writer: you should reveal your character slowly so that your readers are intrigued and want to carry on. My day job requires facts and information up front, not my stories!
Vickie Grut’s storyVisitors is about a young mum, stuck in a small place in Wales with her toddler. She lives with her parents and it is slowly through the interaction with visitors, her sister and her husband and child, that she not only reveals herself to us, the readers, but also to herself. It is a dismal place and she has never done much to try and escape it, simply gave in to being pregnant and ending up a lone parent. It is a lovely story and one that intrigues. That is an aspect of good fiction writing: it should intrigue the reader so you want to carry on.
So thanks to Vickie for a Saturday well spent and for some great support and insights into creating and developing characters and places. And who knows, I might just get back to the original concept of this blog: writing 51 stories for my granddaughter.