This week on the blog, CWC member, Paul K Joyce, talks gives us his reaction to a fantastic workshop we held at our February meeting and how it’s inspiring his writing. Our workshop leader was Ian Pike, is a full-time, freelance writer of scripts and published children’s books with over 25 years’ experience. One of his current projects is as a scriptwriter for Have I Got News For You.
“I knew it all, didn’t I? I mean, I’d been to writing festivals, done online courses, read everything I could about writing and devoured books and writing magazines. I knew all about characters. Of course I did.
I think that’s a fair appraisal of my mindset as I initiated Zoom to participate in Ian Pike’s CWC tutorial on characterisation. Don’t get me wrong, I was very interested, but I didn’t think I would learn much that I didn’t already know. Little did I know that Monday 15th February 2021 would shake up my cosy, self-satisfied view of my writing.
Ian Pike’s tutorial began slowly and according to my expectations. But over the course of two hours I began to realise that I didn’t know the characters in my forthcoming novel (shameless plug) as well as I thought. As I understand things, there are two types of writers: plotters and ‘seats-of-pantsers’. My novel began from a simple premise and I wrote without plotting a thing. The story just evolved, and characters developed and were fleshed out as I went along. My main lesson from Ian’s tutorial is: KNOW YOUR CHARACTERS. Having completed the novel and reworked it several times, I thought I knew my characters. But as I came to re-examine them, I realised that some of the detail that Ian was alluding to was missing. Where did they go to school? What were their secrets? Had they ever been bullied? Details, but important contributory factors to a character who you will then know inside and out and will always be real to you. I think writing without plotting my novel (have I mentioned that I’m writing a novel?), I did have a sense of my protagonist, but the lack of detail I mentioned means that encounters with other characters become less certain, maybe less believable?
So, I have revisited all my characters and thought hard about their past lives, experiences and aspirations. Whilst doing this, I also looked at ‘upping the ante’ — seeing if I could heighten tension, make the story more dynamic and enjoyable. The effect was quite remarkable. Without being too hyperbolic, it really was an epiphany. I feel as if (cliché alert) I’ve ‘gone the extra mile’, and boy was it worth the effort. So thank you Ian, and thank you CWC for a really excellent forward-thinking session. I’m renewed, emboldened, empowered. Verbose, I hear you say! Isn’t writing wonderful?
Paul K Joyce
(Went to school in Eastwood, Nottinghamshire. Don’t like lifts. Bullied a little bit at school.)