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Taking a character for a walk

Begin by inventing ten or twelve separate characters, all different from each other. For each one, choose five adjectives that will bring that character back into your mind. For example:

  • Vagrant, stubborn, anti-social, dirty and claustrophobic
  • Elegant, self-centred, cruel, secretive and rich
  • Industrious, principled, obsessive, judgmental and tired

Write each group of adjectives on a separate slip of paper and put all the slips into an envelope.

When you are ready for your walk, pull out one of the slips at random and think yourself into the mind of that character. Then set out on the walk, seeing everything through his or her eyes. When you get back, stay in character and write a description of your walk, commenting on what you noticed and your general impressions of the neighbourhood.

Then pick another slip, go on the same walk as a different character and write a second description of what you noticed and how you felt about it.

Instead of going on a walk, you could pick your characters as above and visit a property website to go on a virtual tour of one of the houses. Choose a house with furniture—preferably a big house—and take the virtual tour. Then write about what you saw and how you felt.

When you have finished your real or virtual walks and written the descriptions of what you encountered, compare the two versions. Did your characters notice different things? Or notice the same things but describe them in different ways? Do those differences feel laboured and artificial, or do they give you a real sense of the people who wrote them? If you share your writing with friends, you could try giving them the two descriptions, without explaining how they were produced. Does their impression of the two writers tally with how you imagined them?

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Poetic truth

Once, when I was reading a Selima Hill collection, I noticed that she’d used an epigraph by the…

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The Gap Between

I’d like you to do something very simple. Sit back, close your eyes, and try to remember an…

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Exploring different third person points of view

Write part of a story in the form of a scene from a play, beginning with a description…

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Subjective third person narrative

When I was a child, like most young readers I wanted to identify with the characters in books….

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Magic in the Mundane

A comic is a string of sequential panels that are both literary and visual in their storytelling. Striking the balance between what is said with words and shown with pictures is essential to creating an immersive reading experience. Write a short script for a one-page comic. A practical starting point is to think about a small event that happened to you, for example…

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Strongest Foot Forward

Making a comic involves a host of skills. Remember that when we make comics, we are combining words and images to be read simultaneously. So broadly speaking we need to do at least two things; to write and to draw.

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Rupture the mundane

I don’t want to burst anyone’s bubble, but having the perfect thing to write about isn’t actually enough;…

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What is a scene?

Novelists are always told to show, not tell. They are also told to ‘write in scenes’ which means…

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Developing a scene

If you are already writing a memoir, look through the work you have done to date and see…

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Bringing Dramatic Action Into A Scene

The purpose of this exercise is to help us bring dramatic action to our scenes. Firstly we should…

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Flip the Scene

We’ve all got one in our distant past: the great love that got away because we were too…

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