Creating A Character

directing-sceneStill working here with our directing analogy and the moment by moment scenario, let’s look at characterisation.

In a script, a director will look for what a character says about himself, what others say about him and how he reacts to others. These things dictate who he is and how he will act.

In a story, the reader should be able to recognise who the character is by what he says and does and how others react to him. The difference in writing is the need to let the reader know what is happening during any interaction.

But you won’t tell the reader Jack is an aggressive personality. Let us see that he is by his actions and the reactions of others.

For example:
Jack slammed his hands flat on the desk, leaning across it so he and Harry were almost nose to nose.
“Are you deaf, or what? I said, get up, you slimy bastard.”
With satisfaction, he watched Harry shrink back in the chair, his cheeks going pale.

Here we see Jack is the stronger character, he’s using force, deliberately trying to scare Harry, and succeeding. Again, we are showing rather than telling, giving weight to the moment before moving on.

Avoid, if you can, using adverbs to tell us how something is being said: angrily, wearily, happily, smilingly, forcefully, etc. Suggest by what is said and done, and leave it to the reader to decide how he hears the voice in his head.

You can play with the moment, depending what you want to convey, adjusting the text accordingly. If it’s essential, you can give a direct indication of tone of voice without an adverb.

Like this:
Jack slammed his hands flat on the desk, leaning across it so he and Harry were almost nose to nose. He spoke with ominous quiet.
“Are you deaf, or what? I said – get – up.”

Here, Jack is controlling his fury, and relying on the deadly emphasis of his words. See how the use of dashes helps with this? We point this up with “ominous quiet” which is as far as we need go in describing his tone. He leaves out “you slimy bastard” because it doesn’t work with this tone and would spoil the effect.

Or this:
Jack slammed his hands flat on the desk, leaning across it so he and Harry were almost nose to nose.
“You slimy bastard, are you deaf? I said get up out of that chair, damn it!”

Here we know Jack is likely yelling, helped by “damn it” (which demands the exclamation mark, which also helps show tone). He also starts with “you slimy bastard” which indicates his anger is spilling over.

Thus you can create any type of mood and emphasis merely by the way your characters speak and act, which tells us more about them than any amount of description.

Kids are not prone to describe much, so if they concentrate solely on writing moment by moment, they should not have too much trouble with the urge to beat the reader over the head with unnecessary information.

The trick is to let the reader know only as much as he needs to know so that he can pick up what is intended without being told. Your character then builds from within the story, avoiding direct description. Trust your reader!

Guest Blog by Elizabeth Bailey

Coming from professional theatre, Elizabeth Bailey taught drama for many years alongside her writing career. Multi-published, she now writes full time, both her own novels and ghostwriting, as well as critiquing for other writers. Find out more at www.elizabethbailey.co.uk

Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) – the greatest composer of all time?

Of all classical composers, Mozart is almost certainly the most universally popular composer. His music appeals to young and old. It can be appreciated on a superficial ‘easy listening’ level, but those seeking emotional depth, technical brilliance and sheer musical grandeur will not be disappointed.

Mozart’s prodigious childhood is well known. Continue reading

Children Should Be Heard

child-attentionThere is an old saying that children should be seen and notheard, but I would like to update that into just this; children should be heard. When you talk to someone you expect him or her in some way to indicate that they have indeed heard you, it’s the civilised thing to do. You probably would be upset if they looked as if they had not paid any attention to what you said. Many marital arguments have probably started in exactly this way. Continue reading

Tuning In To Poetry

quill-penMany young people tend to shy away from poetry and that is a terrible shame because they miss out on so many wonderful experiences and a pleasure that lasts for a lifetime.

There has never been an easier time for a parent to give their child the gift of loving poetry. There have never before been so many funny poems published with an appeal for children of all ages. There have never been so many ways that poetry can be accessed and enjoyed.

Let’s look at how you can give your child the key to this magical door! Continue reading

Atmosphere and Mood

scary-outsideThe director in theatre has control of atmosphere and mood, working with the actors to create a particular feeling in the audience at any given moment.

This is helped by lighting and sound, along with set design. For example, a dim light and scary music produces an eerie feeling even before the actors speak, and they intensify the mood in the delivery of lines.

As the writer, you have to do everything yourself. You need to show the atmosphere by the way you use words. And we should be able to recognise the mood of the dialogue without being told what it is. Continue reading

Listen To Your Child

listening-to-childThere are a number of things we can do to make our children’s lives happier, whether a parent or teacher small changes in how we behave can have a big effect.

One of the most important things is being able to listen. We all instinctively know this but perhaps neglect it when it’s our own kids. As a parent you will probably be hit by a barrage of communication all day and it is very tempting to just switch off. If you are busy or trying to concentrate on something then again you won’t be inclined to listen to what your child wants to say. Continue reading

Handwriting For Kids

good-handwritingIt may be unfashionable to talk about quality of handwriting, but if a child does not learn to write clearly and legibly, he will be at a disadvantage.

In this day and age where all children are well versed in the use of computer keyboards and other high tech means of producing a written page of work, it can be argued that they don’t need to be able to write well by hand.

It is true that essays and formal presentations would normally now be typed and word processing is an essential skill which must be learned. Continue reading

Answering The Question: GCSE English Language

examsI have covered aspects of the importance of answering the question earlier in my blogs. This time I would like to look at examination questions. In many ways this is the most vital time for your child because so many marks can be lost at this level.

Here is part of a question from a specimen OCR GCSE Examination Paper for English which may help to show what I mean. The candidates had to read eye-witness accounts of the San Francisco Earthquake of 1906. This excerpt relates to one of them. Continue reading

Focus

stage-focusStill concentrating on this series of approaching writing from the perspective of a theatre director, let us consider focus. What does it mean?

In theatre, focus is that point where, at any given moment, the audience has its attention. This is quite deliberate. The director decides exactly where he wants to direct attention. He can then use various methods to direct the audience to look at that point.

Dialogue naturally helps this process along, because the audience tends to look at whichever actor is speaking. But a director can change this by having actors look towards the area of focus – an actor who is silent or a doorway. A sudden sound, or lighting can be used for the same purpose. Continue reading

Best Computer For Your Child

computer-laptopThough we are on the brink of the summer holidays, a new year of school will soon be upon us. Your child may well be starting school or even moving up perhaps from primary to the seniors. You may also be thinking of what computer to get your child next. There is no doubt that having access to computer equipment is important to your child’s education and also their ability to survive and compete in the modern world.

Firstly you should ascertain what the intended school’s policy is on personal equipment. Some schools will allow or even encourage laptops and tablets, others may provide them and others may not allow students to bring their equipment to school. Continue reading