People in Plots

Let’s begin by thinking about character…

Warm up:

  1. Think about what constitutes effective character creation. Are these characters relatable? Are they consistent? Do they have recognisable qualities?
  2. Think about your favourite fictional character and consider why you like them so much.
  3. Think about the importance of names within fiction and how you might go about selecting a name for a character of your own.
Photo by Cottonbro from Pexels

Suggested reading:

Take a look at the following three characters:

Blanche Dubois – A Streetcar Named Desire (stage play by Tennessee Williams)

Read the following quotations from Williams’ stage play:

“I don’t want realism. I want magic! Yes, yes, magic! I try to give that to people. I misrepresent things to them. I don’t tell the truth, I tell what ought to be the truth. And it that’s sinful, then let me be damned for it!”

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.”

“Physical beauty is passing – a transitory possession – but beauty of the mind, richness of the spirit, tenderness of the heart – I have all these things – aren’t taken away but grow! Increase with the years!”

“The rest of my days I’m going to spend on the sea. And when I die, I’m going to die on the sea. You know what I shall die of? I shall die of eating an unwashed grape. One day out on the ocean I will die–with my hand in the hand of some nice looking ship’s doctor, a very young one with a small blond moustache and a big silver watch. “Poor lady,” they’ll say, “The quinine did her no good. That unwashed grape has transported her soul to heaven.”

“When I was sixteen, I made the discovery — love. All at once and much, much too completely. It was like you suddenly turned a blinding light on something that had always been half in shadow, that’s how it struck the world for me.”

Now make notes on the following…

  • Note how frequently Williams uses exclamation marks and think about the significance of this in terms of his depiction of Blanche.
  • Consider how characters are able to reveal important things about themselves inadvertently.
  • Think about how Williams evokes sympathy for this character through her lines.
  • What techniques does Williams use to create a melodramatic feel to his drama? Consider the fast pace of Blanche’s lines and the morbid content of these.

Jane Eyre – Jane Eyre (novel by Charlotte Bronte)

Read Chapter Twenty-Six of Bronte’s novel in which Jane encounters the madwoman in the attic for the first time.

Now make notes on the following…

  • How is Jane depicted through other people’s comments about her?
  • Think about the contrast between Jane and Bertha and how you might be able to utilise a similar technique of character doubling and using split characters to express the conscious and subconscious sides of your character.
  • How can violence contribute to heightening the tension of a scene in which characters interact with each other?
  • Consider what sort of language you might use to demonstrate extremes of emotion and passion.

J. Alfred Prufrock – ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ (poem by T. S. Eliot)

Click here to read this poem.

Now make notes on the following…

  • Examine Eliot’s use of question marks and his depiction of indecision in this poem.
  • Think about who the speaker is addressing this monologue to.
  • How might you as a writer depict thought processes through the medium of verse or prose?
  • What does this poem suggest about the nature of time and Prufrock’s experience of this?

Suggested activity:

Observe two people having a conversation and make notes on the following:

  • the content of what they say
  • their appearance
  • their facial expressions

Observation is a key aspect of any writer’s work. The more you learn from the world around you, the better a writer you will become.

Once you have completed these tasks you should be ready to set about creating a character of your own. Let us know how you get on…

Photo by Oleg Magni from Pexels

Now we can think a little bit more about the dialogue your characters will engage in.

Warm up:

Begin by brainstorming ideas about what you think makes effective dialogue.

Suggested watching:

Watch a clip from the film adaptation of John Steinbeck’s novel Of Mice and Men by clicking here. Consider why this is such a good example of on screen dialogue.

Suggested activity:

Observe two people having a conversation and make notes on the following:

  • their mannerisms
  • their style of speech, i.e. confident, relaxed, quick, slurred
  • the formality of their speech
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

Suggested discussion:

Read some dialogue writing tips at the following blog and evaluate them with some fellow writers.

Suggested game:

Set up a speed dating layout. Now have conversations, adhering to the following options. Each time you get a new conversation partner, switch up the conversation option. As you’re speaking, think carefully about how this will influence how you write dialogue.

  • as natural as possible
  • using idioms
  • humourously
  • informally
  • as a scientist
  • angrily
  • quoting something
  • being ostentatious
  • deliberately bad dialogue

Now you should be ready to write some dialogue of your own. Be brave! You can do it.

Amber Kennedy, Editor-in-Chief

Featured photo by Olya Kobruseva from Pexels

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