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Archive for October, 2011

Sharing your writing is such an important part of the writing process. It is in fact the main reason for writing – you want to be heard. This is one of the basic human requirements for emotional health – not to be sniffed at. And nothing to be ashamed of.

So, how to do this?

The traditional route has been publication. But – as we all know – although you can improve your chances in many ways, publication is a long slow route to ‘being heard’.

Quicker and – in some ways – equally effective is reading aloud. And you can do this to family, friends, and your local community. Writers’ groups and literature festivals with ‘open mic’ sessions when everyone has an opportunity to read abound. The Way in? To find a group near you, check out the National Association of Writers’ Groups (www.nawg.co.uk.)  

Join several – different demographics. More testing that way – and although you may feel more comfortable with, say, the middle-aged and middle-class – how rewarding if your words impact on twenty-year-old former illicit drug users!

If you live in an almost writers’ group free zone, however, all is not lost. There are a number of on-line writers’ communities for advice, information and critiquing opportunities. Google writers’ groups and choose some that appeal to explore. Some are free. Some cost. Some are a mix. I like The Word Cloud arrangement (See http://www.writersworkshop.co.uk )

A stage beyond this is critique groups run by publishing houses on the look-out for new talent. Check out:

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There’s far more to speech than words. Whether you want to write plays, field memorable characters in your novel or simply learn more about people for professional and personal reasons, you need to be able to read the signs.

Here’s an exercise to improve your attentive listening skills – which will particularly help you as a writer creating characters.

  • Take your notebook to a public place.
  • Settle down and listen. Not to the content. To the way speech is delivered.
  • Make notes on the voices you hear:
    • Think about pace – is the speaker speaking quickly or slowly, interrupting their ‘dialogue partner’?
    • Are they waiting for their dialogue partner to finish – without really listening – so they can then say what they want to say
    • Are they finishing sentences for other people?
    • Are they greeting each statement or question with a pause and what impact is that silence having?
    • Do they have an accent? Is a regional flavour present in their choice of vocabulary or the sound of their words?
    • What does this tell you about their educational background or class?
    • Do they have favourite/characteristic phrases which they repeat?
    • What is the tone – high, low, aggressive or appealing?
    • While you are listening, does this change? How does it change?

By doing this, you will develop some guidelines for when you are creating your own characters. But, be careful. People don’t like to be listened to, un-invited. One of my clients was embroiled in a heated exchange for listening and note-taking too obviously. Be discreet!

 

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