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Being Sociable Can Make Your Characters More Realistic

September 8th, 2018

Many people think of writing as a lonely business. You work from home, shut away in the spare bedroom or slaving over the kitchen table when the rest of the family are at work or school. But I was interested to read a letter in a well-known writers’ magazine recently where the lady was saying how sociable she found the writing world these days. You can interact with other writers on Facebook and Twitter, in forums and via online courses without leaving your own home. There are writing retreats, writers conferences and literary festivals galore where you can meet other like-minded people, and share experiences.

I do think getting away from this idea of the ‘solitary writer’ is essential. And you shouldn’t just cultivate other writers – you need to be mixing with people from all walks of life (especially if you are writing fiction) so that you understand enough about how disparate groups of people think and behave that you create characters that come across as ‘real’.

This is essential because even if you are writing about weird and wonderful people that the reader is never likely to meet in real life, they must still have emotions and motivations that compel  the reader to suspend their disbelief and go along with the plot. If you don’t manage this then your audience will get to the end of the book or episode (if they get that far) and dismiss your work as rubbish.

But at the moment, both BBC and ITV seem to be falling into this trap. I’ve watched so many first episodes of series recently and at the end decided not to tune into the next far-from-gripping instalment. Largely because the characters are wooden, and behave in a manner that real people wouldn’t just so that a plot twist can keep the drama going for another couple of episodes. It’s lazy writing – often from people who have a track record with production companies which seem to prefer commissioning second rate drama from names they know rather than taking a chance with someone new . And it’s such a shame, because there’s so much fresh writing talent out there, as we know only too well here at the Writers Bureau!

OK, down from my soap box, I must confess to being enthralled by the latest version of Vanity Fair on ITV. I love the book, have read it a couple of times and seen various TV adaptations. I decided not to watch this version, but got drawn into the first episode and am thoroughly hooked. The casting is great – Olivia Cooke is a wonderful Becky Sharp – and some of the scenes are visually stunning.  And this brings me full circle to my earlier point. The book was written by a middle-aged, Victorian Englishman – William Thackeray – yet he manages to get inside the head of a cunning, amoral young woman so thoroughly that the book has kept generations coming back to read and watch time and time again. And that can only happen when the author has a thorough knowledge of the workings of the human heart and mind and ensures that plot and characterisation work properly together to keep the pages turning.

Author: Diana Nadin

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About The Author: Diana Nadin

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