Saturday, 23 May 2009

Just make believe

I remember listening to Sebastian Faulks being asked how he managed to write about being in the trenches during WW1 so vividly and his reply was, that he simply made it up. The adverb, simply, is mine and the fact is, making things up can be quite hard work. I like to think of the imagination as being rather like a muscle. You have to keep exercising it so that it doesn't become flaccid or moribund.
Sebastian Faulks went on to describe how he imagined being in the skin of his protagonist, how would things taste, smell, what would he see and how would he be feeling. That requires effort because it has result has to be convincing and above all, real. It's no good using abstract language; he felt bad or the carnage was dreadful, that doesn't describe the real scene, that requires the reader to substitute his/her own pictures regurgitated from their own fragmentary memory. I keep saying in class, you have to be there, wherever there is they're writing about. This also includes to some extent becoming your fictional characters and for those LotR fans who dress up as Elves or Orcs, this is more than just in the imagination! (not me, I hasten to add)

So, it is important to remember that it is possible to write in the first person and have that character express views that are not yours. I am not a man, but I have just finished a story when I am thinking the man's thoughts. It is what writers do all the time. They make things up. I am not any of my characters. Sometimes I may agree with what they think and do, but not always.


  1. But you'd make a great hobbit! ;)

    Great post, Cathie. Completely agree about presentation though I probably commit just as many sins myself.

  2. How do you know about my hairy feet, Sarah? :)