Continuing the writing course

I’m trying to refresh my writing by taking an on-line writing course – it’s free and very flexible and I’m enjoying it though having to do a lot of rethinking and re-evaluating – which must be why I’m doing it!

We’ve had to create a character and last week we had to work on those first ideas, based on observation:

Consider your character sketch:

  • Is there an opportunity to add the thoughts of your character?
  • Can you situate your character in relation to a particular location?
  • Does what your character says in their dialogue tally with what they think, or is there a discrepancy?
  • Can you smuggle in some details about your character’s back story, their life prior to when we meet them?
  • Can you try to infer how your character acts in the world?

There are, of course, many more options for how a character might operate in the world – they might be optimistic, miserly, whimsical, stoic. There are many other possibilities.

I’m struggling with this a little because I don’t feel as if I’ve properly engaged with my character; I think because writing about him was done as an exercise, rather like homework when I was at school, my character doesn’t seem ‘real’ to me – and if he’s not real to me he won’t be real to anyone who reads it! However, this is such a good exercise and a real challenge! So here goes!

He stood, waiting for a train, a big man, with a big head and a bland, unreadable face. He stood waiting, passive, as if weary, watching, always watching others waiting. My name is Jakov, my name is Jakov. He stepped back as another big, intimidating man walked past, a bare-armed man with a tattooed face and two tiny dogs. There was snapping and bad temper from the dogs, unexpected patience from their owner. Jakov’s pale gaze switched to the others who were waiting; he was passively watchful, but people walked warily round him, only the man with the tattooed face had passed near to him.

It was difficult to tweak what I’d written as I want to conceal aspects from the reader – if I were to continue with my character Jakov I would only gradually reveal a backstory and other details about him – however, I’ve tried to hint that there is a mysterious back story.

He stood as if patiently, waiting for a train, a big man, with a big head and a bland, unreadable face. He stood waiting, apparently passive, as if weary, but he was watching, always watching others waiting. My name is Jakov, my name is Jakov, he recited the details of who his new self was. He stepped back meekly as another big, intimidating man walked past, a bare-armed man with a tattooed face and two tiny dogs. There was snapping and bad temper from the dogs, unexpected patience from their owner. Jakov’s pale gaze switched to the others who were waiting; he was passively watchful, but people walked warily round him, only the man with the tattooed face had passed near to him.

I wonder what will happen to him.. will he move on through a narrative, or will he forever be on the train with his notepad before him, pen in hand?