Wednesday, 24 October 2007

Home thoughts from a board

No. It’s not a typo. Board as in the boards you tread.

Anne’s comment on my last post started me thinking (and about time, too). Back in the dim distant country called the early ‘70s, I trained in drama and theatre. I taught drama for a good number of years after that, did a small amount of professional acting, and a good deal more amateur work.

Although I am now a long way from the nearest theatre, I still enjoy reading plays, and I still enjoy reading works of theory. One of those returned to recently was Peter Brook’s The Empty Space. I had not opened this book for many years and was immediately struck by its relevance to what I do now – writing.

It is worth getting hold of a copy, along with other works like this on the theatre. And the reason is simple. Theatres and novels tell stories. Their methods may differ, but not in any substantial way. Reality, experience, understanding, and interpretation are structured to make a presentation of ideas and emotions to an audience.

Whilst the essence may be the same, the difference in method is instructive, and there is a great deal that writers could learn from stepping out onto the boards; even if only through the medium of the written word.

I was particularly struck by this when I thought back to something I posted earlier about having a visual approach to my writing. I play out scenes in my head. Now I think about it, I am doing for writing exactly what I used to do when directing. This carry-over of method results in a number of things that some writers may be missing out on.

How many writers, when planning a scene, do it in four dimensions? How many consider the physical space, the lighting, the environment (and how their characters fit in with and react to that), positioning of characters and their movement, costumes, props, sightlines, and timing. How many consider the scene (as in the physical space in which their characters move) to be as important as their characters? How many use methods of character building and portrayal with which an actor would be familiar?

I suspect many do, even if they do not think of it in those terms. But how many realise there is a huge amount of discussion from the theatre world that would provide a new and rich perspective to the way in which they create their work? Start with the Peter Brook that I mentioned. It won’t be to everyone’s taste, but it does give access to new horizons. Or maybe ask if you can sit in on rehearsals at you local amateur or professional theatre. See how they approach making their story come alive. It might add extra sparkle to your own techniques.

Monday, 22 October 2007


Confidence, or lack thereof, is something that plagues many writers. I took a minor part in an interesting conversation about this recently. This has been edited and posted on bookarazzi. It is well worth a read, as is the rest of the site.

Friday, 12 October 2007

Woman wins some prize or other.

I know that Doris Lessing was herself less than effusive about winning the Nobel Prize for Literature, but that is in her nature. It is a well-deserved award for a wonderful and thought-provoking writer.

When I heard the news on the BBC (who gave her about as much time as they accorded the death of John Fowles), I decided to scan the stories on various online news services. All around the world there were stories, some in places where the majority of the population must have been fast asleep. Left wing journals, feminist journals, even right-wing newspapers for men (with a fine, neutral assessment).

All around the world except the country in which she lives: the dear old UK where they really don't give a toss about writing unless it is the ghost written memoirs or badly written novel of some dim-witted celeb who last saw a book when a judge threw it at them for chronic abuse of drugs/domestic servants.

I expect some of the worthier newspapers managed to get some pieces somewhere in print, eventually, but online their appreciation of such an author receiving such an accolade has been pathetic in the extreme.

Friday, 5 October 2007


First of all, thanks to Viki at pernicketyhat for the blog award. It's terrific.

Thanks also to everyone who has sent such wonderful messages of support on my previous post. It has meant a great deal to me.