Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Objects as inspiration

Collection of shells
As writers we often find the same themes and subjects feed through into our work. For me I know that always my work has to have a strong female character either as a protagonist or antagonist, the flaws of relationships feature predominantly, female friendship also heads up many ideas but also too there is subtler repetition of themes and metaphor. Feeling isolated from ones environment, not being able to find your voice, suppression of abilities occur as themes regularly in my work and I know that nature, my garden, water, accent and bodily functions have been plundered for metaphor quite regularly.

Recently I have found myself very specifically on a course of repeating either a theme or a source of inspiration. The flooding that wiped out so many villages near to me last year in particular Talybont started a creative bent that made me feel almost guilty that I had sourced so much inspiration from something that caused so much heartache. A feature film, a radio play,  a short theatre play and a full length theatre play are all in development in either my mind or on my desk as a result of it. The themes of flooding, destruction, hopelessness of man against nature just kept sparking more ideas and offering more for me to write. But then I think that is what we do we look at the senseless things about us and rewrite them so that we and hopefully others can make sense of it.

My last few projects though have found a repetition in a different form. I was approached by an artist Ruth Hogg to work with her on a piece for the Crash Test scratch night. She had an idea for an interactive performance theatre piece and she wanted me to write in response to her idea. Her idea was to create a mandala of objects that the audience could select and build. Each object would have a part of a story linked to it and based on the placing of the objects would be the presentation of dialogue. The audience would thus control the order of the performed pieces and also the emotional impact of the story. It was an interesting challenge to write in response to objects - those objects being a dead lightbulb, butterfly wings, shells, pigments, pebbles, driftwood, feathers, petals and seaweed. Ruth talked to me about stories she had thought of and then I went away and created two characters, and because I didn't have long then I inevitably pulled from my bag of writing tricks one of my predominate obsessions and a relationship in the process of breaking down emerged. I found writing around the objects a really useful exercise though, something that held the dialogue together, created metaphor and added layers to the piece.

The object focus continued though as I found myself writing a short audio drama for the Scriptography Productions project. I love the idea that objects are imbued by the history that surrounds around them and so I created a play with the ability to see the history of an object if she touches the object - she sees the joy and also the pain of thousands of stories embedded in objects and as such is cursed because there is not enough joy to overcome the pain the fills the world.

Then objects haunted me again when I asked to write for the Dirty Protest Theatre play-in-a-bag project. The remit being all the props for the play have to be in a bag. After a moment of inspiration about this I began a search to find the objects that people treasure most, the objects that they would save in a fire, the objects which with their loss would cause emotional devastation. And so again I've found myself responding to objects.

So if you're stuck for inspiration and trying to find an idea or maybe even trying to add more depth to a character try this as an exercise. Think of five random objects that your character would hate to lose, write about why they would be a loss, what is the importance of the object to the character. or if you're struggling with a scene, place a random object into it and let the characters talk about the object. Or take a look at the mandala objects - create two or three characters and create scenes which features each of the objects.

But also though think about what are your recurring motifs, themes and obsessions. It's important to know what they are and either embrace them as strengthening your voice as a writer or avoid them as a challenge to push yourself onto a new pathway of writing.

Cursed, my short audio drama for the EarCandy project will be available to listen to from 2nd June after 1pm here