Friday, 25 October 2013

Writing course - creating characters and writing better dialogue

I will be running two workshops at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on Sunday 3rd November and Sunday 1st December 2pm – 5pm. Creative workshops in creating characters and writing dialogue for all forms of script writing and prose writing.

I’ve specifically chosen subjects which are constant queries from my writing for performance group. Basically whenever I ask what subjects do you want me to do exercises on, the answers are always character and dialogue – and no matter how many I do they always want more.

For me creating characters is at the heart of my writing process – for me everything begins with characters. I build the character developing their past, their flaws, their personal history, imagining the big moments in their lives and working through how those moments have impacted on them. Once the character starts to talk to me and a voice emerges then I know I’m ready to start writing – and because I know the character in such detail whatever problems I throw at them in the course of the play I know that their reactions and behaviour are real. I also find that through the process of developing character the plot and structure of the play will inevitably unfold – scenes, other characters will start to spring. But first, always first is character. Without the character it is just faceless people on stage spouting words.

Over the years I’ve built a mountain of exercises – my box of tools that help me get ideas for characters, develop characters, resolve problems through characters when something is not working.

When I read scripts I find that more often than not, the main problem is bad dialogue. Scriptwriters, prose writers – it doesn’t matter really. Dialogue needs to be just that – dialogue. Characters speaking to one another as they would speak, not how you want them to speak so you can push in a cheeky metaphor or say – look how clever I am with words. I don’t care about your metaphors, I don’t care how clever you are with words. All I’m going to think is – bad dialogue. Just thinking about that made me wince. Because that’s what happens, bad dialogue makes the listener, watcher, reader – wince. It jars. It reminds us it is fiction. It will stop an audience engaging and investing in your characters because they don’t believe they’re real.

I like dialogue, I like real dialogue, I want to hear characters speaking as they would really speak, not how a writer wants them to speak.  I want to hear characters with accents flowing through the patterns of how they speak. I want to hear characters speaking grammatically incorrect because that’s what they do! I don’t want to hear the voice of the writer, I want to hear the voice of the character. I also like how theatre writing allows us to play with dialogue, creating rhythms, patterns, music –characters not talking to one another but dancing. I want to hear noise and overcutting of dialogue that reflects the way we converse. I like poetic text, I like stylized text. But how do you marry the demands of a more poetic or fragmented style with the need for characters to speak realistically. These are subjects I’ve been exploring for years in my writing and again I’ve found exercises that help a writer to resolve these issues.

The workshop is for writers of all mediums – theatre, film, radio, television, digital writing and prose. The workshops will look at the difference and similarities in creating characters and writing dialogue for the different mediums and what we can learn about from the different mediums about creating characters and writing dialogue.

If you’re interested in more writing courses then please let me know and I can keep you informed of any new courses in the future.
More information about me, my work as a writer and theatre producer here
To book a place on the courses visit the Aberystwyth Arts Centre website

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