The brief for this week’s homework from the writing group is to write about a grandparent, creating a fictional account of a factual event from their life.
Easier said than done, I thought. Two of my grandparents died before I was born and the only memory I have of my maternal grandmother is of a tiny woman with greying curly hair, sitting at the kitchen table, warming her hands round the teapot. So that leaves my paternal grandfather; long dead now, but I have plenty of memories from my childhood.
It was my turn to take our writing group last week and as my theme I chose a topic I’ve written about in the past – Characterisation.
As well as what the story is about, readers are interested in who it’s about. They want a protagonist they can empathise and identify with throughout the story, but these characters won’t necessarily be nice people; some memorable characters from literature have been downright horrible – think Heathcliffe from Wuthering Heights, Vanity Fair’s Becky Sharp, Patrick Bateman from American Psycho, Pinkie Brown from Brighton Rock. Whether likeable or thoroughly villainous, we need to believe that the characters we create are real, breathing people or our readers won’t believe in them either.
Friends who have achieved a similar age received diamonds, or trips to Venice. What did I get as a birthday present? An invitation to take part in a bowel cancer screening programme. Be still my beating heart.
But it got me thinking about the nature of failure in general, and that of budding writers in particular. I thought it would be useful to discuss some of the pitfalls that can betray us as amateurs and which should be avoided at all costs.
At the risk of sounding like a tabloid headline writer, crickey, it’s hot! Hotter then Hawaii, apparently, here in sunny Norfolk. Which adds a whole new set of complications to the writing experience; the hunt for that bon mot pales into insignificance when compared to the search for a cool place to sit and cogitate. My brain has the thinking capacity of marshmallow and I feel as if I’m melting by degrees, like the wicked witch of the west.
It won’t last, the forecasters tell us, which is a bit of a shame since this has been the wettest, coolest summer hereabouts since people started recording these facts. You guys on the other side of the Atlantic are probably wondering why I’m making such a fuss – it’s only weather. And I agree with you. Still, I look forward to the approach of autumn.