January 8, 2013 by musehick
How does one learn to write? By reading, and by watching drama – to see how the beats fall, and how the flows and dynamics between characters are created, and by writing. There are many ways that one can learn – which is why I very rarely favour pushing one method over another. One can also learn a lot by listening to people and how their conversations construct themselves.
Writers have to be able to observe and in their fiction recreate the music of the life they have observed. How can you hope to be someone who creates a universe and peoples it with characters that live and breathe and make people feel and fall in love woth the characters and want to follow them through their lives, if you cannot see what makes things work and happen in real life?
Someone who lives in a box and is closed off from the world coming to the table as a writer is going to have as much to offer about life as a person who has never seen an elephant might have to offer about pachyderms – not a damned sight.
Aaron Sorkin is a master – the conversations never feel forced, even though if you carefully observe you can see some certain techniques that he uses to get an idea across and to create tension around it. David Mamet is also a wonderful exemplar of dialogue and using it to drive a story forward, to create tension, and to drive energy levels up and make for a wonderful sense of drama.
Getting a grip on how to write a conversation and the pacing of it also helps when it comes to seeing how to pace and construct narrative as well. If you can think with the idea that you are moving characters through both a narrative space and a notional physical space then you can write the music of that passage from point a to point b. The passage is musical but it should also have a physical feel to it as well.
If you do not have the sense of your characters as being real and having bodies with beating hearts in them, who enter the room in a certain way, and who believe in a certain way and express those beliefs in a certain way then all you are going to create are ciphers who operate like puppets for you the writer to voice your opinions through, and no one will ever fall in love with your characters. A real being versus a counterfeit being is easy to distinguish between – listen next time you hear something you consider to be fake and try and recognise why that is … might it be that there is no notion of the character being written having a beating heart? Might it be that the writer has shackled a message to a character and chained that character so firmly to a message that they are not allowed to breathe?
I may not be publishing all the time; you may not see evidence of my work all the time, but I am working. Writing isn’t like one of those jobs where you clock out and stop operating in that way – it is something that informs every waking hour and every breath taken. When I write something I am creating a new world for you the reader to occupy, and I want you to fall in love with the characters and be able to fully immerse yourself in the world. I study techniques so that I can seamlessly craft a story that introduces you to an authentic world with living thinking characters. It takes a certain arrogance to do this, a certain passion, and I hope that always comes across in what I offer to you, because that is the intention.