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Monday, 29 August 2011

Do You Make Notes?

I hear so often of people who take a note pad every where they go. They use it to take notes of what they see going on around them; of people, landmarks, place names, general observations of everyday life. What a fabulous idea this is for any writer. It isn't always practical of course, to be walking round Boots or Marks and Spencer making notes of people as you watch them go about their business, but it's a good excuse to stop for coffee and have a scribble. I've carried a note book with me for a long time now, in fact, ever since I did my first creative writing course in 2002. It was a very basic course where I worked from home but was run by a local lady who really cared about her students. I could have given it much more time than I did but as I was also planning my wedding and looking after my then two year old, doing the course was something I did in my spare time. But one thing the tutor advised was taking a note pad out with us every time we went anywhere and spending a little time observing things around us, including people's antics. I picked a lot up from that advice, and it's stayed with me ever since.

I finished the course after two years, got a few certificates and "credits" then moved onto another course called The Writer's Bureau. This was a much more intense course which consisted of around 19 modules (I think), all of which contained a huge amount of study. Not something I'm great at doing, but nonetheless, I just about persevered. The subject of making notes was also discussed with WB and I felt like I was one step ahead!

So there we are, sat in the cafe at M&S with our little notepad and pen poised. People stare and we just let them; it's all part of a person's character. These little snippets of personality allow us a secret glimpse into the world of strangers. And that's how we are able to bring our characters to life.

Real people = real characters. They're what can make or break your manuscript. If the character doesn't fit then the story won't be interesting enough to digest. We, as human beings, make life interesting. We make the world go round. We are the innards of a novel, the personality, individuality and the life.  Make your characters fascinating. Give them a past. Look into their eyes and ask how they came to be who they are at the time of writing about them. Turn them into the strangers you've been observing and making notes about. They'll become people on the page and turn your black ink into a 3D image.

Do you have a note book in your bag?

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