Life Lessons for Writers – Three

An extract from  How To Start Writing A Book brought to you courtesy of E.M. Swift-Hook and Jane Jago.

Here we go again.

Yes, it’s me Jacintha Farquhar. I had hoped that I’d not have to come up with another one of these. I was kicking back with a Pernod and Pimms spritzer enjoying the blazing sun in the back garden and admiring the abs on my new next-door neighbour as he was up a ladder fixing something on his roof, topless. But then the peace was broken by a call from that pompous prat I have the misfortune to have to claim as my son. He is back to being his obnoxious self as if nothing had happened to dent his massive ego.
The good news is I am spared his presence for another week, as he has decided to take a short ‘cultural cruise’ of some other Greek islands with someone called Stavros. The bad news is that it means I have to get out my iPad and come up with something vaguely intelligent to say to you lot.
I hope you bloody appreciate it!

Life Lessons for Writers – Three: People

And by ‘people’ I also mean aliens if you write that science fiction stuff Moons is so fond of. They are people too. And so are those elves and dwarves – and vampires. In fact, any character you ever write, even a talking computer, is going to be people. So you might as well listen up as too many of you wannabes don’t have the first idea about any kind of people except those who are exactly like you.
Oh yes, you might write about some poor orphaned starveling who is abused by the world, but does she think and act like someone who’s been through that kind of experience? Or just your weak and idealised imagination of what it might be like? I mean, how many genuinely damaged people do you count in your close circle? If the answer is ‘Well, Olivia’s parents divorced and she had to give up her horse riding lessons which left her traumatised for life’ or something similar, then you need to rethink writing that starveling. You. Have. No. Idea. And if you don’t, then no amount of effing imagination is going to fill in the gaps.
And, no I’m not saying you can only write about your own level of privileged life, I’m saying get out there and meet the kind of people you want to write about. Go to that dive bar, visit that job centre, help out at that homeless shelter, and find out what the people you want to write into your stories are really like. And the same the other way around. You want to know how the better off think, go along to the local posh golf club and listen in on their banter, hear what they really talk about. A useful tip here is go volunteer to visit an old people’s homes – chat with them. You’ll get the full monty on life across the spectrum, I promise you.
Don’t be like my naive and self-righteous prig of a son who firmly believes that he understands all people because he is one.
Oh, if you can’t bring yourself to actually go to those places and interact with real people, then you can at least read about them. That’s what the more precious twonks amongst those who call themselves writers (yes Moons, I’m looking at you) that I know seem to do. Most are too bloody afraid of real people to go out and actually talk to them.

Right. I’m done. If my sodding son is not back by next week I’ll be posting cocktail recipes with naked pictures of me drinking them. You have been warned.

Now bugger off!

Jacintha Farquar, unfortunate mother of Moonbeam Farquhar Metheringham IVLife Lessons for Writers – Two

2 thoughts on “Life Lessons for Writers – Three

Add yours

  1. Lovely stuff. Your son and mine own seem to suffer from the same brand of ego certainty, but my next door neighbour is not a similar sort of eye candy – such a pity. However, I really take your point about becoming familiar with the patterns of people’s thinking in order to write about them.
    I have a good example of this: in my writing group there was a lady who, it turned out over a period of three years, belonged to an abusive family -father, mother, siblings included. When she felt secure with us, that is, when she felt we accepted her reality, she would talk to us about her difficulties, and for about a year before the group broke up, I was able to enter her mind. It was an unfamiliar and pretty fearful place, but now, if I wanted to include her as a realistic presence in one of my stories, I could do so, knowing she at least would perhaps recognise some truth in my presentation.
    Thank you for your usual well-written and stylish piece.


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