Tuesday, November 22, 2005


This week I acted for a father in a contact dispute. His own father was also making an application to the court and both came out with identical orders. The grandfather was grateful and appreciative. He was of the view that past grievances with the child's mother had to be be laid aside and that there was a long future to look forward to. He thought the five hour round trip they had to do to collect the children was nothing for the pleasure of their company. He was gentle and forgiving in his attitude. The father, reacting to the exact same outcome, gave me a constant tirade about the unfairness of the system, his intention to make complaints and to go to the European Court of Human Rights. He was disgusted with the outcome, angry with the mother, fixated on the wrongs he percieved she had perpetrated against him and unable at all to talk about his plans for his time with the children.
Also this week, I have begun a self-imposed study programme for my 'writing sabbatical' which includes rereading some of the novels which are close to mine in genre and which I raced though out of pure enyoyment first time around. I want to take time to go back and read more closely to learn from the author's techniques. I have started with Jodi Picoult's book My Sisters's Keeper and it just so happened that today's chapter was the one where the family recieved the news that their four year old daughter has cancer. At that stage we know little about the characters but each is distinct in their reaction. It is noticable that we do not need to know the character to understand their reaction, rather we learn the character by observing their reaction. Thus a rolling programme starts - the plot provides the event, the reaction tells us about the character, his reaction sets off another chain of events, to which the character reacts....
Try taking the exercise from yesterday - your character does not get his prefered food from the chiller cabinet. Is he angry, does she think that it is just typical of her miserable life? Does he take action by going elsewhere, does she eat something she dislikes instead not to offend her lunch companion? Then, how does the shopkeeper react to an angry customer? Does the lunch comanion depise the woman for her inabilty to assert her preferences or does he love her for it? Make it a suprising reaction, make then regret their reaction, make the two different reactions a source of conflict between characters ('How could he not cry? Why is she always so emotional?)... do whatever you like, it's your book, just keep on writing! I fell down the well for a full two and a half hours today and it feels great! Mind you even if I had fallen down a cliff instead I'd probably rather be at the bottom with a broken leg than in a car for five hours with that father!

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