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Making your characters sing

on Jun13 2017

It’s been a good writing day today. I’ve been working through sections of my Mary Rose play asking questions of each scene. For example, what’s the point of this? Who is leading the action? Who is making a decision?

That’s quite difficult to do – the first time I did it for a piece of writing I nearly cried as I couldn’t answer myself. Now I know the questions are coming,  I am ruthless about cutting as I write, so theoretically the answers should come quicker.

But I was surprised today to find that the central story has moved to a secondary character, and not the character I thought it belonged too. So this means a whole night of pondering if I like this development, if I need to change it back, if I need to develop this further.

I think that this has happened because I’ve ignored my number one rule of having a tight plot structure before I started. Rules were meant to be broken right?

These characters though, they’re tricky.

I learnt today that two of them are distant cousins. I hadn’t seen that coming, but it explains their bickering. I also learnt my protagonist has a hobby that I hadn’t dreamt of, and my antagonist can make me cry. I think this means they’re working well.

How should you go about checking out that your characters work?

There’s no simple fix, and there’s also a million articles and blogs online that’ll offer advice.

Here are a couple of my check points which I’ve picked up from all over the internet, workshops and my own head:

  • Do they speak with their own words and pattern?
    (As in, they don’ all sound the same)
  • Do they have a life before and after the play?
    (Working out what they do at other times of the day gives you a better idea of who they are)
  • What would have happened to them today if this plot hadn’t dropped on top of them?
    (Are they the type of person who will create drama, or will drama find them?)
  • What do they value?
    (Do they hang out with people who tell the truth, or have money, or   . . . what?)
  • How do they respond to people who are not like them?
    (I forgive some people who annoy me, others I don’t. It’s to do with whether they ft into my value systems.)
  • Is their best friend more interesting than them?
    (I always felt the Harry Potter books would have been even better as a Hermione Granger or Ron Weasley series)
  • What happens if their sex is flipped, are they still believable?
    (This is a super technique to see if you’re writing stereotypical tosh. Trust me, it works. Make females male, and males female. Ouch.)
  • And finally, can their name change?
    (If it can’t, if they have to be that name, I know my job is done.)

Let me know if these are useful to you! And, once again, thank you Arts Council for making this happen!

 

 

 

Bringing time together

on Jun7 2017
Struggling with Mary Rose
I’ve been really struggling with the timeline for the play, and how to make that work. Originally I thought about the whole piece as Tudor, and then as contemporary, and then as act one being Tudor and act two contemporary, and then reversing that and then . . . I was exhausted.
 
I  watched a show recently which told one story in the first act, and then the truth in the second. I didn’t enjoy that structure as it felt – to me – that I had been manipulated too much. All writers manipulate their readers, and doesn’t a reader chose to be manipulated, isn’t that what they pick up a book for? It’s the same with shows – we want to be scared, or emotionally attached, or on the edge of our seats. The trick is entertaining your audience and taking them on that journey without them thinking that they have been manipulated – you don’t want them to be aware in the moments of experiencing the work, of the writer.
 
It is so complex, and while it would be simpler to choose one time period and work within it, I can’t help myself needing to use two. At the moment I am going for interlinking both. I’m excited by the conservation, I’m excited by the build. All I need to do is to bring them together with cunning dexterity.
Ha!
(On the plus side, there’re some absolutely cracking moments in there!)

Mary Rose Unbroken

on Feb15 2017

I am writing a play about the Mary Rose. This is exciting on so many levels, not only because it’s a new play (yah!), but also because it’s Arts Council funded, and I get to wear my history nerd hat all the time!

Research process

At the moment I am at the very beginning of the process. This is the research phase. This means that I spend time in the Mary Rose Museum, delving into the exhibits, and also viewing the Mary Rose. It’s a truly wonderful place. A little dark (that’s to protect the exhibits) and full of mystery. You can’t help wondering who it was that held the spoon, or sat on a stool, who practiced with the long bows.

The museum has a wonderful selection of volunteers whose knowledge is a rich seam that I intend to mine. Already one of the volunteers has showed me her favourite exhibit, the anti-boarding netting which covered so much of the deck. Although only a small remnant remains, it is thought to have helped to cause the deaths of so many sailors on board.

How you can get involved

One of the wonderful aspects of receiving a research and development grant is that I can spend time deciding what the final piece will look like. That means I am really keen to hear your thoughts too. Tell me your impressions of Mary Rose, share your favourite stories, let me know what fascinates you. Let’s go on this unique journey together, and who knows if you’ll hear your words being uttered on stage.

Keep in touch

Find out more specifically about the project by connecting with Mary Rose Unbroken on facebook and / or instagram.

To get back to my website, click on Zella Compton.

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