Fiction: EVERY character counts.

An exhibition of Breugel is showing at the Holburne, Bath, the first UK exhibition devoted to the dynasty. Not huge or cheap, but well displayed. The family tree shows the connections between the different artists. Breugel the elder, his two sons, one of Jan’s sons, two of his grandsons.

According to Johnson’s recent article in the Guardian, only Pieter, the elder is worthy of acclaim. The younger, he finds derivative, although his copies of Pieter snr’s work have served us well for centuries.

Things might have been different if the sons had received tuition from their father but sadly he died when they were infants. They were apparently taught by their grandmother. That’s a tale in itself.

Johnson doesn’t rate this, that the Holburne displays proudly:  

For the writer, however, the fascination lies in the characterisation shown in every tiny face appearing in the lively paintings. The Breugels studied and reproduced their local people and events rather than imagined religious ones. Avarice, shame, embarrassment, lust, enjoyment are only some of the emotions portrayed in the works. The faces, movement and expressions take us to a time we couldn’t have summoned up with that accuracy.

Writing a novel, have you made every character notable, memorable, as those in a Breugel painting? Even a walk-on part can illuminate the scene, his character impinging on the plot even if minimally.  It’s a wonderful recommendation if readers comment on the particular characters you have created, superb if they’re recalled some months later.

Breugel characters  are alive in the moment of seeing the paintings. This gives the writer a goal to strive for.

 

Stuck with your fiction writing?

Getting un-stuck. There are times when writers need to refresh.

stucklizard

You need help in getting un-stuck? The novel had been going well but suddenly writing comes to a halt. Either you keep taking too many breaks, or find yourself re-doing the same section, or you sit staring at the screen knowing your narrative palls.

The problem?

Your ideas are going round and round the same path. You need different mental associations to move things along. Your brain needs oxygen, your body needs movement.

Here is a suggested ploy for unsticking yourself. If the points below don’t resonate with you, read my example.

1936_Austin_Seven
Stuck in slow motion
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Leave the garage behind. Full speed ahead.

 

ACTION

1.  Take a mental refresher, not a writing break.

Read any non-fiction article on any subject. Pick out one item or aspect of interest.  Let it run through your thoughts.

2.  Refresh your creative intake.

You can’t give out all of the time, you have to take in as well. Look at any piece of art work.  You can do this online. Not many people have a gallery conveniently around the corner. Look at the work carefully. Focus on one detail. Let that stay in your immediate visual memory.

3.  Take some form of exercise straight away.

Writers spend too much time sitting still. . You don’t need to visit the gym; a swim or brisk walk of half an hour may be sufficient, even an exercise routine in a different room.  Think of your physical sensations, muscles aching, feet pounding etc.

4.  Ignore the sticking point in your story.

Try to put that out of your mind for the moment. The idea that resonated with you in the non-fiction article; how could that bear upon some aspect of your narrative?

NOW Return to your desk. Take one of your characters and think how you might write about that detail in the art work, how it might illuminate his/her appearance or behaviour.

Where can your story comes utilise the above visual and intellectual stimuli? Write a quick first draft while the ideas are fresh.

If this drafting activity has taken over an hour, have your next meal and then go back to the part where you were stuck.

Cynical? Try it. Here’s an example, for illustration only.

Attractive Woman with Her Books

EXAMPLE

Reading: Alain de Boton –  What is a beautiful building? How does someone think about his home, streets or business building? (The Architecture of Happiness). Possible ideas coming from this: the effect of certain buildings in upon one or more of your characters; how the choice of furnishings increases the tensions between two characters;  how the architecture in your characters’  town helps set the tone of your novel.

Art-de_La_Tour_opt

Art:         A painting.  (Georges de la Tour) Detail – one hand of one figure. The delicate way that hand describes an emotion. Use that description for ‘painting’ one of your characters in a dramatic scene. i.e. one character, under duresse, notices the hand of another and that description shows the reader some of the emotion present.

Whatever else, the above will be more productive than staring miserably at the screen or chatting on Facebook about how you are stuck.

Good luck and keep writing.

© Copyright 2015 Rosalind Minett