#12 – Standing at the Sky’s Edge

Introduction

Anna and I share our joy at going to see a play called Standing at the Sky’s Edge, written by Chris Bush about Parkhill flats in Sheffield. We go on to talk about character development.

Standing at the Skye’s Edge

Standing at the Sky’s Edge cleverly weaves together the stories of three families who all live in the same flat at different times. It explores the social norms in the difference time-periods, as well as the changes that happened to the block of flats over the years. It cleverly defies expectations and comes up with surprising plot twists, linking the beginning and the end in an unexpected way.

We talk more about character development and practical ways to achieve this.

Appearance

Anna reads out a passage where the protagonist first encounters Long John Silver in Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson, demonstrating how powerful a description can be when written by a master.

Does a character have to be nice?

I discusses the anti-hero in Mark Lawrence’s Prince of Fools and we identify what makes the character engaging. Anna talks about Steve Larson’s Girl with the Dragon Tattoo and Spider by Patrick McGrath.

We discuss the importance of the character arc and internal/external motivation.

Anna describes some exercises that she has done to get to know your characters. These include:

  1. Describe something a character carries with them.
  2. Describe a character’s belongings or their environment.
  3. Pretend to be Sherlock Holmes to uncover the layers of meaning about an object in the room (from the mslexia website www.mslexia.co.uk)

Internal and External Motivation

One way to make a character more interesting is for there to be tension between their internal and external motivation.

What do we mean by this? The protagonist may want one thing but need the opposite.

Anna and I provide examples, such as, a character who may believe that they want to win that race at all costs and be unaware that that their motivation is a desire to prove themselves as worthy.

Questions to ask your character

What secret is your character hiding?

What pain is your character suffering?

What was their childhood like?

What motivates them or what are they trying to achieve?

Tell us about your unique characters.

#11 – Process and Goal Setting

In this episode, we talk about process and Anna helps me set goals with the aim of becoming a full-time writer in 5 years.

Each author develops their own process over time, but that process does not necessarily remain static. As knowledge and understanding grow so an author’s process might change. Consider your own process and how it might have changed after you took a course or read a non-fiction book or article.

Let us know about your writing process.

#10 – Mental Health and Wellbeing

Episode 10 is about creativity and mental health. On examining the evidence, few scientific studies support the widely held assumption that there’s a link between creativity and mental health. While the research says that exercise helps mild to moderate depression, there is no clear evidence that creativity is linked to mood disorder.

Despite this, many activities for the prevention or treatment of mental health conditions focus on creative activities, such as writing. The opportunity to connect with others is what’s important, but what does this mean for writers who spend large amounts of time in their own heads? They often work alone, where there’s a risk that ruminating might get out of control.

Most people suffer from mental health problems at some stage in their lives. In many ways this seems as obvious as pointing out that most people will suffer from an illness at some point in their lives. Life is generally tough and regularly hits us with issues such as grief and loss whether that’s a person or the loss of a job or relationship. No matter how strong you are, there is a chance that something will get you right where it hurts at some stage.

Mental health, like physical health, is on a continuum and dependant on what stress versus resilience an individual had as to where they are on the scale at anyone time.

MIND and Young Minds encourage group creativity; building a network of support and getting in the habit of challenging negative thoughts and ideas.

RESOURCES

These are UK based resources, but if anyone wants to add anything local to them that could help others, feel free.

British Psychological Society

MIND – see the website to find the Wellbeing Being Journal. Journaling helps me when I struggle to find the words when I’m too angry, despairing or confused to know what I think. It gives me a voice.

Samaritans

Mental Health Services NHS

Your Brain on Fiction published in The New York Times 2012, reported on research that demonstrated that the brain can learn from stories in the same way as if we experienced it.

Factsheet Mental Health Disorders

Factsheet Mental Health: – Strengthening Our Response

There are the Headspace and Calm apps that support the practice of mindfulness.

Happy Place; Calm Journal; Happy Journal by Fearne Cotton