On being a writer...

A celebration of the writing process, of being a writer, of all the weird things that pass through a writing brain...

Monday, 9 September 2013

Well rounded....

Now here's a thing - what makes a character live and breathe off the page.  We all know the ones who do and the ones who don't - authors who can and authors who can't.

I've been rereading Barbara Pym, A Glass of Blessings and wondering how she does it.  Not everyone's cup of tea, I'll admit. To say nothing happens is an understatement. The narrator admits to doing nothing, not even flower-arranging, and the most exciting events in the book are tea parties - and a sudden engagement.  Actually the latter does sound exciting except when you realise that the characters concerned don't even touch, let alone show any real desire for each other.

But, I love Pym because of the way her narrator moves the reader so delicately through her very ordinary life.  Observation is key.  Because the narrator has such wit, we are totally engaged with her, and feel the tiniest nuances of her disappointments and triumphs.  We know she doesn't always pick up the signs correctly, and therefore we are ahead of her, and yet we participate fully in her inner world, which is prone to slightly wayward speculation, and even the odd frisson.

Would Pym be published today?  Don't know.  Do her characters engage at least as much as the average TV drama?  Absolutely?  It's drawing in the finest pencil, but it's very fine art.  And part of the trick is that Pym takes her time. She has a small cast, and we move among them as if we too were part of their small, unexciting world, which yet fizzes with emotion, expectation and wit.

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