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Friday, 23 January 2015

chichester group notes

Chichester Group 22-1-15

Last session we talked about some aspects of character representation and a little about narrative structure.

Character Representation
In a short story it’s not possible to develop characters in any detail, and of course it’s dangerous to introduce too many characters for the story to ‘hold’.
So you have to suggest. 

We mentioned that often you can indicate something about a character by paying attention to how they speak

Tone of voice -   the sort of ‘music’ their sentences make -  flowing and elegant or choppy and nervous, interactive with lots of ‘don’t you think’ s,   nervous with lots of trailings off,  or compensating for nervousness by lots of exclamations ‘My dear!  You can’t believe how...’

Type of vocabulary -   the comment of educated words,  or the use of very slangy ones,  swearing, kind of swearing,  tendency to fall back on favourite words – ‘Yes that can be tricky’,  ‘rather snookered there’ . . .
Vocabulary often shows education or lack of it,  and/or class,  but also tact, rudeness, knowing a specialism.

Connected to the dialogue, showing their words,  there’s the body language used,  the gestures that go with the words,  the awkwardness or sensuality of movement.   I referred too this passage in Nadine Gordimer’s novel,  A Guest of Honour

Bray sat forward clumsily, his hands dangled between his knees.

Shinza stuck another cigarette in his mouth, spoke around it, standing up to thrust for the matches in the dressing-gown pocket.  ‘There were a few little meetings down in the town-ship – the men from the factory and the lime-works fellows.  The trade-union steward didn’t like it.  The Young Pioneers didn’t like it.’

‘They arrested the boy?’

‘I suppose you call it that.  They took him away and locked him up;  they had a lot of          questions to ask, it took two           months or so, and now you gave him a lift home’  Shinza finished it off abruptly, like a fairy story for a child.
                                                                                    (Nadine Gordimer, A Guest of Honour)

The first highlighted passage gives a feeling of the man by his easy with himself, lack of ceremony.   The second highlighted passage gives his irony, suggests the tone of his voice, and his implied (how naïve you are, Bray)

In talking about story shape we thought about Barbara’s story, and how we felt she could have stayed a bit longer with the family, and shown their situation in Siberia,  some examples of the main character’s  sense of fairplay and his scrupulous honesty, and we talked about balancing the need for showing the situation and people, and at the same time moving the story along – pace.  It’s difficult sometimes to balance these.

In Graham’s story we talked about the fairy-tale like quest form and how this can, in principle go on and on, and the longer it does the more difficult it becomes to wind it up into a whole.  We mentioned the bildungsroman as an example of a sort of plot structure where the main character moves from situation to situation – in that case in the process of growing up and finding himself.   It’s perhaps worth while, we thought, for Graham’s story to deal also with the development of the main character as well as the intricacy’s of his quest, and are their in fact too many quests?

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