Monday, 2 November 2009

Who shall I be today? : Linda Strachan

For me writing involves getting inside my characters almost in the way you might pull on a costume.Getting right inside their head and going through the emotions as they feel them, which is exhausting at times but it is such an important part of it that there are times I find myself wondering if I really want to dive right in there.

It is a little like going into the sea when you are not sure if the
water is perhaps just a bit too cold. The tentative dipping in of a toe, or just letting the water wash around your ankles until you feel brave enough to totally immerse yourself into the brisk, fresh sensation.

I started off writing books for quite young children, mostly warm and cuddly or just fun stories where at the worst the child, animal or childish character might become a little concerned, perhaps scared by the dark or be upset by being lost, but it quickly turns out well and happy.

I had avoided writing for teenagers for a long while, I think because the
thought of revisiting the angst of being a teenager never really appealed and I was worried because I wasn’t sure if I could, or would want to, relive the experience even from a character’s point of view.
I wonder if other writers feel the same and are wary of the emotional rollercoaster that their character might take them on? I now find myself writing rather dark books for teenagers, dipping into their most difficult times and giving my characters a truly hard time.

I think I am quite an upbeat and happy person normally, so where does that come from?

When I go into schools I often have the strange experience that in the morning I might be speaking to tiny nursery children, with lots of fun and cuddly toys as props, or slightly older ones with Hamish McHaggis and friends.

In the afternoon I might be facing a room full of young adults talking about the harshest things in life, death, injury, knives, blood and impossible decisions.

I have to admit that I enjoy the variety and challenge and I wouldn’t have it any other way. It is one of the things I love about what I do and it makes my life so varied – it never gets dull - just a bit hectic at times!

So whether it is sitting at my desk about to start writing or preparing for an author visit I find myself asking the question – Who shall I be today?

Linda's website is at


adele said...

That's almost exactly what I say to children when I'm speaking to them! That being a writer is like having a dressing-up box in the corner! Also, starting to write is like diving off the side of swimming pool. You know you like swimming when you get in, but the jump is a bit scary!

Penny said...

Interesting post about dark and light, Linda. Not quite sure I'm ready to try on all the clothes in my personal dressing up box just yet. Have had some funny looks from teachers when I've started explaining that one of the great things about writing is that you can "be" all the different characters. You aren't stuck with being the third tree from the left - though you can be that as well!

Gillian Philip said...

I've had funny looks from teachers too! Yet how are children meant to be enthused about writing if you don't tell them how much darn fun it can be? I tell them I get to be anyone and do anything I like, every single day. Of course, that might get in the way of all that essential 'creative-writing' plotting and planning...

I also vividly remember getting funny looks from a couple of other writers when I mentioned how much fun, but how alarming, it could be getting inside characters' heads. They didn't know what I was on about, and said 'Good lord, do you really? How odd.' Which would explain why I never gave a flying toss about any of their characters, then...

Yunaleska said...

If that's your writing room, I love it! (the last pic).

Linda Strachan said...

Yes, Yunaleska, it is 'Tuscany' my writing shed in the garden, a great place to escape to!

Yunaleska said...

Ahh the life of published writers with their own writing room...wonderful!

steeleweed said...

Very interesting post. I don't think you can write well unless you get deeply into the heads of your characters. The trick is do it in a controlled way, so you can observe and guide - and get back out of their heads.
Actors, particularly those in a TV series, often complain that their character is taking over their life and personality.
I had a psychologist friend who was extraordinarily good at relating to psychotics. His trick was to let himself be 99% psychotic. He used to joke that he worried he might someime go that last 1% and never come back.
Guess every profession has it's risks, eh?