Monday, 15 February 2016

Thinking aloud by Miriam Halahmy

Meg Rosoff observed that writing is 80% day dreaming and 20% writing and I quite agree with that. But I would also add into the mix my speciality - saying it out loud, preferably to someone listening. I really find that actually saying the thoughts tumbling through my mind helps both inspiration and organisation. Even if the audience is the poor old better half who is trying to have a quiet coffee up the road in our local Cafe Nero.

Of course if my audience is one of my experienced writer friends then that's really helpful. I have long suffering friends who meet me for nice literary coffees,long walks on the heath and even too many margaritas. Talking over a plot line or character development with experienced writers can of course help to keep me on the straight and narrow and avoid the pitfalls of the whimsical and outlandish.

But the better half, listening with only half an ear, allowing me to whitter on to my heart's content ( even as he yells, GOAL!) also works for me.

I also need to do my 'thinking aloud' when asked to give a talk. The thing about giving talks - well I find this anyhow- is that each one is slightly different, according to the audience, time factor and many other variables. I don't really have set talks, its more like themes which I can return to.

This month I have been invited onto a panel for the LSE Literary Festival, together with Philip Womack. We have to talk for 15 minutes on Re-writing the past vs Re-imagining the future.

This is a nice one for me because history is a great passion of mine and I've spent practically all my life imagining the past. But as my very first historical novel is due out in May and I am currently writing a second one, both set during WW2, then my thinking aloud currently focuses on how I have brought this era alive and made it relevant to 9-12 year olds.

The Emergency Zoo, (Alma Books, May 2016) asks the question, When war breaks out, who will save the animals? My characters are children aged between seven and fifteen, with the main cluster being four twelve year olds - 2 girls and 2 boys. Imagining their lives, clothes, setting, food, interests, worries and concerns was a mixture of research - my main character Tilly wades through streams and climbs trees all in a dress, usually tucked into her knickers - and quite simply thinking back to when I was twelve and how I viewed the world.

My imagination likes to soar when I am alone and fuelled up with coffee but it also likes time to bounce ideas off someone else and I think it is the very action of saying my words aloud which helps me to focus and develop my stories.



Jo Franklin said...

I think you are very brave talking out loud with a non-receptive audience. I don't find non-writers very helpful. Especially family members.
I love talking through problems of plot and character with my crit group, but most of the time I am talking to myself.
I have found the note recording function on my phone is excellent for taking down a snatch of dialogue while I'm out walking the dog, but I have yet to have the confidence to record larger passages. My pen is not obsolete yet.

Becca McCallum said...

I generally have to have drunk a glass of something before I can be persuaded to read my stuff out to friends (even writerly ones!), although I'm quite happy to bounce ideas off an empty room. However when I do read bits out to people, I find it does help, as they often spot something that I've missed. Also reading aloud, even to no-one, helps me see if something sounds right or not.