Tuesday, 24 November 2020

IMAGINE ALL THE PEOPLE, by Saviour Pirotta

I like to think that all my stories are about people. They may be set at memorable historical moments like the opening of the Parthenon in Athens (Shadow of the Centaurs) or in famous places like the village of Skara Brae in Scotland (The Stolen Spear) and Stonehenge (The Whispering Stones). But the driving force is always the characters. I imagine this is true for most writers. It seems people remember the characters in a much-enjoyed story long after the details of the plot have grown hazy. When I think of The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, the first things that spring to mind are the lovely Mr. Tumnus and his umbrella, and the wicked Jadis in her carriage? 

I love people watching, trying to guess who they are, what they do for a living, what families they have etc. Scarborough where I live is a fantastic place for this kind of activity. I have a special notebook which I've labelled 'the people pot' where I keep notes of characters I've created based on people I've seen. Over time I've developed this into a writing exercise I often use in schools, and it seems to work very well in online sessions too.

Here is a picture I took at the municipal market while on holiday in Malaga last year. 

I call the characters Papa Red Hoodie and Son Blue Hoodie. But are they in fact father and son? Are there any clues in the picture to prove or disprove that fact? Could they be uncle and nephew? Friends? Boss and employee? What names might they have? Where do they live? What kind of abode? Are they alike in their way of thinking or so dissimilar they prefer not to hang out when the stall shutters come down at the end of the day?

Can you think of what they might have had for breakfast this morning, perhaps churros y chocolates at the market, or just a quick coffee and some leftover tortilla from home, eaten on at the wheel as they drive to the fish suppliers? What are they thinking as they serve their customers? Are they happy, sad?

This picture was the starting point for a story I am writing.  Son Blue Hoodie finds something inside the fish he is filleting, something it swallowed before it was caught. And it's something that triggers an adventure, a story that will use all the details I've imagined for the characters.

Here's a second picture, taken in Malta a few years ago. Look at all the band members, the instruments they are playing. Can you think up of a reason why each musician has gone for the instrument he plays? Is there a story there?

(Incidentally, this is the street where I lived as a child. The decrepit house on the left side features in one of my ghost stories but that's another subject, for another post). Meanwhile, I hope you've enjoyed perusing my pictures and you find my hints for creating character helpful. 

Saviour Pirotta's Mark of the Cyclops won the North Somerset Teachers' Book Award in 2018. His online book Pandora's Box has just been voted the Fiction Express Award for best middle grade novel on their platform. Follow Saviour on twitter @spirotta and instagram on @saviour2858.  Preorder his book here


Sue Purkiss said...

An excellent idea for starting points!

Saviour Pirotta said...

Thanks, Sue. It's something I also use in my own writing.

Penny Dolan said...

Fascinating, Saviour! Today I am loving the warm sun on those stone walls.

Saviour Pirotta said...

Thanks, Penny. Those stone walls are such a part of my childhood.

Anne Booth said...

I would love to read these stories!

Saviour Pirotta said...

Thanks, Anne. I'm building them up into an anthology but short stories are hard to place with publishers.

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