A post from Zakia Carpenter-Hall, who recently took part in our Professions and Confessions Masterclass with Patience Agbabi.
Sometimes characters aren’t meant to be confined to the page. Sometimes they’d rather live and breathe.
Patience Agbabi asked participants to not only write in their character’s voice, but for the sake of the end performance, to become them. I likened this to the way a recipe is merely a blueprint for a meal or similar to DNA being the formula for life. The workshop was like a skeleton and through the process we, the participants and I, added the flesh, blood and breath.
As it turns out, creation can have the humblest of beginnings. Mine began with a charity fundraiser who secretly hated her or his job but pretended to love it. And to be honest, I was at a loss for what to do. What happens when there’s some information missing in a recipe? What about all those lost evolutionary links?
I decided that my character and I were different but had qualities that I knew well enough to try to recreate. He had a different cadence, non-standard English, a boastful nature, a quiet passion hidden behind slightly criminal behaviour. Essentially, I filled in the gaps, began to give rise to someone I could care about – whether he lived or died or what would happen to him next. He had to be memorable, believable, hopefully dynamic.
My character and I made peace that day. There is more work to be done; perhaps characters like people are always unfinished. As I listened to others bring their characters to life from former writing prompts that had no heads, hands, no hearts or bodies, only a career and a confession, I realised this is what the writing is about – not just the recipe but the food created, not just the outline but what escapes the page.
Zakia Carpenter-Hall is a writer, facilitator and personal coach. She will be performing at Beyond Words, Gipsy Hill Tavern at 7.30pm Tuesday 5 June and reVerse View open mic Sunday 17 June, 4-6pm at UKCCA.
She is a Jr. Coach for Newham Word Champions and you can find her on Twitter @ZCarpenterHall.