Monday, July 20, 2009

RNA Conference 4 - Linda Gillard

I was unable to attend Linda Gillard's session on Sense and Sensitivity, but heard wonderful things about it. Here's what Biddy had to say when she blogged about the conference over on The Pink Heart Society Blog:

"One of the best for me was Linda Gillard about Sense and Sensibility, the use of senses in writing. We mostly concentrated on all the senses but the vision. We live in such a visual world that sometimes we neglect the other senses. We did some exercises that really helped. "

So Linda has very kindly offered me her notes and allowed me to share them with you! Today I'll post through to the first exercise and then continue on from there. Before that though let me tell you a bit about Linda. She now lives in a village outside Glasgow, but spent six years living on the Isle of Skye. Her first career was acting which led to journalism then onto teaching and finally to writing novels. Her last novel Star Gazing was short listed for the Romantic Novel of the Year Award 2009. Here's part one of her notes:

"It is a terrible thing to see and have no vision." Helen Keller

How I came to write STAR GAZING’s blind heroine…
1. “Playing with my imaginary friends” led to imaginary hero
2. Non-visual representation of Isle of Skye to avoid cliché.

I thought the blind “pov” would be limiting and readers would get bored. Reverse was true.
It extended my writing.

Qualifications for a writer:
To be curious
To be observant
You need a good memory
To be sensual (esp. writers of romance!)

When you’re writing, you’re trying to see the picture, to watch the movie of your story unfold. You will eventually be trying to hear what the characters are saying. You’re “eavesdropping”.

But do you tend to stop there?
Do you ever wonder if your readers feel as if they are actually there, in the middle of your story? As if it’s happening to them?

We tend to confine our observations to what we see and hear, but experiences and memories are very much related to all the 5 senses: sight, sound, touch, smell & taste.

Memories aren’t just visual.
eg “They’re playing our song”. The power of familiar music to evoke whole scenes.
Looking at holiday photos will show you only what you saw. They don’t convey the heat, the sound of the sea, the noise of children playing, the delicious smells coming from the taverna.

A visual record is incomplete but we tend to think a visual record is a good record simply because sight dominates our other senses. And we live in a visual age. (Elizabethans invariably talked about going to “hear a play”.)

Examples of my childhood memories that couldn’t be captured just visually:

Smell of blackcurrant leaves and the buzzing of bees in the hollyhocks when I played as a child in my garden.

Basil’s Italian ice cream (taste of vanilla, crystals in and coldness of ice cream; the sound of his bell which triggered excitement and salivation!)

The two abiding memories of my first teddy - damp patches on his paws where I chewed and the sound of sawdust moving when I squeezed him. (But I can’t remember what he looked like.

WRITING TASK 1 A Childhood Memory 5 mins 10.25 – 10.30

1. Record an intense memory, perhaps from childhood. Try to recall the event in more than just a visual way. (Your oldest memories are unlikely to be just visual, that’s why they’ve stayed with you.) Use all your senses. Jot down your impressions in note form.

2. Select most powerful aspect of that memory, the thing that brings it to life for you. Note whether it’s a visual memory.

Tomorrow part two........ and let me know how your exercise went and I'll share mine!


cs harris said...

I'd say one of the greatest requirements for a writer is to be in touch with your emotions. At least, that's my excuse for crying at movies, flying off the handle, laughing at all the wrong times, etc, etc!

Debs said...

Thanks for the post. It's interesting to read about senses and how they should be put to good use when writing.

alex said...

CS - I think that what I'll tell my lot when I do the same!

Debs - I was sorry to miss this one

liz fenwick said...

Sorry that last comment was from me and not my daughter!