Last night I met up with a fellow writer and friend, to have a couple of wines at one or two of the eclectic Melbourne bars which are well worth hunting for. It was too noisy for us in the “Olde Worlde” tavern with the guitar duo belting out pub anthems, but we did stop to admire the interior design, the alcoves and especially the pressed metal ceiling. Next stop a friendly Irish bar around the corner. Then a longish walk to the other side of the city where we found a fabulous, funky bar with three levels of original décor and friendly staff. But it was while sipping late night hot chocolates on one of the footpath tables along Bourke Street where our conversation turned to writing.
Writing is a solitary business, often done in the seclusion of home. Unlike many other jobs, the writer can rarely turn their chair around and ask colleagues a question or discuss an idea. When offered the opportunity to bounce concepts or thoughts around with another writer, I grab it. Sometimes all it takes to progress your manuscript is another point of view, or a chance word from someone else.
So, there we sat, comparing characters, sharing ideas, offering suggestions and asking questions about each other’s work. How would your character react if this were the situation? What would they say? Who would they talk to? Which other character influences them most? Would their family be there for them no matter what the circumstance? What was happening in the world at the time of writing? How would it affect your character? How would it affect the way you write your character? Where do they live? How does their home / country / ethnicity / gender / way of life shape them as a person?
Of course you can ask the same questions of yourself and continually querying yourself and the motives behind each sentence does help you to write your character or scene in a better way. But when you have at least one other person to throw ideas at, suddenly new perspectives are developed and your character or scene might spring to life in a way you never thought they would. Sometimes you find yourself pursuing a whole new line of thinking. Your character might gain or lose a friend or family member. They might read better if they were employed, or not. Maybe they can tell their story better if they have some sort of illness, or perhaps their very ordinariness makes them stand out to more advantage. You might not have realised any of this if you hadn’t of had the chat over the late night hot chocolate or the mid-morning coffee, or the afternoon high tea with a fellow writer.
I cherish the moments I can chat with other writers and I’m very grateful for the generosity of my fellow scribes and creatives. I cannot remember a time when I have been snubbed or ignored. I cannot remember a time when another writer has refused to exchange ideas or freely given their thoughts or advice. And, despite our solitary occupation, this generosity and willingness to share is what ultimately binds us and draws us together.