Compelling Characters and Croissants

08-Nov-2022 | Kerrie L Marsh -

Being a creative in Hull means that over the years I’ve had many a stomping ground here in the city. On one hand this is great because it means you have an awesome network of folks and lots of creative pals who can help one another out. On the other hand, it also means you can’t sneakily eat a bun on the street without being noticed by someone. Which happened to me on my walk from Hull Truck Theatre towards Hull College this week. An ex-colleague caught me mid croissant chomp and asked me about my new role as playwriting officer here at HTT and so I tried to tell them all about it without too much pastry falling crudely from my lips as I stuff it away out of sight into my pocket.

As for old stomping grounds it was great to be back at Hull College delivering workshops this week. I was a student at the college many moons ago and then spent 14 years of my life as a lecturer and then curriculum leader there. It’s always a pleasure to return and work with the current staff and students there, old and new faces it’s always a joy. Very much like my creative connection over the years with Hull Truck Theatre I have a sentimental connection towards Hull College as it was the place I trained from the age of 16, where I met my fellow company members of Scarlet Lights and where people gave me the time and support I needed to believe in myself that I had chosen the correct career path and thankful that I didn’t join the Navy or enroll on a painting and decorating course. Both valid options and a great skill set sure, but truthfully, I couldn’t imagine myself in either of those roles now. Unless it was an acting role!

The students at Hull College were awesome. They totally committed and took part in the writing activities and jumped straight into writing funny, empathetic and moving dialog in no time at all. From funny wedding proposals in random locations to plot twist and poignant last lines the group smashed their ‘Introduction to playwrighting’ workshop extremely easily. It’s also a real buzz when participants stay back at the end of a session to ask further questions about the 37 Plays project and show an interest in submitting something towards the scheme. It’s been great to see people over the last couple of months really engage with playwriting, Hull Truck Theatre and the 37 Plays Project. The response so far is positive and I’m hoping to keep engaging with Schools, colleges and community groups in hope to continue the good writing vibes.

Creating compelling characters has been a hot topic this week with the young writers’ group 14-18’s here at HTT. I love starting a character session with an open discussion about the writers’ favourite characters and listen to them as they passionately explain why. This is a valuable activity because if you can communicate what types of characters you enjoy and why you enjoy watching them, it’s a great starting point for you to write characters that others will also enjoy.

There are some ace resources on the 37 Plays website about developing character which you can take a look at here, Resource Pack 3 Creating Compelling Characters ( I particularly like activity 3 - THINK OF A FICTIONAL CHARACTER FROM A BOOK, TV SHOW OR FILM.

The tasks ask you to write a list of characteristics that make them memorable. Why are you drawn to them? What makes them unique? Remembering that no character details are wrong character details. Essentially, anyone can be an interesting, compelling character. The key thing to remember is to make them as specific as possible.

Have a go at this, either with a friend as a discussion or as a writing activity you can do yourself. Or, how about sharing some of your fav characters with us online? I’d love to hear about who some of your most compelling characters are and why you enjoy them. Maybe after you have done the activity, you’d like to share your thoughts more widely and get a conversation about great characters going? Use the hashtag #37Plays #CompellingCharacters to join in.

Writing and submitting your work is very much about resilience and local playwright and screenwriter Lydia Marchant has kindly shared some advice with us about it. Lydia is part of the BBC’s Writers Academy 2019/2020, led by John Yorke, for which she is developing episodes of EASTENDERS, CASUALTY and HOLBY CITY. She also has work in development with Cuba Pictures and BBC Studios.

Her first full length play MUMSY is under commission at Hull Truck Theatre, where she is an Affiliate Artist. Here’s what she has to say about resilience.

“It takes a lot of resilience to be a writer. You won’t meet a writer in the world who hasn’t been rejected from countless schemes, groups and competitions. Even getting notes on a draft that you thought was great can be really tough. But getting rejections means you’re being proactive and putting your work out there. A play won’t reach an audience if it’s sat in a drawer. The writers that make it are the ones that have the resilience to take notes, learn and apply for the next thing.

Note: That doesn’t mean you can’t be gutted / vent to your mum / listen to Taylor Swift / order a pizza. But after you’ve dealt with it in the best way for you, you pick yourself up and carry on.”

If this is your first-time submitting work towards a project, you may not have experienced the resilience that a writer normally requires as a key skill of theirs. But resilience is also needed in the writing process. Don’t get defeated, don’t give up and don’t question your ability. I was asked a question in a session last week as to why I write, and the simplest answer is because I love it. So, I want to keep urging you. If you love writing than just keep writing. Write and submit. Repeat, repeat, repeat. You got this!

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a croissant to finish.

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