Saturday, April 08, 2017
I was writing a scene in the new novel this week in which a woman goes into the bedroom of a man she doesn't know, to change her clothes. I wrote a description of the contents of the room, but when her eyes fell on the bedside table my mind went blank.
Usually before I begin to write a novel, I plot the whole thing out from start to finish, and I also develop my characters. This time I haven't done that. I'm writing the novel more organically, and I'm developing the characters as I go along. This man (with the bedroom) is still a work in progress, which is why I had no idea what was on his bedside table. (U.S. equiv. = nightstand)
On Wednesday night I turned to Twitter, and asked men over 40 to tell me what was on their bedside tables. I got two replies. The next morning at 6 a.m. I tweeted again and got a couple more. I have 500+ followers, but Isaac has 25,000, so I tweeted him and he retweeted my question. The tweeted replies were coming in so fast I couldn't keep up with reading them and tweeting my thank yous (I hope I didn't miss anyone out.)
The tweets were fascinating. Beautiful little character studies. Being a person whose various careers have centred around my interest in people, the responses were a delight, but Isaac (a techie product manager) also enjoyed them. More to the point, they gave me some terrific ideas for my character.
I thought you might like to see a few of the tweets. One tweet I've not shown is from a guy who said he had a digital thermometer, so I asked him why and he uses it to record the temperature of the room, because he lives in an old house and wondered how cold it got in the night. My character is definitely having this! After the tweets below - just a sample - I've listed what else I chose for Joe's bedside table.
This is hopeless! I haven't included the man with the rosary beads and a cardboard model of a robot. Or the man who has a glass of water with a CD on top so he knows the cat hasn't been drinking from the water. I investigated some of them and found out, for example, that Chris Thorpe (above) who has the old book about Swedish politics, also had a toy tinplate model of one of the boats that goes around the Stockholm archipelago.
It's not just about the list of items per se, it's also where they lead my imagination. It was so productive.
On Joe's bedside table is a torch, a loo roll, a chapstick (which would never have occurred to me - ever), a digital thermometer, two empty lozenge wrappers, an almost finished packet of Ritz crackers, a glass of water with a CD resting on top and Patrick Kavanagh’s Selected Poems. This may well change as I get to know my character better.
If you responded on Twitter and you're reading this - thank you again. You made my day, and helped to make my character.
Posted by Sue Hepworth at 7:50 am