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Louise Couper

March Newsletter


Find someone you admire …


In February’s blog, I talked about the ‘where do you get your ideas from?’ most frequently asked question of writers.  Well, if you had been with me last night, you would find so many ideas, you’d imagine your head would burst.


It began with a memorial service for the most inspiring teacher I ever had.  She was ‘larger than life’, an expert in her field and did not suffer fools gladly.  She was kind, considerate and patient with her students, went that extra mile towards helping you if you were serious about your work.  Nothing is more encouraging than a respected teacher giving you some of their time and I felt bolstered and emboldened by her attention.  I felt she was on my side and there if I needed her.  What a woman!


Well, perhaps you can imagine what my thoughts played around with on the bus journey home.  Yes, that ‘larger than life’ character we love to meet in a novel, someone who takes things head-on, someone who feels that what’s at stake is more important than the fear they feel in their belly.  That is true courage.  There, you have a heroine of wonderful proportions.

If, however, it were a eulogy on the death of a great one, there it would rest.  This is a novel, a story, so something ‘terrible’, bigger than this person, has to happen to them.  And no one else could find themselves in the particular situation except this particular ‘character’.  Yes, it’s hard, it’s difficult, at times it seems impossible.  But lots of people do it, sitting as I am, tapping away, day after day.  And, after the end of a few weeks, with the help of some chocolate truffles and lots of coffee and consideration from those around you, you will have a rough draft of a story.


Lots of aspiring writers do not get past the first hurdle – basing their story on someone they know.  They fear of ‘hurting’ the person, upsetting them, causing lasting damage to a relationship.  All wise and good intentions.  However, if I may reassure you, the person will never recognise themselves in what you write, mainly because what you are seeing is some aspect of yourself in them.  It is not all of them either.  After all, we but slenderly know ourselves, let alone another human being.


Many felt that Dickens used a ‘live model’ for some character whose name escapes me right now but although they knew the work, they hadn’t a clue it was based on them.  Dickens had the chunk of wood i.e. the ‘character’ but it took a lot of planing and honing to get them ‘right’.


And if you thought getting your character drafted was difficult, well … get ready for some deep digging.  There is help, thank goodness.  I’m fortunate enough to be part of a group of writers who meet and critique each other’s work.  It is good to get a detached view of what you think is your deathless prose.  Also, for the next few weeks, I am developing my skills with an excellent editor who is giving a gang of us the benefit of her vast experience in the – I hate to say it – ‘industry’.  Not easy to think of something creative and imaginative like literature being an industry.  But then, so is something even more fundamental – health.  So, that’s okay.