Inspirational Flashes from Meg Pokrass

Meg POkras news

Follow the messy trail Readers always root for a character in love – whether the love object is the wrong person, a geriatric cat or a fake pearl necklace. Follow the trail of messy love wherever it leads, especially if it makes no sense.

Give them an embarrassing nickname What was a character’s embarrassment as a child? Don’t tell the reader what it is but keep it in mind while writing your story. Childhood embarrassment casts a long shadow.

Start with an odd detail Create a character from an obscure trait. How do they greet their cat? How do they button their coat? The great actor Laurence Olivier began by giving his characters a secret, physical defect or tick.

Harness your hurt Think of the worst things that ever happened to you, and inflict one of them on your main character – but change the details. Dismantle it. Disguise it. Make it even worse. Fiction is a great way to recycle what hurts!

Give your characters agency Readers don’t like woe-is-me characters who sit around feeling wounded and wallowing in it. They care about characters who pick themselves up, dust themselves down, and have another go.

Keep the sex subtle If you’re writing about a love affair, make sure the sex reflects the characters in all their complexity. Don’t hit us over the head with body parts.

Show a glint on glass Let your reader see it for themselves, via your use of specific detail and sensory information. As Chekhov said, “Don’t tell me that the moon is shining, show me the glint of light on broken glass”.

Torment your characters Provide them with a good deal of trouble. Don’t ever let them get there easily.

Have a (bit of a) laugh There’s something inherently ridiculous about a character in the grips of an apocalyptic dilemma or an uncontrollable passion. Keep the stakes high but let a ray of ironic humour shine through.