Writers are constantly asking: “how can I write believable, compelling characters?”, “how can I write realistic characters?”, “how can I write characters with depth?”
The answer is, it takes practice: and here’s one way to do that.
Characters are strange things. As writers, we like to think we’re in full control of our characters, that we decide who they are and what they do in a given situation. We like to think that we’re masters of their destiny. But this is a writing exercise that’ll make you think a little differently about the imaginary people we use to populate our stories, that’ll help you get to grips with their particular traits and foibles, and could just freak you out a little along the way.
After a recent trip to Lille, where I saw some of the creepiest and strangely wonderful art I’ve ever seen, I was stuck on the Eurostar for an hour and a half with no book to read. What I did have was an enormous 3210 x 2065 scan of the masterpiece painting by Hieronymous Bosch, The Haywain, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
I thought I could kill ten minutes or so looking over this wonderfully rich piece of medieval symbolic painting – but an hour and a half later, I pulled into London King’s Cross, and I was still looking at Bosch’s painting.
This artwork is so complex it has the richness of text. It brought me right back to poring over the Where’s Wally series as a kid: spotting concealed storylines, visual gags, hidden connections between elements.
I was recently in Lille for work, and swung by the Palais des Beaux-Arts to escape the particularly biting cold that descended on the city this January. I’m glad I did, because the temporary exhibition I found in there quite frankly blew me away.
It’s hard nowadays to mention the words “modern” and “art” without someone laughing through their nose. I’ve heard all kinds of dismissals of abstract modern art, from “I wouldn’t hang that on my wall” to “a child could do that,” but my all-time favourite has to be something a friend said to me the other day: “half of them are just blank canvases!”
Sudeep Sen’s luminous collection Aria/Anika brings together poets from across the Eastern hemisphere, translated from multifarious languages with craft and imagination.
Sen’s record as a poet and translator is formidable: his poems have achieved international acclaim, he has edited several major anthologies, and his list of honours and scholarships is as long as the praise and endorsements that splash the cover and inner pages of the book.
In his latest work, his award-winning collection of translations Aria is counterpointed by Anika, a compilation of his own poems, which themselves have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.
Irony can’t be measured by any kind of machine. If it could, I imagine it would be a device a little like a Geiger-counter, with a dial, and a screen, and a sensor held by a technician in a hazard suit.
That machine, if it existed, would be clicking like hell throughout Milen Ruskov’s recent novel Thrown into Nature.
In the opening scene, the Spanish Doctor Nicolas Monardes uses the miraculous healing power of tobacco to bring a man, Lazarus-like, back from the dead. The good doctor achieves this by repeatedly blowing the tobacco smoke directly into the subject’s lungs, while his assistant ‘pulpates’ his stomach. Eventually the man wrenches himself gaspingly from the floor, miraculously alive.