I run regular weekly workshops in one of the last surviving Independent libraries in the country, The Highgate Literary and Scientific Institution, founded in 1839. The building contains over 25, 000 books and many original documents and paintings, often consulted by researchers. The library itself is one of those lovely places with high wood shelving and a clock that ticks steadily and melodically. It’s an inspiring place to sit and read.
Students in my workshops come from all over London but many of them live locally in Highgate village and walk to the class. They come from many walks of life, some of them are already well known journalists and poets, others are just beginning to publish and some just enjoy the camaraderie of the class and the weekly writing exercises. Several people have completed novels and memoirs, some of which are published.
. Each year we collect together an anthology of the students work, someone volunteers to design a cover and we collate the work together into binders at the end of the term. A copy of each anthology is kept in the library. One of our best covers was our chewing gum painting by artist Ben Wilson, created on a piece of gum outside on the pavement, depicting the fact that Coleridge once shook hands with Keats in Highgate.
This term we have worked on creating characters and I thought it would be interesting to ask students to share what they would NEVER do and then write a character who would do one or two things from the list. In other words, I was challenging the students to step right outside their comfort zone and dig deep for an original slant to their characters.
So here is the list. Why not try it out and see if it gives you a fresh eye on those edgy characters you are developing! Good luck!
Things that students in my classes would NEVER do :-
Ride on a roller coaster
Have a tattoo
Be a window cleaner on the Gherkin
Insult my wife’s cooking
Swim the Channel
Take a Nordic cruise to a freezing cold zone
Be anywhere confined
Say never – except in certain circumstances
Visit a nudist beach
Attend a cookery class
Watch Coronation Street
Drink my own urine
Perform a dance in public
Enter a hard-boiled egg-eating competition
Can’t think of anything which shows what I am prepared to do
Things that writers on Facebook told me they would NEVER do :
Cheat on my husband
Go on a reality TV show
Watch Top Gear
Eat jellied eels
Let a tarantula crawl on me
Eat a banana ( the last two are connected – spiders, banana boats??)
Lick a razor blade