A Helluva Way Into Your Character’s Head

A few years ago, WCDR member Lucy Brennan and I had the pleasure of attending a much-talked-about workshop that playwright/actor Linda Griffiths conducted for the Playwrights Guild of Canada. It was a head-turner for any writer…of any genre.

Griffiths introduced us to a concept she helped create (with mentor Paul Thompson) called collective creation. This process of harkening back to — or creating characters based on — real people is a very grounding and evocative method. Difficult to explain. Riveting to experience!

She organized an exercise that encouraged us to connect on a gut level with our own written word. And what writer doesn’t want more of that? We were paired up and instructed to share an episode from our own lives — our first time falling in love. She encouraged us to take notes on our partner’s experience, but more importantly, absorb tone, body language, gestures and facial expressions to use in experimenting with small vignettes.

“All artists are thieves,” Griffiths told us. And so, with real people in real situations as the jumping-off points, we could watch the stories — and therefore the characters — morph as Griffiths tweaked the telling. This refreshing approach encouraged us to step outside of our comfort zones and create with boots on the ground. A truly amazing experience that has had a profound effect on my writing since.

And if you don’t believe me, corner Lucy on the subject!

In case the name isn’t familiar, Linda Griffiths has the street cred:

Often referred to as one of Canada’s “originals,” Griffiths has written, acted and developed theatre for three decades.  As playwright, Griffiths is the author of twelve plays and the winner of five Dora Mavor Moore awards, a Gemini award, two Chalmers awards, a Quizanne International Festival Award, a Betty Mitchell Award and Los Angelos’ A.G.A. Award. To read her full bio, click here.

Griffiths will be teaching an advanced workshop (About Love – Visceral Playwriting) at the 2013 Ontario Writers’ Conference 2013. To learn more, click here.

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