Jun 16

‘Pitching a character’ in your Writing

‘Pitching a character’ in your Writing.



Before discussing “’Pitching a Character’ in your writing” ask the members of the group to write two x 50 word descriptions of two characters or two people that they know.(10 minutes)

Read the quote from How Fiction Works by James Wood (page 75), ‘there is nothing harder than the creation of fictional character. I can tell by the number of apprentice novels I read that begin with descriptions of photographs’ and the comments on the quote.

Explain what Ford maddox Ford called ‘getting the Character in’, or pitching the character, and establishing him/her in one hit. Use examples from Ian McEwan and Joanne Harris.

Ian McEwan: Enduring Love

‘—-the girl was being helped through the menu by her father who, like me these days, had to slide his glasses down his nose to see the print…’

‘Meanwhile Jocelyn, enjoying the triple privilege of age, eminence and the bestower of gifts, told his story.’

Joanne Harris. Blackberry Wine/ Chocolat

‘She was a little, round pansy faced woman in a scarlet jumper.’

‘….treating (him) with cool indifference as if his father’s genes were a time bomb inside him which might at any moment explode.’


Discuss what we ‘know’ of each character, how much we can deduce from such a brief but telling introduction

Ask them now to go back to their descriptions and ‘pitch the characters’ in one, perhaps two sentences each. This may not involve trying to transmit all of the same information, as the writer may have changed their mind about what is important.

Read out the original descriptions and discuss what you can tell about the characters. Then read out the second ‘description’ and see if they have in fact done more in less (words).

Show how this technique of ‘pitching the character’ in few words can be used to great affect for minor characters who may only appear once in a story and whose purpose is short and sweet, perhaps to illuminate a more important character by his reaction to them or what happens next, perhaps to clarify or explain some point, eg why someone was harried or late or upset…

Read from Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, p30, p40, p84


In a similar way it is a very useful skill to be able to capture the essence, the ‘thisity’ of an object or a location; a room or specific genre of place such as a a farm, a ship, a museum…..Using a few words or phrases that capture the ambience, or including objects that you would only expect to find there, in your description.

The function of an item, its usefulness, what it says about its owner(s) or the period can all be a means to capturing the ‘thisness’ of  something just as a well chosen word or phrase can capture a person.

If time, or for homework write two or three short  descriptions capturing the essential quality, the thisity of things or places.


Category:Group Session. Tags:Characterisation, Imagination, Creative Writing

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